June 30, 2006

Battles of the Third Age: The Battle of Gondor Details

BattlesThirdAge.3.2.06.gifThe first expansion to highly successful
War of the Ring [Amazon, Funagain] strategy board game is now in stores. Battles of Third Age [Funagain] contains adjustments to the epic gameplay of the original War of the Ring grand strategy game, and adds two smaller conflicts to the mix: The Battle of Rohan and the Battle of Gondor. The expansion includes new unique pieces for each of these battles, new game boards, and a slew of new game mechanics.

For the second part of our two-week series we'll look into the gameplay and features of the Battle of Gondor portion of the expansion, the setting for the climactic (and largest) battle of the Lord of the Rings trilogy - Minas Tirith.

ArrowContinue reading: "Battles of the Third Age: The Battle of Gondor Details"

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June 29, 2006

Now Shipping: Arkham Horror - "Curse of the Dark Pharaoh" Expansion

DarkPharaoh.6.28.06.jpgFantasy Flight Games has released an expansion to the very popular Arkham Horror, an H.P. Lovecraft themed cooperative board game. "Curse of the Dark Pharaoh" is the first expansion to the modern revision of Arkham Horror [Amazon, Funagain], and includes gobs of new cards and locations. Here's the official line:

It seems harmless enough. Just a room full of dusty old antiquities, dug up from some old tomb in Egypt. Miskatonic U's faculty are all a tizzy, of course, but why did Professor Armitage go all pasty-white when he saw the Pharaoh's sarcophagus?

The weirdness didn't start until the next night ...

Curse of the Dark Pharaoh is the first expansion for Arkham Horror! Focusing on the thematic game play, amazing art, and strange tales that made the original game such a fan-favorite, this expansion includes 166 new cards!

  • 22 Exhibit Items, ancient relics from the visiting exhibit.
  • 18 "Barred from the Neighborhood" cards for unlucky investigators.
  • 4 Benefit and 4 Detriment cards with new and intriguing effects.
  • 45 new Arkham Location cards, 27 new Gate cards, 18 new Mythos cards, 21 new Spells, and 7 new Allies to make Arkham Horror bigger, scarier, and more exciting than ever before!

Curse of the Dark Pharaoh is now available to order from the game's official site, and is available to preorder for cheap from FunagainGames (if you don't mind waiting for them to get the title in stock).

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June 28, 2006

Magic: The Gathering Online Coldsnap Beta Signup

Wizards of the Coast has opened up their sign up page for the upcoming Magic Online's Coldsnap beta program. Coldsnap is the next set (due in July) in the Magic: The Gathering release cycle, returning the CCG to the Ice Age block from 1995 / 1996. The cards of Coldsnap should work off the existing cards from the Ice Age Set and Alliances expansion. Although that doesn't really help you with the Online Beta (since participants will probably only play with Coldsnap cards ), it is good news for those who haven't thrown away the box of old Magic cards hiding-out under the hat-pile in their attic.

The beta sign up includes a 10 question quiz which is pretty tough. We recommend using the Magic card database "Gatherer" as a reference for those nitpicky rules the devs throw at ya. Also, the beta asks if you have a 3D card, which probably means that the Coldsnap beta will include the beta test of much-delayed Magic Online Client v3.0. Here's hoping, anyway.

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June 26, 2006

"Marvel Heroes" Preview Part 3 from Fantasy Flight Games Designer

MarvelHeros.3.16.06.jpg A few weeks ago we reported on the two preview articles of Marvel Heroes (Fantasy Flight Games) written by game desginer Roberto Di Meglio had surfaced in the Boardgamegeek forums. We're not really comic book readers here, but we're excited that Marvel Heroes has the same design team that worked on "War of the Ring" [Amazon,Funagain] - a game that we hold in high regard. And those two preview articles painted quite the pretty picture for the team's next project.

Shortly after Roberto's first 2 posts, he threw up a third about the game's mission system (called "Headlines") which includes some juicy details about how to resolve the random setting of the game's battles. As in - who's the super villain, what's he doing in Time Square, and why is he wearing purple fishnet stalkings? Here's a snippet:

The first thing that happens when a Hero (or group of Heroes) try to solve a Headline is to generate how much Trouble he's getting into: this is done with a roll of the special dice included in the game. There are a few cards which can affect this roll, but most important is that on a Mastermind Headline the Nemesis of your team may put his own weight and try to increase the trouble by performing "Scheming" actions.

