Ted Cheatham: Review of Robert Abbott’s Confusion

Designer: Robert Abbott
Publisher: Stronghold Games
Number of Players: 2
Number of Plays: 3

By Ted Cheatham

I am having difficulty trying to describe this rather unique reprint of a hidden movement, deduction, capture the flag game.  It is a pure abstract game, similar to chess, except you are not sure which of your pieces can move in what directions.  The cold war theme links to the hidden pieces and the functional line art on the nice plastic pieces, although it is not necessary.


The game board is an 11 x 11 grid which has a standard player set up.

Your pieces are facing you on your side of the board.  You will see the character’s line drawing and letter. The back side of your pieces face away from you so only your opponent  can see how your pieces move.   This is handled very cleverly by having inserts for the pieces.  For set up, you randomly put different movement items into the pieces so that each piece will move differently every game.

In the picture above, if you were the red player you would see the fronts of your pieces and the backs with the movement capability of your opponent.
The goal of the game is to grab the briefcase in the center of the board and deliver it to the far side of the board.

Game Play.

This all seems so simple except you must move by trial and error to see how you pieces can move.

You attempt to move one of your pieces and your opponent tells you if this is a legal move or not.  Slowly by process of elimination, you begin to figure out your pieces’ capabilities.

You cannot move through a piece nor land on your own pieces.  However, if you land on an opponent’s piece, you remove that piece from the game.  This is the heart of the game of Confusion.  There are some rules for promoting four of the pieces. Stronghold Games has provided some optional tokens that can allow you to reveal a spy, move two spies, or swap places in addition to five ruls variants for your playing enjoyment.

This game has added a “?” secret double agent piece.  This is a fun twist since this piece is actually your piece; you can lie to your opponent when he tries to move it.  It makes for some interesting play.

Final Thoughts.

This is a rather fun abstract.  I think it is clever to move your pieces into the opponent’s home land as a puzzle, trying to figure out where you can place your pieces so they cannot be captured and taken out of play.  When this is not possible you can just bluff by moving it within sure striking range of your opponent while the opponent thinks to himself, “there is no way he would place that piece there if my piece could move two spaces diagonally, and he knows how all of my pieces move!”  And, perhaps one of three opponent pieces could strike, but the opponent has to guess which.

I would still consider myself a newbie to this game. My games have gone fairly quickly with one or two piece strategies.  In this way, you never know what half of your pieces can do before the game is over.  I think there are still a lot more explorations and variants to try on this one.

Rating: I Like it.

Opinions from Other Opinionated Gamers:

Patrick Brennan: I’ve only played the original once, and a long time ago at that. But I really liked it at the time and it’s been on my want list ever since, hoping it would be reprinted. Having said that, opportunities to play 2 player abstracts come few and far between for me, and I’ve a ton of them already, including the full Gipf series. But this was, is, a seriously cool game and if any game in this genre is going to tempt me to get just one more, this could be it. Starting with no knowledge, you gradually learn more and more about what your pieces can and can’t do, and as you develop your knowledge, you start to focus on grabbing the puck that starts in the middle of the board and moving it to the opposite end of the grid for the win. Your opponent’s moves also tell you about your pieces – because there’s Chess like capture, presumably he just moved there because it’s somewhere I can’t land … or was he bluffing? There’s lots to think about, and the game plays slowly to begin with as you try and fail, or try and succeed, with moves. There can also be a decent slice of luck involved if someone gets lucky with a string of successful moves early. But it offers an adventure into guessland and deduction that is a very different feel to other games out there and it provides a sense of fun that 2 player abstracts generally find it difficult to engender.

Tom Rosen: Stratego where your pieces face away from you and you have to figure out what they can do by trial and error… sign me up!  The idea of Confusion sounded cool to me and unlike so many games that sound cool but don’t pan out, this one was as neat in practice as it sounded from the description.  I’ve only played once, on the reprint, a couple weeks ago, but it was enjoyable enough to make me tempted to pick up a copy.  As someone who is usually bored by deduction games (e.g., Sleuth, Black Vienna), Confusion was different and interesting enough to keep me engaged.  I’m not sure how many plays I would get out of it and it did last a bit longer than I might have liked (although I could see the playing time varying wildly), so I’m not entirely won over, but it was memorable and that counts for a lot.

Dale Yu: I have only played the original one, on a homemade version – but I do love the hide-and-seek nature of the game.  I am hoping to get a copy of the new version soon to see how it play and if the new components make the game easier to setup (with the blocks) and to record information (with the huge folders).  I have not yet been able to play a game myself with the new Stronghold version, though I did watch a few of them at the Gathering.  I can’t really rate this game yet, as the original Franjos version is listed as only a variant in the current version (the Honor Among Thieves variant), but the additions of the double agents look to be an improvement.

Ratings Summary from the Opinionated Gamers:
Love it!
Like it.  Ted Cheatham, Patrick Brennan, Tom Rosen
Neutral.
Not for me..

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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2 Responses to Ted Cheatham: Review of Robert Abbott’s Confusion

  1. Larry Levy says:

    Like many of the other OGers, my only experience with this game has been with the original Franjos version. Robert Abbott is one of the most original thinkers in gaming and it certainly shows in this design, as there’s really nothing else quite like it out there. I’ve consistently enjoyed my games of Confusion, although I do need to be in the right frame of mind to play it. It requires an unusual mix of skills to play well and games are often very tense. This production looks great and the dry erase deduction boards should really help play, but I wonder if the optional rules might be taking things a bit too far. Still, I’m very happy that this unique game has been reprinted.

    I like it.

  2. Dan Blum says:

    I’ve only played one game of the original and half a game of the new version, but my impression is that the setup has a big effect on the game. If you get a piece in the center that has good forward movement, and discover this early, you have a huge advantage over the other player.

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