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Key Flow review

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Key Flow review in nine words: it’s Keyflower, minus hexes and auctions, plus card drafting. Done!  

If you don’t know Keyflower then that’s as useful as mud, of course. So: both games are from the same design team. Both are surprisingly intense engine-builders, where each player constructs and populates a village over four seasons, gathering resources and scoring points based on their buildings. Different things happen in different seasons: ships arrive in summer, stores are filled in autumn, everything scores in winter. 

Key Flow ditches hexes for cards, and your villages are built along a river (bottom level) and a road (top level). The way the cards are placed is not just strategic, it’s also deeply satisfying. You’re creating a lovely community that makes stuff and trades with its neighbours and it’s just ooooh. 

Except sometimes it’s aaargh. From Key Flow’s art it looks like it’s going to be pastoral and lovely, but this is an intelligent, fiercely tactical, challenging title with ever-changing gameplay. Speaking as a designer, I wish I’d created this. As a player, if you like engine-builders then this is a must-try.

But you can’t ignore the similarities to Keyflower. They’re like parallel universe versions of the same game and, honestly, if you have one then you probably don’t want the other. For me Key Flow just has the edge but then I like drafting games. One thing’s for sure: if you’re new to the Key universe, either of these titles makes an excellent start point. 

JAMES WALLIS

 

PLAY IT? – YES

 

Designer: Sebastian Bleasdale, Richard Breese, Ian Vincent

Artist: Vicki Dalton

Time: 45-75 minutes

Players: 2-6

Age: 14+

Price: £50

 

This review originally appeared in the February 2019 issue 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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