Every villain has his specialties, so of course expect bigger problems when facing a Crime headline if Kingpin is your Nemesis! After trouble is generated, the Hero uses HIS ratings to reduce it. If it's now zero, great! The mission is solved. But most often you will have trouble left: this means that some nasty super-criminal is in action and you've got to fight... From Marvel Heroes: "A Preview" by Roberto Di Meglio

We didn't post this one right away because we hoped Robert would toss-up a fourth installment shortly thereafter, and we wanted to digest this stuff instead of pinging you every time with a new article. But the fourth installment (on the combat system) never arrived. We'll keep an eye-out for it, and uh, ping you, when it does.

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June 23, 2006

Hands On: Battlestar Galactica Collectabe Card Game

BattlestarGalactica.3.21.06a.jpgWe had a chance to sit down with our new Battlestar Galactica Collectible Card Game Starter Sets [IconUSA]. First impression, right away - cool packaging. The starter sets come in an elongated rectangular box, with the edges cut off to make the trimming octoganal (just like all of the paper in the show). The box holds two mini decks of 31 cards. One deck is themed with the militaristic Commander Adama, who faces-off against President Roslin who leads the other mini-deck (we'll get into more details about how these themes play in a minute). The game also has a tutorial that walks you through a deliberate sample game of mini-deck versus mini-deck. The tutorial assumes the cards are straight out of the package and in their orignial order, but if you've shuffled them around in excitement then the game comes with directions on how to put them back in their original order. Too nice.

Okay, so the enjoyment and usefulness of the packaging and instructions is fleeting in the whole scheme of things. The cards are what make this game, and if they don't hold up then there really isn't a point? With that - we have some good news, and some bad news.

ArrowContinue reading: "Hands On: Battlestar Galactica Collectabe Card Game"

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June 22, 2006

Battles of the Third Age: The Battle of Rohan Details

BattlesThirdAge.3.2.06.gifThe first expansion to highly successful
War of the Ring[Amazon,Funagain] strategy board game is now in stores. Battles of Third Age [Funagain] contains adjustments to the original epic gameplay of the War of the Ring grand strategy game, and adds two smaller conflicts to the mix: The Battle of Rohan and the Battle of Gondor. The expansion includes new unique pieces for each of these battles, new game boards, and a slew of new game mechanics.

As part of a two week series we'll look into the features of the two new battles contained within the expansion. This week we'll kick it off by taking a close look at the rolling plains of Rohan, the gorgeous vacation lands of Middle Earth nestled between the feet of two mountain ranges, and capped by a forest where the trees come alive and beat the living snot out of you. We recommend traveller's insurance.

ArrowContinue reading: "Battles of the Third Age: The Battle of Rohan Details"

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June 20, 2006

Dreamblade Demo from Wizards of the Coast

Unspeakable FreakWe have to be honest with you - the collectible miniatures game Dreamblade was announced quite a while ago by Wizards of the Coast, but we haven't covered it much here. The main reason is becuase Wizards of the Coast hasn't released many beefy yet specific details about the game, but instead released images of their miniatures. They look great, but that's the catch - was this game just going to be eyecandy?

When Dreamblade was first announced we heard reports that the game plays like chess , and then not a few days later we get reports that those people are insane, and the game plays more like Magic: The Gathering meets the tactical Anachronism CCG. Turns out that these later people seem to have their head screwed-on straighter. You can see for yourself. This online demo walks you through a few turns of gameplay. Dreamblade is shaping up into something pretty unique.

Now, although the demo is a positive step forward from Wizards, it does have some faults. For instance, when you hover your mouse over a unit the demo provides details about the unit's casting cost, attack values, etc, but these values are denoted by icons instead of text. If you don't know a thing about the game, then you certainly haven't a clue what each of the icons means (a spiral squiggly means my brainchomper has a 17 what?). The demo also asks you to select units with a casting cost of 9, yet none of these icons have a 9 next to them, and none of the icons scream "casting cost" symbology, either. It's a bit frustrating, but if you guess wrong the demo will push you in the right direction.

There are other things, too, like the lack of an explanation of defense values, special combat dice, etc. So for a tutorial, the demo falls short in some areas, and we hope that Wizard of the Coast doesn't treat the final product so carelessly. But in the end, the demo shows the game board in all its tactical glory, which is something we've been looking forward to for quite a while.

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Blogpire Productions Blogs Announce Investment in the Planet's Future with Green Tags

Green-Tag-Logo Type-Grn-1What can we say? We really thought our blogs should be a bit greener? As of today, we're going to buy enough Green Tags, also called renewable energy credits, from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, to offset the environmental impact from our hosting and computer operations for the coming year.

