Locke & Key: The Game
Publisher: Cryptozoic Entertainment
Release Date: February 14, 2012
MSRP: $29.99
Contents: 150 Strength cards, 19 Challenge cards, 15 Key cards, 1 Rulebook, 1 Omega Lock initiative marker
Number of Players: 3-6
Playing Time: 30 minutes
Age Rating: 15 and up
Product #: 01289CRY
ICv2 Rating: 4 Stars out of 5

Locke & Key is a strange and cool comic series from IDW Publishing.  This new game uses artwork by the comic's artist, Gabriel Rodriguez, and thematic images from the comic, but it is not necessary to have read the comic in order to enjoy this game.

The mechanics are simple and well-balanced.  Each round, one challenge card is exposed, and players decide whether and how to face the challenge, from a small hand of drawn cards.  The total contributions of all players decide whether the players succeed, and the player who put in the most toward the battle scores the value of the challenge card, with the second-place player also being rewarded in varying ways.  In addition, some cards can modify a player's goals for that round.  One or more players may want the challenge to fail, or want to play cards which neither help nor hinder.  Play is quick, but not mindless.  Drawing cards usually requires skipping a challenge, and it also costs to buy "Key" cards which modify events in your favor.  This requires planning and strategy about when and whether to commit to a challenge.  A game is from 12-18 rounds in length, taking less than an hour even for 5-6 players.

Much of the rule book is used to show examples of the cards, and the text on the cards clarifies the play.  The rules of play are very clear, as are the ways to resolve odd situations, including ties.

--Nick Smith: Librarian Technician, Community Services, for the Pasadena Public Library in California.