The war on terror can be fun

If it’s a game. Welcome to Labyrinth:

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As you may be able to make out, Labyrinth is a game about the war on terror. It’s designed by Volko Runhke, and published by GMT Games and is intended for one or two players. The solo version includes a robot (a decision making tree) for a true, challenging, and worthwhile solitaire experience.

When the game first came out I had a chance to tinker with it and complete a couple of solo sessions. But now, some four years later, I was getting the chance to try it out with Roy being the live opponent.

As is not unusual in such circumstances, it took some time for me to get through the rules explanation, and I know there were things I got wrong. However, we did eventually got going, playing the Anaconda scenario (set in 2002 after Operation Enduring Freedom) with me as the forces of good, and Roy being the US player… Ok, that was a joke. I was the Jihadist player.

Essentially this is a card management game, where the idea is to use your cards – through events and operations points – to achieve your goals. Each card can be played for its points or its event. (Just like Twilight Struggle.) However, if you play an event associated with your opponent, the event happens as well. So, you need to pay close attention to the cards, as well as what is happening on the board.

For the US player, it’s about getting countries to a state of decent governance. For the Jihadist player it is about establishing Islamist rule, or even acquiring and setting off a Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD) in the USA.

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The US player can attempt to influence matters with a military or a non military approach. But whatever is chosen, there are never enough resources to go around.

In our game, the Jihadist got off to flying start, got hold of a WMD and managed to get it to the US. That perfect plan fell apart, foiled by Roy’s clever retention of just enough of the right cards to foil me.

From then on, till we had to call it, Jihadist fortunes waned. My funding dropped right down. And although Roy failed in every single attempt (because of bad die rolling) to get the rest of the world to match the US political stance on terror – it can be hard or soft – he was gradually turning all of the trouble spots into less dangerous places. He was methodically wiping out my terror cells.

Ironically, when an event forced the US stance to go soft, that matched the rest of the world’s stance, and his operations became even more effective.

Just then, the Jihadist funding went up, and I could start the slow task of spreading mayhem and badness. (Tee hee!)

As noted, we had to call it early. It was more of a learning exercise, but Roy seemed to enjoy it enough to want more. For my part, I thought the rules were not good enough for the job at hand – especially with a game that has pretty unique mechanisms. However, my guess is that if I do enough online reading, that will be sorted.

So, one to play again. Abstract, but enough color to create a reasonable atmosphere – though it can take time to do so. The playbook and solo robot make this a game I should probably have given more attention to. Ah well; so many games, not enough time!