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KeyForge rulebook cover from 2018

Welcome to the Crucible...

You are an Archon. Hailed by some as a god, respected by others for your wisdom, you were born—or perhaps created—on the Crucible, a world in which anything is possible.

The Crucible is ancient, but ever renewed. An artificial planet hanging in the center of the universe, the Crucible’s many layers remain constantly under construction by the enigmatic and mischievous Architects. For raw materials, the Architects have harvested countless worlds, blending them into a new whole both familiar and alien to the creatures that dwell there.

Whether lone specimens or entire cultures, the beings brought to the Crucible find themselves in a strange wonderland with no obvious means of returning to their former homes. Some thrive, building new societies and developing new technologies with the aid of the mysterious psychic substance known as Æmber.

Some discard the trappings of their old lives, adopting the ways and customs of new tribes discovered in this new world. Others devolve, bodies and minds twisted beyond all recognition, incorporating Æmber into their very bodies.

As an Archon, you have gathered followers in your journeys throughout the Crucible, allies who find value in your ageless wisdom and your ability to speak to all creatures. With the aid of these allies, you seek out Vaults hidden throughout the Crucible by the cryptic Architects. Each Vault can only be unlocked by Æmber-forged keys. Once open, a Vault’s contents—the power and knowledge of the Architects—can be consumed by only a single Archon.

When two Archons discover a Vault, only one can gain its knowledge. Only one can move one step closer to the secret of the Crucible...

Game Overview

KeyForge is a two-player card game in which each player takes the role of an Archon and leads that Archon’s team in a race to be the first to forge three keys.

Each player uses their own KeyForge deck, which represents their Archon and its team of followers. The players compete to gather the precious resource, Æmber (Aember icon). When a player has gathered enough Æmber, they can forge a key. The first player to forge three keys is able to unlock a Vault and wins the game.

The defining feature of KeyForge is that no two decks are alike. KeyForge cards are not sold individually; they are always sold as ready-to-play decks. Every deck in existence is unique!

This Learn to Play guide is designed to teach you the basics of the game.

After you have mastered the basics, you’ll be ready to open your first two sealed KeyForge decks included in this starter set and continue your quest to unlock the secrets of the Crucible!

If a situation arises in your game and you’re not sure how to proceed, expanded rules, detailed glossary, officialerrata, and FAQ are available in the KeyForge Master Rulebook. All KeyForge rules documents and the KeyForge Learning Decks can be freely downloaded at



The components included in the KeyForge: Starter Set are pictured here for identification purposes. These are considered the official game components for playing KeyForge.

Note: The rules below are from the KeyForge Master Rulebook, and may vary slightly from the rules in the Learn to Play guide from the two player starter set.

Game Setup

To set up the game, perform the following steps, in order:

  1. Place all damage tokens, Æmber tokens, and status counters in a common supply within easy reach of both players.
  2. Each player places their Archon identity card to the left or right side of their play area.
  3. Each player places three key tokens, one of each color, with the unforged side faceup near their Archon identity card.
  4. Randomly determine who is the fi rst player. That player takes the first turn when the game begins.
  5. Each player shuffles their deck and offers it to the opponent for additional shuffling and/or a final cut.
  6. The first player draws a starting hand of seven cards. The other player draws a starting hand of six cards.
  7. Each player, starting with the first player, has one opportunity to mulligan their starting hand by shuffling it back into their deck and drawing a new starting hand with one fewer card.

The game is now ready to begin.

Turn Sequence

The game is played over a series of turns. Players alternate taking turns until one player wins the game. Each turn consists of five steps, which are described in the following sections:

  1. Forge a key.
  2. Choose a house.
  3. Play, discard, and use cards of your chosen house.
  4. Ready cards.
  5. Draw cards.

The player taking a turn is referred to as the active player. The active player is the only player that can perform actions or make decisions; a player does not make any decisions when it is not their turn.

Step 1: Forge a Key

If the active player has enough Æmber to forge a key during this step, they must do so. To forge a key, the active player spends Æmber from their Æmber pool equal to their current key cost, then they flip any one of their key tokens to its forged side.

The default key cost is six Æmber (6Aember icon). Some card abilities may increase or decrease this cost. Key cost cannot be less than zero.

No more than one key can be forged during this step each turn, even if the active player has enough Æmber to forge multiple keys. Some cards have effects that allow Æmber on those cards to be spent when forging keys. If the active player controls such a card, the Æmber on it can be spent along with Æmber in the active player‘s Æmber pool, in any combination.

Spent Æmber is returned to the common supply.

A player immediately wins the game when they forge their third key.

Step 2: Choose a House

Each KeyForge deck is composed of three different houses, which are shown on the Archon identity card. During this step, the active player chooses one of the houses on their Archon identity card to be the active house for the remainder of the turn and announces the choice to their opponent. This active house determines which cards the active player can play, discard from their hand, and use this turn.

After choosing a house, the active player has the option to take all cards in their archives and add them to their hand.

If a player controls a card that does not belong to one of the three houses on their Archon identity card, they may (if they desire) choose and activate that house during this step instead of one of the three houses in their deck.

A player cannot choose to activate a house unless it is either on their Archon 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.

Step 3: Play, discard, and use cards of your chosen house.

The active player may play or discard any number of action cards, artifacts, creatures, and upgrades of the active house from their hand and may use any number of cards of the active house that are in play under their control. Eligible cards may be played, used, or discarded in any order.

A card’s house is determined by an icon in the upper-left corner. If the active house corresponds to a card’s icon, that card is eligible to be played, used, or discarded.

The active player cannot play, use, or discard cards that aren’t of the active house unless specified by a card ability.

Rules for playing, discarding, and using action cards, artifacts, creatures, and upgrades are described in each card type’s glossary definition.

First Turn Rule: During the first player’s first turn of the game, that player cannot play or discard more than one card from their hand. Card effects can modify this rule.

Step 4: Ready Cards

The active player readies each of their exhausted cards.

Step 5: Draw Cards

The active player draws cards from the top of their deck until they have six cards in their hand. After a player completes this step, their turn ends.

If the active player has more than six cards in hand, they do not discard down to six.

If a player needs to draw cards (during this step or at any other time) and cannot because their deck is empty, that player shuffles their discard pile to reset their deck, and then continues to draw (cards are drawn one at a time).

When a player’s turn ends, if that player has enough Æmber in their pool to afford a key, the player announces “Check!” so that their opponent knows the forging of a key at the start of that player’s next turn is imminent.

KeyForge Master Rulebook v17.3 March 2024