Green tags are an investment in the production of renewable energy sources through wind and solar power. Using clean renewable energy reduces emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. By purchasing green tags, Blogpire Productions hopes to lessen our dependence on burning fossil fuels.

We also hope you'll help out as well. Individuals as well any business can buy Green Tags. Please visit the Bonneville Environmental Foundation and purchase Green Tags to offset your use of fossil fuels.

Full Release at: PR Web

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June 19, 2006

The Least Crappiest Dice Ever

DiceCaliper.6.19.06.JPGHere's an interesting article by a Simon Tatham, a man with quite a bit of time on his hands. Simon has set-out to create a unique style of dice that produce the values of 2-12 across the same probability distribution as a normal set of dice, but remove the number "7" from the mix of results. Turns out that the process isn't very easy. Those without interest in math might want to close your eyes.. this could get messy.

By now, if you're not asking yourself "why the..? This guy is nuts!", then drink this chalky substance and try to relax -- your head is second in-line on the examination table.

It turns out that Simon and his friends play quite a bit of Settlers of Catan. His group despises rolling sevens (the most frequently rolled number) in the early game because it activiates the game's Robber character instead of producing resources. This slows down the early game too much for their tastes, and instead of optioning to take the time to re-roll the dice, this mathamagician created his own version of a pair of dice where seven simply doesn't exist.

It seems obsessive but the design of the resulting dice pair is pretty cool.

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June 16, 2006

Celebrity - A Free Party Game

Celebrity2.6.16.06.jpgDespite the genre's name, there are some parties that aren't conducive to party-gaming. You know what we're talking about - when your gathering is going great, and everyone lounging, laughing and cruising through a PBR 12 pack, you wouldn't dare mention the idea of breaking out a "box" and setting up a board.

We've been there. Selling the idea of a game to a ragtag group of people can be near-impossible. Yet whenever someone mentions 'Celebrity', a game that we've played at quite a few late-night occasions with various groups, everybody's ear perks up.

Why? Because Celebrity has something for everybody. It can break the ice between strangers, cure disease, stop war, and align the planets into orbits of peace an harmony. Yeah - it's got a lot of things going for it.

Here are the rules:

1: Split the group into two teams. The game lends itself for some great Guys vs Girls gameplay.

2: Everyone gets five strips of paper, a pencil, and a few minutes to jot down some random celebrities. It doesn't matter how these celebrities became famous -- they just have to be widely known people. Say... movie stars, sports stars, world leaders, fictional characters, astronauts, televangelists, muppets, you get the idea.

ArrowContinue reading: "Celebrity - A Free Party Game"

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BlogpireMobile.com and Weekly Email Updates

Criticalgamers Blogad-1This week we have a new, exciting program, affectionately called BlogpireMobile.com! We want to reward you for being Blogpire loyalists. This is one way for us to say thanks. BlogpireMobile.com provides online exclusive offers on the very best mobile service, Verizon Wireless. This online-only offer for you is for $50 Instant Cash Back. That means no rebates, no hassles, and no money out of your pocket when you get a plan and phone. With this offer, there are over 11 FREE PHONES currently available.

But we also know you have a busy life and a busy schedule, and that's why everyone here at BlogPire Productions wants to make it easier for you to get the latest news from any of our sites and not just the one you visit everyday. Just click the link - sign up and you'll get the list of headlines sent to you via email each Monday morning.

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June 15, 2006

Age of Empires 3 Board Images

AgeOfEmpires3Board_fish.jpgPublisher Eagle Games, who released select illustrations of the upcoming Age of Empires 3 board and documentation a few weeks ago, have now also released an image of the entire game board. You can check it out in this forum post here.

The board does a great job to match the style of the nautical maps from age of exploration and early colonial periods. One thing we're miffed about though - all these regions of the Americas have really cool exports like Furs, Silver and Gold, Indigo, etc, but they smacked a giant cod down onto our hometown Boston. We realize that the New England fish industry was substantial during that time period, but did Eagle Games need to make the fish look like the President of the New England Colonies?? Look at him all smug in circular framing. Besides, New England has other great exports, too... like wood, and uh... neco wafers. Crap, they got us.

Anyway, you might have noticed that the board's spacing doesn't quite present itself to good wargamming play - that's because Age of Empires 3 has more of a Eurogame builder gameplay style (like Caylus) rather than a Risk-esque slugfest. Looking at the board in this context, it's really quite a pretty thing.

