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Subject: The World's First Unique Deck Game! Or... not. rss

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Christopher Young
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I just got a notice from FFG that they're releasing KeyForge, the "world's first unique deck game." I'll let them explain:

Quote:
At Fantasy Flight Games, we're proud to announce the upcoming release of KeyForge: Call of the Archons—the world’s first Unique Deck Game, created by renowned designer Richard Garfield! Set on the colorful world of the Crucible, an artificial planet where anything is possible, KeyForge: Call of the Archons invites players to step into the roles of mighty Archons. Every Archon is unique and distinct from every other, challenging you to lead diverse teams of creatures and race to unlock the planet’s hidden Vaults. Through fast-paced gameplay and innovative mechanics, players must use every tool in their deck to hold off their opponent, gather Æmber, forge keys, and achieve victory!

What sets KeyForge apart from any other game in the world? Every Archon Deck in existence is unique, with its own distinct mix of cards. Every Archon Deck features a full play experience, with its own unique name and Archon and a complete set of creatures, artifacts, and actions that cannot be changed. This is part of the challenge, and part of the fun—using only the tools at your disposal, you must best your opponent in a game of tactics. Power does not come from a single card, but rather in how the cards within a deck play off one another, creating strategies and combinations that only you can harness.

Emphasis mine.

So, basically a standard deckbuilder, except you can't build your deck. Honestly, it looks cool, and I tend to trust FFG, but their claim that it's the first of its kind cannot possibly be true. Unless there's more to it, that description encompasses most non-collectable card games. So, my question to you is this: which games have beaten KeyForge to the punch, and by how long?

I'll get us started: Blue Moon had unique decks (based on this definition) 14 years ago. Oddly, the most recent version was actually published by FFG, so they probably should have known about it.

If Smash Up doesn't count, it at least comes incredibly close. There are a finite number of decks which can't be changed before or during the game. That's 6 years old.

Maximum Throwdown brings us back to 2013 - a healthy 5 years.

And I know I had a game some 15 or so years ago, but I cannot for the life of me find it or remember its name. It was a realtime card-based fighting game, with exactly four decks to choose from. It wasn't Brawl, but it was a lot like it. Anyone able to help me out? I'm almost positive it had a short, one-word title.

So, ball's in your court! What games do you know that use this apparently-brand-new-but-definitely-not mechanic, and how many years old are they?

I'd post this to the KeyForge page, but it doesn't exist yet.

Edit: it appears everyone in this thread interpreted the press release differently than I did. I was picturing a variety of decks that are distinct from each other, not an infinite selection of random decks. So, I guess the original question and challenge is no longer important. Although, if anyone can help me remember the not-Brawl game, that'd still be nice.
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Brian Iavicoli
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Everything you mentioned, as far as I can tell, has a few set decks to choose from. KeyForge is trying to be unique by stating that every deck (aside from the 2 in the starter pack)will have a unique combination of cards. So no 2 decks should ever be exactly alike. I question the true variability of such a game but I can't think of any other game that has attempted this before. Right?
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HenningK
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The announcement is confusing as hell, babbling all kinds of thematic and marketing speak without actually saying what the game is like. But from what I understand, this is similar to a CCG, bit instead of buying random cards in booster packs, you buy random decks that you cannot alter.
Sounds pretty weird, and I suppose people not interested in tournament play will happily ignore this and just build decks to have maximum synergy.
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Mark Langford
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There’s no such game as this... it is not listed on BGG and therefore doesn’t exist...
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Brian Iavicoli
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It seems as though there is a name for each unique deck that is printed on the front/back of each card. Not to say, as you stated, that unsanctioned events will likely see players building decks of their own. Curious if matters are being taken to avoid this beyond a simple name.
 
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Comboteur "Crazed 'Beastface' Survivor" Fou
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After reading the whole update, I don't have a clue how their unique deck is unique

But I really don't like that Hearthstone art.
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Greg Wilson
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As far as I can tell, it's pretty much just unique in the same way that a randomised Magic starter is unique, except you're not allowed to change the cards.
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Comboteur "Crazed 'Beastface' Survivor" Fou
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BlackSheep wrote:
As far as I can tell, it's pretty much just unique in the same way that a randomised Magic starter is unique, except you're not allowed to change the cards.


That actually sounds terrible laugh
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J. Simcoe
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BlackSheep wrote:
As far as I can tell, it's pretty much just unique in the same way that a randomised Magic starter is unique, except you're not allowed to change the cards.


Unless I have missed something thats what I thought when I read it. There didn't seem anything new or unique about it except for the fact they are preventing you from deckbuilding, which was one of the big selling points about CCG's. Assumning it takes off I can imagine pretty much straight away players coming up with deck construction rules.
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Tom Scutt
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I agree that the presentation of the concept is poor.
But after reading the rulebooks I think this is a really interesting concept.

It is not like Smash Up or Blue Moon, there are not a finite number (well there is, but that finite number has a lot of digits in it) of fixed decks. Each deck is unique in terms of its composition, and each deck has a unique name and card back (so you can't mix cards from different decks). They are not like a random magic starter because they have exactly three factions (i.e. colours) out the seven possible, and you don't have to worry about the balance of 'mana' costs etc. because cards don't have a cost to play. This is not to say that some decks won't be better than others, but the game mechanics mean that all decks will be playable.

