Skill, Affinity, and Winning
I’ve had the word affinity at the back of my mind for a good two years now. I’ve been wanting to write on how certain players have affinity for certain styles of decks and how that affects their gameplay. But only yesterday while listening to an episode of Board Game Design Lab did something click.
A player can be said to have an affinity to a certain style of play or a certain type of deck if they have a natural inclination towards it. If you pick up a deck and it just clicks for you then you have an affinity with it. Some players know what kind of decks they have an affinity to. Myself, I have an affinity for several LA+TT combos, board based tempo, and control decks.
An affinity doesn’t necessarily mean you’re immediately good with the deck, it just means you like it. When a deck clicks in that way it makes you want to play it more, explore it, find out what makes it work, its weaknesses and strengths. You’re also just going to enjoy playing it.
I’m not sure if everyone has an affinity. Maybe some players like every deck they play or a very high percentage of them. I know I like a very small percentage of the decks I open, this is exasperated by my intense dislike of icky dinos, as I am not going to have an affinity to a deck with Saurians.
Some players are better than others. Not everyone that will take a proven winning deck to a tournament has the same chance of winning a tournament. If you gave me “Gasoline” Maximiliano, Dungeon Keeper (Two time vault winner) I would probably do well, but I will not do as well as George Keagle. Why? Is it because I am not as good as George at KeyForge? Maybe, but I don’t think that’s the main reason. I think George does better with GasMax because George has an affinity to Restringuntus lockouts.
But I just said that having an affinity to a deck doesn’t make you better at it, what gives? Well, it’s true, it doesn’t. However, because George has an affinity to Restringuntus lockouts he has played way, way, more games with Restringuntus than I ever will. He understands how a Restringuntus lockout works in a way I never will. Could I figure it out with enough games? Probably. But it would take me spending many many hours playing a deck I don’t particularly like.
An affinity to a certain style of deck brings with it a desire to play it and get better at it.
How did a podcast about game design help this click for me? Well they discussed the fact that once you’ve designed a couple of games it becomes not a question of whether they can develop a game to completion, but whether they want to. They said that games for which they have an affinity, makes the process of going through 30+ drafts more enjoyable, and even easier.
That means that if all you want to do is win, you could buy a proven deck off the secondary market for $3600 and practice it. If you have the skill, you will likely do very well. More realistically though, you’d buy a cheaper deck that is proven, or has very high SAS, and you can play that until you’re very good at it. And you’ll likely do some winning.
But you should probably buy a deck you like playing (or find one in your collection). If you’re having fun playing KeyForge you’re far more likely to get the reps in to get good with the deck, without it feeling like work.
I recently discovered that I have been playing KeyForge for a good while now only enjoying winning. While what drew me to KeyForge is the exploration. I love figuring out new decks and getting lots of reps with the decks I like. If like me you’ve been in a bit of a slump due to the hiatus and the slow return of KeyForge via Ghost Galaxy, then I encourage you to dig a little deeper in your collection. Find a deck you have an affinity for and get those reps in. See if you can bring a 35% win deck up above 50%. It doesn’t need to become a vault winning deck, just bring you some joy.