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Card Slinger J

KeyForge by Richard Garfield

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KeyForge is a unique card game created by Richard Garfield and published by Fantasy Flight Games.

In it, players take on the role of Archons in the world of the Crucible. Each Archon races to be the first to collect "Æmber" and forge three keys. As the first "Unique Deck Game", KeyForge is sold in individual decks containing 37 random cards. No two decks are the same, with 104 septillion possible deck combinations. Here's what the creator of Magic: the Gathering had to say about the origin of KeyForge:


In the early days of trading card games, they were played in many ways – and some of my favorite ways disappeared over time. Among those were sealed deck and league play. Both were awkward to manage because cards had a tendency to get lost in one’s collection. Also, play- ers could only play with trusted friends because it was easy to cheat by improving one’s deck surreptitiously.

I have often wondered if I could get back some of that really exciting play, which was characterized by tools that weren’t universal. Each player had treasures no other player had, but also had less powerful cards that needed to be used in clever ways to get the most value. One’s sealed or league deck was never ideal – but it was unique, and there was a great deal of skill in getting the most out of it.

While I enjoy constructing or drafting decks, I am often longing to play cards that are not powerful enough to compete within these formats. When playing with sealed or limited decks, these cards often become viable, since you can’t just replace them with top tier cards. I find special pleasure in winning a game using cards that many people ignored or overlooked.

I have always been attached to good procedurally generated content. Game worlds generated in this way really feel as if they belong to me, the player – I am discovering them as I play; the designer didn’t even know they existed. Often games without such content are extremely managed experiences; everyone goes through the same story lines and can experience the same gameplay by making the same decisions. Everything they experience feels planned. The contrast feels to me like the difference between exploring a jungle and walking in an amuse- ment park. When trading card games first came out the feeling was like exploring a jungle – and as the cards became more like commodities, it became more and more like an amusement park.

In the amusement park there are experts telling you how to play the game, the safest strategies, what net decks to use. In the jungle you have the tools you have. There is every chance that you are going to be the best in the world at playing your decks – you can’t just look up what the synergies are or the weaknesses; you will only find out by playing.

Welcome to the jungle!

So you're telling me that KeyForge is a game intended to be played by cracking a new deck every time you sit down and isn't bound by the Secondary Market like Trading Card Games / Collectible Card Games are? Color me impressed. I'm starting to get the feeling that there's a spiritual awakening going around, and the 'Key' is a very positive symbol. 'Magic' on the other hand is the most negative symbol out there. Garfield must have a very interesting calling in his life.

As for how gameplay works in KeyForge, it's a two-player game with each player using a single deck of cards to play creatures, artifacts, actions and upgrades. The aim of the game is to gather enough Æmber (pronounced "amber") to forge three keys before the opponent does the same. Creatures can reap Æmber and fight one another, while artifacts provide unique effects. Actions are used and discarded, and upgrades are attached to creatures to improve their abilities.

Each card in KeyForge is associated with a House, with each deck containing cards from three Houses. At the beginning of each players' turn, that player declares a House - they may then only play, use, or discard cards belonging to that House. Unlike similar card games such as Magic: the Gathering and Android: Netrunner, cards do not typically require a cost to be paid such as the expenditure of mana or credits. Instead, a player may play and use as many cards on their turn as they wish, provided the cards belong to the declared House.

KeyForge also differs from other card games in its approach to deck composition. Each deck features a unique card back with the name of an Archon; thus, decks cannot be modified with cards from other decks. Cards also cannot be traded or sold separately from their original decks, eliminating the possibility of "net decking" (a process in other card games of researching and recreating the most powerful decks). One of my friends at my locals claims that the rules and gameplay for KeyForge are very similar to the Battle Spirits TCG by Bandai.

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