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Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ?» Forums » General

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Jesper Juul Willemoes
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Hi!

I've bought the game, so with that in mind I have a few questions:

The topic is of course very news current and could stir up quite a bit if not handled correctly.
I haven't recieved my copy yet, so I'm intested in knowing, how much is based on prejudice of the designer(s) or how much is factual without taking facts for granted?

I mean could the cards imply that being Muslim equals terrorist?

Are the viewpoints mainly taken from the west/industrialized countries?

Don't get me wrong. I'm danish and Atheist. It will not affect my play of this game, I'm just curious as to how offensive this game could be to some groups of people?
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Michele Esmanech
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I don't find the game "offensive" at all (bear in mind, I am Catholic, and Italian, if this means anyyhing).
The game doesn't want to say that muslim=terrorist, absolutely not, but it is undoubted that the terrorist cells come from certain places, and this is what the game says.

My only issue, and the difficulties I have had with the game, is that some people didn't want to play the Jihadist, because stting Bombs, and acting as terrists wasn't appealing (to say the least) to them. Other people enjoied the game, as long as I was the Jihadist, and they were the US.

The matter is a tough one, indeed, but if you take is a game, it is VERY fun.
If you (or others) take it as something else... don't bother.
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Christopher Hill
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Any game with sensitive subject matter will be polarizing to some folks. This game has politics, war and terrorism as part of it's theme. No doubt, very touchy subjects for many people. In our group there are some people who will not play this game no matter how good the game play is. I respect that and would never try to force a game of Labyrinth on them. However, a few others in the group can put the themes aside and play the game. It really is a good game hiding beneath all the badness on the surface.

The solo game is also quite good too.
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Green Dan
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What's the end game like? How do they decide on Victory conditions for a war that is not over?
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Michele Esmanech
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Greendan wrote:
What's the end game like? How do they decide on Victory conditions for a war that is not over?


Winning conditions vary:
the Jihadist wins, if he can control a certina number of countries, or a certian number of resources (provided by controlled countries) and the US prestige is 1, or if he sets a WMD (namely, a bomb) in the US.

The US wins if he can control a certain number of Countries, or a certain number of resources (provided by controlled countries), or if there are no cells on the table.

The game (or the story it tells) doesn't just END... it's just meeting winning conditions... at the end of the game, there is no "winner" of the WAR, just the winner of the game.
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Erich Vereen
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My way of thinking on this is that there is a reason to study history, no matter how recent or terrifying it is. Wargames allow for a deeper study at times, because you begin to see each side of the conflict. If a WWII wargame had been released shortly after the war had ended, I'm sure you would get the same reactions to it that Labyrinth sees now. It would still be fresh in everyone's mind and few people would want to play the axis powers.

Now, of course, we probably have more WWII games than any other genre because of the magnitude of the war. Designers attempt to delve deeper into the war tweaking a game design's realism or abstraction. Those who play most WWII games are looking to understand the intricacies of the battles that took place or are trying to see how strategies may have helped or hinder certain battles. It's as much a study of history as it is a game to many.

Labyrinth is, as Chris said, going to have those who will not play no matter what because of the subject matter and the fear or loathing to play the jihadists. As a solo game, you can get around that restriction, but to understand how to play the solo game, one really needs to play both sides in a two player game. It is a good game and one I hope to play again soon. I would encourage anyone who is iffy about giving it a try to take a moment to look it over. If nothing else, it will give you a better sense of the logistics involved in this war.

I wish I could remember more about the endgame, but it was last year when I played. I'll let Chris tell you more about that if he sees your request.
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Steven
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I would like to add to what Michele wrote: the US and Jihadist do not exactly "control" the countries either (the Jihadists do in one of their victory conditions).

Essentially all the Muslim countries represented in the game (with the exception of Iran, which is technically against both the Jihadist and the US) have different governance levels as well as their relationship to the United States. All non-Muslim countries only have a fixed stability, but different stances to the War on Terror (Hard or Soft). Governance in the game could be viewed not as the strength as the governance per say, but probably rather the ability of the government to have the respect and faith of their people. A viable Middle Eastern democracy may be a stretch, but at least a fairly stable government.

The lower the governance "number" the better the stability of the country, which results in the Jihadist player having a tougher time doing various actions: they roll multiple dice, but have to roll equal or less than the governance to move cells over long distances, perform jihad, create plots etc. The US, generally, can play "cheaper" cards the better the stability, but if a Muslim country is not an ally or neutral they have a tough time stopping the Jihadist there.

Basically the Jihadists wants a very unstable Middle East (the vast majority of countries with poor or Jihadist governments) and have low US prestige, to reestablish the Caliphate with Jihadist governments (6 resources, with at least two countries side by side), or to get off a WMD plot in the US.

