Shard of the Week: Keyforge May Have Flaws, But…
I am obsessed with Keyforge- I can’t deny it. The best card game ever? I think so.
But I’ll admit no game could ever be truly perfect for everyone.
The resounding complaint I often hear is the lack of deckbuilding. It’s a feature of the game that I enjoy, but also can be the ‘make it or break it’ aspect for alot of people.
There are a number of other small issues that are more relevant to me, but fortunately, these have much simpler fixes.
So today I will make an honest attempt to look at this game with an open-minded perspective in an attempt to understand the pros and cons, while offering some possible solutions we may see ‘Forged” in our future.
Let us begin with some easier issues…
Problem 1: Tokens vs. Dice
While I understand the intent behind tournament regulations regarding dice, I can’t say I agree with them. In theory, not allowing dice should help the clarity of the game. Tables get bumped, things can move around. Dice in tournaments could be… well… dicey.
But there’s a reason I disagree with this regulation.
The problem (I believe) runs far deeper than just tracking the numbers. I like being able to pay attention to my opponent’s gameplay, all their nonverbal cues, and making sure there is no sleight of hand going on. It’s impossible to keep an opponent honest when my eyes are focused on organizing little chips all over the place. It’s also so quick and easy to arrange dice instead of tokens that only use odd numbers. Locally, our players just use colored dice for damage and power tokens. Setting a die on top of the deck to track chains is a huge help, too, because you can’t accidentally draw too many cards while it’s there to remind you.
I truly have never encountered an issue with dice- and no players locally have ever mentioned it as a problem either. It allows a much better focus on the play experience. If the table gets bumped, yeah, a die may move a little. But typically, the dice are more stationary than the little circle they suggest you use on the cardboard chain tracker.
So what advice would I give to Fantasy Flight Games?
How about official dice? They could have a chunky weight; enough to avoid easily rolling. Clearly visible symbols on all the sides would be a plus. Also, there’s a huge upside of having a new product to sell. If I was told that there was a tournament legal dice set I would buy it in a heartbeat! You only really need three types… damage, power, and chains. When you know the quality of the dice being used, it’s far easier to permit them in tournaments. I even drew up this little sample of what they might look like…
Fortunately, FFG listens to their customer base, so if enough people want this- it might actually happen.
Problem 2: Artifact Templates
Every time I have tried to teach this game I see the same thing: the new player will try and play their artifact as if it were an action.
Why wouldn’t they?
The text box clearly says “Action”… and the word “Artifact” doesn’t help much when it’s printed in a small enough size to rival the copyright information. To say that I have caught this mistake from new players thirty times is an understatement. Nearly every new player makes this error.
Hey, new players, it’s not your fault!
So what would be my solution?
How about a slight change to the template? Maybe make the word ‘Artifact’ a little more prominent? Magic the Gathering ran into this same issue when they designed their new templates for 8th edition. Surprisingly enough, it was also their artifacts which caused the issue. The silvery style templates looked too similar to white cards in their design, so later they made the template a darker shade of gray to avoid the confusion. Perhaps something like that could be done here?
Problem 3: Not Enough Bad Penny
Whenever I open a deck, the first thing I look for is Bad Penny.
Only one copy? Not enough.
The best players in the world use decks with at least three copies of this all-star. Who can argue with a creature that has such an enormous impact on the game? You can call house Shadows every turn and be assured of having a creature to play!
Of course I’m being sarcastic. Bad Penny can work out well in a few decks, but it’s a sore subject for me since my best deck has one that is purely meant to be discarded. The point I’m trying to make is that we have seen alot of cards carry over from one set to the next.
But why keep the ones that have the least impact on the game?
It’s important for the collectibility of the game to have variance- I get that. But what I don’t get is why the real stinkers don’t get weeded out. There are better ways to balance the power levels of a set than just having good cards and bad cards.
Take out one stinker (like Save the Pack) and one great card (like Regrowth) and replace them with two average cards, such as Dew Faerie and Snufflegator. Now players won’t open as many garbage decks, and beginning players are more likely to open average decks they can actually enjoy.
To be fair, there aren’t really that many terrible cards, so fixing this should only cost a “Penny” or two.
Time will tell, maybe the next set is already applying the fix.
Problem 4: You Can’t Deckbuild
Well, we have reached the highlight of this article; the main reason so many players decline this incredible game.
There is a validity to this argument, although it’s mostly a matter of perspective. I view the glass half full, while others may view it as half empty.
On one hand, we can’t customize our decks as we see fit.
On the other hand, players can’t ‘netdeck’.
Ask a non-Keyforge player what their deck is called. They will usually respond with something like “Aggro” or “Midrange Control”. That’s nice to have a generic metagame description, but Keyforge gave me a deck named Warden Q. Autocloud and it’s unlike any other deck.
And there lies the heart of the issue.
Keyforge doesn’t easily fit any traditional labels. All too often we see it compared with other card games (I’m guilty of this, too). If you like building a deck, then play another game. If you like owning something one of a kind, play Keyforge. In five years, that deck you built for another game is likely disassembled for parts. While Warden Q. Autocloud will still hold the same fond memories of wins, losses, triumph, and tragedy.
You can’t change your Archon, but you can let the Crucible change you.
This section isn’t meant to convince anyone that their game is the “right one”. We all play games for different reasons, and that’s okay.
But for now, all I need in my gaming life is to look at the opponent’s Archon card at the start of each round; analyzing and building upon a strategy that will likely change for every opponent I ever face.
I think that part of the game gets overlooked by alot of potential players. What we lose in deckbuilding, we gain in strategy.
Now if I could just swap out that one Bad Penny…
Until next time!