Well, we are finally ready to Critically Review Locke and Key! I know you have waited patiently from our Facebook Poll to now to get this out there, and I thank you for it. I’d also like to thank Matt Hyra for providing an autographed copy of the game, and at the end of our video, you’ll get information on how you can win this copy of Locke and Key!
It's not often that you can just get a game autographed by the designer, so this is a special one... but is the game good? Is it worth entering this contest and securing such a coveted prize? Read on dear fanboy... if you dare...
Locke and Key is a card game, based on the comic books , written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez and published by IDW. Now, in the essence of full disclosure, I have not read these comics, as I tend to only keep up with Batman personally, primarily due to time, but I have heard these are excellent and worth checking out! Fans of the comics will enjoy not only the theme of Locke and Key, but the fact that Gabriel Rodriguez’s artwork pops right off the pages and onto the cards!
Locke and Key, the game, is published by Cryptozoic at first glance after unboxing it, is very slick looking. The dark colors provide an overtone for the challenges the Locke family will face! Additionally, there is enough room to sleeve your cards and store them in the box as is, however, I highly suggest using only clear back sleeves, due to the need to see the backs of the different types of cards during gameplay. You can choose to sleeve them with specific backs, but you’ll have to ensure the Key Deck has it’s own artwork.
The game itself is for three to six players and is designed to move quickly, in about thirty minutes in a three player game and from forty five to sixty minutes in a 6 player game. Suggested ages are fifteen and up and we recommend the same. The theme of Locke and Key being the Locke family having moved into a house that provides them continuous supernatural challenges is really more mature of a game so little ones need not apply.
In terms of artwork, again, Gabriel’s art just comes right off the pages of the comics, and brings a unique style to the game. An interesting design note is the strength cards, which are the primary cards you’ll be playing with, really don’t have names on them. Rather, they have their colors, strength values, and at times, they’ll have abilities with instructions on how to manage them. Names though? Nope, nada, zilch. This makes it interesting, as several of the pictures really leave room to either remember the moments from the comics, or allow those unfamiliar with comics to get more ”feel” or “tone” from the cards, interpreting the artwork and scenes depicted.
Locke and Key plays in a very familiar fashion to a trick taking game, but there in stops the similarities. At first, I did get the feeling this was nothing more than a trick taking game, but after much more play and much more fun, it really only gives you that feeling at the start. There are three decks, the Strength Deck, the Key Deck, and the Challenge Deck.
To All three decks are shuffled, with a special rule for the Challenge Deck and the Game Over card seeing the Game Over card shuffled into the bottom 6 cards of the Challenge Deck, to randomly have the end of the game determined.
First, each player is dealt four Strength Cards, which are White, Blue, or Black, which also match the same colors of the Challenges in the Challenge Deck. Next, a Challenge is turned face up. Each Challenge will have a Difficulty value, with the goal being that the collective group of players will, in a round, play enough Strength Cards of the matching color, to hit or exceed the Challenge’s difficulty rating.
Each turn you will have three options:
Play: Play up to 3 Strength Cards, facedown.
Pass: Draw a Strength Card from the top of the deck and end your turn.
Search for a Key: Discard any two Strength Cards from your hand and draw a Key form the Key Deck
After each player has had a turn, the strength cards played face down are then turned face up at the same time, and the results, along with any “face up” triggers from those Strength Cards are resolved. Players can also play Key Cards to augment their plays, or affect their opponent’s.
The real fun of Locke and Key though shines in bluffing! Yes, bluffing! See, while it’s my turn and I play 3 facedown cards while we are attempting to defeat a Black Challenge, its unknown to the other players if I have played matching color Strength Cards, or if I’m bluffing! When you resolve Challenges, the person who has attributed the highest Strength “Scores” the Challenge and gets points equal to the difficulty, with normally a second place reward being available as well… however, with all cards being placed face down during turns, until you actually move to resolve it, no one knows if someone is bluffing a Challenge with their face down cards, or trying to win it and score up the points!
While obviously winning is good, there are many abilities on the cards in play that will allow you to get more Keys, gain more Strength, and set you up for greater chances to Score Challenges later in the game as well, so just because someone drops a bunch of cards, doesn’t mean they are providing a ton of Strength!
As you can imagine, the more players, the more fun! With less players, Challenges can be, well, challenging, but with more players, you are almost always assured of defeating a Challenge, but with the uncertainty of who is going to Score it, or the second place victory, making the outcomes and Challenge resolutions a complete blast!
Keys meanwhile will catch your eye every time! They are all foil, all beautiful, and all massively impacting to the game! Whether you are using keys to change the color of your cards, to discard your hand and reload, or unlock the secrets that opponents have by stealing their Strength cards, these wonderful additions will help you overcome the Challenges and turn the tides during the gameplay. So much, they can easily turn a last place player into first place in a single round!
Of final note, this is a very social game! You’ll be talking, shouting, and crying out loud with all the bluffing, fun, and creepy things happening to the Locke family. It’s also one that feels to beg for an expansion with more cards. While the gameplay is very smooth and feels very tight, I for one was left wanting even more Challenges and even more variations in the Strength Cards.
Whether it is beautiful artwork, the comic book tie in, or well-designed gameplay that is easy to pick up and hard to put down, Locke and Key delivers on several fronts! This isn’t a deeply strategic game, but more one that can be played all night as a party game, or in between deeper games. However you use it though, you are sure to unlock a special night of gaming when you and your friends make their way to Lovecraft and help the Locke family survive!
Normally we put a score form 1 to 10 here, but starting with this Critical Review, we're implementing a new system for this, and moving forward. I'll be giving games one of three ratings, a Crit, a Hit, or a Miss. A Crit is a great game, one that I highly recommend getting a copy of. A Hit is a good game, that's enjoyable, but may lose some replay value or just not have appeal. A Miss will be a game I don't recommend.
So what does Locke and Key get?
Locke and Key Critical Score: CRIT
With a great style, fun replay value, and a great licensed tie in, Locke and Key is a game that provides more than enough value for the investment, even for those not a fan of, or familiar with, the comics. I highly recommend grabbing this one... assuming of course you don't win it!
Oh... and how do you win the autographed copy of the game you may be asking? Simple, watch the video, and at the end, there are instructions on what to do! Best of luck, we hope you can overcome the Challenge and Score the autographed copy for yourself!