Review: Keyforge Call of the Archons – every story is possible
Everything is possible. This is the saying, that reigns on my hometown Crucible. And I was raised by my parents with this sentence in mind. But they weren’t too often not at home, because they helped Architects to rebuild our world. For days, I devoted myself to discovering the various races and creatures, that settled in the innumerable layers of our world. Not entirely of their own desire, but they are here and I have managed to find a common ground with three of them. They will follow me anywhere.
And because hero of our narrative is Archon, a member of an ancient race of fighting gods, he will surely fulfill his desire to go out to war with his army. All of this will be allowed by a number of Archons, that live in the world of KeyForge card game. Designer Richard Garfield (Robo Rally, King of Tokyo) has prepared the game for all duel enthusiasts and has decided to create another milestone. He called his game a Unique Deck Game. A number of illustrators took care of the images contained in the cards. The game is distributed in Europe by Esdevium Games.
On the lid of each box, we find the same image showing all the possible races, that will compete to advance in the Crucible world hierarchy. But beneath, it will all be always a little different. The players are always welcomed by two fixed tutorial decks of Archons: Radiant Argus the Supreme and Miss Onyx Censorius. These are specially prepared for learning the game, with limited special rules and players will each choose one of them, while the two other enclosed envelopes can still be set aside.
Each of the 37 cards is shuffled, while one identity card (with card list on its other side) is placed on the table. Player draws six cards (starting player seven) from his deck. Each set consists of three houses, whose symbols are indicated on the identity card. They include monsters, artifacts, action cards and upgrades.
Both opponents place three key tokens in front of them, with inactive gray side facing upwards. Aember and damage tokens together with status cards are prepared nearby.
Players will simply alternate in turns. And at the beginning of each such action, he has to choose one of three houses to give orders to. Only cards from this house can be played from hand and activated. Playing card on the table does not cost anything (but creature is always played exhausted), while new additions to the battlefield often bring something to its owner for playing them (marked with a Played keyword). It can be a healing effect or for example aember token gain.
Individual creatures gradually create a battle line in front of each opponent. However, the newly played card can only be attached to the wing, either from the left or from the right. Regrouping cards is not allowed. All cards are exhausted, when used (rotated 90 degrees), but at the end of their turn, the player can recover their strength and place the cards upright. Creature cards can be upgraded, and artifacts, whose abilities will support them, are placed to safety, behind the battle lines.
But the chosen house will not determine only which cards the player can put on the table. At the same time, he can only give orders to members of that race. With them, he can carry out reaping (and immediately get an aember token) or attack the enemy. In combat, the cards deal damage to each other at the same time, equal to their strength (lowered by defense number) and their owners place damage tokens of equivalent value on them. Whenever the injury value exceeds the creature’s strength, it is discarded and its card is moved to the discard pile.
Different cards bring different benefits to their owners. Sometimes, these are improvements, that provide support all the time. Other times, texts with abilities are linked to an action, whether for attack, reap or other.
At the end of their turn, players then draw back up to six cards in their hand. In general, everything revolves around aember tokens. Players keep them on their identity card and try to save them while the opponent does everything to steal or at least capture them (such aember is placed on creature, until its killed). However, whenever a player has more, than six gold stones at the start of his turn (the price can also be higher or lower), he must immediately build one of the keys. He turns one of his three tokens on the sign. So players continue in turns up to the point, where one of them manages to make all three keys. This player celebrates victory immediately.
Keyforge is an elegantly simple dueling game, that becomes an immediate hit for most card game lovers. That’s because it is beautifully accessible with its start rules and decks. You can start playing in a matter of minutes after reading a two-page sheet. Then you gradually discover the possibilities of your deck and can introduce more keywords to your game.
It actually does not matter, which Archon you have. You should always be competitive, if you know your deck and how to use its advantages. In the end, it is only a matter of personal taste, if you prefer Martians, wildlife or machines. Does it make you buy something for expanding your selection? Of course! The desire for variability and the discovery of new cards certainly works, but only to some extent.
