Learning KeyForge is a series of tutorial videos and blogs that teach KeyForge, the Unique Deck Game. This guide is updated continuously to provide the most current information.
While the easiest way to learn how to play KeyForge is by watching our how to play video below, you can learn everything you need to know about playing KeyForge in this chapter!
If you watched the video and are excited to dive into KeyForge, we recommend skipping ahead to our KeyForge Buyer’s Guide. Otherwise, you can learn the game in just a few minutes below!
Unlike most cards games, you aren’t trying to defeat your opponent in KeyForge. You win the game by being the first player to forge three keys, making KeyForge feel more like a race than a fight! You forge a key at the start of a turn if you have six or more Aember tokens, the primary resource in the game. You gain Aember tokens by reaping with creatures or playing cards. For example, note the orange icon on the top left of the card below.
One of the most innovative choices in KeyForge is the removal of resources. In most card games, Wild Wormhole would have a resource cost. In KeyForge, you declare a house at the start of your turn. You can then play, discard, and activate any cards in play from that house, all of which have no resource cost.
Note the logo on the top left of Wild Wormhole (above). Below are the names and icons of the original 7 houses in KeyForge.
Actions, like Wild Wormhole, are one card type. There were three others in the original set, including artifacts, creatures, and upgrades. You can see an example of each below, all from the house Sanctum.
Actions generally provide an immediate effect. They can also sometimes apply to an entire turn.
Artifacts come into play exhausted, meaning they cannot be used on the first turn they are in play. Unlike events though, they stay in play and can be used on any future turn where you declare the house to which they belong. Artifacts that have the ‘Omni’ keyword can be used regardless of the house you declare.
Creatures, like artifacts, come into play exhausted and stay in play. This means you get to use them on future turns where you declare there house.
Upgrades attach to characters and stay in play, although they do not come into play exhausted. They typically provide an immediate benefit to the creature and even though they belong to a house, they can be played on creatures from any house unless they say otherwise.
To start a game, both players shuffle their decks and randomly determine who the first player will be. The first player draws a starting hand of 7 cards and the second player draws a hand of 6 cards. Players can choose to take a mulligan, where they shuffle their starting hand back into their deck and draw a new starting hand. When they do this, they draw one less card.
Every turn, follows these steps:
- Check to see if you have enough Aember to forge a key. If so, forge one key. You can only forge one key per turn, regardless of how much Aember you have.
- Declare an active house.
- Play, discard, and use cards from the declared house.
- Ready all of your exhausted creatures, artifacts, and upgrades.
- Draw up to six cards.
The one exception to this structure is on the very first turn of the game. On the first turn, the first player may only play one card.
Creatures can take a number of actions whenever you choose to activate their house. Note that each of these actions requires the creature to exhaust! These actions include:
- Reap – Any ready creature of the active house can reap. When a creature reaps, it exhausts and the controller of that creature gains an Aember. If the creature has any Reap Abilities, those also resolve at this time.
- Fight – Any ready creatures of the active house can also fight. When a creature fights, the controller of the creature chooses one eligible creature controller by their opponent to target for the attack. Each of the two creatures deals an amount of damage equal to their power, the number on the left of the creature with a red diamond behind it, to the other creature. All of this damage is dealt simultaneously. This damage is reduced by the armor value, the number on top of the grey shield to the right of the creature. Note that armor resets at the end of each turn. Any surviving creatures in the fight with Fight Abilities resolve those abilities after the fight.
- Action – along with reaping or fighting, creatures will also sometimes have an Action printed on their card. This works like any other action, meaning the creature needs to belong to the house you declare and be ready in order to use the action.
Sometimes a creature will get stunned, receiving a Stun Token. A creature can only ever have one stun token. When a creature is stunned, the only action it can take is to remove the Stun Token.
Another token in KeyForge is called a Chain. Chains are used as an extra cost of some cards and in official organized play. When you reach the draw step of a turn, you draw less cards based on the number of chains you have. If you draw less cards, you remove one chain. Below is the official chart showing how many less cards (on the right) you draw based on the number of chains you have (on the left).
If KeyForge sounds like a game you would have fun playing, check out our next chapter to determine how and what to buy!