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June 14, 2006

Now Shipping: Memoir '44: Pacific Theater

Memoir44.3.31.06.jpgThe latest Days of Wonder expansion to their Memoir '44 [Amazon,Funagain] WWII tactical board game is now shipping to stores. Memoir '44 Pacific Theater [Amazon, Funagain] includes 8 historic scenarios including the battles of: Wake Island, Guadalcanal, Guam, and Iwo Jima. Of course the title adds new pieces (what expansion wouldn't?) including new destroyers, aircraft carriers, and for you land lubbers the new map add jungles, rice paddies, cave networks, field hospitals and HQ supply tents to the mix.

The Official Line: From the jungles of Japanese-occupied Burma to the desolate slopes of long-forgotten atolls, discover this latest exciting expansion for Memoir '44! The Pacific Theater expansion introduces new units (Chindits, Japanese Giretsu Special Forces, US Marines), new weapons (Mobile Artillery, Flame throwing Tanks), new terrains and features (rope bridges, aircraft carriers, warships, caves...) and new figures (Japanese Infantry, Ha-Go Light Tanks and 75mm AA Guns), and more...

Revive some of the most ferocious battles of WWII like Iwo Jima or Okinawa! Use new rules, like the Japanese "Banzai!" war cry or the Marines' "Gung Ho" rally cry to win the battle!

Content

  • A complete Japanese Army set including 48 Japanese infantrymen,
  • 12 Type 95 "Ha-Go" light tanks and 6 Type 98 75mm anti-aircraft guns
  • New rules including: the Seishin Kyoiku Doctrine, Banzai & Gung-Ho War Cry!
  • New Night Attacks Data Sheet
  • 44 new double-sided Terrain tiles including: jungles, cave networks, rice paddies, HQ-Supply Tents & Hospitals
  • 10 Round Markers including: Japanese medals, targeting cross-hairs, camouflage battle stars & minefield tokens
  • 4 Obstacles including: rope bridges, & new War Ships - destroyers & aircraft carriers
  • 14 new Special Forces badges: including the Chindits, Japanese Giretsu & more
  • 8 Historical Scenarios: from the early landing on Wake Island to the heavy fighting off the slopes of Guadalcanal, from the Japanese counter-attack on Guam to the Meat Grinder at Iwo Jima. Also includes the landing at Peleliu in Overlord format!

Memoir '44: Pacific Theater is available from Amazon and Funagain Games.

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Off His Gourd

DocBrownB.6.14.06.jpgHasbro is working on yet another Monopoly board game remake, this time focusing on that smoggy isle that never sleeps - Manhattan.

That's not the crazy bit.

Here it is:

According to Yahoo News Donald Trump, king of Manhattan, is shopping-around a new reality television series based on the new Monopoly remake. Yeah, you heard us right... and no, we have no idea how the show would work, either. He also has renowned TV documentarist R.J. Cutler involved in the production, too, which is probably the best of the news.

Why are we so bitter? Monopoly is an abstraction of reality, and to fold it back to reality again on a Produced TV set seems.. uh.. just a bit contrived. We also hate such Frankensteinian co-branding. And frankly, prime time TV doesn't need any more reality shows. Oh yeah, and it's our opinion that Trump's taste is tackier than a powder-blue tux at a viking funeral. Other than that -- it's a smashing idea.

Read more about this story on Yahoo News

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June 12, 2006

"Marvel Heroes" Preview from Fantasy Flight Games Designer

MarvelHeros.3.16.06.jpgWe have something to get off our collective chests. Only a few of were into comics growing up. Wow, that didn't hurt nearly as much as expected.. in fact, it felt pretty good.

It's not that comics are awful, it's just that they're.. well, short. Back in the day we spent our hard-earned money (from mowing lawns) on other things, like renting Nintendo or Genesis games, purchasing Michael Jackson cassettes, and Friday-night monkey knife fights in Pine Forest. That didn't leave much room in our finances for anything else.

But from what we undertsand about the industry, there's a funny thing happening in comic world. Sales of comic books are decreasing, yet there's a noticable remergence of old-school comics in other parts of culture. Comic hero movies are kicking-butt in the box office, and now we see that Fantasy Flight Games placed their War of the Ring designers on a new Marvel Heroes Board Game.

The War of the Ring association is more than enough to make us non-comic heads stand up and take notice. There isn't much other information about the game yet, but judging from this two part post from designer Roberto Di Meglio, the game is shaping-up to be something quite nice.

*snip*There was another challenge: we wanted to keep all the game elements consistent with the stories, but we also wanted the game to be played with different teams and villains. So every element should fit any character - how could that be? Our first design did not address this problem properly, making everything too 'generic' to be meaningful from a thematic point of view, so we had to drop it (and a few months of work with it) and start anew.

