Episode #6 – Oh Vault Tour, Where Art Thou?

As I type this brief but hopefully concise message to the masses, we sit on the eve of speculation.  For nearly a month now, those in the KeyForge community have been made aware of a monumental announcement that will be unveiled to the world on Thursday, September 26th, which according to my calculations happens to be tomorrow, or today I guess as I will be releasing this early Thursday morning before our collective KeyForge consciousnesses are blown wide open.  Talk about increasing the already rapidly growing hype train, am I right? So many ideas have been thrown out there, ranging from what would be an obvious announcement of Prime Championship dates and locations, to an official announcement concerning an FFG-developed online play interface of some sort, to something concerning the impending arrival of the one year anniversary of KeyForge’s launch and a potential celebration event that may culminate around that date.  The possibilities are endless, and according to rumblings across various message boards and social media, no one has predicted correctly up to this point…

Now, while I won’t be spending this entire article speculating as to what this unique proclamation might be, I would like to bridge the gap between this supposedly ground-breaking organized play message and this week’s episode and to do that I want to say that I am personally rooting for something related to the one-year anniversary of KeyForge.  I specifically want this to be the case as one would be safe to assume that such an event has a high probability of being located in or around the home of Fantasy Flight Games in the great state of Minnesota, where I have resided for my entire existence, and in all honesty, I am starved for something grandiose to finally take place in the area. Will my speculative dreams be answered on Thursday afternoon while the entire KeyForge collective holds their breaths in anticipation?  Your guess is definitely as good as mine, and probably better even, but while we countdown the minutes until that revelation is finally revealed, at least you’ve got your good buddy Raspberry Eyes to rant and rave about something new, which is always a sweet little bonus!

Hello and welcome one and all to this week’s episode of The Random Ramblings of Raspberry Eyes!  I’m your host, the delightfully deranged Raspberry Eyes, and this week we are going to talk about why I haven’t had a Vault Tour in my very own backyard and the current state of organized play.  I felt it was rather timely as it has been alluded to that the announcement that should be moments away after you read this pertains directly to those interested in organized play, so diving into how an outsider to most organized play environments views the current scene could be very eye-opening, and, dare I say, prophetic?

As many loyal readers probably already know, I reside in the beautiful state of Minnesota.  I can still say beautiful for the moment because we should be hitting a nice crisp autumn season any day now, so there is still a good month or so of amicable weather conditions in the forecast before the brutal and intolerable 6-month stretch of existence we refer to as “winter” begins.  I live in the Central part of the state, which can be convenient…except when it comes to playing KeyForge with real human beings at a competitive level. For those who know, the Twin Cities area of Minnesota has quite the KeyForge scene, with most days of the week having a place to find a chainbound event or tournament of some kind and the competition is usually quite fierce, or so I have heard.  The only problem is that many of those days are during the week, and with my particular work schedule coupled with driving time both there and back, I am not able to partake in many of those events.

Now, I know that much of that can be perched upon my very own shoulders, and if I truly wanted to become a part of the competitive scene, I could do any number of different things to make that dream a reality.  And yes, I have attempted to gather a local scene of KeyForge enthusiasts this past summer, and while I could talk about those trials and tribulations in this piece, I am going to save that for its very own installment of this column in the future, so keep your eyes peeled for that adventure!  With my current position, weekends are truly the only time that I have to venture to any type of tournament setting, and if the event itself warrants it, I try my absolute best to make it happen with my schedule. In fact, as of this past week I have been able to put not one, but TWO different KeyForge events on my calendar that I am super excited to attend (a store championship at the end of October and a sealed survival event at the Mall of America in the middle of the month).  The major problem with organized play at the moment and the reason why I don’t actively seek out weekly events quite as much at the moment really boils down to incentives, and if it isn’t going to be worth my time to put in those travel hours, then I would much rather play with others online, and that is a bit of a problem.

With the current organized play setup, there just isn’t a whole lot to get excited about in terms of winning or doing well in competitive play.  Chainbound events offer you a way to level up your decks, but at the moment those power levels don’t really mean too much aside from offering up bragging rights at your local game shops.  The playmats and promo cards and tokens are also cool, but I find it much easier to trade for or purchase those for my own collection as opposed to trying my luck winning a few of those pieces at a tournament event.  I’m sure I am coming across as quite cynical in this article, and that might be a little by design, but in my line of work we always talk about what we can offer specifically that others cannot, and chainbound events just don’t do it for me personally, at least not how they are currently structured.

I do feel that those in charge of organized KeyForge play have their fingers on the pulse of the community, as this past week also saw the arrival of a KeyForge leaderboard system that focuses on sealed competitive weekly play and culminates in those on top of the leaderboard obtaining a deck with an alternate art card guaranteed to be in the mix, and I feel that this is a step in the right direction.  If I had a local scene, and Archons willing that someday I make that happen, I would be very much inclined to play in this format at my local game shops, as it is almost a throwback to some Friday Night Magic booster draft events I loved to participate in growing up. So if FFG can build off the positivity that has permeated out from that idea with whatever this new announcement might be, then we might see an increase in organized play in the very near future.

