KeyForge: Mass Mutation Starter Deck Review

09 August 2021
Do the evolution

KeyForge has been known for its weirdly fun brokenness in the past with key cards that had to be errata’d because they could (effectively) end games in single turns, the introduction of chains to slow down competitive play, the way you’re cycling your deck so quick there’s almost always an explosive turn at hand, if you want it.

So, with a box showing mutated, toxically-lit monsters – some of which are two cards large and need to be played at the same time – you’d think things might be getting whackier. Strangely, Mass Mutation seems to be moving the intended ‘meta’ (as much as one can read from review games) towards control play. It’s less a race than KeyForge has been before, as the creatures on the board are real threats to æmber generation and your eventual win.

It’s worth noting that this is the first ‘entirely in-house’ release for KeyForge with Richard Garfield taking a step back to a more advisory role. If you were worried, don’t be. It’s great.

The main changes brought into the game are from the mutations. A number of cards in each deck can now generate æmber, steal it, do damage, and so on – unusually so for that card type. These little bonuses go some way to offering control options for the board and for keeping your opponent away from the required æmber for the all-important keys. Stealing the opposition’s whole stack on to a larger monster also seems more common, as do cards to take them down (for example, a card that reads ‘deal 23 damage to a creature’ would have seemed quite silly in the past). Frankly you pay much more attention to the board when there’s a creature on it holding a key and a half’s worth of æmber. As such Fantasy Flight have answered one of the main criticisms of the game – that what happens on the board doesn’t really matter when it comes to winning.

Fans will also notice the return of House Sanctum to the game, who now have unique ways to purge mutants – a fitting bit of thematic fun. Our games suggested the taunts found in this house make the whole ‘steal everything’ plays much more effective. It’s feels a lot closer to other card games for presenting this ‘battle’ metaphor more directly, and that’s no bad thing.  Harnessing the wilder parts of KeyForge into a stricter form makes more a more strategic feeling game.

The starter set give you everything you need to get going, or, if you’re like some KeyForge players we know, you would prefer to have some nicer tokens, this is a great top-up. Alternatively, if you want to get someone else into it, and leave them with enough kit to teach others afterwards, this takes some of the ‘here’s a pack’ freefall.

Mass Mutation is a matured version of KeyForge that retains pretty much everything you already love about it but balances the more excessive parts. The flavour is monstrously huge, the combos have a chance to be completely destructive, but there’s just a few more options to answer an opponent’s dominating position. Still, all this balance and calm only exists until you rip open that perfect deck. 

Christopher John Eggett


A more controlled and refined kind of game, despite the mutations, which takes away a lot of the explosive and weirdly exploitative victories of previous outings. A great place to start for those who were unsure about KeyForge’s weirder elements.

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If you’re looking to step up from a boxed card game, without having to get into booster buying and deck construction, Keyforge: Mass Mutation is the place to begin.

Designer: Richard Garfield

Publisher: Fantasy Flight

Time: 45

Players: 2

Age: 14+

Price: £25

This article originally appeared in issue 46 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.

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