The end result of many months of thought and labor is the design that we decided to develop and publish and which I will start to describe in these previews."From A preview (part 1)" in the BGGeek Marvel Heroes Forum"


Part 1 of the forum post focuses on their design decision for the setting of the game, some information about the round mechanics, and how they hope to keep everyone engaged in the game at all times.

Part 2 of the article goes into more detail about troubleshooting "Headlines" across Manhattan, scoping out how dangerous and encounter might be, and the mechanic of player versus player conflict through the control of heroes and supervillans.

The last we heard, Marvel Heroes was set to ship in July (we heard that back in March). Considering it's now June and Fantasy Flight Games doesn't yet have an official page for the game, we think that ship date will probably slip. We'll keep an eye out for any more official information for Heroes, including a release date, and of course part 3 of the design posts.

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June 9, 2006

World of Warcraft Boardgame: Complete Set of Limited Bronze Figures Released

Male_Paladin_thumb.jpgFantasy Flight Games sends word that their second set of the World of Warcraft Board Game [Amazon,Funagain] limited Bronze Figures are now available for purchase. The second set includes 8 new figurines, which are available for purchase individually (prices range from $8-$10) or altogether for $67.95, exclusively on the Fantasy Flight Games website.


The Official Line: Set Two
The stalwart faith of the Human Paladin. The savage and furious Orc Shaman. The wise and dedicated Night Elf Druid. The deadly cunning of the Troll Rogue. These heroes, and many more, come to life in Set Two, available now. Immortalized in bronze, these figures range from approximately 3/4 of an inch tall (2 cm) for the Gnome Rogue to approximately 1 3/4 inches tall (4.5 cm) for the Night Elf Druid.

Levy.JPG

--
Audience: MORE! MORE!
Mike: I don't know, Ian. I think they want more.
--
Alright, Mike. Act now and you can combine the complete first and second set of bronze figures for extra savings! The complete set of 16 figures costs just shy of a hundred bucks. If you've already purchased the first set at full price, and still want to cash-in on this amazing bundled offer, then Fantasy Flight Games can make your dreams come true. Here's how:

The Official Line Combined Set This package combines all sixteen hero figures into one set at a savings of over $50!

For customers who have already purchased Set One at the discounted price of $69.95, Fantasy Flight Games is offering a very special deal to match this complete collection offer. Customers who have already bought Set One may purchase Set Two for $30, bringing the total to $99.95, the same as the complete collection.

In order to receive this special deal, you must place your order through our online store with the same name that was used to purchase Set One.

Sorry about the Mike Levey tribute there... this week's barrage of new products left us flashing back to Sunday morning Infomercials of yesteryear. But seriously, if you're into collecting bronze figurines for general purpose gaming, then this Fantasy Flight offer stands pretty solid. Who would your rather be the next time you play Monopoly, a thimble or a backstabbing troll rogue?

Speaking of solid, watch as Auri 2000 protects the paint of this new-car while we ignite it with gasoline and then fry and egg on its hood...

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Father's Day Gift Guides from the Blogpire

Liquor Snob 125 Macnn-4We want to remind you that Father's Day is just around the corner. Actually it's next Sunday, but don't worry we've got you covered. Single Serve Coffee has a great Father's Day Gift Guide and so does Shaving Stuff with their Father's Day Specials. If you're really looking to impress Dad you might want to get him the ultimate TV remote. The Logitech Harmony Remote 628 - Universal Remote Control is nothing short of the best remote we've ever used and we think Dad will like it too. That's just some of the picks we've got for you from around the Blogpire. Visit our other sites below to find more deals and tales for your Dad on Father's Day.

Cheap Fun Wines
Italian Red Roundup
Italian Reds Rock

The Cooking News
Recipe News: Paula Deen shares her easy recipe for Vidalia onions
Recipe News: Hot new recipes for summer grilling

Liquor Snob
Bad Week Plus New Liquor Equals Good Week
Advanced Drinking Gear from Cocktail Vibe

Really Natural
Synergy: Trilogy Kombucha Tea
Sweet Seasons Lemon Bread Mix

Critical Gamers
Now Shipping: "Apples to Apples Party Box Expansion 2"
Now Shipping: Axis & Allies Miniatures D-Day Boosters

Single Serve Coffee
Rumor Mill: New Keurig B70 Platinum At Home K-Cup Brewer Coming in September
Father's Day Pick: Grindmaster GPOD Precision Brewer & Kona Coffee Pods

