December 28, 2006

"BatteLore Adventures" Editor Released

BattleLore Cover A little late, but it's finally here as promised. Days of Wonder has finally released the online scenario editor for the company's flagship strategy title of 2006: BattleLore [Amazon,Funagain]

The "BattleLore Adventures Editor" is a free web based tool access to anyone and everyone, and it has everything you need to design your own terrain layout, initial troop positions, etc. This is the same tool system that the Battlelore designers used to create the 10 base scenarios that come with the base system - and so users have the potential to create setup some pretty kill battles.

You can view all of the community scenario creations on the official Battleore Adventures Editor Webpage. Although there is one problem for the curious: users can't view the details of any scenario until they've registered a copy of BattleLore throught the Days of Wonder website.

It seems odd that Days of Wonder would have setup such a obscuring cement wall like this. It seems to us that they could have have at least provided outsiders with a more enticing tease of these scenarios. Perhaps a lowres image of the board, or some scenario flavor text from the author. The more content the better - in our humble opinions - as better glitz could act as a catalyst to have caused some customers to get off of the fence and rolling dice sooner rather than later. As it is now, this simple listing as it is now lacks oomph.

The Editor in all its glory.Although prospective buyers of the game can't see the battles, we can tell you that some of these scenarios are very cool. The online editor has an option to restrict the pieces to medieval battles only (eliminating the fantasy aspect of the game), and players have already begun churning out famous battles from medieval history. How cool is that? Of course this is on top of the other original user created battles which include scenarios where the players storm fortresses, rescue hostages, and other large battles from top-shelf fantasy settings like the Lord of the Rings.

Very cool stuff. Of course this is all part of the long term Battlelore plan. First step: Get a high-quality title into the hands of players and let it act cement the franchise and act as a base rule system. Then let the players create and share scenarios amongst each other, and then eventually start rolling out low-price content that expands the game with new official scenarios and plot lines.

If you already own a copy of BattleLore [Amazon,Funagain] then a visit to the scenario page is a must. Try-out any one of the highly rated scenarios to increase the longevity of war game system, at least until the new official scenario packs start shipping this spring.

Have fun!

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December 26, 2006

Battlestar Galactica RPG Announced by Margaret Weiss

BattlestarGalactica.3.21.06a.jpgWe don't usually cover RPG news here, but this one has us quite a bit excited. Marget Weiss is the co-author of one of our favorite trilogy of novels from childhood - the Dragonlance Chronicles. And the Sci-Fi Channel's B-Star is easily one of our favorite shows airing on TV these days.

Blame the eggnogg: You got Sturm Brightblade in my fraking Starbucks!

From the official press release on Gaming Report: "Like the show, the role playing game book is set in space and will focus on the challenges of survival in exceedingly trying times — and the difficult choices that must be made. The core product, the Battlestar Galactica Role Playing Game, is a self-contained game product using the same game system as the best-selling and award-winning Serenity Role Playing Game (also produced by Margaret Weis Productions). The game book will be a full-color hardcover book featuring still images from the series as well as original artwork. It will provide rules for play, character creation, and information about the ship and crew of Galactica as well as the other main characters from the show. A Quickstart Guide will be released in early 2007 with the core product premiering in the spring. Additional products will closely follow the release of the core product. The entire line will be supported by an interactive website."

We haven't played any of Margaret Weiss' other RPGs (like we said - RPGs really aren't our cup of tea), but we've heard some pretty good things about the fast-playing Serenity RPG, and the BS:G RPG is said to borrow from that ruleset.

But of course we're not blinded by love. Just because two separate things rock on their own (BS:G and the author of the Dragonlance Chronicles) doesn't mean that they'll mesh together into something that also rocks. Take this for example:

In one hand Russ is holding a Scotch. Scotch rocks (unless your under aged, then it's the Satan's swill). In his other hand is a innocent kitten, which is cute, and soft, and therefore also rocks.. But nobody likes scotch soaked kittens. And kitten-aged scotch sounds just about as good as candy corn sausages. Poor Russ. How will you ever drown your sorrows? No, not like that. OK - put the kitten down.

