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Subject: Quandary - not for the color-blind rss

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Stephen Roney
United States
Ladera Ranch
California
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Quandary is an abstract game published by J.W. Spear and Sons in 1970. It was the subject of a feature article by David Parlett in the July 1973 issue of Games & Puzzles magazine (issue #15). That article was enough to put the game on my must-have list. But the game was not available locally. My parents looked for it once on a trip to London, and I did as well much later. Finally, I found it on eBay a few years ago. A $20 bid was outbid at the last moment, but it showed up again a couple of months later and I picked it up for around $10. More recently, copies have gone unsold for quite a bit less.

The game is played on a 12x12 board, where each square is one of eight colors, organized in what Parlett called “calculated haphazardry”. Each player has four pieces which are placed in their home row by the draw of cards, numbered 1-12. Pieces can move forward one square straight ahead or diagonally, but only if the color of the square is the same as the color directly in front of one of the opponent’s pieces, and only if that square is not already occupied. The first player to get one of his pawns across the board wins.

Thinking very far ahead is difficult, though perhaps not impossible. Certainly you can attempt to control the other players moves, and in fact it often seems like you have no choice as to where to move. Other people on this forum have suggested that the game is too ‘drawish’. Parlett suggest that this “is only likely to happen to beginners since it is quite easy to avoid”. A player may be able to force it if they are too far behind, but I would suggest that if it is happening too frequently, then both players are playing too defensively, rather than trying to win.

This game is interesting, though perhaps not compelling. I am happy that I finally got it and enjoy playing it from time to time.

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Neil Bloomfield
Australia
Perth
Western Australia
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I was a bit surprised to read that people think this game is "drawish" - I have never played a draw. At least, I have never played a draw till two days ago, when I was introducing the game to a new player, and we hit a draw in about five moves. The remaining three games were not draws, with him winning one, me winning the next, then in the final game I got a pawn two rows away from winning, and it ran out of puff, so he won. Not a game you'd want to devote hours to, but two or three games are refreshing.
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