From Preview to Reality

Published On: October 10, 2023

When Ghost Galaxy first took over the publication of KeyForge, we launched a crowdfunding campaign on Gamefound for the Winds of Exchange set. One of the stretch goals from that campaign involved creating a set of preview cards from the next set, Grim Reminders. People who pledged during the initial Winds of Exchange campaign each received a small packet of these Grim Reminders previews, which were chosen at random from a list of cards we felt were far enough along in their development. Grim Reminders was still a long way away from completion at that time, but we were reasonably sure the cards we chose to preview wouldn’t need big changes. Just to be safe, we included a small disclaimer with each preview packet stating that the cards were still subject to change at some point in the future.

Now that development on Grim Reminders has completed, we’re pleased to say that many of those preview cards did remain completely unchanged; but not all of them. Today, we’re going to revisit 10 of those preview cards, compare their preview versions to their final forms, and explain why they evolved, each in their own way. Let’s start with cards from House Brobnar.

Blunderbore is one of the new Brobnar giants in Grim Reminders with an ability that cares about the opponent being haunted. A player is haunted if they have 10 or more cards in their discard pile, a mechanic that is explored further in this article.

As work continued on Grim Reminders, each house developed its own way of interacting with a player’s haunted status. Some houses, particularly Geistoid, had a lot of effects that could make themselves haunted very quickly. Other houses, such as Untamed, received several ways to reliably become un-haunted if they so desired. All of this meant Blunderbor’s original ability was too unreliable; it too often did nothing. The solution was to make it a scaling effect that could always cause an opponent to lose 1 Æmber, or 2 Æmber if you are haunted.

Early preview of Blunderbore
Final version of Blunderbore

Lifting Buddy has a fun, thematic effect that makes itself and another one of your creatures more powerful. Playtesting demonstrated the effect was a little too slow, so we allowed it to revolve as a Play effect in addition to its After Fight and After Reap timing. Also, its original wording allowed itself to be targeted by both halves of the effect (giving it a total of four +1 power counters), which was not the intention.

Early preview of Lifting Buddy
Final version of Lifting Buddy

Curse of Cowardice is one of a series of cards in Grim Reminders that feature the Treachery keyword. These cards enter play under the control of your opponent and give them some kind of penalty. We’ll explore this concept in greater detail in a future article. Playtesting showed that Curse of Cowardice became very difficult to overcome if the player who controlled lost all of their creatures, so we added a condition that caused the card to destroy itself in that situation.

Early preview of Curse of Cowardice
Final version of Curse of Cowardice

Sandwyrm caused a lot of discussion when it first previewed because it just seemed so bad. There seemed to be almost no upside to the card: a creature that shuffles itself back into your deck after you use it only once? The truth is that we always intended to include at least 1 Æmber bonus icon on Sandwyrm, and possibly more, but at the time we weren’t sure how many the card should have. Adding and removing Æmber bonus icons is typically one of the last things we do before finalizing a set; it provides a way for balancing out individual cards as well as each house as a whole. The final version of Sandwyrm has two Æmber bonus icons and it only reshuffles itself into your deck after it fights, not after it reaps.

Early preview of Sandwyrm
Final version of Sandwyrm

Geistoids are the newest house to appear in the game, and one of their previewed cards, Spontaneous Awakening, provides a good example of how they evolved during development and testing. The first thing you’ll probably notice is that their card frames changed: the bright yellow background behind the card type and the deck name didn’t work with white text, so it became a dark purple. Their house icon also changed a little. Aside from the graphics, Spontaneous Awakening also got an Æmber bonus icon and some slightly different wording in its first sentence for extra clarity. The original version of this card also created a memory issue for players, so we decided to have the card turn into an upgrade after it was played.

Early preview of Spontaneous Awakening
Final version of Spontaneous Awakening

Proton Siphon was a pretty weak card in its original version. It was a common-rarity card that didn’t provide any Æmber, and it promoted fighting instead of reaping. That might have been okay for a Brobnar card, but not for Star Alliance. We added an Æmber bonus icon and increased its ability to splash-attack 5 to make it more of a threat.

Early preview of Proton Siphon
Final version of Proton Siphon

At first glance, it might appear like Tendrils from Beyond changed quite a bit since it was previewed. Actually, the card still works the same, but we reworded the ability to make the language more consistent with other haunted abilities in the set. We also added an Æmber bonus icon.

Early preview of Tendrils from Beyond
Final version of Tendrils from Beyond

While many of the preview cards remained unchanged, or changed only slightly, during development, Narl Gibbus proved to be an entirely different beast. The original version of Narl had it paired with Werewolf Curse, but it was a two-card combo that was a little fiddly, focused on fighting instead of Æmber generation, and overall not very impressive. In the final version, Narl Gibbus still comes with Werewolf Curse, but he doesn’t need it (he’s already a werewolf after all). Instead, you can now more easily play Werewolf Curse on another one of your creatures for extra attack power. You can still give Werewolf Curse to Narl Gibbus to increase his splash-attack to 6, or you can play it on an opponent’s creature to enrage it and stop it from reaping. (An enraged creature cannot reap unless there are no enemy creatures in play; it can only fight.) With this change, we also changed the After Fight effect from “Destroy Werewolf Curse” to “Archive Werewolf Curse”. This allows you an opportunity to keep using Werewolf Curse in future turns. Also, Werewolf Curse now has an Æmber bonus icon so you’re no longer losing out on an Æmber by fighting with a creature instead of reaping with it.

Early preview of Narl Gibbus
Early preview of Werewolf Curse
Final version of Narl Gibbus
Final version of Werewolf Curse

Finally, we have Duma the Returned. It’s one of a series of ultra-rare cards called Revenants appearing in Grim Reminders; this is a concept we will explore more fully in a future article. It’s important to note that Duma the Returned can appear in any house, so the change from preview to final form is not the house assignment, it’s the wording of Duma’s ability. Testing proved that being able to play Duma the Returned directly out of your discard pile created some timing problems and over-powered recursion if you had a large discard pile and a way to repeatedly destroy Duma . In the final version, you can no longer play Duma directly from your discard pile. Also, if you are haunted when Duma is destroyed, it goes to your archives instead of your discard pile. This limits the potential for Duma to return a large number of cards from your discard pile to your hand.

Early preview of Duma the Returned
Final version of Duma the Returned

We hope you enjoyed these little insights into the development and testing of Grim Reminders. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to follow the Grim Reminders campaign on Gamefound so you can stay current on all the latest news and announcements.

Happy forging!

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