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Quick and Easy to Read Guide on how to play Keyforge

Easy and fast way to learn how to play Keyforge the card game. We guide you through the essential Keyforge rules.

2  players

15 – 45 mins

Age: 14 +

What is the goal?

  • 2 player card game in where each player takes the role of an Archon
  • Each player plays their deck against their opponent to:
    • gain Ember and forge keys
    • play Creature cards to combat their open
    • Power their Creatures with Upgrade cards
    • Use artifact cards to gain an advantage or put opponent at a disadvantage
  • 1st player to get 3 keys and unlock a Vault wins

Game setup

  1. Place Ember tokens and status cards in common area for both players to reach
  2. Each player places identity card on left or right side of their area
  3. Each player takes:
    • 3 key tokens, one of each colour, with unforged side face up next to their identity card
  4. Randomly determine who goes 1st. After the 1st game, player who is defeated chooses who goes 1st.
  5. Each player shuffles deck and offers opponent a chance for additional shuffling
  6. 1st player draws starting hand of 7 cards, other player draws 6 cards
  7. Mulligan. Each player has a chance to re-draw their starting hand by shuffling it back into their deck. Player who chooses to re-draw must draw one less card for their starting hand
Keyforge 1


Game is played over a series of turns.

Each turn consists of the following steps:

  1. Forge a key
  2. Choose a house
  3. Play, Use or Discard your cards:
    • a) Send a card into play – Some cards enter play EXHAUSTED
    • b) Use a card that you control that is in play and not EXHAUSTED
    • c) Discard cards from your hand
  4. Ready cards
    • Change your cards from EXHAUSTED to ready
  5. Draw Cards

Player who is taking the turn is know as the Active Player. Only the active player can perform actions. 

You do not make any decisions when it is not your turn.

Keyforge active player turn steps

Step 1 Forge a Key

If you have enough Ember to forge a key, they must do so.

To forge a key, do the following:

  • spend ember from the Ember pool on your Identity Card
  • return spent Ember to the common supply
  • Flip one of your Forge Key tokens to the Forged Side

Default cost to forge a key is 6 Ember. Some cards may increase or decrease this cost.

No more than one key can be forged during this step each turn.

Keyforge 1

Step 2 Choose a House

Eack KeyForge deck is made up of 3 different houses. They are shown on the identity card.

In this step, active player chooses 1 of the 3 houses to activate.

When activated, this house will be the active house for remainder of the turn.

Active house determines which cards you can play, discard from your hand and use this turn.

  • After choosing your house, you have the choice to take all cards in your archive (see archives in glossary) and add them to your hand
  • If you control a card that does not belong to 1 of the 3 houses, you can choose to activate that house during this step instead of one of the three in your deck
  • A player cannot choose to activate a house unless it is:
    • either on their identity card or
    • they control a card that belongs to that house.
  • If a card effect instructs a player that they must activate a house other than one in the aforementioned categories, that card effect is ignored
Keyforge 2

Step 3 Play Cards of Chosen House

  • You may play cards of the ACTIVE HOUSE
  • Cards may be played in any order
  • Card\’s house is represented by an icon shown in the upper-left corner of the card

First turn rule

  • First player on the first turn may only play or discard one card from their hand
  • Active player may not play, use or discard cards of other houses unless specified by card ability

Playing Cards

Active player is allowed to play ANY NUMBER of cards that belong to the active house.

When you play a card, the card exists in 2 states:

  • Ready – card is placed and ready to be used during the player’s turn
  • Exhausted – card is turned 90 degrees to the side to show that it has been used. It is not able to be used until it is readied during the game or by a card ability
Ready - Exhausted KeyForge Cards


Many cards in the game have an Æmber bonus below the house icon.When a card with an Æmber bonus is played, the first thing the active player does is gain that much Æmber.Each time a player gains Æmber (for any reason), the Æmber is placed in that player’s Æmber pool (on their identity card).

Playing Cards turn in Keyforge

Card Types

There are 4 types of cards: action, artifacts, creatures and upgrades.

Action Cards

When played, resolve the “Play” ability. Place in discard pile after resolving ability.

Keyforge Action Cards


When you play an Artifact, it enters ‘exhausted’. It is placed in front of you and behind your battleline. Artifacts remain in play from turn to turn.



