#961 – Pokémon Labyrinth

Base price: $37.
2 – 4 players.
Play time: 20 – 24 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)
Logged plays: 2 

Full disclosure: A review copy of Pokémon Labyrinth was provided by Ravensburger.

I do love Pokémon, but I almost never actually include the accented e. It’s one of those things I never totally figured out how to type on my keyboard, and I got self-conscious about it. As a fun bonus, I got self-conscious about not including the appropriate spelling in the review, so I just ended up copy-pasting the full “Pokémon” every time I needed to type it, which is delightful. Or, at least rapid. But, for those of you who don’t know, Pokémon is a media franchise that is centered around cute and sometimes-also-Jynx creatures known as “Pocket Monsters”, or “Pokémon”, for short. If you’ve somehow never heard of them, in-universe, characters raise, train, and explore with them. It’s a franchise for kids that I grew up playing and still play today, via Pokémon GO and the upcoming Scarlet and Violet versions of the mainline games. I’m more of a die-hard Pokémon Snap and Pokémon Conquest fan, but everyone’s got preferences. Naturally, when I heard about Pokémon Labyrinth, I was hyped. I grew up with the original Labyrinth, and haven’t played a Pokémon board game in a while (still looking for a copy of Pokémon Master Trainer). Let’s see how it plays!

In Pokémon Labyrinth, you can play as Pikachu, Squirtle, Bulbasaur, and Charmander. All of your friends are hiding around the ever-shifting forest, and they want you to catch them! The challenge is that the forest is always moving around, and the path you took to get to one of your friends may not be the same route that you can take back! Keep your bearings and search around to find all your friends and get back home. Can you find all of your friends?



Fairly low-effort. Set out the board:

Let each player choose their starter Pokémon, and give them the corresponding standee:

Place the standee on the matching color corner. Then, shuffle the tiles:

Fill in the various empty rows and columns of the board; there should be one tile remaining. Shuffle the Poké Ball tokens, dividing them equally among all players:

You should be ready to start!


Each turn, players shift the maze around to try and get to the various Pokémon on their Poké Ball tokens. If you manage to catch them all, get home to win! Let’s talk through how the game plays.

On a given turn, players must Insert a Tile and Move their Pokémon. Inserting a tile is fairly straightforward. Place the extra tile on any of the edges of the board indicated by an arrow and push it in until the tile on the other end of the row or column is pushed out of the board, becoming the new extra tile. There are a couple caveats:

  • If you push out a tile with one or more Pokémon standees, move those displaced standees to the tile on the other side of the board.
  • You cannot undo the last player’s move. This is to say that you cannot place the tile that was just pushed out back where it was pushed out from and push in the opposite direction of the previous player’s move.
  • You must shift the maze every turn, even if you don’t want to.

Once you’ve shifted the maze, you may move your Pokémon standee to any space connected by a pathway to your current space. You do not have to move, and you can move to a spot that is not indicated by your Poké Ball token. You can also land on or move through a space occupied by an opponent.

If you land on the Pokémon indicated by your Poké Ball Token, you’ve caught them! You can reveal the token, and on your next turn, you can start going after the next token in your stack. Note that you can only look at the top Poké Ball token of your stack.

After you’ve caught all of your Pokémon, your final goal is to head back to your starting space! The first player to catch all of their Pokémon and make it back to their starting space wins!

For younger players, you can make the game a bit easier in two possible ways:

  • Allow younger players to see all of their Poké Ball tokens. On their turn, they can choose which Pokémon they’d like to try and catch.
  • Allow players to win the game as soon as all of their Pokémon are caught, rather than having players move back to their starting space.

Player Count Differences

I think as a Fairly Experienced Game Person, I tend to prefer Labyrinth at two or three players. At higher player counts, there’s a lot of chaos. You could very easily end up on the other side of the map or inside of a tangle of paths and alleys. At a lower player count, things can’t get quite so twisted, and I appreciate that. It makes the game a bit faster, as well, though things feel like they’re a bit more up to luck / the configuration of the board. For a short game, though, that’s okay. For younger players, I think the chaos is half of the fun and excitement of the game! Every turn is a new puzzle for them to solve and a new things for them to figure out. That’s why I really like Labyrinth as a family game: there’s so much to learn for players. I’d say that I have a soft preference for the lower end of the player count spectrum, as a result, but I’d still play with four.


