Minotaurus is another game in the “build, play, change” series of LEGO games that once again proves fun enough to merit our serious consideration.

It’s a children’s game, (7 to probably 14) where chance plays a central role, and yet strategic thinking most definitely pays off.

The premise is as follows: like Ovid’s story of Theseus, the fearsome Minotaur will do battle with anyone entering its maze. Here, each player is in charge of a band of heroes, each of whom hopes to travel the maze to win a place of invulnerability, which is frighteningly adjacent to the Minotaur’s home. The first player to get the majority of his heroes to the center of the board defeats the Minotaur.

As with all LEGO experiences, you begin the game by building it. LEGO has perfected its method of documenting building instructions, doing it all with step-by-step illustrations that require no reading. Because the Minotaur’s maze is so complex, a template is also included to help you build it. And, as with all LEGO games, building the board is only the beginning of the play experience. Now, on with the game.

The number of spaces a hero may move is determined by the roll of a die. There are two special faces. If you roll the face with the black tile on it, you move the Minotaur. Strategically, you want to move the Minotaur as close to one of your opponent’s as possible. Unfortunately, once the Minotaur is out of his secret castle, he becomes a threat to anyone who wanders near enough. If you roll a gray tile, you can move a barrier from anywhere on the board to somewhere that will block your opponent, or perhaps the bully Minotaur himself. If there are only two players, the winning player is the first to get two of her three heroes into secret castle, if there are three or four players, all that is required to win is that you get one hero to the Minotaur’s secret temple.  So, as you can see, despite the element of luck, playing the game well requires some serious thinking. And, because of the element of luck, losing is a little easier to take. To get a more immediate understanding of the rules, just click your way over to this animated walk-through.

LEGO games are designed to be changed. The board can be redesigned, other LEGO bricks and bits can be added, and the rules themselves are fodder for further experimentation. This is what makes the games 1) so inviting, and 2) so difficult to review.

You can, for example, replace the face of the die that indicates 3 moves with a green tile, indicating that you can cross over a wall. You can change how many moves the Minotaur gets (more moves makes him more menacing, and the game more difficult to win). To make the game more challenging increase the number of heroes a player has to get to the temple.

There are at least as many ways to change the rules as there are to build the board – especially if you have other LEGO pieces and even more especially if you have another LEGO dice from another game. You don’t have to change the game just for the sake of change. You can change the game to make it more fun for the very particular people you are playing with. If people aren’t into competing, make it more cooperative (everybody gets to move at the same time). If they want more thinking let them move two pieces on a single turn. If there are more people who want to play, have them share pieces, each starting from a different place on the board, but on the same side as players with the same color piece. If you’re the only person who wants to play, make it into a solitaire. You can incorporate high drama (especially when captured by the Minotaur) and low comedy (making Minotaur noises and miniature warrior sounds).

You can’t really appreciate Minotaurus, or any of the LEGO games, just by playing it one time, or with one group of people, or by building it once or by playing by one set of rules.  You have to build it, play it, change it, build it differently, play it differently, change it again, until you make it your own. That’s the fun. That’s the beauty. That’s the opportunity.

Minotaurus was designed by Cephas Howard.

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