Issue 8: A look at Fort; playing games in a global pandemic
Fort's great. It's really great.
It’s been, um, a while since I’ve produced this newsletter. I hope this finds you well and safe. The world remains turbulent, and if you’re finding it hard to get games to the table, know that you’re not alone.
What I’ve been playing
With quarantine largely continuing for us, our game-playing time with friends has been extremely limited. We’ve been able to play some games with my wife’s sister and her family, which is always a nice time, but our contact has been otherwise pretty limited.
We’ve played some two-player games, but between Mario 35, a busy soccer schedule (I also write about Real Salt Lake, which some of you will know as I know you through that — hello, I’m sorry we’re so awful right now!) and a general feeling that the world is sometimes strange, tumultuous and problematic, it’s hard to focus on getting a game to the table. (Which, considering my office in which I work from home is packed to the brim with games, is a bit funny.)
Anyway, all that’s to say that this list of what I’ve been playing has been spread out since our last newsletter encounter, and it’s probably not that much. Maybe you’ve been playing lots of games. Maybe you’ve been playing very few. Dealing with reality is sometimes tiring, and you can’t handwave that away by playing a board game or two.
The other factor, I think, that’s kept me from playing many games is that I go on a bit of a hiatus in the summer months from playing games, and that’s because our table is by a west-facing window. I don’t often feel like sitting in the boiling-hot sun, even if the air conditioning’s on, because I’m a bit of a wimp (and that’s OK!) So, now that things are cooling down, I’m feeling a bit more up for things, too.
Oh, the list!
The Crew — I’ve been working on a digital implementation of The Crew (not for public distribution, mind) so that we can continue our campaign with a couple of friends. We’re through something like 15 or 16 missions, and having to stop was a bit painful. (Also: four-player The Crew is fantastic. Two-player is also fantastic. They are extremely different games.)
Now Boarding — I received the new edition of Now Boarding in the mail as a patron of Tim Fowers. It’s got a slightly bigger board, but by and large, it’s the same great game. I really like it. It’s chaotic, exciting and a superbly cooperative experience.
Floor Plan — I am 100 percent sold on this game. It’s super cool. I already love roll-and-write and other games of that ilk, and Floor Plan just blew me away. Those folks over at Deep Water Games really know how to put out a great game, and Marek Tupy’s design is truly great.
Featured Game: Fort
Fort, one of the hot releases of 2020, comes in a small box. It's mostly made of cards, plus a few tokens. It's fairly light, and the theming is all around kids, building forts, and eating pizza — all packaged in a deckbuilder that has a few fresh, cool ideas.
It's unquestionably one of the coolest games I've played in 2020 — from the gameplay itself to the theme and feel, it's a runaway success in my book.
In the era of board game mega-hits, it shouldn't be too surprising that Leder Games has another success on their hands. After the major success of Root, this is a totally different style, feel and idea. There's none of the asymmetry you might know from other Leder Games offerings.
In part, that's because Fort is a reimplementation of Grant Rodiek's SPQF, which I haven't played. It's a branching out for Leder Games, and I think it was a wonderful move.
One of the things I really enjoyed about Fort is its deckbuilding, which it takes in a slightly different direction than other games. The market is randomized somewhat, with three cards available at any given time — but interestingly, you also get to pick from unplayed cards from other players, too, forming a somewhat aggressive market.
It's a super very cool way to take a tried-and-true system, and it gives players a level of interaction they might not otherwise have.
That dovetails extremely well with another aspect of the game: Whenever a player takes a public action, you may discard a card of a match suit to follow that action, performing the same thing. This has two distinct impacts for me.
First, because your cards can be taken if you don't use them, you're incentivized to follow your opponents, even if it produces suboptimal results for a specific card.
Second, it adds a natural slimming of your deck, sometimes in ways that you didn't plan on — in a way, it becomes a little harder to plan — or, if you play with a mind toward that, it can open up avenues of opportunity that might not normally be available.
Anyway, yeah. This is a super cool game, and I love what it does with deckbuilding. I'll continue this week with more on Fort.
Components and the intersection of theme
If you told me a month ago that one of the components I'd want to focus on in Fort was this little pizza token, I probably wouldn't have been surprised, but it would have also rendered me very curious. See, this is a nice component, but honestly, it's just a little hexagonal pizza.
But ... it's also a hexagonal pizza. with pepperoni. And the color makes it look cheesy in the way my brain remembers pizza as a kid.
There's nothing that outright special about these components, and there's nothing amazingly striking about this pizza. But when you look at this pizza, you immediately get a sense of the theme of the game. It's quirky, it's childlike, it's this rough hewn Kyle Ferrin art you might recognize from Leder Games hits like Root and Vast.
If you haven't seen the card art I've posted over the last two days, go back and take a look to see how perfectly this one component fits the whole game.
This is truly fantastic.
And it's also just a pepperoni pizza.
So, I really love Mario 35. I can’t get enough of it. I’ve taken first place a few times, and the feeling is exhilarating. It’s very lovely, and I think I might have to delete it from my Switch before it consumes me.
I’ll include a photo from the last time we went camping at the end. It’s nice to get out, and we did a couple times.
I’ve been loving Star Trek: Lower Decks, and you are probably not surprised. It’s funny, smart, and a loving tribute to Star Trek, and I simply can’t get enough of it. (Although I suppose I’ll have to wait for more, as the season just ended.)
Anyway, hope you’re all well. Stay safe out there!