The US player wants a stable Middle East (the vast majority with good or okay governments), to have a large number of resources under Good influence (12+ if I remember right) or eliminate all cells (very tough).

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Seth Owen
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In my very subjective opinion the game is not completely dispassionate, but does have a bias in tone against the Jihadist, although probably no more so than a similarly politically oriented game about World War II might have against Nazi Germany. I think the game is perfectly fair to both sides as players, though.

What criticism I have seen is mostly over a percieved sugar-coating of some of the more controversial aspects of the US tactics against the Jihadists such as torture, renditions, drone strikes and the like. For example, Card 34's text is "Enhanced Measures: US interrogates detainees roughly," which is about the most mealy mouthed gentle way you could describe what the US did. The Predator cards, for another example, are very effective at removing terror cells -- but never with any collateral damage. Oh, and card 44 text is "Renditions: Detainees sent to less gentle hosts" which could be read ironically, rather than as spin.

On the other hand, Card 76 is admirably frank: "Abu Ghurayb: Phortos of US military prison abuses" with the iconic hooded detainee on a box is about as graphic an image as is usable in a game.

Given the sensitivity of the topic and the reality that the game is going to be bought and played by Western Players for the most part (and very few Jihadists) I think they do a very good job at being even handed. There are some people who won't play any wargame at all, but I'm not sure how many more there are that will be put off by this topic.

Update: What the game could really use, in my opinion, is some post-Bush era updated cards to reflect more recent developments such as the Arab Spring, increased drone strikes,increased tensions with Iran and some notable deaths and deposed (Quaddhafi, Bin Ladin, Musharraf, Mubarak) to make it more current. As it stands now it's really The War on Terror, 2001-2009.
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Jack Smith
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From what I have read the Designer took great efforts to try and deal with the facts only and avoid clichés or jingoism. Of course you will still get people who think the game does not reflect their views of the world and will therefore attack it.

Some negative comments and rating scores are based on people who know nothing about the game but gave a 1 purely because of the subject matter. One '1' that springs to mind is from a person who does not even play games but registered in anger to score the game. This was bound to happen and I think it is commendable that the game was produced at all.

It is up to the player to decide what he is comfortable with. As far as I can tell the game does not try and take sides. I think wargames are a great way of learning about history and the impact of events happening around us. The game seems to do a good job of that. I would go so far as to suggest it should be required to play this at least once in schools. Maybe people will then understand the basics of what is happening and the reasons behind it.
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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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I think the game is (purposefully) about as historically accurate as Twilight Struggle; that is, it represents the public and propagandistic master narrative of the participants and takes them at face value. Truthiness rather than truth, if I were being cynical. I think it is a remarkably robust interpretation on that level; of course I personally reject the master narrative and so, like Twilight Struggle, the game has a patina of fantasy for me, which does not detract from my enjoyment in the least.

There are a couple cracks in the edifice: Collateral Damage, for instance, only applies to Jihadist terror. But overall it's more even handed than you would think. The title is most apt.
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Alpha Mastrano
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FWIW, I'm Muslim and I don't find the game offensive. I like it a lot, even! .
I've played it with some other Muslim gamers and none has expressed outrage.
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Drew Thomson
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wargamer55 wrote:
What criticism I have seen is mostly over a percieved sugar-coating of some of the more controversial aspects of the US tactics against the Jihadists such as torture, renditions, drone strikes and the like.


Okay, but it is not universally accepted that enhanced interrogation techniques meet the legal definition of torture. Neglecting to use a loaded word like "torture" makes the game less biased rather than more biased in my opinion. But even if one were to disagree, one would have to accept that there's sugar-coating on both sides. You could argue that calling a suicide attack a "Martyrdom Operation" does more than just sugar-coat an act of mass murder. It effectively legitimizes it from the standpoint of radical jihadists.

I love the game and take no offense at all from it. But I understand that others might feel differently. It really just depends on one's point of view I guess.

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Volko Ruhnke
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Quote:
FWIW, I'm Muslim and I don't find the game offensive. I like it a lot, even! .
I've played it with some other Muslim gamers and none has expressed outrage.

To me, that is worth a great deal. Thank you!

Best regards, Volko
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Patrick C.
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Imago wrote:
FWIW, I'm Muslim and I don't find the game offensive. I like it a lot, even! .
I've played it with some other Muslim gamers and none has expressed outrage.


I'm glad that you feel that way. However, whether or not one is Muslim is actually beside the point.

As another posted:
Quote:
The Predator cards, for another example, are very effective at removing terror cells -- but never with any collateral damage.


