Another fine entry in Friedemann Friese's series of fabulously fun fable games

Among game designers, Friedemann Friese stands out for more reasons than just his bright green hair. He's not afraid to stand out in a crowd, and look different. And the same is true of his games - all of which begin with the letter F. He's highly regarded for producing designs that are extremely innovative and creative. If anyone is capable of thinking "out of the box", it's Mr Friese. One of the best examples of his abilities as a game designer is his 2015 game 504, which has different modules that combine to produce 504 different games. Since then he's created a number of games with his "fable system", which is a style of legacy game where the game mechanisms and rules evolve - within a single game! The first of these was Fabled Fruit (2016), and subsequently he's produced several filler-type games using a similar concept, namely the Fast Forward series. The four games of this series are FEAR (2017), FLEE (2017), FORTRESS (2017), and FORTUNE (2018). They're all a lot of fun, and the idea is that you learn the rules as you play, and these rules constantly change as new elements get introduced.

Fast Forward: FORTRESS handles 2-4 players, and is one of the finest entries in this series of light, fast, and fun family fillers. It comes with 90 over-sized cards with attractive an graphic design and artwork. With each game playable in less than 15 minutes, you can expect to get in at least a dozen plays before you've discovered the entire system. The basic concept is fairly straight forward: cards have numbers, and you're using sets of cards to capture "Fortresses". To capture a fortress from another player, you must play a set of cards worth more than theirs. But you don't know the exact strength of their defenders, so there's considerable bluffing involved, and numerous twists will be introduced that affect how the value of your cards are calculated, and other elements get added to the gameplay as the rules change. Can you win the game by being the player with the largest number of fortresses?

I've scoured the personal comments and skimmed through some reviews and other articles, and carefully organized some key quotations to bring you the important things you need to know and what other people think about Fast Forward: FORTRESS. The parts in bold express my own conclusions, which are then expanded upon and substantiated by the citations that follow, to give you a feel of what most people are saying on each point. Perhaps you could call this a kind of "consensus of opinion", somewhat biased because I'm the one who gets to pick the quotes to include, but overall a well-rounded and fairly objective viewpoint. So here you have it, an at-a-glance overview of some of the majority opinions that you need to know about Fast Forward: FORTRESS.

NB: For more reviews like this, see this list.

1. The main aim of Fast Forward: FORTRESS is to play cards to capture fortresses, by playing a set of cards of the highest value.
"Mostly a push your luck card card with a little deck a management as you try to fortify or attack fortresses to end with the majority." - rmiczek
"Bidding on a castle and trying to conquer it and still have it at the right time." - Polgara
"You draw cards or secure a fortress by putting card(s) face down underneath it. Someone can steal a fortress from you by playing higher valued cards, but it's a gamble as they don't necessarily know the value of the cards currently underneath the fortress." - SocksRule
"Kind of like King of the Hill. Lots of attacking and defending." - Red22jlj
"Boils down to some basic set collection but the changing victory conditions, hidden information, and press-your-luck aspects add a good deal of fun." - zedeemia
"The game itself is quiet simple, it's mostly a push-you-luck and bluffing game, with a bit of take-that (sometimes)." - umbre
"A push-your-luck, take-that and bluffing aspect in a small game. It was a decent, little, legacy-like experience with rules changing and cards leaving the deck as we go." - bnordeng

2. Because you don't know the value of the cards currently beneath the fortress, there's considerable scope for bluffing.
"It has a clever mechanism for determining the strength of card sets, which lends well to its bluffing mechanics and one-upmanship." - ekloff
"This creates interesting opportunities for bluffing as someone might be protecting their fortress with a super powerful card that you didn't even know existed or they might be bluffing with a 1." - SocksRule
"I love the bluffing." - cfarrell
"The initial ruleset is a light and random bluffing and set collection game." - drbobjack
"A tremendous game of bluffing and pushing your luck. Great light fun!" - Neale2006
"The bluffing element in the game seems to work well with the Fable system, because there's always the tension of not knowing what new cards might have come up." - JesseH

