By Carl “CatLord” Rosa II, 24 January 2018
Labyrinth the Board Game is a game based on the classic 80s movie by River Horse. The below review does not include the expansion, only the retail version of the core set. In this game, players take on the Labyrinth in their own quest to rescue Toby from the Goblin King Jareth himself.
- Within the game box you receive:
- Five miniatures of characters
- One Special Ability and one Weakness Card for each of the four playable characters
- One character sheet per character
- One of each – d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d20
- Goblin Clock
- 32 Labyrinth Cards
- Four “SMELL BAD” tokens
- Twenty-Four Willpower Tokens
- One Game Board
- One Goblin Clock
The board itself uses its own form of spaces, the figurines are unique to the game/movie which does not offer a lot of cross-platform use. It’s always nice to get dice that aren’t six sided for utility.
Gameplay is fairly simple. All four non-Jareth characters are in play no matter how many people are playing. There are suggestions in the rules for how to manage a table of three players, as well as adding someone to roll for the board itself, draw cards, etc. This effectively lets them ‘play’ Jareth if you want to squeeze someone else into the game. There is an enforced turn order, although as with most games such as this it really doesn’t matter much after the first round. After all four characters play their turns, the clock is advanced an hour, and a new round begins.
Each character has a ‘character sheet’ showing a colorized portrait of the figurine, a quote of theirs, and most importantly their stats. This includes starting willpower (out of six), as well as a die value for each of Speed, Wits, and Brawn. They may also have a Special Ability card, which is like a free one time willpower point for a specific trait roll, and a Weakness card that reduces the die for some rolls until one is successful.
Every turn starts with the player choosing any other characters on the same space, and asking them individually if they wish to join them. Between their character and any others in that group, the smallest Speed die is rolled. The moving troupe moves exactly that number of spaces in the direction of their choice in a ring around the board. Then, a Labyrinth Card is drawn if there isn’t one on the space already, and the instructions are followed. Most of the cards rely on a quick contested roll with the pass and fail results listed on the card. A lot of the time, the card will be “discarded”, which is just being put on the bottom of the Labyrinth Card deck. Some cards will stay on the space after a failure or altogether permanently. The advantage to traveling in a group is for Brawn and Wits-based rolls: you use the biggest die of the group, but everyone suffers from a failure unless otherwise noted. Other than the Oubliette (which effectively serves as a respawn point), and the Bog of Eternal Stench (which serves as an arbitrary party breakup), that’s all there is to the first phase of the game.
Jareth will show up in various cards, and no movement can land on a space he occupies intentionally. Usually his presence will require a Wits roll against the d20 for the character who draws it.
Eventually, the “Entrance to Goblin City” card is drawn. During setup it is shuffled into the bottom ten cards of the Labyrinth deck, and one other card is randomly removed for the whole game as well. Once drawn, the Entrance stays on the board, and becomes a junction to get into the final phase of the game.
Goblin City itself is just a series of four brawn rolls with special conditions – some of which require rolling three different dice and comparing the highest result to the player value. Movement, once entering the Goblin City, consist of stop and rest or move one space forward and fight on until you eventually get the Sarah character to Jareth’s throne room. At this point, the player must recite The Spell from the end of the movie from memory.
Some of the Labyrinth Cards drawn require movie knowledge to succeed
During gameplay, the Willpower Points serve as both health and reroll potential. You may spend a turn “resting” to gain one back, and usually failing a roll results in willpower loss. You may also spend a Willpower point to roll the d20 against a failed challenge. Depletion of Willpower Points results in being shoved to the Oubliette and losing a turn.
Everyone is still divided and searching for the Entrance to Goblin City
Nostalgia is the biggest selling factor for this game. In the Labyrinth Deck there’s at least one card referencing every scene of the movie after Sarah is in the title location.
As a personal note, just the use of dice besides the d6 is a pro for a game. The rules are simple, and the hardest part about playing is remembering whose turn it is if you get caught up in the fun.
The game proposes a non-linear exploration of the movie world, allowing players to have their own experience with the Hardships Untold. In fact, during one game, the Ludo player kept drawing the Jareth cards so there were frequent jokes about the movie if Ludo were the main character. The end stage is challenging, but quick. The rules only change for movement, otherwise it’s the same as getting there.
This game might serve as a great fandom plug, but it doesn’t do much for the players who aren’t familiar with everything. Some cards and events require you to simply know movie quotes to succeed, and most of the wow factor for Henson puppets is a bit offputting without the original context.
While it is a game anyone can play (great for parties in that regard), the turns quickly devolve into roll movement, roll to resolve where you land, repeat. Once the novelty wears off, it’s repetitive and lacks any real strategy since, even in the early stages of the game, a player only has two choices of where to land.
On a personal level, this game was a great grab. The movie emblazoned my childhood alongside Princess Bride and Willow. Opening the box for the first time had a wow factor, but the players are the magic behind the game more than the game itself. The mechanic is simple and accessible to people who are not used to board games, which is great, however the game quickly boils down to milling and a lather-rinse-repeat. One game sessions featured someone who didn’t know the movie, and another who had seen it once a long time ago which made the game a lot of me pseudo-explaining what was being referenced, which put a damper on the magic.
The game stays away from being ‘breakable’ due to having fewer ‘moving parts’, so to speak, when compared to other games. The characters are balanced, and don’t grow/level unless you have a weakness to shed. Jareth, the villain of the movie, appears seemingly at will and creates challenges for the players which is the most transferable aspect of screen to table.
Final Score? Two and Half Buns. It’s fun the first time or two but feels like a complex version of Candy Land to this seasoned gamer. Most of the fun comes from sharing with other Labyrinth fans, which can be done just by watching the movie.