July 31, 2007

Battlelore Battalion & Skirmishers Specialist Pack Expansions

BattleLore Goblin SkirmishersThe BattleLore Fantasy Wargame System from Days of Wonder has just grown with two new small boxed releases within the Specialist Pack series of expansions.

The Goblin Skirmishers [Amazon, Funagain] pack includes eight new Spear Bearers to upright horses and eight Goblin Slingers for some ranged stone throwing from behind your spear wall. But the heart of the expansion is the Goblin Bandleader conduction three Goblin Drummers who play savage beats to drum their compatriots into a fearless killing frenzy.

BattleLore Dwarven BattalionOn the other side of the fence is the Dwarven Battalion [Amazon, Funagain]. Similar to their goblinoid counterparts, the dwarves are also centered around a spearmen, ranged axe throwers, and musical theme. But instead of emboldening friendly forces with music the Dwarven players strike fear into the hearts of their enemies through haunting bagpipe song.

Both of these Specialist packs come with two new adventures, each. Definitely a nice little way to spice up some of your Battlelore gaming with a new injection of content at a somewhat low price point ($26 MSRP), though it would have been nice – and somewhat reasonable - to get both sets for around that price.

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July 27, 2007

Three-Dragon Ante - How to Spice Up Your RPG Encounters

Three Dragon AnteEver been part of the lamest and uninspired RPG encounters? You know, the ones where you have when matching wits with an NPC, which pretty much consists of acting stupid in front of your friends, threatening a ghost sitting in the vacant chair next to you, and then rolling a die to see if your melodramatic performance actually won you the intimidation check? You roll a 2. Exciting!

Well we're about to show you a great way to spice up the monotony of social-skill and wit dice checks. Three Dragon Ante [Funagain, Official] first started as an in-game card game which DMs could throw down on the mahogany, waxed dining room table table in order to give some grit and atmosphere to the room. Players can use it as an in-character card game to kill some time in a local tavern, or use it as a tool, customizing the deck so the player has to game the encounters through a quick hand. This - of course - goes to great lengths to keep the spice in the air throughout some otherwise trivial, boring, and anticlimactic encounters.

Here's the official word on Three-Dragon Ante from Wizards of the Coast

"The high-stakes game of chance preferred by D&D characters of all classes and levels!

Three-Dragon Ante is a fast-paced noncollectable card game based on the tavern games played by characters within the D&D game world. Three-Dragon Ante can be played as a standalone card game when there isn't enough time for a full-fledged D&D adventure, or it can be played as part of a roleplaying campaign-where a character's abilities can give him or her a unique winning edge.

For 2-6 players. Great for dedicated D&D gamers or anyone interested in a cool, fast, fantasy-based game of chance."

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July 25, 2007

The Fishermen of Catan

Fishing the old fashioned way.The masses of gamers into The Settlers of Catan can now pickup the The Fishermen of Catan [Amazon, Funagain] expansion from game store shelves everywhere. This title was originally released in English as an insert inside Games Quarterly Magazine. And judging from the fact that GQM has gone out of business (rest in peace), we're guessing some of you might have missed their chance to get your hands around one of the lesser known expansions to the original Settlers. Well now's your chance, 'cause Mayfair games is has published and shipping The Fishermen of Catan expansion in its own boxed version!

Fish are generated from new Fishing Ground tiles, which replace a few of the empty sea spaces in the board setup phase. Players can spend their collected fish to toy around with some of the original title's game mechanics. Players can spend fish to bait the robber back into the desert, or spend them to steal a random resource card from a player, or... wait, what?? Buy roads? Weird - fishy roads must stink of the summer days on the island.

And of course the most powerful options require more fish! Here are the official details:


"For generations, the people of Catan have lived in an island paradise, surrounded by the peaceful sea. They have long known of the benefits of the sea: maritime trade has been crucial to their expansion since the beginning. But recently they have discovered that the sea holds other bounty, ready to be gathered and used in the never-ending quest for expansion and trade."

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July 23, 2007

Travel Blokus

Travel BlokusAmazon.com: Travel Blokus: Toys & Games Parents looking to keep their kids occupied on long car trips without the use of the zombie-matic DVD players can breathe easy; there are other - more creative - options. Travel Blokus [Amazon, Funagain] packs the award winning and clever gameplay of original Blokus into a nice travel sized carrying case.

The competitive puzzle game design that won the Mensa Best Mind Game 2003 is still here, but now It's compacted for car travel, plane travel, or breaking out a game in an otherwise drab highway motel, etc. Who wants to watch CNN or repeats of "Alice" anyway? And the plastic bits float, which means that it's even safe for boat travel - which is great if things go south and you want to get in a a few rounds while waiting for the rescue plane. What will they think of next?

