Masterful Power-up Play: A Guide to Key Quest Gold
Key Quest is an amazing, rich game that combines elements of strategy, arcade-style games, and random chance. Some people just play it to kill time, have fun, whatever, and they’re not overly concerned with what color keys they end up with. I respect that. Then there are the other players too – the kind who clench their teeth every time they get anything less than a gold key, the kind who play their absolute hardest at every single minigame, the kind who are always looking for another way to get just a little bit better. I happen to be one of those. But no matter what your approach to Key Quest is, you’ll find something in my guide to help you add a little something extra to your next game.
No single 50,000 word guide can encompass all there is to say about Key Quest, so I’ll begin with a study of power-ups here and hope I get published again to tell you about the rest. Power-ups either help or hinder a player, and you should always be looking to help yourself or hinder your opponent and remain aware of exactly what power-ups your opponents have. Which leads me to the two Golden Rules. They’re both abbreviated ABA, to make it easy to remember: Always Be Attacking and Always Be Aware.
Always Be Attacking: The single biggest mistake I see in my opponents is holding onto power-ups instead of using them. There is never a bad time to play a Giant Lint Ball, Pile Of Dung, or Boots of Flight. Every turn that you stop your opponent puts you that much more ahead. Any turn that you can move twice as many squares as your opponent puts you that much more ahead. I see people hold onto their power-ups for no reason, letting them rot until they get burned up by Ember, switched around by Tornado Rings, stolen by Sticky Hands, until it’s too late in the game for them to be useful, or until they trade it away unused for another power-up because they can only hold three. Don’t let yourself be one of those players. Every single turn, you should be asking yourself three questions – What can I play to slow down or stop my opponent? What can I play that will make my turn more productive? How can I get rid of my opponent’s power-ups? Don’t let the other guy dance around the board all day with a Key Grabber in his back pocket. You’re likely to forget about it or wait too long and end up pulling a bronze because he used it and danced out the door with your key. Use a Key Grabber of your own on him and make him use his. Forcing your opponents to play power-ups will keep things much easier to manage and is an important step on your road to victory.
Always Be Aware: So you have a Catapult, but can’t remember what square your opponent started on? Wasted a Rainbow Fountain Water by playing it on someone who was hexed by the Pant Devil? Either one of these situations could change the momentum of a game. Sometimes there are real-life distractions that you can’t do anything about, and you just have to deal with the consequences. But sometimes you’re just talking, looking at the TV, or checking your email during your opponent’s turn and you miss something important and you could have avoided that. There’s a lot going on in a Key Quest game and it takes a lot of concentration to keep track of it all. What’s your opponent’s home square? What are their alignment squares? What power-ups do they have? What effects are currently in play? I’ve won many games where someone neomailed me afterwards and said ‘Darn, I forgot you had that Mortog!’. Paying attention to details is often the difference between a silver and a gold key.
Okay, now that you have the two Golden Rules committed to memory, let’s get to the power-ups themselves!
Effect – Starts a Rock, Paper, Scissors duel with an opponent of your choice. The winner gets to choose either a key or one of three power-ups.
When to play it - There are only two times that you should ever play this power-up. One is when your opponent is under the effect of a Giant Lint Ball or Pant Devil, because they won’t receive an item even if they win. So in this case you have nothing to lose. The other is when you are losing a game badly and it seems there is no other way of turning it around. In this case, you want to choose your opponent carefully. If you’re in a 3-player game and one person is dominating while the other one is doing as badly as you are, you should probably choose the other person who is losing. That way no matter which one of you wins, hopefully one of you will get something to help stop the leader.
When not to play it – Most of the time. Taking a chance on handing your opponent a key or a power-up is a really bad idea. If you’re not that serious about the game and you just like to duel for fun, feel free. But if you want to give yourself the best chance at winning a gold key, use this only as directed above and trade it away any chance you get.
Boots of Flight
Effect – Roll two dice instead of one.
