Explore North America’s wildlife in Keystone North America from Rose Gauntlet Entertainment! Up to 4 players take on the role as biologists working to build an interconnected ecosystem through the use of cards. Players take turns placing cards into your grid-like player board and using randomised skill tiles to help you throughout the game.
Collect Them All
Keystone is a game that’s easy to learn and get to the table. Setting up the game requires almost no time at all. Deal out the player boards, deal out the card row, place the action tiles and your ready to go!
The gameplay couldn’t be simpler. On your turn you have 2 options, pick a card from the row and place it on your board or use one of the abilities of the action tiles.
The game ends when you run out of space on your grid to place cards or the time marker hits 0 and then final scoring takes place. You will score based off the ecosystems you have built while also using patterns and symbols on your secret objective cards to get high scores.
More Than Meets The Eye
Despite Keystone being a relatively simple game, don’t be fooled, this is a highly competitive game where cards are taken away before you and your player board fills up fast.
Taking newer cards in the card row will cost you more synergy tokens, as you will need to add one to each card to the right of the selected one in the six card row.
Each card contains symbols indicating which habitats they belong to. When you introduce a new species to your board, you will to link them together either horizontally or vertically in ascending order to get the most points.
Also some cards have endangered species icons which might help with your objectives. Some are classed as Keystone species which let you double the points when scoring your cards.
Wild cards cost a hefty price of synergy tokens but act as any numbered card for a certain habitat helping you bridge the gaps in your chain of cards.
I was surprised by how difficult it was, at least initially too achieve a high score. Keystone requires a keen eye and the ability to adapt to changes as you try to map out out your rows and columns of cards.
Keystone can also be a little bit harsh especially if you make a bad play early on. Sometimes the wrong card or lack of tokens can really set you back plus the huge stack of cards causes another common issue in set collection games; not getting the cards you need.
I occasionally picked a card that i thought would be great only for the next few cards to be revealed to not have the same habitat and so it set me back slightly.
The Beauty Of Nature
Keystone: North America features absolutely stunning production and artwork. The almost photo-realistic drawings on the cards combined with the vibrant seasonal player boards give this game some serious table presence. The gorgeous play mat once rolled out has nice slots for cards and tokens and sets a nice nature scene upon the table.
The games insert is perfectly capable of storing sleeved cards and the great neoprene game mat with plenty of space for tokens and extra content.
The card quality is fairly good however I would recommend sleeving the cards for this game as the constant of shuffling and placing back and forth can cause some gradual wear and tear.
Jumping Into The Wild
You will need to keep an eye on your synergy tokens as-well as what ability tiles are currently in play. These helpful boosts let you gain tokens, move cards around and replace unwanted cards on the card row. You can use one white sided token or as many yellow sided tokens as you want with the additional cost of advancing the time marker.
This is where the real interaction and competitive nature of the game come to life. Being able to intentionally remove cards you know players need or edging the game closer to the finish line can put real pressure on your opponents and provide some great tension.
Do you grab that last card you need for your ecosystem? Or do you manipulate the card row so your opponent can’t get that important card they need?
Walking In The Woods Alone
As a mostly solo board gamer this game was perfect for me! It comes with a journal filled with scenarios, challenges and even secret rewards (which I can’t wait to open more of) and a little narrative adventure that takes you across North America.
Its great for a relaxing yet puzzling game to wind down to. It’s challenging but the 20 scenarios and the unlock-able cards kept me coming back for more each time.
Keystone: North America is great blend of set collection and card placement that I found had just enough of both a gateway game for newer players and a deep puzzle game for more experienced ones to keep both happy.
The theme is appealing and accessible and the artwork of the game really help it stand out. Despite this though it doesn’t really push boundaries or introduce anything new to the genre and can be surprisingly tough to get the cards you want especially at higher player counts.
The best thing about this game for me is it actually made me more interested in the animals and plant life presented here and how their ecosystems worked!