Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Confusion: Do I get it?

(c) Stronghold Games.  Used by permission
I've been enamored of Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War (designer Robert Abbott, artist David Ausloos, publisher Stronghold) for a long time - partly for the cold war theme, partly for the bakelite components, but mostly for the really clever "reverse Stratego" mechanic of knowing what your opponent's pieces can do, but not your own.  Keith Ferguson picked it up the last day of WBC 2011, and we've played it a few times since - most recently during open gaming at WBC earlier this month.

So Keith loaned me Confusion to try out with Kathy, who played a couple of games of it with me earlier this week.  I think she appreciated the deduction and tactical elements of the game, but she came away lukewarm about it.  She felt that there is a "spatial intuition" aspect of the game that isn't as strong for her as it is for me, with the result that the game is imbalanced between us.  We agreed that for us, the most fun games are those in which we are fairly evenly matched and either of us can win on any given afternoon.  Jaipur and Citadels come immediately to mind.  

Before I return the game to Keith, though, I think I'll try to get my 18- and 13-year-old sons to play it.  I think they might like the game, and the 13-year-old has a particular knack for spatial problem-solving (as well as chess), so he might do well with it.  Whether I buy my own copy of the game will depend on how that goes.


  1. Interesting Paul. I have often wondered about this game. Please keep us up to date. I have put a link to this article on the front page of grognard.com. Looking forward to hearing more.

  2. Mark, I certainly will. I have to say in the few times that I've played it, that I think it has something in common with chess, from the standpoints of using some pieces to protect others, and of trying to create a situation where you have a sequence of moves that you know will improve your position.

    I haven't had a situation where the double agent piece played a strong role. I can imagine that it adds a whole new dimension to the game, in which your opponent is moving the double agent and you have to act as though there's nothing you can do about it when in fact you have complete control over the situation.

  3. Yet another game (stop me if you've heard this before) that doesn't get to the table often enough. I feel that with repeated plays, the games would certainly get more nuanced and last longer. In our two plays, the first was essentially a mad dash - and I felt in the 2nd game we were sort of getting a better feel of how the game should typically be played out. With repeated plays, I think that would only get better.

    However, if one player does find a piece very early that can immediately get to the briefcase, and start advancing to the other side, there's not much time for the 2nd player to react. So the "mad dash" approach may be worth trying for the 1st few turns.

    I wonder if some variations might include not allowing anyone to pick up the briefcase for the 1st few round, or maybe not even have the briefcase on the board for the first few turns, and have some sort of randomizing method for placing it on the board on turn 3 or 4 (although constrained to be along the middle row somewhere). Just thinking out loud here.

  4. I agree, Keith, that there is a certain luck element regarding the initial distribution of pieces. I remember thinking at one point that if you were going to run this in a tournament, you'd have to do best of three (like Lost Cities or Jaipur) rather than depend on a single game to progress in the standings.

    But I also feel that there's probably some tactical depth that we haven't finished exploring. The designer writes about it briefly on his webpage. (I love the picture of the prototype).