When to play it – Almost any time. The only time I might not play this immediately is if I had a Loaded Gummy Die/Virtudice and needed to use them right away or if I was one square from the Treasure Chest or my token’s alignment square and I wanted to try and roll to land on it. Which would mean the game would have to be going well enough for me that I didn’t have to worry about what I rolled that turn. If you’re 2 or more squares from something you want to land on, use the Boots anyway. It’s not impossible – not even uncommon – to roll two 1s when you use these.
When not to play it – When you’ve been hexed with Slow Down or a Grimtooth event is in play. You don’t want to roll two 3-sided dice, that’s a waste of a good power-up. Unless you’re four squares from the exit and about to win.
What to do if your opponent has one – Misdirected Compass, Pile of Dung, and Giant Lint Ball are all great against this.
Effect – Make an opponent lose his next turn.
When to play it – Any time, immediately. Unless you have another power-up that is more important to play first, there is no reason not to use this right away.
When not to play it – See above
What to do if your opponent has one – Steal or change if possible. If you’re behind in the game, try to lay low and not make yourself a target. If you’re about even or ahead and know you’re going to be a target anyway, instigate your opponent into playing it on you just to get it out of the way, over and done with.
Effect – Send a player back to their home square
When to play it – When sending yourself back to your own home square is necessary or when sending an opponent back to their home square slows them down a lot. When playing this forces your opponent to use a Pocket Portal or Mortog. It will depend on the situation and there is no set rule for this power-up. Just watch for opportunities as they arise, but keep in mind it’s probably always better to use this than to discard it unused.
When not to play it – When sending your opponent back to their home square helps them by putting them next to a key they need or when your opponent has a Transporter Helmet and their home square is far away from where you need to be.
What to do if your opponent has one – Try to keep a Pocket Portal, Mortog, or Transporter Helmet on hand to counteract it.
Effect – Lets you trade one of your keys for an opponent’s key.
When to play it – When you have more than one of the same key. Example: You have 2 blue keys but no white and your opponent has a blue key and a white key. You trade a blue key for his white key. When you need to slow down an opponent. Example: Your opponent has 1 of every key and is headed to the exit. You trade him your green key for his white, giving him 2 green keys and 0 white. Before you pick up a double of a key. Example: You already have a green key but are two squares away from getting a second green key. You can trade away the one you have, then roll and replace it.
When not to play it – This does not always have to be played right away, although you can almost always find a good chance to play it before you have to discard it. Do not play it when either you or your opponent is under the effect of a GLB or Pant Devil, because it doesn’t work if a player cannot pick up keys that turn – the power-up will still get used up, though. An exception to this rule is if your opponent has a RSH. You don’t want them to have it, so go ahead and ‘burn’ the power-up on your turn.
What to do if your opponent has one – Steal or change if possible. Try to gather multiples of the keys you have. Keep a Distraction Potion, RFW, or Key Grabber on hand to counteract this. Normally I recommend playing power-ups immediately, but this one and Rainbow Fountain Water should be guarded against with a similar power-up.
Giant Lint Ball (GLB)
Effect - Opponent cannot pick up keys or power-ups during their next turn.
When to play it - Almost any time. There is nowhere on any board that your opponent is more than six squares from either a key or a power-up, and you don’t want them to have either of those. Sometimes one Pile of Dung can change the course of an entire game, so keep them from getting it. This also keeps your opponent from being able to play stealing power-ups and will give you an extra turn to try and do something about them. For example: My opponent gets a Super Key Grabber on his turn. I play Giant Lint Ball on him at the start of my turn, roll, and pick up a Rainbow Sticky Hand. He won’t be able to use the SKG and it will belong to me on my next move.
When not to play it - The only times that this should not be played right away is when someone is already under a similar effect, when it’s more important to play another power-up first (someone is two squares from the exit with all five keys and you have a Key Grabber), OR when one player is about to win and someone else has a Key Grabber. In this case you just can’t play it on the person with the Key Grabber because you want them to be able to use it. It’s a gamble relying on another player to do the right thing, but sometimes in desperate situations you just have to.
Giant Rock Mote (4-player games only)
Effect – Rolls 15 squares and makes any player it hits lose their next turn.
When to play it – For maximum advantage, when it is going to hit 2 or more players. But generally speaking, any time it can hit even one player is a good time to use it.
When not to play it – When all players are out of its range.
