The Herald Bulletin

July 16, 2013

Keyflower sets sail across tabletops

By Rick Teverbaugh
The Herald Bulletin

---- — The first thing that will strike gamers about Keyflower is the enormous number of components included in the box.

The lasting thing that will stay with those players after several games is how seamlessly all of those parts are included and work together to create an immersive, yet simple experience of building a town in colonial times.

The component list is indeed impressive as is the quality of those game bits. There 120 wooden resource counters. Six screens to aid gamers in keeping secret which of the 141 wooden workers they have at their disposal and in what quantity. The game really revoles around the 64 hexagonal tiles that represent the buildings, boats and a few other features that players can use to help further the villages they are creating.

The game is played in four rounds, called seasons, and at the end of those rounds the person with the most productive and sensibly arranged village will have the most number of points and be the winner.

Keyflower is scaled for up to six players and is still good all the way down to two. The game time is listed as 90 minutes and that is especially true for the games with four or more. a two-player contest can play in less time once the gamers are familiar with the rules.

The rulebook is 12 pages long and has many examples and illustrations. It isn't a difficult game to learn or to teach others. But it isn't a light game. There is much that needs to be taken into account when planning a strategy and executing it. Because there are more points available at the game's end, it is difficult to have a win secured before the final winter phase.

In playing Keyflower I found only one serious flaw. The workers come in three basic colors and the auction portion of the game where bids are made to purchase the tiles, the workers are the currency. If a bid is made in one color, the rest of the bids need to also be made in that color. The workers are hidden from the view of the other players so that nobody else knows what bids you can or can't make.

Yet at several times during the game a player may need to make a blind draw from a bag to secure more workers. When that happens, the breakdown of those workers by color is necessarily secret. But that also means a strong honor system has to be in place. If other players can't see the workers drawn, then there's no way to check that a player has drawn the correct number of workers. Play just with people who don't take the game too seriously and those you can trust not to cheat and this problem will vanish.

Overall, the game gets high praise from this corner. Keyflower is neither too simple nor too complex. It represents the theme nicely and has a good flow, providing nobody labors too long with the decision about which tile will get their bids.

The game and a promo boat tile called Key Celeste has just finished a successful Kickstarter run. Hopefully those who missed that promo will be able to purchase it in the future as a separate item.

The game is designed by Sebastian Bleasdale and Richard Breese. It is produced in this country by R&D Games and Game Salute. The game can be found in the $45 to $60 range, with $55 being the cost of the game plus Key Celeste..

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