ROTDOG Review: Locke and Key



Andy sold this to me as a simple game, which was easy to learn and would kill a little while. He was talking about, of course, Locke and Key. He was right in nearly every regard. But I came away feeling a bit unenthused with the whole thing.

Locke and Key is, at its heart, a competitive team based card game. The general crux will involve the players around the table using cards in their hand to beat the strength of a challenge card laid on the table from a big pile. Every card has a colour and a number. Every challenge also has a colour and a number. Each player secretly pledged cards with the overall objective of, upon revealing them, having a higher combined total on the cards than the total on the challenge card. To make it that little bit harder, only cards with a corresponding colour to the challenge, count their strength.

No point wasting a white card if the challenge is a blue card, for example.

The winner, ie, the person who contributed the most to the successful challenge will retain the challenge card and “scores” the printed strength of that card. The second place person will receive the printed award for second place.

There are a number of cards that players can draw that have various conditions on them, such as laying 3 cards with ascending values in one challenge will activate “X”, while only laying one card but still beating the challenge will allow you to do “Y”.

Certain other conditions allow you to draw the Key cards, all of which will modify certain behaviour or conditions around the table.

Play continues in this manner until the Game Over card is revealed from the challenge pile. Then everyone totals up their amounts and the winner is declared.

This game was easy to pick up, went along quite smoothly and was done and dusted within half an hour, and that was a game for 6. There is a degree of tactics needed, although it does become fairly obvious after a while if someone is running away with things.

However, I can’t say this game has blown me away. I am going to have to assume that Locke and Key is part of a larger fiction because I have absolutely no idea what is meant to be doing on with the card art. It is absolutely erratic, sometimes dealing with evil looking spectral women, to teenage bullies and one card oddly marked as “depression”.

A cursory glance through the rule book told me this game represented the various challenges of the Locke family – so to a degree that does make sense I suppose, but I found the whole thing a bit too jarring to get into properly. I ended up pretty much focusing on colour and number, rather than the art work, which seems a shame really.

If there is a bigger picture I am missing then let me know in the comments section, because I ended up feeling pretty baffled by the design choices on display.

Also, after fix or sounds round of this, it was pretty easy to determine who the winner was going to be and I couldnt see a particularly interesting end game in sight – like the one you find in Lords of Waterdeep, where the person who think is in the lead may well end up bottom of the pile after certain end game conditions reveal themselves. It sucked the atmosphere out of it for me.

My over whelming though was that while it was simple and fast, it doesn’t compare to Munchkin, which ticks the team based competitive card game box perfectly and with a lot more visual style and flavour. Muchkin also has a lot more room for backstabbing and tactical manoeuvre, something which is a bit limited in Locke and Key as there are only so many times you can bluff putting down a lot of cards.

Better in pretty much every way.

An under whelming experience, but one from an admitted first time player.

Craven @ ROTDOG.

(I have since been told this is based on a graphic novel and it is quite popular in some circles. That goes some way to explaining the aesthetic, but it was still one I found jarring and underwhelming.)

1 Comment

  1. Andrew Babcock on Facebook Thursday, Aug 02 2012 8:10PM

    Like the concept & comic art – but yeah, I have no recognition with what this game goes with…

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