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Subject: This vintage maze game delivers exactly what was promised on the box! rss

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Pete Belli
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Pathfinder is a fascinating two player maze challenge which tests each contestant's powers of intuition. It was first published by Milton Bradley in the 1970s and has appeared in several versions. It was designed to be enjoyed by players ages 8 and up. I was fortunate to pay just $1 for my copy at a local thrift store. Since my opponent frequently enjoys abstracts, problem solving challenges, and pattern building games we decided to give it a try.






The description on the bottom of the box includes this text:

Pathfinder is the amazing game of strategy and imagination. You hide a pawn on the home grid and secretly construct a winding set of barricades around it. When play begins, watch out for the dead ends and false trails as you try to find a path to your opponent's pawn before he or she finds yours!

I have seldom seen a game which lives up to its advertising hype like Pathfinder. This really is a clever design. Pathfinder has a superficial resemblance to the MB classic Battleship with its plastic grids and screen to hide the playing surface. The comparison ends there, because Pathfinder is all about deduction and intuition. The ability to maintain the blank expression commonly described as a poker face might also be helpful.

The components were manufactured to last a lifetime. My copy is 35+ years old and in solid shape. I think the game would stand up to typical rough handling by youngsters, and incredibly enough all of the tiny parts were still in the plastic storage box assembly!

As with many games capable of bridging the gap between generations the rules can be explained in a couple of minutes. Each player creates a maze on a grid hidden behind the screen in the center of the game console. A small pawn is placed somewhere inside the grid, and a rule requiring at least one viable pathway to the target square is the only stipulation limiting a player's creativity.

After both participants have completed their individual mazes the session begins. Each player has a separate tracking grid which must remain visible to his or her opponent. This grid allows each contestant to record his or her progress through the hidden maze on the other side of the screen. Obviously, each player is racing against the other and every move into a blind alley or a cul-de-sac will waste a precious movement opportunity.






Creating a wickedly clever maze is half the fun. Obviously, every game will be slightly different since each plastic labyrinth will be unique. Players new to Pathfinder might find inspiration in the sample mazes provided in the rules. An experienced player could have a slight advantage over an opponent new to the game, but since each session will only last 15 or 20 minutes it shouldn't take long for the newbie to catch on to the more subtle elements of maze construction.

Intuition plays an important role in the play experience. Since you're entering the maze without any concrete information about a possible layout progress into the labyrinth is more art than science. A savvy player might watch his or her opponent's face for non-verbal clues to guide the next move. In my opinion, players who know each other well can often "feel" where a subsequent move might be successful.

We laughed frequently. I made an annoying "WAAAAAAH!" buzzer sound like something out of a TV game show when my opponent made a poor choice. She was sweetly polite throughout the session, and her bland delivery provided few hints for me to follow. I should add that she won convincingly.

Younger children might struggle with the maze construction portion of the game. A child with a low frustration tolerance could find Pathfinder stressful. Aside from that, I think the game would be fun for kids of all ages... including a middle-aged wargame player like your humble reviewer.
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A. B. West
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Beech Grove
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Wait. Where are the zoodles of cards? Where is the role-playing? Where is the die rolling? Where are the cool card combos? The monsters? Experience points?

MILTON BRADLEY, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!?
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David Winn
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I assumed this was about the RPG as well. I bet a lot of people have clicked/will click on it thinking that.
 
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Ulrich Roth
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Very interesting, thanks, I didn't know this one.

Do I understand correctly, that the game would be perfectly playable without all the plastic, with just paper & pencil (and a few pawns / tokens)?
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Pete Belli
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ludopath wrote:
Do I understand correctly, that the game would be perfectly playable without all the plastic, with just paper & pencil (and a few pawns / tokens)?


Good question.

I think you are correct.
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Benjamin Maggi
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I played this game a lot as a child with my mother, and I loved it. Nice review!
 
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Kevin Elmore
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Ha, I was searching for the Paizo card game, but I had to visit this page out of nostalgia. I used to have this game, and I really wish I still had it.

Being an only child, I didn't have many outlets for board games. My father was a workaholic, and he would've been the only one around to explain games to me. So instead, I spent many hours with this game constructing mazes and just playing with the plastic pieces. It was certainly much better than playing with a plastic sack.

I'm glad that your copy had all the pieces. I'm certain that wherever my copy ended up, it would be missing some pieces. I was not a careful child.

Thanks for the nostalgia, and as noted, this could indeed be done with a pencil and paper. Hell, I might even be able to create an online version with my rudimentary skills.
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