Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois and instructor in marketing at Southeast Missouri State University.  This week, Scott Thorne reports on the events surrounding the launch of the new game KeyForge, from Fantasy Flight Games.

After several months of promotion, KeyForge launched this week and players got to see what all the fuss was about.  For the most part, ours have proven quite happy with the game.  Most other retailers indicated they had full tables for both the pre-launch and launch events (see "Organized Play Program for ‘KeyForge’ Revealed").  Did the game live up to its hype?  So far, yes.

Those customers who have not played the game are still unsure of the concept, with the most common question: "How do you go about building your own deck?"  I do expect to see players start customizing their own decks   Here are some things about the release that struck me:

Pre-launch.  This is one of the best pre-launches for a game that I have seen in recent years.  Stores had the opportunity to estimate how many people would show up for the pre-launch event and order kits based on that estimated numbers of attendees.  Stores received their kits far enough ahead in time that we could familiarize ourselves with the rules and put together a display for interested customers to view and build more buzz for the game.  The pre-launch kits were well put together too, including lanyards, an assortment of badges for the different houses, rules cards, a display of decks and a starter set to crack open to use for demos.  I wasn’t sure how well players would respond to the lanyards and badges as giveaways for the event but everyone that participated took a lanyard and a badge along with their deck and seemed pretty happy with them.

Launch.  On the other hand, the launch was not nearly as well put together.  KeyForge launched on the 15th and most stores did not get their kits until the 14th, giving us less than 24 hours to get the launch ready.  Having the kit arrive a week ahead of time, with directions to hold the materials until the release date under penalty of losing the store’s status with Asmodee, would have helped prepare and allowed stores to answer questions about the launch event, such as what the prizes were.  Speaking of the prizes, my players were not particularly impressed with them, given that the cost of getting into the Launch tournament was a $40 Starter Set.  While the chain tracker card with an active house symbol is useful in the game, it seemed more something of a promo that everyone should have received rather than the prize for the event.  Unfortunately, the house posters included as additional prizing did not impress my players, as to a person they passed on them.  Happily, we had purchased the optional sets of metal Keys and gave away a set of those as the prize.  If you run an event for a collectable type game, players generally expect more of the collectable item as the prize, so a set of booster decks included for prizing would have been good.  The league set-up is intriguing, with prizes based on the House with the most wins.

The Rulebook.  This was a problem I had, along with several of my players and other stores.  It is not included in the Starter Set.  Instead, the purchaser gets a Quickstart rule set with directions to go to the website for the full rules.  The Quickstart rules did not even include a glossary of keywords used on the cards.  Players either had to refer to the keyword definitions found on the cards in the starter deck (but not the rulebook) or go to the website, which is not particularly convenient when one is learning a game.  We printed out the rules PDF for player convenience while playing, but this revealed the problem of too much color in the book.  Granted, graphic artists and FFG want to make the rulebook attractive, but the amount of color used made the book slow to print out and wasted a lot of ink.  Having a printer-friendly, low resolution, low color option would be nice.

Still, I cannot complain about the sales of KeyForge.  We have set up a league night as have a number of other stores.  I am interested to see how the game does over the next few months and how FFG will handle the probable demand for rules for customizing player decks.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of