What to do if your opponent has one – Stay away from them if possible; if not, just take your lump and get it over with.
Effect - Steal one of your opponent’s keys
When to play it - Any time. If you get one early in the game, play it right away and get yourself off to a better start. It might also throw your opponent off their game, especially if they’re not used to playing people who use power-ups right away. If you get one later in the game, you obviously want to steal either a key that you need or a key that an opponent does not have more than one of. If an opponent has a Sticky Hand or Tornado Ring, use it simply to keep it from being being wasted or stolen.
When not to play it - Only if your opponent is very close to getting a key you need more than the ones they already have. Example: You need the blue and green keys. Your opponent has neither but is two squares away from getting a blue key, so you wait a turn. You should also be very conscious of Spare Keyrings when using this. Do not steal keys from one person just to help out another if you can avoid it.
What to do if your opponent has one - Counteract with Tornado Ring, Rainbow Sticky Hand, Giant Lint Ball, or a Key Grabber of your own. If you don’t have a useful power-up, try to pick up the same keys as your opponent to reduce your chances of being a target.
Loaded Gummy Die
Effect – Allows you to choose the number of your next roll, from 1 to 6.
When to use it – Right away if you’re within 6 squares of the Treasure Chest, your alignment square, or the last key you need. If you have all five keys and are within 6 squares of the exit. If you’re more than 6 squares from anything useful to you. If you’re headed down a path with no turns and there’s an opposing alignment square within the next 6 squares. When an opponent has a Rainbow Sticky Hand. When the Grimtooth event is in effect, as this will allow you to roll over a 3.
When not to use it – If you’ll be within 6 squares of the Treasure Chest or alignment square next turn. When the King Roo event is in effect and neither the Treasure Chest nor your alignment square is within 6 squares of you.
What to do if your opponent has one – Steal it if possible. Try to keep them from the Treasure Chest & alignment square with all possible means.
Effect – Reverses a player’s direction
When to use it – On yourself when you’re headed down a long path that is useless to you. Possibly – depending on the situation - on yourself to get an opportunity to double dip on the Treasure Chest or your alignment square. On other players at almost any time to force them to backtrack or use up their power-ups.
When not to use it – If another player has a Transporter Helmet and would dump you somewhere you don’t want to be. If someone else has one and you’re close to winning. Early in the game it’s alright to be the first one to use it and make them use theirs. At the end when you’re nearing the exit though, you don’t want to be the first person to use it – you’re keeping yours to counteract theirs.
What to do if your opponent has one – Don’t let them sit on it too long; try to make them play it. Keep a Pocket Portal/Mortog/Transporter Helmet to counteract.
Effect – Moves you one square ahead of the opponent you choose, in the same direction they are going.
When to use it – When you’re headed in an unfavorable direction. It’s great to use this when an opponent is just two squares from a key, as this puts you directly in front of the key. If you have all five keys and someone is directly in front of the exit, you can use the Mortog to jump to the end and win without even having to roll that turn.
When not to use it – When an opponent is only one square away from a key. Using the Mortog and landing directly on a key does not give you the key.
Pile of Dung
Effect – Make a square impassable for one round.
When to use it – Any time, immediately. It can either completely stop an opponent for one turn, force them to use a movement power-up like Pocket Portal, or send them down the wrong pathway. All of these are excellent.
When not to use it – Never.
What to do if your opponent has one – Play as normal, try to keep a Pocket Portal/Mortog/Transporter Helmet on hand to counter it. If it is played on you, remember that almost any turn that you can move is better than one where you sit there and do nothing.
Non-standard uses - Sometimes instead of playing it directly in front of your opponent it is much better to block off one route to them, forcing them to go in the wrong direction. Example: Your opponent is on the Treasure Chest, facing the exit, and has all five keys. If you play the Pile of Dung on the square directly in front of him, he will not be able to move that turn but will be able to proceed to the exit the next turn after it disappears. If you play it on the exit and he rolls higher than 1, he has to move past the exit and go all the way around the board again
Sometimes instead of playing it on the square in front of your opponent it is better to give them a few squares to move. Example: PlayerX has a Light-aligned token but is two squares away from the Dark alignment square. I place the dung just on the other side of the Dark square, leaving a chance that she will roll a 2 and get hexed.
