Fort Review - Box Feature

Fort Game Review (2022) and Thoughts on Cats & Dogs Expansion

Play Time: 20-40 Min / Players: 2-4 / Complexity: Medium / Age: 10+ / Publisher: Leder Games / Designer: Grant Rodiek

Fort Ratings and Summary

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Kids Rating
Teen Rating
Parent Rating

Summary

Kids rating from our daughters (7 &10).
Teen rating from our son (14).

Fort is a fun deck builder with a great theme based around kids having fun and building their fort. There are some cool ideas here that put a nice twist on traditional deck builders. However, the large range of icons used make it challenging to learn and the deck building lacks a little depth. The Dogs & Cats expansion is well worth it.

3

Pros

  • The artwork really aligns to the theme nicely and looks great
  • The theme is also supported well by the gameplay of collecting stuff, winning over friends and building a fort. It all just makes sense
  • Fun and interesting twist on traditional deck building games
  • Down time is kept low by allowing all players to ‘follow’ public actions from cards played
  • Some great player interaction.

Cons

  • The deck building aspect lacks a bit of depth and can feel a little repetitive after a number of plays
  • There are a lot of icons to learn which adds complexity and can make it challenging to learn.

Big thanks to BoardGameRentals.co.nz for providing a copy of this game for review. As always, we provide our own unbiased perspectives on games we review.


What You Will Find in Our Fort Review


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Have you ever wanted to be a kid again? You know building forts, eating junk food, and just having fun with your friends. You may not be able to turn back the clock, but you can play Fort by designer Grant Rodiek and publisher Leder Games. Fort is a kid themed deck builder that lets you relive your youth a little on your tabletop. There’s a lot to like about Fort and while my oldest daughter just loves it our household is a bit split on this game. Find out why in our full review.

How to Play Fort

You have your gang together, there’s a good-sized tree in your back yard and pizza on the way. Time to build the biggest, coolest fort in the neighbourhood and earn some bragging rights. Just remember there are some other kids on the street with the same idea and you don’t want them to make you look bad. You need to work with your friends and make progress quickly, kids can be a bit fickle, and they might just wander over to another kid’s house if they get bored. 

Objective

Your goal is to earn the most points by doing cool stuff before the end of the game is triggered. The game can end in three ways:

  • Someone builds the coolest fort, this equates to a level 5 fort. This seems to happen most often
  • Someone accumulates 25 points. This has never happened in our games
  • The Park deck runs out of Kid cards. This has happened once in a four-player game for us, but not at lower player counts.

Once the end game is triggered players add up all their points from their Fort, Made-Up rule cards and victory track to determine the winner.

Set Up 

Fort Review - Game in Play
The game in play. Players can recruit cards from the Park or steel cards from other player’s yards (the cards in front of each player’s board).

To set up Fort you will need to give each player a player board, their 2 starting best friend cards, a score marker and a fort marker which is placed on level 0 in the Fort track. Then shuffle the kid cards and deal 8 cards to each player, the rest go in a face down pile to create the Park deck in the middle of the table.

Next you will place the Victory track in the centre of the board and each player will place their score marker on 0. Three kid cards are then placed face up from the Park deck under the Victory track and pizza and toy tokens are placed in a pile near the track. The pizza and toy tokens are the games currency, you need entertainment and food to have fun hanging out right?

The Perk and Made-Up rule cards are shuffled separately. Perk cards equal to the number of players plus one are placed face up in the centre of the table and Made-Up rule cards equal to the number of players plus one are placed in the centre of the table in a pile face down. Each player then shuffles their deck and draws five cards to get ready to play.

Turns

Fort is all about enticing the right friends to join your gang and keeping them as occupied as possible to help you gain points and enhance your fort. If you don’t keep them busy, they may wander off and join another kid at their house. Bored kids don’t tend to stick around, kind of makes sense, right?

Fort Review - Toys, Pizza and Player Tokens
Pizza and toys are the key resources you need to build your fort and fuel your friends. The round tokens in orange, green, red and yellow are for each player to track points and fort level.

Turns have five phases; clean up (to retrieve cards from your yard), play a card, recruit a card, discard played cards (to your discard pile or un-played cards to your yard), and finally draw five more cards. There is quite a bit going on here so be warned it can be a hard game to teach with lots of different icons and elements, but it does all make sense given the theme so hang in there.

On your turn you can only play one card from your hand, but some cards allow you to boost their effect by adding a matching suit. There are six suits in the game plus a wild suit. The suits are kid related, squirt guns, glue, skateboards etc.

Each card has a public and private action. The public action can be performed by the active player and followed by any other player if they have a matching suit in their hand. The private action can only be performed by the active player. This part keeps down time low and people engaged. My kids are always trying to use as many cards as they can during other players’ turns to minimise the number of cards that will end up in their yard and vulnerable to being stolen.

