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Locke & Key: The Game - Board Game Box Shot

Locke & Key: The Game

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Based on an award winning graphic novel, Locke & Key: The Game is a cooperative card game with a competitive twist.

go to: Who would enjoy this game?

Locke & Key: The Game is an interactive card game based off the Eisener winning graphic novel by Joe Hill. This dark fantasy novel about Keyhouse, a mysterious mansion in Lovecraft, Massachusetts, is filled with creepy characters and spooky keys with supernatural powers.

No prior knowledge of the story is necessary to play the game but if you have read the series you will probably enjoy the game much more since the thematic components in game will have more meaning.


The game comes with 184 cards total, a large initiative token, and the customary Cryptozoic cardboard standee.

Locke and key game in play

There are several types of cards in the game, key cards, strength cards, and challenge cards. The physical card stock feels standard and the print quality is very nice. Cards have illustrations from the graphic novel which may seem quite strange for those unfamiliar with the story. If you’re a fan of comic book artist Gabriel Rodriguez you won’t be disappointed as most of the card’s real estate is dedicated to his work.

Locke and Key strength card samples
Locke and key key card samples

Top row: Strength Cards, Bottom row: Key Cards

The key cards are what shine in this game — literally. Each is covered with a luminescent foil and grant the wielder special abilities (that part is not literal, durp). Cryptozoic did a great job designing the key cards to look and feel special.

Cooperative Competition

The game mechanics in Locke & Key are interesting and have a semi-cooperative element. Players will be using their resources (strength cards) to cooperatively defeat challenges in competitive fashion. The gameplay is interactive but not in a ‘take-that’ kind of way. It is a game of deciphering what other players are up to and positioning yourself to reap the max reward. Some players may try and team up while others will take on challenges solo.

How it works

Each player will have a starting hand of strength cards. Strength cards come in 3 colors and have a number that indicates their strength. Some of the strength cards have additional abilities that could potentially come into play.

Locke and key challenge card samples

Challenge cards

At the start of a round a challenge card is overturned. To beat the challenge players must collectively commit strength cards of the same color to the strength. This is sort of like battling one of the bosses in Defenders of the Realm but with some key differences.

The amount of strength each player contributes to a challenge is a secret, which adds a bluffing element and players will be looking at each other suspiciously. Players will be kept on edge until everyone reveals their cards.

Locke and key key card foil printing

The key cards players acquire will allow them to do special actions during their turn or after all cards have been revealed. For example, adding more strength to your play, changing the color of a strength card so you can use it towards the challenge, and other actions that add more fun and unpredictability to the game.

Only one person will actually win the victory points for defeating the challenge but there is also a second place reward. With that said, the game experience is very different depending on the number of players. With three players challenges are more difficult to overcome but with less competition rewards like key cards are easier to earn. More players isn’t necessarily better, it’s just different.

Who would enjoy this?

Family Gamer {maybe}
The themes of the graphic novel may not be suited for young children and the artwork is taken directly from the comic book. If you are playing with teenagers, this game is worth checking out. The rules are simple, the game plays quickly and being both cooperative and competitive at the same time is a fun twist for a card game.
Strategy Gamer {no}
Strategy gamers will have the tendency to just read the card directions and skip all the flavor text and interaction.
Casual Gamer {yes}
If you’re looking for a new card game with a bit of a twist, this has been well liked among the casual gamers we’ve played with, even if they knew nothing about the graphic novels. If you are a fan of the Locke & Key series and are looking for a easy to learn game with quick play times, definitely check this out. Just note that it is not a 2 player game.
Avid Gamer {maybe}
The cool artwork and special key cards will attract any non-gaming friends who like reading graphic novels.
Power Gamer {maybe}
Some Power Gamers may find that this game needs more complexity. For example, there is no repercussion for loosing a challenge, which may bother some Power Gamers.

Final Thoughts

Locke & Key is very different from most card games that usually involve punishing other players and keeping them down. The cooperative element of this game and the really cool key cards make this game unique, and yet competitive.

Because Locke & Key: The Game has a cool theme and can be learned quickly, this game will have a lot of appeal to comic book fans who are new to gaming. It is a fun and attractive card game with a bit of a twist, fans and newcomers to the series will not be disappointed.

Disclaimer: received a complimentary review copy of this game

User Reviews (6)

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Player Avatar
Intermediate Reviewer
90 of 97 gamers found this helpful
“Welcome to Lovecraft”

… and welcome to the card game about the great graphic novels written by Joe Hill and illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez.


The game comes with nearly 200 cards and a cardboard first-player marker. The cards are beautiful. The images of the Strength and Challenge cards come directly from the wonderful graphic novels. The Key cards have the mysterious keys in shimmering foil printed on them which looks fantastic.