If you are under the effect of a Giant Lint Ball or the Pant Devil and don’t want to pass right through your key or alignment square, play this on yourself. While it is cheating to skip your turn to avoid the effects of a power-up, it is proper play to use one power-up to counteract another. Block yourself with the Pile of Dung, and continue on as normal the very next turn.
Playing this on a Portal Square means that the Portal it connects to cannot be used that turn. So if you know someone needs to hop through a particular Portal, block it at the other end and make them go a longer route instead.
Effect – Immediately starts a random mini-game.
When to use it – When you’re clearly superior to your opponents at mini-games or when they are under the effect of a GLB or Pant Devil and can’t win anything anyway.
When not to use it – When your opponent is clearly superior to you at mini-games or when you are under the effect of a GLB or Pant Devil. Although I am not above using mini-game victories to win a gold key, if you’re winning every mini-game and you’re securely in the lead and don’t need another key or power-up at the time, I would recommend not using this. It’s not ever against the rules to play it, but if there’s no reason to beat someone for the 12th time at a mini-game then it’s nice to give them a break.
Effect – Transports you to a portal of your choice.
When to use it – Depends on the situation. There are lots of good reasons to use it and it will all depend on the game you’re playing.
When not to use it – Unbelievably, I see this too often – someone needs one key, but instead of going to get it they Pocket Portal next to the Treasure Chest and hope really hard that they land on it. N.O. I mean, there’s a 1 in 6 chance that this will work... but there’s a 5 in 6 chance that it won’t. Those are horrible odds.
Rainbow Fountain Water (RFW)
Effect – Change the color of any key of yours or your opponents
When to use it – It’s usually a good idea to play this immediately and change around your opponent's keys. It can slow them down a lot and can be frustrating, throwing them off their game. I once won a gold after giving an opponent 12 white keys! You can use it to change your own keys around if you have doubles or if the keys have been moved around because of the Dark Faerie Sisters event.
When not to use it – When an opponent has a RFW or Distraction Potion of their own and you’re winning. In these cases, you don’t want to be the one to go first. And of course, when GLB or Pant Devil is active.
Rainbow Sticky Hand (RSH)
Effect – Steal one of your opponent’s power-ups
When to play it - Most of the time this should be played immediately, but not always. Sometimes this will be played to take a very good power-up away from your opponents (Key Grabber), sometimes it will be used to take a power-up that you just happen to need at the time, and sometimes it should be used just to deny your opponents use of any extras. If I get this on my first turn and my opponent gets a Virtudice, it’s going to be MY Virtudice on the second turn.
When not to play it - You’ll never want to take Battle Dice. Only take Pocket Mini-Games if your opponent is stomping you at every single one. Only take Catapults if it is a close game nearing the end and you don’t want to get sent home as you approach the exit or if someone else is close to winning and has one and you have no other way of stopping them. Only take Pocket Portals/Mortogs if you don’t already have one or if your opponent is about to win by using one.
What to do if your opponent has one – If you have a Sticky Hand, take theirs. Otherwise, the only way your game plan should change is when you’re receiving power-ups as a reward for winning a minigame or the Jerdana event. Pick useful ones that aren’t usually stolen like Misdirected Compass, Pile of Dung, Tornado Ring, and wait for your big chance to get rid of their RSH. As an exception to this rule though, if you have a chance to land on your alignment square I recommend doing it. Yes, you might get a Super Key Grabber or Super Boots of Flight and they might take it next turn, but you might also get an Aura Charm and leave them helpless. It happens all the time and it’s worth the risk.
Effect – Take all the extra keys from one player.
When to use it – This one depends a lot on the situation at the time, but in general it’s always better for you to have the extra keys than for your opponent to have them. This can be very fierce when used in combination with Distraction Potions and RFW. This is one of the most overlooked and/or misunderstood power-ups and mastering its use can lead to a lot of victories.
When not to use it – There’s never a bad time to use it.
What to do if your opponent has one – Pay extra sharp attention to everyone’s key count and think carefully before picking up/changing/stealing keys.
