Recommend
185 
 Thumb up
 Hide
30 Posts
1 , 2  Next »   | 

Keyflower» Forums » Reviews

Subject: The charms and challenges of Keyflower rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: Pyuredeadbrilliant [+] [View All]
Kim Williams
United Kingdom
St Just
Cornwall
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb


After my first play of Keyflower I wrote a brief first impressions account – First Play last night, and I'm still bubbling over with delight; as you may have guessed from the title, I was rather pleased with the game. I've now reached the ten plays mark, and I thought it was time I wrote a proper review.

Game Ingredients


Even when the game was still in shrink wrap I was feeling pretty pleased with the components: the box was a good weight and made the most satisfying sound when gently shaken – this was the platonic ideal of box rattles! Upon opening the cause of the sound was clear: a large clear bag packed to the gills with meeples and other wooden resources. I actually thought at this point that it didn't matter what the game was like, as even if the game was a dud I'd have a huge amount of satisfaction using the bits with Print and Play games, or even experimenting with my own game designs. There's a staggering 141 meeples (called Keyples in this game) in assorted colours, plus 120 lovely wooden octagonal prisms to represent wood, iron, stone and gold. That's a lot of wood.

Then there's the houses, which act as player screens. Surely I'm not the only person to be sold on the game just due to seeing these houses? It reminds me of the quote by Lory Aitken on the back of the Rio Grande Games leaflet “...I think grown-ups like them (games) because it's a chance to play with toys.” They come in 6 different designs (I always choose the one with the patchwork quilt), and though they are made of a thinner material than I had imagined they have proved to be robust so far (even without the addition of the chimneys) and have happily lived in the box fully assembled.

The art is what gives the game soul for me, and tugs on my heartstrings. The hexes manage to have beautiful detail, without looking cluttered. I actually felt inspired to throw myself into some serious gardening after a few games spent admiring the burgeoning front gardens of the various buildings! A lovely detail is that the hex illustrations reflect the season in which the tile comes out, so the spring tiles have fairly bare trees, summer tiles have lush vegetations, autumn tiles are ablaze with fiery leaves and finally the winter tiles depict bare trees and snow. Cunningly, when a tile is upgraded by turning over to it's other side not only does the building show dramatic improvement but the season has progressed - a really lovely detail.

Rulebook

This is beautiful, as well, with clean white pages and plentiful background drawings from the Keyflower world, as well as game component illustrations. I actually find the rulebook easy to use, and learn from- I always find it helpful when rulebooks use the edge of each page for a rule synopsis. There have been a couple of relatively minor rules issues which are not clear from the rulebook, which I've been able to resolve via the Keyflower forum – the designers have been doing a good job of providing official answer where required.

Game Overview

Thematically, you're in charge of a new group of Keyples, who have just crossed the Ocean, and are keen to develop a village in this new land. Over the course of one year you help them expand their village, upgrade their buildings, produce resources and welcome the arrival of yet more Keyples with the passing of each season.

Mechanically, this is a worker placement game with a hefty dose of auction, plus a bit of pick up and deliver and (kind of) secret goals. Quite a mix of mechanics that nevertheless manage to fit together to make a very pleasing whole.

Game Play

Really, it's quite a straight forward game to play. Place a Keyple on a tile to act as a worker, in which case depending on what the building is you may gain resources, skill tiles, or more Keyples, upgrade a building and/or move resources from tile to tile. Alternatively place a Keyple by one of the new buildings in the centre, to bid on it (and if your bid is successful you get that building in your village at the end of the season). In both cases (bidding and working) you must follow the colour rule – whatever colour is first placed (whether by someone bidding on or using the building) must be followed by all subsequent Keyples placed on or by the hex. The other big restriction is that you can only have a maximum of 6 Keyples on a tile (there's no limits for bidding) and you must place at least one more Keyple than used for the previous action on that tile.






Beyond the above restrictions, I found the rules surprisingly liberating.

meeple “Can I place workers on buildings in other people's villages?”
“Yes”

meeple “What about on the buildings which are being bid on?”
“Yes!”

meeple “Can I use a building that's already got someone else's Keyple on?”
“Yes!!”

meeple “Can I add to a bid after I've been Outbid?”
“Yes.”

meeple “Can I still add to my bid if I've not been outbid?”
“Yes!”

meeple “Can I move and then use my outbid Keyples?”
“Yes!!”

meeple “Can I pass on one turn, and then decide to take an action on a future turn?”
“Yes”

meeple “Can I keep on taking turns even when everyone else has passed?”
“Yes!”

Truly, the men from R&D Games like to say “Yes!” Even the the one big restriction of the 'same colour Keyple on/by a hex' rule gets removed by one of the Summer boats, which allows the boat's owner (depending on its side) to either ignore the same colour rule for bidding by or working on a tile ( and in the case of the workers you can even have mixed colours on the same action (something that feels deliciously naughty!))