Every player gets 4 Strength cards and one player gets the first-player token. At the start of each round the top Challenge card is revealed and every player gets an additional Strength card. The Strength and the Challenge cards are divided in three colors (white, black and blue) and each has a number on it. Now every player in turn can choose to play, pass or search for a key. Passing means to just draw an strength card and finish your turn and when you search for a key you can trade cards from you hand for a random key which gives you useful abilities to manipulate cards or gameplay itself. But when the player chooses to play he can play up to three cards from his hand face down. If the totaled numbers of his cards (on condition that they match the colors of the challenge) and the cards of all the opponents (again while matching the color) are equal or higher than the number of the challenge, then the challenge is overcome. The player with the highest matching numbers gets the points for the challenge and the first-player token. The player with the second highest numbers gets the second place reward. If the challenge is not overcome, no one gets anything.
Some cards have special abilities and give you a reward when the challenge failed, allow you to steal something from you opponents hand or even count cards to the total even if they have different colors. So it’s a game of permanent bluffing and guessing.

Replay Value:

This is a game that can be played over and over again without getting boring too fast. Anytime you loose you wanna play again and win this time while trying a different strategy and maybe getting better keys.


– beautiful cards (especially the keys)
– quick and easy to learn
– bluffing is fun!


– there is no punishment for failing the challenges

Last Words:

Nice and fast game. I really like the theme and the game got me started in the graphic novels. Some of the pictures on the cards spoil things happening in the story but it is not as bad as I thought.

Best wishes,

Player Avatar
Z-Man Games fan
I play red
Indie Board & Cards fan
90 of 97 gamers found this helpful
“Welcome To Keyhouse”

Locke & Key is an award winning comic book series from Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriquez. The series is about Locke kids (Tyler, Kinsey and Bode) and their adventures in Keyhouse as they learn about their family’s dark secrets. In the game by Cryptozoic, players will work together to overcome the supernatural challenges of Keyhouse.


Fans of the series will be happy to know the game features Gabriel Rodriquez’s studding artwork on a series 184 cards. The game features a cardboard stand, and start payer cardboard lock. The cards are durable and include 15 foil “Key Cards” that provide special powers.


Starting a game requires very little. Divide the cards in to their 3 different stacks: 150 Strength cards, 19 Challenge cards, and 15 Key cards. Locate the “Game Over” Challenge card and shuffle it along with 6 random Challenge Card. Place these cards at the bottom of the Challenge stack. Next, deal each player 4 random Strength cards. Finally, choose a player to start and assign them the cardboard Lock.

You are now ready to begin.

Game Play – Basics

Game play consist of the players trying to beat one of the 19 Challenge Cards. To start play, flip over the top Challenge Card. Challenges are divided in to 3 colours (Black, Blue, and White). A Challenge is defeated if the sum of all of the on-colour Strength Cards are equal or greater than the Challenge Card.

Starting with the person in control of the Lock, players will choose one of 3 actions:

*Play up to 3 Strength Cards from their hand to contribute to beating the challenge (typically face down)
*Discard 2 Strength Cards for a Key Card
*Draw a card

Once all players have performed an action, any Strength Cards played are revealed, and it is determined if the Challenge was defeated. If it is, the person who contribute the highest total of on-colour Strength Cards scores the Challenge Card. A 2nd place reward is also supplied to the player who contributed the next highest total of on-colour Strength Cards. In the event of a tie, the winner is decided by order of play.

Deal one new Strength Card to each player, and reveal the next Challenge Card to start a new round. Play continues until the Game Over card is turned over. The winner is the player with the highest total of scored Challenge and Strength Cards.

Game Play – Advanced Tactics

While the core of the game is a fairly basic trick taking component, there is a series of modifiers that add to the complexity. To start off, some Strength Cards have text modifiers on them that allow for special tactics. Most commonly will be scoring conditions depending on the outcome of the Challenge. Others will allow the player to play additional Strength Cards (either randomly from the Strength Card stack or from other players hands). There are also Strength Cards that allow for special combos by playing a sequence of cards (ie. 1-2-3) or 3 cards of the same value. This adds a bluffing element to the game as when playing Strength Cards a player may choose to play one or more off-colour Strength Cards.

The next Advanced Tactic is the addition of Key Cards. Key Cards are played before scoring a Challenge and can change the outcome of the Challenge. The Key Cards are a combination of single use cards, and ongoing modifiers that can provide their current holder an advantage over other players.


While the game is an official licensed game of the popular comic book series, the actual game play rarely calls back to this. This may be disappointing for fans of the comics. That being said, the artwork if great even for people who have no interest in reading the books.

Replay Value

Because of the game modifiers, the game is easy to learn, but a little harder to master. Seeing a player masterfully use a Key Card, or Strength Card modifier to take a Challenge away from you motivates you to find other combinations. The games also plays fast. A group of gamers familiar with the game should be able to play 3-4 games in an hour. While the basic simplicity and lack of extended play time may be a turn off to some, it makes for a great 2nd game for a shorter game night. It can also be used to break the tension between longer games if you are having a game day.

Over All Impression.