Swap Keyring (4-player games only)
Effect – Trade all your keys for all of an opponent’s keys
When to play it – Obviously, if you’re behind or if it keeps someone else from winning.
When not to play it – Obviously, if you’re leading the game.
What to do if your opponent has one – This can be a game-breaking power-up and is one of the reasons I don’t play 4-player games. You should do everything possible to get rid of this power-up. If you can’t stop someone from using it, just start thinking a move ahead and planning for what happens after the keyrings are swapped.
Effect – Replaces all of a player’s power-ups with random power-ups (It can give the exact same power-up back. I’ve changed someone’s RSH/RFW into an RFW/RSH.)
When to play it – On yourself when you have this and two very bad power-ups. On someone else when they have one, two, or three very dangerous power-ups.
When not to play it – On yourself when the Tornado Ring is all you have. It will disappear and you’ll get nothing. On anyone who is under the effect of a GLB/Pant Devil – they can’t get new power-ups, so it will have no effect and will disappear. Do not play it on people with three power-ups unless it is absolutely necessary. The more power-ups they have, the more chance there is that they’ll still end up with something good afterwards.
What to do if your opponent has one – This is one of my primary targets for stealing. If you can’t steal it, just play as normal and hope for the best.
Effect – Swap positions on the board with an opponent.
When to play it – When you’re going in a bad direction for whatever reason. When you’re blocked by a Pile of Dung. When you’re trying to keep your opponent away from keys or winning.
When not to play it – When it’s not to your advantage to jump around the board. When your opponent has a Transporter Helmet also and is on a square where you don’t want to be.
Effect – Automatically roll a 6 next turn.
When to play it – Almost any time.
When not to play it – When a 6 puts you on a bad square. When the King Roo event is in effect and you don’t especially need a 6. When the Grimtooth Event is in effect and you’re within 3 squares of the Treasure Chest or your alignment square (because you have double the normal chance of landing on it).
Super Boots of Flight
Effect – Roll three dice instead of one,
When to play it – Almost any time. Who wouldn’t rather have a shot at moving 18 squares instead of 6? Don’t hold onto these just for the slim hope that the King Roo event will occur. It’s nice when it happens, but it’s not something you sit around waiting for.
When not to play it – When you’re hexed with Slow Down or the Grimtooth event is in effect. You REALLY don’t want to roll three 3-sided dice. Also, if you have Loaded Gummy Die/Virtudice and you need to use them first you can hold off on this for a turn.
Effect – Send up to two players back to their home square
When to play it – Any time you would play a regular Catapult. Don’t hold onto this waiting for an ideal time to send two people home together, as that may never happen. You do not have to send two people back to their home square; you can send one person home and then click on the X in the lower right corner to skip the second choice.
When not to play it – Again, any time you wouldn’t play a regular Catapult.
Super Key Grabber
Effect – Steal up to two keys from one opponent
When to play it – Immediately, at any time. This is not a power-up you want to waste. If your opponent only has two keys and they’re the same as yours, take them. If they only have one key, take it. Yes, it’s wonderful when you can steal two keys you don’t already have and tra-la-la out the exit – and if you can do that, great – but taking any two keys from an opponent will slow them down greatly and put you far in the lead.
When not to play it – The only imaginable instance when I would suggest not to play this right away is if an opponent had a Spare Keyring and you’d help them out greatly by stealing duplicate keys.
What to do if your opponent has one – Focus almost exclusively on that player and this power-up until it is either used or neutralized, because in a close game this can turn your gold into a bronze or even lead key very easily.
Super Pile of Dung
Effect – Make two squares impassible for one round
When to play it – Any time. In a 3 or 4-player game, the ability to stop 2 players from moving during their turn is golden. This also gives you greater ability to block off side routes and force players in the direction you want them to go instead of where they want to go.
When not to play it – Never.
And with that, this guide comes to a close. I’m glad to have had the chance to share what I’ve learned with you. It takes a lot of practice to master the proper use of power-ups, so get out there and start putting your knowledge to use! I’ve played over 1100 games myself and this didn’t all occur to me overnight. Best of luck to you, Key Questers!