Work from the Inside to Outmaneuver the Guards in Lockup

September 11, 2020 | Sessions | 2 comments

Guide a group of prisoners on a quest to sway internal favor, gain power, and craft items in Lockup: A Roll Player Tale.

Initially, the premise of Lockup: A Roll Player Tale didn’t seem all that interesting to me. These weren’t exactly the heroes I wanted to play as, and the prison environment seemed rather serious. However, I’m also someone who likes to examine the so-called “villain perspective.” Maybe these goblins, kobolds, and other creatures had better lives ahead!

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Game Overview

Game Name: Lockup: A Roll Player Tale
Publication Year:
Stan Kordonskiy
Luis Francisco and Lucas Ribeiro
Solo Mode: Included in the Base Game

The components are pretty amazing, as is to be expected with this publisher! I particularly enjoyed the jail cells to showcase the different groups. Very clever! The premise is to earn the most victory points against the corrupt guards. Items can be crafted from collected resources and goons may be recruited. But don’t raise too much suspicion!

Peering Out from the Bars of Lockup: A Roll Player Tale

Looking at the Prison

This isn’t a particularly small prison, nor is the play area. I was quite impressed, though! Most of the components fit in their own areas on the board, which was rather nice.

So colorful, too! Playing as an imprisoned crew doesn’t seem bright and cheery, so this was a pleasant surprise.

Theme aside, there were some interesting elements I was looking forward to experiencing. Avoiding suspicion with the use of a designated lookout was a neat idea.

Additionally, I could see the case for using many different types of actions over the course of play.

Getting Ready to Explore the Jail in Lockup: A Roll Player Tale

Maintaining Order

I used my UberTrayz to keep all of the resource cubes neatly organized. Lovely! All lined up and ready to go.

Setup also revealed 3 item cards, representing the types of objects that could be crafted. Don’t look for duplicates, though. They’re all unique with bonuses and points!

In a way, the available items provide a foundation for the ideal resources to start gathering. I had my eye on some blue potions. After that? Anything could pan out.

Sometimes, it’s fun to start strategizing before getting started! But I had to pause and figure out my crew…

Keeping Everything Organized and Considering the Starting Items in Lockup: A Roll Player Tale

The Fighting 87th

A random draw from the player boards resulted in the goblins. To keep things as simple as possible, I avoided the advanced setup to get started. Better to learn slowly!

Every member of the crew was unique with a strength value. My lookout, pictured on the far right, had absolutely no strength… But also avoided any suspicion.

The enforcer was another unique member who started off with 1 strength but could get stronger during play.

They might have been villains, yet there had to be a reason for their past actions. Could they redeem themselves?

Learning More About the Goblins in Lockup: A Roll Player Tale

Scoping Out the Areas

Most areas include a space for a goon. There are several different types, each with various benefits. But don’t think that there’s much to do with this dwarf at the infirmary!

He simply added a bit of suspicion to the location. I would have to send my lookout here to avoid picking up the cube.

To recruit this goon required a visit to the aptly named chow hall. Because the only way to make friends is over a shared meal, of course! Ha ha!

Note, too, how there was only a benefit for the group with the highest strength. The rest? Off to the library!

Risking a Little Suspicion for Potions at the Infirmary in Lockup: A Roll Player Tale

A Visit to the Sewers

To begin, the guards spread out to every location with facedown cards. On my turn, I had the ability to flip over a single card and decide where to place my crew.

The sewers were a radioactive mess with only the hope of some scrap. However, I could definitely put it to good use!

Off in the distance, I sent a pair of goblins to the infirmary. This was risky, but the aforementioned library could still give me a benefit through a single-use bonus card.

No one was happy about the trek into the sewer waters, though. Yuck! This goblin had the right expression. Ha!

Taking a Risk on Collecting Scrap in Lockup: A Roll Player Tale

Putting It Together

As usual, beyond the first round, I got immersed in the gameplay and strategies. There was no time to stop!

The prison was filled with dwarves, and I recruited them at breakneck speed. Actually, blocking the guards in the chow hall seemed to be a strong strategy.

These 6 dwarves netted me a cool 25 points! The hobgoblin and items were good, but the ratman?!

That’s correct: With just this guy, I lost 3 points. This was in order to avoid having the most suspicion during the final round. It worked out better than I expected!

An Interesting Strategy with the Dwarf Goons in Lockup: A Roll Player Tale

Goblin Power

Another part of this strategy involved dominating the exercise yard. All of that weightlifting paid off for the goblin enforcer! He ended up with 6 strength.

