community keyforge

Gain Six Æmber and Forge a Key

Hey you, yes you! Do you want to read about a great way to spend time, stretch your brain in a fun way and get out of the house among a group of fellow geeks a few evenings a week…?

Well then let me introduce you to KeyForge a fun and unique card game.

The aim of the game is simple – to forge three “keys” before your opponent. You forge a key by spending six Æmber. Each Æmber is represented by a “rock”or “pebble” that you gain during the game by either reaping with your creatures or stealing from your opponent or by playing actions or… lots of different ways actually!

Each deck is made up of three “houses”. For example House Mars are the classic “little green men” Martians that have a lot of cards on the theme of abduction, invasion and battlefleets. House Shadows are elven thieves and so they focus on underhand tactics like stealing Æmber from your opponents pool.

Each house has their own creature cards… but there are other card types such as actions, upgrades and artifacts. These buff up creatures or increase your opponents key cost or… well, they do all kinds of things!

The game is known as a unique deck game because every deck is truly unique. It will have a unique name and unique set of 36 cards drawn from a pool of a few hundreds. This means that every deck you own is totally unique – there is no one else on Earth with a deck just like yours!

Personally, what I like most about the game is that it is simply a great way to spend time. There is the social aspect because it gets you out the house among people, you can face a real human opponent be it your friends, co-workers or a player at your local KeyForge organised play event. After a few weeks these strangers become regular people who you see week in week out and can have a great time with, bantering and talking about what we’re watching, reading and just having a laugh.

One interesting thing is how you learn a bit more about yourself when you play. How do you handle winning or losing? Are you introspective and analyse why you lost? I found that I get a bit stressed out and over excited in the closing stages of a game when the outcome is on a knife-edge. It only takes one mis-play and you could lose that one Æmber you need to forge a key on your next turn.

One another great thing is how the makers of the game FFG have put a lot of effort into supporting “Friendly Local Game Shops” in organised play. I’m lucky where I live here on the South Coast of Hampshire because I have several game shops with a thriving community of KeyForge players. In fact I could play three evenings a week if I really wanted to:

  • Monday – Board in the City, Southampton
  • Wednesday – DICE, Southsea, Portsmouth
  • Friday – A Fistful of Dice, Portsmouth

Most of these club nights attract between 8 and 16 players. In November last year we even have a large event, the KeyForge Prime Championship, that attracted a massive 75 players from all over England. It took place at Southampton University, right on my doorstep so I had NO excuse not to go!

You can play (unofficially) online too but I’ve not done so, preferring instead to learn from experience and discover a decks unique strengths through playing it or by studying the cards offline. I know that the more competitive players in my local scene DO play online though 😉

As you can see I’m enthusiastic about the game and my enthusiasm even led me to interview my fellow players one night and ask them “what does KeyForge mean to you” – check out my YouTube video of it here.

If you want to jump into the game, all you really need is a deck and some tokens. A deck costs about £8 and the tokens can be bought as part of a starter set. Once you buy a deck you can register it via scanning the QR code with the KeyForge app. A deck is then considered “discovered”. At the time of writing this there are approx 1.6 million decks that have been discovered.

Discovery is an important aspect of the game because you essentially “discover” the strengths of the deck through playing it over and over again – winning and losing and trying it against different decks. Also, because there are hundreds of cards, you can discover and be suprised by new cards that your opponent plays. This brings a fresh new angle to the game. It has many layers like this.

The first set of the game came out in November 2018 and there has been a new set every 6 months. The second set Age of Acension introduced keywords like Alpha, Omega and Deploy – there was also more interaction between players on each turn (eg. cards which affect both players creatures).

The third set of the game, Worlds Collide, is out which has introduced new mechanics like Exalt and Ward. The game designers have said that future sets will introduce exciting new innovations like this while still maintaining backwards compatibility with older decks.

I’ve only scratched the surface in this post – check out this video of a typical game by Team Covenant then go buy a deck, find a local event and join in the fun!

PS. I have to give credit to my old Jobsite colleague Tristan Greaves for introducing me to KeyForge back in early 2019 – thanks Tris 🙂

community life southampton

The Great Coffee Experiment

I think we all agree that Coffee is a wonderful invention. It kick starts our days and gives us a feeling of warmth or a good chat with friends.
Readers of this blog might have already read my visit to the Southampton Repair Cafe. I volunteered once again the other week but this time it was slightly different: in addition to the usual repairers there were a bunch of organizations promoting various community and anti-waste causes.
One of these was “EthiCo” – sety-up by a bunch of Southampton University students with the aim of reducing plastic waste around the campus. On their stand they had toothbrushes made from bamboo and re-usable coffee cup called a KeepCup. After chatting with them for a while I was impressed enough with their gumption and their cause to buy a KeepCup from them.
This got me thinking: can I really use this everywhere in Southampton..?
The EthiCo guys told me that some cafe’s will give a small discount or more loyalty points for using a re-usable cup. I had to try it out myself…

I wasn’t sure what kind of reception I would get at the well-known “chain of the golden arches”. In my mind I was expecting some inflexibility: “no sir, we can only give you the coffee in our certified, anti-litigation McCup with the McLid and McSleeve”.
So it is with some interest that I approcahed the McDonalds in the West Quay Retail Park and… I’m happy to report that they gave me my Latte in my re-usable cup.
A few days later I cycled to Eastleigh town centre and decided to try the McDonalds there. I asked if they could give me it in my reusable cup and they said they could only give me it in their own cup – and that I could then pour it into my KeepCup!
Uhhh, yeah OK.
To be fair, the server chap seemed amenable to my request but I saw him ask his manager who then refused my request. The server empathised with me about the cup being a waste.
It would seem the it’s all down to the attitude of the staff or manager in McDonalds. For this reason McDonalds gets two out of three coffee beans. A shame as their coffee is pretty good on both the taste-buds and wallet.