Every season brings new buildings and boats to be bid upon. Villages expand, buildings are upgraded, the number of Keyples in each village tends to increase all giving a great sense of progression. Each season has a very unique feel, but all too quickly Winter arrives.

The Winter buildings are distinct from the preceeding season's buildings as each player is given three (or two in a 5/6 player game) back in Spring from which, come Winter, they must choose at least one (but you can choose all of them if you wish) to place into the centre to form the Winter tiles on which all players are able to bid. The Winter buildings all purely have points rewards (for instance giving you 2 points for every gold you have collected) rather than being usable buildings.

How much to focus one's efforts throughout the game on working towards certain Winter tiles, given that you may not manage to bid successfully on it is all part of the delicate balancing act. Which of your tiles to make available is also a very interesting decision - obviously you don't want to gift your opponents a further scoring opportunity, but it may be useful to offer something to take bids away from your preferred tile/s.

Final scoring comes at the end of Winter, at which point you score points for all manner of things – many buildings give points (particularly when upgraded); resources, Keyples, boats and skill tiles can give you points depending on which buildings you have in your village, and gold is always worth at least 1 point.

We've seen great variety in the make up of our scores - sometimes getting a large amount from having a very developed village, sometimes from having focussed on the production of one resource, and often from many sources. Our scores have often been very close, and our winning scores are currently pretty consistently around 90 despite often having a very different point breakdown.



So, after 10 plays how do I feel about the game?


What I really like

* Aesthetics: How good it looks on the table; the pleasure of fiddling with all the lovely bits

* The narrative of creating an old fashioned village; the components really manage to give me a 'thematic' experience. The fact that resources need to be moved around using your road system, rather than just magically appearing wherever you need them, adds to the more thematic feel.

* The constant balancing act caused by one resource (the Keyple) functioning as both currency and workers. Further, you have to factor in what happens to your Keyples at the end of each round – use them in your village and you get to use them again next season, successfully bid with them and they return to the bag, use them in your opponents village and you've gifted your opponent an extra Keyple. This all serves to provide just enough disincentives to reduce outrageous bidding, and excessive piggybacking on others' villages. It also lessens the blow when your opponent uses the last spot on one of your buildings – at least you've got their Keyples for next season!

* It plays very well with 2 (which is our default play mode) but also accommodates up to 6 (though I haven't tried it with more than 4). The scaling is achieved by increasing the number of hexes available each season, as well as having certain player-count-specific tiles – there's no annoying neutral player business, and the auction mechanic (perhaps due to the counter balances detailed above) still feel absolutely fine with just 2 players.

* Game length. It takes us under the hour for a 2 player game, while still giving you a very 'complete' experience.

* Interaction. I don't think anyone could accuse this of being multi-player solitaire! Obviously any game with an auction mechanic is going to be fairly interactive, but the fact that you can (and very often will) use each others' buildings, the fact that the colour Keyple you use for bidding / working sets the colour for future bids / workers, the fact that other players actions provide clues to what Winter tiles may be coming – all this makes for a fairly intensely interactive game.

* Replayability. With different hexes available each game can feel very different. This is especially pronounced with 2 players,where as few as 20 tiles may be biddable on out of a potential 52. Some games transport options are plentiful, sometimes scarce; sometimes you see a lot of green Keyples in a game, sometimes not one etc. There's also many different approaches, so even if the same hexes came out (which is more likely with more players) then there's still room to have radically different games.

The only thing I'm less keen on

* Playing it with my children (Evil Mother that I am!) My children (8 and 11) have had quite a few plays at their request. Their first reaction when they saw the anvil and pick axe tokens was that it was a bit like Minecraft - an auspicious association! They cope fine with the rules, love the houses, and enjoy expanding and upgrading their village, but........ emotionally they find it hard not to get attached to a particular outcome and thus don't cope very well when they get outbid on tiles – particularly if the person doing the outbidding is their sibling. This makes games somewhat fraught – and while I'm sure they're learning all sorts of important lessons, it doesn't make for a very comfortable gaming experience (at least for me, anyway!)



Overall

Keyflower is, in equal measures, charming and challenging, and I love it! There's a real feeling of 'rightness' about the way the different mechanics fit together, and I'm confident that I'll enjoy many more plays of this great game.
  • [+] Dice rolls
Eirik Uthus
Norway
Oslo
Unspecified
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Got this one arriving in the mail anytime soon. Can't wait to give it a try
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Garry Rice
United States
Perkasie
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
One of my favorites from this past year...I just really enjoy the mix of mechanics in this one!
7 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Don D.
United States
Miami
Florida
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I've played it twice and each time was very put off by the end game scoring. It seems imbalanced, random, and chaotic. What has your experience with this been?