And so our critical minds are a bit concerned. especially given the current state of affairs over at the Margaret Weiss official website. You would think that such a large product announcement would coincide with a killer website launch. You know: with specific details of the bells and whistles of the game system, ready for interested parties to ring and ... well, whistle. But as of right now there's very little there - mostly "Under Construction" links (psst... hide the links if they don't work!). Hopefully the final game won't be quite so sloppy.

So we'll sleep with one open eye until we get more info on this one in 2007. Still, it's got potential.

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December 21, 2006

Eight "Axis and Allies: Battle of the Bulge" Design Articles

BattleOfTheBulge1.jpgLarry Harris the creator of Axis and Allies and all of the titles in that line has been hard at work over the last few months posting a fantasitc series of articles regarding his latest release: Axis and Allies: Battle of the Bulge [Amazon, Funagain]. With his latest installment - his eighth - he completes the entire entertaining series that details the design of the game from soup to nuts.

We have to be honest with you: this comes at the perfect time for us because we've recently rediscovered our love for the dice tossing classic. For a good long while we poo-pooed the randomness of dice combat and thirsted after something with a bit more structure. We found ourselves attracted to the to diceless and more predictable Eurogames. But our tastes are cyclical, like all good things should be, and we're over ourselves - we're once again hungry for the simulated chaos of an Axis and Allies slugfest.

And Larry Harris delivers the goods just in time. His articles are fantastic, detailing the history of the franchise, running through the rules, and most importantly - he provides the reader which historic context of the real Battle of the Bugle and how the true events in that campaign affected his game design. The articles bring life to the game systems of "Battle of the Bulge". Thankfully the game doesn't ship with any exploding trees.

Here's the lineup of articles:

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December 19, 2006

"Twilight Imperium: Shattered Empire" Expansion Ships

TI.SE.cover.11.08.06.gifThe first expansion to the Fantasy Flight Games Big Box title Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition [Amazon, Funagain] has shipped to stores.

Shattered Empire [Amazon,Funagain] adds four new races to the galactic civilization strategy game. Each sports a new race sheet with new abilities to customize both the civilization's economic and political strengths, and the civ's various elements of fleet combat. Also, the game's dynamic tiled board is further customizable with new system tiles to chose from. Heck, the expansion adds more depth to just about everything in the game from spaceship pieces, to political cards, strategy cards, and action cards. The game even lets you add two more people to the table, bringing the total number of players up to a potential eight.

If there has ever been an alpha-male board game of galactic conquest, then Twilight Imperium is it. Now Shattered Empire delivers an injection of Androstendione straight to the left butt cheek. Here's the official word:

The Company Line: "The Lazax empire has fallen - first into decay, and then, after a long twilight, into history. It is done and gone, but a new day is dawning, and your people have a new chance to mold the Twilight Imperium to the design of your race.

Twilight Imperium: Shattered Empire is an expansion for Twilight Imperium Third Edition. It enhances gameplay with a variety of new options and enables you to play with seven or eight players in an epic struggle for true galactic dominance!

TI.Saar.11.08.06.gif
Twilight Imperium: Shattered Empire includes:
  • Four never-before-seen races join the struggle for empire!
  • Two new colors of plastic units to allow for up to eight players in a single game.
  • Dozens of new system tiles, including new special systems such as Ion Storms, Hope's End, trade stations, and the Wormhole Nexus.
  • Brand new technologies for all eight players, including a new never-before-seen type of tech!
  • Eight new variant strategy cards for a completely different gameplay experience, and an additional variant Imperial strategy card for optional use with the core strategy set.
  • An even broader array of agendas and options in the form of new Action, Political, and Objective cards
  • Facilities, shock troops, artifacts, space mines, and more! " -From Shattered Empires' Official Website

The Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition [Amazon, Funagain] expansion "Shattered Empire" is now available to order from Amazon and Funagain Games.

