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Chris
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Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation: Deluxe Edition: The Review: By Chris: Bert

I sure hope you’re in the mood for comparisons, because this review goes the distance to draw as many comparisons as plausible. This will try to highlight features of The Confrontation to illustrate of specific aspects of the game. That’s not to say the compared games are perfectly similar. The review is also written so that the reader will be able to still have an understanding of The Confrontation without necessarily being familiar with the game it’s compared to.

It’s like Stratego: This is the most obvious and common comparison. In both games your characters are known to you but hidden to your opponent. Both games require memory as a skill, but it’s minimal in the confrontation. There are only 9 characters to keep track of instead of 40. Stratego rewards memory, The Confrontation rewards wits. A big difference is that in Stratego, when you encounter an opponent’s character, it’s a simple number comparison to determine the winner of the battle. Stratego’s strategery is exclusively in the movement and positioning of your characters. In The Confrontation, combat is resolved after each player secretly picks a card from their hand that either adds strength or does some special text. Unlike Stratego, each character has its own unique game text. Each of these adds a lot of possible options to choose from as you play. The choices are usually difficult and rarely obvious. The concept of fighting and trying to elude unknown characters is fun, but The Confrontation adds a few simple additions that add a lot of subtleties to the game play. Another difference is victory conditions. Both players in Stratego have the same objective, to capture the flag. The Confrontation has asymmetrical victory conditions and asymmetrical characters. The Sauron player wins by either killing Frodo or moving 3 characters to the Shire. The fellowship player wins by moving Frodo to Mordor.



It’s like Citadels: In The Confrontation, when a player moves into a region occupied by an opponent, you resolve combat. Each player picks a card. Both players have a hand of 9 cards. Some have only 1 piece of information on it: a number – you can play the card to add that number to the character’s strength. Or, you can play a text card, such as retreating, using a previously played card, or canceling opponents text or strength card. The cards are chosen secretly and revealed simultaneously. Once a card is played, you will not get to play it again until you’ve burned through your whole hand of nine cards. It feels a lot like choosing a character in Citadels. First, you deduce what options your opponent has left. All of the cards your opponent starts with and cards your opponent has already played is open information, so that isn’t the hard part. Next, you try guess what card your opponent will pick, what card your opponent will guess that you will pick, and try to pick your own card to best defeat your opponent. It feels like I’m using the same part of my brain I do in Citadels as I try to guess and second guess my opponent. But imagine if in Citadels that once you chose a character you couldn’t play it again. That’s how The Confrontation is. You can choose to pick a card that will be a sure kill, but that could mean not having the power card you’ll need in a later battle. The wise player will discern the right time to play your high power cards – another layer of decisions that makes this game enjoyable. Each time characters fight, it is literally a battle of wits. Do I choose the wine in front of me…?



It’s like Lord of the Rings: Here the similarity is not in its game play, but for the fact that it’s a Knizia designed game with a Lord of the Rings theme (because you really needed me to point that out) published by Fantasy Flight Games. The games share a very rich and compelling theme, but Knizia manages to abstractize (oh yes, I said abstractize) Tolkien’s story in both games. The Confrontation feels less abstractized then Lord of the Rings. In Lord of the Rings, the actions taken in the game have a very weak connection with a Middle Earth experience. For example, fighting the Balrog is simplified to playing a generic card that has a picture of a sword on it and moving a pawn one space. In The Confrontation, the game text for most of the characters fits the theme well. For example, Sam fights best when with Frodo, and Merry instantly defeats the Witch King. The Confrontation has a heavily abstractized map of Middle Earth. It takes Tolkien’s map and simplifies it into a square composed of 16 regions. The map is beautifully drawn, mind you. There are no hard lines separating each region – yet they are visually distinctive. Also, the mountain regions in the center of the board are cleverly drawn so that they look oriented towards you no matter what end of the board you are playing at. The component quality is everything you expect from Fantasy Flight. The best component feature is the artwork on the cards. I’ve played it 22 times so far, and each time I find myself admiring the exciting and imaginative artwork. It was nice that the cards are over sized so you can enjoy the artwork.



