After two weekends of KeyForge and four tournaments I have some new insights into live play. Keeping your hand face down on the table was surprisingly good. Token creatures are a new mechanic that introduces a possibility of missed information. And lastly, an empty draw pile is as good as a Psychic Bug.
I think the first time I heard about placing your hand face down on the table during my opponent’s turn was after my last live event pre-pandemic, which means I never got an opportunity to try it. My first reaction was to dismiss it, even after HFFS made some strong points to the benefits of doing so. It just seemed like I’d be giving up thinking time for little to no gain.
The first time I did it was when Techslut indulged me with some tabletop KeyForge to help me get used to playing on the table again before my trip. Playing with my hand face down allows me to focus on my opponent’s resolutions and update the game state in my head so I’m completely aware of what is going on. Picking up my hand on my turn and only then thinking about how I want to play means I didn’t waste any resources making plans that are no longer relevant by the time my turn starts.
During the alliance tournament in Denmark I overdrew one card (which amusingly was resolved by the TO referencing the clean play guideline I wrote). Since then I updated my face down hand with the habit of also counting the cards before I pick them up to double check I didn’t overdraw.
My advice is to give it a go. I know it sounds awkward, it did to me too, but it is a fantastic tool to keep your game focused.
On one of my turns I casually played Mimicry naming one of the cards I remembered my opponent playing. At some point during my opponent’s turn I realized they had a Mars Needs Æmber in their discard which would have been a much better target. I didn’t remember them using it, which is when I realized it was a token that got destroyed.
Since that game I have been trying my best to keep track of dying tokens and which cards they were, which I highly recommend you do. However, a step up from that, promoting clean play and being as forthcoming as possible, I suggest always flipping your token face up before moving it to your discard pile. I’d even go so far as to name the card the token used to be before moving it.
I know not everyone agrees on the clean play guidelines. They are, after all, just guidelines. But I strongly feel that it is much more satisfying to win knowing my opponent didn’t miss a crucial piece of information.
Empty draw pile
During the finals of the alliance tournament of the UK nationals my opponent ended their turn with a single card in their draw pile. Combined with the new rule that allows you to look at your opponent’s deck list during the game, and the untimed nature of the finals, meant I had no reason not to look over my opponent’s discard pile and archon card and figure out exactly which six out of seven cards they had in their hand. For anyone that has played on TCO this isn’t new. What is new is the opportunity to ask your opponent to show you their discard pile before the shuffle, since it’s very hard to do on TCO.
During a timed match you may find yourself a little pressed for time to check all the cards, but a quick count of the number of cards in each house you can see will be a gold shortcut to similarly significant information. Once armed with the knowledge of the house distribution it’s easier to figure out the specific cards still missing.
Make the effort to do this, you’re getting a free peek at your opponent’s hand, that’s a fairly powerful effect if it was a card. Capitalize on it.
Kill a token, any token.
I have observed several people that when faced with a number of tokens to attack simply say “I attack one of your tokens” and let their opponent pick which one will die. Doing so is giving your opponent a free choice as to which card will move to the discard and which will stay. It may not seem like much at first, but remember that cards like Sandhopper exists.
I recommend always pointing at the token you want to attack or destroy, even if they seem all the same to you. I am unsure whether this is allowed, but if you have a die you can roll it to determine which token you’re going to attack. Randomly attacking a token will prevent some savvy opponents from taking advantages of any biases you may have in choosing which token to kill.