For me though, when I get out and play competitively, I want to be truly tested and to put myself against some of the best in the world if possible.  I feel like I have been carefully honing my skills while playing on TCO over the past year and that I could at the very least compete with some of the greats of the game, but as of this writing, I have yet to be able to attend a Vault Tour that I can claim as my own.  I’m hoping this changes next year as I should be able to at the very least attend one of the two big summer gaming conventions, but my current professional lifestyle doesn’t warrant a lot of vacation time or travel, especially to play cards, during the majority of the year.  Once again, this is me being a bit picky, but it’s my article and I can do what I want! Now, I have heard rumblings from other Minnesota-based players that Yeti did mention that a Vault Tour in the Land of 10,000 Lakes was in the works, but no one knows how far off that event might be.  

I am especially glad that Store Championship season is looking to be in full swing at the moment, as game shops in Minnesota are at least attempting to build those up to larger event status and the prize support is slightly more sought after as compared to some of the previous Chainbound season kits has been.  At the moment though, there are still too few organized play stores out there using the KeyForge app as a means to communicate event dates and times with those who are not a part of the local scene, so I am optimistic that FFG delineates a better approach as to how those events are advertised and setup through their competitive play software.  As I mentioned previously, I do have one Store Championship on my radar at the moment, with hopefully a few more to follow, as at least with that level of prestige for winning it would be worth the time and effort needed to prep for and get to an event like that.

I will admit that there is an event coming up in this great state that I am over-the-moon enthusiastic to partake in, and that is a massive Three-Deck Sealed Survival event taking place at the Mall of America in October.  The tournament itself is limited to 24 total participants, which is beyond smart considering it is survival-based, and in this particular instance I have no idea what the prize support looks like, but this is something I want to see more of in my area.  I was even able to weasel my way out of some family commitments to venture to Minneapolis to play in this event, which is always a nice side-bonus, and my hope is to bring back a recap of that adventure for an episode in November. With sealed you are always at the mercy of your decks as to how well you can potentially do, but I am hoping that some of the great players in the area are also able to make it out for that undertaking and it will begin to scratch the competitive KeyForge itch that I have been dealing with recently.

In an attempt to bring this whole thing back full-circle, the major reason that I am hoping for some type of one-year anniversary celebration taking place in Minnesota is that I have strongly felt that the fine people at the FFGC who garner a consistently positive turnout each and every Friday that they run chainbound events are being underutilized in their efforts.  With the affirmative momentum being generated by this fantastic game and players such as myself clambering for larger opportunities to showcase their KeyForge prowess, I feel that the Fantasy Flight Gaming Center could become something of a Mecca for KeyForge enthusiasts around the United States, and possibly even the world. With many individuals such as myself not being able to make it to a Vault Tour, those aember shards that we work so hard to obtain just sit there and become kind of worthless, and while it may be in the works to offer some type of online prize wall that would allow players to redeem those shards without finding a large event in their neck of the woods, how cool would it be to have a permanent prize wall located the FFGC?  I might be slightly biased as I currently reside here, but if you knew that there was a decently big tournament being run in Minnesota that offered prize wall support outside of a Vault Tour, wouldn’t you be inclined to go check that establishment out? I know that I would!

This would also go without saying that any place that can consistently pull in 20+ participants on a weekly basis could do quite a bit more with incentives to run larger tournaments of some kind, as I would go out of my way to make the trip to the Twin Cities area if I knew I would get to play with that many or more KeyForge fanatics such as myself.  And I am truly hoping that if the Twin Cities scene continues to flourish and grow exponentially, some of that runoff would find it’s way up north a bit more and those local game shops could start to gather their own interest in setting up weekly events to coincide with some of the grander happenings in the state. And while I said I wasn’t going to speculate as to what the big unveiling is going to be later this afternoon (it’s super weird to write about present happenings that to me would still be considered in the future as they are being written), I’m hoping that organized play in every area of the country starts to see some rapid growth and positive change because of it.  Plus, my prophetic streak in all things KeyForge has been quite prolific. Just go back and check out my Archimedes article if you need any clarification as to how far ahead of the game I might be, ha!

Well, that about wraps it up for this week.  I hope someone out there learned a little bit about where I would love to see organized play take us as we enter year two of KeyForge, and maybe you even learned a little bit more about yourself as well.  I don’t even know what that actually means, but once you venture into my world of randomness, there are no longer rules that need to be followed and what you see is what you get. I’m not sure where next week’s episode will take us, and if you ever have any ideas as to what I should riff on for the week, don’t hesitate to drop me a line or leave me a comment.  And with that, I’m Raspberry Eyes, signing off and reminding you all to ramble on!

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