5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Neil Christiansen
United States
Mount Pleasant
Michigan
flag msg tools
badge
OOK! OOK! OOK!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
It only seemed that way my first game. You really do need to position your turn order coming into winter to be able to implement the strategy you have chosen.

There are LOTS of tiles that score big points, so in that sense it does not seem imbalanced to me. And I usually feel as if I had a shot at the good ones if I had positioned myself accordingly.

I have not seen anything that seemed "random" since you have the whole game to plan what ship and which of your winter tiles you want.

Chaotic? Perhaps, but you need to deny players a bit what they are doing or at least drive up the cost. But that only becomes obvious about your third play or so.
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bruce Murphy
Australia
Pyrmont
NSW
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
dond80 wrote:
I've played it twice and each time was very put off by the end game scoring. It seems imbalanced, random, and chaotic. What has your experience with this been?



That is entirely sensible and the person who made the better choices won. Sometimes because they weren't stopped, sometimes because they steered a very well balanced path.

B>
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Kim Williams
United Kingdom
St Just
Cornwall
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
dond80 wrote:
I've played it twice and each time was very put off by the end game scoring. It seems imbalanced, random, and chaotic. What has your experience with this been?



Our two player scores have generally been very close and pretty consistent - one game's been a draw, and once we were only separated by only one point. This gives me the impression that the game is pretty well balanced - that it's possible to achieve a reasonable score in a multitude of ways.

Our scores have increased significantly since our first game, when we weren't that clear what we were aiming for (in fact I think I chose to pretty much ignore my Winter tiles until Winter came around).

Our four player games have shown much greater score divergence, but those have been games with our children!



2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Garry Rice
United States
Perkasie
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
dond80 wrote:
I've played it twice and each time was very put off by the end game scoring. It seems imbalanced, random, and chaotic. What has your experience with this been?



I've always had good results playing to the strengths of my end game tile(s). It's also important to note that more tiles is not necessarily better, since you had to lose meeples to get them. I suspect you need to keep fairly focused to a strategy and not get distracted.

I agree with what others are saying as well...you need to keep an eye on what others are doing and be prepared to counter them from time to time. This is especially true 2 player. Turn order can be important going into winter as Neil mentioned as well.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Don D.
United States
Miami
Florida
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
thepackrat wrote:
dond80 wrote:
I've played it twice and each time was very put off by the end game scoring. It seems imbalanced, random, and chaotic. What has your experience with this been?



That is entirely sensible and the person who made the better choices won. Sometimes because they weren't stopped, sometimes because they steered a very well balanced path.

B>


I won both times I played, but the victories seemed a bit hollow to me for some reason. I felt more that I had survived the chaos better than my opponents. I have not written of this game yet because I am not confident in my opinion with only two plays- this is one of those that needs more plays before an opinion can be formed. There is a lot to like- the winter phase is just off though so far. Hopefully it'll change with further plays.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bruce Murphy
Australia
Pyrmont
NSW
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Two plays? Surely you can now write it off for player counts you haven't seen.

B>
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mathue Faulkner
United States
Austin
TX
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
thepackrat wrote:
Two plays? Surely you can now write it off for player counts you haven't seen.

B>

I think that's why he was asking for other opinions rather than writing a review himself...

There is a bit of randomness to the scoring, but it's not beyond my tolerance threshold. It keeps the game interesting throughout imo.

Of course, I have a feeling that your comment may be in reference to another thread that I'm unaware of...
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Don D.
United States
Miami
Florida
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
mfaulk80 wrote:
thepackrat wrote:
Two plays? Surely you can now write it off for player counts you haven't seen.

B>

I think that's why he was asking for other opinions rather than writing a review himself...

There is a bit of randomness to the scoring, but it's not beyond my tolerance threshold. It keeps the game interesting throughout imo.

Of course, I have a feeling that your comment may be in reference to another thread that I'm unaware of...


Yes, he's referencing other threads. It's not enough for Bruce to demean me in my own reviews, he feels the need to follow me to other people's completely unrelated reviews and demean me there as well.

3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Manuel Pasi
Switzerland
Zürich
flag msg tools
Ka Mate Ka Mate
badge
Ka Ora Ka Ora
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
While I do understand your concerns re. end scoring, I found that not to be the case in our plays (all 2p). To me, that was part of the charm and actually the reason behind all the bidding and producing.
But I agree that it seems to be some kind of a trend (at least one of my gaming buddies insist there is one) that the end scoring gets to be sort of removed from the rest of the game. (Ground Floor comes to mind as well as other titles)
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bruce Murphy
Australia
Pyrmont
NSW
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Folks should really be keeping the end-game scoring in mind for the whole game. They have a sample of what may be available, they know what the boats are, and they can strongly infer what might be coming based on other players.

