Lockup: A Rollplayer Tale by Thunderworks Games – Review

Lockup: A Rollplayer Tale is a fast-paced worker placement game that involves area control. It may be an excellent way to introduce new players to these mechanics. It might seem like a big game to new players but is deceptively simple once everyone understands what is happening on the board.




Theme and What is it?


In only six days you may have a chance for freedom. Each year the king sends the strongest crew in the prison out into the colosseum to fight for their freedom. During the next six days you must work nonstop to become the most powerful faction in the prison. Gather resources to hire extra goons and create contraband items that will help you gain reputation. But be careful not to arouse the suspicion of the guards, or all you have worked so hard for might be undone. 

Lockup: A Rollplayer Tale is based in the same world as Rollplayer. Lockup is an area control/worker placement for 1-5 players.

Gameplay Mechanics


Each player takes a unique faction with six crew members. Lockup is a worker placement game that is played over six days or rounds. Each day consists of the following phases.

Roll Call

The crew members are placed behind a board so only the player can see them. Each player then takes turns deploying their crew throughout the prison. Some of the crew members can be played face down (two in a 3-5 player game). The rest are played face up to show their strength. 

Lights Out

Once all crew members have been placed, or until every player has passed, each area of the prison with crew members is scored and the players with crew in each of those areas receive resources, recruit new goons, or craft items. Each area of the prison provides a different opportunity, and players try to place the most strength in areas that will help them in the current round. 

During this phase, players may also gain suspicion cubes. Suspicion cubes are placed in rooms where goons are hiding out. When a player has the most strength in a room that has suspicion cubes, that player takes the cubes along with any rewards or benefits for having the highest strength.  If they have placed a lookout character in that area, then the suspicion cubes are given to the player with the second highest strength. 

Patrol Phase

This is a clean-up phase where available items are replenished, new goons are added to the board (along with any suspicion cubes listed on their card), and resource cubes are monitored. If all of the suspicion cubes are gone from the central supply, then a raid happens. During a raid, guards search the prison and the players with the most suspicion cubes on their player boards lose reputation.

At the end of the game, there are also reward cards that can be triggered instantly, and one even moves around during the game depending on who meets certain conditions.

After six rounds, the game ends and the player with the most reputation is declared the winner!

Initial Impressions


When Rollplayer came out, I was really excited to try it. Once I realized how much the dice influenced the game, I was less thrilled because all dice in the whole world hate me. So seeing Lockup, which is set in the Rollplayer world and has the game art, not using any dice made me even more interested.

Lockup was a quick game to learn and teach. I went through a round to let everyone see the mechanics and then we reset and played a full game. It still took a round or two for most players to catch on and one player struggled for most of the game. The game is not difficult, there are just lots of decisions to make with limited workers available. It can seem overwhelming until you get your rhythm. 

The first game went by quickly, even with everyone having first time jitters. We played the full game in about an hour and 10 minutes. After we were done, I asked everyone what they thought and even the person who struggled agreed that it was fun and that they wanted to try it again.

I really enjoyed it. I felt like it moved at a fantastic pace and everyone was involved through the entire game.

Game Build Quality


Every piece in this game from the box to the cards was well thought out and made to very high standards. The game board and player boards are all thick and sturdy. The cards are a high-end cardstock.

I was impressed with all of the components and feel like they should hold up for years to come.

Artistic Direction


I really liked the artwork of Rollplayer, so it was great to see that Lockup kept with the theme and looked just as nice. It has a very strong fantasy theme, that might be over the top for some but I enjoy heavy fantasy artwork and thought Lockup captured the feel of the genre. 

Each faction is unique and has its own characters. This allowed each player to take ownership of their individual crew.

The game board was my favorite part of the game. It had a 3D top down view that really added visual depth to the board and made it very interactive. 

Fun Factor


The thing that I enjoyed most about Lockup was the competition to control certain areas. This is even more fun when you are able to lay crew upside-down so other players do not have any idea of how much strength you actually have at that location. This leads to some suspenseful moments and some great surprises. 

I also enjoyed the pace of the game. It moves quickly and as players get used to the game it will move even faster. To have a worker placement game that you can play in under an hour and to have a game with lots of player choices will make for excellent replay value.

There is also a single player version of the game that I have not explored, but just a quick look at the instructions for single player makes it look promising. 

Age Range & Weight


Recommended age for Lockup is 10+. I have only played with adults so far. But I do not see my 10-year-old daughter having too many issues playing. She has some experience with worker placement games and should catch on quickly. 

Lockup seems like it is a heavier game than it really is. Once players know what each area provides and when they understand the iconography then the mysteries of the game quickly unravel to reveal a very user-friendly game. 



Lockup: A Rollplayer Tale is a fast-paced worker placement game that involves area control. It may be an excellent way to introduce new players to these mechanics. It might seem like a big game to new players but is deceptively simple once everyone understands what is happening on the board. I won’t go as far as saying Lockup is a gateway game. I think players should have some experience with modern games. But I think it is a great entry point into the worker placement/area control realm. 

If you liked Rollplayer and are looking for something similar, then you might be disappointed in Lockup because it is its own game. If you do not have those expectations then Lockup should be something that you can enjoy on its own merits. I like that it takes place in the Rollplayer world but that it is a completely different game.