KeyForge’s ambition is to revolutionize collectible card games

Gencon has started overseas and FFG ads are accumulating on the social networks of the publishing house. What did they concoct of interesting this year? Little big news (a new X Wing, a new Horror Arkham …), if it is Keyforge on which they seem to bet much.

Keyforge, the new Magic?

This is the latest creation of Mr. R. Garfield, whom you may know for Bunny Kingdom, Roborally, King of Tokyo, but who is especially the great creator of Magic and Netrunner. In other words, all the cardboard tappers of the world prick up their ears, since Keyforge is also a card game for two, Magic and Heartstone.

The game takes place in a fantasy world built and directed by the Archons, divine entities who obviously like to put themselves on the hoe, for “amber” (AEmber) that can shape keys. Forge three and take it away.

From the randomized preconstructed deck

But the novelty is not so much in the gameplay when in the broadcast model. The ambition of this game is to relegate deck construction and boosters to the past. Each Archon deck you use to play is truly unique, with its own Archon and its own mix of cards. The press release (overall not very clear) expands: “If you take an Archon deck, you know that you are the only person to have access to this deck of cards and its distinct combination of cards. In fact, in the first game of KeyForge, Call of the Archons, there are more than 104,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 possible decks! Here are zeros said!

But what about balancing in part if each deck is unique? Are not we just in a sort of CGC (collectible card game) where instead of buying cards in 3 € boosters we will buy unchangeable decks for 10 €?
What we know is that it will no longer be a question of buying boosters to find cards that combine well, now “it is not the cards themselves that are powerful, but rather the interactions between them “- interactions that you are challenged to master.

Each deck will have a unique composition, with a unique back, to make sure you can not deckbuilder. This will also allow FFG to keep track of decks and tournament performances. It is possible to imagine that some decks deemed too efficient will eventually be banned from tournaments, which can potentially be much more punitive than having a single card banned as was the case in Magic.

The concept, as stated by Richard Garfield on the rules, is to relive the early days of CGCs where there were unknown cards and where players had to settle for the deck they had. This is a noble intention that should speak to former Magic players. Yet these are sometimes very dubious: “Yes with Magic we could also very well buy pre-built decks and never change them. But we had the choice. With this new game, the only way to modify your deck will be to buy a new one, “writes Bryan on one of the dedicated BGG threads.

For his part, Ludo de Ludiworld defends the concept: “Sometimes the deck is not everything. Netrunner shone in seal by its highly strategic, competitive aspect and a very great diversity and replayability. I think we have to see this game as a quick seal to play (tournament or not) immediately, for the price of 2 boosters. What will make the salt of the game is its gameplay, the discovery of the deck, its replayability. If you want to draft or seal, you can actually play another game. Me, I do not have time to build decks, suddenly sealed or draft better, but here the promise to win even more of time and really being on an equal footing I like. In a way it’s a lot more competitive actually. ”

Regarding the potential imbalances, the differences in power inherent in the cards is obviously a problem that the game system tries to solve with a handicap method called “Chains” that actually slows the hands of the best decks.

If you know that your opponent has a deck stronger than you, you agree on the level of Chain with him before the game: the more this level increases and the more your opponent will have to reduce his hand size (a Chain level). between 1 and 6 requires him to have a reduced hand of 1 card, if this level reaches 7, his hand is further reduced, the minimum that can be reached is a hand of 2 cards).

It is therefore left to the players to agree before the game on the levels of Channels (an auction system is also suggested) which raises already quite a lot of questions and fears on the part of the players. For example, will this handicap system be robust enough to defuse an uber-powerful deck? Will it allow a fine balancing? …

Stake !

KeyForge: Call of the Archons is played on a series of towers where, as an Archer leading your company, you will use creatures, technologies, artifacts and skills from a chosen House to harvest AEmber, retain Enemy forces and forge enough keys to unlock the vaults that lead you to the knowledge (understand the “victory”, you need three keys to win). We are in a typical game Magic / Heartstone, but more simplified.

In turn, you first forge a key if it is possible (that is, if you have collected 6 or more AEmbers). Then you choose a house. Each deck has 3 Houses. Whichever House you choose, you will only be able to play cards from this House this turn. Then you play and activate as many cards of this House as you wish, there is no cost to pay on the cards. So if you have 5 cards in your hand of such announced House, you can play them all.
When you attack, you target a specific enemy creature. Their health is the amount of damage they cause, but they also have armor to cancel a quantity of incoming damage. The damage suffered is persistent. When a creature comes into play, it is not usable immediately: it enters the table “exhausted” and you can make it efficient (the “detach”) at the end of the turn.

In fact, at the end of the turn, you put straight all the cards “typed” (used), that is to say that you raise all that is “exhausted” and draw cards up to the size of your hand which is 6 to start. We are on this side closer to modern deck-building games than Magic.

You will find a simplified version of the rules (in VO) on the game sheet to get a better idea.

Target audience

During the conference, FFG made a good start on the discovery and unique aspect of the decks. That, combined with the fact that there is more to build its decks, the simplicity of the gameplay, without omitting the choices of the artistic direction suggests that FFG aims at a more casual, younger audience. And the publisher intends to make his game live like other collectible card games already published, with strong tournaments and active community. To follow your little Archons and see how they fit into the community in general, FFG will indeed propose a so-called “companion” application and a site ( The goal: to record and track each of your decks, follow the meta game in general, interact with the community and easily find tournaments.

In the basic box, you have tutorial decks (always the same in all boxes) to put your foot in the stirrup, especially with completely new players, and two random decks (base box 40). $ in preco on the publisher’s site, and the unique deck $ 10).

First sight

Everything seems interesting at first glance, but the nature of the distribution model leaves some questions unresolved. Will not it end up being even more expensive than playing Magic? How will the second-hand market behave? And what will happen if some decks are stronger, or with synergies really easier to release and others much more unplayable? Will the Chain system be enough to achieve a fine balance? And beyond the marketing argument of billions of decks, what will be the true variability of the game?

Anyway, and even if the model leaves us with a lot of questions, force is to appreciate the fact that FFG thinks here a product “outside of the box”. The idea would have come to the author about ten years ago, but the technologies to print the random decks were not yet developed. By proposing a strong and innovative concept that, if it reaches its target, will potentially open the way to a new market, FFG shows this Gencon that it could continue to remain, despite the ongoing restructuring, an actor on which it will be necessary count for years to come.

Application, playmats, and the basic box arrive with its first decks and all the necessary equipment at the end of the year in the US (no date announced for the moment in France, but the translation is already operated on the side of Edge).

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