Fantasy Flight Announces Richard Garfield’s KeyForge

Deckbuilding? Collectible card games? Who has time for that? Clearly not publisher Fantasy Flight Games. The company has announced plans for a new card game called KeyForge: Call of the Archons that promises to make degenerate deckbuilding and booster pack chasing of cards “a thing of the past.” A bold claim, particularly from the company that made living card games a household name. But with luminary game designer Richard Garfield at the helm you can count us in as being all ears.

After pulling the plug on its long running living card game staple Android: Netrunner earlier this summer, the stage seemed set for another game to come along. Now it seems Fantasy Flight is ready to hang its considerable money hat on KeyForge, a two-player game in which every single 37-card deck created will be “truly unique and one-of-a kind.”

Every. Single. Deck.

The company writes in its announcement that players who purchase one of the game’s so-called Archon Decks at retail can sleep soundly at night knowing that they and they alone will have access to that deck and its unique combination of cards. In fact, the publisher boasts that when KeyForge is released in the fourth quarter of 2018 it will offer a staggering 104,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 possible decks. And by design, not a single one will be identical.

But wait, you ask, couldn’t you just trade cards with your friends anyway?

It appears not, as Fantasy Flight further notes that each deck will offer a complete experience and “cannot be altered”, largely thanks to decks being given unique deck names and then having those names printed on the back side of every card in that deck. Every deck will consist of a number of different creatures pulled from three of the game’s seven different Houses, each offering a different backstory and demanding a different play style. Besides creatures, decks will also come stuffed with cards devoted to different technologies, artifacts and skills meshed together to create what Fantasy Flight describes as a kind of synergy unique to a particular deck of cards.

In many ways, the approach being taken with KeyForge is almost the antithesis to that of many customizable card games, including Garfield’s own creation, Magic: The Gathering. This appears to be on purpose, as Garfield explained during Fantasy Flight’s annual presentation panel at Gen Con 2018, that the primary inspiration behind KeyForge was an effort to remove the ability of players to ‘NetDeck’, whereby a CCG/LCG player will seek out popular winning deck builds online and simply copy them rather attempt to construct creative and unique decks of their own. Should a player not enjoy the game style of capabilities of their randomly-generated Archon deck, the intent is to simply go out and purchase another.

Moreover, there is no in-game resource cost to play cards in Keyforge. Instead, players must choose a House at the start of their turn and then benefit from being able to play any number cards belonging to that House for free. According to Fantasy Flight, this lifts the burden of resource management from off players’ shoulders, leading to quick-playing turns where “balance is key”.

KeyForge: Call of the Archons is launching before the end of the year with a Starter Set and an initial set of Archon Decks. The Starter Set will include a pair of fixed “training decks,” as well as a handful of tokens, point trackers, and other necessities common to Fantasy Flight titles.

The game will also be supported by a companion app, as this is Fantasy Flight’s new M.O. The app will help players keep track of what the company hopes will be their many purchased decks of cards, each of which will represent a unique team that they can bring to a battle. The app will also track wins and losses, as well as offer a way for players to interact with the larger game community. KeyForge will also eventually be supported through Fantasy Flight Games’ Organized Play, giving fans a way to test their skill against other players during live events.

All of this sounds exciting, ambitious, and just a little confusing. We’re certainly looking forward to learning out more in the months ahead, both in terms of further details about the game as well as whether people will be willing buy in to such a radically different model of strategy card gaming.