Family Staples: Labyrinth. A game grownups and kids actually all enjoy
I’ll admit, it’s rare to find an older board game that I actually enjoy. Board games have evolved to give more agency to players in the past few decades, and it’s quite difficult for a modern gamer to enjoy the purely luck-based games of old.
Ravensburger’s Labyrinth (1986) is one of the rare exceptions for me.
I bought this game to play with the kids, because I had found memories of playing it in elementary school with some friends. We never owned the game when I was a kid, but I remember being excited every time I would go to a friend’s and get an opportunity to play it. Years later, I decided to try the game with my kids.
In Labyrinth, 2 to 4 players are competing to retrieve treasures in a maze that keeps moving. The first player to get all his/her assigned treasures and get back to their starting point, wins the game.
During Setup, each player chooses a character, represented by a miniature wizard, sorceress, etc…, and places them on their starting position on the board. All “treasure” cards are shuffled, and distributed to the players. They represent their targets.
During their turn, each player has to push a piece of the board into the labyrinth, to try and create a path from their current position to one of their target treasures. If such a path exists, the player moves their miniature to the target treasure, and acquires that treasure. They can move on to the next one.
The first player to have acquired all of their treasure targets wins.
Why Grown ups appreciate labyrinth
There are few board games that let you constantly change the state of the board in such a tactile way as labyrinth does. The idea of “pushing” the walls of the labyrinth works so well mechanically and thematically, I’m always amazed at how good it feels to pushing these pieces of cardboard and reveal new paths.
Adults will also appreciate how easy it is to tweak the rules for younger players. In particular, what we’ve done in our household is that each player reveals all their treasure cards, and can pick whichever they want to get on each turn. It makes the game tremendously easier, which is great for the little ones. It’s easy to help each other, and turn it into less of a competition and more of a cooperative exercise (there will still be a winner in the end, but nothing prevents the players from helping each other and thinking of paths together).
Why the Kids love Labyrinth
The theme of the maze and the treasures works great with our kids. There is an exciting feeling of adventure, without having to read entire pages of backstory (cough Mice and Mystics, cough). They sometimes get disappointed when their treasure is “the spider” while they would have preferred to get the diamond, even though from a gameplay perspective this doesn’t change a thing.
Just like us, they also love moving the pieces of the maze, of course.
In our family, the kids also enjoyed painting the miniatures (with, err, ok results…?), and the parents had no problem letting them do it for this game. Its was a fun side activity, and I’d recommend other parents to give it a try.
The game doesn’t overstay its welcome, meaning it’s relatively easy to do another session if one of the kids is disappointed to lose.
Ravensburger’s Labyrinth – conclusion
Labyrinth is an evergreen family game that has worked tremendously well for us, and is one of the most played game in our household. Our copy has been played to death, and cards have been slightly eaten by one of the kids when they were a baby, ha.
Labyrinth keeps hitting the table despite having been with us for more than 7 years now. The game is not perfect, but for us it’s a keeper!
Games mentioned in this article
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