Travel Blokus Case & PiecesThe Official Word:

"This travel version of the award winning Blokus is the perfect on-the-go strategy game for two! The simple rules take less than a minute to learn, yet the game has the depth to challenge both beginners and experts alike."

Contains

  • Game board with 196 recessed squares
  • 42 game pieces in vibrant, translucent purple and orange, and a guide.
  • Instruction guide and a storage tray.

Reviews

Critical Gamers Staff Permalink social bookmarking

July 18, 2007

Magic The Gathering 10th Edition Hits Stores

Magic The Gathering 10th EditionWizards off the Coast has released Magic The Gathering 10th Edition [Amazon,Funagain] - the latest installment of the granddaddy of Collectible Card Games. Yes, that’s right the tenth edition, which makes us feel so very, very old.

Every two years or so Wizards of the Coast audits their catalog of Magic cards throughout the ages and brands a selection of cards (around 350 or so) which best represents a balance of Magic the Gathering in its entirety. These Edition sets are based on cards from ages past, but incorporates some cards from the latest and greatest sets released over the last two years. The 10th Edition now forms the backbone of tournament play, and if tradition serves, it'll form a stylistic foundation for the new expansions coming down the pipe the next few seasons.

Now - we have to be honest with you: we really liked the Ravnica block, but we were a disappointed with last year’s Time Spiral and Coldsnap releases. A major draw for us are the themes of the cards which are usually set deep within Magic sets, but Time Spiral smelled too much of recycled material to keep us enthusiastic. That, and the World of Warcraft TCG entered the scene with all new content and a streamlined system – it was an easy decision to choose the WoW golden nugget over the leading brand in TimeSpiral.

But with Magic the Gathering 10th Edition we are willing to wipe the slate clean. Here’s hoping for some more exciting release when Magic the Gathering heads back to its standard Fantasy roots with Lorwyn this October.

Critical Gamers Staff Permalink social bookmarking

July 16, 2007

A Flak Magazine Special: Social Gaming Reinvigorated

Flak GamesFlak Magazine has posted a series of articles describing their thoughts and views on what they describe as a Renaissance in "analog" game which has quietly occurred in the shadow of mass media video and computer games. Their articles are all very well written, and quite inspiring to we who are looking-on from the inside-out - waiting and cheering as board games, Eurogames, card games, and party games become increasingly popular among the other types of gamers who enjoy the warm glow of TV and VGs.

Not that there's anything wrong with either of those mediums - we've got a mighty impressive collection of consoles and HD TVs in our group that it's almost embarrassing. But it's great to hear other sites approaching gaming from the other direction, with talk about how The Settlers of Catan has become the new Monopoly amongst articles of God of War 2. Other installments in the series include looks at Lost Cities, Puerto Rico, and our personal favorite party game of them all: Celebrity.

This entire special-look at analog gaming culminates with a great How-To Guide for starting your own game group, including details on the few key elements that could make or break the fun factor of the evening. If you're really looking to start up your own group for some face-face fun with friends, then you should definitely make sure the results of your own organizing work doesn't become a boring chore of mediocre or enforced gaming for your attendees.

And don't think that this is a fluff piece, either. These guys seriously know what they're talking about. Check it out:

ArrowContinue reading: "A Flak Magazine Special: Social Gaming Reinvigorated"

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July 12, 2007

Ticket to Ride Swiss - An Efficient Expansion

Ticket to Ride SwissDays of Wonder has announced a new title in their ever so popular (and rightly so) Ticket to Ride series. Ticket to Ride Switzerland will be an expansion release that brings the game to a focused map of the small rugged country nestled high within the Alps. The game is on a slightly smaller scale than its predecessors and is designed for 2-3 players to complete in under an hour.

We stress ‘expansion’ because Swiss will be the first Ticket to Ride boxed release which requires one of two main games: either the original Ticket to Ride or Ticket to Ride Europe. The expansion designed by Alan R. Moon ships with a new game board, route cards, and rules, but you’ll need the train pieces and some of the train cards of the original to play – mainly the locomotive cards from the original game. These which will shed their original use-anywhere wild card abilities, instead they'll be used to the construct the railway tunnels through the mountains littered across the board.

TicketToRideSwissMapSmart move in our opinion as an expansion without a repeat of the same train pieces cuts costs, which means we won’t have to pay full price for another Ticket to Ride release. It’s also smart because a virtual version of Ticket to Ride Switzerland has been available for Ticket to Ride owners for quite some time through the Days of Wonder online game service. Those who enjoy the online variety won' can now throw a board down on the dining room table for a face to face - and warmer - experience without having to dig deep into their wallets.

Ticket to Ride Switzerland is slated for an October release. You can check this post on the Days of Wonder for more information, and read-on below for the full official press release.