Any played cards, added cards or best friends are safe and can be placed in your discard pile at the end of your turn. These are the mates that are having enough fun to stick around or are your besties and won’t leave your side regardless.

Any un-played cards go in your yard and can be recruited by other players on their turn. You must think carefully about what card you play and how to protect your most prized cards, so you don’t lose them. Anything in your yard is fair game for other players who can snap these cards up during their recruit phase.

Fort Review - Player Reference Card
There are lots of icons to get your head around. The reference card is quite useful but it will still be overwhelming at first.

The card actions can be tricky to get your head around, they are all depicted by icons and there are a lot of different icons. So many in fact that there is a large card for each player explaining each of the many possible icons you may encounter. Getting your head around all of them can make it a hard game to teach and it was quite a barrier for my 7-year-old daughter, to be fair though the box does say ages 10+.

The actions available allow you to accumulate more stuff which is required to increase your fort level, tuck a card into your lookout which acts as a permanent suit you can use to boost played cards, store stuff in your backpack to free up space and earn points in numerous ways. Increasing your Fort level also allows you to store more stuff in your backpack and increases the number of cards you can tuck in your lookout. It all works quite nicely together.

As you increase your Fort to level 1 you can gain a Made-Up rule card that provides an additional avenue to gain points at the end of the game. At level 2 you can choose a Perk, these cards provide permanent benefits. We have noticed that some Perk cards are more sought after than others, so we try to level up quickly when we play to get first pick.

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Gameplay Experience  

There are lots of different elements in Fort to consider that make for interesting choices. Do you target getting your fort upgraded early to get first pick of Perks? Maybe you have a card that gives you points for items in your backpack so focusing on filling that might be useful? You might want to get cards that help you fill up your lookout to gain more benefit from future cards played? Do you play nasty and steal cards, it could make you a target? All these choices also align beautifully to the theme, which is light hearted and fun.

Fort Review - Score Board, Perks, Made Up Rules and Cards in Park
The red backed Made Up rule cards and face up Perk cards can be gained by upgrading fort levels. Gaining first pick of Perk cards is a valuable reward for levelling up your fort first.

I love that players can follow actions on someone else’s turn. In some deck builders it can feel like interaction suffers a bit, but this is a great way to keep people engaged when it isn’t their turn and give them some options to protect their prized cards. Often, I will play a card to follow an action purely to minimise the number of cards at risk at the end of my turn.

I also like the ability to steal cards from other players. It’s seldom anything more than a nuisance getting your card stolen but it does add another layer to consider when deciding which cards to play. If you happen to have a card that I really want, and it ends up in your yard it’s fair game. It adds to the interaction and keeps you interested in what other players are doing. My son likes to let me know if he has his eye on a card in my yard and gives me grief for being silly enough not to have played it.

Fort Review - Kid Cards
Meet the neighbourhood kids. Most kid cards have a public action that can be followed by other players which keeps down time low.

The deck building here is not terribly complex. You are looking to match suits to boost card actions and find icons that suit your strategy, that’s it. For seasoned players of deck building games this is something that might disappoint. Unlike games like Dominion or Marvel Legendary there aren’t loads of varied cards that you can experiment with and chain together for large plays. My son and I love deck builders and find the replay value comes from uncovering new card combinations, so this lessens Fort’s replay value a bit.

Another drawback is that Fort can be hard to teach. There are numerous icons to understand and its easy to become overwhelmed. My 10-year-old daughter and I tried to teach my wife how to play… ‘So, you see you have a fort you need to build, but get stuff first to build it, then there’s your pack it’s best to fill it if you can. Don’t forget your lookout right cause that can help too. Oh, you want to know how you do all that…well there’s this large card with all these icons on it…yeah I know there’s a lot of them, once you play a bit it will be ok.’ Cue wife’s eyes glazing over. To her credit she has tried it a few times but it’s just not for her, she finds it too complex and doesn’t enjoy it, my youngest daughter has the same view.

Thoughts on Cats & Dogs Expansion

Fort Review - Cats and Dogs Expansion Cards
Here’s what you get in the expansion box. We find the cards so amusing and my daughter loves dog cards.

If you do end up getting Fort and want something to add a little variety, there is a Cats & Dogs expansion. My oldest daughter just loves this expansion and will not play Fort without it now.

There are two modules in the expansion (Cats and Dogs) and each can be used separately or together which is nice. The Dogs expansion provides each player with three dog cards at the beginning of the game. When you meet their requirements, they can be played for a benefit and then they have a rest in the doghouse provided, tough life aye? Any that aren’t played are lost to the player to your left, dogs can be fickle too you know. My daughter and I just love this module. It feels well integrated to the game too, like it should have been there from the start.

For the Cats module 1 cat per player is placed face up in the centre of the table. If you meet the requirements written on the cat, it will wander over to make its home with you. Just like any cat it would happily wander over to another player later provided its needs are met. The cats provide benefits for as long as you have them. We are not as keen on the Cats module as at times you can forget about them, they aren’t in your hand and it feels a little more like a bolt on.

