The universe is expansive and endless with a diverse set of occupying lifeforms. In the center of this universe lays the Crucible, an artificial planet pieced together with the remains of innumerable other planets. Archons, god-like occupants of the Crucible, find themselves in an endless struggle to unlock the untold knowledge and power of the Vault: a hidden storage facility within the Crucible. These Archons, in their struggle, control a group of pieced together factions that inhabit the Crucible in there quest to unlock this hidden Vault. Intrigued yet?
Good, because this is where the theme dies and you are left with an amazing CCG (Collectible Card Game) style game that will have you enthralled with its scope and premise. I would linger longer on its lack of theme, but on this rare occasion, it is of little consequence. I’m sorry if this dissuades you from continuing but stick with me here.
Keyforge is a 2-player unique deck game, as described by Fantasy Flight Games. In Keyforge, players will be racing against the other player in order to forge 3 keys. Much like Magic: The Gathering, players will be wielding their own unique deck of cards which they will use to collect Æmber: the crucial element needed in the forging of keys. Six Æmber are required to forge a key and 3 keys are required to unlock the Vault. The first player to unlock the Vault gains the victory. Simple enough until you understand how these decks operate.
On a players turn, they must choose one house to play for the round, of which they have 3 to choose. They are limited in this regard as they can only play, activate, and discard from this house. Unlike Magic: The Gathering, cards are without a casting cost so each player may play as many cards from their hand as possible. This reference to Magic: The Gathering is intentional due to it’s similarities Keyforge: same designers, CCG style card play, and hand management. These card effects range from drawing more cards, effecting your cards or your opponents, collecting Æmber, stealing Æmber, and placing a creature to the battlefield. Turns will continue in this fashion until one player attains the win condition: 3 crafted keys.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the gimmick of Keyforge. Derogatory as they may sound, which is not my intent, but I feel it is earned the distinction in this case. The gimmick would be the unique decks that come in every pack of Keyforge you buy. The first card set of Keyforge contains 370 different cards across 7 houses. Each deck of Keyforge will contain 3 different houses of the possible 7 with 12 cards in each house: 36 cards in each deck. Each deck of Keyforge is guaranteed to be unique as only one with those exact cards in it is ever printed. They further establish its uniqueness with a total unique card art and deck name on the back. This leaves you with 104 quadrillion different possibilities. Way to much to fathom.
I really enjoy this card game and it’s system. The gameplay here isn’t ground breaking by any means with many recycled mechanics but instills just enough innovation to make the experience feel fresh. The simple mechanics of Keyforge make for wonderful entry point players new to C.C.G.s without sacrificing the enjoyment of veteran players. I’ve played several different decks and players with each experience feeling different each time giving it immense amounts of desire to revisit. The design here is smart, seamless, and fun which I would expect from a veteran like Richard Garfield.
The gimmick of the unique deck system had me worried at first but upon trying it out and seeing it in action, that fear dissipated quickly. The feeling of discovery opening a fresh deck and seeing something that is yours and yours alone can only be described as palpable. It’s refreshing knowing that your decks name and card combinations will never again be recreated. It also takes away the anxiety of creating your own deck like in other C.C.G. models. Every deck is out of the box competitive and rewards the player with optimal play instead of the one with the ample C.C.G. slush fund. A certain level of customization is lost through this model but benefits most as it does away with the “Pay to Play” mentality of most other card games that share a likeness. That trait alone may have some would-be players of Keyforge making a declaration of retraction but hold for just a few more words future Keyforger.
The decks of Keyforge are relatively affordable: $9.99 for a single playable base deck. The starter set will set you back $39.99 and will contain 2 base decks for learning Keyforge along with 2 unique base decks. These starter sets also include tokens and chain cards to get you started though they are not necessary for play. I played several games without these tokens and simply used dice as any Magic player will tell you works just fine. Start up costs this low are hard to come by these days, so I welcomed an opportunity of a cheaper version of Magic: The Gathering. Of course, one may find the need to purchase more decks for variety but by no means is it required. I could see a player developing a kinship with their deck in knowing every little aspect of it in detail.
Keyforge has a lot to offer fans of strategic card games like Magic: The Gathering. It provides a very similar experience with a few twists and turns that provide a fresh take on the genre without ostracizing the masses with the “Pay to Play” mentality that plagues so many of it’s ilk. I strongly recommend you give this a try.
Traverse City Board Gamers Opinions
Keyforge is a fun game. It feels familiar and new in the right proportions. I’m curious to see how well the handicapping system (chains) and unique tournament formats complement gameplay.Robert Kneisel
Keyforge is a great game if you want to play a fun competitive card game. The mechanics are easy to learn and the playing field is even enough for a fair fight. The best part to me was opening up two new desks and having no idea what it looks like! So much fun calculating your moves. The artwork and factions are super cool and add depth to the game play. 10 out of 10 would recommend to a friend.Sophia Masotti
Keyforge is a fantastic, yet strategic, game, in which mastering the ebb and flow of your available houses, is key to achieving victory.Ramon Ramirez