(This review was originally published on our site https://twomomsgame.com/fort/. Please follow the link to read the review in its original, recommended format).
A deck and hand management game for 2-4 players
Designed by: Grant Rodiek
Published by: Leder Games
Close your eyes and think back to your childhood. Think about playing with the neighborhood kids outside, running through the grass, breathing in the fresh air without a care in the world.
Now think about waging war over fences and playgrounds, recruiting other kids to your cause and hiding away from the enemy’s squirt guns as you tussle over imaginary battle lines.
Fort manages to capture the spirit of childhood fun mixed with combative play. In Fort, you and your besties eat some pizza, play with toys, and recruit some other kids to help you build the biggest, best Fort.
*This is a general overview meant to provide context for the review, not a how-to-play and will not cover every rule.
This is a relatively straightforward game with few rules and a low barrier to entry. Start the game with your two best friends and 8 cards, either drawn randomly or drafted.
1. Remove cards from the yard
We’ll get into this in more detail later, but the yard is one of the coolest – and most contentious – mechanisms in the game.
2. Play a single card doing at least one of its actions completely
Top = public actions
Others can also do
Bottom = private action
Only you can do
If applicable, play additional cards of the same suit to amplify the action
3. Recruit 1 new card from the park or opponent yard
Discard played cards and best friend cards
All other unused cards are placed in the yard
Draw 5 new cards from your personal deck
Along the way, as you advance your fort level, personal scoring objectives and perks are unlocked. No two players will have the same scoring objective or perks.
The game ends either when a player advances their fort to Level 5, or passes the 25 point marker.
What do we think?
This game definitely filled a niche on our game shelf – 30 minute thinky competitive goodness with lightning fast set up.
While Fort is technically a deck building game in that you are getting more cards to add to your deck, that can also be a little misleading. Fort turns deckbuilding on its head and comparing it to other deckbuilders is tough since it’s fairly unique.
When most of us think of deck building games we think of games like Dominion, Clank, or Aeons End where each card has either an action or money value assigned to it, and you can chain your cards together in satisfying combos. Fort is a deckbuilding game, but it is NOT a chaining game and you won’t be building big engines. Instead, it’s all about suit management and creating the optimal streamlined deck for maximum effect of specific cards. In that way, it’s a bit more like the tableau in Race for the Galaxy than Dominion.
First, let’s expand just a bit about how the game is played. In Fort, you have the ability to use 1 card for 2 actions. Each card has a top public action, meaning your opponent can also do that action, and the bottom private action that only you may do. Your opponents will always have access to the public action, whether you do it or not. Oh, you want to use that top card to get some pizza, well be prepared to share because your opponents can do that same action and get pizza too. We found this becomes a huge deal when playing fort upgrades – you have to think about how bad you need that public action upgrade if your opponent can also upgrade at the same time. Often you’ll decide it’s best just not to play it at all if it helps your opponent (have we mentioned that we are really competitive).
There are card combos in Fort, but they’re a bit different than the big, multi-action chains a lot of you might be used to. Rather, combos are a way to amplify your single action to get more out of it. For many actions, you can add cards of the same suit to make your action more powerful, getting you more stuff or VPs. You can also stash cards in your “lookout” to have permanent access to certain suits so you can always amplify your actions.
Pro tip: Since managing an efficient deck is so important in Fort, the lookout is an efficient way to streamline your deck.
A lot of games we play are very interactive at 3+ players, but lose a lot of that head-to-head tension at 2-players. Fort is not one of those games, we found it to be very interactive (and tense) at 2 players with a ton of direct competition. Your unused cards don’t just go into your discard pile where you hope that more vigorous shuffling will lead to a better hand. Instead, unused cards go to your yard where they can be stolen, and on occasion destroyed, by your opponent.
It’s extremely satisfying to break your opponents combo machine they have going by recruiting cards they mismanaged and allowed to be placed into the yard. It also makes you salty AF when your opponent breaks your little engine you spent 5 turns building up.
One thing we LOVE about this game is the artwork and the components. Gotta talk about that dual-layered player mat that doesn’t let your little wooden pieces slide everywhere when your toddler inevitably bumps the table. And each character is unique and interesting. The art is stand-out and fits the theme so well, it’s silly and yet captures the intensity kids can have when they play.
Fort took me a couple times to get into. I went into the game thinking “deckbuilder” and was ready for satisfying action chains and combos. Nope. The meta and approach to being successful in Fort is more like Race for the Galaxy than Dominion. There is a delicate balance if making sure you are playing the best card for yourself, but not a card that will help your opponent too much, while still paying attention to what your opponent is likely to do so that you can prosper from it.
The art is charming and unique but it doesn’t particularly help the theme come through.
I personally found it difficult to manage shuffling/resetting my deck while trying to pay attention to what Emily was doing.
You see “deckbuilder” and you kind of think you know what game you’re getting into. In Fort, I was pleasantly surprised at the interesting gameplay that’s unique among its genre.
I am a little salty right now because in the last game we played Sarah went hard on the “mess with Emily” route and perhaps just a few words were exchanged. For a game with a playful theme, this can get pretty intense which I guess plays into the theme even more. Anyone who has played anything with a kid recently knows forts are serious business.
Honestly, we were a bit disappointed the first time we played when there were no big combos or satisfying action chaining sequences. This is totally on us assuming all deckbuilders are alike.
We learned the game from a Watch It Played video from Rodney Smith. We did not have any trouble locating anything in the rulebook when we needed to check it.
No matter how you learn this game, the low barrier to entry makes this an accessible game to learn, even if your toddler interrupts for “goodnight hot tea” followed by a “goodnight banana”.
More plays make a big difference for effectively playing Fort. We won’t hide the fact that we didn’t get this the first time through from a strategy perspective. We scored super low and both rushed the ending. The next few plays were a lot more fun exploring different card actions and combos and discovering new ways to irritate each other by messing with the other’s plans.
Play Time, Best Number of Players
A two player game is about 30-40 minutes. We would anticipate a 4 player game being a bit longer. At 2 players, it feels a lot like a race game and needing to be the first to advance to fort level 5 and thus get the macaroni sculpture. We suspect more players would likely slow down this feeling of it being a race game.
Setup/takedown: Super quick. You don’t have to plan an extra half hour of non-play time just to get going or clean up.
Interruptions: While learning the game may be forgiving of interruptions, Fort itself is not forgiving of stopping in the middle to sing a dinosaur song. Since there’s so much interaction, all players need to be present and attentive to get anything done, and it can be a bit tricky to figure out where you left off.
*See our rating scale on our site