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Go to the Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War page
31 out of 32 gamers thought this was helpful

Richard Abbot’s Confusion was a relatively obscure abstract game first published in 1992, but thanks to the excellent 2011 reprint by Stronghold Games it has now burst back onto the scene where it can shine once and for all.

Confusion borrows elements from a number of other well-known abstract games like Chess and Stratego, but also adds in a very clever deduction aspect that makes it a game that plays like no other.

The basic goal of the game is to move your pieces to pick up the briefcase in the center of the board and then carry it past your opponent’s pieces and into their first row. If you move to a space occupied by an opposing piece you capture it and remove it from the board (similar to Chess), but the tricky part to the game is that at the start you have no idea how any of your pieces can move, and that’s where the deduction comes in. Each piece has a randomly selected insert that indicates how it can move in some combination of forward, backward, side-to-side, and diagonal, and from 1 to 4 spaces. Every combination is unique, and they’re placed on the board so that only your opponent can see the markings. Your job is to figure out how each piece moves, and you do that each turn by selecting a piece and asking your opponent if it can make a specific movement, to which they give a “yes” or “no” answer. If it was a “yes” you make that move with the piece, but if it’s a no you leave it where it was. In either case, you’ve learned important information that will help you narrow down the identity of the piece, which in turn will allow you to make a run for the briefcase and ultimately win the game.

Further complicating matters is the double agent, a piece that shows a question mark (?) instead of a specific movement type. When you attempt to move that piece your opponent is free to tell you whatever they want, even if it contradicts a movement they allowed it to make earlier in the game.

As clever and thought-provoking as the gameplay can be, the components in this edition are even better. Stronghold went all-out, and made all of the pieces and their inserts from a hard plastic (similar to bakelite). They’ve got a really nice weight to them, and look fantastic. The board is made of high-quality material with great artwork, and even the player boards (used to track all of the movement information) are exceptionally well done (they’re almost like having extra gameboards in the box). Some dry-erase markers are included so you don’t have to burn through paper tablets every time you play, and as an added touch there are six extra round cardboard tokens that are included for use with one of several variants listed in the rulebook.

Like most abstract games I could see the replay value of this game eventually going down as certain strategies or play styles become dominant, but because of the random arrangement of the pieces and the numerous variant rules included, it should be a very long time before anyone reaches that point. The only other real downside to the game is that it only works with two players so it may not be suitable for a game night with a lot of people present other than as a way for a few players to pass the time while another game finishes up, but it’s perfect for couples enjoying an evening together or even those times when it’s just you and one other person, where all of those games that need three or more players simply aren’t an option.

Go to the Carcassonne: Catapult page
79 out of 86 gamers thought this was helpful

The Catapult expansion adds a dexterity element to the otherwise dexterity-free game of Carcassonne.

Like almost all other expansions for the game, the Catapult adds several new tiles that are added to the base game (along with any other expansions in use). Whenever one of those tiles is drawn and placed on the board it triggers a catapult round. The player that placed the tile chooses one of four options, and then each player in turn performs that action, by launching a specific token: one allows players to knock meeples off the board, one allows the player to swap the nearest opposing meeple with one of their own, one awards extra points to the player that landed a shot closest to the tile that triggered the round, and one is a game of catch with the player next to you.

Contrary to popular belief, at no point during the game do the wooden meeples ever get launched.

The addition of the dexterity element is a somewhat jarring change that goes directly against expectations that have been built up through the countless other expansions to the game, and is a big part of why so many players despise the Catapult. Sadly, most of those seem to be basing it on principle alone and have never actually tried playing it.

So, before piling on yet another tired complaint about this expansion, set aside your preconceived notions and give it a fair chance by playing it. You may find out for sure that it’s not for you, but you might also find that it can be a surprisingly fun diversion from the standard game.

Even if you do enjoy it the Catapult isn’t likely to be an expansion you’ll want to use every time you play, but it’s nice to have available when you want to shake things up a bit from the usual serious nature of the game.

Go to the Merchants & Marauders page
70 out of 85 gamers thought this was helpful

Fantastically awesome game, and super thematic. There’s a ton of stuff you can do (so it can seem a bit overwhelming at first), but every bit of it makes perfect sense within the theme so once you’ve got the basics down it becomes very easy to play.

Pirates have slightly more potential for gains than Merchants, but they face more risk too so it evens out very well. The optimal path almost seems to be somewhere in between.

There can be a little bit of downtime between turns if people are indecisive about what to do during port actions, but most of the time there will be only two or three things that need to be done there so it goes very quick. Combat will slow things down the most, but that only happens once in a while and is usually exciting enough to keep the uninvolved players interested too.

Highly recommended for anyone, and not just fans of Pirate games.

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