Before I begin, I was provided with a copy of the game in exchange for an honest review. This is not a paid review. If you would rather watch a video of this review, check it out below. You can get your own copy here.
So without my realizing it Roll player has become a huge sprawling thing. You have heard of the MCU, well now there is the RPBGU. Roll Player, and its many expansions, plus the recently funded Roll Player adventures, Cartographers, and now Lockup. Yes I know that is all kinds of out of order, but it reads better this way.
So I wound up getting a hold of this bad boy by slowly harassing Tim at Thunderworks games over the course of a few weeks. Like lead poisoning I slowly built up in his system through constant exposure until he either dealt with me or died I suppose. Wow that got dark quick. Luckily Tim found a cure by both teaching me to play Lockup, graciously letting me win, and then sending me a copy.
Lockup is a worker placement game that plays over six rounds. Each player is a gang in the clink. At the end of the 6 days which ever gang is the baddest a$$ will get fight for their freedom. You earn prestige points by crafting items to make you tougher, or by hiring various goons to be your running crew.
Depending on the goons you hire you will earn points based on the individual type. Some of them are straight points now, others are set collections, and others are based on the items you craft. Each goon also has the potential to add suspicion to the rooms (ever so often the guards will raid, and whomever has the most gets dinged with a negative), and have various hiring bonuses as well.
The core mechanic is that you will be placing members of your crew out in the prison. You have to place out in the various rooms. Each of the crew has a different strength value. Whichever crew has the most strength gets the 1st place bonus (and suspicion) in each room, with other players getting progressively worse rewards, or taking nothing and going to the library for a bonus card.
The player with the highest prestige at the end of 6 rounds will be the winner.
So what do I think?
The game looks good on the table, they have the added bonus of scrabble style trays, that shows your crew locked up on the reverse side to go along with the classic Roll Player style art. The board is big and colorful. Yes please.
The worker placement is clean and simple, but it has the added bonus of being able to occasionally place tiles face down, making the game a bit of a social game, as you have to try to predict what your opponents are actually doing each round. This is a nice twist on the classic worker placement genre.
Finally, the game plays fast, and it is about as light a worker placement game as you can get.
The solo mode is good and clean. It is simple to run the AI, and it manages to keep some of the guessing game of not knowing what strength the AI has in any given room. On the other hand however, to me, unless you are playing on the maximum difficulty it really is not much of a challenge. I also wish that there were more gangs available to play, and that there were more goons types available in the game. I would welcome an expansion for these two things.
I have an inkling that there is a best strategy when it comes to the Goons. All the games that I have played have resulted in whomever gets a full set of dwarves, wins. Now I know what you are thinking. But Hungry, all you have to do is stop them from doing that! This is true, but if I am stopping you from getting dwarves, then I am not doing anything to maximize my own score. It is ok, just a minor quibble that I think you need to watch for. Also it is possible that after another 10 games I will find that this is not the case.
Second, one of the things that this game does that I find interesting is that it has a little bit of take that and out think your opponent. This is a bit different than the traditional euro games where you can always make a plan, and you will not be surprised by what happens. You might get outplayed, or out planned, but you will never have a moment where you are utterly shocked by what has happened. Due to the way the bidding works in this game that can happen. Though I will say that I find that this either bothers people not at all, or a lot. So just something to be aware of.
Bringing it all together
Lockup is a light worker placement game that has the fun bonus of slightly asymmetric factions, and a fun blind bidding system that keeps you on your toes as you play. This can, for some, cause some added stress because if means that you do not have the perfect knowledge of what you are going to get during any given round, and your plans can be upended unexpectedly. For some this is a delight, for others a frustration. The game looks great on the table, and it has a strong solo variant, though unless you are playing on hard mode it is pretty easy to take out the AI. This has hopped up to the tier of worker placement games for me.
Hey! Lights out! Stop pontificating and turn in!
* Light, fast worker placement game that looks great on the table
* The bidding for spaces is a nice little twist on traditional worker placement
* The game has some hidden information that can ruin the best laid plans, which may delight you, or frustrate you
* Potentially a strategy that is slightly more powerful than others and needs to be curtailed
* Strong solo mode, that probably needs to be played on hard to be a challenge for most players
* Nice variety in the different factions, and goons, but I want more of them
* A good entry level worker placement style game, that has climbed into my personal top tier