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Keyforge is a two player card game with a unique twist... What sets this game apart from all the others that I have played (including Pokemo...

Keyforge - Mass Mutation by Fantasy Flight Games Keyforge - Mass Mutation by Fantasy Flight Games

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!


Keyforge is a two player card game with a unique twist... What sets this game apart from all the others that I have played (including Pokemon TCG, Lord of the Rings LCG, Android Netrunner LCG and Magic the Gathering CCG) is that you’ll never ‘build’ your deck. The decks are all pre-made and inviolable, you’ll never replace cards or alter your deck(s) in any way.  This is a fundamentally different from any other ‘deck-builder’ and in my opinion is a breath of fresh air.

In video-game parlance ‘loot-boxes’ have come under fire for giving kids an easy path into gambling; although their legal status is still under review (in the UK at least). Buying booster packs for MTG or whatever your crack CCG (or even LCG) of choice feels exactly the same and I find it bizarre that they are not considered the same as loot-boxes.  Keyforge avoids all of those issues by providing a unique deck in every box and an in-game ability to handicap a deck if it appears too strong.  According to FFG there are 104 Quadrillion possible decks. If my maths is correct, if you stacked all the possible Keyforge decks on top of each other they would reach to Pluto and back!
A Few Boxes

But the best thing about every deck being utterly unique is that you don’t have to take things too seriously (here’s looking at you Magic)…you can relax and have fun; and enjoy the game for what it is rather than how much money you’ve spent on it.  The deluxe box comes with two decks and all the counters and introductory rules to play the game.  Additional decks are a snip at about £7.  I have friends who own large boxes of Magic Cards that probably represent thousands of pounds…and they only run with 2 or three decks. Absolutely bonkers in my opinion.

However, this isn’t a Magic the Gathering bash, but a review of Keyforge so let’s get into it. Keyforge was designed by no other than Richard Garfield himself and so its pedigree couldn’t be better.  During a game both players are trying to forge three keys to win the game.  The keys are forged by collecting a resource called Aember through playing and activating your cards.

Aember Keys Completed


In the universe of Keyforge there are 9 different houses and each deck will be comprised of cards from three of those houses. The players take on the role of an Archon that is trying to unlock a crucible of hidden knowledge…This theme is probably the worst thing in this game, in that there is no readily accessible Intellectual Property or generic setting that I am familiar with, which would help me to understand this concept and get immersed in the story. Although, you could argue this is also a feature; let me explain...

The cards, their powers and text and even deck composition is all generated by an algorithm.  This leads to some quite ridiculous named cards. The cards do have a consistent art design amongst the houses but other than that they don’t appear to link to one another or tell any coherent story.  This randomness is echoed in the overall concept and I got to the point where I just didn’t care why I was playing but I was just having a blast playing the cards and seeing how I could best use the cards I had.
A Small Selection of Cards From One Deck

There are many familiar mechanisms, tapping cards, battle lines, upgrades etc. that enable any gamer to literally learn as they play their first game.  The rules are fairly succinct in the starter set, and you’ll likely have a few questions left unanswered by the rules. The living rules are kept online and is the definitive source for any rule questions. But even though I have had a few questions, I’ve never felt the need to stop a game and look up a rule. It’s just not that type of game and it doesn’t create the super competitive atmosphere other card games can.

On your turn, before you start playing cards you have to choose which of the three house will be active for that turn.  You’ll then be limited to playing, activating or discarding cards from that house for the rest of your turn. Although this is a simple concept it allows for a good deal of strategising with your hand of cards and it helps to keep the game moving quickly as you’ll rarely be in a position to play more than 4 cards from your hand on any turn.  And if your opponent is doing their job you will not have too many creatures on your battle line to activate either.
Playing My Son...I lost this one.

There are four different types of cards: Creatures are played into the battle line and have lots of different passive and active abilities; Upgrades are attached to creatures to enhance them in some way, Artifacts are played behind the battle line and provide additional abilities and actions that could be used, and the last type of card are Action cards which are played to the discard pile and have an immediate effect.  Every other card enters play exhausted and so you’ll have to wait until your next turn in to use it’s abilities…(unless it has a Play ability - did I say there was a lot of variety in this game?)

When a creature is activated (belonging to the active house) you can Reap or Fight with it but not both. Reap collects Aember from the common supply and places it on the creature. You have to work out how you can collect the Aember from the creature back into your pool before your opponent kills the creature and collects it for their pool.  Fighting is very simply a simultaneous creature power number of hits applied modified by creature defence.

