Published on February 9th, 2015 | by Nicole Jekich0
A Review of Fortunata
Playing Fortunata was a refreshing abstract strategy experience as I had been playing many worker placement games in the past two weeks. Everything about the games’ components, art and gameplay features are much different than any of the current trends I’ve seen come up on Kickstarter and at the local game store. Fortunata relies on trial-and-error gameplay of classic abstract strategy games that I frankly am not used to playing anymore.
I would have to say that Fortunata felt like a combination of chess, checkers and Stratego lightly dusted with thematic elements of mysticism, magic and vaudeville. Each player is competing for the Gold Ring which lies in the center of the pentagon board, a mere four spaces from the edge. The first player to successfully leave the board with the ring wins. While it works great as a 2 player game, Fortunata can accommodate up to 5 players. With such a small board and each player using an array of 7 pawns, the task seems simple.
A player’s set of pawns consist of a randomly dealt set of Characters which are classified into four groups: The Seasons, The Movers, The Manipulators and The Killers. These Characters have differing abilities that involvement special movement, altering the board state and capturing pieces. Capturing is similar to chess and checkers: an active player piece moves into a space with an opposing player’s piece. The attacking player captures the opponent’s Character and removes it from the game. In Fortunata however, not all pieces have the ability to capture others. In addition to Character abilities, each player receives one Iron Ring which is placed on the last Character in their line up. While wearing an Iron Ring, that Character has the ability to capture.
The gameplay isn’t as much of a crazy free-for-all as you might think. To start, each player receives a Bee and a Mouse pawn. Depending on the number of players, each will receive a randomly dealt set of additional Characters. This second set of Characters are unique and are kept secret from the other players. Each player then constructs a line up: placing their Character bobbles on their respective player color rings and organizing them in single file order. This order determines which Characters will come out to play first.
Players can only bring in Characters one at a time. Setting up your line up is tricky as players won’t be able to quickly respond to threats or pushes from neighbors. The opposite is true too: sometimes the best planned strategy doesn’t fit the current board state. For example, I brought out the elephant in the middle part of the game but my opponent continued to move around his pieces instead of filling the board with his own making the move-capture combo of the Elephant useless.
Players also try to keep Characters cloaked from other players to mask their strategy, much like in Stratego. Various abilities key off of opponent’s Characters being cloaked or uncloaked so choosing when to use your Characters power and reveal itself is always risky. Be too cautious though and an opponent will easily take the ring.
Gameplay in Fortunata reminded me of my first times playing chess with friends who were part of the chess club. I knew how to move the pieces and I knew basic ways to lead and trap the opponent’s pieces. I couldn’t think multiple moves ahead. I couldn’t synergize my units to form a cohesive long-term plan like my opponents knew how. Fortunata shares many of the same complications as sitting down and playing chess the first time: it needs many games of trial and error.
The first couple games went quickly in the 2 player version because we didn’t understand how to effectively stop the other person from just walking up to the ring and walking out with it. As we continued to play more games, they grew in difficulty because we started to use the abilities together to form strategies. There are many options for different strategies in Fortunata as there are multiple variables that affect the gameplay: what order to organize the Characters, when to bring in a Character, who receives the Iron Ring, etc.
Fortunata is definitely a game that will be better understood and more challenging over time. Just like learning chess or Magic the Gathering the first time, a new player will need to dedicate time to learning how to play.
The only turn off with Fortunata is the lack of clear art direction. Fortunata either features art from different artists or had one artist create art in a variety of different styles. Characters like the Clown and Fate are crisp, cartoonish designs while the Gypsy and Headhunter are painterly portraits. I know that the art in Fortunata is supposed to feature unnerving images and magical creatures much like the vaudeville posters and old magic posters from the 1880’s thru the 1930’s (as above, which is NOT from Fortunata). The art unfortunately feels very disjointed without a background linking the different Characters together.
Fortunata could also use a better tie in to a story or narrative, even something as simple as flavor text. I want to know why we fighting for the ring. Does it contain special powers? Or is it symbolic of something else like in tarot readings?
The components on the other hand capture the mystical and magic-driven theme very well. The clear plastic Character pieces are reminiscent of a crystal ball and the randomly dealt characters are printed on tarot-shaped playing cards. The board is made of clear acrylic in the shape of a pentagon. A second shaded pentagon stands in the middle and a clear star marks the center.
Playing Fortunata features a unique combination of common game elements and presents a game experience very different from the norm. I was promised a game with ‘unexpected strategy’ and ‘endless possibilities’ and it delivered. Even with its complexity I found Fortunata would be an easy game for beginners. The set up is very clear and the creators included a book which explains each Character in detail, offers strategy suggestions and even has a FAQ to clear up potential conflicts in game with each Character. It is definitely a game that I want to play many more times.