I was very sceptical after seeing that terrible trailer, reading the initial summary and looking at the card art style, but now having read the rules I think this is an interesting idea which has potential.

It's worth reading Richard Garfield's notes at the end of the rules. It looks like they've specifically designed the game to stop the net-deck metagaming that happens in almost every collectable game nowadays and to try and recapture some of the excitement and on-the-fly strategies that you'd get when opening a sealed deck in early Magic tournaments. This is not to say that they've definitely succeeded at doing this, but it's a noble ideal.

And one other thing to note: given that each deck is unique and has a unique name, this means that each deck has a unique fingerprint. It seems likely that FFG will know the exact deck composition from the name, and will be able to track that deck (and its performance) if used in tournaments. I think this could have number of interesting metagame effects.

EDIT: Some links:
KeyForge page at FFG: https://www.fantasyflightgames.com/en/news/2018/8/1/keyforge...
Quickstart rules: https://images-cdn.fantasyflightgames.com/filer_public/28/a4...
Full rules: https://images-cdn.fantasyflightgames.com/filer_public/51/f9...
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Comboteur "Crazed 'Beastface' Survivor" Fou
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Steerpike wrote:
It's worth reading Richard Garfield's notes at the end of the rules. It looks like they've specifically designed the game to stop the net-deck metagaming that happens in almost every collectable game nowadays and to try and recapture some of the excitement and on-the-fly strategies that you'd get when opening a sealed deck in early Magic tournaments. This is not to say that they've definitely succeeded at doing this, but it's a noble ideal.


It is a very commendable goal indeed. Netdecking isn't fun to play and nor is it fun to play against.
That's what I liked in Epic Card Game: the ability to deal each player 30 cards and play with it.
Or the initial draft from a common card pool.
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Dean L
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There's simply no way those billions of random decks are balanced though. I remain skeptical.
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Moray Johnson
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That sounds like a horrible idea shake
 
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Comboteur "Crazed 'Beastface' Survivor" Fou
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D'you have to actually buy a random set of cards each time, one you cannot do any construction with?

Is it me or does it sound terrible from a customer point of view?
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Bryan Carpenter
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I'm struggling with this concept. I'm a Magic player (and have been for 14+ years) so I'm fine with random packs of cards. What I can't wrap my head around is that the players can't change that random selection*. That removes all of the agency from the players.

Yes, in Magic and similar you might just put together cards from a decklist from online. Or you might just buy pre-made decks and never change them. But at least you have the option.

With this new game the only way to change your game is to buy a whole new deck. If you spot an amazing combo between one of your cards and one of your opponent's you can't try putting them together for another game. Your only way of playing those cards together is if you're lucky enough to buy a deck which has them together.

I know that players will mash decks together, but the rules lawyer in me would be uncomfortable with that. Unless a deck is super cheap, I have no idea who the target audience for this is!
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Tom Scutt
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Razoupaf wrote:
D'you have to actually buy a random set of cards each time, one you cannot do any construction with?


Yes, I think it's exactly that.

Razoupaf wrote:
Is it me or does it sound terrible from a customer point of view?


At first I thought the same...it seems like a terrible idea. But on thinking about it some more I think it's a brave attempt to try something new. With the classic CCG model you buy boosters in the hope of making incremental improvements to your deck (probably chasing one or two particular rares while aiming towards one of the current in-vogue deck archetypes). Most of the cards in the booster will be 'trash'.

I suppose with Keyforge the intention is that you buy more than one deck in the hopes of finding a deck that:
* is globally 'better' deck than the one(s) you have already
* is very effective against a particular opponent's deck
* plays in a very different way to anything you've experienced
* has a particularly ridiculous name

I have no idea whether they will succeed, but just because something is different to the classic CCG/LCG deckbuilding model doesn't mean it will
necessarily fail (it just means it's much more of a gamble!)

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Comboteur "Crazed 'Beastface' Survivor" Fou
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Browsing through the FAQ to understand the concept (I think I've grasped it now), I saw this:

FAQ wrote:
Are some decks stronger than others? What happens when a deck wins consistently?

Some Archon Decks in KeyForge will naturally be stronger than others, but every deck in KeyForge has value. First of all, every deck represents a chance to explore deeper into the world of the Crucible, potentially uncovering cards and combos that you never knew existed or have never played with before. Furthermore, just like any card game, some decks are better in certain matchups, and choosing the decks you’ll play is an important strategic element. And even if you and your opponent have decks that are less than optimal, it can be just as fun to swap decks and see what your opponent can do with your deck!

If a deck wins too often in an Organized Play framework, there are processes in place to handicap and eventually retire that deck. For more information on this, keep watching our Organized Play articles and announcements for KeyForge!


I find this very concerning.
Decks are not of equal power.
Decks that are too powerful will be banned.