Just the Chips
Ultimate Dealer Button
Texas Hold'em Poker Table Top

Kitchen Contraptions
Hotdog Bun Pan
Appliance Panels

Shaving Stuff
The Expensive Side of Father's Day Shaving Gifts
More Father's Day Shaving Ideas from ZIRH

TV Snob
Deal of the Day: Logitech Harmony Remote 628 - Universal Remote Control
VIZIO Announces Breakthrough Father's Day Prices on HD Plasmas and LCD TV

Shirt Snob
Review of Threadless Winning Tees and American Red Cross Clothing
Crochet Braid Cardigan by Free People

GPS Lodge
GPS Review: Sony Nav-U70 GPS Review
GPS Review: FineDrive 400 GPS

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June 7, 2006

Now Shipping: "Apples to Apples Party Box Expansion 2"

ApplesToApples.6.7.06.jpgOut of the Box Publishing has announced that the latest expansion to their award winning Apples to Apples party game has shipped to stores. Apples to Apples Party Box Expansion 2 [Funagain] extends the content of the original 4-10 player game by adding half a thousand cards to the mix. Yikes. That's uh, a boatload of cards.

The Official Line: The game of hilarious comparisons. The laughter continues! These beautifully crafted wooden creates hold the same cards as the Apples to Apples Party Box Expansion Sets. Mix the 576 new cards from a Party Crate Expansion Set with the cards from the Apples to Apples Party Crate for thousands of new and outrageous comparisons!

The original Apples to Apples [Amazon, Funagain] is a fast and fun word-matching card game meant for large groups of people. Players create comical associations of names (nouns) and characteristics (adjectives) in order to score points from the judge-player. The rotating judge mechanic means that players and constantly altering their creative juices to appease different senses of humor.

There's a great video tour of the game on OutOfTheBox Publishing's official web site. Or if you're gruff like we are, and you'd rather skip the smiling, laughing marketing-guy, then we also have a short overview of Apples to Apples here.

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June 6, 2006

Settlers of Catan Official Scenario Design Contest

CatanDesignContest.6.6.06.jpgMayfair Games has announced a Scenario Design Contest for their hit game Settlers of Catan. Those of you who've tweaked the Settlers' rules to compensate for any perceived holes in gameplay now have a chance to get their creations officially stamped by Mayfair Games' seal of approval, and also published in Games Quarterly Magazine. Not a bad deal.

Contest Details

Final Submission Date—October 31, 2006. We’ll announce the winner on April 30, 2007.

Grand Prize—The winning scenario will be published in Games Quarterly Magazine AND its designer will receive a copy of the special, limited, 10th Anniversary Catan 3D Collector’s Edition, plus a Catan Alumni khaki polo shirt.

1st Prizes (5)—These five scenarios may be published AND each winning designer will receive a Catan Alumni khaki
polo shirt.

2nd Prizes (10)—These ten scenarios may be published AND each winning designer will receive a printed University of Catan shirt.

3rd Prizes (50)—Each winning designer will receive a pin with the Mayfair Games Catan logo.

Some quick math says that come next April we'll all have 65 "good" Catan variants to toss around. That should keep you happy even if you don't win that swank Catan khaki Alumni Polo shirt.

The design contest is only for the original Settlers of Catan 4-player board game [Amazon, Funagain] in its purest form (with none of the expansions). For official entry rules visit the "First Ever Catan Scenario Design Contest" webpage at Mayfair games.

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Now Shipping: Axis & Allies Miniatures D-Day Boosters

AAM_DDayBooster.6.6.06.JPGAvalon Hill has released their latest installment to the Axis and Allies Miniatures tactical board game Axis & Allies D-Day. The new expansion adds 45 new units including: 25 Allied units, 16 Axis, new airplanes, heroes, and 4 new battlefield obstacles.

The Official Line: The assault on Fortress Europe begins with D-Day. Highlighting units and nations involved in Operation Overlord – including the debut of Canadian troops – D-Day features the introduction of battlefield obstacles: immobile, non nation-specific units like pillboxes and tank traps that add to the realism of game play. Fan requested favorites like the Supermarine Spitfire and Jagdtiger also roar into action.

The D-Day Booster Pack Contains:

  • 9 randomized, prepainted, durable plastic miniatures
  • Full-color game stat cards
  • Set Checklist
  • Rules not included.