3. The game also employs Friedeman Friese's fable concept, in that you learn the rules as you play, and cards with new rules and mechanics emerge as the game progresses.
"These games have no rule book. Put the cards on the table, read the top one and go. Brilliant idea." - Surya
"It's a good light game that tunes itself over the course of play." - Mikaeljp
"The first few cards teach you the game, there is no rule book. As you get further into the game (by continuing to flip cards), more rule cards come out adding or changing existing rules." - SocksRule
"It's getting more and more interesting by adding new components every round." - The_Mynock
"A very simple game that slowly reveals itself as you play." - logopolys
"A nice card game with no rules that teaches you how to play as you go and adds new rules during the game. I like how each time you play cards get added and cards get removed." - Fausticus1
"Really interesting mechanics in how the game develops as you play." - Ron247
"Simple design and I love how it gradually builds." - Ajax
"Interesting just to see how the game evolves." - zb1035
"The game teaches the rules while played. New cards are added for each game, so new situations and rules show up." - visard

4. Occasionally the rules may create some ambiguities, although fortunately anything that isn't clear won't usually be game-breaking.
"I find it hard to learn rules when someone is reading it to the group. Also some of the rules weren't that clear." - SocksRule
"One or two of the rules aren’t completely clear and rereading them slows it all down." - zumikon
"The rules are ambiguous despite how simple it was." - Unitoch
"We also had rules issues, unsurprisingly, since Friese tops the list of non-wargame designers most in need of blind rules testing, proper translation, and a solid editor." - wkover
"The rules are completely confusing, even on some of the cards." - bdrowe5828
"First experience was really spoiled by one glitch of the rules." - skudfisher
"Rules can be a little ambiguous, but it doesn't break the game." - Ajax

5. A big reason that accounts for why Fortress is so entertaining is to play the fun of discovering these new rules, cards, and mechanics.
"The progression is the game. Learning is the game. Knowing things your opponents don't know because you drew a weird card is the game. It's a fun ride." - grasa_total
"The initial ruleset is a light and random bluffing and set collection game ... takes that ruleset and gives it a twist every so often, and that makes the game quite compelling." - drbobjack
"Card games always have a sense of mystery (what's in the deck? what are they holding?) and the Fast Forward system adds another set of questions - you don't know the distribution of cards, you don't even know what type they might be!" - drbobjack
"I really love the style of game, where it is being revealed and changed as it goes." - Wassail Games
"The game itself is basic, not much more interesting than War. However, seeing the rules emerge through gameplay gives you an intriguing hour, sort of like you're along for the ride while the game is being designed before your eyes." - JVallerand
"Exploring how the game evolves is fun, and each game you are curious to see what the five secret, new cards do." - vejrum
"Works very well - we played through the whole deck. Some nice twists along the way." - garyj

6. Some people even find that the fable concept works better than the concept of legacy games.
"The Fable system provides a much more solid set of underlying mechanisms than Legacy IMO, and I love how it works in this case to conceal what’s even in the deck at any given time, and so allows the game to present you with lots of little fun surprises as a card you didn’t know existed pops in and out of the game." - cfarrell
"There was a constant stream of pleasant little discoveries and surprises that elevated this super-light filler into a genuine delight ... this format is ever so superior to "Legacy"." - Gyges

7. The game does start fairly slowly, but over time becomes more and more interesting.
"I can see many people are going to be turned off by the first few plays, which are very dull. The game only begins to shine after a few plays, and then it's rather good." - Scholle
"Is it a good game? Not, the first few/~half games, which are very basic and random. But we had a lot of fun playing it." - vejrum
"Interesting idea. It goes pretty slowly to start with but builds well." - Avataarkaap

8. Most individual games only take around ten minutes, while playing through the entire system will take about 90 minutes.
"Reached the end in about 90 min." - anon
"The playing time is perfect. The pace of individual games and the card and rules introductions work great especially when combined with the small percentage of the cards an individual player will see in each game." - cfarrell
"It will take 10+ games to get through the deck. The box says 15 minutes, but that is 1 game, which IS NOT the whole deck." - SocksRule
"Our 12 plays kept us rather engaged for 90 minutes or so." - HilkMAN
"Took us 13 games in two 1h sessions to go through the deck and "finish" the game." - umbre

