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Baffled

Pelmanism/memory games are popular with children. Typically they involve finding doubles in an array of face-down cards. The basic idea has been adapted into other games; as, for example, in Djeco's Douzanimo. With Cheatwell Games' Baffled, Raymond Haysman has used the staple memory game as the core mechanic in a tricksy roll & move board game.


The game comes with 12 symbol tiles. These show a number, animal or fruit in one of four colours. These are all covered and each is randomly assigned to a letter square around the board labelled A-L. The covers are removed and players then have 60 seconds to try to memorise which symbol is at which letter location.



The 2-4 players each start off with a given number of 'life' cards (the rules suggest between 5 and 7 cards apiece depending on whether you want a short or long game). These all start off green tick side up but you flip one to the red cross side when you get a memory guess wrong. On your turn, you roll the die and move your counter that number of spaces around the board. The memory test you have to pass depends on where you land. If you land on a symbol, you simply have to lift the cover at the location you think corresponds to that symbol. If you land on one of the corner squares, you'll have to find three numbers, animals, fruit or colours. There are also squares that give two location letters. These require that you identify the symbol at both. Needless to say, if you fail in the task at the square on which you land, you lose a 'life'.


If you land on an 'ask' square, you get to name a symbol and ask another player where it is, or alternatively you can name a location and ask what symbol is there. They'll lose a life if they get it wrong but you will lose one of your lives if they get it right. And just to keep players on their toes, there are squares that force you to switch the symbols between two locations.



Tho' there are only 12 symbols in total, there's arguably more to remember here than in those children's card games where you're just flipping cards to find doubles because you're often having to find multiple symbols. However, as with most memory games, things get progressively easier the more the symbol locations get revealed and so become familiar over the course of the game.


Baffled will appeal to children who have cut their milk teeth on simple doubles-finding memory card games and are ready to move on to something that feels more like a board game, even if it does just fall back on the familiar roll&move mechanic. The game is well produced, with chunky plastic cover pieces, and the rules incorporate some helpful word association methods to help players link a symbol to its location. We especially liked the fact that you can pit players of different ages and abilities against each other by the simple expedient of varying the number of life cards each starts off with. Players can also 'show their superiority' (as the rules put it) by embarking on a 'Baffled Run' where they go through locations A-L in order naming the symbols at each location. The rules don't specify this but in our Board's Eye View plays we treated a 'Baffled Run' attempt as a 'Hail Mary' 'do or die' gamble: succeed and you seize the win; fail and you're out of the game.


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