(Editor’s note: Grant Rodiek & Patrick Leder will be guests on Gumbo Live! on Tuesday, August 11 — and I’ve had my eye on Fort since it was announced (and I saw the tie in to SPQF). So, I was really excited to learn Nick Shipley from 90 Second Nerd had a review ready to post, and I asked him to share it here. Thanks, Nick! — BJ)
Designer: Grant Rodiek
Developer: Nick Brachmann
Artist: Kyle Ferrin
Publisher: Leder Games
Number of Players: 2- 4
Play Time: 20 – 40 minutes
From the Publisher: In Fort, you’re a kid! And like many kids, you want to grow your circle of friends, collect pizza and toys, and build the coolest fort.
By doing this cool stuff, you’ll score victory points, and at the end of the game, the player with the most victory points wins! Your cards not only let you take actions on your own turn, but also let you follow the other players’ actions on their turns. Will you devote yourself to your own posse, or copy what the other kids are doing?
But be careful as your carefully constructed deck might start losing cards if you don’t actually use them. After all, if you don’t play with your friends, why should they hang out with you anymore?
I have heard the word unprecedented more in the last 4-5 months than I have in the last 4-5 years. The use of the word unprecedented is, well, unprecedented. But while the word is growing tiresome, it is no less accurate. Our health, business, economics, employment, sports, news, movies, board game conventions, literally everything has seemingly been upended and turned on its head (and not all for the worse) in 2020. Every week seems to unleash some fresh hell that forces up to adjust and cope.
In a year when everything seems different, Rodiek’s Fort is a reprieve from the unfamiliar. If you’ve played some popular deck builders, you are probably already accustomed to the core mechanisms and the art is reminiscent of other Leder Games’ titles. Even the theme may have you waxing nostalgic for your younger days.
In some ways, Fort should seem familiar and that is ok. A little familiarity can go a long way in 2020. But in my plays, all these separate familiarities managed to create a great game that I can say with a high degree of certainty will land in at least my Top 5 of 2020.
In Fort, you play as a kid trying to create the best – you guessed it – fort. In short (and in no great detail), players start their deck with two best friends and eight additional friends. Through the course of the game, the active player will play cards to take available private and/or public actions such as gain or convert resources, advance on their fort track, or score victory points. They can also add cards to the initial played card by following suit increasing the utility of their turn. Their opponents also have the opportunity to take the public action on the played card. After all selected cards are played, any left in the active player’s hand, sans best friends, go into the yard area where they can be recruited by other players. The player draws their hand back up to five cards and play continues clockwise with the next player now the active player. Play continues until a player reaches 25 victory points, or advances to the end of the fort track.
As players advance on the fort track, they will unlock certain rewards. The first is the “made-up rule”. This is essentially a secret scoring condition that will result in end-game scoring. At level two, players will get a “perk card”. The perk cards are exactly what they sound like, adding a one-time, or recurring effect that benefits the player throughout the game. The first player to reach fort level 5 receives the “macaroni sculpture” worth four victory points at the end of the game.
One thing I like about Fort as stated above is the familiarity. Fort doesn’t reinvent the wheel and didn’t get too cute with adding unnecessary steps or mechanisms. Instead, it took familiar deck building elements, made sure they were tight, and created a smooth little game that can be knocked out in about 30 minutes.
Along with familiar mechanisms, it also includes a familiar theme. All of us were kids at some point and may be able to relate to some, if not all, of the best friend flavor text found on the back of the player boards. But while the game is kid themed, it’s not a kids game. It can feel “take-that” or “hate-drafty” at times, if everyone is stealing from the same player, but that is more of an indictment of the group rather than the game.
Another aspect of the game that I really enjoyed was the building stress as the game progressed. Knowing that your opponents can draft any of your unused friend cards made each decision seem important – a feeling that only increased as the game neared its end. And the stress goes both ways. As play progresses, you will get an idea of what cards your opponents have and which ones could potentially help you. When you see them go into the yard for drafting, you may still have to wait to see if any other players take them before they fall to your turn.
Finally, I loved the decision to call the secret objectives “made-up rules”. Not only did it follow the thematic kid-like thematic elements, but it also perfectly encapsulated my feelings when I lose to someone with a secret scoring goal.
One consistent feedback I received with those I played Fort with is that it seemed a little more luck-based than other deck-builders. This may be due to the lower play time, but I didn;t really get that feeling. It’s a card game with secret objectives and asymmetrical perks. There’s always going to be some element of luck involved. If you get hung up on that, this may not be the game for you.
Overall, I think Fort is a great game that came out at the exact right time. Along with being flat-out fun, it provides a much needed sense of normalcy in a time that is anything but. Fort is currently available for pre-order on the Leder Games website.
Nick likes board games, burritos, and baseball. He hates alliteration. Along with the written reviews, he loves being a part of the 90 Second Nerd team. Follow him on Twitter @NDShipley and Instagram @90SecNick.