ArrowContinue reading: "Ticket to Ride Swiss - An Efficient Expansion"

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July 11, 2007

Scene It? Comes to the Xbox 360

The DVD Trivial Game Microsoft continues the trend of brining the world of Social Gaming to the Xbox 360 with a 360 version of the DVD trivia “Scene It?” [Amazon, Funagain], which was announced during last night’s Electronic Entertainment Expo Press Conference in Los Angeles, California.

It looks like the Xbox board game adaptations aren’t just limited to Xbox Live anymore, as Scene It? will ship in an off the shelf boxed version. Included in every package are four of these colorful remotes which you see here. Sure, they’re not made of rugged space-age durable plastic, but you get four in the same box as the game, and at the same price as a standard 360 title. For such lack of cost the visual quality seems A-OK for now-- maybe we’ll change our minds when we get our hands on them.

Step 2 is trying to find a place to hide them while we’re not playing trivial with the family. Talk about some ugly living room clutter.

ArrowContinue reading: "Scene It? Comes to the Xbox 360"

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July 9, 2007

"Magtheridon's Lair" WoW TCG Raid Deck

MagtheridonsLairWith the ruined embers of the Molten Core glowing in a smoky pile behind us it's time to look forward at the next WoW TCG Raid Deck experience coming down the pipe this fall.

We're quite excited about the news of yet another raid deck relase, as you can tell by us looking months into the future of scheduled WoW TCG goodness with wondrous eyes. But despite our enthusiasm for the WoW TCG as a whole, not everything in its future burns hydrogen and smells of roses. Magtheridan’s Lair Upper Deck is taking both a very large step forward, and a step back at the same time. And if your glass is half empty like ours is, then unfortunately we have to warn you: the way we see things neither of these steps are confidentially placed in the positive direction.

The release of Magtheridon's Lair [Toywiz, Funagain] marks a curious leap forward and departure from the standard line of World of Warcraft raid progression. The set of raid dungeons of the World of Warcraft MMORPG have a standard ramp up in difficulty, starting with Onyxia, then The Molten Core - as you know. From here the progression continues through darker and more challenging encounters in the dragon infested spire of Blackwing Lair, the sandy bug tunnels beneath The Temple of Ahn’Qiraj, and then high above the plaguelands on the floating undead city of Naxxramas.

With the Upper Deck designers’ decisions to quickly move the WoW TCG into the new world of Outland – opened by the Burning Crusade WoW MMORPG expansion and the Dark Portal WoW TCG expansion earlier this year - there’s just no time to go back and redo all three years of WoW raid content that came before.

Quite the shame, really, because things really started to get interesting within the themes and boss battles that took place AFTER the Molten Core. We can’t say that we’re a huge fan of this move, since Upper Deck seems to be shoving a lot of fantastic content out an open window and into a dumpster. Still, it’s somewhat understandable -- the WoW TCG wants to keep some freshness and parity to the MMORPG. Perhaps there will be a time when Upper Deck goes back to recreate these older Raid dungeons, but with the accelerated progress in content of the WoW MMORPG, we’re not counting on it.

ArrowContinue reading: ""Magtheridon's Lair" WoW TCG Raid Deck"

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July 6, 2007

Galactic Destiny

Galactic DestinyGolden Laurel has released Galactic Destiny [Funagain] - a sci-fi space strategy game where players set out to manipulate their opponents, build fleets, and conquer or campaign through the galaxy to become the most predominant political party on the board. The gameplay stresses social interaction and sneaky thinking over standard war strategy games.

Still the game does a good job dancing the line of balance between of those two niches. Picture the theme of both war and planetary expansion from Twilight Imperium, mixed with the with the cunning, social, and sinister gameplay of Diplomacy. Warfare involves a throw of the dice, but the math is easy and the battle ends in just a few moments.

A major of the game is centered around the game's senate. Players control and play Senator cards to act as the player's hands in voting in new laws, or in campaigning for new sectors to join their political party (players win when they control 10 sectors). The senate is also where the soul of Galactic Destiny lies: every turn in the Senate phase players levy taxes, put other senators on trial for corruption - both for the good of the empire of course - but players may also create entirely new laws which completely change the rules of the game. Sure, there are some limitations, of course, but Galactic Destiny acts as a framework for you and your friends to mold the setting and dynamics of the gameplay into any way you so wish. Those players who feel cornered by these new rules - or who find themselves losing the good battle - can storm out of the senate and join the rebellion. With all ties severed they can completely ignore senate laws and regulations, with a few key social detriments obviously.

But before we get going full steam - we have to remind ourselves that this isn't a review - not yet anyway. We'll have our praises and critiques in a few weeks. Until then we thought you should know that this interesting and semi-heavy game is out on store shelves nowm, and is dying be played by gaming groups with strong social circles.

Here's the official word:

"In a new galaxy with many civilizations, the six political parties struggle for dominance. Some quest for Enlightenment, some fear or relent to the demonic Infestations of another plane, but all seek to sway the cosmos to their views. More interactive than any board game before, the rules system of Galactic Destiny invites players to a new depth of strategy and intrigue."