Cafe Thrive
This a is a relatively new Vegan cafe/resteraunt on Hanover buildings sandwiched between Rice Up Whole Foods and British Heart Foundation. Look out for the black and white logo (the pasta place next-door is also black and white so don’t get confused!).
Given the laid-back friendliness I already experienced here I could predict that they would just “get it” and sure enough they gave me a delicious Assam blend tea in my Keep Cup with no fuss whatsoever. They even gave me the Oak milk in a cute bottle alongside it.
Well done guys, you get the maximum three coffee beans out of three 🙂

The family-owned chain also exudes an environmentally-friendly vibe due in part to the locally sourced nature of all the food. I should have no problem here right?
As you can guess, I did indeed have no problem. The staff in Mettricks Old Town gave me a coffee in my Keep Cup twice now. No muss, no fuss.

Mettricks gets three coffee beans out of three.

The Art House
As the website puts it: Your one and only creatively-inspired, community-run, organic, love-filled, not-for-profit, quirky, slightly wonky, home-grown, 100% original, local cafe / gallery / venue / home-from-home in Southampton.
With an introduction like that you can probably guess if my re-usable cup was accepted: it was 🙂
Much like Cafe Thrive, these guys were chilled and friendly bunch. They also had a wide variety of non-dairy milk substitutes (Oat milk being my favourite which they prepared up to a lovely creamy froth).
I sat upstairs which as the photos show has oodles of character – it is more like somebodys lounge. I sipped my lovely coffee over reading an artbook about famous street-artist Banksy.
I give The Art House three coffee beans out of three.

No issue here – simple and straightforward and damn good coffee 🙂
They also gave me a discount for using a re-usable cup. Got nice, frothy Soya milk on top.
Three coffee beans out of three. Well done Costa.

Coffee #1
A friend of mine claims these guys serve the best coffee in Southampton. We’ll see about that son…
I think there are two branches: one on Commercial Road not far from West Quay and the other in Portswood High Street towards Highfield Lane. I tried the Commercial Road branch and they accepted my reusuable cup without any issue.
However as I was having it within the premises, they stated that no discount was forthcoming. They pointed out the ceramic cups for that purpose. Fair enough I guess (but what if I decide to leave the cafe after 5 minutes? I cannot take their cup) They also had milk alternatives, but this was limited to Soya milk although they say Coconut milk is coming soon.
So I got my coffee in my KeepCup and you would think all is well right? Wrong. Now every other barista filled my KeepCup to the top of the cup but here I got a small volume of coffee that consisted mostly of mostly dried milk. Check photo below.
Now to be fair, I should have told them about and I’m sure they would have fixed it but I came there to do a bit of work on my laptop before rushing off somewhere else so I wasn’t really in the mindset to get up and confront them over it.
And while I am in rant-mode: the guy cleaning the crockery was so damn loud that I’m sure he was pissed off that day or something – clearly the Santa hat he was wearing did NOT fulfill it’s function of delivering Christmas cheer 🙁
And finally: no free WiFi! Holy First World problems! Luckily I was within range of the Lloyds Bank free WiFi next door which I was able to connect to without any tedious “create account” feature.

My wallet got plundered too... :/
My coffee got plundered too… :/

So these guys get one coffee bean out of three – must do better next time guys… Maybe I’ll try the Portswood branch but for now you rank below the fast-food chain.

Cafe Giordano
Cafe Giordano is in West Quay food court. The food court itself is populated by weary shoppers, self-conscious teenagers and spaced-out families… but the cafe is situated towards the cruise ship port with a large airy window. It is actually a civilized oasis of calm in the commercial shopping chaos nearby.

Pleased to say they accepted my KeepCup without issue 🙂 You guys get three coffee beans out of three.

Good old Cafe Giordano with their hot Eastern European blonde cafe staff
Good old Cafe Giordano with their attractive Eastern European blonde cafe staff (not pictured)

Hey! What about <insert cafe here>?
There were a bunch of others to try but I have yet to approach.
One is the intriguingly named “Coffee Lab” at the corner of London Road opposite the city park. This is the kind of place that is the target of the recent McDonalds ads. The ads poke fun at boutique coffee places that go over-the-top in brewing the “perfect” cup.
There is of course Starbucks which I just didn’t get to. I will update this article once I try them out but I’m expecting a similar experience to Costa.
I don’t think Southampton has a Cafe Nero but Eastleigh has – that would be another one to try.
Do you have any suggestions? Make a comment below! 🙂
Where can I get a KeepCup?

I bought my KeepCup from the EthiCo guys but you can also find them on Amazon 

If you want to get really fancy, you can buy a KeepCup with a glass base and cork mouthpiece.
If you want to get really fancy, you can buy a KeepCup with a glass base and cork mouthpiece.