Full disclosure: A review copy of The Lady and the Tiger was provided by Jellybean Games.
The Queen of the underground maze
soon learned of the ten tiger strays.
“Find them!” she cried.
“Bring them to my side,
or I’ll set the whole labyrinth ablaze!”
(Peter C. Hayward)
Here’s another one of The Lady and the Tiger‘s games: Labyrinth, a game of shifting walls and swapping cards. You are trying to move your 5 tiger cubs (represented by your color gems) from your color Lady to your color Tiger. Should you succeed, you’ll be rewarded; should you fail, well, … try not to fail. Will you be able to escape the labyrinth, or will the only a-maze-ing thing be your failure?
So, for this one you’re going to want to take the Doors:
Shuffle them up and place them in the corners of what will be a 4 x 4 grid, similar to Cat Rescue. The Ladies should be diagonally opposite from their respective Tigers. Shuffle the Clue cards, as well:
Remove the two Wild cards:
Set those aside and place the other 12 cards randomly to fill in the gap, making a full 4×4 square.
Take the gems:
You will only need these gems for this game:
- 5 Blue Gems
- 5 Red Gems
- 1 White Gem
- 1 Yellow Gem
The blue gems go on the Blue Lady, and the red gems go on the Red Lady. The white gem goes on the Lady / Tiger card (specifically on the lady), and the yellow gem goes on the Red / Blue card (specifically on the Blue).
Once you’ve done all that, you should be ready to start!
Labyrinth is a game of movement and shifts. Each turn the labyrinth shifts according to some criteria, and you want to try and move your gems from your Lady to your Tiger (even though the poem would suggest it’s the other way round [which, to be fair, doesn’t super matter]). However, your opponent is trying to do the same thing, which may put you at odds. And by may, I mean will.
This game is played over many turns, with each player taking a turn in order, starting with the first player. On your turn, you do the following:
- Move one of your gems. You must move a gem, and you may move it onto any orthogonally adjacent space to you (up, down, left, or right).
- Switch two cards. You must now swap two cards according to this criteria:
- You cannot swap the Door cards. That’s just the rules.
- One of the cards you swap must have a gem on it. Again, just the rules. You are not restricted to your own gems, either; you may swap cards with your opponent’s gems on them.
- The cards you swap must be in the same row or column. That would be weird, otherwise.
- You must follow the Wild cards. If the gems are currently on the Blue and Lady side of the wild cards, for instance, you may swap any two Blue cards or any two Lady cards. Any gems on the cards get moved along with the cards. Whichever aspect you choose to swap, move the gem on that card to the other aspect on that card.
- If you swap two of the same card, move both gems. Even if it’s on Red and Lady and you swap two Blue Lady cards, move both gems.
The first player to move all 5 of their gems to their Tiger card wins!
Player Count Differences
Two-player only, so, none.
- Remember that unless the two cards that you swap match BOTH Wild cards’ criteria, those two can be swapped back next turn. If your choice is Red or Lady and you swap two Blue Ladies, the next turn your opponent can still swap those two Blue Ladies (since their options will be Blue or Tigers). I’ve called this the Treadmill in a few games, since there’s no good way to get out of it other than to move elsewhere.
- Like most abstract games, you can guarantee a win at some point. If you’ve got one Tiger cub left on a card that doesn’t match either Wild card (your opponent’s options are Blue or Lady and you’re on a Red Tiger), you win. Try to make sure that happens.
- Go for the tic-tac-toe strategy. If you have two sets of tiger cubs that can move to the Tiger next turn, your opponent can’t block both of them, so they have to let one through. I generally will move one set and swap the other set so it’s closer to try and guarantee that.
- Try not to clump your cubs, and punish your opponent for doing so. If you see a bunch of tiger cubs on one card, might be time to just politely bump them to the other side of the play area. Will your opponent love you for this? No. Will they respect you for it? Probably. That’s what we like to tell ourselves, at least.
- Limit your opponent’s options. If you can force them to either move or swap a card that doesn’t hurt you, that’s great. Even better if you would have to force them to move their own tiger cubs further away from their destination. That happens, sometimes.
- Try not to focus too much early on. It’s hard to focus on the movement of 10 pieces around the board early in the game; I find the game tightens up a bit after both players have scored some tiger cubs. I haven’t yet played a game in which anyone has been totally shut out.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Love the spatial component. It’s a nice and neat imagining of what you can do with this set.
- This game specifically does a really good job of highlighting all the incredible art that went into the production. Since you get to see all the cards, it’s definitely the game I would use if I wanted to catch people’s eye and try to convince them to play this game.
- Plays quickly. 20 minutes, tops.
- Very portable. The whole set is, really, so I guess this gets to be a pro for all of them.
- Straightforward to learn, as well. It really is all-in-all a very nice travel game; the whole set is, really.
- Players tend to have a weird bias in favor of swapping cards along columns since the cards are long and it creates a perception that the gems are moving farther. It’s another weird thing I’ve noticed in games I’ve played; makes it a bit easier to predict strategies.
- Probably the most space-intensive and delicate game in the set. I wouldn’t play this on an airplane or a moving vehicle given how much everything needs to stay exactly where it is. Hurts it a bit as a travel game, but not that much, all things being equal.
- Not sure if it’s just me or if it’s the way the game works, but a lot of my games have ended 5 – 4. It makes the first few rounds seem less relevant than the last one, but I’m not sure how much of that is just a consequence of players not being able to manage the cognitive load of having like, 10 pieces on the board to track and swap in their heads.
- The gems sliding off the cards is kind of frustrating, especially given how much you have to move them. There’s not really anything that can be done about it, per se, but it is annoying.
Overall: 8.25 / 10
Overall, Labyrinth is great! I suspect it’s my favorite out of the entire set, but I’m still working through my reviews so I can’t quite tell you with 100% certainty. (Editor’s Note: Having played through all of them, it is my favorite game.) I think it’s a very novel duel game that makes good use of the components that come with the game for a neat and thematic experience that gives you a great opportunity to appreciate all of Tania Walker’s phenomenal art. If you’re looking for a neat, two-player kind-of-abstract game of shifting walls, I’d recommend checking out Labyrinth!