Testing a new variant – Obfuscation

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There are a number of keyforge Archon variants that allow players to pick decks from a wider pool of decks, and not only the top 1%. I don’t like them very much, so I came up with my own.

Existing solutions

The most commonly played solution is Adaptive, or the fan made Adaptive Short aka Appraisal.

Another fan made option is Tesla, which is a variant where you alternate between Archon and Reversal each round.

Both of those variants allow playing a much wider range of decks, but they also force you to play your opponent’s deck. My personal preference is to only play my own deck, one I have practiced and I enjoy playing. I had much less of an issue with reversal before Worlds Collide was released, because there was no house I outright hated. But with Saurians in the mix, I just loathe the thought of being forced to play them.

Defining the goal

When I set out to find a new variant that allows playing a wider range of decks, I knew I needed to first define the goal in clear concise language.

  • I want to only play my own deck.
  • I don’t want chain bidding.

The only solution we could find was using sas limits in order to allow a wider range of decks, and it does work. I’ve been running a weekly double elimination sas cap tournament on the sanctumonius discord for the past 3 months and it’s been some of the best most enjoyable keyforge I’ve played. As a nice bonus, in those 3 months, we have not had a repeat winner.

However, I still find using a third party deck evaluation system to not be ideal. Some decks are overvalued by sas, so you can never play them, and some decks are undervalued which makes them simply too powerful.

So I added a third constraint to the goal.

  • No third party deck evaluation tools.


The board game Dixit has provided an inspiration for the first iteration of the Obfuscation variant. In Dixit, the players hold cards with abstract art in their hands. Each round a different player is designated storyteller, and that player plays one of their cards face down and gives the other players a hint about the art on the card. Then the other players each also pick a card and play it face down.

The storyteller then shuffles the cards and reveals them. The players will try to guess the card the storyteller played.

If everyone guessed the storyteller’s card, then the storyteller was too accurate with their hint, and everyone gets some points while the storyteller gets none.

If nobody guessed the storyteller’s card, then storyteller was too vague, and likewise everyone would get some points and the storyteller will get none.

Dixit is a great game by the way, and I recommend giving it a go.

Obfuscation test 1

What I tried to do with the first iteration of Obfuscation was apply the Dixit scoring system to Keyforge, and what I came up with is the following:

Every player will submit a deck. Then each player will evaluate the result of each match between every two decks, not including the games they play in.

After a game is scored, the winner will get 1 point for each player that voted they would lose. And each player that correctly guessed the outcome of the match will also get 1 point.

We played the test league with 6 players, I did not participate, but it went rather well. One problem was that there was a lot of overhead, both as an organizer and as a participant. Going over matches and evaluating the results is quite a lot of not-keyforge before you even get to playing.

The other problem was that some players brought too strong a deck, which made it impossible for them to win. One of the players, proposed a benchmark deck. I initially thought I would have to play that deck, but people said I wouldn’t, as players that would ignore it would simply put themselves at a disadvantage.

Elaboration about the benchmark deck

Obfuscation test 2

After a few weeks of me digesting the first test, I think I have distilled the essence of the idea into a cleaner simpler variant.

We will be playing round robin again, but this time the players will only need to pick which deck they think is the best/will win the most games in their group.

Scoring is simple, after all games in the group stage have ended, players 1 point for each game they won, minus 1 point for each player that voted their deck is the best/most likely to win.

We will also be using a benchmark deck to see how that goes, but I already feel that is a spectacular idea, thanks to whoever that was. There are a few other things to test and see if they work, but for now, we’ll be testing as is.

If you feel like joining the test, there is a $10 sponsored coupon for burgertokens for the winner. Find the #timeshapers channel on the Sanctumonius discord serverand look at the pinned posts for more information. It starts June 26th, so hurry up and join us.

Contact and afterword

I’m really looking forward to further tweaking this variant, and I will keep you updated on how it goes!

I’m still running a double elimination bracket low sas tournament on Thursdays. So join the discord and find the #timeshapers channel to join in on the fun.

As always, you can follow me on twitter for updates. And join us at the Sanctumonius discord server if you’d like to chat with me, or join an awesome community of KeyForge players. 

We’ve also started the Timeshapers Podcast, so find it on your favourite platform, and if it isn’t there, please leave a comment so we can get it on there.


Aurore is a competitive KeyForge player and the founder of Timeshapers. She's a content writer by trade and aspiring game designer. Follow @Timeshapers1