The name ‘Fort’ has been on every Dicebreaker team member’s lips since it was featured at PAX Unplugged last year, with the video team bringing tidings of its many virtues back with them and into 2020.
Their numerous compliments were enough to instill a certain amount of hype around the game, which can be dangerous if a release is unable to live up to a player’s expectations. Luckily enough, Fort very much lives up to its reputation as being a fantastic deckbuilding game, one that insists you lather it with all the love and attention it truly deserves.
On its surface, Fort’s charms are very apparent. Designed by Grant Rodiek and published by Leder Games, the art style of Fort - created by the immensely talented Kyle Ferrin, the artist behind games like Root and the upcoming Oath - draws the eye with a collage of bright colours and conveys its themes of childhood whimsy in a way that feels universal. No matter what kind of upbringing you might have had, Fort somehow finds a way of tapping into a player’s nostalgia for those times where the world might have seemed just a little less heavy.
These wistful feelings are further fed by the design of the tokens featured in the game, which are depicted as adorable little pizzas and boxes of toys. The quality of the pieces are so good that they could be used for a separate imaginary game in and of themselves. All in all, the entire look of Fort can be summed up in two words: unbearably charming.
The game itself flows in a series of easy-to-follow steps that sees you playing and taking cards in order to gradually gather victory points. How you acquire victory points is entirely down to what cards you have in your hand and how you use them alongside your resources. The resources in question being the aforementioned pizza and toy box tokens, because we all know that kids operate within a purely barter-based economy.
Whilst some cards allow you to transform your resources into victory points, others will give you victory points for just having a certain amount of stuff stored in a particular place. (Such as having a stash of pizzas tucked away in a backpack.) There are even options for gaining victory points outside of using resources, such as being able to trash cards in exchange for more VPs. Fort offers players the freedom to choose and change their strategies on the fly, which makes it an incredibly exciting and engaging game to play.
Instead of getting bogged down by piles of cards, as is the case in many other deckbuilding games, Fort’s complexity comes from the players’ interactions with one another. The yard mechanic forces players to place any cards they haven’t used on their turn into a free market of sorts. Doing this opens up the opportunity for their opponents to take those cards for themselves on their turn. It’s such a simple gameplay mechanic, but it transforms the entire experience into a deeply interactive one where players have to pay attention to what their opponents are doing and shape their decisions around that.
This is ultimately what makes Fort worthy of being my Game of the Year. Beyond the beautiful artwork, adorable tokens and excellent pacing, Fort is a game that welcomes new players in with open arms and forces them to develop a relationship with one another. It’s a little bit like that bossy friend who refuses to let anyone spend a lunch break on their own. Which is exactly the kind of friend that we all need, at some point in our lives.