Build a team of amazing fictional and historical women to put escaped literary terrors back in their books! Can Athena and Marie Curie defeat Dracula? Or Little Red Riding Hood and Harriet Tubman capture a Kraken?
Library Labyrinth is a co-operative board game set in a cursed library. A game for 2-5 players takes around 30-45 minutes, while a solo game takes about 30 minutes. The playing space is a grid of 25 octagonal tiles, which can flip to reveal new terrors or rotate to create new paths through the bookcases.
As with many great stories, this one starts with a curse. Something unnameable is rippling through the spaces between bookcases, causing havoc. Terrible monsters and obstacles are coming to life — the tornado from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is behind you, the Big Bad Wolf round the corner, and you could swear that you just saw a minotaur...
You start in the centre of a grid of floor tiles, and every tile except your own is in darkness. Twelve of the tiles will release a terror you need to defeat. Six will give you a nice safe shelf in which to safely deposit captured terrors. There are also some rewards hiding in the library, which may make all the difference!
You'll spend the game flipping and rotating tiles, and moving down the lit paths to pick up or re-shelve terrors.
You'll also need to watch out for the curse, which is still loose in the library and threatens to undo all your hard work.
Win the game by placing six captured terrors into the six different shelves. Lose in one of two ways — either by running out of time, or by allowing too many terrors to be loose in the library at the same time.
But how do you do this? Well, if you were trapped in a magical library, who would you call? The BOOKS! You can draw cards from different book categories — Children's Fiction, Classic Fiction, Legends, Historical Leaders, Amazing Lives, and Science. Each card shows an incredible woman with a unique combination of skills.
There are 60 characters, each of whom is either a real historical figure or a fictional character from a work of literature.
Gather your team by collecting Book Character cards, and then combine their skills to capture the Terrors. The symbols on the cards must match the symbols on the Terror tiles. Looking at the Terrors below and the cards above, you'd probably want to use Nzinga and Jo.
There are 24 different Terrors in the game. They include obstacles (such as the Pit and the Pendulum, or Reichenbach Falls), legends (the Minotaur, the Four Horsemen), poetry (Grendel's Mother, the Jabberwocky), and a handful of less traditional terrors (like Anxiety, or Plague).
What does the game look like? What’s in the box? The photo below shows what the game might look like after a couple of turns. Following on from the example above, Jo from Little Women and Queen Nzinga have just put the captured Basilisk on the Amazing Lives shelf.
The pieces and booklets fit snugly into a small box — it’s only 20cm by 20cm square, and 5cm deep. (That's 8” by 8” by 2”.)
All of the components shown here are still at the prototype stage, and as such are subject to updating. Each of the 60 book characters and 24 terrors in the game are individual and feature their own unique custom artwork. As a backer you would be able to suggest changes and feedback on what you like best.
The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed the reference to a character and background booklet. Indeed yes, there will be a booklet included with every game to give you more information about each of the characters and terrors featured, so you can find out more about them. If you're still hungry for knowledge, why not check out your local library?
Your aim is to find all six safe Shelves (tokens which are revealed on specific floor tiles) and fill each one with a captured Terror. You win the game by placing a Terror in all six Shelves. You lose the game in one of two ways: either you run out of time or you allow the library to be overwhelmed by too many Terrors.
On your turn you may take three actions. You may flip a floor tile from dark to light. You may rotate a floor tile 90 degrees either way. You may trade a card or cards with another player on the same tile. You may move along a lit path as far as you can, including going around corners. To capture a terror, you move on to it, and use the cards in your hand to match the symbols on the terror. To shelve a captured terror you move on to the shelf. Co-designer Mill takes us through an example in this video.
If you only have a couple of minutes, watch this extremely fast playthrough. (It's been sped-up several times and will give you a good idea of game play in a very short space of time.)
Library Labyrinth is on Screentop, so you can try it for yourself any time.
When you first enter the game you'll need to click "join" in the top left corner. You can find all the rules (as well as how to use Screentop) by clicking on the "?" in the top right corner. The rule book is still in prototype as well, and is subject to updating.
The simple answer is: anyone who enjoys co-op games or games about books! We've designed this game with input from a lot of different perspectives. Whether you're a family with older children or teenagers, a group of seasoned gamers, or a group with an interest in books or inspirational women, you'll find something for you here.
The longer answer is that Library Labyrinth can scale in difficulty for different player groups. We recommend a standard set-up for you to use for your first game, but if you're playing with younger children or a group who are new to cooperative games, you may prefer to make it a little easier. Alternatively, you can also choose to make it more difficult.
Some of you may be thinking “just tell me an age range!” We are intending to put 10+ on the box. However, at AireCon I played the game with two 7-year-olds. (Once with a parent and 7-year-old, and then later with two parents, a 12-year-old, and a 7-year-old.) If your 7-year-old or 8-year-old has prior experience of games then it’s perfectly possible to play a full game and enjoy it.