You can grab the D-Day expansion miniatures in the form of booster packs, which are in stores now. Each booster includes 9 random models from the Rare, Uncommon and Common model distribution. The rares in D-Day are mainly new fighter planes, ground attack aircraft , and Allied armored vehicles. Axis mech forces lie mainly in the "Uncommon" rarity type, except for two rare variants of the Tiger tank.

AAM_DDayBooster.6.6.06b.JPGIf you're drooling for some multimedia then check-out the Axis & Allies Miniatures D-Day Gallery for individual images of every one of the fourty-five new units.

More information about Axis and Allies Miniatures game [Funagain], and its D-Day Booster Expansion [Funagain], can be found at Avalon Hill's official A&A Miniatures website.

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June 5, 2006

IconUSA's Lord of the Rings CCG Blowout Sale

LOTR_CCG_BlackRider.jpgA quick heads up for any of you Lord of the Rings Trading Card Game players. IconUSA is clearing their inventory and they have booster packs hitting insanely low prices of 99 cents per pack to 29 cents per pack. Starter decks for each of the blocks are also on sale for the cheap. If you're looking to expand your collection before the game goes into obscurity then now is the time to act.

The following sets are at discounted prices at IconUSA:

  • LOTR: "Realms Of The Elf-Lords" Boosters
  • "The Fellowship Of The Ring" Boosters
  • "Mines Of Moria" Boosters
  • "The Two Towers" Starter Decks and Boosters
  • "Battle Of Helm's Deep" Boosters
  • "Ents of Fangorn" Starter Decks and Boosters
  • "The Return of the King" Boosters
  • "The Two Towers Anthology"
  • "Reflections"
  • "Siege of Gondor" Starter Decks and Boosters
  • "Mount Doom" Starter Decks and Boosters
  • "Shadows" Starter Decks and Boosters
  • "Black Rider" Starter Decks and Boosters
  • "Bloodlines" Starter Decks and Boosters
  • "The Hunters" Starter Decks and Boosters
  • "Expanded Middle-earth" (Set of 3) Draft Boxes

Okay, that's quite the big clearance sale that they've got going-on. It's made us tired from typing, and that's never a good sign. Sheesh!

Critical Gamers Staff Permalink social bookmarking

Age of Empires III Boardgame Art

AoE_art_060406b.jpgA designer at Eagle Games has posted some "Artwork that will appear on the gameboard and in the manual" in the Eagle Games forums. We don't get a sneak peak at the board, or the pieces, but we'll be pretty darn happy if it matches this style. This shot to the right here has been halved so it'll fit our page, the full shot is twice as gorgeous.

Only a select few have played the prelease versions of the Age of Empires III board game. Their early reports suggest that the game leans more toward a Euro-style board game, shedding the army clashing and dice tossing gameplay of Eagle Games' other Ensemble RTS adaptation, Age of Mythology. In fact, some (but not all) of the AoE III gameplay elements regarding the colonization of North and South America have been closely compared to the construction elements of the award-winning eurogame Caylus. That's definitely a good thing considering how well that title turned out, and considering Eagle Games' track record of making some great board game adaptions.

Age of Empires III is set to ship in July.

Critical Gamers Staff Permalink social bookmarking

June 2, 2006

Battlestar Galactica CCG Released

BBSG_starterdeck.6.1.06.jpg

Ah yes, traditionally Fridays have been our BS:G CCG days because - well, BS:G usually airs on Fridays. Tricksy, huh? This Friday we're happy to report that the Battlestar Galactica Collectable Card Game has shipped and is now available in stores!

The Company Line: The Battlestar Galactica collectable card game (CCG) brings the tension and excitement of the hit television show to your table top, where the fate of humanity is in your hands! Protect the refugee fleet from Cylon attacks while dealing with internal politics and strife. Players face off against one another as they attempt to increase their influence over the fleet, and the ever-present Cylons threaten all players!

The Two Player Starter Deck contains everything two people need to learn the game easily and quickly. Two 31 card fixed decks provide players with an exciting introductory game. The cards can be combined to build a complete 61 card deck as well. Each starter contains 10 cards exclusive to the Starter (including 5 foil cards).

Starter Contents:

  • 10 exclusive fixed cards including 5 exclusive foil cards.
  • 52 fixed cards
  • Quick start rules
  • Rule book

We've done some fishing around to find the best launch prices online for the Starter Deck and Booster packs. IconUSA.com makes life easy for us - they seem to have the cheapest price for everything, including $6.99 starter decks (36 cards), $2.25 booster packs (15 cards), and $71.60 booster display boxes of 36 booster packs. The display box's MSRP is $125.64, so that's 43% off. We hereby label IconUSA - insane. Congrats.

