Licensed tie-in games can be something of a risk. A lot of times they can be lame. There, yes, I said it, the unprofessional word “lame*” in a game review. Sort of like tie-in cereal which turns out to be merely a copycat of another kind of cereal with tie-in packaging. Many times it seems like not much time was put into the game itself as much as making sure all the right promo images appear in the material.
Then again, there is the other extreme. A tie-in game that turns out to be really playable and quite awesome. Such as Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars RPG or Cubicle 7’s Doctor Who RPG.
So, it was with trepidation, but also a lot of hope that I picked up River Horse‘s Labyrinth the Board Game. Well, I tried to pick it up, but it was sold out and back ordered and going on eBay for $300. This did not bode well, since the games were fetching high prices from speculators and not a lot of players. Yet, the figures it comes with and the images of the game board seemed compelling. Would a company put that much detail (and they do pay attention to um…details…) into the game tokens without paying much attention to the game they are to be used in? Plus, there were dice! A standard set of six Gygaxian polyhedrals which seemed like an interesting feature for a board game to have. However, it was not $300 worth of interesting.
Now, it’s obvious that River Horse wasn’t expecting that David Bowie would die the same year their game was in manufacturing and to be released. They couldn’t possibly have anticipated the demand that would cause, which would result in ridiculously priced eBay and Amazon listings. Finding the game at the MSRP price was pretty difficult if it hadn’t been pre-ordered. (Although, they could have slightly underestimated the demand from Muppet fans who are only exceeded by Star Wars fans when it comes to collecting.)
My advice to anyone wanting a copy would be to check brick and mortar stores, rather than the Internet and merely wait for the next print of games to be released, which is how I found it. Of course, rather than leave it shrink-wrapped and worth money, I completely devalued it by opening and playing it.
This is a fun co-op family game, which, thanks to cards that get drawn and represent parts of the Labyrinth, will be different every time. The gameplay is simple enough, but better learned through actual play. Individual players can’t really lose, unless everyone loses the whole game. The game has to be won by the players within a certain number of turns or everyone loses. That time limitation makes it great as a quick game that you don’t have to fear will go on forever. It also puts a bit of pressure on what is essentially a low stakes game.
The game is also incredibly unfair. I say this as a good thing. It’s very in keeping with the movie. It results in a collective groan when a card with an appearance by The Goblin King is drawn. The mechanics are really stacked in his favor and it’s a true victory if you manage to pull off a win against him. If the players manage through the first stage before the end of the turns, the second phase starts which is also stacked against the characters, but not impossible to pass.
This is actually an enjoyable game and not a lame movie tie-in at all. I’m looking forward to the Goblin Expansion Pack coming later this year.
*Disclaimer: The author probably means “disappointing” by using such an unprofessional word, but it is suspected that she may have been disappointed so many times as to render the more professional vocabulary insufficient for her needs.