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Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 - ?» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Review from a noob CDG player. rss

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Douglas Damron
United States
Cross Lanes
West Virginia
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First, a little bit of an intro (I apologize, you can skip it).

Until recently, I haven't had any interest in CDG's. I am a regular member within two gaming groups (the Appalachian Gamers and a rotating group of around 10 college friends). Every year the Appalachian gamers host a moderate sized con in Charleston, WV. Christian Leonard and Jason Matthews are close friends with several members of the group, and after having several conversations with the two at this year's Charcon and overhearing many compliments from fans, I decided to give their highly rated CDG's a chance (I realize TS is not Christian's game, but you get the point). I picked up a copy of 1960 2 weeks ago (3 plays, no wins), as well as a copy of Twilight Struggle (5 plays, 4 wins). After just one time playing each game I immediately ordered Labyrinth, with all of the hype on the geek about this game it was hard to ignore, probably because I am now hooked on CDG's.

Now, on to the review:

Theme (7/10):

My only gripe, and this is probably just me nitpicking, is that Labyrinth lacks the great narrative feel of other CDG's (I've only played 2 others, so take this with a grain of salt), the cards in this game depict the use of common tools present in the arsenal of either side (this is more prominent for the US cards). Since the cards are the whole game and theme is very important to me, this holds some weight.

Gameplay (9/10):
I hate reading mechanics in reviews. I won't put you through that. If you want to know about the mechanics you should check out the other fine reviews on this site (I sure did, I do a lot of research before I purchase).

What sets this game apart is asymmetry. Each country on the map (that can be contested) shows three major pieces of information (I'll talk more about this later), and each piece of information means something completely different to each player. The concept of ops/events should be familiar to everyone reading this, and if you don't know about it then you should check out TS or 1960 first (they're easier, and if you read to the end you'll find out which I think is more fun). I love the fact that there are different options for each player, representing the different resources/tactics at hand. On one hand you have major overhauls in government/alignment initiated by the US, sweeping victories throughout countries in control of vital resources. On the other hand you have devastating jihads sending weak new regimes into chaos, possibly developing a strong Islamic rule. It's all a very exciting back and forth cat and mouse game.

Getting it to the table (7/10)
If I had a clone, this game would see a lot of table time. It's more of a challenge for me than TS, and I don't win as easily. However, the fact remains that this game is much harder to grasp than TS or 1960 (in both of those you have very clear goals). This game presents you with many important pieces of information, and it's hard to keep track of it all. Each contestable country has a resource value, a strength of government, and an alignment towards US. On top of this, you are presented with various tracks to manage important information (a single victory track with 4 markers involves a lot of bookkeeping, a lot of die roll modifiers for the US, and tracks to manage available troops, cards, and us posture in relation to the worlds stance against terrorism). This is all fine by me, however, because it seems necessary for the sake of the simulation. With easier games around(and better in the case of TS), like TS and 1960 (and other fine 2 player games that aren't CDG), it will be hard to introduce this game to new players. The fact that your goals/options aren't initially clear, as well as the extensive bookkeeping, will keep this game from hitting the table as often as it deserves.

Overall (8/10)
This game provides an excellent change of pace. A challenging game to play, mostly due to not knowing the best move for yourself (at first, I imagine this will ease with time, and then the gameplay will improve because it will be more about the person across the table). I have read that people think the US has more to take care of, and are harder to play than the Jihadists. This may be true from a rules perspective, but from a gaming perspective each player needs to understand what their opponent can and should do in order to be competitive, as well as how they can go about doing the things they want to (my most recent game ended in a victory because I was able to tell that my opponent was out of 3 ops cards, giving me an opening to play a two card wmd combo that was irreversible). I love a game where reading your opponent, knowing their options, and trying your hardest to tell when they're bluffing is the key to victory. Very Fun Game! Overall, I prefer this game to 1960, but not to TS. Each game, however, has a place in my collection.
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