Mar. 5th, 2011 10:01 pm
yeloson: (Default)
[personal profile] yeloson posting in [community profile] gamers_of_color
Confucius is a boardgame for 3 or more players, focused on strategic resource management.

In the game, you are an Tang dynasty official trying to gain the most influence and power, in part by bribing officials, buying influence, getting your people appointed, and organizing and reaping the profits of trade and warfare.

Representation-wise, it gets a mostly thumbs up. The officials are illustrated as Chinese officials, in classic Chinese painting style. The only thumbs down is that it's called Confucius- there's nothing particularly Confucian about it.

This is a fun game, if a bit complicated. It is very much about making smart investments and adapting to situations handed to you. The game runs on 3 major things: Gifts, Action Cubes, and Money.


A big part of playing the game is gifts. You use gift cards to give to other players, that indebts them to you and blocks them from competing with you in certain ways, and forces them to side with you in tiebreaking situations. This isn't a verbal agreement that you can betray- it's actually a hard and fast rule.

What it sets up, is a strategy of who to gift and when. Gifting the most powerful players might help you a lot, but it probably won't be long before they either spend the money to out-gift you. Gifting weaker players doesn't help as much, but they won't have the resources to break it for awhile.


The next thing is Action Cubes. Every round you get a number of action cubes to divvy up into doing various things like bribing officials, getting your people appointed, starting trade expeditions or military ventures, etc. You get more action cubes the more you have either given gifts to others or received gifts (and therefore, are more indebted).

You go around the table, everyone spending on one action until all of the cubes are spent. The person who goes first is the Lead Official, and they have an interesting balance- they can't take their last action until everyone else has taken their last action - meaning you go first and you go last.

This is actually a nice advantage, except late in the round is when everyone makes their power moves- sometimes you get ahead because no one can counter your last action, sometimes you don't have the resources to do anything with it at that point.

Then you have to pick someone else to be the lead official next round- which sets up another interesting bit of jockeying and tie-breaking amongst the players each round.


Money is tracked on cards- each card gives you between 1-3 coins, and, it also has 1-3 Edicts on it - these are inverse to each other so 3 coins means 1 edict or 1 coin is 3 edicts.

Coins are used for most things, but Edicts are used for actually sending military units out or sending trade expeditions - so being high in one or the other doesn't mean being completely ass out- provided you've got something lined up to take advantage of it.

Each turn, you can either Collect Taxes and draw 2 cards, or do a Commercial Venture which gives you more cards depending on how much you've spend into it. At the beginning of each round, you have to discard down to 4 cards, so a lot of times you find everyone rushing for money early in a round then spending late in the round.

(If there's a competition to get an official appointed, everyone has to spend some money- you don't get to opt out of it, even if you aren't obligated at all- which means having to save extra round-to-round).

While money is crucial round to round, it's not victory points, so you need to find ways to use it best.


I give it 4/5 stars. It's got a lot of neat stuff going on, really hits the theme well, and is a fun game. The drawback is that you're going to need between 3-5 players who are also into crunchy strategy to get the most from it. From my friends who brought it over, it sounds as if the rules are not particularly well written, so that's something to watch out for.
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