Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

Get in touch by emailing thegameshelfblog@gmail.com

Friday 9 July 2021

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Fort: Cats & Dogs Expansion

Game: Fort: Cats & Dogs Expansion

Publisher: Leder Games

Designer: Nick Brachmann, Grant Rodiek

Year: 2021

Fort: Cats & Dogs is the first expansion for Fort - a deck-building game from Grant Rodiek with charming artwork from Kyle Ferrin. If you enjoyed figuring out which of the children characters in Fort were most like you as a child then you're almost guaranteed to enjoy identifying which dog or cat is channeling either you, or your furry friend.

Fort: Cats & Dogs contains two modular expansions, which, unsurprisingly are cats...and dogs. Cats are fickle creatures who run between players based on whoever most recently caught their attention. Dogs are also rather fickle though, and will run away if left in your yard (fair!), but will become loyal if you give them a place to sleep in your dog house.

Cats and Dogs naturally builds off the base game's gameplay. In case you are unaware, in Fort your objective is to build your... fort. You'll need to gain both toys and pizzas to bribe the other kids into helping you do so. On your turn you'll play one kid card, which will have two powers on it, a private power and a public power which anyone can perform with you by discarding a kid of the matching suit. Many cards can be powered up by adding more cards of the same suit, you might have a card that gives you one pizza per skateboard for example. At the end of your turn any kids you didn't play with go to your yard rather than your discard, you then can recruit one kid, either from the common market, or from anyone else's yard. 
The Cats module adds cats to the game. These are fluffy and cute and everybody loves them, so there are bonus points for having them in your yard at the end of the game. However being the fickle creatures you'd expect, there's no way to guarantee a cat will stay in your yard. At the end of any player's turn, should they have met the requirement of a cat (such as having no kids in your yard, or having played a certain number of kids from one suit) then that cat will saunter over to provide them company. Whilst you have a cat in your yard you gain use of its power, but remember that such a blessing is only temporary as they will soon leave for a neighbour with enticing treats. 

The Dogs module adds man’s best friend to the game. These are fluffy and cute and everybody loves them, so there are bonus points for having the most in your dog house at the end of the game. Each player will be dealt a couple of dogs at the start of the game instead of two of the kids you'd normally start with. Each dog can be played just like a kid card, but often has requirements such as having your fort at a certain level, or having a number of kids in your lookout. Once played they typically have a private power, so there's no following by your opponents, before being added to your dog house. However, if you don't play a dog card then it will go to your yard, and at the start of your next turn it will dig its way into your neighbours discard pile! If you don't give dogs the love they deserve and you'll soon lose them!

Amy’s Final Thoughts

When we first reviewed Fort last year we were struck by the incredible charm of the games theme. Adding cats and dogs to the game only helped cement the sense of childhood wonder to the game. However I was also struck by some of the slightly unusual choices in the game, starting with a random deck of cards in a deckbuilding game occasionally allowed for one player to have an unusually good start compared to someone else, and the ability to recruit from other player's 'discards' resulted in a game when your carefully constructed deck could be completely deconstructed should your opponents wish to. 
With the addition of the Dogs this first issue has been somewhat changed, you now have two less random cards, replaced with dogs that you likely can't play until half way through the game, by which point they'll have changed hands half a dozen times. If you didn't like how the kids weren't very loyal in the base game, you'll find a similar issue in how dogs and cats are passed round the table. With the cats it generally feels good as you have to play a certain way to attract a cat, making it hard to get more than one in a round, while your opponents each have a chance to steal it back before you can use their power. This creates a good back and forth, is it worth having a less efficient turn for the sake of getting back that cat? The in-game abilities of cats were generally worth the effort, but knowing that anyone else could take them back meant you couldn't ever rely on them. The points for cats at the end of the game are minor, so the balance is really about their in game use. 

