Magic Mazes: A Keys to the Castle Review
2-4 Players, 15 Minute Play Time, Low Complexity, Light Strategy, Ages 8+
Mazes! Mazes have fascinated humans for thousands of years. Something about getting lost and finding yourself is adjacent to the human experience, and, as a result, we have mazes made from stone, turf, hedges, corn, and even a Labyrinth with David Bowie!
A game without obstacles or challenges is no game at all, and mazes lay out these barriers in the simplest possible terms: you are at location a, and must find a way to location b. That concept is inherently fascinating to humans, and it’s something that immediately makes sense to players of all ages.
I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say Outset Media has come up with one of the greatest maze games ever.
Keys to the Castle is short, sweet, and simple. All you have to do is get to the opposite side of the gameboard- while the player across from you tries to do the same. The tricky part is that every tile starts as a locked door that must be opened with the appropriate colour of key. Opening the right doors in the right order is essential to winning, but be careful- as you explore you open paths to victory for your opponent, while they do the same!
Ready to brave the castle, it’s our fearless…heroes? Yeah, lets go with heroes
Keys to the Castle’s rules are easy enough for kids to grasp immediately, but the game’s speed and flexibility make it appealing for adults as well. The gameboard itself is composed entirely of doors, but as you progress though the maze and collect cards, you’ll be able to open more paths and find your way to the opposite side of the board- but your opponent is doing the same thing, so be careful not to leave a path to victory for them on your side of the board!
Potentially the best feature of Keys to the Castle is its replayability. The board consists of 40 modular tiles that change in layout every time you play- meaning no two games will ever be the same. My second favourite thing is the competition! Mazes are usually a slow-burn puzzle, something you ponder and luxuriate over- but with up to 3 other maze-runners revealing routes and locking doors behind you, every move feels important, and every dead-end fills you with dread as your opponents inch closer and closer to victory! The playtime of 10-20 minutes means games are fast-paced and exciting, and quite often calls for “one more game!” turn it into a best of three, five, and even seven.
Competition heats up when the you reach the centre of the maze
Overall, Keys to the Castle is a fantastic family game and the perfect addition to any collection. Skill and foresight are necessary tools, but the inherent randomness and plain old luck keep the game interesting right up until the end!