Contents:

  • 70 modeled ships in 3 unique designs
  • 50 full-color senator cards
  • A complete Galaxy
  • Intuitive and versatile rules

Good BGG User Reviews:

July 4, 2007

Gleemax Lands RoboRally, and Expands

Gleemax Knows ALL about gamingGleemax has just announced that it will be bringing an online version of the board game RoboRally to their Everything Gaming community website. As far as we understand it, this will mark the first game release in what founder Randy Buehler hopes to be a long line of online games and resources for the everyday gamer.

A mock-up of how RoboRally will look and feel has been posted by Randy here. Yes, it seems very bare bones - for now, but there's definitely potentia here especially considering that they just started working on the title a few days ago.

Speaking of which - as we reported a few weeks ago, the recently launched Gleemax website is still very much in its infancy. Currently the site has a small nucleus of readers and viewers, but soon it will expand with tools and focused content for specific games and the respective gamers who enjoy them.

First up is a suite of tools centered around a new customizable front end. The goal - provide users the power to make their own visual formatted look and feel of the website, with the functionality and tools that will feed them the latest news from the various online social scenes taking place in sections across the site. Users will be to sit back and have the website bubble-up content to their front page whenever they log in, allowing to be on top of the latest and greatest in Eurogames, Axis and Allies board game variants, World of Warcraft TCG, tiddly winks, whatever their gaming heart desires. It's as if users will be able to poke Gleemax's brain with their own tongue depressor - probing lobes and quadrants until he starts spewing focused gaming knowledge tailored by your own designs.

BrainSugreonToolsHere's the official word from Randy Buehler's Gleemax Blog:

" All of these various pieces of custom functionality will be done as widgets so you can pick and choose which ones you care about and put your pages together using just the ones you want. We've currently spec'ed out something like 37 different things that we think would be cool and our vendor has already started working through that list. The way I think about this, though, we'll never be done adding new features and tools to the site. We'll keep reacting to what you guys want and what you do with the site. This is because we've decided to build this community with you, as opposed to delivering a finished system that you might or might not like. This means that we'll deliver extremely basic functionality at first, and then, with your feedback, we'll evolve from there. We're counting on the fact that you'll want to be in this conversation with us and help us define this space as your space. "

We have to admit that the launch of Gleemax didn't impress us all that much, but this latest blog post is pretty darn inspiring (read the full thing here). Randy and Gleemax look to mean business, and in ways that will be great for gamers who aim to maintain an online presence.

And last time we checked the mirror, that audience includes us.

Critical Gamers Staff Permalink social bookmarking

July 2, 2007

June '07 Round Up

Roundup2.jpgAs far as the short months go, June was pretty good. The WWII strategy game Tide of Iron shipped in early June just after D-Day. Some great preview news from Tannhauser followed shortly after when the game’s official trailer went live – and we gotta say: it excites the dark twisted side of us so. There’s just something about 1920’s future-tech and battling creepy demons with submachine guns that gets our blood pumping.

And of course the WoW TCG Molten Core Raid Deck lead our headlines with our hands on impressions, reviews, and news galore. This WoW TCG franchise continues to impress us while it slowly evolves over time, and we have high hopes for the next few releases this fall.

In the meantime we’re poking a stick at Carcassonne on Xbox Live – so far we think it’s great but sometimes the user community isn't always at home to match random game against. And one more mighty-large negative checklist on our ratings clipboard: where are the expansion packs? The standard title lacks gameplay diversity - even with the Rivers expansion - and this might kill the longevity and popularity of the title even before other expansion packs come out. Maybe they’ll keep it fresh with some quickly released downloadable content, but we’re not holding our breath.

Here’s the other board game news from June:

Board Games


Collectible Card Games


Gaming Culture

Critical Gamers Staff Permalink social bookmarking

July 1, 2007

World of Warcraft TCG Molten Core Review

Molten Core Raid begins on May 30thIn our review of the World of Warcraft TCG: Molten Core Raid Deck [Amazon,Shopzilla] we offer our final impressions on the second - in what we hope to be a long line - of cooperative WoW TCG experiences out of Upper Decks lab of mad scientist .

Of course this article serves as the final act in a tree part series. Our step-by-steb impressions from the two prior Molten Core articles: WoW TCG Molten Core Raid Deck Hands On Part 1 and Part 2 walked through the extended raid experience of ten boss battles in a row. Today we offer some insights and reflections on the good bits, the bad bits, and some suggestions on how you might sculpt the raid to get thoe m most challenging and entetaining experience for your WoW TCG group.

The only question we still have in our group of five, is "what's next?"

ArrowContinue reading: "World of Warcraft TCG Molten Core Review"

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