Snarette has 4 Power and no Shield.  Thero Centurion (did I say this was generated by an Algortihm) has 6 Power and 1 Shield.  If they were to Fight, instead of Reap the results are as follows:

Snarette takes 6 damage from Thero, killing it (its Power is only 4). Thero takes 3 damage from Snarette as Snarette applies 4 hits and Thero has 1 shield. Combat is resolved simultaneously and is simple as that.
All the mechanisms in this game are easy to understand and also easy to forget about.  After four or five rounds you’ll have a tableau of cards with many different actions and abilities to try to follow. I guarantee you’ll forget some of them, but you know what, in this game it really doesn’t bother me that I may have forgotten a rule when for example a creature has a Destroyed ability because this game is all about have a fun and exploring how the cards interact within the deck and how they manage against a different deck. The entry point is so low that I can’t help but recommend picking up a few decks to try it out.


The components are all typical FFG quality but unlike most FFG games you’re not tracking dozens and dozens across an expansive board.  You’ll normally have less than ten or twenty in play at anyone time and I’ve even seen some people (online) improvise all of the components with common items / other board game pieces.
The components you get in a Deluxe box


The artwork is a bit cartoony for my tastes but it fits the overall nature of the game perfectly, it stays light and humorous. Unfortunately for me I prefer the more serious and dark art you get in Lord of the Rings LCG and MTG.

I don’t really have any criticisms of a game that is so accessible, cheap and easy to learn, doesn’t take itself too seriously and yet still provides a similar depth of play as the more serious card games.  A huge bonus of this game, if you are or you play with a sore loser (or a child still learning how to lose gracefully), is that there is no personal affront for losing, you can excuse any poor play by blaming the inferior deck and trying a new deck, or swapping decks for the next game.  This non-confrontational meta-game will unfortunately be its downfall.  As a species, we enjoy seeing winners and losers after a fair contest.  A game of Keyforge isn’t really a fair contest (who knows how equal 2 decks out of 104 Quadrillion are) and even when I lose, I consider the deck to have lost not me. 
What was I saying about loot boxes being addictive!


After several weeks playing this game solidly with my son, I can say that I am honestly surprised at how much more strategy and depth there is in this game than I thought at first glance. It’s well worth picking up to try at its RRP.

I’d like to thank Asmodee UK for sending this review copy. This is in stock in many stores and you can use this link to find your FLGS

Designer: Richard Garfield
Play time: 30 minutes.
Players: 2

Overview Discover: Lands Unknown took the bgg hotness by storm a few months ago and I'm pleased to review this game. This will qu...

Discover Lands Unknown (minor spoilers) Discover Lands Unknown (minor spoilers)

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!



Discover: Lands Unknown took the bgg hotness by storm a few months ago and I'm pleased to review this game. This will quite a strange review as it will be impossible to review it without some minor spoilers - reader beware. Also, the nearly-unique selling point of this game is that every box, or at least the components within it are unique to that copy. My game will have a different mix of cards, terrain, explorers than any other Discover game. I find that individuality quite compelling.

In this game, you're given 5 different scenarios with which to explore, survive and ultimately reveal the underlying story of the game, your game. Scenarios 1-4 are fully co-operative and should be played in order, in which your characters/survivors are working together to reveal a mystery story whilst battling thirst, hunger and monsters. During these set-up scenarios, you're being drip-fed a story by revealed cards and objectives that lead to the final and fifth scenario which you can replay as many times as you would like

Each game comes with 2 different terrain types, I had the Badlands and the Island terrain types and 12 different characters, out of a possible 36, each with their own strength and weaknesses. Items, monsters and even the storyline are also variable between boxes. I shudder to think what steps were taken to try to balance the number of different possibilities.

If you're curious to see the contents of my game then you can watch my unboxing video (~9 mins).


The scenarios start with your characters waking up at a campfire of an unfamiliar land. Each particular terrain will have a different counter-mix and different cards. The placement of terrain is also randomised so if you're replaying a scenario and are trying to find a particular landmark and advance the story it will most likely not be in the same location.

The game itself felt well balanced.  you cannot just go for broke and fight every single monster or just search out landmark features. You'll need to care for your survivor making sure they've got adequate supplies of food, water and resources from which you can make useful items. If you're not careful then you'll likely take damage quickly and you will lose the game which will happen after you've taken 4 damage.  If your survivor is eliminated the remaining players keep trying to beat the game so you best have something to do whilst you wait.

The unknown awaits
A turn consists of a day and a night phase. During the day phase, you'll take actions up to your stamina limit or whenever you decide to stop.  Most actions cost 1 stamina and there are 10 different actions available to you. Each night you'll recover some stamina so that you can function again the next day. However, as you'd expect, during the night phase your survivors have to deal with some threats.