  • The turn tiles can be a bit annoying if you get stuck with them on your turn, so try to set up different pathways so you can actually use them. There’s something to trying to get a number of turn tiles together to create a useful path, but that kind of path is almost always one good push away from getting completely ruined. I’d more often than not use a turn tile I’m stuck with on my trn to either get to one of the T-shape tiles or to push elsewhere because, hopefully, I already have a path to the tile I want to be on.
  • Getting warped to the other side of the map can actually be pretty helpful. Sometimes you need to traverse a lot of space in very little time, and there may not be a clear path to where you want to go. If you stop on the tiles on the edge of the board, your opponent might push you off the map (or you might be able to move yourself off the map on your next turn). That can get you a pretty good amount of distance and hopefully set you up closer to the Pokémon you’re trying to catch.
  • There’s a temptation to build a big loop through the entire map, but remember that that helps your opponents as much as it helps you. It’s also pretty difficult to build. But, functionally, if you have a loop through the entire board, then everyone can get everywhere, meaning whoever has fewer Poké Ball tiles will likely win, which isn’t particularly practical. Even building a loop through several Pokémon doesn’t really make sense, since you don’t know what your next Pokémon is going to be. You kind of want to just play greedily; just focus on whatever gets you to the next Pokémon the fastest.
  • It’s pretty tough to actively block your opponents. This is, in part, because you don’t actually know which Pokémon they’re going for. To that end, you may not be blocking them at all! You might just be helping them. The only time that blocking your opponent really works is towards the end of the game, since you do know their final destination. They want to get back to their starting space, so that’s a good spot to try and make things challenging for them.
  • You can’t really plan that much since you can’t see your next Pokémon, so just try not to block yourself in. Yeah, similarly, you can’t really set yourself up since you don’t know what your next Pokémon will be. Just try to give yourself an exit strategy to get to at least a few other tiles on your next turn; maybe you’ll get lucky.
  • If you don’t have anything to do to make a path, you can try a surreptitious move to make any path near your opponent worse. This is rude, but it’s the closest you can get to blocking your opponent. Just junk up everything around them so that they can’t move very far. It won’t make you particularly popular, but it might slow them down enough for you to get ahead. Bonus points if you can make it look like you’re just trying to improve your own path.
  • If you want to avoid your opponents moving you around, you can always stay on the T-shaped tiles around the edges of the board. There are some fixed spots on the board that can’t move, and those are pretty safe spots to hang out if you don’t want to be pushed around, even if it’s a bit farther away from your ideal destination. Sometimes getting moved somewhere else can really throw a wrench in your plan.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons