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December 15, 2006

Last Minute Gaming Gift Ideas at Amazon - It's Zero Hour Ladies and Gentlemen

HolidayBuyersGuide.11.15.06.jpgThese next two days mark the last full-weekend of Holiday Shopping for the 2006 Christmas Season. Of course you could count next weekend - which shares a day with Christmas Eve - but only high-anxiety holiday power shoppers hit the mall with all the crazies on that day.

For you sane folks: here are some last minute sales and gift ideas and that should help you tie up any loose ends. And be sure to check out the comprehensive Critical Gamers Holiday Gift Guide for a more in depth look at our gaming recommendations.

Happy Holidays Everybody!

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December 14, 2006

World of Warcraft TCG: Onyxia Week

Onyxia Smash!Caves are supposed to be dank, algae blanketed, stalactite-ridden, cavernous holes of the subterranean question mark - especially when they sit in a dead-end swamp. But with so many people running in n' out of Onyxia's Lair [Amazon,Toywiz] lately, the highly anticipated encounter seems a bit less foreboding. Instead we're in crunch mode.

As gamers we're elbow deep in determining the best way to tackle the Onyxia raid encounter from both sides of the fence. Entering the encounter as a group of WoW TCG players we're working hard to find the best combination of classes and abilities to meet Onyxia head-on. And while playing as Ony we're refining our play so that we realize the full potential of her abilities - so that she incinerates the players into neat lumps of ash as fast as she possibly can.

And what better resource on the matter is there but the words of the designers themselves?

That's right - there isn't. That's why Upper Deck has made this second week in December the official "Onyxia's Lair Week" on the World of Warcraft TCG website. And here are some of the good articles published this week that any WoW TCG aficionado should check out:

  • "Playing As Onyxia" starts things off with some hints on and tips how and when to play Onyxia's ability cards, and most importantly which of your opponents Ony should munch-on first. Sometimes it's not so obvious.
  • "Customizing Onyxia" is great for those groups who've already defeated Onyxia once, and are looking for a more challenging encounter the second time around. Remember: You can mix any number of cards from your first Onyxia Raid Deck into your second deck. Four Engulfing Flames should help to humble the inflated egos of your group.
  • "Treasure Pack Cards" goes through some of the fat loot you should expect to loot after downing Onyxia, and even better - how it should be used to bring her down even faster the next time around.
  • And going against the status quo is "Beating Onyxia" which offers help to those players who find the original deck too challenging (and for more hints check our Onyxia Raid Deck Review.
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December 13, 2006

Now Shipping: "Imperial"

Imperial from Rio Grande GamesIt might be a touchy subject given the world political climate these days, but it's still true: War makes people rich. And the new title Imperial [Amazon, Funagain] from Rio Grande Games makes a stunning game out of that one simple principal.

Thankfully all modern politics and ethics can be set aside for this one - Imperial depicts the European political theater a hundred years ago in the early 1900s, just as national tensions began to climb and pressure mounts for the outbreak of World War I. Players of the classic social backstabbing board game Diplomacy will be quite familiar with this period in history, but instead of acting as the diplomatic leaders of wartime nations, players act as rich wartime investors - buying and selling stock in countries throughout the war. Whoever controls the most stock of a particular country becomes the commander of both its military forces and its spending policies - at least until he's unseated.

The game has certain triggers which generate tax revenue for each particular country, and then other triggers which distributes that revenue to each player that's invested in it. So even if a player isn't in control of a country dominating the theater of war, they can still ride its coattails to successville.

Now although this game has war gaming elements, and a wartime theme, Imperial remains a business investment game at its heart. Combat is relatively simplistic - a simple formula of the mutual destruction of units. In a 3v2 situation, for instance, only one army remains alive. In our opinion this is a good thing, as it keeps the game rolling along smoothly.

