I’ve been keeping my eye on Stronghold Games lately as they really seem to be an up-and-comer in the gaming world. They burst out of the gates doing high quality reprints of a number of out-of-print-yet-still-sought-after titles. I already talked about Survive!, so let’s talk about another one they’re producing.
Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War is a reprint of an obscure 1992 game designed by Robert Abbott. It’s a two-player abstract game for ages 12 and up that takes around 45 minutes. The original version was fairly cheaply printed and didn’t really have a theme. I’ve glanced through the old rules, and it looks kind of like an abstract version of soccer where you don’t know who’s on your team. Stronghold has set the game during the Cold War and made the pieces into spies, one of whom is a double agent. It’s a two-player hidden movement/deduction game where you have no idea which of your pieces that you can move.
The game comes with 26 spy pieces in two colors (red and white), which are hollowed out blocks that are labeled with a letter and a picture. There are also 26 movement pieces, which fit in the spy pieces. There’s a Top Secret briefcase, which is the point of the game. There are two Spy notebooks where you’ll keep your notes with dry erase markers (saving paper – nice). There are six special action tokens and a game board that shows an 11X11 grid.
One player will be white (the US) and the other will be red (the USSR). Each player will set up the other’s spy pieces by randomly placing one movement piece underneath. Each movement piece has two sides, a promoted side (which shows 2 moves in any direction) and a non-promoted side (which could show several different types of movement). You’ll place your opponent’s pieces so they are standing up with the movement side facing you. Your opponent cannot see them, but they can see your movement options (which you cannot see). The briefcase goes right in the middle of the board.
On your turn, make a move with one of your spies. Your opponent will tell you whether or not the move is legal. If not, move your piece back. You can then record in your notebook what you know about that spy while your opponent records what they think you know about your spy. You can’t move onto a space that holds one of your spies, but you can move onto a space that holds an enemy spy (which you then capture and discard from the game). You also don’t need to use your entire movement allowance, but you can only move in directions indicated on the pieces (from the opponent’s perspective).
Four movement pieces are marked with a crown, meaning that they can be promoted. Simply move these pieces all the way to the other side of the board, and your opponent will flip the movement piece to its promoted side, meaning that the spy can now move two spaces in any direction. There’s also a spy that is marked with a question mark. This is the double agent that is working for your opponent, who may choose to lie about whether or not a move is legal. You can try to eliminate it by removing one of your pieces from the game.
If a spy lands legally on the briefcase, you now control it. Now when moving that spy, you can either move the spy and leave the case (losing control of the case), move the case and the spy, or move the case and not the spy (but still following that spy’s rules). You win the game if you can get the briefcase all the way to the other side of the board.
I can’t say that I understand everything about this game. I imagine it might be easier once more information comes through. I’ve been looking at the pre-release rules, which doesn’t have illustrations or examples. I would imagine that once the final product comes in we’ll be getting a rule set that is more clear. I am intrigued by the concept, however. Stronghold is talking up the quality of the components, and they look good from the early photos. I’m excited to hear more, and hopefully I’ll get a chance to try it out someday.
Thanks for reading, and…you know, I’m bored with the “insert clever tagline here” line. I think I’ll just end the joke. See you next time!