The Forge of DiscoveryAugust 22, 2018
Keyforge is a new card game created by Richard Garfield and published by Fantasy Flight Games. With Garfield being the father of the collectible card game, one might notice the word “collectible” is missing from Keyforge. There is no collection. Every deck is a unique combination of cards with a procedurally generated card back and fantasy persona, so there’s no customizability. Every copy of a card belongs to its own deck.
Players take up the mantle of Archons, powerful beings competing to unlock the Crucible by forging keys out of Æmber. Each Archon has a unique name – Radiant Argus the Supreme, Qoe the Notably Bogus, Malificent Artificer Jayne, The One that Totally Prefers Aliens, Vitathesis, the “Geneticist” of The Thing1 – and combines creatures, artifacts, and abilities from seven Houses to battle their brethren. Dis are magitech demons, the Untamed are unbounded forces of nature, Sanctum are angels trying to establish order, Mars are literal little green men from the empire of Mars, and so on. Each House possesses their own strengths and playstyles that may or may not synergize with others. It all depends on what the computer shuffles together and packages into a $10 deck.
Chasing the New With the Old
The mechanics behind Keyforge seem familiar while also novel. Garfield demoing the game at GenCon dances around Magic terminology while referencing Hearthstone and dropping esoteric game terms like chain tracks and capturing Æmber. Meanwhile, playing creatures and comboing abilities isn’t to reduce the enemy’s life total – you can’t attack your opponent – but to craft your three keys first while hindering your opponent forging theirs. The rulebook is available on FFG’s website and can be perused while you preorder, but the key focus of the game is the completely randomized, sealed deck nature of the game.
In the following video from General Games Malvern East, Richard Garfield demonstrates how to play.
Apocryphally, the relative power of certain Magic: The Gathering cards was not only their printed rarity, but their regional rarity as well. In the dark days before the Internet, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, a thriving, interconnected secondary market wasn’t something Garfield and his playtesters anticipated, at least not on the scale it exists today. Garfield imagined that powerful cards might not even exist in certain areas; no one outside Philadelphia might know Shivan Dragons were a thing, or the Moxen set could be native to California and nowhere else. That ideal never came to fruition, in part due to the explosive popularity of Magic necessitating ever expanding print runs of base sets to the point that rarity became a function of dollar value. With the advent of the Internet, Shivans became a click away.
Protected by Pedigree
Confining powerful cards to uniquely printed decks seemingly solves the rich kid syndrome of customizable card games, while revisiting the idea of regional rarity when there’s no guarantee that any one card will appear among a host of premade, sealed decks. Meanwhile, the play value of any card is a function of the 35 others in the same deck and by themselves the dollar value of a card on whatever secondary market arises, if any, is near zero. The sealed deck format, reforged.
With an estimated 104 septillion deck combinations, you’re guaranteed a unique game every time. Assuming no one plays with opaque card sleeves. Keyforge comes out ‘Q4’ of this year, and with it’s $10 US price point per deck, it sees like it would make an ideal gift for your favorite card gamers. Just remember to get one for yourself, too.
1See if you can guess which Archon I made up.