Imperial also makes use of the ingenious rondel turn mechanic inherited from last year's popular release Antike [Funagain]. Residing on the board is a pie chart circle divided into eight equal slices, each section depicting one of the game's eight possible turn actions. At the start of a country's turn its marker sits on one of the sections, and the player can chose from any of the three options on the series of slices following the marker. For instance, a turn a player could either "move armies", "produce armies", or "collect tax revenues". The player can chose to take any of these actions for free, or he could spend money to jump beyond the free actions at a cost of one million dollars per space beyond the three. In this way individual countries move through production and movement phases at their own rate, and can string together a series of out-of-order actions by speeding through the rondel, but for a price.

We're babbling. We can feel it. It's only becuase we're really excited about this release. This one is right up our alley. Here's the official description:

Imperial - the back of the box

The Company Line: Europe in the age of imperialism. Internationally operating investors aim for the highest political influence in Europe. By giving credits they gain influence over the six imperial nations Great Britain, Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, Italy and France. These nations desperately need money to build up their economy and to buy troops and fleets. With their growing power in Europe, they collect more taxes and pay their rising interests to their investors. Because the six imperial nations are under changing influence of different investors, strategic alliances and conflicts arise between them. Sometimes this even leads to war!

The players represent internationally operating investors who stay in the background. The turns in the game are executed by the six imperial nations, not by the investors themselves, who only impose their financial influence on various nations. Only the investor who gets the best return on his investments, who gains influence over the most powerful imperial nations, and who can influence the European diplomacy to his benefit, will win the game.

Imperial is a challenging strategy game without any luck of cards or dice.

Contents:

  • 1 gameboard
  • 48 armies in 6 colors
  • 48 fleets in 6 colors
  • 60 tax chips in 6 colors
  • 30 factories
  • 18 octagonal game pieces in 6 colors
  • 1 turn marker
  • 48 bond cards
  • 6 flags
  • 1 investor card
  • 1 blank card (replacement)
  • bank notes
  • 1 instruction booklet
  • 1 booklet: Historical Data on the Six Power

Imperial is now shipping from Funagain Games.

Critical Gamers Staff Permalink social bookmarking

December 11, 2006

Now Shipping "Marvel Heroes"

Marvel HeroesFor good or bad we've seen a resurgence of Super Heroes in American media over the last few years, including movies, lunch boxes, that great "Heroes" television series, etc. There have been some properties we wished weren't resurrected, but for most part there have been some really strong evolutions of traditional series. The X-Men movies probably began the new movement (starting strong but eventually turning into a over-production stage show near the end), while the Spiderman series and new Superman movies will keep it very much alive and kicking.

But the reemergence of morally strong men in tights hasn't been limited to the big screen. Lately we've even been taking breaks from board gaming by spending time at lunch with the Xbox, playing the new release Marvel Ultimate Alliance [Xbox,360,PS2]. That game is chalk full of super hero doom-bot kicking goodness, and it - more than anything - has made us hungry for even more high-quality super hero media.

And now Fantasy Flight Games adds a giant brick of fuel to the fire. The design team behind the incredible War of the Ring franchise has released their next epic Big Box Game title: Marvel Heroes [Amazon,Funagain].

In this latest epic title, each player controls a super hero team, and must investigate various "Headlines" scattered across a dynamic instance of New York City. Through their investigation the heroes will save citizens from falling elevators, fight low-level crime, unveil and uncover super villain plots, and defeat the villains in fisticuff combat.

MarvelHeros.3.16.06.jpgPlayers also control an archeneny super villain which is paired against another player's super hero team. In this way the player's involvement in the game continues even beyond his standard turn. We're a big fan of this game dynamic - because these massive games can become quite the snoozer when you finish your move and it's not going to be your for another 10 minutes or so.