9. There is an addictive quality that will keep you playing games one after another, but there is replayability even once you have gone through the entire system.
"Enjoyed it very much. Will replay it with a new group." - sasa7291
"Definitely strongest the first time, but can be replayed." - driehm
"Quite keen to keep playing with more people and see the game evolve in different ways." - anon
"It works as advertised but offers replayability." - ValentineS
"A really fun and easy card game that rewards replayability that remains long after the initial clever novelty during the discovery phase." - shaveandahaircut
"The final, fully evolved game is a quite good, fun game." - vejrum
"Played through on a single session. The game remains playable afterwards." - visard
"I certainly expect it to get a good few plays - The speed of each play is certianly a bonus and makes it quite "moreish"." - brucew_o
"Super great the first time thru the deck! Hope to play again." - JiffM
"We would play it from time to time as a whole game from now on." - flashshadow69

10. Even those uninterested in playing the entire system more than once, found that Fortress was worth playing through even just once, given how much fun it was.
"Not sure on long term playability once you have worked through the deck the first time as it doesn't seem too deep. Definitely fun though." - Ron247
"I'm not especially keen to play again, having gone through the deck once--but it was a blast." - Gyges
"I feel like we might only get once more through the deck before we're done with it, but for the price I paid and the amount of fun we've had with it I'd recommend it." - Mikaeljp
"Totally fun to run through the whole deck once. Not an all time great and not sure about the replayability but for this price and this experience, definitely worth trying." - DaGreenMachine
"I enjoyed playing through the deck, and seeing what else this designer came up with in his Fast Forward concept, but it feels like “been there, done that” now." - Olafslomp
"Not sure about long term replayability yet but was great to explore and learn and a lovely little card game to boot." - huffa2
"I think this game does have replay value, but the first time through would truly be the best because no one at the table knows what cards there are in the deck." - SocksRule

11. The game-play is light and very fun, making it ideal for family gamers.
"Very fun light card game." - ValentineS
"Fun and surprising." - emberpeter74
"Really really fun." - huffa2
"Say what you want about these games, you can't call them boring." - GoingTopShelf
"Intriguing idea. Relatively simple game play." - dansashton
"A definite success with the family. The kids (12yo girls) enjoyed its light "take that mechanic" and were always curious what would come out next in terms of cards." - brucew_o
"Children could love it." - Glitterfolie
"This is aimed at family gamers who like Fabled Fruit. This is no gamers game." - Peter The Rat
"Really enjoying this with the family." - joeynine
"Very nice entertaining game." - The_Mynock
"Such an interesting piece of design work and such an engaging, fun, and interesting game." - cfarrell

12. Fortress is another superb example of Friedeman Friese's innovation in game design and creative genius.
"The game might not be amazing, but the design is innovative as far as I've seen. Friese consistently impresses me with his inventiveness." - Maghd
"I've never been a huge fan of light card games, but Friese's formal experimentation turn them into something I really enjoy." - drbobjack
"Magical concept." - flagadur
"Quick play mechanics are great and changing rules throughout the game is genius!" - P_J_Keller
"Really excited to see Friese continue to work with these ideas ... I think he’s the most interesting designer working in the hobbyist/classic euro space right now." - cfarrell
"Really love the concept of these Fast Forward games with instructions on the cards as you go." - Luck33Dawg
"Friedmann Friese continues to produce games that have a high addictive quality. "Just one more round" is something you will hear a lot with this one." - GoingTopShelf

13. The over-sized cards have attractive artwork, which gives the game added appeal.
"I love the art." - GoblinGrrl
"The art is nice, we liked it." - Glitterfolie
"Love the artwork." - Wassail Games
"The art is clean." - JesseRR