If you are a fan of the comics, and specifically Gabriel Rodriquez’s art style, this is a must by. The cards are gorgeous and really match the series perfectly. If you are not, their is still a lot of value here. As mention above, the game has a basic co-operative trick taking mechanic that is easy to explain to anyone. This makes it an extremely accessible game. But there is still enough depth to challenge most gamers. Like most card games, knowing when to pounce on a Challenge is the key to winning. Yes, there is the inherent randomness of which card you will be dealt, but as any experience player knows, with skill you can create your own luck.

Based on the quality of components, quick game play, and moderate challenge, I recommend this game for all but the most hard core strategy gamer.

Player Avatar
Greater Than Games fan
Stone of the Sun
Chief Inspector
88 of 96 gamers found this helpful
“Buy this game for the artwork”

Overview: Locke & Key: The Game is based on the comic book series by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez. The basic concept of the game is to acquire strengths and talents of the Locke family to overcome challenges that they face at Lovecraft, a haunted mansion that they inherit. Players do this by playing cards, based on these family abilities, to overcome the challenges that are revealed throughout the game. The player who contributes most to prevailing over the challenge receives the most victory points. Locke & Key: The Game is a semi-cooperative game, which means it is also a semi-competitive game. In this game, as in most, competitive strategies and effort far outweigh cooperative ones (players are not one, big, happy family).

Components: The game contents are quite simple, including 184 cards (standard size, measuring 63mm x 88mm), a cardboard “First Player” lock token, rules booklet, and cardboard game standee (typical with Cryptozoic games). The cards are well-made, with amazing illustrations contributed by Rodriguez himself. The 15 holographic key cards are especially notable for their beauty and uniqueness.

Gameplay: Each round a player will turn over a challenge card. Each challenge has a particular color and level. Players can then play any number of strength cards from their hand facedown in a “cooperative” attempt to defeat the challenge. If the total strength of the challenge-color cards played by all players is higher than the strength of the challenge card, then the challenge is defeated. The player who contributes the most points will win the challenge card, its strength becoming victory points for that player. The second highest contributor will also earn victory points. Key cards can be added by players to augment the results of the strength cards played in that round. Some strength cards have special abilities that can affect scoring. On subsequent rounds, players will turn over a new challenge card and the process is repeated. Game ends when the “Game Over” card is revealed. Victory points are then totaled.

Impression: Although game play seems quite simple, strategy plays a major role in this game. Facedown cards could be bluffing by some players to force out cards from others. Some cards will allow stealing or trading of valuable key cards. Even determining play order can affect the outcome of a game. Games tend to be of short duration and do not require much explanation for new players. Although the art work is amazing, I wish that there was more variation in the illustrations rather than many cards of the same strength with the same artwork. The game concept is quite simple, but special effects on cards can turn a game around. Generally, this is a good, quick game that is very visually pleasing.

Player Avatar
It's All About Me
62 of 71 gamers found this helpful
“Simple game that leans too much on the license”

I love games and I love Locke and Key, so I thought this was a no-brainer. But when I got it, I discovered the ugly truth that some game designers take an existing license and create a game the delves deeply into the story, and some take a simple game and slap a license on top of it.

While you ARE Frodo and Sam in many of the LOTR games, and you ARE Arkham investigators in Arkham Horror, you get no sense of exploring the Keyhouse or participating in the adventures of Bode and Kinsey and Tyler with the Locke and Key game. You get a simple card game. Some people say you don’t need to have read the comics to play, but even if that’s the case, people should walk away from the game having some sense of the world of Locke and Key. It failed to give me a sense of the world, and I was very disappointed.

The art is excellent, but that’s because the art in the comic is excellent. I’d just suggest reading the comic to understand the horror and wonder that is the Keyhouse and the Locke family.

Player Avatar
US Army Service
88 of 132 gamers found this helpful
“If you're a fan of the books this game is for you.”

Even thou there isn’ t much “story” involved in playing this game, the cards themselves add to the enjoyment of this quick playing game. The game is fairly simple to teach others how to play. Players don’t have to know anything about the books to enjoy the game, but the artwork of the cards will probably make them curious about the story.

Gameplay is cooperative and competitive at the same time, thou the more players you have the more competitive the game will play out. One of the quicker games I’ve played, but replay is good if people like it.

The only thing about the game I’m not a huge fan of is the lack of consequence for failing to complete challenges, but this fixes itself when there are at least 4 players. That’s when the competitiveness makes it so players don’t have to cooperate somuch to comolete challenges.

Player Avatar
Stratagem fan
83 of 130 gamers found this helpful
“play it only with good friends”

There is nothing really new in the mechanisms, but they are nicely combined. You try to gain keys by paying cards or try to create the strongest combo of cards(or pretend to do so) against the current challenge. The keys give you in game bonuses that may help. The weakness of the game is that 1 or more players can decide to play to thwart a particular player. Those players won’t succeed every time of course but it does take some of the fun away.


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