Because the decks are composed of a fixed set of cards, you get into a situation, where you already have many of them. And then, other purchases certainly don’t make sense as you will be getting the same cards over and over again. Unfortunately, the price for the expansion deck with 37 cards is quite high, but the starting two decks (random ones) are enough for a solid portion of fun as well. But the game was designed to buy at least some other decks to ensure you have enough variability and you will surely not resist this easily. In the process of discovering the functioning of individual sets, this is the main charm.
An absolutely unique idea is to choose a race at the beginning of the turn. This brings players a tough choice between whether to activate characters on the table or instead to play new cards from their hand. Everything has its meaning and its hard to plan, what will be better in the confrontation with the opponent.
At all times, it is important not to lose sight of your goal, that is at stake here: the accumulation of a sufficient amount of aember. Fighting is mainly a supplement to prevent an opponent from doing his best, because usually an attack is not a way of getting new materials for key production.
But the main attraction is a whole new concept. Each package exists on its own and there is no deckbuilding. We really appreciate the effort to differentiate in a world, where building a set of cards currently rules the world. In addition, individual packages are quite nicely balanced and can stand up against each other.
Interestingly, the power of the monster is used for both offensive ability and total life. This greatly simplifies everything, but also adds possibilities. Players can sometimes improve their monsters and add strength to them, increasing their lives as well. However, there are a lot of ways to manipulate not only the power, but also the drawing package, aember’s stock and there are even effects bound to card positions.
Game has a final number of cards so far, but given the tournament potential and the success of the game, it is clear, that this will not be the end (the second game in line is planned for 2019 and its called Age of Ascension). Each expansion deck will bring its owner a unique hero with a unique combination of cards. You will also get cards, that you already have, but you will often get some new ones that you have not seen before.
Thanks to the constant struggle, this novelty reminds me a little of the LCG Game of Thrones. Although these games are separated by a really wide gap of differences, the overall impression is very similar to me. And it should be emphasized, that its meant as a praise for the game and not criticism.
If we should criticize the game for something, it is probably an inadequately deep theme. Although the players have their beautiful characters, they are only fighting for stones and keys. The second uncertainty is the struggle itself, which is quite simplified and contains no surprises.
Playing time is very pleasant. Even the longest and most balanced battles will end, because the number of aember present in the game simply grows. Sometimes it’s faster and you celebrate victory after half an hour, sometimes you get closer to forty-five minutes. But the game will always run smoothly and it will never seem too long. This is because it is a game specifically for two, where opponents alternate quickly. Drawing last card of a deck is not a limitation (players may even discard cards in their turn to make room for the next turn). Just shuffle the discarded cards and continue.
The cards are beautifully processed, and so the only complaint goes to the rules. These are nicely structured and easy to follow, but it’s just a starting guide. You need to find the complete manual on the Internet, because all the keywords are not described in detail in the printed rulebook.
With Keyforge, Richard Garfield has once again proven his talent to create absolutely unique games. This time, it is not so different in terms of gaming mechanisms, but it offers a completely new approach to the sales model. No one forces you to buy more packages, but it’s hard to avoid. As a result, it is necessary to reckon with some financial demands, which is definitely balanced by the playability of Keyforge.
KeyForce: Ruf der Archonten, KeyForge: Il Richiamo degli Arconti – Starter Set, KeyForge: L'Appel des Archontes, KeyForge: La llamada de los Arcontes, KeyForge: O Chamado dos Arcontes, KeyForge: Ruf der Archonten, KeyForge: Zew Archontów, 熔钥秘境：统御者的召唤
Review: Keyforge Call of the Archons – every story is possible
Keyforge is a card game for two opponents, in which two completely unique decks always stand against each other. Two different sets of monsters, artifacts, and enhancements, that work differently and each pile deserves its own tactics. And not because someone sets up a different set of cards. Indeed, the individual Archons and their armies are already bought by the players and finalized. Unfortunately, the fight is a bit simplified and the theme is not completely absorbing, but its all compensated by the overall gameplay experience and speed. Keyforge is accompanied by great expectations and praise. And most of it is true.