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Keep Kickstarter Preview

Quick Look: Keep

Designer: John Clowdus
Artist: Oliver Howe
Publisher: Kolossal Games
Year Published: 2015 (review is the 2019 reprint)
No. of Players: 2-5
Ages: 8+
Playing Time: 10-20 min

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

WARNING: This is a preview of Keep. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.


tl;dr: Drafting and Tableau building. Dead simple and fast--a powerful combination.

Getting to the Game: Separate out the character cards, and deal each person three of them. Everyone chooses one that starts out face-down in their "cloister." Take everyone's unchosen characters, the undealt characters, and shuffle them back in with all the items. Deal everyone 8 cards from this deck--everyone will play 1 card a round, and then pass their hand to the left, so you'll get to see all the cards in the game at least once. You're now ready to claw your way out of the muck into the muckedy-muck.

The goal of Keep is to accumulate enough wealth through trade, swindle, positioning, and outright theft to propel yourself into the castle's Keep, and therefore ensure a life of...well...less outright awfulness. At the end of 8 rounds (or so), whoever's managed to build themselves enough engine to give them the most gold wins.

Playing the Game: There are several actions available to you on your turn, but they all boil down to more or less being able to put a card either from your hand or from the collection in the middle (the Commons) into your cloister with the intent of it contributing gold. Every card is worth the gold listed on it, but the really good play is to get yourself a character who contributes gold based on the cards in your cloister and ramp into full power.

You can also pull cards from the Commons into your Cloister, and this is where things get interactive--characters pulled this way have the ability to outright steal cards from your opponent, and with a later play of a character from your hand, you can completely flip the battle in your favor. If you realize fast enough that your opponent is on the Ironworks train, you can steal an Ironworks from their cloister, and then later on drop a Covetous Smith face down from someone else's hand (assuming they don't catch on first) that will draft back to you, and now you're on their train. This is all going to depend on whether or not the Commons is kind, however. As most often, exactly when you're ready to make a big move with the cards just passed to you, it's going to look like this: 

Still, there's plenty here to actually like. Building up a tableau is always a tasty endeavor, and when savvy players can plan out what they're going to do based on what cards are going to wheel (drafting term meaning which cards passed will end up coming back to the player who passed them), well then you've got some serious strategy brewing. Being able to respond tactically is also important, because while some players can drop face down cards, most of the time you're going to be able to see what cards get played from which hands, and being able to adapt quickly will make the difference between winning and, well...not, I suppose.

Artwork and Components: Oliver Howe's artwork really sings in this game, and as there isn't much else to look at in this game--no board or other components apart from the coins which serve as victory points, that's a very good thing. His textured-watercolor-cutout feel brings a nice table presence to this game that is both engaging and tone-setting.


The chipboard tokens are serviceable--the Kickstarter campaign lists them at 2mm. Cards have a good feel to them, and those of you who are anti-sleeving your cards (first of all, SHAME) should feel fine about using these. My prototype copy didn't have any bonus action tokens or the Royal Decree token, so I can't guarantee anything on that one.

The Good: Drafting is always fun, and it works well here. Characters contributing massive points, but not on their own, is a cool way to make sure each drafter stays diverse. Art is stylized and clear.

The Bad: Components in my copy feel a bit light for most tastes. Those looking for a meatier experience might be disappointed.

Score: Overall, Keep does exactly what it says it's going to. It's a filler game that sates the palate looking for quick drafting and very light tableau building. Fans of Clowdus' work are not going to be sad about this reprint. It's a very solid contribution to the overall collection. I'm giving Keep a score of Open the Portcullis.

Check out Keep on:


On KICKSTARTER now! Campaign ends February 7, 2019.

Nicholas Leeman - Reviewer

Nicholas has been a board game evangelist for over 10 years now, converting friends and family alike to the hobby. He's also a trained actor and works summers as one of the PA announcers for the St. Paul Saints. He lives in Minneapolis, MN with his board gaming wife and son.

See Nicholas's reviews HERE.
Keep Kickstarter Preview Keep Kickstarter Preview Reviewed by The Madjai on February 04, 2019 Rating: 5

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