With the dogs module that changes. There's a good amount of points for having the most dogs at the end of the game, but their in game powers never felt as good as they should do for the requirements needed. The main benefit is that your opponent can't follow them, certainly in a two player game not following your opponent every turn is the exception rather than the norm, so being able to do an action by yourself could be what wins you the game. However the dogs are generally weaker than kids, and certainly weaker than some of the kids when backed up by a few cards of their suit, so are you willing to do less powerful actions for the sake of the end game reward? 
Overall Cats and Dogs helps highlight the best bits of Fort while downplaying some of the potential weaknesses. Neither of the modules add a huge chunk to the game and even with both added in I can imagine a player winning whilst essentially ignoring them. However, they are fun, and thematic (if you have a dog that constantly runs away from home anyway). If you’re looking for an excuse to bring Fort back to the table, then some furry friends will be just the ticket!

Fi’s Final Thoughts
There's no denying how cute this expansion is! We don't often get into the theme of games, so when we talk about our turns it probably sounds very dull, but when playing with this expansion, we were very excited to be playing Pumpkin, or attracting Jitters and it definitely added a lot of joy to our games.

We've always considered Fort to be quite a tricky deck-building game. Crafting a deck that really works can be extremely difficult, so I was glad to find that this expansion doesn't really add to that complexity - the difficulty of the game remains the same. The cats are the most light touch addition and I don't think you'd suffer too badly if you ignored them all together, however, their minor bonuses are really tempting and it's always fun to figure out if you can attract one of the cats on your turn - I just wouldn't tank my whole turn for one of the cats, no matter how cute! It can be pretty annoying if the cat gets stolen from you before you've even had the chance to use it though, which doesn't seem to happen often at 2-players but could happen more with more players. The downside of the cats at a lower player count is that there are only two in the game, so their end game scoring potential is very low.

The dogs, on the other hand will reward you a good chunk of points if you have the most dogs in your dog house at the end of the game. Choosing whether to go for the dogs is a tough judgement call though. It's your whole turn, and although their abilities can be powerful it often seems like a less good option than really powering up one of your other cards. On the other hand, once you've started investing, you might as well keep going to win the bonus. The other thing that can be tricky with the dogs is that they can dilute the focus of your deck because you can't control when you're going to inherit dogs into your deck - having them around can stop you having a good turn, rather like drawing your victory point cards in a game of Dominion.

Cats & Dogs doesn't do anything huge to change up the formula of Fort, but it does add some lovely thematic fun. For me, the cats were the more accessible module and I would add those to every game. I was not such a fan of the dogs and might only add those every so often, which is a shame, because their characters are so very lovely!

You Might Like...
  • The cats are a subtle way to push you into playing your turn in a certain way, which can be a fun challenge.
  • Cats & Dogs is a super cute expansion to an already endearing game.
  • Both expansions mix seamlessly with the base game.
You Might Not Like...
  • The behaviour of the cats and dogs could've been more thematic.
  • The dog cards can dilute your strategy because you can't control which dogs you get from other players.
  • Both expansion modules are fun to use, but also easy to ignore.

The Verdict
7/10 Gameplay-wise, Cats & Dogs doesn't seem like an essential expansion, but  for most players who love Fort it will probably be essential simply because of its wonderful characters. Both modules can be thrown into a game without any real lengthening or added complexity, but the cats were probably the one we enjoyed playing with more. They're funny, thematic and cause you to think about another layer on your turn without completely changing your plans.

Fort: Cats & Dogs Expansion was a review copy kindly provided to us by Leder Games. We received an advanced copy and pre-orders will open for this expansion in early July 2021.


  1. Thanks for this great review.
    You mention that "you can't control which dogs you get from other players" but you can recruit dogs from other players yards during your turn if you choose to (pg 4 of the Cats & Dogs rulebook). Would you not consider that some control over which dogs you get? Thanks again for the review :)

  2. VetandTech is a marketplace of veterinary instruments. where you can get every info about latest in vet industry.