This one card alone is not just political, it is *historically inaccurate.* I speak as someone who has served in US Army Intelligence and directly lobbied Congress on Middle Eastern policy. I speak as someone who has personally witnessed Iraqi civilians die as a result of US actions.

Labyrinth is itself a violation of BGG's rule that there are no politics outside of RSP. The issue isn't the theme of war. The issue is is the blatant and intentionally inaccurate rules/mechanics. The game itself has a political agenda.

Yes, this one ticks me off. See my overtext. I've been banned on this site for speaking out against this game. The game receives the protection of not having "political" (ahem, more like *accurate*) criticisms directed at it while it pushes a specific political agenda. Total hypocritical BS.
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travvller wrote:
Imago wrote:
FWIW, I'm Muslim and I don't find the game offensive. I like it a lot, even! .
I've played it with some other Muslim gamers and none has expressed outrage.


I'm glad that you feel that way. However, whether or not one is Muslim is actually beside the point.

As another posted:
Quote:
The Predator cards, for another example, are very effective at removing terror cells -- but never with any collateral damage.


This one card alone is not just political, it is *historically inaccurate.* I speak as someone who has served in US Army Intelligence and directly lobbied Congress on Middle Eastern policy. I speak as someone who has personally witnessed Iraqi civilians die as a result of US actions.

Labyrinth is itself a violation of BGG's rule that there are no politics outside of RSP. The issue isn't the theme of war. The issue is is the blatant and intentionally inaccurate rules/mechanics. The game itself has a political agenda.

Yes, this one ticks me off. See my overtext. I've been banned on this site for speaking out against this game. The game receives the protection of not having "political" (ahem, more like *accurate*) criticisms directed at it while it pushes a specific political agenda. Total hypocritical BS.


Lighten up. It's a game. I love my Predators! Gotta get me some!
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Matthew M
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As a general reminder, we have a designated Religion Sex and Politics forum - posting on those topics outside of that forum is not permitted.

This forum is for talking about a game. If you want to talk about political themes that are related to but not intrinsically part of the game please do so in an appropriate forum.


Remember, if you see content that you find offensive or otherwise violates our Community Rules please consider flagging any offending posts as violations by using the icon rather than responding. This serves two functions - first, if enough users flag a post then it will be collapsed from general view. Second, flagging posts helps bring them to the attention of the forum moderators.

Thanks!
 
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Volko Ruhnke
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The question of how the 3 Predator cards work in the game and whether their effects are historically accurate is an interesting one.

Currently, the game cards' effect is to eliminate a jihadist cell, usually in a place that the US side cannot otherwise get to it. The game's premise is that the dominant effect of Predator drones is to help deny the jihadists sanctuary.

If one were to re-write these 3 cards' game effect to be as accurate as possible, what would their new effect be? If collateral casualties, what are such casualties' effect on the contest between the US and its jihadist adversaries, and on what they are trying to achieve, such as rendered in the game's victory conditions?

Be careful, however, as you pursue historical accuracy in your redesign of these 3 cards: if you make the game effect too unattractive for the US side, the US player will not opt to play the Predator event. Historically, the US Bush and especially Obama Administrations did opt for use of Predators against jihadists. Clearly, someone in authority did see the drones as an effective tool. So your historically accurate re-design will have to capture that.

Good luck, and regards, Volko
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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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I think -1 Prestige is the obvious drawback. Muslim leadership cannot be seen as condoning the US killing its innocent civilians.

As for balancing, there are a lot of options. You could make the Prestige loss based on a die roll (collateral damage is not automatic).

But aside from this, it's more the idea that "Collateral Damage" is something that only happens when the Jihadists act (especially galling since the term itself an invention to whitewash civilian casualties by military acts).
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sdiberar wrote:
I think -1 Prestige is the obvious drawback. Muslim leadership cannot be seen as condoning the US killing its innocent civilians.


The thing is that Predators are often launched from within Muslim nations (i.e. Pakistan). There is a game of plausible denial with the leadership of that nation claiming to his people and his allies that there are no US operations being launched from within his country.

It goes on all the time, just no one talks about it. That is unless a senator on the Intelligence committee talks without thinking. shake
 
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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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Yes, Pakistan is the worst in that regard.

Is Prestige measuring Muslim leadership opinion, or public opinion?
 
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Volko Ruhnke
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Both: "Muslim populations and leaders" (Glossary, p.15). My premise was that even the tyrants to a degree have to account for (or desire to exploit) the view from the street.
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markgravitygood wrote:

Lighten up. It's a game. I love my Predators! Gotta get me some!


That's intellectually dishonest, Mark. If 'Labyrinth' came out and said, in the rulebook, "This is an utterly fictional, albeit meanspirited, take on the 'War of Terror' with no simulationist content whatsoever." many of us would have less of a problem with it. It doesn't do that. It pretends, at least in part, to be history, to be what is currently happening, and it is not.

