Keyflower was designed by Richard Breese and Sebastian Bleasdale. It is the 7th game in Richard Breese’s Key Series, a game series that started in 1995 – all the games have the prefix “Key” in their titles and are set in the Medieval Key Land. Keyflower is the latest game in the series and the most popular one. The series also includes Keywood, Keydom, Keytown, Keythedral, Key Harvest and Key Market.
The illustrations were done by Juliet Breese (Richard Breese’s sister), Jo Breese (Richard Breese’s niece) and Gemma Tegelaers.
It was published by R&D Games in 2012. R&D Games was formed by Richard Breese so that he could publish his own designs. Most of his games were first released only in limited editions.
- 64 large hexagonal turn order/boat/home and village tiles;
- 48 small skill tokens;
- 120 hexagonal wooden resource counters;
- 141 wooden meeple-shaped workers;
- 6 screens.
Keyflower is a worker placement and auction board game strategy designed to be played in a company from 2 to 6 players. The game lasts for 4 rounds. The rounds stand for seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter.
Meeples are the bidding currency and the workforce of the game. They are your workers. Meeples come in three colors: red, blue and yellow.
At the beginning of the game, each player has 8 workers, a home tile and “hidden” winter tiles. Your village starts to grow from the home tile. To add tiles to your village, you have to bid on them using workers of matching colors. Matching workers are also used for generating resources, skills and new workers.
At the end of every season, boats bring more workers, more resources, and there will be new tiles that you can bid on. In winter, there will be no new tiles, and you will be working with your winter tiles.
Specified combinations of workers, resources and skills will get you victory points. To win, you need to collect the largest number of victory points.
Every game of Keyflower will be different from the last one due to new combinations of arriving tiles. You will be presented with lots of various opportunities how to use your workers, resources, and skills.
Keyflower presents a lot of interaction between players. As everything is centered around bidding auctions, you will be competing with your opponents all the time.
Here is how to play Keyflower. The player who was dealt a home tile with the lowest number receives a purple meeple and begins the game.
Every player has a screen. You keep your winter tiles and your meeples that you are not currently using behind the screen – so that other players could not see what you have got.
During your turn, you can choose to do one of the following three things: bidding, production or transporting and upgrading.
To bid for a tile that is available in this round, you have to place one or more meeples next to it. They must be the same color as the meeples that are already there. If you are outbid, you get your meeples back, but they have to stay together.
There are tiles that can be used for generating resources. In this case, you put your workers on the tile. It can be your tile, or somebody else’s tile, or a tile that is available for bidding.
Transport and Upgrading
You can transport resources and upgrade village tiles. To do that, you place a meeple on a transport tile or your home tile. Resources can only be transported along the roads drawn on the tiles. To upgrade a tile, you pay the sum stated on it and flip the tile over.
Once everyone has taken their turn, a season ends. Here, you collect your meeples from the bids you did not win, put away tiles that nobody bidded for and take the tiles you have won. You also get meeples that were put on tiles in your village and tiles that you have won. When you add tiles to your village, adjacent sides of tiles have to match.
You cannot bid on a boat tile, but the player who wins the first player tile gets to choose the boat first. When you take a boat, you get all the workers and resources that come with it and put them behind your screen.
The player who chooses the boat last gets to be the first player in the next round.
When the winter is over, the game ends. You add up points you get for your tiles. The winner is the one who has most points.
Bruxelles 1893 is another example of a worker placement game with elements of bidding. Here, each player constructs their own building and takes different actions to improve it.
Another game you could compare with Keyflower is Tzolkin: it also deals with worker placement and has multiple paths to victory. Thematically, Tzolkin is also linked to passing through a calendar.
Ginkgopolis, which came out the same year as Keyflower, has a quite similar gameplay flow. In this game, you also build a town with tiles. There is another type of interaction presented: your neighbor gets your cards that you cannot use.
This expansion brings an agricultural side to the game. You buy farm buildings, grow wheat, collect and breed farm animals: cows, pigs, and sheep. Fields for animals are created by the layouts of the roads on tiles. This adds a new dimension to the base game. Playing with this expansion, you also get points acquiring and breeding animals, harvesting wheat and laying out the fields.
This expansion allows you to develop your village by signing contracts and building extensions and cabins.
The Trader expansion brings you a new village tile, which can be exchanged for a green meeple. You get a copy of Keyflower: Trader with a copy of The Merchants if you make a small donation. Proceeds go to helping the needy in Chengannur, India.
This expansion also brings you a new village tile. This tile is available only through Spielerei magazine (October 2013).
Key Celeste, an abandoned ghost ship, comes in the form of one large hexagonal tile, an oversize gray ghost meeple, and a rules sheet. You can bid for the Key Celeste tile the same way you bid for other tiles. The owner of the ghost may use it to scare the opponents and replace another player’s winning bid.
Emporium & Monument
Exclusively with Spielbox magazine (Summer 2013) you get two new winter tiles: the Emporium tile and the Monument tile.
Beekeeper is a new winter tile. It was designed to celebrate BGG’s 15th birthday. This expansion was available exclusively from the BGG Store in August 2014.
This is a new village tile, similar to the Sheep Shelter tile in the Farmers expansion. When you place pigs formed by this tile, they are allocated to the pig shelter.
Q: How many people can play the game?
A: You can have from 2 players to 6. The game plays out wonderfully even with just 2 players. If you have more than 4, it might take a little longer.
Q: If I want to buy an expansion, which one should I get?
A: You might want to choose between Keyflower: The Farmers and Keyflower: The Merchants. If you are into farming and breeding animals, go with the former, if you are more interested in economic intrigues and operations, The Merchants will be your choice. Key Celeste also adds an interesting twist to the game.
Q: Is Keyflower a good game for children?
A: The recommended age is 12+, younger children may find it difficult to understand the mechanics of the bidding system and all the complications of the game.
Q: How long does it take to play one game of Keyflower?
A game with 2 players may last around 90 minutes. The more players you have, the longer the game runs. With 6 players, you might spend more than 2 hours playing.
Q: What do bidders do in a case of a tie?
A: If two players have bidded an equal amount of meeples, the one who chose the boat tile first wins.
Keyflower presents a healthy balance between rivalry and friendly neighborly coexistence. You may hate your opponent if they occupy one of your tiles, but if they place a meeple on your tile it also means the next round the meeple will be yours! So, while you get a lot of interaction with your friends during bidding auctions, you may be assured that no friendships are going to get hurt during the gameplay.
In one round, a lot of different things can happen: auctions and actions are happening at the same time. It is up to you what you want to do this season. It leads to an incredible game dynamic.
Once you understand the game instructions, you will see there are multiple things that you can do and all sorts of tactics that you can imply. It might take a few plays before you realize what you need to do in order to succeed in the game. So, Keyflower is definitely not the game that you will put away after playing it once or twice.
You can buy Keyflower on Amazon.