If they sell-out then check TrollandToad.com. They're listing the Starter Decks at $9.49 a pop (with limited stock) If Toad's sells out and you don't mind paying the full $10.99 price, then Gamestop will surely have a ton of in stock.

While you wait for your shipment to arrive you could read-up on the game's design elements. Here's a list of the game's Official Feature Articles (for your enjoyment we've pruned the articles not related to BSG CCG gameplay):

Enjoy!

Critical Gamers Staff Permalink social bookmarking

June 1, 2006

Review: Interact toGo

InteractToGo.5.30.06.jpg

Overview
Interact toGo is produced by Interact Games Ltd which has released a series of games with the goal of uniting intra office cultures (aka team building). Interact toGo extends the franchise by opening up audience to groups of friends and family.

The Company Line: Interact toGo is a card game that is fun, thought-provoking and entertaining. The purpose is to predict your opponent’s answer and the reason WHY behind it. That’s where the real fun begins!

Your opponent is your spouse, partner, neighbor or friend! Find out something new or different about the people in your life, those you think you know well and those you just met. Build relationships, value other’s perspectives and stimulate interesting dialogue while gaining points along the way.

The Gameplay
Playing a round of toGo is quite simple. A player picks a card off the top of the deck and reads the question aloud. The card also supplies multiple choice answers, which are also read aloud. The Question Reader selects an answer in secret, and jots down a description of "why" he/she chose the answer. It's the job of the other players to guess which answer the Question Reader chose (by writing it down), and also to guess the answer to the "why?" portion of the question. Then, everyone's responses are revealed, and 1 point is awarded to players with the correct answer to the multiple choice question, and 1 more point is awarded to players who correctly guessed "why".

Critique
The design is as about as streamlined as you can get, but let's dive into the nitty gritty details of the game's execution.

Interact toGo ships with 100 questions cards. The questions themselves are somewhat diverse in subject matter, but they all fit the same cookie cutter template - the players select their favorite multiple choice answers from a list of "what if" scenarios. "If I could be a constant on a game show, which would I chose, and why?", "If I could travel back in time and meet a historical figure, would would I chose, and why?" These aren't exactly the deepest questions, so if you're familiar with the folks you're playing with then it isn't difficult to deduce their answer (the "why" follow-up question still might be a challenge, however). The game also lacks a strong set of moral questions, which is a surprise since "family" is one of the intended audiences listed on the front of the box.

The Interact toGo website promises laugh-out-loud gameplay, but the questions themselves aren't exceedingly funny. The title also lacks an obvious game-mechanic that would provide humor. All of the hilarious moments stem from the "why" portion of the question, so it falls on the players' shoulders to tickle each other's funny bone. This usually occurs the moment a question that was intended for a woman falls into the lap of a man, or vice versa, or when a player doesn't even try to answer the "why" part of a question, but instead creates a completely outlandish response. That's when the fun really starts.

Finally, the act of writing the "why" to every answer provides some very unique, custom-tailored, and yes - potentially humorous responses. But in our overly-critical ways we found that it can simply take too long, and it slows down the pace of the game a bit too much . If there were more humorous or biting questions in the game then the downtime wouldn't be such a bad thing, but in the end the game's pace and content combine to slow down the game a bit too much. This is especially true when Interact toGo is compared against other shallower, but faster-paced titles in the party-quiz genre (Apples to Apples).


Conclusion
Interact toGo provides an unparalleled level of personal-depth to the social trivia experience. This is the game's major strength (and the seemingly the flaghship design decision that inspired the game). The potential for humor is there, but it often comes in sharp spikes harbored between longer lulls. The game simply isn't always funny or entertaining enough to compensate for the long down-time between rounds.

Also, we would have liked to have seen a bit more edge to the questions - perhaps circumstances where the player is forced to select the lesser of two evils, or questions that tested the players' morales. The addition of a few deeper questions cards might have generated additional hooks for humor which otherwise don't exist. Humor is key here because it more effectively obscures the game's slower pace while still stressing the title's strength for interpersonal-discovery.

In a world of passive social entertainment where TVs blast their waves through the living room, over cell phones, and in the back seats of minivans, the interpersonal design behind Interact toGo is a breath of fresh air. But in the end we liked the groundwork of ideas more than the actual execution. People who enjoy games in the social trivia genre will most likely enjoy the experience of this game, but the title isn't a sure-fire winner for everyone.

Interact toGo is available for purchase from the game's official website.

3 stars out of 5 Our Critical Raiting System

Critical Gamers Staff Permalink social bookmarking

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