Advanced Key Quest Tactics: Becoming a Homebody
Hello, and welcome to yet another Key Quest guide! So, you say you’ve read all the previous articles on Key Quest, you’ve played for months, you have 300 gold keys, and you know more about playing the game than the developers themselves? Well, have I got the guide for you!
That’s right; this guide is for all the seasoned Key Questers out there. The experts who think they know the game better than the feepits know Terror Mountain. If that isn’t you, then you may want to go to the basic guides or play the game for a bit before settling down to read this particular piece. I assure you, this guide will be a lot more useful once you have a basic grasp of the rules and a good handle on the layout of the board. Now, let’s get down to business.
Lesson number one: Your starting home matters. Lesson number two: Faerieland is often not the best starting home. Surprised? Read more.
First of all, consider the fact that your starting home is not simply the place where you begin playing the game. Your starting home is where you will return every time an opponent puts you in a catapult, Sophie the Swamp Witch gets bored, or King Skarl has a temper tantrum (and we all know how often that happens). This can lead to four or five trips back to your starting home in a good game. I personally count on returning there at least once. Keep in mind, however, that the difference between me, a Key Quest Homebody, and the average player, is that I am invariably pleased to find myself back home. Heck, I often throw myself in the catapult just for the fun of it!
A starting home can provide you with keys when your luck is down, random blessings, and much-needed power-ups. Alternately, it can provide you with hexes, small amounts of neopoints, and a long trek to the part of the board where you would actually like to be. My goal is to make all of these nuances obvious, and to make sure you cackle with glee the next time your opponent maliciously shoves you into that catapult.
The first step to choosing a good starting home is simple: Know Your Token. If you only have the starter token, you should visit your Collector’s Case, hit the Starter tab in the Neopets section, and then click on your token to pull up its detailed information. Just below the identifying name of the token (for example: Red Meerca) you will find its alignment. This is the information you’re looking for. Make a note of it. If you have purchased or won tokens on the site, you should also look up their alignments and remember them before using those tokens in a game.
As you may know, landing on your own alignment square (there is one of each type on the game board) grants you a blessing and power-up. Even better, that power-up is one you select from three randomly chosen cards. In other words, landing on your own alignment square is better than winning a mini-game. On the other hand, landing on an alignment square that is not your own will hex you. Sometimes even this can be beneficial, but they are intended to harm you. You may be sent home, have a power-up destroyed, be turned around, attract the Pant Devil, or have a power-up switched for another, random power-up. In other words, you probably don’t want to land on alignment squares that aren’t your own, you definitely want to land on your own alignment squares, and you certainly want to know your alignment so that you can do both of these things deliberately!
Now, you may be wondering, what does all this talk of alignments have to do with starting homes? Simple: Your starting home’s immediate vicinity is where you are likely to spend the most time on the board, whether you like it or not. You want it to be stacked in your favor, alignment-wise. At the very least, removing the ability to be hexed two squares from your doorstep is a definite benefit.
Now that we’ve covered the benefits of choosing the home closest to your token’s alignment, here’s the quick rundown of the details: The Haunted Woods is best for darkness and air alignments, Faerieland is best for water alignments, the Neohome is best for Earth alignments, and the Lost Desert home is best for light-aligned tokens. The fire square is not within a dice roll of any neohome, being right next to the end-game door, making fire tokens equally playable from any starting home.
Of course, alignments are not the only consideration in choosing a starting home. After all, you may not even gain the dice rolls necessary to take advantage of their fortuitous placement. In that case, if your starting home doesn’t have any other perks, you’ve wasted your time.
Generally speaking, when analyzing the pros and cons of any particular starting home, I consider what lies within six spaces of the home square. This brings to light what might happen within one turn of being sent back home (the time when you need help the most). That is how I recommended certain homes for certain alignments, and how I will analyze the homes for other benefits as I run through them. There is an exception to the six-space rule, however: As your opponents are most likely to catapult you home after you’ve collected all of your keys and are approaching the game-ending door, it is vital to look at how many paces away from that same door your starting home happens to be.