Despite spending 1-2 crew at this area each turn, it gave me an almost guaranteed victory at another location.

It was a slow sort of buildup, though. Not until about round 3 or 4 did this start to pay off. The enforcer could finally head off on his own, though, which helped a lot!

Part of me wondered if I played incorrectly with a final score 20+ points above the guards. Or maybe I got lucky?

An Enforcer with Lots of Power in Lockup: A Roll Player Tale

Careful Plotting

I should clarify that the solo opponent guards are the corrupt ones who basically operate like another prison crew. The goal isn’t to rise up against them: Just win!

My own strategy was complemented by a watchful eye. If I was going to have minimal resources, I planned for the guards to recruit some goons… The worst ones, though!

This led to a very unusual collection with minimal synergies. Victory points were few and far between.

Of course, I couldn’t stop the guards from constantly crafting new items. Not the skeleton key! I wanted it.

A Nice Collection of Items and Goons for the Guards in Lockup: A Roll Player Tale

Watching the Guards

Along with a basic deck of standard guard cards, there are 3 different difficulty levels with other cards to shuffle in.

Naturally, I started with the easiest deck! When I get too confident in a ruleset and lose horribly, I’m less likely to want to play. Better to gradually increase the difficulty.

I liked all of the different guard characters. Maybe this wasn’t all about a narrative adventure, but I think I had the biggest issues with ol’ mutton chops over there.

Not knowing what each facedown card contains is rather interesting. Particularly with the lookouts and suspicion.

Planning and Plotting Against the Guards in Lockup: A Roll Player Tale

Reaching the End

After resetting and making sure I had the rules down, the next play was over before I realized it! I cut down my play time by a lot, thereby making it even more enjoyable.

I followed a similar strategy with the exercise yard and synergistic goons. But the guards weren’t so easy!

They stockpiled resources and crafted items like no other. The goblins were at a distinct disadvantage in that area.

But I had a plan. It had to do with suspicion and the raids. Just as predicted, I timed it perfectly so that the guards lost out every time. Yet would that be enough to win?

Surviving Through the Final Round in Lockup: A Roll Player Tale

Session Overview

Play Number: 1 and 2
Solo Mode: Included in the Base Game
Play Details: Moderate Difficulty Level
Required Play Space: 28″ x 26″
Setup Time: 5 Minutes
Play Time: 35-60 Minutes per Play
Outcome: 75-51 and 63-61 (2 Wins)

That was close! The goblins just barely squeezed by with a few more points than the guards. Clearly, it pays to throw the suspicion on the competition! Next time, though, I imagine they’ll be a little more difficult to handle…

Pulling Ahead of the Guards Just Barely in Lockup: A Roll Player Tale


1 Play


Price & Value



Challenges & Mechanics



Design & Theme



Components & Rules



Achievement & Enjoyment



Distinctness & Randomness


+ Pros (Positives)

  • Multiple difficulty levels and an advanced mode allow for many ways to tailor the challenge of each play.
  • The component quality is excellent, and even if the resources are standard cubes, they work very well.
  • All of the items are different so that the desired resources will change from play to play for various strategies.
  • Competing for locations is challenging with facedown cards and the potential to strategize to go to the library.
  • Managing suspicion takes careful planning, particularly when a raid is about to take place during the round.
  • The various crew members require important decisions with placement based on their strengths and abilities.

– Cons (Negatives)

  • The end game feels a little anticlimactic, in a similar way that Roll Player does without its first expansion.
  • Goons can make or break the play depending on the order that they appear and when they get recruited.
  • Although the theme is interesting, there isn’t always a reason to want to see the crew succeed over the guards.
  • Placing the guard cards takes up a lot of space on the board, and it can be tricky to find where to put them all.

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Continue the Conversation

What do you like or dislike about Lockup: A Roll Player Tale? I still can’t say I love the theme, yet the strategies were quite interesting. How have you fared against the guards? There are many other ways to increase the difficulty level and add more variety. I just hope there’s an expansion to determine what happens next! Many possibilities exist…


  1. Yeah, the theme doesn’t grab me (just as it didn’t in The Captain is Dead: Lockdown). Have you played any of the TCID games? If so I’d be interested in how similar you found this.

    • Interesting! I haven’t played anything in that series, though I’ve considered it a few times. The premise is more appealing to me, though I wonder about how often I would want to play. Not that I should judge any game by that… I’m lucky if I get the same game to my table once every couple of months! But if I ever do give it a try, I’ll be sure to keep this game in mind for any comparisons. Thanks!


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