I never had a treehouse growing up, but I certainly built my share of snow forts. Heavy snowfalls are a trademark of the Upper Midwest, after all. Every snow day, we’d all be outside putting our amateur architect skills to work, building the abode of our dreams.
Fort, designed by Grant Rodiek, hearkens back to those days of yore. Players gather their closest friends, collect toys and pizza, and build their fort to acquire the coveted Macaroni Sculpture! And if you make up a couple rules along the way, well, that’s just childhood.
So come on in, there’s plenty of space in the Fort! I’ll share my thoughts and you can determine if you’re ready to move in!
Fort: All About Your Friends List
At its core, Fort is a deck-building game about managing your hoard of Toys and Pizza. In Fort, players take turns playing a card from their hand, representing one of their Friends. Each Friend specializes in something a little bit different. For example, Munch is really good about consuming Pizza to give you Victory Points, while Dot has the know-how to improve your Fort with fewer resources.
What I really love about the game is that players aren’t just sitting around, waiting for their turn to come up. Each card has a public action and a private action. When a card is played, players can discard a matching suit from their hand to take the public action on that card. It might make you think twice about upgrading your Fort!
Additionally, whatever Friends are left in your hand at the end of your turn go to the Yard. Essentially, this means that the other players can recruit those Friends to their growing Friendship Circle, because you weren’t kind enough to include them in your playtime.
Play continues around the table until someone finishes their Fort or reaches 25 Victory Points. Whoever ends up with the most points is the Ruler of the Playground! At least, that’s what I’ve begun calling it at my table.
Staking Our C.L.A.I.M on Fort
Even though Fort is a card game, I don’t necessarily want to focus on the cards themselves. The quality is excellent. It’s exactly what I have come to expect from Leder Games, and I’m very happy with them.
What’s really great, though, are the other components! Over the course of the game, you’ll be cramming as many little wooden Toy and Pizza hexagons onto your player board as possible. They’re adorable, and really help bring the theme to life. The other wooden cylinders to mark Fort level and Victory Points are also really nice because of the highly-detailed screen-printing on the top.
Players also get a fantastic player aid to help with the symbology. Most of the time you get player aids that are the size of a playing card, but these are gigantic. The player board are also double-layered, meaning that your resources nestle perfectly inside. It’s a small detail, but a welcomed one.
Card games usually suffer from issues where certain cards are highly overpowered compared to others. Now, Fort is not necessarily immune to that problem, but the gameplay creates new situations where certain cards are going to be better in those situations. Cards like Dot are exceptionally good in the beginning of the game, but it’ll be more difficult to get a double-benefit later on.
The other nice thing from a strategy perspective is that you are only guaranteed to keep cards in your deck that you actually play. Since you can play a single card on your turn, you need to make sure that your deck supports the strategies of the other players. Sometimes you’ll have two great cards in your hand, but you’ll be forced to send one to the Yard, hoping and praying that nobody takes your precious Prince.
Depending on how the cards are arranged in the deck, you’ll also see different strategies emerge. For example, in one of the games I played there was very little interaction with the Packs. We just didn’t get the cards for it. The next game, however, our Packs were bursting at the seams from holding so much Pizza! The variability of the game makes it enjoyable, and you’ll definitely single out certain Friends as favorites.
The artist of Fort is the same artist as Vast and Root, Kyle Ferrin. I absolutely love his art style, and he really did an amazing job bringing life and originality into all of the Friends in the game. It’s quirky, it’s fun, and it brings a smile to my face every time I see Tink with stickers stuck to their face.
Fort is the complete package when it comes to Aesthetics. It is actually the reimplementation of the lesser-known game SPQF. When you compare the two, you can see how the whimsical design of Fort really creates a cohesive look and feel. There were some design elements of SPQF that didn’t necessarily mesh well together, and Fort addresses all of those.
Fort has a steep learning curve, although it’s mostly centered around the iconography. Apart from the Friend’s name on the bottom, there’s zero text on the card at all. This can be a turn-off for people, despite symbols being relatively intuitive.
This is where the player aids really shine. When teaching the game, start by breaking down some examples of cards using the sheet. It might take half a game to really get the feel for the card ‘language’, but once it clicks you’ll find that gameplay flows really nicely.
You might like Fort if you enjoy deck-building and general card game mechanics. There’s a surprising amount of player interaction, by following the Leader actions and scooping up Friends. There isn’t a solo mode, however, so you’ll have to get some real-life friends together to play.
Most deck-builders tend to focus on starting with lower-powered cards and building to amazing combos. You don’t get any of that in Fort. Instead, you always have a set of cards with relatively equal power levels that you’re leveraging for victory.
You’re also usually not throwing your entire hand on the table for your turn. You’ll need to strategically determine which card(s) to play, keeping in mind that any leftovers might be taken by your adversaries.
I found the general flow of the game to be very accessible. By following other players’ actions, there’s not a lot of downtime between turns. You’re always looking ahead towards your turn where you can refill your hand with new Friends.
Another thing I really enjoyed is that you’ll develop a little rapport with your Friends. In one game Ghost might be a silent All-Star, where other times you’ll be discarding the weak links with Blitz. It’s like having a close circle of Friends and meeting other Acquaintances, who might just be passing ships in the night.
Fort: Plant Your Flag!
Everything about Fort screams home run down at the sandlot. It’s a fun game wrapped up in an adorable package that’s sure to turn heads. It’s also a blast going through the cards and trying to pick out friends and family. There are so many personalities in the Friends deck to choose from!
It might go without saying, but Fort definitely walks away with the Nerds on Earth Seal of Awesomeness award from Nerds on Earth! It’s the real deal folks, and offers enough depth of strategy for experienced or new gamers alike.
You can find a copy of Fort over at the Leder Games website, or you can check with your Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS).