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Subject: Review and Play Results With Kids by Sag, Father of Four rss

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    My wife, not a big gamer, saw The Amazing Labyrinth at Barnes and Nobles and decided she just had to have it. Excited about playing (don't see that from her very often!) she hurried the twin three-year-olds to bed on-time tonight so that we could get a game in with our nine-year-old and our six-year-old. What follows is a review of how it went with two kids who were more than ready to play.

    I took a moment to read the rules prior to to bringing the other folks into the room. Generally I digest the game before bringing the kids in, and I had recently tried having them open the package with me when I introduced Lucky Loop, with less than wonderful results. So I went back to standard operating procedure and reviewed all the materials (and punched out the cards and tiles) beforehand.

    But frankly, given the simplicity of the rules, this likely wasn't necessary, even with a six-year-old in the mix. The rules for Amazing Labyrinth are quite simple, and the rulebook is well written save for three minor flaws which I shall mention in a moment.

    The board consists of a set of fixed tiles in a waffle-pattern, which can be clearly seen in image 94599 shown here:

            


These tiles are part of the game board, but not painted on -- they are actual tiles that have been glued to the underlying board.

    At the beginning of the game additional tiles are added in the blank areas between, and are free to move from turn to turn. These tiles are the same height as the ones affixed to the game board, so what results is a random board that generally connects much of the pathways together into a few big paths, but also includes scraps of paths that are short. An example of a filled-in board is shown in image 64615 shown here:

            


    Note that there is one additional tile left over once the board is filled. This is an important part of the unique mechanic of Amazing Labyrinth.

    At the beginning of the game each player receives cards. This is flaw number one in the rules, although only a minor one. The rules do not specify how many cards each player gets, merely that they get cards. We chose to take three cards each as we were short for time and it seemed like a reasonable guess for a 30 minute game. It turned out to be about right. Each player leaves their cards face down in front of them in a pile, only looking at the first one when the game play begins. On each card is a picture of something that also appears on the maze tiles -- a set of keys, a bag of gold, a dragon, etc. The player's goal is to move their game piece over the picture in the maze that appears on their card. Once they have reached the first card's goal, they turn over their second card and then move on from there until they have achieved all of their cards. Once the cards are complete they must return to their starting position at the corner of the board to win the game. Simple enough. Note there is an optional kid's rule which allows them to look at all of their cards and choose which one they want to go after first. My wife and I used the big people rule and let the kids use the kid's rule. This is a nice way to handicap a player in the game and made things closer for us. I recommend a similar approach if you play with your kids.

    On each turn, the player first takes the leftover tile and inserts it somewhere along the edge of the board. That is, they use it to push a row or column of tiles one position to the left or right, up or down. That leftover tile now becomes part of the board, the tile that falls off the board on the far side becomes the "leftover" tile, and the maze has magically changed, sometimes quite dramatically. It is important to note that rows and columns with the fixed tiles cannot be moved -- only every other row and every other column are available for this adjustment.

    Once the player has adjusted the board via this truly curious mechanism, they are free to move their game piece anywhere along the pathways that are connected to their piece's current position. Naturally, each player attempts to change the maze in such a way that it provides their piece with an opening to their current goal -- whatever image appears on their current card. Having the maze change to snooker one of the other players is a nice bonus as well, but in our first game we discovered that simply moving the maze to help ourselves was sufficient challenge for any particular turn.

    Minor flaw in the rulebook number 2 comes up at this point -- the user is required to move the board regardless of whether it will help them or not. Our edition of the rules does not indicate that it is the board that must move and not the player's piece, but the rule was easy enough to interpret given its context, once a bit of scrutiny was applied. At times it is useful to leave your game piece stationary, and leaving the board stationary could be useful as well, but only the game piece can remain unchanged.

    Flaw in the rulebook number 3 can be brought up now too, and this one is more important to game play. The rules state that you can move any distance along an open pathway. The problem appears when you use the optional kid's rule. If the kids have knowledge of all of their cards, they could theoretically satisfy multiple cards on one turn. Indeed it may be possible for all of a kid's goals to be along one single pathway (and their home corner as well) and thus for them to complete the entire game in one turn. The rules do not explicitly address this, so we decided to only permit one goal to be finished per turn, which seems a reasonable interpretation of the spirit of the game.