  • I’m always excited about a Pokémon-themed game. It’s been a bit of a mixed bag, since a lot of Pokémon games are just rethemes of other, existing games (I have Pokémon SORRY!, for instance), but I’d love to a new game based on the license. I haven’t seen much in that category beyond Pokémon Master Trainer, which takes me back. Maybe someone will bring that back around, some day. Either way, I’m a fan of Pokémon, so seeing a Pokémon-themed board game is pretty fun.
  • I actually grew up with Labyrinth, so I’m excited to see it still around. Labyrinth is a classic! Always fun to see it with additional themes, too. I think the Pokémon theme actually works really well with Labyrinth, as well! The maze elements, perhaps, are the least aligned, but journeying around a board catching Pokémon works pretty well, thematically.
  • The game’s pretty easy to set up and tear down, which is nice. All you really need to do is shuffle the tiles and the Poké Ball tokens and you’re ready to go. The tiles largely slide out of the board, so it’s pretty easy to take down and put away, as well. I think that’s kind of important for a family game? You don’t want to be dealing with a bunch of tiny pieces, especially if kids are playing.
  • The Poké Ball tokens are a nice way to indicate the Pokemon that you personally need to catch. I just think that’s a nice, fun way to do it, instead of just having players draw cards or something.
  • This is a great way to teach younger players spatial reasoning and planning. That’s one reason I always enjoyed the Labyrinth game; it was one of the first games I played growing up that actually made me think about route-building and paths, with some set collection to boot! I’m probably going to be loaning this game out to friends with some kids to see how they like it.
  • The game’s pretty quick, too. It’s maybe 30 minutes, tops, which is nice. Again, a long family game is probably not a great fit.
  • I appreciate how bright and colorful the game is, though I’m not surprised, given that it’s Pokémon. I can’t imagine a Pokémon game that features any Pokémon being not bright and colorful, to some degree, but it’s still appreciated.
  • A really good placement can be very satisfying. Getting the right tile to make a huge path that lets you get to the Pokémon you need to catch in one turn is great. It feels amazing, you get to move your standee across like, half the board, and that’s all great.


  • Standees are always an okay way to represent players. I don’t love them, but they’re workable. I think it’s more economical and sustainable than, say, your standard mini that’s custom-made, but I selfishly prefer the minis to the standees. It’s partially because they’re a bit harder to photograph without doing extra work.
  • It can be frustrating if you have multiple turns in a row where you can’t make any useful moves. Usually that just means that you need to try and shake up your location so that you’re not just stuck. It’s a process, though, so it may take a few turns to try and get yourself to a better place, which can be a bit annoying. It’s frustrating to be in a game that you can’t really play.


  • I mean, this is mostly me whining, but my favorite Pokémon aren’t in this. This is a very light Con, but, I’d love to see a board game with a wide variety of Pokémon. That said, shout-out to whoever got Gengar in this. That’s definitely not the most common Pokémon to see included in a board game, and it’s appreciated.
  • There’s no real way to catch up with a player who’s pretty far ahead without a concerted effort from all players, which can be a bit annoying. I don’t really love the idea of dogpiling the player in the lead to win a game, but that may honestly be the only way to slow down a player who’s about to win. You essentially need a few players to make the player in the lead’s path unnavigable (or just direct them entirely the wrong way). It’s mostly just to annoy them and slow them down, as eventually, more players are going to be heading back to their start space to win. All things being equal, it’s an otherwise pretty-quick game to reset once a player wins, so I’m not entirely bothered by it.

Overall: 7.5 / 10

Overall, I mean, I can’t knock a classic, and Pokémon Labyrinth is a great retheme of one of my childhood favorites. I think the core game of Labyrinth is, granted, simple, but I really like how well it teaches players (especially younger folks) about path-building and the consequences of seemingly-simple decisions. Learning about that and planning makes for a fun game, and seeing it set against the backdrop of one of my favorite media franchises really delights me. It’s something I wish existed when I was a kid. Plus, I find the game’s still pretty engaging for more experienced players. Just because I know what I’m supposed to be doing doesn’t mean I can suddenly get better tiles or bend the labyrinth to my will, all of a sudden. I’m at its mercy as well, and I enjoy that. Or, at least, I enjoy it until there’s been a couple turns where I haven’t been able to move, and then I’m annoyed about it. I think that’s probably fair. I’d love to see this get The Pokémon Company (and Nintendo) excited about more Pokémon-themed board games in the future, just because there’s a lot to do, a lot of ground to cover, and a lot of great integrations that could be made, especially as the industry continues to blossom. Plus, then I can hope for a game with more of my favorite Pokémon in it. Either way. But if you grew up on Labyrinth like I did, you’re a fan of Pokémon, or you’re just looking for a solid update of a classic family game, I’d recommend taking Pokémon Labyrinth for a spin! I really enjoyed it. Now I just need to find someone who will retheme Careers…

If you enjoyed this review and would like to support What’s Eric Playing? in the future, please check out my Patreon. Thanks for reading!

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