14. Fortress also compares very favourably with the other Fast Forward games.
"The best of the Fast Forward series I've played so far." - murzim
"For me the strongest of the 3 Fast Forward titles." - driehm
"The best of the three Fable games I've played." - JesseH
"Enjoyed it slightly less than Fast Forward Fear." - paulkessels
"I like this better than Fear but not as well as Flee." - Goatcabin
"For me the best in the series." - EagleSixty6
"Fortress is the strongest of the early Fast Forward series." - ekloff

The bottom line: what you need to know

Friedemann Friese continues to impress with his creative approach to game design, and Fast Forward: FORTRESS is another fine entry in the excellent Fast Forward series. Admittedly, serious gamers who can't stand light and tactical games might find this an exercise in frustration. Or they may find it more interesting as a theoretical concept in game development than as a gaming experience that they want to be part of, due to the fact that it is a relatively small and light game. But even many of them won't be able to help themselves admiring the clever game system, and may even find that the process of discovering the rules and cards is far more fun than they ever expected.

The game-play is not at all difficult to learn, and you will have to change your approach as new cards and new rules get added to the game. With virtually all of the Fast Forward games, this one included, there have been reports of issues with the clarity of the rules in certain situations. That is almost inevitable with a game of this type, but fortunately most questions can be easily answered by consulting the forums here at BGG.

Certainly a lot of the fun of this game can be attributed to the joy of discovery. But fortunately that's not the only thing that Fortress offers. The game really encourages bluffing, and this is a mechanic that I personally enjoy a great deal. It plays very quickly, making it ideal for a filler, but the changing rules, cards, and gameplay means it offers something unique that you won't find in your average filler. This gives it a very addictive quality, and even though most games are finished in under 10 minutes, you'll often find players wanting to play over and again. Even if you decide to shelve the game after playing through the system once, you'll usually be more than satisfied that you've had your money's worth. But I believe that Fast Forward: FORTRESS does hold enough interest for return visits beyond this, especially with different players or player counts, and due to the fact that it is a light gaming experience that commends itself as a filler.

Fast Forward: FORTRESS may have a small box, but inside there is a unique Friedemann Friese game experience that provides an enormous amount of fun. You'll enjoy exploring the different twists and turns as you learn the game, especially the first time through. I recommend the entire Fast Forward series, and this is no exception!

Where to get it? Fast Forward: FORTRESS is available from the publisher Stronghold Games (here).

mb The complete list of Ender's "What you need to know and what people think about..." reviews:
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If you made it to the end of this review and found it helpful, please considering giving a thumbs up at the very top of the article, to let me know you were here, and to give others a better chance of seeing it.
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Comboteur "Crazed 'Beastface' Survivor" Fou
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The Orzhov welcome you. Please leave your belongings with the Obzedat. They are not yours anymore.
Hi, I'm a european crested tit, and a very small punk rocker!
So you're mostly pasting comments found in the ratings tab?

If so please avoid using mine in your "reviews".
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Razoupaf wrote:
So you're mostly pasting comments found in the ratings tab?

I've explained exactly what I've done in the third paragraph of my review. You'll also find an explanation here.

Not everyone is a fan of this kind of review, but I'm all for diversity of reviews, and these are generally well received and appreciated - see a complete list of them here.
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Olaf Slomp
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I do like the concept of these kind of reviews, and appreciate the amount of time it takes to scan many comments and summarize them in this clever way.
Have no problem with you including my comment in your review, and appreciate the heads up you sent for using it.
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Maximiliano Sanchez de Bustamante
Buenos Aires
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Typo: At the end of the third paragraph you wrote FEAR instead of FORTRESS.
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mikael peterson
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This is a neat idea. I often look at comments before bothering to read a full review of a game. It's a lot of effort to do this, do you manually categorize the comments?
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Mikaeljp wrote:
This is a neat idea. I often look at comments before bothering to read a full review of a game. It's a lot of effort to do this, do you manually categorize the comments?

Yes, the selecting and sorting of comments is all done manually. So you're right: it takes a lot of effort, but I enjoy doing it, and like to think that it's helpful to others.

Thanks for the feedback!
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Adhil Patel
South Africa
Cape Town
Western Cape
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Very cool idea. Thanks for the effort you've put in. It's a great meta-analysis of the comments.
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