What Is Keyforge?
Keyforge is a card game designed by Richard Garfield. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because he also designed Magic: The Gathering, a phenomenally successful game. Keyforge isn’t Magic though, it’s a game that stands up on its own. Rather than trying to defeat your opponent directly, in Keyforge you are attempting to, you guessed it, forge keys. 3 to be exact. The first player to forge 3 keys is the winner. You can forge keys by collecting amber from various mechanisms within the game.
The unique thing about Keyforge is that you don’t build your own decks. It belongs in an entirely new category known as ‘Unique Deck Games’. When you buy a Keyforge pack, it contains a unique deck with its own randomly generated name (my favourite part). Nobody else in the world has the exact same combination of cards you have, and it’s up to you to make the best of what you get, whether that deck is good or bad.
So now you know a little about what it is, lets talk about it’s release and reception.
When Was It Released?
Call of the Archons, the original Keyforge set, was released in 2018 by Fantasy Flight games. In the following years expansions were also released, Age of Ascension and Worlds Collide in 2019, Mass Mutation in 2020 and Dark Tidings in 2021.
Did It Do Well?
On the face of it, yes, Keyforge got off to a good start. The card game industry is notoriously hard to break into, but Keyforge looked to be carving itself a niche, even if it might never reach the heights of some other games. Generally reviewers enjoyed it, even while being wary of the randomised nature of decks, and it even won a couple of Origins Awards in 2019.
The world of the Crucible was expanded as well. A collection of short stories was released called Tales of the Crucible, as well as an expansion for Fantasy Flights RPG, Genesys, called Secrets of the Crucible.
Then What Happened?
Looking at the dates for the expansion releases, you might have some idea what the first stumbling block was. Lockdown. Mass Mutation was released in July 2020 when we were well and truly stuck inside. This didn’t do much for the general public's ability to play the game, especially with no official digital version available. Then in March 2021 the Dark Tidings expansion tentatively arrived on shelves. Still mostly in lockdown at this point, unless you were very careful, physically meeting to play Keyforge was off the table. That doesn’t mean it died however. It had enough of a following that people were still excited about it, and most people accepted that those kinds of hobbies were more or less on hold until lockdown ended. Fantasy Flight even released some print and play solo/co-op adventures you could play at home to tide you over.
What almost was a fatal blow to Keyforge however, was what we later found out (although has never been officially confirmed) to be a hack. On the 10th September 2021, Fantasy Flight announced that Keyforge was being put on hiatus so they could re-launch at a future date. As well as Covid, the main reason given for doing this was that the algorithm that generated the unique decks was broken and needed to be re-built from the ground up. Everyone was pretty tight lipped about the actual scenario, but from what has been said, it’s likely that Fantasy Flight was hacked in some shape or form and they lost access to the algorithm, or it was deleted/ damaged in some way. Whatever the case, they now had an extremely complex program to re-build, and it wasn’t going to be quick.
Did It Survive?
Yes…just! After almost a year of no news, on June 22nd 2022, Fantasy Flight announced that they had sold the Keyforge IP to a new company, and that they would be taking the game forward from here. That company was Ghost Galaxy. Time for some more name dropping. Ghost Galaxy was founded by Christian T. Petersen, the original founder of Fantasy Flight, so Keyforge was in good hands.
Immediately they got to work migrating all the Keyforge data, no small task, and had already begun re-creating that complex deck generation algorithm I mentioned. But how to know if the game was really worth saving? The best way was to crowdfund the new expansion. Personally I have mixed opinions about crowdfunding, but in this instance I think it was the right call. They needed to both gauge the remaining interest and get the excitement for Keyforge's return going.
So in September 2022, we got a Gamefound campaign. Finally, Keyforge was returning after too long away. How did it go? You'll have to read my next article about the current state of Keyforge to find out! (Yes I know you could Google it, shhh)