Have you played Twilight Struggle? Do you feel like you want to spend some time playing the same game in the modern world? Of course you do, you’re a fun and interesting person with a lot of opinions about the state of the world since 2001. Well, I’ve got a game for you. In all honesty, Labyrinth is a lot like Twilight Struggle where it counts, and a bit different in interesting ways.
In Labyrinth, you play as either ‘Merica or the terrorists. You’re not playing a specific set of terrorists, just a nondescript global terror force, like Cobra. In essence, it’s ‘Merica vs. Cobra and one of you plays the president and the other plays as Cobra Commander- or that other snake thing from the G.I. Joe movies. The goal of ‘Merica is to root out terrorism and get the world to love democracy. The goal of the terrorists, on the other hand, is to throw countries into disarray, find a nuclear bomb and set it off in the good old U.S. of A. Is that dark? Should board games be THIS dark? I’m all for the simulation of real world politics in board games – video games get to have squads of marines breaking every international law and killing everyone. I’m fine with a game that simulates the real world in this way. Can one say that this is a fun game? Well, if you think that Twilight Struggle is fun, and you like the game, then yes, Labyrinth is going to be fun – playing as either side is going to be fun.
Is this a true to life terrorism simulation? Nope. But playing as the U.S. does allow you to deal with some pretty big issues. See, the U.S.’s military power is devastating – they can come in on the ground, and the air and just destroy everything. The U.S. military is a very traditional power – it’s very good at going into a country and occupying it. The game simulates this by allowing the U.S. player to commit to an invasion almost anywhere on the board and then having to stay there for a few turns. The U.S. is not very mobile. Their movements have huge weight associated with them. The terrorists, on the other hand, are nimble. They can go from country to country, stay hidden, and do things on the down low. They eventually have to reveal themselves, but most of the time they can stay hidden. This creates a cat and mouse situation akin to real life hunts for terrorists.
How does the game play? A LOT like Twilight Struggle. You have a hand full of either your cards or your opponent’s cards, and you play them for either your own events or for points, and if you end up using one of your opponent’s cards, their event will trigger. Unlike in Twilight Struggle, not every country is up for grabs. For the most part, the big events are going to happen in the Middle East, northern Africa and some of Asia and Eastern Europe. Western Europe and North America are stable, by contrast, but the U.S. has to constantly manage the rest of the world’s stance towards the global war on terror. There are cards that will make other countries either hard or soft on terrorism, and can cause the U.S. to lose prestige around the world. As the U.S. loses prestige, the terrorists gain resources and victory points. The components in the game are of good stock, but the art and layout of the cards is a bit spartan – lots of dead space. The board is nice and big and most of it serves as a player aid, which is good because new players definitely need it.
This is not an introductory game, but is instead something for the person who has played Twilight Struggle, loves the system, and wants to see a different take on it. It’s more of a sequel than a stand alone. You wouldn’t watch Ghostbusters 2 without watching the first one, and it’s the same with this. If you’re looking to pick up a strategic historical game, really like board gaming, and want something that you can really sink your teeth into, I’d still recommend that you start with Twilight Struggle, but Labyrinth can be a great follow up after you’ve had enough of the cold war. I need to get a few more games in myself, but every time I’ve played Labyrinth it has been enjoyable. That being said, I found Labyrinth harder to learn than Twilight Struggle, and I’d recommend that you watch a video of how to play instead of trying to work your way through the rule book. I also think that this is going to be one of those games that isn’t going to sell well in the future without an update, as some of the events are becoming ancient history.