Whilst trying to survive you're trying to meet scenario objectives or 'stages', these are sequential, the first stage has to be complete before revealing the next and scenarios have 3 or 4 stages. Only the active stage is revealed to players. If you complete all stages, then you've won the scenario and can play the next.

You survivor will inevitably take damage as they explore the terrain, from monsters, dirty water, events or from the night terrors. Damage is tracked on a nifty tracker with 3 damage wheels and 1 stamina wheel. Damage can be either physical, poison, hunger or thirst but at the point where you need to take a 4th damage, you're done for and out of the game. You can spend resources, to recover from damage which you'll need to do very regularly.

Falling like flies
You'll encounter monsters quite regularly, you can normally avoid them if you want but they do provide relatively large numbers of resources, e.g meat and hides, so killing them is often in your best interest. The combat system is very simple, which is both a good and bad thing. You'll roll 2d12 and compare them against the numbers on the monster's card. If you beat the grey number with the grey dice you cause one damage to the monster, if you beat the red number with the red dice the monster hits you for one damage.  Combat can be altered by other survivors combat support cards, if they're near enough, or by the items you've crafted.

The game is driven by flipping resource tokens and investigating landmarks. Normally you'll flip a token and just reveal a resource of that type, however, sometimes you'll reveal a number which will require to draw the same number from the Exploration deck. Investigating a landmark will also require you to draw the corresponding numbered card from the Exploration deck. The 'story' is largely told through the stage cards and accessing the 'right' exploration cards. Some exploration cards have pre-requisites before you can flip them over or allow you to draw an exploration card 2 higher when resolving a token for example. This was a clever system and I thought, good design, similar to 7th Continent.

Rulebook and excerpt

After all players have used as much stamina as they want, night falls. The night phases get worse, the longer players hang around and as resources are of a nearly finite supply, eventually your survivors will succumb and lose the game. It's in your best interest to do things quickly, however, sometimes you'll find the right landmark on the very last tile, which can be hard to recover from.

The art on the box and the character cards has a nice clean aesthetic which reminded me of Herge's Tintin series. The cards are simple but nice and everything is of the excellent quality that we expect from FFG.  The cardboard wheels have stayed quite tight which is a good thing when you're tracking vital statistics...(nod to Underzo), you don't want them moving without intention which can be the case with similar components from other games. I would have preferred wooden meeples instead of the plastic but that is a trivial gripe.

Maybe expansion space?


The story did not come through as much as we'd like. Often we were left wandering and wondering where to go next. The narrative felt a little loosely tacked on and only revealed by two or three sentences before you're off and trying to complete the next stage. This may be indicative on the uniqueness of each box, the designer(s) would have had a torrid time crow-barring the story into every different version of the game box. I would like to know if the story in my box is the same for all other boxes that contain the Island and Badlands terrains.

The story could be better told if you were able to keep some knowledge or item bonuses from one scenario to the next. Instead, you've got a completely blank slate for each scenario making you feel like you're playing in a vacuum and your choices, or even win and lose, have no bearing on the subsequent scenario. 

Lots of goodness here
 The OCD gamer in me is worrying that maybe I don't have the best mix of components, I have to trust FFG, and I'm sure this is the case, that each game feels approximately the same and my game is neither inferior or better than all the other 'Discoverys' out there.

The fifth scenario plays a little differently from the first 4 and isn't really part of the story. But what it does try to do is done far better in other games. This game really is just 4 scenarios in one base box and I'm not sure you're getting gameplay value for money with this.


This game does lots of clever things that I like but a game about exploration and survival should tell a good story and this one fell a little flat for my group. I like the idea of a unique game box and the game underway looks lovely on the table. It plays in about 100 minutes, which is probably half an hour too long per scenario considering this game's complexity. I'm sure there is a very good game inside and I'm sure we will see other publishers try similar gimmicks, (a-la Keyforge) but I don't think we've reached the pinnacle of unique games design with this title.

I thought the damage mechanism was good, supported by a component of excellent quality, and I liked the simplicity of the combat system if not its' randomness.

I  would like to play another copy of Discover as I'm intrigued, how the designer managed to balance lots of the different elements in each game; are the stories different? do they link together in some way? etc.  Some game groups, or even couples, could really enjoy the open-ended nature of this game and will re-play scenario 5 again and again, but I don't want it to be my group. Sorry FFG.
This game has a huge distribution and you'll still be able to find it in almost every game store; find your nearest Friendly Local Games Store at

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Players: 1 - 4
Designer: Corey Konieczka
Playing time: 1-2 hours
RRP: £57.99