About the game

So…how does the game work?

30-45 minutes // 1-5 players // Age 12+ alone, or 8+ with parents // Cooperative

A curse has fallen on the library, and all has gone dark. Out of the corner of your eye you can see a book opening, and a literary terror emerging. Perhaps it’s Dracula, or the Martian Robots from the War of the Worlds, or a Kraken. These literary terrors are hiding in the shadows waiting for you to pass by…

Read on to hear more about the setting and basic premise. // Click here to see videos on how to play. // Click here to read a prose explanation of how to play. // Download the PDF rulebook.

The object of the game is for your team to rid the library of these terrors by calling on the skills of the famous literary characters and historical figures in the books around you. The game takes place on a grid of 25 tiles, each showing a pathway between shelves. With the curse still loose in the building, the tiles rotate, changing the layout under your feet.

So, how do you defeat the terrors and save the library? With the help of famous fictional and historical people from the books! There are 60 people you can call on: 59 women and one non-binary person. As it’s a library, everything is a book! The terrors come out of books, and the characters are also from books. These people are the books in your hands (your team) rather than you as the player, and so you may have two or three people in your team at any one time. 

Each character has a unique set of abilities which are related to who they are in fiction or in history. This might be a set of knowledge skills, such as science, coding, and logic (Ada Lovelace), or expertise skills such as magic (Circe), or courage (Harriet Tubman). The characters can only be used once — but that’s enough. These skills fall into six different categories, which also appear on the terrors. Match the symbols on the characters to the symbols on the terrors, and you can capture it.

All of the fictional characters are out of copyright, and none of the historical characters are still alive. We worked with sensitivity readers and cultural consultants on specific identities. The characters fall into one of six book categories — children’s fiction, legends, classic fiction, amazing lives, historical leaders, and science.

Once the terrors have been captured by characters with the right skills, then they need to be delivered to the right shelf. This may be easier said than done, as the curse is still moving round the board, rotating tiles or revealing new terrors. You’re also on a time limit, with every turn you take bringing you closer to the end. Can you capture enough terrors to fill all six shelves before the deck runs out? There are also reward cards which give the players something to use, like a potion or a musical instrument, or a one-off special action. But beware, if more than six terrors are ever out in the library then you will be overwhelmed and instantly lose…

The grid layout and the spare tiles provide multiple different layouts and paths through the shelves. Combined with drawing your team from so many possible characters, this gives great replay-ability.

Read on for How to Play videos, or go back to the top.


Mill shows you how to play in this video. It does use the prototype (as it was made for the Kickstarter) but hopefully it’s clear what all the pieces are.

If you’d like to see how an entire game progresses, you could take a look at this sped up game! It’s at 8x normal speed, so it takes place really quickly…

This video from Sir Thecos was created for the Kickstarter. It shows the prototype, but hopefully it’s still clear. He explains the rules and demonstrates how the actions work.

You may also find this playthrough from the One Stop Co-Op Shop useful.

Read on for a prose playthrough, or go back to the top.

Playthrough and explanation

How do you play Library Labyrinth? Here’s a longer text (almost story-style) explanation.

Setting up (taking the game out of the box)

Let’s imagine that we’re going to play a two player game. Start by opening the box and taking out the floor tiles (large octagonals), the tokens (smaller squares) , the cards, and the colourful wooden meeples.

If this is the first time you’ve played the game, you’ll need to push the tiles and tokens out, and then throw away the left over cardboard frames. You’ll also want to go through the cards and take out one blank card from each of the coloured book piles.

Find the floor tile with the compass in the centre. Place that in the middle of the table. Look in the rulebook to see how many of the other floor tiles you want, count them out, and then shuffle and place around the centre tile so that you end up with a 5×5 grid of dark tiles with the compass in the centre. Make sure that the pathways on the back of the tiles (the start of a pool of light) are all at 90 degrees – so they are + rather than x.

Stack the terror tokens (with the eyes) face down to one side. Stack the six shelf tiles face down next to them.

Shuffle the book cards within their colours, and place face down in six different piles by colour.

