Introducing Fast Forward: FORTUNE

It's always a challenge to write a review of a game where part of the game's design is to let you discover the changing rules and cards for yourself. Well, that's exactly the assignment I'm setting for myself in this article. I can't lift the curtain too far back, or reveal too many of the secrets that lie within this game, otherwise I'll risk ruining the experience of self-discovery for my readers. Because in Fast Forward: FORTUNE, part of the aim is that you're learning the game on the fly, and much of the fun is about discovering how the game ebbs and flows, as new rules get added, and the trajectory of the game-play keeps altering.

Gamers already familiar the Fast Forward games by German super-designer Friedemann Friese will recognize this as the premise of all the games in his Fast Forward series. Like his family game Fabled Fruit, the games in this series all employ his fable game system. For those who haven't come across this before, the idea behind this concept is to create a legacy style of game-play, but without altering any components, and as part of the game's intrinsic design. The way this works is that the game begins with very simple mechanisms and rules, which you learn as rule cards come out. But as you get further into the game and deeper into the cards of the deck, new mechanics and rules begin to reveal themselves. Yet unlike a legacy game, because this evolving nature is part of the game design, you can reset the entire deck at any time you wish, and start over.

The first two games in the Fast Forward series (FEAR and FORTRESS) had some similar elements to their game-play. In contrast, the third game (FLEE) was a whole different beast, and was a very unique cooperative game with a very strong puzzle-like feel that evoked the feel of an escape room challenge. After the success of this trilogy of games, which were lauded for their creative and original designs, Friedemann Friese has now added a fourth game, entitled FORTUNE. Many of the elements that made FEAR and FORTRESS a success return, but FORTUNE is still a whole new formula that promises a minimum of 10-15 games before we've explored the entire system - and of course then we can start all over if we wish!



COMPONENTS

Box

The box of Fast Forward FORTUNE matches its three predecessors, and is a conveniently sized and portable box - green of course - with artwork that gives a hint of the ideas that lie within.



The back of the box mentions a number of important elements about the game that are worth sharing. Firstly, the theme is related to spinning wheels of a casino slot machine, often dubbed the one-armed bandit. "The three wheels are spinning, tension is rising - Is this a new high score? It is not about the money, but you try to score more points than all the other players. But high numbers are not enough in FORTUNE, you also need the right bonus points for the victory."

The information provided also introduces us to the concept of the fable system, with its promise to teach us the ever-changing rules as we go along.



Component list

So what's do we get inside the box? Just this: 90 cards.

Do you notice something missing from that list? There's no instruction book. Unlike most games, all we get inside is a pile of 90 cards, all individually numbered and in order. These promise to teach us how to play as we work through the deck, starting with card #1. The top and the bottom card in the deck both rightly warn us not to shuffle the deck!



GAME-PLAY

Flow of Play

So how do you play? Well I can't say too much here, because I don't want to give too much away, or spoil any surprises. But there is something we can do - read the back of the tuck box! There we're told the following:

"You start a Fast Forward game without reading a rules booklet in advance! Just grab some fellow gamers and discover the rules while playing.

The Fast Forward series uses the new Fable Game system system introduced in Fabled Fruit. With the presorted deck of cards you will discover all cards and rules as you play. It will take 10-15 games of FORTUNE before your group has explored the entire system. It can then be reset and played again by the same or different groups!
"

To play, the deck needs to start in its carefully organized order from 1 to 90, as it comes upon arrival. And because there's no rule book, our starting job is to read the first card to find out what to do next, and we'll learn from there.



Rule cards

Let's give you a look at a few rule cards. These are the first three, which appear at #1, #11 and #19 in the deck. So don't read the text on the last cards if you are really insistent that you want to know almost nothing about the game until your first play, but I personally think you can read these ones without fear of spoiling surprises, since all they do is introduce the basic mechanic of the game.