What would you think of a game that purported to be a serious take on WW2 that portrayed Hitler as a good guy saving Europe from conniving Jews, a craven America waiting for Russia to engage Hitler before swooping in, China invading Japan, and no mention of the UK or Australia? But 'Labyrinth' is in fact worse; whereas WW2 happened a good many decades ago, the abortive 'War on Terror' is ongoing. The lies incorporated in the game are the very same lies do real evil in the world, right here, right now.

As an aside: Volko's comments about Predator Strikes, by the way, show how reductionist wargames are at their very core (and I love wargames, don't get me wrong). 'The US generals used predator strikes, so they must have been useful in reality, so in the game they must be useful as well.' The tail furiously wags the dog. No consideration that a Nation State's goals might be different than its propaganda, that a Nation can contain conflicting groups with conflicting interests, that sometimes people make really boneheaded decisions. This is a designer saying, 'I want reality to be this way, so the game must be this way, therefore so must reality be.'

To make a real ConSim about the 'War on Terror' would require a detailed treatment of the various interest groups within all the countries and organizations involved. It would require an acknowledgement of lies, cockups, and propaganda. It would require an honest look at the goals of the various opposed groups and the results. It would require facts.

Now, that sounds like a really difficult game to design, and I probably wouldn't attempt it, myself. But - to put it bluntly - better no game at all than 'Labyrinth'.
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Well, I was waiting for the punchline at the end but it never came. Then I realized you were serious and completely missed the humor.

Sorry about that.
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Volko Ruhnke
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Greetings Art D! Outstanding that you are still following LABYRINTH discussion!

Quote:
It pretends, at least in part, to be history, ... and it is not.

If interested in an indepth examination of the degree to which the game can represent history, check David Hughes's review of LABYRINTH last year in Battles Magazine. Hughes--not a US person nor a fan of the "War on Terror"--finds in the review article somewhat to his surprise that the game quite readily can re-generate the historical narrative.

Quote:
Volko's comments about Predator Strikes, by the way, show how reductionist wargames are at their very core ...

I'm with you that wargames are reductionist. Envision a game that represents something (war or any other human endeavor) that is not reductionist. Fun?

But where the Predator cards in the game reduce is not in ignoring real in favor of perceived effects: It (easily) can at once be true that a side in a conflict chooses to use a capability, and that that capability in fact was effective.

Regarding conflicting interest groups, they exist. But the idea that a succession of US Administrations opted for increasingly frequent but ineffective or counterproductive drone strikes because they were outsmarted and duped by boneheaded generals is overly complicated and therefore a poor hypothesis (I'd go so far as to call it farfetched). A simpler explanation is that Republican and Democratic presidents used Predators because Predators proved useful.

The cards' reduction rather is in focusing on net effects, that the net effect of Predators was to deny jihadists sanctuary. There is no argument or evidence given above that drone strikes helped more than hurt al-Qaeda, so I must presume no contest on that point.

Quote:
To make a real ConSim about the 'War on Terror' ... would require facts.

I don't know what the standard is for "real ConSim", but LABYRINTH certainly presents facts. For example, see the background notes on each and every event card, Playbook, pages 17-23.

Quote:
...better no game at all than 'Labyrinth'

But then there would be fewer opportunities for posts exposing all those pernicious US lies!

vfr




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I don't mean to freshen up old debates, as this thread's last reply was almost a year ago, but I've just played the game a couple of times and I do have some thoughts.

I do think the fact that the game exists is an oddity. Certainly, an American published game about a conflict that it's currently embroiled must seem strange to people with a non-American perspective on the conflict. I have a lot of sympathy for that.

It's been agreed by everyone here (including the designer) that war games are reductionist by nature. The very idea that these are the two 'sides' to the conflict seems pretty ethnocentric on the surface. But if you take that premise as fact, a fact which I'm not convinced of, the game is pretty even-handed in the way that it treats events.

The game looks at the conflict as a war on two fronts primarily--the war of ideas and the war of resources. Though the winning conditions for each side vary, the two 'main' winning conditions revolve around natural resources. I can't really find issue with that.

I also don't find the game to be outwardly jingoistic. There are huge downsides to deploying troops. It's a massive drain on resources. They could be stuck there for years. It sometimes feels futile. The player is rightfully punished for making that decision.

As the U.S. player, I only came close to winning once, which I did by being soft on terrorism, and focused my efforts on the war of ideas. For someone living in the world of American politics, this seems pretty balanced.

But first you have to accept that America should be fighting any of those wars in the first place. That's where the rub starts.

I should also say that, ignoring all of that, it's a fantastic piece of game design and I look forward to playing it more.
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