Shuffle and then count out the correct number of disturbance cards (the ones with the shadowy curse on the back) for your player count. Put them face down with the “Out of Time” card at the bottom of the pile.

Shuffle the reward cards (treasure chest on the back) and place face down.

Each choose a meeple, and place on the compass floor tile. Put the grey Bookwyrm meeple in one of the corners.

Each player takes three book cards (of any colour) and one reward card.

How to play

Each player has three actions. Once that player has taken their actions, the curse fights back – first with a disturbance card, and then with the Bookwyrm moving. So the order of play is player actions x 3, disturbance card, Bookwyrm moves, on to next player and repeat.

The actions you can take are:

  • Flip an adjacent floor tile
  • Rotate your floor tile or an adjacent floor tile 90 degrees in either direction
  • Pass a card to a player on the same floor tile
  • Take a book card
  • Move as far as you wish along a lit, unblocked path. There are three possible things which could happen as a consequence of where you move to. 1) If you end your move on a reward tile, you may take a reward card. There are no prerequisites for this. 2) If you end your move on a tile containing a terror, you automatically capture the terror using cards in your hand. You cannot enter the floor tile containing the terror unless you can capture it. Capturing is not a separate move, but happens as part of your move-and-capture. 3) If you end your move on one of the six shelf symbol tokens, you automatically return a captured terror to that symbol. You cannot enter the tile containing the token unless you can return a terror.

What does playing look like?

Let’s imagine in this game of two players, that we have a green player (Gertie) and a blue player (Bess). Gertie will go first.

Move 1. Gertie flips the floor tile to the west of the compass. It is a terror tile, with a red border and two red eyes – so she takes a terror token at random from the stack and places it on the floor tile. The terror is the Martian Robots, which needs two red hearts and two green ovals to defeat, but Gertie does not have these symbols among her cards.

Move 2. Gertie flips the floor tile to the north of the compass. It is a green shelf tile, so Gertie takes a shelf token at random and places it on the floor tile. It is the blue diamond.

Move 3. Gertie looks at the cards that Bess has, and sees one red heart and two green ovals. As she (Gertie) has a card with one red heart, she uses her third move to give that card to Bess.

Disturbance. As it is the end of her turn, Gertie turns over the first disturbance card. The card indicates that the Bookwyrm disturbs the tile to its south-east. That tile is flipped, and another terror is revealed.

Bookwyrm. The Bookwyrm moves one space on.

Now it is Bess’ turn.

Move 1. Bess has two red hearts and two green ovals among her cards. She moves on to the floor tile containing the Martian Robots and captures it. The terror token then goes into her hand, and the cards which she used to capture it go as one pile underneath it. (They are now used, and will be discarded when the terror is returned to a shelf. The reason we suggest keeping them in one pile in your hand is that people sometimes forget that they have a captured terror in their hand unless the cards are with it.)

Move 2. Bess flips the tile to her south. It is another shelf, this time the red heart.

Move 3: Bess moves to the red heart shelf to fill it with the captured Martian Robots. The terror can’t be returned to the blue diamond, as it doesn’t contain a blue diamond, but it does contain a red heart, so it can be returned there. She takes both the shelf token and the terror token and places them on the side of the board near the decks of cards. (So that they can easily track which ones they have captured and which are left to go.) She discards the cards which she used to capture the Martian Robots, and takes a reward card.

Disturbance. The disturbance card indicates the north-east tile. It is flipped, and revealed to be a reward tile. Nothing more happens.

Bookwyrm. The Bookwyrm moves one space on.

It is now Gertie’s turn again.

As you can see, it carries on in this fashion. Three moves from one player, the disturbance, the Bookwyrm moves, three moves from the other player, disturbance, Bookwyrm moves.

A two player game will have 18 turns in total, meaning 9 per player. This may be too many, and can be shortened to make a harder game. The balance of terror/shelf/reward/crossroad tiles can also be altered to make the game harder or easier.

A two player game tends to be about the division of responsibilities, with players concentrating on different skill colours. A five player game tends to be more collaborative, with one player rotating tiles so that another can get the correct cards or terror.

Like the sound of Library Labyrinth?

Or do you have a question? Email us and let us know.

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