Getting started: The first card tells us how the rules cards work, and that we're to read them out loud when they show up, and leave them face-up on the table. Card #1 tells us that the basic flow of play involves taking turns to draw the top card from the deck and put it into our hand.

How to play: When we get to Card #11, players will begin having two or three cards in hand, and we find out how to play and score. Our hand limit is 3 cards, and on a turn where we would draw a 4th card, we have to discard one from our hand face-up onto the table, and from now on players have the option of taking the face-up card whenever they are drawing. When you play a sixth card face-up to the table as described, a "Last Player" card (provided at that point in the deck) goes in front of the player to your right. Turns continue, but when the "Last Player" has had their turn, you move to scoring.

Scoring: Scoring is easy - just add the values of the three cards you have in hand, along with any bonus points. The highest score wins the round and the lowest score loses the round. We kept track of the number of wins (+1) and losses (-1), to determine who was the overall winner.

Next round: Card #19 will have shown up by the time the round has ended, and tells us how to set up for a new round.



This is all very straight forward so far, and there haven't been too many surprises until now. But remember, really all that's been going on is that we've been walked through our very first steps. Now things will start getting interesting, as some curve-balls and complexities start getting added, and as we progress further through the deck.

Number cards

Many of the number cards are very straight forward, because the aim is simply to get the highest valued hand.



But other number cards will award special bonuses, like the ones shown below.

Some of these let you chose their value, or will give bonuses for having only odd/even cards, or for having cards of specific values.



Other cards

Are there more twists and turns? Sure. At any moment you could turn up a card that says "Play Immediately!" These introduce special rules that affect how the end-of-round scoring is calculated. For example, you might get bonus points for consecutive numbers, or for identical numbers. Or scoring may use a completely different method altogether.



Then there are number cards which let you perform special actions (e.g. remove a card on the table from the game) or switch whether or not a card value is positive or negative.

Of course there are many other possibilities that will come up - there are 90 cards in the deck after all! - but that should give you a taste of how the game works.



CONCLUSIONS

What do I think?

Familiar: If you've played Fear and Fortress, then Fortune will definitely give you a sense of the familiar. Fortress requires you to get specific combinations of cards, while Fear requires you to compare hands when something is triggered. But it's the combination of these elements in Fortune that still makes the game feel new.

Unfamiliar: What makes Fortune feel entirely unfamiliar is that you don't really know what's going to happen, or how the game works! That of course is the entire point of the Fable system, and the game will often be most fun when you suddenly find yourself changing your target as the game produces another surprise or adds another twist to the way scoring is calculated.

Chaotic fun: While the changing rules might frustrate some more serious gamers, those enjoying this as a filler will really like this. The scoring method can change unpredictably, but this also means that even an "unlucky" hand can strike unexpected gold and come out a winner.

Theme: The mechanics fit with the "fortune" theme very well, and creates a light and frenzied feel that does bring to mind the slots. The game has also been called "Fast Forward JACKPOT" for this reason, while someone else described it as "Fruit machine set collection." You do have objectives to aim for, but because these can suddenly change, you are being bounced around in an entertaining ride.

Non-gamer friendly: In terms of what kind of niche this kind of game would fill, I'd suggest it's suitable either as a filler for gamers, or as something to pull out and enjoy with non-gamers. The gameplay is easy for first-timers to easily follow, especially the basic concept of collecting the best three card hand to win. There is quite a bit of text on the cards at times which may slow down some newbies, but the rule complexity should be within the grasp of the average person, and the gameplay is enough fun to keep them interested.

Gamer friendly: The easy beginnings don't mean that this is a game that's been dumbed down just to get mass appeal. After the opening plays, the game ramps up with some interesting scoring elements that are borrowed from games like Blackjack, or tinker with the scoring in other ways. There is definitely room for clever play and good decisions, and you'll find that serious players may need time to decide on what card to take, as they calculate different options in their head. It's exactly the kind of `meatiness' that gamers will enjoy, while still remaining very much in the category of "filler".