    These flaws are minor inconveniences at best, and I don't want to mislead anyone into thinking they are damaging to game play or shortcomings in the game itself. Indeed the game itself is quite engaging, and these little rule foibles do not provide any impediment to the enjoyment. My wife coached my six-year-old son and I coached my nine-year-old daughter, but given this was our first play we found ourselves surprised on a number of occasions when the change to the maze resulted in a better opportunity than we had anticipated, so all playing had plenty of good learning moments, and a rocking good time. At the end my wife won in a close game, but we continued playing to establish second, third, and fourth positions. I'm an avid gamer and I enjoyed the puzzle aspect of the game. My wife who generally avoids games (she's a mother of four including twin three-year-olds, and so she generally doesn't have enough energy or brain power left at the end of the day for a Dukes of Hazard rerun let alone a board game) greatly enjoyed the simplicity of the rules, and the kids loved the hunt-the-objects part of it as well. I think they were also very pleased that they could quickly grok one of the "Dad" games even if they did need a bit of coaching on good options for the tile movement.

    In short, dare I say it? I do -- it was fun for the whole family! With its simple rules and constantly changing board, the game provides a unique diversion that likely is an important factor in why it has been reprinted so many times (ours is the 20th anniversary edition and quite plush). The simple rules mean that this game is accessible to just about anyone, and the short time frame for play makes it a good filler for a rainy afternoon or a bedtime diversion. If you're looking for something heavy with multiple layers of play and deep connectivity between the players' positions in the game, likely Amazing Labyrinth will leave you wanting more. But if you're looking for something quick, fun, and playable with your kids this is an excellent choice. But fair warning -- you may find yourself pulling it back out once they've gone to bed.

             Sag.
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Bob Flaherty
United States
Loves Park
Illinois
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Excellent review! Looks like one I need to pick up for me and my family. Thanks for pointing out the "flaws" in the rules and your solutions and reasoning.

Bob
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James Davis
Australia
Canberra
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very good review! definatly a great family game i loved it when i was a kid, so when i have kids of my own ill definatly have to go get this game
 
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Dave Gilligan
United States
Charleston
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Great review. I also picked this up at Barnes & Noble for the same reasons. My 6 year old and I have played several times and she really likes it.

It seems like your rules may be different than mine because I didn't encounter the problems you did.

For instance: My rules say shuffle the 24 treasure cards and deal them out equally among the players. I read this to mean you deal 12 in a 2 player to each, 8 each for three player and 6 each for four player. Granted, it might be clearer if the rule said deal "all" the cards out but I think the intent is to deal them all.

The nice thing about the game, however, is you can do what you did (3 cards each to shorten the game) or deal different numbers of cards out as a handicap. In our games, I will take 12 cards and my daughter 6. We do this rather than using the kids varient of letting herlook at her cards.

In regard to moving the maze, my rules have a note that states you must move the maze before each turn, even if you don't have to to reach your goal. This way you can wall in another player (and this is something I have done...yes, I'm a mean father!)

I also think the kids varient is clear that you only get one treasure per turn. It states that on each turn the player tries to reach the most accessible treasure (singular, not plural) so we both interpret this rule the same.

I don't have the 20th anniversary edition, which may account for some of the rules issues.

As far as criticisms of the game, even as simple as it is, I have seen players take several minutes analyzing and reanalyzing the board before moving the maze. This is especially bad because this becomes downtime for the other players and with kid's oftentimes short attention spans it can ruin the game. Players should be encouraged to figure out routes to their next goal during this downtime. Yes, the maze may shift but if you figure a route you may be able to get that exact one or slightly modify your plan for the new configuration when your turn comes around and make the move relatively quickly.
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Behrooz Shahriari
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Thanks for the review - specially for clearly (and visually) explaining how the pieces are 'anchored'. This is something I had no clue about until reading your review.

I look forward to the day I can play this with my neice. :-)
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Brian Gee
Canada
St Catharines
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Nice review Sag.

I've had Master Labyrinth for a long time but just picked up aMAZEing Labyrinth yesterday at value village for $3. I think I will like this version better, because in Master Labyrinth you have everyone racing for the same item in numerical order (with bonus points for items on your secret "recipe" card). With everyone going for the same items and only one person able to get each one, it makes it harder for you to use the maze movement to block an opponent, and it can also create a run-away leader problem. Having each player going for different items seems like a much better mechanic. Looking forward to trying this game and finding out how it compares.
 
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