Components

Fort Review - Player Board
The artwork from Kyle Ferris is so good and fits the theme beautifully. The recessed player boards work really well to make sure the tokens stay where they should be.

I just love the components in this game, Leder Games did a lot right here. The first thing is the artwork from Kyle Ferrin who is known for his work on games like Root and Oath. It fits the theme beautifully and is quite humorous too. The recessed player boards are also a far better way to go than plain boards, it just means that pieces stay where you put them and can’t easily be knocked about.

The final thing I want to mention is the box. I love that Leder Games opted for a box which is just big enough to fit all the pieces and still has a small space for the expansion. It all fits nicely with some good compartments to keep things in their place. It’s good to see they respect our shelf space.

Theme

The theme is a real strong point in Fort. My oldest daughter is mad about this game and it’s because the theme is so expertly incorporated into the artwork and the gameplay. It all just makes sense. You have your besties that will be by your side no matter what, you have a bigger circle of friends who stick around as long as it’s fun, and your whole operation runs on a combo of pizza and toys. Brilliant!

Final Thoughts

Everyone has different tastes and we often don’t agree on games. This is one of those occasions, in fact in our family we have a full spectrum of perspectives on this game. My oldest daughter (10) just loves this game, my son (14) and I enjoy it too. We think the theme is really cool here and the game feels quite unique because of it. We also enjoy the interaction in the game through following played cards and stealing cards from other players.

My wife and youngest daughter (7) really don’t care for it at all. They find the iconography and the rules a little too complicated and my wife doesn’t like the theme as much.

Is Fort easy to learn?  Not really. Individually all the elements are straight forward but there is a fair bit to get your head around. The main challenge is the many icons to understand, thankfully there is a large reference card to remind you of what each icon does.

What will Fort teach my kids?  Fort will help kids to understand basic card combinations and how to construct a deck that will suit their strategy.

What age is appropriate for Fort?   The age rating on the box is 10+ and we think that’s fair. We think younger kids are likely to find it a little too complex.  

Does Fort have good replay value?  I don’t think the replay value here is likely to be as good as other deck builders I enjoy. The card combinations are fairly basic, and they start to feel quite familiar very quickly.  

We hope you enjoyed our Fort review. If you have any more questions or just want to share your thoughts on this game please leave a comment below, or get in touch through our contact page.

About the Authors

We are parents who love board gaming. We have three children and have been enjoying board games as a family ever since we had our first child. We share our real unbiased experiences and opinions on board games so you can decide if they are right for your family. We also write guides and articles to help you get the most out of your family game time. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best player count for Fort?

Fort works well at all player counts because of the low downtime and level of interaction introduced through the ability to follow actions. I think at higher players counts (3 or 4) you have more recruitment options, so it feels more interesting.

This game feels familiar, is it a remake?

Yes, it’s a remake of Grant Rodiek’s 2018 game SPQF.

Can I follow another player’s action if I can’t complete the action in full?

No, the rules state you must be able to complete each action in full to perform it. So if a card requires you to gain two items for your stuff and you only have room for one, you may not follow the action.

Can you follow the leader with lookout cards?

The rules state you cannot discard Lookout cards to follow the leader’s action.

Can a coin (wild) card count as two separate suits for two actions on a card?

No, you must pick one suit which counts for the card as a whole.

Does it count as a fully completed action if you get no benefit?

The rules require you to only play a card if you can fully complete at least one action on the card. There are instances where completing the action may provide no benefit, these still count as fully completing the action. For example, you may play a card that provides 1 victory point for every item in your pack, if you have no items in your pack and get 0 points it still counts as completed.

Strategy Tips

  • Stick to a few suits if you can – a lot of cards can have their effect multiplied by adding cards of the same suit. This means you are generally better off sticking to a couple of suits if you can rather than getting a spread across all suits
  • Wild cards are very useful – linked to the point above if you don’t have all the suits available in your deck you will struggle to follow actions at times. That’s where the wild cards come in. Having wild cards available is essential to enable you to follow the actions of other players. This essentially accelerates your progress in the game
  • Lookouts can be useful for getting rid of cards you don’t want – Placing cards in your lookout provides a permanent card of that suit for the purposes of boosting card actions. Aside from that though, it is also a great way to get rid of cards you don’t want in your deck that you also don’t want your opponents getting
  • Cards without public actions can be very useful – There are a few cards in the game that have a private action but no public action. These are great for making progress yourself but denying your opponents an opportunity to get anything useful out of your turn
  • Match the cards you recruit to the win you are targeting – If you are aiming for a fort win then getting cards that gain you stuff and increase fort level is what you’re after. If you want a victory point win then you need to recruit plenty of cards that can churn victory points. Kitty for example lets you gain toys but also allows you to gain VP for destroying toys which can add up quickly if you have plenty of orange (glue) cards.
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