I’m a big fan of the movie Labyrinth. My wife is an even bigger fan. Heck almost everyone I know loves this movie. So when I heard there was a Labyrinth board game out there I felt I had to buy it.
More than a year ago, I picked up the Jim Henson’s Labyrinth board game from River Horse Ltd.
Today I’m going to review that game, including letting you know why it took over a year to get it played.
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A Bit of History
If you are anything like me, you got very excited when you heard that there was a new modern Labyrinth game coming out. You may even have rushed out and paid full price, and if you did I do feel sorry for you. Maybe you did like me and read some reviews and heard all of the bad things being said. Perhaps you made the same mistake as I did and decided “it can’t be that bad” and bought the game on sale.
I bought this game over a year ago and gave it to Deanna for Xmas in 2017. By the time Xmas had hit, more and more online reviews for the game were rolling in and none of them were positive. What this meant is that we had a really hard time getting this game to the table. Besides negative press, the other thing holding us back was that the game is designed to play with four players. Yes you can play with less and you can even play with one more, but it’s really designed for four players and four players only.
Due to these factors, it took us over a year to finally get this game played. Now I don’t usually write up reviews based on only one play, but sometimes I will make an exception. This is one of those times and you can read on to find out why.
I’m going to start with the good things about this game: You can get it dirt cheap and it comes with really cool miniatures of the main characters from the movie.
That’s it. Done. That’s the only reason to buy this game. It’s cheap and has cool minis.
I have to admit, that once I actually got the game and read the instructions, it didn’t sound half bad. Yeah, it’s a roll and move but at least it’s asymmetric with different characters having different speeds. When you move you draw a card from a deck of Labyrinth cards. On those cards, various things will happen and you will probably have to test one of your character’s skills.
Skill tests are opposed rolls and skill ratings are by die size. So a bad skill would be at D4 while a good skill would be at D12. Characters have Willpower which can be spent to add a D20 to their roll (keeping the highest number rolled on either die). If you fail you lose Willpower and instead of being eliminated when you run out of Willpower you miss a turn in the Oubliette.
Then there’s an actually cool team up mechanic. If characters meet up in the Labyrinth they can travel together. While they have to move at the slowest character’s speed, when making tests each character rolls their own dice for that skill and the highest roll is used, making tests much easier. Of course, if you fail all characters together suffer the consequences.
There’s even a story element where every character has a strength and a weakness. For the strength, once a game when it applies they can discard their strength card and add a D20 to one of their rolls. For the weakness, for one of the character’s stats they lack confidence and roll with a smaller die, but once they succeed at a test they get to toss off that weakness and roll at full strength for the rest of the game.
It all sounds rather good doesn’t it? Almost makes you want to go out and buy it doesn’t it?
No, I admit it still doesn’t sound great, but it doesn’t’ sound horrible. It sounds a bit like Talisman. You move around the board, random stuff happens, you have adventures, you meet people, you find cool stuff, and eventually you find your way to the centre of the board and you challenge Jareth, the Goblin King. It should be good. But it’s not.
The problem is that the actual Labyrinth cards are boring. There’s no story. There are no cool things that happen. Every single card is: you find X, now roll against Y, if you fail loose Willpower. Then the card either goes to the bottom of the deck or stays on the board. Even the Jareth cards are the same with the only change being that Jareth moves to your spot and he always rolls a D20 and you test Will. Okay, okay, there are a few, very few cards that do something a bit different. We did find a couple items, cards you could pick up and use later, but 90% off the cards were just land here, test something, turn done.
It’s incredibly boring. All teaming up actually does is make these tests easier. So you lose less will. It’s not any more interesting, just easier. It is better than failure. Failure sucks. Getting stuck in the oubliette and basically missing a turn sucks. Technically it’s not missing a turn, you must take the rest action to get Will back. Basically you miss a turn.
You just keep wandering the board making the same tests over and over until you find the entrance to the the Goblin City. Here’s where things should get exciting or interesting. Nope. The Goblin City juts means making three brawn tests in a row. If you fail you get kicked out and have to try again later. Even the fact that it’s three brawn tests in a row is boring. With three tests needed why not make it one for each stat?
Finally, you make it through the Labyrinth, you get past the goblin city you face Jareth and…. you guessed it, another test. This time vs D20 will. Except if you fail the clock moves forward one hour.
That’s right I forgot about the clock. The entire game is on a 13 turn time limit. If you don’t win by 13 turns the game ends. Or less than 13 turns once you are facing Jareth.
Back to that. So the “fight” vs. Jareth. You roll a Will test, if you fail the clock goes forward one. Then you do it again. It doesn’t even go to the other player’s turns, they don’t get a chance to play anymore, you just keep testing until you win. And you better be the player playing Sarah. That’s because no one else can actually challenge Jareth. If you aren’t playing Sarah your game ended in the goblin city.
So you are playing Sarah, you do manage to beat Jareth’s D20 roll what’s left? Recite The Poem. You do that without any mistakes you win. You get it wrong you lose. While the game expects you to have it memorized it does have a nice reference card so you can practice before the final battle.
Everything in this game looks great. At first.
The board is cool enough, for what’s basically a pretty picture you lay cards on. The problem is that my board ripped within moments of opening. Yep, split right in half. Okay yes, I did try to bend it back a bit as it was a bit warped but no more than I do for any other game in my collection to try to get it to lay flat. So before our first game we already had a two-part board.
Then there’s the spinner. But wait, the game doesn’t come with a spinner, at least it’s not supposed to. There’s a rather large clock board that you have to assemble by attaching a sword pointer onto it. That pointer you use to indicate the hour on the clock. It starts at 1 and if it ever hits 13 you lose the game. The problem is that the pointer is so loose that it’s basically a spinner.
The cards in the game are a really odd size. Good luck finding sleeves if you are the type that needs to sleeve all your cards. Besides that, they are fairly thin. The card art is fine, it’s all still shots from the film. The art is small though, with the majority of the cards given over to text.
The dice are standard Chessex style RPG dice, good quality. The game also includes some standees. These are odd as they don’t really fit in with the rest of the game and don’t actually serve any purpose. They represent the goblin guards in the goblin city and are placed on the map when you unlock the city. The thing is there’s no reason these couldn’t have just been pictures on the board. There’s no reason for these oversized standees. Plus the characters are all represented by minis, why not these?
Speaking of minis. That’s the one part of the game that is really cool. The miniatures for Hoggle, Ludo, Sir Didymus, Sarah and Jareth are pretty awesome. They are the one part of this game I’m not actually disappointed with.
If you can’t tell, I’m disappointed. I wasn’t expecting much in the first place and yet was still let down. This is not a good game.
My biggest complaint about this game is that it could have been good. You wouldn’t even have to change it all that much to make it so much better. The actual skill test mechanics aren’t bad and the team up rules are actually really good. It’s mainly that labyrinth deck that needs tweaking. Make the cards actually interesting. Have different things happen. Make it more like Tasliman with some actual variety. That and totally change the ending. The Goblin City should be three different types of skill tests, if nothing else. The final battle shouldn’t require Sarah. Yes I know that’s how it is in the movie, but wouldn’t it be cool if it ended with Ludo just decking the Goblin King?
I strongly recommended staying away from this one, that is unless you want some cool miniatures to display or paint.
Have you had the chance to try this game? I hope you got more out of it than me. If you have tried it, let me know your thoughts by commenting below.