Sunday, March 06, 2011

Labyrinth Board Game Review

Depending on your childhood Labyrinth will either be a game you already hold in awe, or something that passed you by. In my case it was the latter. Despite 25 years of moving maze action, the first I'd heard of the game was when it arrived in my post box. So I've spent the weekend trying to fix that gap in my childhood, and to see just what I was a missing. It is a case of something best left in nostalgia, or does it play as well today as ever?

Well to start with Labyrinth comes from the time before digital dice, complicated rule sets and ten page instruction manuals. This means the concept used is a relatively simple one, that can be explained to new players within a minute. In the past 25 years I can probably count only a handful of board games that have been as easy to explain as Labyrinth so that was a pretty good start when we tested the game.

Despite featuring a fantasy setting, questing and loot, the similarities with other table top games like Dungeons and Dragons end there. You don't need a dungeon master, an active imagination or hours of free times to get the most out of Labyrinth. The simple concept can be wrapped up in less than half an hour with two players and 45 minutes with four players.

Just what is that concept? Well your goal is to collect various items that are displayed on tiles within the game board. You walk around a maze one tile at a time and must collect the items on a set of random cards one by one. The twist is that you can slide one of the tiles in the maze on your go, which can bring you closer to your intended treasure, or push your rivals further away from theirs.

The board is made of T section, straight line and curved pieces, that depending on their position can cause you to go the wrong way, or force you to be stuck in a dead end. In addition you can't move every piece on the board as some are fixed in place, and you can only slide the pieces one move at a time. So if you push a column at the bottom a piece will come out of the top. This piece is then given to the next player and they repeat the process. Rules keep the game interesting by stopping players from undoing a prior move - so if you move a player away from their goal, they can't just fix it on their next turn.

Moving the tiles around the board is easy to do, although they can get stuck on the fixed pieces from time to time. This is a minor issue, as you just move the other pieces on the row to get everything back on track.

The real master stoke is that players can't see each others cards. So you're never quite sure if you are helping or hindering another player. You need to have a good poker face to play Labyrinth well, as if other players block your route, you really don't want to make it clear they have done so. Otherwise they'll have a good idea which way you want to go, and can continually block you. Although just like poker you can do a double bluff, and cause a player to move you the right way by tricking them.

Of course you can still play the game with cries of annoyance, and it remains really good fun. Although my wife had grown up with the game I was lucky enough to beat her on my first try. This shows that even beginners can enjoy the game, and find it accessible if they've never seen it before. There's certainly layers of strategy you can use as you master the game, but on the whole it's a simple concept that proves games don't have to become overcomplicated just to be fun.

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Every product on this site has been received for free, and given to me by the product manufacturer or their associated PR organisation in return for a review.

I have no other personal or business association with these companies, and all reviews are written truthfully and based on my own experience. If I hate a product I will say so (and have done on many occasions!).