Reviewed by Chris Kovac
KEY FLOW (R&D Games/Huch!, 2 to 6 players, ages 14 and up, 75 minutes; $60)
Key Flow is a 2-6 player card management/point engine building game, part of Richard Breese’s “Keydom” series of games. This game is coauthored by Breese, Sebastin Bleasdale and Ian Vincent. In it, you are building and running a village for a year. The person who runs his village most efficiently over that span of time wins.
All players get a staring home card (put face up in front of you) and a store card off to your side. Each season deck is separated into numbered and “k” cards with any number cards greater than the number of players and a set number of k cards (based on a table in the rule book) removed. Remaining numbered and k cards are shuffled together to form a season deck and this is done for the Spring, Summer and Fall decks too. All are dealt a set number of k cards from the Winter deck with the rest back in the box. The numbered Winter cards are placed to one side (more on this later). The Spring deck is dealt to the players and now you are ready to start the game.
During a turn, a player picks a card to play from there dealt hand and puts it face down in front of them. Once all have chosen a card, they are revealed and played. If you play a card you do not wish to use you can discard it and get a grey two-man keyple token. Then you pass your hand of cards to the player left or right of you (depending on the season), choose another card and pass the decks around until all cards of a season are played. Cards can be one of three types.
The first type are buildings which must be placed next another building. These buildings allow you to move resources among the cards, get resources (wood, stone, iron or gold), skills (iron working, mining or woodcutting) convert resources from one type to another (more on this later).
The second kind are river cards which show a field and a river. These cards are placed below buildings and can have gaps between cards as long as they touch either another river card or a building card. A river card will either be a boat which gives you special powers or victory points at the end of the, some buildings which will give you points at the end of the game or show some animals which can be used for final scoring plus an oval box which gives you resources immediately. These resources except the skill tokens are placed on the card. Skill tokens are part of your general supply and can be used when needed.
The third kind of card is a keyple card showing one or more colored meeples on it. These cards are used to power the various buildings. A keyple card will show one to three meeples and some cards, a grey keyple token as well. Each building can be used three times. The first time a building is used you must use a keyple card showing one or more meeples, the second time two or more meeples and the third time three or more meeples. Also arrows on the card tell you which buildings you can use it on. Arrows pointing down mean they can be used on your village’s buildings, arrows pointing left or right can be used on neighbouring villages buildings (players to the left or right of you). Any resources you obtain from neighbouring villages go on your home card. If you play a card with a grey keyple token symbol on it, you can use it as a three meeple card or get the token to use later. Powering buildings allow you to get resources convert other resources into other resources, choose skills at random or move resources from one card to another. Also, some cards allow you to upgrade a card (improves the resources you get from a card). In order to upgrade a card (the necessary resources are shown in a down arrow on the card) or use a card with specific resources those resources must be on the card so moving resources can be very important. Upgraded cards also give you varying amounts of victory points at the end of the game. Gold can be used to substitute for any resource as well.
Once all cards have been played for a season, you can use any grey keyple tokens to power any appropriate buildings (each token equals two keyples). You then place all keyple cards under your store card (they can be used for final scoring). You then deal out the next seasons cards to all players. When you start the winter season, you choose one of your dealt-out k cards to play then all the remaining winter k cards and numbered cards are shuffled together and dealt out to all players. You now play the Winter season starting with your chosen card.
Winter cards are primarily scoring cards. Once the Winter season is done, you then assign cards to your scoring buildings. Cards can only be used for one particular building or ship. So, for example, you have scoring for both cows and a particular color of meeple card but both are on the same card, you can only use one of them for scoring. So, the scores you get from these buildings plus upgraded buildings plus one point for every unused gold marker equals your final score. Highest score wins with ties broken by the most sheep then pigs then cows.
Key Flow is a pure point engine building game where good placement of buildings and fields couple with the efficient running of buildings via keyple cards will give you a good chance to win. The game is to the usual Keyple standards with good pieces and a well written rule book. The only downside is the lack of a player aid outlining the symbology and the basic game order which would help new players through their first few games. A scoring pad would help as well with the somewhat fiddly final scoring as you are trying to maximize your scoring across your scoring buildings.
If you like a fairly quick (about 1.5 hours) point engine builder, Key Flow is for you though you will be confused for the first few games as you get used to how all the buildings interact. I would recommend this game only for experienced gamers rather than casual gamers. An eight out of ten. – – – – – – – Chris Kovac
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