A board game for 2 players by Robert Abbott, published 1993 by Franjos (Germany)
These comments copyright 2002 by Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated February 6, 2002

A Little Confusion to Begin with ...

There are at least two German games published with the title Confusion. This review is about the one by Robert Abbott, from Franjos. I haven't seen any others, so can't comment on them.

Confusion is not a game to be played late in the evening when you're punchy. You really need to have your wits about you as you start a game. It can indeed be very confusing.

This is one of those "hidden value" games, such as Stratego or the Columbia Wooden Block games. As in those games, there are pieces moving around on the board whose identity you don't know. Unlike those games, the unknown pieces are your own ...


The game comes with a roll-up board similar to a chess board, but 11 x 11. There is a wooden "puck," shaped like it sounds, which starts in the center of the board. Each player has 12 pieces, wooden cubes about 1.25" (3 cm) per edge. Printed on one face only of these cubes are the movement capabilities of that particular cube: all 12 are unique in the movement abilities, though each player has an identical set. These are represented as little diagrams: a central circle shows a number from 1-4, and arrows coming out of the circle show which directions the cube may move.

There are a dozen letter chits for each player and two very essential pads of paper that I'll discuss later. The rules, only in German, round out the components. The cubes, at least in my set, are black for one team and blue for the other, and black and blue is generally how you feel if you play this game too late in the day.

Set-up and Now You Know Why It's Confusing

To start, each player turns the faces of his cubes away from him, so his opponent can see them, but he can't. We then scramble each other's cubes a bit, then scramble our own a bit, so no one has any clue at all which cube of his own is which, but can still see all of his opponent's cube faces. The cubes are then set on their starting positions, similar to chess in that they occupy the two rows closest to their owners. There are some gaps, though: the end two columns are empty as is the middle column, except for the puck in the center of the board. The letter chits are placed on the pieces, one per cube, to identify them uniquely.

The start player then chooses one of his pieces, indicates where he wishes to move it, and asks his opponent if it's a legal move. The opponent looks at the face of the cube with arrows and numbers, and indicates, "Yes" or "No." If yes, the piece is moved and the player's turn is over. If no, the piece is returned to its starting position, and the player's turn is over.

Each player has a pad with two grids on it: one for their own cubes and one for the opponent's cubes. As you make a move, you gain information about your pieces. The grid for your own pieces shows every possible cube face for each of the 12 letters: a 12x12 array. You simply cross out squares you know to be false. Your opponent does likewise, on the grid available for tracking your cubes.

An example:

  • three of the cubes can move only 1 space per move,
  • six of them can move up to 2 spaces (in a straight line only) per turn,
  • two can move up to 3 spaces, and
  • one can move up to 4 spaces.
So if I choose a cube and try to move it two spaces directly forward and my opponent says the move is legal, I can then cross out the three squares under that letter showing a move of only one space. It can't be one of those, because they can't move that far.

In addition, of the nine pieces that can move at least two spaces, only five of them can move directly forward. The other four, which only move forward in a diagonal direction, can be crossed out also. So in one try I've eliminated seven of the twelve possibilities and have gained some valuable information.

Some of the various movement types include:

  • a cube that can move up to four spaces, but only straight forward (we call it the Rhino)
  • a cube that can move like a king in chess: one space in one of eight directions
  • a cube that can move up to two spaces straight forward or two to either side, but no other directions
  • a cube that can move up to three spaces diagonally forward, but no other directions
  • and so on.
When you figure out exactly what a cube's movement abilities are, and your opponent agrees you've figured it out, you flip the piece so the movement diagram is on top now, visible to all.

Objective and Some Details

The object is to get the puck to your opponent's home row. The puck can be picked up by ending your turn on it. When you have the puck, you can move with it, drop it off as you move, or sit still and "pass" it to any space you could have moved to (which counts as your move for that turn).

If at any time you land on an opponent's piece, it's removed from the game - still unknown if he hadn't figured out its type by then! So there's bluffing involved - I can move boldly toward you, knowing you haven't researched some cubes in that area. Do you think I really can't be captured by any of yours? Or do you think I'm bluffing and at least one of your pieces can capture me? If so, which one(s)?

Four of the pieces cannot move backwards at all, neither orthogonally or diagonally. When one of these reaches the opponent's home row, the letter chit is flipped over to reveal a super pattern: this pattern now overrides the original movement abilities. The cube can now move up to two spaces in any of the eight directions - the most powerful piece on the board!

That's basically the game: the first part is spent largely trying to figure out what at least a few of your pieces do, and the rest of the game trying to outmaneuver your opponent, either with the puck or simply by taking so many of his pieces his chances of winning collapse.

Why Wouldn't You Like This Game?

It's pretty mind-numbing. First of all, the "My pieces" and "Your pieces" halves of the pads are not identical. When you look at an opponent's piece, the arrow that points directly down represents straight forward. So the "Your pieces" part of the pad show them this way. When you figure out one of your own pieces and flip it face-side up, the forward movement points forward, which looks like up to you. So the "My pieces" part of the pad shows them this way. If you're tired and look on the wrong half of the pad, you can get nearly terminally screwed up - this is the voice of experience, folks, heed it well ... but that's actually okay, because if you're that punchy, such mistakes become hilarious and you still have a good time.

It's pretty cerebral - some people prefer lighter, less thought-intensive games. It's a good cerebral game, though, if you like such things.

It's abstract. Some people don't like abstract games. I actually don't like many abstract games, generally preferring a well-implemented theme, but I do like exceptionally good abstract games - and I like Confusion.

Summing Up

A great game I pull out fairly regularly, though not frequently. Maybe once every two months or so. But when you own as many games as I do, that's actually fairly frequently ... I have games I like that only come out once or twice a year just because there are so many to play.

While it's hard to find, Magnus-Spiele in Germany had some as I write this review - no telling how long they'll last after this, however. At any rate, recommended if you like the sound of it - it's pretty unique.

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