The box contains five additional floor tiles, which allow you to create an easier or harder grid. There are also extra disturbance cards, so you could reduce or increase the amount of time you have to defeat the curse. You could also change the lose condition for the number of terrors which overwhelm the library — while in a standard game it's six, changing this to five makes the game just that little bit harder.
These simple ways to alter the game for different player groups means that it’s perfect for a family group, but can also be a fiendish little puzzle. The variability in the playing grid, the 24 different terrors, and the 60 different book characters all mean that no two games are the same.
If you back our project, what happens? That depends on the pledge you choose. You can back between one and three copies of the game. It would be lovely if you were able to use the Buy Two Copies pledge to donate one to a local library, school, or community centre.
You could also choose to add on tote bags or postcards. Or you can always go for the whole lot!
The tote bags will come from The Clever Baggers, who are based in Wales. These are made out of thick cotton canvas and are particularly sturdy. The bag itself is 43cm tall, 38cm wide, and 10cm deep. The printed area will show 16 small pictures. We haven't yet got to the stage of completing one, but here’s what we think they might look like. The real bags, of course, will have 16 DIFFERENT pictures — this is just an example to show you how one could look. Backers can also help us decide which of the terrors or characters should feature on the bags.
The postcards will come in packs of five. If you pick this as an add on then you can help us choose five character portraits to feature on the postcards! They will be A6, on thick 300gsm card, and printed by the most environmentally-friendly printer we can find.
There is also the option to make a donation towards a workshop. Which leads us nicely on to...
When we set about creating this game, we had a dual purpose in mind. We wanted to create a fun game, and we also wanted to create something which was educational. (There are far too many things out there which are educational without being fun.) So we will be going on tour!
We'll be taking the final, finished version of Library Labyrinth to schools, colleges, libraries, and board game cafés around the UK, to deliver game demos and associated workshops around the themes and characters featured in the game.
We hope to make connections with people in other countries too, so we can give them downloadable workshop plans, and the support to take it to schools and groups where they live.
It will be completely free to schools. For that reason, we have a pledge tier where you can get your name in the workshop booklet as one of our sponsors. It's also available as an add on. Please do consider adding this as a way to help.
If you are connected with a school, or if you run a community centre, youth club, library, board game café (or something else) and you'd like us to visit you (in the UK), or be sent the workshop plans, please do contact us.
Jason from the One Stop Co-op Shop takes you through a playthrough here:
Sir Thecos takes you through how to play, and reviews the game in this short video:
As if you didn't have enough reasons already, find out 5 reasons why Boxed Meeples think you should be excited about Library Labyrinth:
Jess also spoke to Bez about searching for the soul of a game — including some insight into how Library Labyrinth developed.
If you're interested in the reasons why we wanted to make a game like this, then watch this episode of Shelf Stories from last year, featuring a panel of women creators in gaming. Library Labyrinth co-designer Jess is one of the women on the panel.
Love what we're doing? Want to help us make it even better? Why not encourage your friends to pledge too so you can all receive a more deluxe product?!
These stretch goals are all things which it would be nice to have, but which don't make a difference to the standard gameplay itself. Of course, all copies of the game will contain these if we reach them.
We don’t really know what the custom meeples will look like yet, but we’re thinking a BookWyrm for the curse meeple…find out more in the updates over the next few months!
Many games which come to Kickstarter are complete already, and only need a few tweaks and then to be ordered. We're not in that position. We've rigorously playtested for many months; the mechanics are sound and the game itself is well-balanced, but we still have a fair amount of artwork to complete.
Realistically, we expect to have the game in your hands in about a year's time.
We're bringing it to Kickstarter now for two reasons. One reason is that we all have day jobs, but if we fund, that gives us the security to work on this project knowing that people will actually want the end result.
The second reason for Kickstarting now is that the final product will genuinely be improved by having more people involved. Throughout this process we have been seeking advice from sensitivity readers and cultural consultants. We are incredibly grateful to all of them, and they are named in the section below. If you think you have something to contribute in this regard, we would love to talk to you.
We have spoken to manufacturers about quality of production, speed of production, and how environmentally-friendly their printing process is. We are keen to make Library Labyrinth from cardboard and wood, without plastic components or insert. Understandably, environmentally-friendly factories are often in high demand. We've therefore given a suggested fulfillment date of July 2023, with the hope and expectation that we can send you the game before then. The timetable below is for our artwork and our manufacturing, and it is certainly achievable.
Finally, a quick word on communication. We know how frustrating it can be to either get too many emails, or too few! So, here's our plan. Once the campaign is over we're going to send you a Kickstarter update every month. If you'd like more information then you could follow us on our blog, on Facebook, on Twitter, or on Instagram.
