Keyforge Review – Forging A New Path In Card Gaming
Keyforge is the newest card game from Fantasy Flight Games. A staple among card games for a long time and a company in which you generally know what to expect, FFG has managed to out-do themselves with this one.
Set in a sci-fi fantasy world, Keyforge is about Archons who represent houses within the game’s lore. Designed by Richard Garfield of Magic: The Gathering fame, Keyforge sets out to be something completely unique. Rather than a Living Card Game or LCG where one can purchase entire sets of cards for reasonable prices or a trading card game where one trades with other players and buys the cards they need, Keyforge forges an entirely knew path.
Leading their diverse teams, filled with followers from three of the Crucible’s great Houses, the Archons must gather Æmber, stave off their opponent’s progress, and ultimately be the first to open a Vault and gain its incredible knowledge. With a vast array of creatures, artifacts, and abilities and over 104 quadrillion possible decks, every deck is completely one-of-a-kind, and no two battles will ever be the same!
The major difference here is that because each deck has a unique cardback, you cannot combine cards from other decks into yours. The deck you get out of the box is what you get. Each card is associated with a “House” within the games lore and each deck is related to 3 Houses by offering you 12 cards from each of the 3 houses your Archon represents. The houses consist of Brobnar, Logos, Shadows, Sanctum, Mars, Dis, and Untamed each with their own strengths, abilities, and key tactics. Within a turn, a player must choose one of the houses represented by their Archon and can only play and activate cards of that house for the turn. The goal of the game is to forge three keys using Æmber. The first player to reach three forged keys wins the game.
When this game was hyped at GenCon, I have to admit that I wasn’t that interested. Richard Garfield is great, but I am very much a “judge a game by its box” kind of person. But a few weeks ago when I got wind of the nature of this game and how no two decks will ever be the same, I have to admit that it piqued my interest. After learning a bit about the game I knew it could go one of two ways. Either A.) It is so horribly unbalanced that most decks you could get are practically unplayable and decks would include cards that do not synergize at all with each other, or B.) the game is so balanced that no matter what decks you end up getting every deck plays linearly and leads to uninteresting games. I was wrong on both counts because I honestly didn’t believe that there was a third option, C.) that the game could have just been designed so well and be completely mathematically sound that games would have interesting and intricate interactions that lead to fun games every single time you play.
On release day, I went to my local game store and picked up the Keyforge: Call of the Archons Starter Set. The set contained two introductory decks that are the same in every box to help teach the game, two unique Archon decks, as well as numerous tokens and cardboard punch-out pieces used to play the game. The Archon deck I received was associated to the Houses Brobnar, Dis, and Untamed under the flag of the Archon “Amma Copmom Lechkov.” My wife received a deck associated with the houses Sacntum, Mars, and Untamed under the banner of Archon “Desiree, Bishop of the Iron Mausoleum.” We played a game that I ultimately won and the game was interactive and fun. It is very easy to get very far ahead of your opponent if their draws are not just right.
In summation, the game is fun and interactive with a refreshing and unique twist on the card games that I am used to. While I am not a huge fan of the stylistic choices in regards to the art, that is entirely a personal preference. Nobody would have to spend much time arguing with me about its quality as the art is professional and clean as would be expected from a company like Fantasy Flight. The gameplay doesn’t offer anything outrageously new or unique, but perhaps I am overlooking the lack of life totals of each player. The mechanics in general also don’t bring a whole lot of freshness to it, as cards do what the text says and some do combat with each other. However, due to the unique design of the decks I feel like this game can be replayed over and over again, provided you buy enough Archon decks to play something different. My only major critique of the game would be the quality of the cards. Though I had placed them in gaming sleeves, I could already feel them starting to bend and curl just from one evening of shuffling and playing with them. That is not to say they are falling apart, but if you are rough with your cards like many competitive card game players can be, just make sure your sleeves are in top shape.
Keyforge: Call of the Archons Starter Set can be found at your local game store or on Amazon.com.