Check out the game's official website to learn more about the title, including the game's rulebook [pdf] Here's the game's official synopsis:

In MARVEL HEROES, 2-4 players each take on the role of a popular super-team straight from the pages of Marvel comics, including such well-known heroes as Spider-Man, Wolverine, Captain America, and the Fantastic Four. Simultaneously, they take the role of an evil Mastermind, whether it's the Kingpin of Crime, Dr. Doom, the Red Skull, or the mutant terrorist Magneto. They will fight crime and progress their story as super heroes, and work to complete their villainous plans as Masterminds, all competing to be the most successful at both tasks.

The action unfolds in New York City, on an impressively detailed and accurate map depicting Manhattan Island as well as Brooklyn and Queens. Players will respond to dangerous and criminal events, represented by Headlines, that crop up across the city, sending members of their super hero team to rescue citizens, fight crime, and battle super villains. Meanwhile, the dastardly Masterminds work to their own purposes - and especially to defeat their Nemesis super-team!

Marvel Heroes is now available to order from Funagain Games and Amazon.com.

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December 8, 2006

World of Warcraft TCG Onyxia Raid Deck Review

Onyxia's Lair Raid DeckThe Onyxia's Lair Raid Deck [Amazon,ToyWiz] for the World of Warcraft Trading Card Came has shipped to stores, and most retailers have finally received enough copes to meet the preorder demand. We picked up our copy a few days ago, and we were like kids on Christmas morning. Immediately we tore into to our copy and ran the game through its paces.

The cards themselves are gorgeous - with some of the best artwork in the game to date. The deck comes in carrying-case that matches the same design as the World of Warcraft TCG Starter Decks [Amazon,ToyWiz]. The black dragon Onyxia is represented by an over sized Hero card, just as those that shipped with the starter decks, and her deck of cards is the same size as the normal WoW playing cards. But they sport a gold framing around them because they're special.

Now - if we were to sum up our experience in two concise words which lack any sort of elaborate details, then we'd have to say: "too easy".

Fortunately we're not dismissive jerks. We feel the game merits a far more detailed and constructive criticism than that, and we're more than willing to break-down our experience a bit more. Perhaps whatever you read here can make the Onyxia's experience a bit more challenging for yourselves than it was for us, and hopefully a bit more fun.

ArrowContinue reading: "World of Warcraft TCG Onyxia Raid Deck Review"

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December 6, 2006

Carcassonne Expansion Ships in Games Quarterly Magazine

Winter 2006 CoverThe Winter 2006 issue of Games Quarterly Magazine [Funagain] has hit newsstands, and we're excited to say that with it ships a twelve tile expansion to the Eurogame classic Carcassonne [our review]. The expansion's tiles includes two new river tiles to extend Carcassone's Rivers expansion, and ten tiles that expand the base game.

The expansion's tiles are mainly comprised of some crazy road/city combinations, which are relatively rare in the original game. Traditionally the placement of an abutting road complicates the completion of a city project, and players use road tiles to essentially paint an opponent's city into a corner. The expansion's new tiles can be used to alleviate some of that pressure, and might be a life-saver for those who've fallen victim of such aggressive plays.

You can get a nice color photograph of the new tiles on the expansion's BoardGameGeek page.

The Winter Issue of GQM isn't just a Carcassonne expansion, though. Here's the full skinny:

The Company Line: A dozen or so of the top writers in the games industry have features in each issue of GQM. James Ernest applies his wit and humor to Dr. Game advice column. Kenneth Hite gives a wry and astute view of games that have become classics. David Niecikowski shows in detail games that have particular merit in education. GQM Publisher Mark Simmons, a 28 year veteran who has worked on every level of the industry, makes sure each issue is overflowing with interesting and entertaining features.

Games Quarterly #11 features an expansion for Carcassonne, Rio Grande Game’s most popular game. It's twelve brand new tiles for the basic game. Brand new, never before seen configurations available only with issue #11!

The Winter Issue (#11) of Games Quarterly Magazine is now available at FungainGames.

