Trying Out: Keyforge

Keyforge is a card game that came out at the end of 2018. It is designed by Richard Garfield and published by Fantasy Flight Games. The core idea of the game is to gather enough resources (aember) to get three points (keys) to win the game. The gimmick of the game is that it only comes in pre-built decks that are all unique and cannot be altered. I tried out Keyforge a couple of weeks ago and in summary I kind of liked it but it clearly is not for me.

The gaming mechanics in Keyforge are simple. Each deck consists of three different houses and you can only play, activate and discard cards from one of them during your turn. This creates an interesting flow where you need to balance between using the creatures you have played or playing new cards and refilling your hand. This solution is elegant and removes the problem I have with Magic the Gathering – the mana base. In essence this means that you always have something to do on your turn.

This also means that you can only take actions on your turn. There are no cards that interrupt other players turn or require you to do something. While this means that the rules are relatively simple (since there is no need for things like “stack”) it also makes responding to an opponent’s action a bit more difficult. This fact is enhanced by the draw step being at the end of your turn.

Drawing cards at the end of your turn is just one of the rules you have to get your head around when starting Keyforge. Since you always draw to your maximum hand size you might want to discard cards (of the house you are playing that turn) to draw more. But no matter how many cards you draw it does not make you any more ready to respond to your opponent’s actions. You might get excited about getting a killer hand for the next turn only to discover that your opponent changes the pace of the game and there is nothing you can do.

At its core Keyforge is meant to be a game where you learn to play your deck. You grind it to perfection. By learning how your deck works you know how to beat any deck you come across. And while this sounds pretty cool on the surface to me it felt boring. You cannot spent time on your deck or collection outside the game.

This brings us to my main beef with Keyforge. There isn’t exactly anything to excited of. I play games for their story. And in Keyforge there just isn’t one. You play mixed cliches of scifi and fantasy and some of them can be cool – if you get them. Since you cannot build decks you might just need to buy a box a decks to get one that mixes the houses you want to play. And your deck might still suck.

FFG is clearly interested in making Keyforge a competitive format. And why shouldn’t they? If all the decks are unique you need to spend big money to find a deck that is most capable to win. It might be a solid business plan but from the customer’s perspective it is not necessarily that great. I have four decks and since I really do not like any of them I came to the conclusion that I probably should not buy more. My chances of getting a good deck I want to play are so random with Keyforge that I should be very into this game to buy more. And (sadly) I’m not.

I did enjoy playing the game. While our games lasted about 45-60 minutes I think that once players are familiar with their deck that likely drops to about 30min. That is still a long time for a single card game.

Keyforge is still such a new game that we have no idea where it might be going. It is a game that a combo or control player could enjoy more than an aggro player. I know I will be participating in some sealed events where you just play with a new deck.

In summary: Keyforge is a game that has interesting points and new ideas and as a game it is quite good but most of the time I would rather be playing something else.

“Don’t try to change the Crucible to fit your needs. Let it change you.” 

keyforge TAGLINE

And that’s just it. I have no interest in it.

Oh, and if you are interested here are my decks:
Rarpagat “Nawab Sabertooth” Cassio
Cathay “Mother Yoshiko” Haddeburg
Æmberson, the Rascal of Candleroad
X. Knutsson, the Caern Bull

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