SNAP Review – Keys to the Castle
Can you find your way across the castle?
Keys to the Castle is a path-finding maze game for 2-4 players, ages 8+. Fast-moving, it plays in 10-20 minutes.
In Keys to the Castle, you play as an adventurer whose objective is to get to the other side of the maze of doors. We’ll tell you all about this game from Outset Media in a SNAP! Listen in, or read on below.
How to Play
First, create a grid of “door tiles” – long and skinny (5×8) for 2 players, or a large square (6×6) for more players. All door tiles start with their “closed” side up. Other than coming in four colors, “closed” doors all look the same. But in order to get across the castle, you’ll need to open the doors and get through.
Each player chooses a character and places it outside the grid, one character to a side. Then deal each person 3 cards.
On your turn, draw a card, then play a card from your hand. Ideally, this will be a key to open a door so you can start moving across the board. After playing a card, you may move your character one tile – if there’s an open space!
Use a key card to open (or close) a door! Use a colored Key that matches the door’s color, or use a Skeleton Key on any door. Then flip the door tile and see what you get!
Open doors allow you to freely pass through. But you can’t move through a currently occupied tile.
Other doors hide bars! You can’t move onto this space unless you cut through the bars.
Some doors hide extra turns or extra keys – use these when your character moves onto this space.
Not all cards in your hand are keys! Use Secret Passages to move diagonally between doors.
Use the Hacksaw to permanently cut through a barred door.
A Padlock can obstruct your opponent’s path when placed on any kind of door (open, closed, or even barred). Only a Skeleton Key can remove a Padlock.
Or even trap an opponent for 2 rounds with a Net.
Winning Keys to the Castle
If you can move your character to an open door anywhere on the row opposite from where you started, you win the game!
Keys to the Castle was easy to learn and fun to play. The recommended age of 8+ is about right for the strategy, but younger children can play. There’s not a lot of reading; just color matching and a few symbols.
We liked the colorful art and the diversity of the characters to choose from (there are twelve in the box!) They don’t have any special abilities, but it’s nice to be able to pick one you like the looks of – even if he’s picking his nose!
The doors are colorful and the symbols are nice and clear, but it would have been nice if there was a little more variation (at least on the “open” side of the doors).
Fun for All Ages
In general, the gameplay was straightforward and easy to understand. Keys to the Castle reminded us of abstract maze games like Quoridor. But the team at 1015 Creative and Outset Media have transformed this concept into an engaging and colorful game that will draw kids in.
Everyone in our family was able to play (although not all at the same time). No one was left out as unable to play or unwilling to play.
Our kids have a few ideas of how the game could be made more mysterious or more engaging for older players; not a surprise since we are a family of “gamers”. Keys to the Castle is a casual, entry-level family game, and there’s nothing wrong with that!
Kids learn how to strategically slow their opponents while advancing their own character. The randomized setup of the maze keeps Keys to the Castle fresh (but can sometimes lead to an overwhelming disadvantage for one player).
The short play time really helps, though. Even if a player gets stuck – just set up and play again! And using a hand of cards gives players meaningful choices.
We’d recommend Keys to the Castle to families who are looking for a game with some player agency and some strategy that won’t be overwhelming for the younger end of your crew.
We rate Keys to the Castle 3.5 open doors out of 5.
Find it on Amazon for under $20, or ask for it at your local source for toys and games.
The Family Gamers received a copy of Keys to the Castle from Outset Media for this review.
This post contains affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.
SNAP review music is Avalanche, provided courtesy of You Bred Raptors?
Keys to the Castle
Number of Players: 2-4
Age Range: 8+ (younger with some help)
Playtime: 10-20 minutes