Two months ago, Fantasy Flight Games was nice enough to release my latest obsession, time suck, and money taker in the form of a Unique Deck card game, where everyone’s deck is different, and you can Highlander your way to the top by destroying those who oppose you Seto Kaiba style (after that double analogy, buckle in kids).
I’m talking of course about Keyforge, Richard Garfield’s (of Magic the Gathering creation fame) simultaneous reimagining of card games and swiftly-flipped bird to all TCG’s on the market. It’s something new to collect, play, and become engrossed in, even if it changes how you do so.
First off, I think the beauty and charm of Keyforge comes in its simplicity. All too often a new card game trying to stand out from the others is bogged down by complicated mechanics, over-stuffing cards with information, which leads to it being unable to compete with the titans of the field (MTG, Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh). Keyforge ditches all this and instead presents players with a few different card types, a multitude of mechanics, 7 different houses (which I’ll get into later), but also a centralized goal that makes gameplay more about vying for the central resource (Ӕmber) of the world than solely fighting your opponent creature for creature to reduce their life counter to zero.
Keyforge is randomly generated, so each deck composition and Archon (leader, commander) are different. The Archon is a mascot, having a name that is also random, resulting in a gamut of cool to ridiculous names (to sometimes offensive, even check Reddit). This mascot is also emblazoned on each card in the deck, making each deck a separate entity that cannot be combined with others.
This changes everything commonly thought true with a card game. You don’t collect packs or even do deckbuilding, instead you buy and play with a prebuilt deck, knowing the contents, but maybe not exactly how they work until you play; as a friend perfectly described it (thank you Brendan), instead of building a deck around a strategy, you build a strategy around your deck. Now you throw yourself onto the front lines and learn on the fly, eventually getting the hang of combos and strategies as you spend more time with the deck and playing against others.
I would consider myself a connoisseur of card games, and Keyforge, although it challenges all my notions of collection and deck building, has proven to be extremely entertaining and something I am glad to pick up and play with friends (who I definitely influenced into playing; you’re welcome). Since the game has come out 2 months ago, I have played every chance I can. There is still plenty of collection in acquiring decks, which are so cheaply priced it’s easy to get lost and buy a few (I now have 10 decks). And because everything is so random, it is a fun surprise to see what houses and cards can be in each new deck.
As I’ve mentioned them twice now with no explanation, houses are the factions of Keyforge. There are 7 different houses with their own unique play style:
The heavy hitters and brute force tactics of the game, this is your beatstick frontline warriors.
The demons and devils of the neon underworld, Dis is the house of carnage, destruction, and control (in a sense).
The self-proclaimed smartest of the world, this is your manipulation of your own deck and hand, complete with draw-power and archiving (an in-game mechanic giving you more cards to use later).
Aliens. Straight up little green men with lasers. Good at swarming the field and ruining an opponent’s day.
If Paladins were a whole race, they would be Sanctum. These are your man (and spirit) knights and protectors, complete with armor and bestowing abilities.
The sneaks and thieves of the world, Shadows makes what’s your opponent’s also your own (great at taking hard-earned Ӕmber).
The outlier to the rest of society, these are your wild beasties with nasty effects, good at generating Ӕmber and flooding the field.
Some of these may seem standard faire (probably close to deck types in Magic), but the kicker is that each deck comes with a mix of three of these houses, and there are only 12 of each house. So the deck is making you learn not only how each of the houses works individually but also how it combos with the other houses in the deck to make a cohesive unit.
The Archon’s are calling and I have answered. I was initially worried that the novelty of the game would die after a few plays, or that the longevity of the game would be short-lived, but I am happy to say I still play this game multiple times a week and enjoy it every single time. I encourage anyone on the fence, slightly interested in card games, or ready for something new to definitely give this game a chance. And once you get your deck, give the name a drop in the comments! There are plenty of places to go, like Keyforge Compendium to check your deck and peruse the list of cards, and the Keyforge Website to find rules (as some of them are a bit iffy) or even brush up on some Keyforge lore. The Crucible Online is another great resource, if you want to test out that deck you bought against an online player.
I will continue to chat about Keyforge in the months to come! See you in the Crucible!
Michael Kenney January 12, 2019
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