Cody Moultrie
United States
St. George
Utah
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A friend of mine and I play Labyrinth a good amount, lately about once a week. We love the game and even after many plays are discovering new strategies and how to take advantage of certain cards. Generally speaking, we find it more frustrating to play the US because for most of the game you are only reacting to what the Jihadist is doing. The Jihadist can almost do whatever he wants, but the US is much more limited, especially when the world opposes your posture! We find that usually the US has a narrow window of opportunity to win before the Jihadist plots or card events wreck your game. When the US player finally has his chance, which usually lasts a round or less, he has to capitalize!

Which is why this morning's game was especially frustrating for me, the US player.

I'll keep it short and only focus on the highlights. The first round neither of us got much traction. Normally, Jihadists are running amok in Europe by now, but I played Biometrics which essentially cut off the Schengen countries. The world was soft, though, due to soft posture Russia and China.

I see my cards in the second phase and am excited. I have Safer Now. We had never actually played it for the event, but it suddenly was the perfect opportunity for me to do so. I regime change Afghanistan, and play Safer Now. I get the lucky roll and switch to soft! My prestige was 1 after the Regime Change, but increased by 3 due to Safer Now. So, I'm in good position; I'm aligned with the world and my prestige isn't too low. I also had UN Nation Building, so I'm thinking I'm in good shape.

Next Jihadist card = Axis of Evil. The US is instantly back to hard, rolled a 2 then 4 and 5 to put prestige back to 1, and the US was essentially starting over. I felt that the game was over at that point, but continued on anyway.

I was able to slowly change the worlds viewpoint and eventually was aligned with the world and had decent prestige. Again, I'm thinking I'm in decent position to start succeeding on some WOIs.

Next Jihadist card = US Elections. US back to soft while world is hard. Again, US is starting over. At this point I made a mistake. I had the 3 ops cards I could have immediately switched back to hard and I should have. They were kind of nasty Jihadist events, though, so I didn't, hoping to get two 3 ops in the next round.

Next round, all twos and ones. Couldn't switch to hard and couldn't stop the Jihadist from Major Jihad in Central Asia for the win.

I believe the US was never successful on WOI in any Muslim countries that game. Penalties were always too great. US did have Turkey at Good due to card events, but it didn't matter because of the Jihad auto win.

There probably were things I could have done differently, but I felt I played it fairly well. If I could have had a couple of turns when my position was good, that may have made the difference in the game. I never had my window of opportunity.

I still really enjoy the game overall, but it can be frustrating sometimes as the US!shake

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James Megee
United States
Edgewater Park
New Jersey
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Frustrating sometimes... yes, but so rewarding when you DO win as the US. It's tough to figure out what to do sometimes... and you'll always have that "Monday morning quarterback" thoughts as well... should'a-would'a-could'a....

To give you an idea of a bad hand that I had while playing my last game I had:

US - Mossad & Shin Bet 2 Ops
Jihad - Martydom Operations 3 Ops
Jihad - Martydom Operations 3 Ops
Jihad - Martydom Operations 3 Ops
Jihad - Regional al-Qaeda 3 Ops
Jihad - Pirates 2 Ops
Neutral - GTMO 3 Ops
Neutral - Former Soviet Union 2 Ops

I was still able to win as the US with 9 GOOD Resources while he had 4 Islamist Resources! It was a Close one!

Jim
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Cody Moultrie
United States
St. George
Utah
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Oh for sure, it is so satisfying to win as the US. And really, most of our games are close and usually come down to a couple of WOI or Major Jihad rolls at the end of the game.

Depending on when you had that hand, it could be great, or devastating. Especially if the opponent already had nukes. Being in control of the Martyrdom Operations as the US is a huge benefit. If the board is such that there are many good MO locations for the Jihadist, though, then it really sucks.
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James Megee
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When I drew those cards it was about 3 hands from the end of the game. He had 1 Resource country and I had 6. He also had 2 NUKES left. Somehow through my "good" die rolling and some bad rolling for him, I pulled it off! I was really sweating at the end I can tell you, as I just knew he was going to change one of my "Good" countries... but he wasn't able to!

Jim
 
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Gerhardt Schroeder
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Actually I much prefer playing as the US myself. It's just so satisfying to gradually flip countries to good, and usually pretty hard for the jihadist to undo your progress. And as the U.S. you don't have to rely on random die rolls for the most part, which often makes it easier to plan your turn (and less subject to frustrating luck).

I think the important things for the US in this respect are to, if at all possible, get one country to good early (usually the Gulf States) - that gives you a set of countries with the "+1 good neighbor" benefit which, with prestige, can partially offset a GWOT penalty. Using 1 ops cards on WOI on opposing neutral countries can usually keep the GWOT penalty from getting too out of hand, as can killing jihadists to build up prestige.

That said, yes it is SUPER frustrating when the jihadist drops a US alignment changing card at exactly the wrong time. A couple times I've done a reassessment then immediately changed back via a jihadist card. You have to remember what versions of those cards are still in the deck, though unless you have CIA on a given turn you can wind up alignment-paralyzed for fear of the jihadist having one of those cards in hand.
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Cody Moultrie
United States
St. George
Utah
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I enjoy playing as the US, but I am more frequently frustrated as the US player. And for the most part it is pretty hard for Jihadists to undo your progress. However, in another recent game, I was the US and had Gulf States and Saudi Arabia to good. I was in the drivers seat, but I left my troops in those countries. The Jihadist used Jaysh-al-Mahdi to change the Gulf States to fair. Next turn, Oil Price Spike to play it again, and reduce Saudi Arabia to fair too! Just like that the Jihadists had the upper hand.

(Quick tangent: I'm not willing to say Oil Price Spike is overpowered, but it is very, very powerful. Getting the perfect card at the perfect time can swing the game in your favor, and OPS does just that. Sometimes I wonder how the game would work if each side started with one oil price spike card that they could use later on their turn.)
 
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Gerhardt Schroeder
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I've found that Labyrinth is more prone to abrupt reversals in fortune than the other GMT games I've played (Twilight Struggle, 1989). There have been a number of occasions where I've started a hand feeling like I'm in the driver's seat (or like the situation is hopeless) only to feel the exact opposite one hand later. Something I like about the game, for the most part.

Also - especially given Jaysh-al-Mahdi you shouldn't be leaving troops in Good countries, for the most part.
 
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Cody Moultrie
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St. George
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Doomcow wrote:

Also - especially given Jaysh-al-Mahdi you shouldn't be leaving troops in Good countries, for the most part.


Yeah, ever since that game, troops are pulled from Good countries quite swiftly!

The downside of removing troops is events like special forces become less useful.

I agree about the abrupt reversal of fortunes, but I seem to remember the reversals that go against me more than when things break in my favor!
 
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