Review: Keyforge

One of the biggest barriers to games like Magic The Gathering (the original collectible card game), is the very nature of the game itself. With you building your own decks from random booster packs, the desire to get the ‘best’ cards means you can spend a small fortune on boxes and boxes of packs, or a large one on the second hand market.

Thirty years on from the original Magic, Fantasy Flight Games, in conjunction with Magic’s original designer Richard Garfield, have come up with something radically new to remove this barrier to entry – Keyforge, the world’s first unique card game.

The basic structure of the game, is that you will have a deck of 37 cards – the ‘Archon’ you are playing (essentially your decklist), and then 12 each from one of 3 houses (out of 7 in total). Your deck will consist of creatures, actions, artifacts and upgrades that work together to collect “Æmber”, which in turn you use to forge keys. First person to forge three keys wins, as simple as that.

So essentially, Keyforge changes the focus of the competitive card game, so that while there is fighting, that is not the aim – Keyforge is more of a racing game, working out how to gain more Æmber, while trying to slow your opponent (or even steal it from them!)

The main mechanics of the game are refreshingly simple as well. There is absolutely no concept of cards having a cost depending on how rare or powerful they might be. In Keyforge, all cards are equal – you can play as many of your cards as you like, with just one restriction: at the start of your turn, you choose one of your three houses, and they are the only cards you can play. If you have a line of creatures from the ‘Shadow’ house out on the table, but your hand is full of ‘Sanctum’ cards, then you have a tough decision to make…

And despite (or because of) this, it plays really, really well. The rules are straightforward, and more often than not the games are incredibly balanced, with plenty of back and forth between the two players. Even when you are losing you can still pull off some brilliant combos that leave both players with grins on their faces.

But what is so ‘unique’ about this unique card game?

Well rather than you building your desk yourself from whatever card pool you have assembled, restricted by how well you have been able to learn the cards, and understand how they work together, Keyforge uses technology to completely throw that out of the window and do all the hard work for you.

What you buy is a fully assembled deck that has been pre-selected by an algorithm guaranteeing that there will be some synergies and combos between the cards. On top of this, each deck will have a unique card back, and a procedurally generated name, which is printed on the back and front of each card (and are frequently hilarious). “Goldhorse the Aloof Haven God-Queen” -vs- “Blaise, Uncivilised Tower Beekeeper”? (My money is on the God-Queen).

While this may put off the deckbuilders, this has always been the least enjoyable part of these types of games for me. And given how successful Keyforge has been so far, it appears I’m not alone. At the time of writing, over 265,000 decks have been registered on the official site ( Let that sink in a little. Over a quarter of a million decks in just over three weeks since launch. All unique, all different. Some great, some not so great, but all complete, and all playable.

So there you have it – an incredibly fun two player game, with the lowest barrier to entry I’ve ever seen for a game like this. Yes, if you can find one, you could buy the £30 starter set which gets you two ‘teaching’ decks, two unique decks, and all the tokens you need. Or better still, grab some spare tokens from some of your other games, get yourself an £8 deck, and you are set.

Not only are you set, but that deck has every chance of being the best in the world. Or the worst. But whatever it is, it is yours and no-one else will ever have one quite like it.

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