We'll be adding in shipping costs after the Kickstarter campaign ends. As this is a relatively small box and weighs less than a kilo (or less than 2lb, if that's how you think) then shipping will take that into account. However, as we all know, prices for shipping remain very high overall.
Our estimated costs are in the table below. For someone in the UK, the cost of postage and packaging for a single copy of the game should be around £7.50, which is a little more than sending it tracked via Royal Mail. We are also looking at physical locations where UK backers could pick up their game. For backers in most other countries it should cost between £10 and £20. Unfortunately some backers may need to pay a little extra to cover postage, up to £22.
As you see from the table if you purchase additional copies or add-ons, these shipping costs will be a bit higher (but by no means double). We intend to work with ShipQuest to handle VAT and packaging, and therefore you won't need to pay customs charges. Not even in the EU — these will be handled by ShipQuest, who will send using their IOSS number. We expect to need to swallow some customs charges ourselves, and have already accounted for this.
We're a team of four women based in the UK. We have different backgrounds and experiences, and we bring this to the game creation process! Jess and Mill concentrate on the game side, while Ella and Sam focus on the layout and artwork.
Left to right: Jess, Ella, Mill, Sam
Jess is a political consultant and an expert on defeating government amendments in the House of Lords. (It’s a rather niche subject.) She's read every single Agatha Christie book, and is currently trying to solve literary puzzle Cain's Jawbone.
Ella is a designer/maker with an interest in 3D modelling, character design and development of immersive worlds. She used to be an avid reader, but now mainly spends her free time watching YouTube tutorials on how to do things she never has time to do.
Mill is a theatre producer and creator of immersive live action performances, including a Frankenstein-themed escape room for the Science Museum in London. She also previously worked in a board game cafe, and has been the main force behind making the rest of us get out and go to conventions.
Sam is an artist from Manchester. She graduated just as the pandemic started and hopes that things will get better soon. She can't decide if she's more excited about drawing the inspirational women or the literary terrors.
A huge, heartfelt thanks to all the people who have helped us out or provided paid consultancy for us along the way. In no particular order they are: Amy Ip, Ann Jones, Peach Morris, Sam Standen, Alexi McCreedy, Hacchan Zoromeya, Sepi Madamba, Mercy Fowler, David Wells, Imogen Hewlett, everyone at the Mary Seacole Trust, and of course, all of our wonderful playtesters - both online and in person.
Other (possibly) useful information:
We are self-publishing through Dissent Games, which is set up in the UK as a company limited by guarantee. The directors are Judith Haigh and Oliver Robertson. The practical side of Dissent Games is mainly organised by Jess.
Risks and challenges
One of the team (Jess) successfully kickstarted Disarm the Base in 2019, which made a modest amount of profit and shipped two months early. Library Labyrinth has been extensively playtested at the VPT (virtual playtesting) group on Discord, at online Protospiels, and at many conventions across the UK. We even sent out some travelling prototypes from house to house so that it wasn't just the best-connected gamers who got to give us feedback. We're very confident in the quality of the game itself. There are always risks. The biggest risk here is that we take longer than we intended and you get your games later than promised.
We've set July 2023 as the fulfillment date, but we really hope to send them to you earlier. We have factored in the possibility of shipping delays, and we are going for realistic rather than optimistic. We're based in the UK. There certainly could be any number of issues with getting board games from the UK to elsewhere in the world. Although, if it's possible and financially viable to get it made in the UK at the same sort of quality, we will. We have a few quotes and a rather large spreadsheet. We've set our fundraising target where it is because we've done the sums and added in contingency. If we fund, you will get your game.
The game will be made from FSC card and wood, witth no plastic components and no plastic insert.
A good board game should be durable! The tiles are thick, the cards come with black core, and the meeples will be wooden. There are no small pieces to break off.
Reusability and recyclability
As the game is made of cardboard, it would be possible to recycle it. The player meeples will be standard meeples, so could be used with other games. If you decide that you don’t want the game, please let us know and we’ll pass it on to a school.
We’ve been very careful not to include components which require plastic. This game is made from cardboard and paper. If we get it manufactured in a country which uses the Forest Sustainability Council kitemark then we’ll look for that — otherwise we will be guided by others in the industry about best environmental practice.
Environmentally friendly factories
We'll be looking to work with a manufacturer who uses recycled pulp, selects their inks carefully, and minimize factory waste. We know this is possible, but until we know how many copies we’re making we don’t know where we’ll be manufacturing. We'll keep you updated on this.
With our last game we fulfilled it entirely by hand, from Jess' spare room, using cardboard boxes stuffed with recycled newspapers. This time we expect to work with ShipQuest, who can usually fulfill directly from the factory, thus cutting out some unnecessary sea-miles. We have also carefully gone for a box size in which the components fit snugly, as this means that more games can fit in a container.