Scoring: The main mechanic of comparing cards in your hand to see which player wins is borrowed from Fear. But in Fortune I felt that there was more going on, which makes it more interesting and fun. You could consider this as "Fear on steroids". Unfortunately, part of the "more going on" is that you'll occasionally have to do some more detailed calculations and mental math, as you calculate the value of your hand. Understandably, not everyone will be a fan of this, and will find that it gets in the way of the fun for them.

Replayable: An important question often asked in connection with the Fast Forward concerns replayability. Once you've made your way through the entire deck, and discovered the entire system, is there still any incentive in playing it? With some of the titles in the series, especially FLEE, I think that the answer is: No, you've solved the puzzle-like challenge of the game, and there's no real purpose in repeating the experience. But with titles like FEAR and FORTUNE, even if you do know how the scoring will change things up, there's still the fun of trying to put together a high scoring hand, based on the available cards and what you've been dealt, and that will be different every game. These games are still fun fillers in their own right, and can be enjoyed many times over.



What do others think?

This title is still quite new, so there's not a massive amount of comments to trawl through just yet. There are some critics, mostly from people who didn't appreciate the element of learning the rules on the fly, or who found it too simplistic and luck-driven. On the other hand, there were equally concerns expressed from the other side, suggesting that there are too many mental math gymnastics needed. You can never please everyone! It is true that it can be hard to plan, and the game is very light, and that what some people like me might find to be fun (discovering the new rules, twists and turns), others might find frustrating. But this is certainly no game that is primarily about luck, devoid of decisions.

There were also those who really enjoyed Fast Forward FORTUNE a lot, several even more than than any of the other Fast Forward games:
"Definitely my favorite FF game yet." - DaGreenMachine
"The Fast Forward games are interesting. This is probably my favorite in the series so far." - punkin312
"I loved it. It is easily my favorite of the Fast Forward series!" - chriswray84
"Had a very enjoyable play through with the family. Glad to have purchased and run through." - jrachfal
"I like this style of game though where the rules are introduced as you go." - weasel
"I actually ended up being surprised by how much I enjoyed this game." - bubblepipemedia
"Another success for the Fast Forward series. As usual, the special rules coming out change things up and keep this exciting." - P_J_Keller
"I had more fun playing this than the last Fast Forward I tried." - iamzimmer
"I found it a bit more interesting than Fear or Fortress." - bnordeng
"Another great game in the “discover rules as you play” game in the Fast Forward series.This game is a real hit with my family and I think it is even better than Fortress." - Neale2006
"Very fun and silly luck-based game. One of the best implantation of the Fast Forward system!" - pmduguay



Recommendation

So is Fast Forward: FORTUNE for you? If you have already tried the other titles in the Fast Forward series, but found them not to be your cup of tea, then FORTUNE won't convince you otherwise. While still being very much an independent game, it's more or less in the mould of FEAR and FORTRESS. So this latest title doesn't bring something completely new to the table in the way that the cooperative escape-room type puzzle of FLEE did. On the other hand, if you have enjoyed FEAR and FORTRESS, you're almost certain to like this one as well. And if you haven't played any of the series at all, this is as good a place to start as with any of the others. FLEE had a more limited target audience, whereas FORTUNE can be enjoyed by a wider range of people.

Even those who aren't big fans of these games, will concede that Friedemann Friese's fable system is very clever, and that the design underneath these games is truly admirable and unique. If you're a gamer, you owe it to yourself to at least try one title in this series, to see what the fuss is all about, and this title is as good a choice as any of them.

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

Want to read my reviews on the other games in the Fast Forward series? See them here:
What you need to know and what people think about Friedemann Friese's Fast Forward: FEAR
What you need to know and what people think about Friedemann Friese's Fast Forward: FORTRESS
What you need to know and what people think about Friedemann Friese's Fast Forward: FLEE



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