Game at a Glance
- Leder Games
- Players: 2-4
- Ages: 10+
- Length: 20-40
- Mechanics): Deck building, Follow the Leader, Hand Management
- Availability: Retail
Squirt gun fights, made up rules, pizza parties, macaroni sculptures… Ah, to be a kid again! Fort is a 2-4 player deck-building game themed around being a kid, making friends, and building forts.
As the name implies the goal in this game is to build a fort. But not just any fort – you want to build the coolest hideout in the entire neighborhood. This can be achieved in a variety of ways. Will you collect a lot of stuff (pizza and toys), or assign kids to your lookout? Of course there is always the option to upgrade your Fort Level by paying the cost in pizza and toys, adding stuff to your pack, or working towards hidden victory conditions. How you decide to accumulate points is up to you.
Each player starts with a player board (their fort) and 10 cards (8 friends and 2 BFFs). The kids in your crew are extremely important as friend cards allow you to perform actions either on your turn, or by copying the actions of another player on their turn. Throughout the game you will gain and lose friends in an attempt to build a posse of kids that can work together to create powerful action combos.
The friends you can’t or won’t play with go to your yard, an area in front of your fort, and are bored and willing to play with somebody else. Your opponents can choose to recruit cards in your yard to their crew. “After all, if you don’t play with your friends, why should they hang out with you anymore?” Don’t worry about being a loner though as you will grow your friend circle each round by recruiting someone from the park or from another player’s yard.
The game ends when a player has collected at least 25 victory points, achieved Fort Level 5, or if the Park deck is empty. Then points are tallied and the player with the most points is declared the winner.
- Gameplay: Good. This is not the most innovative deck builder out there, nor is it the first game to implement a follow-the-leader mechanic; however, it’s the only game in my collection that smushes those 2 mechanics together. Having recently played Glory to Rome I see some of the same structure being used here (although they are very different games in many ways) and I understand it is a re-implementation of another game. For those reasons I cannot say this is unique or ground-breaking; however, I feel Fort does what it set out to do quite well. This is a fast-paced game with a lot of interactivity. The games between experienced players often run very smoothly. I would say Fort is best played at 3-4 players. I will still play it at 2; however, the game loses a bit of hand-management tension when there are less people to copy.
- Art & Style: Excellent. Of course art is a subjective matter but there is something so charming about Kyle Ferrin’s illustrations in this game. The children are drawn simply with a limited color palette yet their personalities really shine through. There is a sense of messiness, rough-housing and chaos combined with loads of cuteness and it sets the perfect tone for this game. Speaking of theme – I love it! Although I feel the actual “building” of the fort does not come through, there are so many small details that evoke childhood nostalgia for me. I love the Made-Up Rule and Perk cards in particular. Also the idea that if you don’t play with friends somebody else may steal them works perfectly for both a deck-growing and deck-culling mechanism.
- Accessibility: This game should be fairly easy to learn if you have some basic familiarity deck builders. Fort does rely heavily on symbols which can slow it down for new players; however, there are very large, easy-to-read reference mats that include all the symbology. There are some rules that may not seem intuitive at first; especially around how to combo your cards to use the symbols, but once that is figured out the game runs smoothly. For a medium-weight game, this level of complexity seems appropriate.
- Components: Excellent. The cards are nice and have bright, easy-to-read symbols. The tracking tokens and resources are made of wood and the reference cards are large and legible. Fort comes with 4 very thick dual-layer player mats that are quite nice. The box is fairly small, and comes with a functional insert that holds all the components. I also heard there will be room for the upcoming expansion in the original box.
- Replayability: Excellent. After a few plays it became apparent to me that there are multiple strategies to explore. In addition there are hidden goals and benefits to be drafted, and each game will have a different combination available to choose from. These cards can help a player to hone in on a different strategy each time. I think this game has a lot of depth and combo potential making it very replayable.
Tabletop Mom’s Opinion
The first time I played Fort I had a lot of fun, but I wrote it off as a race game with one obvious strategy. I assumed that the first to Fort Level 5 would almost always win with their macaroni sculpture and heavy loading of Fort Level points. After getting a few more games under my belt, I realized just how wrong I was. I don’t think I’m alone in this initial assessment, either. Considering the game is called Fort it makes sense that getting to Fort Level 5 is the way to go.