I'm not sure in what sense you mean disconnected?
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Manuel Pasi
Switzerland
Zürich
flag msg tools
Ka Mate Ka Mate
badge
Ka Ora Ka Ora
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I agree with you. One should try and keep the winning/scoring conditions in mind, but I also found that sometimes people get so involved in building their engine/village/skyscraper that they lose focus a bit. I personally don't mind those games at all (after all I hugely enjoy Restaurant Row!) but I can understand why others are not as crazy about it.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Don D.
United States
Miami
Florida
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I would guess that my issues with end game scoring become greatly magnified in a 2p game because of the zero sum nature.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Kim Williams
United Kingdom
St Just
Cornwall
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
dond80 wrote:
I would guess that my issues with end game scoring become greatly magnified in a 2p game because of the zero sum nature.


I don't really see the 2 player game as having a zero sum nature. I'm assuming you're referring to a bidding situation where both players are bidding on the same Winter tile (and please correct me if this isn't what you meant) , but even then things are complicated by the fact that the value of any given tile is likely to be different for each player, and then further complicated by the fact that the opportunity cost of the Keyples needed to achieve a successful bid is very likely to be different between the two bidders.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Don D.
United States
Miami
Florida
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
entwife wrote:
dond80 wrote:
I would guess that my issues with end game scoring become greatly magnified in a 2p game because of the zero sum nature.


I don't really see the 2 player game as having a zero sum nature. I'm assuming you're referring to a bidding situation where both players are bidding on the same Winter tile (and please correct me if this isn't what you meant) , but even then things are complicated by the fact that the value of any given tile is likely to be different for each player, and then further complicated by the fact that the opportunity cost of the Keyples needed to achieve a successful bid is very likely to be different between the two bidders.


The values of winter tiles are identical for both players in a 2p game at all times in the sense that depriving my only opponent of 60 points is identical in effect to me scoring 60 points.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Kim Williams
United Kingdom
St Just
Cornwall
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
dond80 wrote:
The values of winter tiles are identical for both players in a 2p game at all times in the sense that depriving my only opponent of 60 points is identical in effect to me scoring 60 points.



When it comes to selecting the Winter boats, if I've got first choice then I do straightforwardly compare gains to me and gains to my opponent of each boat and choose accordingly - as there's no opportunity cost to consider beyond that. But in the case of bidding then it doesn't seem that simple. Depriving my opponent of points by outbidding them will leave them with spare Keyples which they can potentially use to gain points in some other way, while I will now be lacking them.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bruce Murphy
Australia
Pyrmont
NSW
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
There are three states for a tile at the end of the round in a 2p game.

B>
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Don D.
United States
Miami
Florida
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
entwife wrote:
dond80 wrote:
The values of winter tiles are identical for both players in a 2p game at all times in the sense that depriving my only opponent of 60 points is identical in effect to me scoring 60 points.



When it comes to selecting the Winter boats, if I've got first choice then I do straightforwardly compare gains to me and gains to my opponent of each boat and choose accordingly - as there's no opportunity cost to consider beyond that. But in the case of bidding then it doesn't seem that simple. Depriving my opponent of points by outbidding them will leave them with spare Keyples which they can potentially use to gain points in some other way, while I will now be lacking them.


Of course thats all part of the calculus but doesn't change the nature of the 2p game being such that it's much more likely that the winter is a screw you fest.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bruce Murphy
Australia
Pyrmont
NSW
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
This is a pretty standard feature of non-cooperative 2-player games where someone wins. Is it remarkable here?

B>
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jason Reid
United States
Brooklyn
New York
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
dond80 wrote:
There is a lot to like- the winter phase is just off though so far. Hopefully it'll change with further plays.


The winter phase can take a lot of shapes. Can you talk more about your experiences with it?

I've played twice now as well, both 3p. In neither game did Winter feel out of control. However, I will say that in our 2nd play, we experimented a bit and kept publicly taken Meeples / Skill Tiles in front of the screen (a minor change), and we laid out all of the Summer & Autumn tiles that were going to be in the game ahead of time. By far, we 3 preferred the 2nd experience. Decsions felt (and I daresay objectively were) much more significant.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Don D.
United States
Miami
Florida
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
thepackrat wrote:
This is a pretty standard feature of non-cooperative 2-player games where someone wins. Is it remarkable here?

B>


Yes.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bruce Murphy
Australia
Pyrmont
NSW
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
dond80 wrote:
thepackrat wrote:
This is a pretty standard feature of non-cooperative 2-player games where someone wins. Is it remarkable here?

B>


Yes.


Why so? The 3-state choices give more options than other 2p games have.

B>
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
1 , 2  Next »   | 
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.