The minute you open the box, you know that you are about to play a game that has been made for fun. The rules are beautifully illustrated. The game board is made of heavy pressboard, and is at least as colorful as the illustrations. Preparing the game for the first time, you punch out sections of the die-cut board, and each punch is pleasantly perfect.
There are two boards, actually: the Garden Level Game Board, and the Labyrinth Board. The first thing you do is punch out 24 coin-like “Magic Symbol Chips” from the Labyrinth Board, and place them in the cloth bag. Next, punch out everything that looks punch-outable, until you end up with a grid. Then you take the 24 wooden wall pieces and place them in the grid so as to make a solvable maze. There are many different maze patterns you can make, some of which can be extremely difficult to solve. After the maze has been built, you cover it with the Garden Level Game Board, and, for, for fun’s sake, turn the whole thing around so that no one actually remembers what the maze looked like.
There are four large “Magnetic Magician Pawns.” Each pawn is placed in one of the four corners of the Garden Level Game Board. There are also four metal balls, each of which is placed beneath a pawn.
Without actually looking into the bag, one player picks a Magic Symbol Chip and places it on the corresponding symbol on the Garden Leven Game Board. The first player who can move his piece on to that chip – without dropping the steel ball – wins that round.
The starting player rolls the die, which allows him to move from one to four spaces, horizontally and/or vertically. At first, it’s sheer luck. There’s no way to tell when you’ll run against a wall, and lose the ball – and when you do, you have to return to start. But once you do lose the ball, you’ll know exactly what to avoid the next turn.
And on and on, turn by turn, players begin to learn the maze, each from their own perspective, each hoping to be the first to win a Magic Symbol Chip. When that happens, the next player draws the next chip, and the new round begins.
It takes about 15 minutes to set the game up the first time. Playing the whole game (collecting all 24 Magic Symbol Chips), can take a while, but each round takes a little less time as more of the maze is explored and mastered. And, of course, you can stop whenever you are tired or are told you have to.
The mystery of the hidden maze, the excitement of losing the ball and having to start over, the surprise of having suddenly lost the ball, the delight of having mastered a portion of the maze, the elegance of the rules, the opportunity to build yet another, more or less challenging maze – all combine wonderfully to create a game that remains fascinating each time it is played.
The Magic Labyrinth was designed by Dirk Baumann, and is made available through Playroom Entertainment. It is for two-four players, and can be enjoyed by kids as young as 6, and by adults who have a good memory. As in most memory games, the kids have the advantage, which makes The Magic Labyrinth such a perfect family game. It is not really a strategic game, which, for many of us, makes the game especially appealing. But it does require deductive reasoning as well as a good memory, and, hence, challenges and exercises both. It’s an elegant game – not quite like any other. And, most importantly, turns out to be significantly, dare I say, majorly fun.