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4 Popular Games Designed by Richard Garfield

There are some incredibly popular games designed by Richard Garfield.

What games has Richard Garfield designed? Richard Garfield is the game designer of the popular games: Magic: The Gathering, KeyForge, King of Tokyo, and Robo Rally.

Richard Garfield’s games range from collectible card games, to unique deck games, to board games. What is each of these games about and how does it play?

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1. Magic: The Gathering

Magic: The Gathering green and blue deck versus red
Magic: The Gathering green and blue deck versus red

Year of release: 1993
Type of game: Collectable Card Game
Number of players: 2 (2+ player variants)
Time to play: 20 minutes

Magic: The Gathering, commonly known as Magic or MtG, is a collectible card game. Players buy, collect and trade cards and use them to create card decks to play against other Magic players.

In Magic, players take on the role of a planeswalker, a wizard from one of the Magic universes, who uses the power of the world around them to summon creatures, create artifacts, and cast spells at their opponents. Each player has 20 life points and the object of the game is to reduce their opponent’s life points to 0.

Magic: The Gathering is such a huge game that there are cash-prize annual tournaments held all over the world. These events were previously known as Grand Prix, but are now called MagicFests. They are open to anyone, with the top players being invited to compete in Pro Tours.

Digital versions of Magic are available to play on PlayStation, Xbox, android, mac and pc.

The cards

Most new players start by buying a pre-made deck of 60 cards. They then buy booster packs of cards containing random cards from the approximately 20,000 available. Players use these new cards to swap out cards from their deck to modify it.

There are also Magic: The Gathering starter sets like this one on Amazon which includes 2 decks and learn to play guides so that new players can play with a friend.

New cards and premade decks are released regularly. Each deck comes from a different plane in the multiverse so has a theme associated with it.

Cards are categorized by their rarity from common, uncommon, rare and mythic rare. A very rare and powerful card called the Black Lotus of which 1100 were printed in 1993-1994, sold for $87,000 on eBay in 2018.

There are 5 colors of cards in Magic, each color represents a different school of magic and each plays in a very different way.

  • Red – Fire – Destruction and causing quick damage
  • White – Land – Boosting and protecting your arsenal and giving life points
  • Blue – Water – Manipulating the game around you and controlling other players
  • Black – Swamp – Draining life from opponents and trading your own creatures for powerful gains
  • Green – Forest – Growing and amassing lots of creatures including giant creatures

A deck can be made up of any combination of colors, but 1 or 2 colors is the most common and recommended for beginners.

How it plays

Each turn players randomly draw cards from their deck to see what they can play. How players use their mana and play their cards each turn has a huge impact on who wins a game. There are so many different actions and abilities on the cards that no two games ever play the same.

Although usually played as a two-player game, there are other game rules that can be played to allow more players in a game. In my friendship group, we often play two-headed giant 2 vs 2 or free for all where everyone plays against everyone else until there is one player left.  

2. KeyForge

KeyForge designed by Richard Garfield
KeyForge designed by Richard Garfield

Year of release: 2018
Type of game: Unique Deck Card Game
Number of players: 2
Time to play: 15-45 minutes

KeyForge works in a similar way to Magic: The Gathering. Two players use their own deck of cards to compete with each other. The decks contain creatures, actions, upgrades, and artifacts.

Players take on the role of Archons, who are competing to collect a precious resource called Ӕmber to forge keys and open a Vault of knowledge.

The decks

KeyForge is not a collectible card game like Magic: The Gathering. Instead, players buy a pre-made deck that is complete and can’t be modified. The random deck you buy is the deck you play with.

Each deck is unique. In the first set of decks, Call of the Archons, there are over 104 quadrillion possible decks! Each deck contains 37 cards from the 166 cards available.

The second set of decks, Age of Ascension, adds another 204 cards to the cards available, meaning 370 cards are now available for the 37 card decks. Billions on billions of decks are now possible!

Each deck is mathematically balanced so that theoretically no matter which two decks play against each other, they are evenly matched.

You might love your deck, you might not. It depends on how you like to play, your deck may not suit your style of play.

The cards

Each card aligns with one of seven houses in the KeyForge universe. Each deck contains cards from three of the houses.

