I was at a thrift store recently and found a Ravensburger classic game, The aMAZEing Labyrinth. For $2.00, I figured I'd give it a try.
I hadn't heard of this game until I saw my nephews playing it in Holland, and when I asked about it my husband's response was, "What? You've never heard of Dolhof?!?" (Dolhof = laybrinth in Dutch) It looked interesting enough; there's a maze that shifts constantly, and you're trying to get to certain places on the board and return back to your starting place before everyone else. I just had never heard of it, even though it was released in the US in 1986 and has many different versions today.
So we sat down to play what I assumed was just a silly kids game, but turned out to be fun and challenging, even for adults. Don't get me wrong, it is a silly kid's game with child-friendly figures of ghosts, spiders, knights, swords, and anything else you might find in a haunted castle, but the constantly changing layout of the maze provides a minor brain workout even if the theme falls flat. Cards matching pictures on map tiles are dealt to each player, and the goal is to "collect" all of the items on your cards and return to your starting tile. Sounds easy enough, right?
The challenge comes in having to move the maze every turn, and the fact that not all parts of the maze can move. You shift the maze by sliding a tile into the end of a row, and the next player uses the tile that came out the other side to shift the maze on their turn. Once you shift the maze you can move your piece through the hallways of the labyrinth towards your goal. Your focus is on reaching your objective, but if your target isn't on a static board piece not only is the maze constantly shifting, your destination is shifting as well.
Add to that the fact that you're also trying to thwart your opponent's ability to travel through the maze and you've got an easy to learn game that poses more of a challenge than initial impressions imply.
You'll find yourself staring at the board for a few minutes deciding how to shift the maze and move around, and whether it's better to block your opponent or focus on your objective, or if you can do both. You'll get frustrated by wanting to shift a static row, or wanting to shift the maze back to how it was before the last player took their turn (which isn't allowed).
I quickly learned to take advantage of a rule that says if you knock a player off of the board when shifting the maze their piece is put on the tile that was just inserted, as it provides an easy way to get to the other side of the board and still allows you to move after you're transported. My husband's strategy is to block me in every turn if possible, so it takes me more turns to get to where I need to go. His strategy seems to work better, because he wins more often than I do.
More than I do? That's right, we played more than once and have played almost every day since we got the game. It's simple, short, easy to set up and take down, doesn't require too much thought, is highly luck based (it all depends on which destination you're trying to reach next and how the maze shifts), and poses enough of a challenge to keep our interest. What I initially thought would be a cheezy purchase that would end right back up at the thrift store is now a staple in our board game collection.
We may think of classic games as kids games, not worth our time as adults, but they're classics for a reason, able to stand the test of time and begging to be played again and again. Don't count these bad boys out because you're a designer game aficionado, they just might surprise you from time to time.