It’s like Chess: It plays similar to chess or many other similar abstract strategy games. Both games are composed of entire turns of moving 1 piece and resolving if it lands on an opponent’s space (granted, winning the battle simply by landing in an opponents’ space can barely be called resolving). In chess, each piece has it’s own defined movement. In The Confrontation, all pieces have the same movement of 1 space forward, however several characters have special game text that allow for different movement options. Even if the character doesn’t have special movement, they all have a unique power. In each game the player must position his pieces to best utilize their movement/strengths. Both games features making challenging decisions about where to move, when to move, who to move, how to back up your pieces, and luring your opponent into a bad position. This is even more evident in The Confrontation late game when you know or guess most of your opponent’s pieces. Even though there are fewer characters left, you find the decisions get harder as you try to imagine how your opponent will counter your move, and then your response, and then his response to that, and then what you would do next, and then what’s for dessert. A big difference is that Chess is a full information game. All of your opponent’s pieces are viewable and you know how all of them move. In the confrontation, all pieces are hidden – you don’t know which of your opponent’s pieces are which. The Confrontation is very successful a not having any elements of chance to give favor to a player while at the same time it adds an element of chaos and excitement with the unrevealed characters. This works very well. You still have to manage the risk of attacking an unknown character, but you don’t feel victimized by circumstances outside of anyone’s control because your opponent chose to put that character there, it wasn’t there through random causes.



It’s like Lost Cities: Here, the similarity is only that they each support just 2 players and that a game takes about 30 minutes. So, it might not hit the table frequently because only 2 people can have a crack at it at a time, but when you do get to play it, you usually get about 3 plays out of it at a time. Which is very nice, because if you have a game like Twilight Struggle, it’s length plus number of players makes it one of the least played games that I own. Whereas the confrontation is one of the most played games that I own (I’ve played it 22 times so far after owning it for just a little over a month). It fills a very nice spot in my collection of a short, 2 player game that is very thoughtful.



It’s like Carcassonne: OK, so you can tell the games are getting less and less similar to The Confrontation. This time, the comparison is only to illustrate the many different ways to play the game. Carcassonne has many, many expansions. That allows for varied play. Each time you can use a different set of expansions based on preferences for variety or skill level of a new player. In The Confrontation, while the deluxe edition isn’t technically an expansion, it does offer a lot of possibilities to play the game. First, there’s the standard plain vanilla way to play the game. But, you can flip each of the characters around, and you’ll find whole new game text or even whole new characters on the other side. You can switch all of your characters around and play a variant game. The variant game has an entirely different flavor to it. It practically doubles the amount of game you have. Strategies and assumptions from playing the vanilla way won’t necessarily work using the variant characters. The Sauron player even has a new victory condition – moving the Witch King into the Shire. Just never mind that in the book having the Witch King in the shire didn’t actually give Sauron victory over Middle Earth. Then, once you’ve mastered the new characters, you can play a draft version where you pick which characters you want – the vanilla version or the variant version. There’s even two ways to play the draft version. One way to play is where your opponent knows which characters you’ve picked using tokens to signify which characters are chosen, or the blind way where you have no idea which character’s your opponent has – until a fight. Oh, but there’s yet another way to add flavor to the game. There’s 4 special cards for each side. They are played once per game, often played instead of your normal turn. They do things such as bringing Gandalf back if he’s been defeated, or letting one of your characters move 2 spaces. You can choose to add any or all of these cards to add even more options and choices to the game. All this adds up to lots and lots of replay value. You and a buddy can sit and play this game 10 times in a row and have totally different experiences each time. And, each time will be a satisfying game experience that was both fun, and mentally challenging.

Would I recommend it: Highly. I currently give it a 8.75, but it keeps going up the more I play it. It's very easy to learn, plays quickly, has excellent components, and will provide you with many meaningful decisions.

sauronsauronsauronSauron commands you to buy this gamesauronsauronsauron
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Adrian Hague
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Nice format for a review. Well done!

*flip!*
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Indiana Jones
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AdrianPHague wrote:
Nice format for a review. Well done!

*flip!*

Agreed, interesting format.

Though I also expected to see a comparison of this game to Dungeon Twister.
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Chris
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Though here at journey's end I lie in darkness buried deep, beyond all towers strong and high, beyond all mountains steep, above all shadows rides the Sun, and Stars forever dwell: I will not say the Day is done, nor bid the Stars farewell.
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Indiana wrote:
I also expected to see a comparison of this game to Dungeon Twister.


I wasn't familiar with Dungeon Twister, but after taking a look at it, I can certainly see that it would be an apt comparison. Thanks for recommending it, it's on my wish list now.
 
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Jeff
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A very helpful review and I found your "game comparison" format worked well in explaining the mechanics and game play.

This is one of the games that's been on my "want list" for some time and your review has edged me that bit closer to a purchase.

Now if I can just track down a copy...

Cheers!
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Alexey Bobrov
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You've given me no other option but to buy this game! I enjoy playing almost all the games you mentioned in your review and your comparisons are really great. Well, if I mention that I"ve read everything written by Tolkien (English books and their russian translations) now that REALLY leaves me no option but ti buy it. How much is the delivery to Russia from boardsandbits.com? :cool:
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