  • Brobnar – Physically strong brawlers
  • Mars – Aliens with space ships and lasers
  • Sanctum – Knights who protect the weak and want order
  • Logos – Machine-enhanced humans and robots
  • Dis – Magical beings who manipulate other creatures and player actions
  • Shadows – Thieves and rogues
  • Untamed – Beasts, humans, and humanoids who live in wilds of nature

How it plays

On their turn, a player chooses which house they want to play that turn. They can then play as many cards as they want from that house. They can also use cards from that house that they played in previous turns, for example, creatures, upgrades, and items.

Players are trying to collect Ӕmber to forge vault keys. It usually takes 6 Ӕmber to forge a key. The first player to forge 3 keys wins the game.

KeyForge starter decks are available on Amazon and include everything you need to get playing.

3. King of Tokyo

king of tokyo
King of Tokyo

Year of release: 2011
Type of game: Board game
Number of players: 2-6
Time to play: 30 minutes

In King of Tokyo you play as a huge monster who wants to rule Tokyo City.

Taking control of Tokyo City gives you victory point bonuses and allows you to hit all the monsters outside Tokyo. But be careful. While you’re in Tokyo, all the other monsters will be hitting you and you can’t heal while ruling the city!

King of Tokyo is a hugely popular board game. It’s often used as a gateway game to introduce new players to modern board games.

It has won several awards including the Gold Geek awards from BoardGameGeek in 2012 for Best Children’s Game, Best Family Game, and Best Party Game.

How it plays

Each turn you roll six dice. On each six-sided dice there are symbols for damage, heal, energy points to buy special powers up cards, and the numbers 1, 2 and 3. Rolling three of a kind of the numbers gets you that many victory points.

You can roll your dice up to three times per turn. On each roll, you decide which dice to keep and which dice to roll again. So if you roll 2x3s and you want to try for another 3, you can reroll your remaining 4 dice twice again and keep any threes they land on.

You win by being the first to collect 20 victory points or by being the last monster standing.

Expansions, upgrades, and new editions

Several expansions are available for King of Tokyo which add another monster to the existing six. The first expansion, King of Tokyo: Power Up! also added evolution cards which allows your monster to evolve and gain special abilities during the game.

In 2016 a new edition was released featuring new artwork and a slightly different monster lineup.

Check out King of Tokyo on Amazon.

After the success of King of Tokyo, Richard Garfield designed King of New York. Released in 2014, it plays in a similar way but with the edition of destroying buildings and dealing with the military defending the city. Find out more about it in my article: 9 Fun Board Games Designed by Richard Garfield.

4. Robo Rally

Robo Rally board game
Robo Rally

Year of release: 1994, updated 2016
Type of game: Board game
Number of players: 2-6 players
Time to play: 20-120 minutes

In Robo Rally, you play as a robot who works in a factory building supercars. It’s Saturday night and you and your robot colleagues are having fun racing the supercars around the factory.

But the factory is full of moving conveyor belts, computer SPAM and lasers which you need to avoid! You also need to look after yourself – your energy, your SPAM damage, and your physical damage.

Robo Rally has received four Origins Awards including Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Boardgame 1994.

How it plays

Each turn has three phases: Upgrade, Programme, and Activate. During Upgrade, you can pay to upgrade your robot. In Programme you must select 5 action cards and play them face down on your player mat.

During Activate, the robots carry out the actions in card order. Everyone around the table does action 1, then action 2 etc. Depending on what the other robots do, this might mean that you bash into other robots, get pushed into obstacles, get spun around, hit lasers, etc. It is chaos!

Be the first to reach all the checkpoints in numerical order to win!

Expansions and a new edition

Due to the success of Robo Rally, expansions were released between 1994 and 1999 from the original publisher Wizards of the Coast. Each expansion added new race tracks.

In 2005 Avalon Hill republished some of the more popular original expansions along with 5 new ones.

The updated version of Robo Rally was published in 2016 with some new rules. The reprint has opened the game up to a whole new generation of board gamers – like me! The little robot models are very cute!

Check out Robo Rally on Amazon.

More games designed by Richard Garfield

Richard Garfield has designed a lot more great games than the four in this list.

To discover more board games designed by Richard Garfield see my article – 9 Fun Board Games Designed by Richard Garfield.

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Hi, I’m Emily, the tabletop gamer behind My Kind of Meeple. If this article helped you, I’d be honoured if you’d say, “Thanks!” with a £3 coffee on Ko-fi.

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