The decks are not expensive, but, I mean, it's just bad business...
So okay there are bad cards in M:tG, but they're just a single card, and even if I don't buy the alleged "terrible cards teach new players what good cards are" argument, at least it somehow makes sense.
Whereas paying $10 to open a bad deck, is nothing but punishment.
And when a deck overperforms in M:tG, it's not the whole deck who gets banned, but just a card or two that are key to it and can be (underwhelmingly) replaced. Whereas here, your whole $10 deck is banished and you can never play it ever again because it's 100% unique?

I'm not trying to destroy the game here, but it sounds really weird and poorly advertised, with a lot of red flags

I'm pretty sure the product is aimed at younger players, same crowd maybe as Pokémon TCG, seeing that the hard is colourful and cute, the decks aren't expensive, and there is no deck construction, so it might get a pass from them, but for an informed, adult buyer, it's anything but a viable option in my opinion.
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Tom Scutt
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Totally guessing here, but I would think if a deck was retired from organised play they would reimburse you the cost of the deck (and probably give you much more than that in prizes!)

I also suspect that such a deck would be worth much more than its RRP if you stuck it on ebay (even if it could no longer be played in organised tournaments)
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Greg Wilson
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I mean, I don't actually enjoy deck construction in CCGs much, and I might pick up a starter to give this a try. But this seems to take away the thing that most CCG players are really into, charge more for it by selling randomised starters instead of randomised boosters, and kill off the secondary market since they don't make any money from people selling singles. Although they must know there's no way they'll shift the same kind of volume as a traditional CCG model.
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HenningK
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I get that the design goal is to have playable, randomized decks that you can just pick up and start playing without even knowing what is inside.

The red flags regarding balance issues and card distribution are definitely justified. Saying that "each card will have a use" won't change the fact that some cards are just better than others.
But seriously: does anybody think that a tournament scene for this will take off? There is hardly a tournament scene for all these games apart from Magic, Yugioh, or Pokemon anyway. Spikes won't play this game because of the possible imbalance, and casual players will start mixing cards from each deck regardless.
This form of distribution a cute idea, but I don't think it's feasible in practice.
 
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Olli Juhala
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I don't have anything to add to mechanic discussion, but oh boy does the blurb mak ethe game sound the most blandest, derivative, forgettable type of fantasy there is.
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I get the feeling that they're aiming for casual players, what with the Hearthstone-inspired graphics and the emphasis on no deckbuilding. It's an interesting concept but as a gamer the preview article completely put me off. I've no interest in buying random decks that might or might not be good and might or might not suit my playstyle.

I'm more interested in knowing how many unique cards there are. Looks like each deck has 37 cards: 1 archon and 12 from each faction. How many cards does one faction have? Can we infer the rules used to create the decks? Is it possible to reverse-engineer the unique deck generation and play with random decks on OCTGN? I'm keeping an eye on this because procedurally generated decks are an intriguing concept.

Buying the game... nah, not interested.
 
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Guillaume Pages
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At least, it is good to have FFG think outside the box and try to shake the hobby. We can't fault them for that. Few other publishers have the resources to try out new concepts like these.
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Ren3 wrote:
I'm more interested in knowing how many unique cards there are. Looks like each deck has 37 cards: 1 archon and 12 from each faction. How many cards does one faction have? Can we infer the rules used to create the decks? Is it possible to reverse-engineer the unique deck generation and play with random decks on OCTGN? I'm keeping an eye on this because procedurally generated decks are an intriguing concept.

Buying the game... nah, not interested.



Yeah having a look at the card list would be interesting.
From a design and publishing standpoint it's really quite interesting, and two questions have been raised on FFG's forums I'd like the answer to:
- How are the billions deck names generated?
- How do they manage to print a different back for each deck when the norm is to have the same card back for lots of sheets, either because all the cards have the same back, or because you'll be printing many copies of the same game.
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What baffles me a little about this is that I fail to see a big target audience for this.

I'm personally not someone big onto CCGs or LCGs, I've tried some once in a while and enjoyed playing, but I'm not someone to get big into deckbuilding and collecting. Is this supposed to be for someone like me? In that cases the "uniqueness" of the decks doesn't really appeal to me. I mean It's not that I mind it much either, but I fail to see the advantage over games that give me a boxed set with e.g. multiple faction that I can play out of the box, but that are the same for everyone. I simply don't care much if my deck is different especially when it comes with a much bigger risk of unbalance or simply not liking the playstyle of the deck and then not being able to pick a different one, because what I get will be random anyway.

But I also fail to see this targeting the classic people that enjoy playing those games typically, because from all my friends that do, being able to customitze your deck and try out different combinations, seems to be a big part of the appeal.
That's not even considering tournament play as I guess people will just complain that a deck is better than another and they have no way of changing it, etc.
I guess they could introduce models where you have to play with different decks or maybe have rematches where you switch decks with the oppponent, but at the moment it seems the discussion of the winner is simply the person that got lucky buying the best random deck, is unavoidable.

So I'm interested to see how this is going to turn out and for someone like me that usually gives those card games a glance, tries them once or twice and then moves on, that model doesn't even make much of a difference, but currently I fail to see who is the target audience that is supposed to support this in the longer term.
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