  • Creature cards enter play exhausted and are placed in front row of active player’s play area.
  • This row is know as the Battleline.
  • Creature cards remain in play turn to turn.
  • Each time a creature enters play, it must be placed at far left or far right of the player\’s battleline.
What are creature cards in Keyforge?
Keyforge 3
Keyforge 4
  • When you use an upgrade, you attach it to a Creature card
  • Each upgrade remains in play from turn to turn
  • Upgrades modifies the card to which it is attached
  • If upgraded Creature card leaves play, the upgrade card is discarded
  • If the upgrade card cannot attach to a card in play, the upgrade cannot be used
Keyforge Play area

Step 3: Use Cards of Chosen House

The active player can use any number of cards from the active house that they have in play during step three of their turn.


Using Upgrades

An upgrade modifies the creature it is attached to and is not used independently of that creature

Using Artifacts

  • 2 abilities enable a player to use an artifact: “Action” and “Omni” abilities
  • When using Artifact, you exhaust the card and resolve abilities
  • You can only resolve an “Action” ability if it is on a card that belongs to the ACTIVE HOUSE
  • You can resolve an “Omni” ability even if it is on a card that does not belong to the ACTIVE HOUSE
  • Some cards require SACRIFICE. When sacrificed, it goes to your discard pile.
  • Artifacts cannot reap or fight.
Keyforge 6

Using Creatures

  • When Creature is used, they must be exhausted
  • Options for Creatures: Reap, Fight or Trigger creature’s “Action” ability
  • Any Creature of Active House may reap
  • When reaped, gain 1 Æmber
  • Resolve all other “Reap” abilities the creature has
  • Any ready creature of the active house may fight
  • You choose an eligible opponent creature to attack
  • Each of the 2 creatures get an amount of damage equal to its power
  • Damage is dealt at the same time
  • After fight resolves, if the creature that started the fight survives, resolve all \”FIGHT\” abilities on the creature
  • Creature cannot fight if there is no eligible enemy creature to attack
  • Any ready creature of the active house may trigger its \”ACTION\” ability
  • When triggered, the creature is exhausted and the \”ACTION\” abilities are carried out
  • Damage and Armour:
    • Creature gets damage, place amount of damage tokens equal to damage dealt
    • If damage is greater than Creature\’s power, creature is destroyed and sent to top of discard pile
    • If creature has Armour value, the armour prevents the amount of damage each turn
  • When you destroy an opponent\’s creature, you get the  Æmber on that creature

Card Abilities

  • Resolve as much of a card\’s ability as can be resolved
  • Active player makes all decisions while resolving ability
Using cards via other card abilities
  • If a card ability allows a player to play another card, chosen hard may belong to ANY HOUSE unless stated by card
  • Requirements of using the other card must be observed
  • You can only use cards you control unless stated by the card
The Rule of Six
  • Certain card combinations may result in repeated use of same card in a turn
  • Player cannot use the same card more than 6 times
Constant Abilities
  • If card does not have a boldfaced label, the ability is a constant ability
  • Constant ability is active so long as card remains in play and meets all conditions specified
  • Constant ability is active even when card is exhausted
  • Applying constant ability effects is not considered using a card

Using Chains

  • You gain chains through card abilities during a game
  • When gained, increase chain tracker by number of chains gained
  • The number of chains you have affects the number of cards you draw to refill your hand
  • Each time you draw fewer cards, you reduce your chains by 1

Step 4 Ready Cards

You (active player) readies each of your exhausted cards.

Step 5 Draw Cards

You (the active player) draws cards from top of your deck, until you have 6 cards in hand. When you complete the step, the turn ends.

  • If  you have more than 6 cards in hand, do not discard down to 6
  • If you need to draw cards and your deck is empty, shuffle discard pile and fill your deck and continue to draw
  • When your turn ends, and you have enough Æmber to forge a key, you must announce \’Check!\’. This informs your opponents that the you will be forging a key in the next turn.

How do you win in Keyforge?

You use Æmber to forge keys. Once 3 keys are forged, you win!

What are the Optional Rules for Keyforge?

Chain Handicap

  • When playing game between weaker and stronger deck, chains may be used to handicap stronger deck
  • This is to balance out the game and make it fairer
  • When playing new decks or tournaments, handicaps are not used


  • Stronger deck may start with 4 chains
  • If stronger handicapped deck loses 3 games in a row, reduce starting chains by one
  • If win 3 games in a row, increase starting chains by one
  • If players are familiar, they can decide amongst themselves the number of starting chains
Chains - Keyforge
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