The Spring 2007 Issue (#12) will contain another Settlers of Catan [Amazon, Funagain] expansion (as did Fall 2006 Issue #9), and another Carcassonne expansion is slated for the Summer 2007 Issue (#13). We'll keep you posted on the details of those expansions as we get closer to their release.

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December 4, 2006

Now Shipping: "BattleLore"

BattleLore Cover The wait is over, Days of Wonder has finally shipped BattleLore [Amazon,Funagain] to retailers, and the much-anticipated war game system is now available in stores.

BattleLore is the latest incarnation of the acclaimed Commands and Colors tactical wargame system, which is designed to speed up gameplay - to keep things fun - while still accurately simulating a tactical engagement of down-and-dirty warfare. The system started with Battlecry [Funagain] (American Civil War) and evolved through the line of very strong titles including: Commands & Colors: Ancients [Funagain] (Rome vs Hannibal), and Memoir '44 [Amazon, Funagain] (World War II).

BattleLore sets the system in the Medieval period near the end of the Hundred Years War, and slowly introduces fantasy war gaming elements through the base set's 10 scenarios. On top of that the game ships with access to an online scenario editor, and Days of Wonder promises to host user-submitted scenarios so players can keep their copies of the game fresh with new content downloaded from the Interweb.

And starting next spring Days of Wonder will begin to ship small booster packs with new unit types, new rules, and new scenarios. These wont be expansions, but smaller installments of new content with a lower price point. Buy what you want, play what you want.. a very nice product distribution paradigm in our humble opinion.

Here's the official word:

The Company Line: The world of BattleLore meshes history and fantasy together -- putting players in command of a vast array of miniature troops on the battlefields of a Medieval Europe Uchronia at the outset of the Hundred Years War.

Powerful Lore Masters, such as Wizards, Clerics, Warriors and Rogues gathered in customizable War Councils; Mercenary bands chosen from among mythical races such as the Iron Dwarves of Northern England; and Monstrous Creatures all complement the dizzying array of possibilities and tough choices that will face players as they venture in the World of BattleLore.

Contents:

  • over 210 highly detailed plastic miniatures
  • 1 Player's Guide
  • 1 Adventures Booklet
  • 1 double-sided battlemap
  • 46 Terrain and Landmark tiles
  • 60 Command cards
  • 60 Lore cards
  • 48 Summary cards
  • 2 War Council sheets
  • 24 Lore Master Tokens
  • 12 Battle dice
  • 1 Days of Wonder Online Access Number

BattleLore is now available to order from Amazon and Funagain Games. We'll keep you posted when the game hits Amazon's shelves.

Also checkout our other BattleLore coverage for more BattleLore gaming info:

Critical Gamers Staff Permalink social bookmarking

December 1, 2006

November '06 Roundup

Roundup2.jpgIt's official - November is kaput, and now the chaotic Holiday Rush is in full swing. To ease you through the shopping mayhem we've posted our Holiday Gift Guide this month. We've also covered a lot of the holiday releases that deserve your utmost attention. For instance - all of Carcassonne and its expansions have been packaged into one nice giant box, the World of Warcraft board game has been expanded, and Axis and Allies received a nice new installment. Unfortunately the new Days of Wonder flagship title "BattleLore" hasn't arrived yet, but it's only days away from hitting retailers so the heart stopping prerelease anxiety is almost over.

In the meantime we've taken a short break to revisit some the best games of the year. We've been heads-down in the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game (and can't wait for the Onyxia's Lair Deck to finally arrive), and we've come up for a few gasps of air here and there by playing Ticket to Ride Marklin. We've also had a couple of great sessions with the recently released Blue Moon City - which has got to be one of the best four player games to come-out in the second half of 2006.

Here's our complete list of all the interesting news bits that occurred in the gaming holiday release rush of November. Enjoy!

Board Games


Collectable Card Games


Gaming Culture

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