Fort, the upcoming 2-4 player game by Leder Games, is a fun and easy-to-learn card game that puts a delightful twist on the deckbuilding genre while balancing ease of play and complex strategy. The premise of Fort is simple - each player is a kid trying to grow their circle of friends and build their own neighborhood fort. Players build their fort by spending resources, which are collected by playing certain cards from their deck, which may or may not grow in size over the course of the game. Like other deckbuilding games, the key to Fort is building your deck to utilize combos, but players can't hoard cards to keep them from other players. If a player doesn't use a card during their turn, a public area where other players can recruit from during their turn. While a player can still certainly recruit a card to mess up their opponents' plans, other players can similarly raid their deck whenever they put out a strong card out into the Yard on their turn.
Each card comes with two actions - one "public" action and one "private" action and belongs to one of seven suits (one of which is a "wild" suit that can be used to represent any of the other six). On their turn, players build combos by playing multiple cards of the same suit, which usually enhances one or more of the lead card's actions. Players can't add cards for no reason - there's no way to protect cards in your hand from going into the yard if you choose an action from a different suit or play a card with actions that can't be improved. Also, other players may "follow" the leader by discarding a card of the same suit as the one played by the active player to copy that card's public action. Following the leader not only gives you the chance to piggyback on another player's turn, it's also one of the few ways to protect cards that couldn't be used on a player's upcoming turn AND gives players a reason not to load up their deck with one suit.
Players can also enhance their abilities through the use of the Lookout and the Pack. The Pack allows you to store up resources equal to your Fort Level plus one, and can be used to either score Victory Points or spent to increase your Fort Level. Some cards allow you to put other cards into the Lookout, a permanent stash that always adds suits to your actions. The Lookout is not only a way to keep your deck lean, but it's also great for guaranteeing playing certain cards will always result in earning multiple benefits. Players also gain additional benefits from "made up rules" cards and "perk" cards that add victory point conditions and extra actions unique to the player holding those cards. At the end of the game, the player with the most victory points (which are earned in a number of different ways) wins.
Leder Games is best known for its complex asymmetric games like Root and Vast: The Mysterious Mansion that focuses on trying to achieve a unique objective while trying to foil other players' radically different aims. Both Root and Vast have earned well-deserved praise for their fantastic art, their complexity and the joy of watching how all their many moving parts seamlessly fit together. However, they can be difficult to learn, especially as changing characters usually comes with learning an entirely new style of play. In this sense, Fort represents a radical departure for Leder Games - not only is the game centered around a single set of objectives, but there's also a much lower learning curve. Many players will likely master the basics of Fort after a few rounds, and since the game's mechanics are suited towards shifting strategies as needed, you won't be "stuck" with a bad deck because you made a few questionable decisions early in the game.
Having had the opportunity to play through a few rounds of Fort on Tabletop Simulator last week, I think this will be a game popular at many gaming tables for years to come. The art is delightful, the rules are easy to learn, and it still has those layers of complexity that Leder Games is famous for. You can try out Fort on Tabletop Simulator for free starting on July 28th, with the physical release of the game coming on August 25th.
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