This fault is, in my opinion, the downfall of starting at Faerieland. The shortest path to end the game from that door is 13 paces. This means that if your opponent catapults you back home right before the end-game and you started at Faerieland, you’re going to have to take at least three more turns to finish things. This is more than enough time in which to lose the game. In addition, unless you are aligned with water you are likely to gain little from the area outside of a silver key which, if you started in Faerieland, you probably already have. There are a scanty two options to gain power-ups on your first dice roll (on a 4 or 5). If you’re good at mini-games, things look a little brighter from this position: there are three mini-game squares you may be fortunate enough to land on right out of this house (on rolls of 2 or 6). Do remember, however, that there is only a 50% chance of a mini-game granting a power-up, and if this is the end-game catapult scenario you probably don’t need more keys. On any other roll of the dice you’re gaining neopoints or gambling on the character square – neither of which is terribly likely to help you win the game if you were booted back home.
The ordinary argument for Faerieland is that it allows you to gain several keys quickly and easily. The silver key being on the home’s most obvious path to the rest of the board is a large factor in this. However, the liability of the house when catapulted, particularly with the increased frequency of that event in recent versions of the game, makes the house seem, to me, a poor choice for any non-water token.
The Haunted Woods is actually farther from the final door, clocking in at 14 paces for its shortest path, but its close proximity to two different alignment squares recommends it a little more highly. In other respects, it is very similar to Faerieland. It has two power-up squares within easy reach (on rolls of 3 and 4 this time), and rolls of 4 or 5 can grant you a mini-game. In the end, it’s a similarly long haul to that we saw in Faerieland, and is only really redeemed if you happen to play a darkness or air aligned token. Much like Faerieland, it has the benefit of placing you within easy reach of a hard-to-reach key at the beginning of the game (yellow this time), but I don’t find the early advantage to be of terrible benefit here, either. Indeed, an early lead often does nothing but encourage key grabbers and rainbow fountain water to be used against you. It’s like plastering a target to your skull and training your opponent at Bullseye: Not a good idea.
Next up for examination is the Neohome. The first thing one should notice here is that it’s a mere 9 spaces from the end-door, making it within easy reach of two rolls (this is also how far the house is from the treasure chest, if you’re in it for the neopoints). There’s only one chance to activate a mini game within one roll of this house (on a 2), and there are the standard two power-up squares (3 and 6), discounting, of course, the earth alignment square. This house is decent towards the end-game for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that if you have all of your keys, and you are close to the door (and here you are), you have no reason to risk helping your opponent by launching a mini-game. It can also grant early-game advantages in the shape of the relatively hard-to-get blue key and its proximity to the treasure chest. That is, of course, if my earlier warnings haven’t deterred you from picking up keys as quickly as possible.
Finally we come to my favorite house: the Lost Desert. There are more branches in the Lost Desert home’s path than any other house on the board, which makes the home capable of helping you at just about any point in the game, no matter how bad your dice rolls may be. Three different rolls can start a mini-game (2, 4 and 5), and three others can grant you a power-up (4, 5, and 6), the light alignment square can be activated on a 2, the treasure chest can be opened on a 6 (particularly fun if you were booted home with virtudice in your pocket, but make sure you have keys first!), and two keys are within rolling distance. If all of those weren’t enough to recommend the house, it is a mere eight squares away from the end game door. (See the portal? Use it.)
Now, your starting home matters a lot less if power-ups aren’t important to you. If your main method of play is dominating in mini-games and rolling your way around the board collecting the keys you don’t gain in that manner, then you probably truly are best beginning in Faerieland. It has a very direct, simple path that puts a lot of keys in your way very quickly and easily. The other homes’ paths require more use of power-ups to be utilized to their full advantage.
However, if you can’t count on mini-games, then choosing the right starting home for your token and your tactical preferences can mean the difference between winning and losing the game.
Play as you will. And please, if you see me in the waiting room, leave the good homes for me. Thank you and good night!