'Locke & Key: The Game' - Cryptozoic (2012)
You've had it rough up until now. With the trauma your family's recently faced it made sense to move to the family estate, Keyhouse, right? But this big old mansion is full of secrets, locked doors, weird noises, supernatural voices, and all types of secret doors. You friends and family are all around you, and the challenges of this house continue to grow, but can you trust your loved ones? Maybe they've been talking to strange voices too! Maybe they're only pretending to need your help. And what's the deal with all these weird keys?
In 'Locke & Key: The Game' three to six players face off against a series of challenges. Players all have to work together to reap rewards, and can use keys to enhance and change gameplay. Only through working together will a single player win the game, but who will it be? Could you have accidentally helped the winner too much?
'Locke & Key: The Game,' published by Cryptozoic Entertainment, is at its core a simple card game. Players have "strength" cards with numbers and colors on them. There are cards in blue, black, and white. They will flip challenge cards that have a number to beat (also in blue, black, or white). The first player can choose to play cards in her hand, face down, toward beating that challenge number. Now the next player can choose to put cards in toward that challenge as well. This goes around the table. When the challenge is defeated, there's always a first place prize (for the highest point tally) and a second place prize. When the "game over" card is drawn, players tally up how many points they've scored and a winner is determined.
What makes this game interesting is a separate deck of cards called "key cards." Instead of playing towards a challenge, at any time during a round a player can discard two cards and draw a key card, ending their turn. The key cards are static effects that change the game. Maybe they give you a bonus to all your white cards (that's what the "Angel Key" does), or confer other static bonuses. In the end, these cards can help you a lot, but they won't win you the game.
This is really a very simple game that blooms when more people play it. With enough players this game becomes a game about bluffing, fragile alliances, and secret plays. Therefore, if you've got a group of five or six players, this game will be a lot of fun to return to time after time. But if you've only got a few players it may end up collecting dust.
The game does a nice job of taking aspects of the comic (trust issues, magical keys) and turning them into gameplay mechanics. I'm a big fan of most games Cryptozoic Entertainment makes, and this one is a good entry point to their games. It's not very complicated (some may accuse it of being too simple, actually), but it's easy to teach to other players. And if you're already a fan of the Joe Hill-penned comic series… you'll probably really love this game.