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David Dixon
United States
Mauldin
South Carolina
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Note: This article is less a review or session report than my general take on the game, and whether or not I feel it does the concept justice.

It took a few days of playing at night, but I finally finished my first game of Labyrinth (a solo game--single deck, normal difficulty). I had plenty of time to ponder the irony of playing a game about the current fight while sitting here in southern Iraq.

I won, by controlling 12 resources as the US about three quarters of the way into the game. I did so by a combination of things--namely by being judicious with my troop deployments and, frankly, due to some pretty poor rolling by the jihadist side--which, I'd say, is fairly realistic. Big, complex operations like terrorist plots fail more often than they succeed, and the track record for what the game would classify as "major jihads" hasn't been overly successful either.

Overall, I found the interplay between world opinion, the "Muslim street," US posture, and the cardplay representing events to be a pretty good model for how the War has played out thus far. I'm not going to call it a simulation, because the world stage is too complex for that, but it's a decent model and allows you to kind of "what if" certain things and be satisfied with the results.

Specifically, I waited awhile to invade Afganistan, because I feared getting my troops mired there and being a constant recruiting tool. However, just as in real life, Afganistan quickly became the font from which all bad things flowed, spilling cells into Pakistan and Central Asia, and dinging my prestige every turn. It became pretty obvious to me that something had to be done, and drone strikes weren't cutting it, particularly when it seemed every event that came up somehow managed to export problems out of Afghanistan.

I felt that the conerns that pressed me into Regime Change there mirrored the ones the US faced in real life, and the consequences and reasons I invaded were realistic. The seesaw battle that was waged there was a fair approxmation of the fight for Afghanistan, and the only place I think realism really suffered was that Afghanistan is just simply a far more difficult environment to work in than are other countries worldwide. (By that I mean that Afghanistan has no concept of itself as a state and is very tribal, has little to no infastructure, has no recent history of a truly functional central government, etc., etc.) To reflect this, I think maybe all US rolls in Afganistan (and probably Pakistan also) should recive an -1 penalty, but I understand why they didn't try to overchrome it.

Of note, I definitely chose not to invade Iraq (having some idea of how that might turn out). I instead focued more on improving governance and relationships with other Muslim Middle Eastern countries and by spending resources elimating plots in places like Europe and Africa. I felt that this too was a pretty realistic protrayal of what our national attention, foreign aid money, and security apparatus focus would have been on had we not made the decision to invade in 2003.

The game ended because I had achieved "victory" although that is subject to debate as well--no one knows, I don't think, what exactly will tell us whether the US has won or lost. I don't know that a certain number of resources held in good governance means long-term victory for the US, but it does stand to reason that such a scenario would be preferable to what we have currently.

Victory (in terms of keeping the US safe from Islamic terrorists) probably has more to do with the defeat of an idea. Ideas can be defeated--see Nazism--but it takes either an overwhelming destruction of the side that promulgates that idea (like Nazi Germany) or the realization that such ideas are not helpful in the longterm (like the European's realization after the Thirty Years War that perhaps the best way to solve Catholic-Protestant disputes was not massive warfare). Perhaps this is victory as defined in the game as the number of countries with good versus poor governance.

Overall, I'm extremely satisfied with the game, and with the inevitable thinking and discussion it will generate, particularly among those who play with an eye towards politics or some experience in the War itself. I have a lot of games that I enjoy playing, but few that make me really think, and none that make me think like this one did.

Diis
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Dr. Love
United States
Tucson
Arizona
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Thank you for the review, it has now cemented my decision to get this game at some point.

What I appreciate is your frankness in the discussion and analysis of game play and how at many points in the game, it appears to mimick the active world theater.

Furthermore on a side note, being a parent of a soldier that just returned from duty, I want you to know, and maybe it is or isn't said enough, I appreciate your service and those that do serve. Stay safe and our thoughts and prayers for the speedy return home of all that serve are with with you.

Thank you.


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Adrian Hague
United Kingdom
Bristol
Bristol
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Great to hear a review from someone in the 'thick of it'.

You may not be a member of my home contries' armed forces, but you have my respect nonetheless thumbsup

So, which tan cube are you?
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Tony Dehner
United States
Waterloo
Iowa
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I have to say, I didn't have any particular interest in playing or owning this game until I read this. Thanks for posting, and thank you for your service.
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Joel Toppen
United States
Gallup
New Mexico
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Glad you like the game! Stay safe!!! Your service is greatly appreciated!

-Joel
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Mariano Rico
Spain
Madrid
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Wow, very, very interesting article from someone who has a very direct perspective of the conflict.We all salute you and thank you for your service, sir.

In my humble opinion, this game does an incredible job adressing very complex facts that are shaping the world at this very same moment. Take this card as a perfect example :

Leak : Controversial US program exposed

Sounds familiar?

It well deserves some analysis from anyone interested in history and actual politics.


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Volko Ruhnke
United States
Virginia
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David -- I couldn't ask for any more meaningful feedback on the game than that. Thank you very much for posting.

The gaming experience that you describe is exactly what I was shooting for with the design: a model, with necesary simplifications and open to debate, but plausible enough to stimulate thinking.

I wish you a successful mission and safe return home.

-- Best regards, Volko
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David Hughes
Australia
Northbridge
NSW
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This is a fine, thoughtful and thought-provoking post. On balance I disagree about the game's usefulness as a model for what-iffing, but you make a good case for the defence.

 
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