Updated: Oct 24, 2020
The title doesn't give much away. This isn't a game about cutlery; it's a card game about the cut and thrust of corrupt corporate governance. Designed by Mark Stockton-Pitt and published by Radical 8 Games, players (2–5) are competing to make the most money over three rounds of play by embezzling it from the most profitable companies.
The main deck comprises cards representing five different companies (six if playing with five players). Each card has a value in the range 3–9. Game play itself has an elegant simplicity: each turn, the active player draw three cards and choose one to 'embezzle' (retain in their hand). They pass the other two cards on to next player, who picks one to embezzle and one to 'invest' (place out in the public tableau where they contribute to that company's value). Play continues in this way until the deck has been fully depleted, which marks the end of a round. At this point, the companies' values are evaluated by totting up the cards that have been invested. For the companies that finish in the top three, the embezzled cards in each players' hand are given a positive value; for those in the bottom companies, the embezzled cards are given a negative value.
That's all there is to the basic game play but, even with these basic rules, players are faced with some tough choices. Though there may be a temptation to embezzle the highest value card, you need to ensure that sufficient is invested in that company for the end-round value to be positive rather than negative. Because there is a card drafting element to Forks, players have some information about what other players are holding. This too can affect the choices players make about how they use investment cards to manipulate market values.
There is more, however. A tw0-sided Merge/Swap rule card applies a special rule for the duration of a round. If the Merge side is face up, then any player passed two cards can 'invest' any one card from their hand (ie: they are not limited to the cards they have just been passed). If the Swap side is face up, then the player who draws three cards can choose to swap one of them for any of the invested cards already on the table. Each of these rules can really shake up the game but the Swap rule can quite literally prove to be a game changer - especially, late in a round where it can prove critical in determining the steep cliff-edge distinction between a company's third or fourth place position.
We've played and shown here on Board's Eye View, a preview prototype of Forks. The game is live now on Kickstarter and the final published version is expected to include further tweaks, including the option of playing with Abilities cards which gives each player a special power that affects their game play or scoring, and the introduction of Scenario cards that can have a cascade effect on specific company. Exciting stuff! Click here for a direct link to the KS campaign.