Labyrinth lovers! Did you know there is now a board game based on the movie? I preordered this game last spring and checked my email weekly once I knew it was finally being produced. Then I received the notification that my game was headed to my doorstep, and my anxiousness grew. I started planning for my monthly game-night party and eagerly awaited its arrival. Finally! My daughter sends me a picture text of nothing but the game, just in time for game night.
For those of you not familiar with Labyrinth, it is a wonderful 1986 fantasy film directed by Jim Henson and starring David Bowie as Jareth, the Goblin King. Jareth kidnaps a human baby, Toby—the babe with the power!—and it’s up to Toby’s sister, Sarah (Jennifer Connolly), to rescue him.
My anticipation for the game based on this beloved movie was met with a delightfully fun journey to save Toby from becoming a goblin. I was not the slightest bit disappointed. I donned my sweet Labyrinth T-shirt recently sent to me from Loot Crate (what kind of host would I be if didn’t?) and had planned to have the movie playing in the background, but when I realized I no longer owned a VCR and only owned the movie on tape, I opted for the soundtrack on Spotify instead.
Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: the Board Game by River Horse is magnificently illustrated and feels straight out of the movie, with the board monopolized by the Labyrinth leading to Jareth’s castle. (I challenge you to try and navigate the maze.) And the graphics do not end with the board; the cards and characters are just as magical. A strategy of the game play is a balance between keeping adults engaged and not too difficult for younger players. Reading the rules at first may seem a little complicated, but it’s easier once you jump in and start playing. This is a roll-to-move type of game and is basically separated into two stages. In the first stage, players move around the board battling monsters and searching for the entrance to the Goblin City. In the second, everyone comes together as a team to help Sarah rescue her baby brother from the Goblin King.
There are five named characters, with only four of them actually being a part of the turn-based gameplay. Hoggle, Ludo, Sir Didymus, and Sarah all take turns moving around the board, drawing event cards, and battling when directed, hopefully being able to save their willpower—they will need it when it comes to battling the guards outside the Goblin City. Play continues until the Entrance to the Goblin City card is drawn. The unfortunate part of this is that you are instructed to place that card in the bottom third of the deck prior to game start. What’s going on with Jareth in the meantime, you may ask? He moves around the board hindering advancement of other players based on where the event cards send him until the entrance is found. It is not necessary to have a fifth player, but we did, and he obnoxiously enjoyed the power of moving Jareth around the board and stealing willpower from others.
Once you find that entrance card (hopefully you still have plenty of willpower and time left) you may proceed to the castle. But! You must battle Humongous, the Goblin Infantry, the Goblin Cavalry, and the Goblin Artillery first. And Sarah has to be the one to rescue Toby.
Fortunately, the game allows for moving as a team, an ability you won’t really need until you are ready to battle the gate guards. Each player is also given a special reroll card, which I recommend waiting until you find the entrance before using. If you are able to get Sarah to Jareth in the castle by the end of the 13th hour, Toby is saved from the fate of being turned into a goblin.
I absolutely loved this game and cannot wait to play it again. The one thing I did not like was having to put that Entrance card towards the bottom, but that forces players to work strategically. If it ends up as the very last card, you have zero hope of saving the baby.
A few tips based on my play-through:
- Wait until the second stage to use the reroll ability.
- Have Sarah rest until all members have gathered together. (This will save her willpower.)
- Have a fifth person play Jareth. As mentioned, it’s not required, but it helps to have a separate person to be charge of the clock, roll for monsters, and keep the game moving.
- Learn all of the opening lyrics to “Dance Magic Dance.” You remind me of the babe . . .
- Buy Labyrinth on Blu-ray or DVD (unless you are old school and still own that VCR).
- Oh! And stay away from the Bog of Eternal Stench. No need to spend the game stinking up the place.
Whether or not you’re a fan of the movie, Labyrinth: The Board Game is a must-add to any tabletop collection—and conversely, even if you’re not a big tabletop gamer, if you love Labyrinth you will find a lot to love in this game!