KeyForge: Many reasons to play this card game

Text: Marcel Leonardo. Picture: Muhammad Rajib Rakatirta. Editing & English translation: Stephan Celebesario Sonny

KeyForge is another game from Richard Garfield, the man behind Magic the Gathering and many other masterpieces in the gaming world. Released in 2018, it has been gaining popularity ever since its first press release. One thing for sure, Keyforge is the first game that brings the concept of unique deck. That means, each player buys a deck booster and gets a one-and-only deck. This is the selling point of the game which was published by Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) in 2018.

For Indonesian readers (and other players who reside in Indonesia and neighbouring countries), we want to invite you to join our KeyForge community, if you decide to join our adventure in Crucible. Our community is pretty much active and consists of many players, starting from the most recently joined to the veterans. We communicate through Facebook and WhatsApp groups. Through this outlet, we inform the upcoming tournaments, and mostly chat about how to play Keyforge better.


KeyForge is a duel-game (well, for now, maybe in the future FFG will develop the multi-player version) where both players compete to be the first one to forge three keys. This goal is a bit different in comparison to other trading card games (TCG) in the market, which usually asks players to deplete the opponent’s base/health to zero. In KeyForge, players are in the race to gather 6 Æmber and use it to forge the key on their next turn. There are three main ways to obtain Æmber: playing cards with Æmber icon, reaping by creatures we own, and stealing it from the opponent. Usually, a game lasts for 20-30 minutes, quite a short one for a card game.

The community in Indonesia after the last tournament before COVID-19 pandemic. Blurry but fun.

There are three out of seven houses of the season in the deck. Each chosen house contributes to 12 cards combination to the deck, be it duplicates or even sometimes rare ones. With this calculation, a deck locks 36 cards within plus one identity card (the name of the deck and the content). And yes, your deck has a name!


In comparison to other competitive card games in the market, I think KeyForge’s rules and how to play are one of the most straightforward ones. I summarized all of them in these four points below:

  1. Forge a key if the player has six Æmbers or more when starting the turn. Even if the player has enough Æmbers to forge more than one key, normally only one can be forged in this step.
  2. Select a House to play for this turn. The player may only play cards affiliated to this house this turn.
  3. Action phase. Here, the player may activate all creatures, either to fight or to reap. Any card effect can be triggered by playing cards from hand. The player may also discard unnecessary cards from hand while still respecting the rule no. 2.
  4. Draw cards up to the Hand limit. Normally, there are only six cards in hands.


Do you know why I decided to write about KeyForge? Well, of course it’s not because I have too much time (who has it in the world, anyway?) I think this game deserves the consideration from many players. Give it a chance and you will fall in love, just like me.

Board state during one Keyforge game.

Feels more like board game rather than a card game

Each KeyForge deck is unique and fixed, something that reminds me of board games with default components and composition. This differs KeyForge greatly from other card game, and it cannot be categorized as TCG. In addition, the decision-making in KeyForge goes through a complex process. One true example is from the core mechanic, where players choose the house to play each round.

Players will always face dilemmas, choosing which creatures to do what. Should I fight the opponent’s creatures now, or is it more profitable to reap? It is also a complex thing to decide which cards to keep and discard. There are a lot of things happening in KeyForge.

More accessible

KeyForge is really affordable and thus, really easy to start playing this game. One KeyForge deck costs €9,00 and with this minimal investment, players can already initiate the game with their best friends and family members. We don’t have to worry about the lack of tokens from the core box, too. We can always substitute it with components from other games, if necessary.


There is no twin deck in KeyForge. All decks are unique, and one-and-only. They are not translated into other languages, too. That means, the German deck will not be found in English version. Meeting a deck you like feels like a fate, because you’ll be the only person who owns it in the world (until you decide to sell it, of course). The card composition, and even the name, they are randomized. It makes name-hunting fun, too. Maybe you can find a deck with your name on it.

Each booster contains one unique deck, the one-and-only, that will bring you to Crucible.


The uniqueness of each deck makes us play with luck whenever we purchase a KeyForge deck. Well, for some people, this is a big pet peeve, but this point still has its market. You may still not get the deck you don’t like, but that does not mean it’s not fun. Sometimes, when you try it and grasp the combos, you may change your mind.

What if a deck is considered too strong, then? The designer has integrated a balancing mechanic called chain. This chain decreases the number of cards in the user’s hands. To support deck exploration, they also provide another format called reverse. Players swap their deck with their opponents before the game. I suggest bringing your weakest deck if you want to win in this format.

If you still want to play but don’t want to face the roulette, there are some secondary markets to consider. Some players sell their decks while giving description, highlight, and rating.

Exploration without any deck building

TCGs in the market push players to build their own deck around their creativities. This process needs them to purchase some boosters in order to search for the cards they need. In KeyForge, however, this process is cut off. All decks are sold as ready-to-play. Players explore not by deck building but by learning the right combo to use the deck they own. There is this feeling of satisfaction when we can execute a great combo, making both you and your opponent say “WOW! It can do that?!” Some of us are amazed by the power play to turn the tide. Comeback is real, baby!

KeyForge is a competitive card game, and usually with strong creatures in the deck, it means an easy win. Actually, it is not. Creatures are tools to win the game, not an insurance to gain victory.

Let’s play Keyforge together. I guarantee you’ll have great time.


KeyForge is one of the unique and refreshing games in this modern gaming world. It steers to a different genre compared to other card games out there. Personally, KeyForge is a more accessible puzzle. The puzzle is depicted through the unique combo in each deck, and we solve them by playing and exploring them multiple times. Additionally, it does not take long to finish one gaming session with this game.

Despite without deck building and pretty much gacha to get the deck that suits you, starting to play KeyForge costs just as much as €9,00. This amount is not as high as other entry prices. Let’s try to visit the Crucible world and find out if KeyForge is for you or not.

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