But as much fun as racing up that Fort Level track can be, it’s also a lot of fun to carefully build and cull your deck to make an engine that scores big for adding lots of friends to your lookout, or loading your backpack with pizza. I have seen the game end before anybody could achieve Fort Level 5. There’s even a Made-Up rule that awards you points for keeping your Fort Level at exactly 2 – a strategy I feel simultaneously sceptical about and intrigued with. One of these days I will feel brave enough to attempt it!
One of the things that keeps me coming back to Fort is the potential for different combos, and that you cannot do it all in a single game. Crafting a posse of friends who are able to do exactly what you want is intensely satisfying to me. You can go heavy on squirt-gun wielding brutes that are good at trashing cards and strong-arming the neighborhood for toys. Or maybe you will have more fun with a crew of skater kids who shove their backpacks full of pizza for some reason.
Another thing that works well in this game is the hand-management. You may use your cards on other players’ turns and there are a lot of interesting decisions that are born from that. It’s often beneficial to take an action simply to ensure that a card won’t end up in your yard, vulnerable to friend-poachers. But sometimes you want to save cards for your own turn where you can play several of the same symbols at once, making your action many times more powerful than it would have been on its own. Like most deck builders, learning how and when to get rid of cards to streamline your deck is also important in this game.
Timing is also extremely important in Fort. It’s highly interactive and it’s good to remember that your public actions can, and will, be copied. It’s particularly dangerous to upgrade your fort with a public action when your competitors have the resources available to upgrade, too. A lot of games I have played have been very cut-throat, with people trying very hard to only upgrade when their opponents are out of toys, or to use private upgrade actions only.
There’s a large mix of card types here but many of the kids are repeated. This is a minor complaint, but it would have been nice if each card was unique. The 4 main suits are a bit inconsistent with the repetitions, as well. For example, shovels and glue suits each have 6 unique kids, with the remaining being 2 sets of doubles. On the other hand, the squirtgun suit has 2 unique cards, with the remaining cards consisting of 4 sets of doubles. I don’t believe this affects the balance of the game at all, but it seems like an odd choice to me.
It’s a game about kids, so is it a game for kids? My copy’s rulebook states that this game is for ages 8+ while the box says 10+. I have to agree with the box on this one. My son has asked to try the game, and although he picked up on the ruleset quickly, he grew weary of it halfway through a relatively short game. This game has a lot going on. You have to pay attention to your neighbors, and sometimes the best decisions are not obvious. My son got a bit mentally exhausted with it. I think we can try again when he’s older and more experienced with deck building games.
There’s something about Fort that feels vibrant and alive to me. The art gets some credit for this, but the high interactivity and small details that help to integrate the theme are really what makes it special to me. I moved a lot as a kid, but I have fond memories of playing with neighbor kids on this little cul-de-sac I briefly lived at. We played on the street together every night whether it be kickball during the day, Ghost in the Graveyard at dusk, or hunting for crab spiders in the neighborhood flower beds. I came home exhausted with scabby knees, a dirty face, and a heart full of belonging (even though I didn’t live there long). Those sorts of memories are special to me, and some of the kids I played with are alive in these cards. I think most of us would be hard-pressed to not recognize at least one person from their childhood while flipping through the deck. This ability to evoke long-dormant memories is not something I find in games often, and I appreciate it.
There is nothing quite like growing up in a neighborhood full of kids. And Fort manages to capture the essence of this pizza- and toy-filled time in our lives and distill it down into a small box full of nostalgia. Because of that, and because I think it’s just plain fun, it will be staying in the collection for a long time.
Tabletop Mom Recommends this for fans of deck builders and to anybody interested in the theme. There’s a lot of strategy to explore and no single path to victory and I think many gamers will enjoy that. This is the type of game that shines when experienced players revel in discovering and executing new combos.I do not recommend Fort as an introduction to deck building, and despite the theme I would not play this game with children much younger than the recommended age of 10. This is just based on my personal experience having played the game with my son, and people new to the deck building mechanic.