Keyflower

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Keyflower is a game for two to six players played over four rounds. Each round represents a season: spring, summer, autumn, and finally winter. Each player starts the game with a “home” tile and an initial team of eight workers, each of which is colored red, yellow, or blue. Workers of matching colors are used by the players to bid for tiles to add to their villages. Mat…
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Category Tags , , , , SKU ZEG-400166 Availability 3+ in stock
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Awards

Golden Pear

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Great player interaction.
  • Satisfying town-building elements.
  • Lovely colourful meeples.
  • Short playing time.

Might Not Like

  • Plain art.
  • Under-cooked theme.
  • Strategic planning difficult on a first play-through.
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Description

Keyflower is a game for two to six players played over four rounds. Each round represents a season: spring, summer, autumn, and finally winter. Each player starts the game with a "home" tile and an initial team of eight workers, each of which is colored red, yellow, or blue. Workers of matching colors are used by the players to bid for tiles to add to their villages. Matching workers may alternatively be used to generate resources, skills and additional workers, not only from the player's own tiles, but also from the tiles in the other players' villages and from the new tiles being auctioned. Keyflower presents players with many different challenges and each game will be different due to the mix of village tiles that appear in that particular game. Throughout the game, players will need to be alert to the opportunities to best utilize their various resources, transport and upgrade capability, skills and workers.

 

Keyflower is tense exercise in bluffing, opportunism and cube pushing which amounts to far more than the sum of its parts.

Keyflower - The Theme

In an apparent effort to one-up all the other Euro games in the school yard, Keyflower's rule book opens with a vivid and immersive description of the game’s theme:

"Keyflower is a game for two to six players played over four rounds. Each round represents a season: spring, summer, autumn and finally winter.”

Strangely, given this sparse description, there’s more theme present in Keyflower than in many of its Euro bedfellows. Across four rounds players will build up a colonial town, populating it with immigrants who arrive on boats at the end of each round.

Goods are procured, commodities delivered and homesteads upgraded. It’s hardly Mansions of Madness Second Edition, but despite the pretensions of the rule book, there’s more than a gossamer thin theme to be found here if you’re willing to look.

Unfortunately, the art is a bit drab. If you were feeling generous you could call it stylised.... If you were feeling less generous you could call it a little bit crap.

Gameplay

So, how does a turn of Keyflower pan out? Well, excuse me, while I slip into a pronoun which is a little more comfortable. Ooooh! I feel much better now.

At the start of the first round I reach into a bag and draw out a hand of random coloured meeples. I then conceal these surreptitiously behind my cottage-themed player shield.

In future rounds I will be able to chose the meeples I recruit by bidding for boats full of workers, but for now these are my tools.

Equipped with these starting workers, my cottage and ‘home’ tile, I am ready to begin. Hooray!

On my turn in Keyflower I can do one of two things: take an action or pass. If I choose to take an action, I take some of the meeples from behind my cottage and use them for one of two purposes.

My first option is to bid on one of the neutral tiles in the centre of the table. Winning one of these will allow me to add it to my town at the end of the round, giving me a powerful new action - and a steady income of meeples. Alternatively, I can assign workers to an action space.

This might be one in my own town, a neutral space in the central of the board or even a tile in an opponent’s village. I then gain the reward for doing so (typically a good or some more meeples). Importantly, once a colour of meeple is used to bid on or activate a space, any further bids or uses of that space must be performed with the same colour meeples.

If I don’t fancy any of the above I can pass. This doesn’t drop me out of the round, but if all players pass in sequence the round will end.

At the start of the first round I reach into a bag and draw out a hand of random coloured meeples. I then conceal these surreptitiously behind my cottage-themed player shield.

In future rounds I will be able to chose the meeples I recruit by bidding for boats full of workers, but for now these are my tools.

Equipped with these starting workers, my cottage and ‘home’ tile, I am ready to begin. Hooray!

On my turn in Keyflower I can do one of two things: take an action or pass. If I choose to take an action, I take some of the meeples from behind my cottage and use them for one of two purposes.

My first option is to bid on one of the neutral tiles in the centre of the table. Winning one of these will allow me to add it to my town at the end of the round, giving me a powerful new action - and a steady income of meeples. Alternatively, I can assign workers to an action space.

This might be one in my own town, a neutral space in the central of the board or even a tile in an opponent’s village. I then gain the reward for doing so (typically a good or some more meeples). Importantly, once a colour of meeple is used to bid on or activate a space, any further bids or uses of that space must be performed with the same colour meeples.

If I don’t fancy any of the above I can pass. This doesn’t drop me out of the round, but if all players pass in sequence the round will end.

Feel

Despite its euro-aesthetic, at its heart Keyflower has a great deal of player interaction. Allowing players to use each others’ action spaces allows for some mild sabotage, without being too punishing for the wronged party - who gets to collect any meeples on their town at the end of a round.

Equally, the ability to pass without dropping out of a round, one of my all-time favourite mechanics, allows players to engage in a brinkmanship, waiting out their opponents at the risk of the round ending unexpectedly early.

The town building element of the game is easy to overlook at first blush, but makes up an important part of strategy and it's one of the most satisfying elements of the game. Upgrading your tiles allows you to unlock more powerful actions and valuable victory points.

However, being able to do this relies on you being able to ship the required goods to the tiles you want to upgrade. Careless tile placement will mean extra turns spent schlepping goods across your board. And what do extra turns schlepping mean? Well… not prizes.

If you enjoy games like Stone Age, Champions of Midgard or Lords of Waterdeep, then this game may well appeal to you. It takes the worker-placement system present in each of these titles and adds a twist in the form of the bidding and town-building elements. There’s lots to think about and even if you get crushed, you built a little town. That’s nice isn’t it?

However, being able to do this relies on you being able to ship the required goods to the tiles you want to upgrade. Careless tile placement will mean extra turns spent schlepping goods across your board. And what do extra turns schlepping mean? Well… not prizes.

If you enjoy games like Stone Age, Champions of Midgard or Lords of Waterdeep, then this game may well appeal to you. It takes the worker-placement system present in each of these titles and adds a twist in the form of the bidding and town-building elements. There’s lots to think about and even if you get crushed, you built a little town. That’s nice isn’t it?

Rule book

The rule book does a good job of setting out how to play the game, even if it's unnecessarily text-heavy. Thankfully this is mitigated by the use of a summary bar which captures the most salient points. Overall, it’s a bit spartan but certainly fit for purpose.

The estimated playtime of 60-90 minutes is maybe a little overstated, our four player games never last longer than an hour. In short: it’s a game that never outstays its welcome.

Final Thoughts

The art is a tad uninspiring and the theme a bit under-cooked, but Keyflower is well deserving of its cult status. A puzzling euro at its core, Keyflower’s excellent player interaction and satisfying town-building elements easily make it one of my current favourites.

It can be a hard sell to a table who may struggle to see past the slightly dreary box, but it’s one that’s well worth persevering with.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Great player interaction.
  • Satisfying town-building elements.
  • Lovely colourful meeples.
  • Short playing time.

Might not like

  • Plain art.
  • Under-cooked theme.
  • Strategic planning difficult on a first play-through.