I'm Saddened... (Board Games)


Ok, so Richard Garfield wrote a big thing about the design and development of Keyforge.


The most fascinating part was this:

Varied Power: One thing that had to be embraced early was the fact that decks would have different power levels. This was inevitable given the wildly varied deck generation I wanted. My goal was to make most decks be able to have a good game against most other decks, and to introduce a handicapping system that allowed stronger decks to play on a more equal footing against weaker ones. The handicap system is based on “chains”; basically, each chain a deck begins with costs them a card during play. This system gives players a lot of flexibility for balancing their experience to their taste; including ‘bidding chains’ for very experienced players with knowledge of various deck strengths. When playing without chains certain match ups may not be fair – but for people like me they are still fun. …

He doesn’t fully explain the “bidding chain” mechanic, so we’ll have to see how it works. It’s still fascinating. Serious competitive players will presumably always play with the bidding chains. Players with stronger decks will somehow have to bid more, and that will cost them some cards. I assume as long as both players bid properly, this will create an equalizing handicap similar to golf, or maybe like letting one player start with stones on the board in Go.

I have renewed hope for this game because although FFG is publishing it, they seem to have had nothing to do with the game design. Richard went to pitch to them because they have the print on demand facilities the game requires.

The way I see it, I’ll probably get two decks,. If it’s good, I’ll convince other people to get at least one for themselves. Any time two people are waiting for a seat in a larger game, they can bust out some KeyForge. It will be more crunchy than other two player fare like Lost Cities, or Hive. Good for when the players in the larger game aren’t super close to finishing. Due to the lack of deck construction it will be a much better experience than M:tG or Netrunner.


Ok, so since FFG is publishing Keyforge for RG, they took the unique game concept and made their own game with it. This seems to be a co-op survival + storytelling game. Like maybe a Forbidden Island/Pandemic mixed with an Arabian Nights.

The thing is, each copy of the game will be unique. Different encounters, different characters. etc. I think the idea here is simply that since they’ve already developed the printing tech to do this, it only cost marginally more to print the unique game vs a regular game. However, with a unique game a person has a reason to buy it more than once. They also have a reason to get everyone in the friend group to buy a copy instead of just one friend owning one copy that everyone can play.

I have no confidence in this game as the designer Corey is an FFG employee who has made no games I like. I do still have confidence in the unique game concept if applied to a good game.

One thing I would like to see is a solid quality war game with random maps. Every box has the same game, but the map is just different. You could even include like 3-5 random maps in each box. This would make tournaments really interesting since surprise you get a new map to figure out in each round. Just like when you play Civilization on the PC and the map is fresh every time.


Throw on legacy mechanics and it’s a bit like the world is trying to re-arrive at pen and paper role-playing games…


Since the earliest days people have tried to developer tabletop RPGs that outsource all creativity. That’s what a D&D module is for. But imagine if everyone who bought the Temple of Elemental Evil got a significantly different temple, even though they all shared their elemental and evil nature.


I don’t see any reason to expect Keyforge to be a satisfying competitive experience. Richard is an incredible game designer but his designs are only known for any semblance of balance when a team of dozens of people iron out the rules over about a decade.


Me either, but this design is still really interesting.


I wonder how possible that would be. After all, we can procedurally generate things like that, and it’s not like we don’t have printing technology to produce individually different books during a print run. I think it would be possible, and it’s a really interesting idea.


I just witnessed a great little bit of on-the-fly game theory. As a tie-breaker at a bar trivia game, they were using the game where you take turns naming items in a category in under 5 seconds until someone fails or repeats. (That’s almost a board game, right?)

The category was ‘Harrison Ford movies.’ A few rounds in, one guy started naming Indiana Jones movies, and the other guy started on Star Wars films. It went like this:

Guy A: “Raiders of the Lost Ark”
Guy B: “A New Hope”
A: “Temple of Doom”
B: “Empire Strikes Back”
A: “Return of the Jedi”
B: “Return of…uhh… FUCK!” BZZZZZZZ

Very simple but effective game theory. It was like some Duck Season, Rabbit Season-style baiting.


Richard Garfield interview about Keyforge


My coworker was telling me about a card game called Preferans that he played a lot growing up in Russia. I can work out that it’s a trick-taking game, but not much else about how it’s played. Is there something similar in the US or Eurogaming community that uses a variation on these rules?


It’s definitely an esoteric evolved card game. The talon is a little bit like the crib in Cribbage, the small deck is a little bit Euchre, the contracts are a little bit Bridge. The greedy whist is a bit like going alone in Euchre.

The fact that there is a larger “team” of defenders who get points for undertricks on a declarer’s failed contract is a bit like Mü, which is a more modern designer game.


Rereading the rules for 1889 and 1860, I am thankful someone has maintained and updated this document for the past 15 years:



I’ve played that game; I learned it from my father. Pence’s summary of similarities to other games is probably about right.


I played the first edition a few months ago, and this new edition is clean in the middle of where my head is at for board games right now:


Question for all y’all board gamers:

So, in my redesign of Impulse to make it not shitty, I’ve run across a slight irritation.

The cards form a map by having 6 connection points to form a giant hex - but they’re rectangular. This bothers me immensely, and I feel like they should be hexes. 6 sides, 6 gates, bada bing, bada boom.

But hex cards seem weird to me.

How does everyone else feel about hexagonal cards in a card-driven game? You’d have a hand of, generally, 3 - 10 cards for the whole game, so you’d definitely be holding a bunch of hexes the entire time. Seems weird, but maybe not? Thoughts?


This is not a new problem in the board game world. The idea/problem of hexagonal cards have haunted many a game designer.

Ultimately, it comes down to two choices:

  1. If you’re just doing this for shits and giggles, by all means, use hexes, because this game will never be published and no one will really care.

  2. If you ever want this game to be published, then you have to take into account that hexes are more expensive to print on, because they’re non-standard, a pain in the ass to store, and almost impossible to sleeve and protect, for the gamers who want to do that to protect their cards.


I think I’d have to do more significant redevelopment to get it far enough away from the base IP to be published. Then again, it’s not impossible.

My focus is distributing a print-and-play variant of an existing game for now.


Holding hexes in your hand is fine as long as they are big enough. They gotta be like, Catan-sized hexes. The problem will arise when printing/publishing.


Also, it’s kind of a pain in the ass to shuffle hexes compared to normal cards.


This is another reason they have to be big like Catan hexes. Smaller than that, and they are unshuffleable.