October 31, 2007

October 2007 Round Up

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Happy Halloween folks! Today also marks the end of another month of gaming, so here's our monthly index of gaming news and reviews.

The gaming world had quite a few releases this month. Our favorite recently-released game this Fall goes to the zombie laden Last Night on Earth - which technically came out last month but we've been playing it mainly throughout the month of October. Following up as a close second is the latest Ticket to Ride: Switzerland, which is one of the better elegant Eurogame pickups to come along in quite a while.

Meanwhile we're still standing by for our blasted WoW TCG Magtheridon' Lair raid deck. Upper Deck has remained tight lipped about yet another WoW TCG release and it's really beginning to rub us the wrong way. We thirst for prerelease news and details, and this seemingly lazy handling of Magtheridon's Lair really makes our blood boil. Thankfully Fantasy Flight Games seems to be treating the other major Blizzard franchise right by previewing Starcraft the board game in a series of great articles. Heck , the game even has a trailer! That title is shaping up to be quite the looker, and it should ship in next month just in time for Holiday gift giving and the Winter gaming season.

Speaking of gift giving - the Holiday Shopping season is upon us and prepping the roll out of our annual Holiday Buyer's Guides. Look for a series of them over the next two weeks. Each one will be targeted for a particular gamer type so that you can rest assured the gift suggestion will meet the gaming styles of the giftee.

Here's our flashback at the stories of October:

What We're Currently Playing:


Board Games & Card Games


Collectible Card Games

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October 29, 2007

Starcraft the Board Game Trailer

In a standard move of the great prelease lead-ups from Fantasy Flight Games, a trailer of the upcoming Starcraft the Board Game [Amazon, Funagain] has been released. The preview trailer – made in the same vein as the well-produced Tide of Iron trailer and the Tannhauser trailer – does a great job of overviewing the game. Included is a general break down of the gameplay, details of the interesting board setup and mechanics, a slight preview of the factions, and a walk through of the general overarching rules. It’s worth the time of any fan eying the upcoming Starcraft release. And hey, it's definitely a lot more interesting that simply reading the rules.

But in the end it does feel a little dry because all it does is detail the framework of the game. So we thought you might enjoy a bit of a companion piece to complement the movie: a great Starcraft the Board Game session report on Board Game Geek. It’s probably one of the most detailed session reports that we’ve seen, and it doesn’t bog down in any rules details either.

Recently we’ve been playing a lot of Fantasy Flight's WWII epic Tide or Iron -- getting in the mood for another involved strategy game from Fantasy Flight’s big box division, and we now we can’t wait to get our hands on the sci-fi themed Starcraft. Currently it’s slated for release on October 31st ! You can preorder it now from Amazon and Funagain Games.

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October 26, 2007

Hasbro's Holiday 2007 Board Game Sale at Amazon

Amazon.com is running an exclusive Holiday 2008 Sale on all of the Hasbro line of bookcase styled board game titles. Their list includes all the old school classics from Monopoly, to Scrabble, to Yahtzee, and everything in between.

Those of you looking to replace your family heirloom of busted cardboard boxed games will find these sturdy replacements in these wooden box varieties. And though we don’t have a bookcase full of classic literature to slide these games into, the leather-bound styling still seems somewhat classier than the blinding glitz of the overproduce box covers shipping with the standard titles today.

It’s crazy that we’re in the holidays already, but we suppose it’s true – Christmas is just inside of two months away. And considering how compact these titles store away on a bookshelf, how cheap they are, and they should keep for quite a while, these titles should make great gifts for budding families whose parents wouldn’t mind revisiting the gaming lessons gleaned from the tried and true board game classics of their youth.

The exclusive sale includes the following Hasbro titles:


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October 24, 2007

Wits and Wagers Review

Self-captioned “Trivia for people who don’t know stuff,” publisher North Star Games’ Wits and Wagers [Amazon, Funagain] attempts to mix things up the trivia genre. Instead of players straight-up answering stock trivia questions on pop culture or mainstream history, the questions hit the edge obscurity requiring players to ballpark a guess at the answer. This increased challenge is balanced by betting phase where people stake points on which guess is the closest answer without it going over (every answer is a numerical value). This layer of abstraction keeps everyone involved and entertained throughout, and makes Wits and Wagers a great addition to anyone’s stack of party or trivia games. In fact, it conrasts some older titles in the trivia game genre, making them seem like the dinosaurs that they are.

Yes Trivial Pursuit, you dice tossing and inconsistently challenging spawn of ancient early-1980s gaming culture, we’re looking at you.

Slightly tarnished by the inclusion of some cheap components, Wits & Wagers’ gameplay shines through its foggy exterior to deliver a fast paced and most importantly fun 20-30 minute trivia party game that's well worth your time.

Read on for a more detailed breakdown in our full review.

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October 22, 2007

The Burning Crusade World of Warcraft Board Game Expansion

Fantasy Fight Games has released The Burning Crusade [Amazon, Funagain] - an amazingly heavy expansion to the already obscenely large World of Warcraft board game. Not only does Crusade expand upon gameplay facets and already deep content of the original game, including quests, class abilities, encounters, etc, but it adds so many, many more things. Things Like:

  • New Classes: In true Burning Crusade fashion the Alliance faction can now play as a Shaman, and the Horde has access to a Paladin character sheet through the Blood Elf race.
  • New Level Cap: The game allows players to reach Level 6, and gain flying mounts which are used to explore regions of Outland.
  • New Map: There’s a new board containing the regions of Otuland, which players can explore Outland once they’ve reached a high enough level.
  • Purple Quests: a new level of Quests go beyond the difficulty of the Blue level quests.
  • Dungeons: New three stage boss battles with minions provide item rewards, and make leveling up much more dramatic.

Those of you who’ve played the original World of Warcraft Board Game might think back to some really long play sessions, and those of you who have a life might wonder why adding a whole new level would be “fun”. Thankfully the expansion comes with a new abbreviated experience track which has been gauged so that reaching Level 6 is actually attainable within a sane amount of time.

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October 19, 2007

Axis & Allies Campaign Setting Timeline

This week Axis&Allies.org began to preview the upcoming release of Axis & Allies: Guadalcanal with a first installment looking at the various faction’s pieces. It’s not quite a dateline expose but it tickled our A&A funnybone, and given that we’ve been recently hooked on Ken Burns’ recent PBS documentary The War – it got us salivating for the series of naval and marine battles that'll take place on our table tops this fall.

But since the game isn’t out yet our excited energy had to be focused elsewhere, and so we thought we’d layout a bit of historic time line ourselves by listing the Axis & Allies games in chronological order of the theaters each represents. And ‘no’ Mr Fancy Pants, the mainstream Axis & Allies title doesn’t come chronologically first in the series - in fact it’s smack dab in the middle- so sit down, listen up, and have a nice tall slice of Belichickian Humble Pie.

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October 17, 2007

Magic: The Gathering Lorwyn

Wizards of the Coast has released the next cycle to the Magic The Gathering Collectible Card Game to stores. MTG: Lorwyn attempts to return to the roots of the franchise with a classic fantasy-centric card game, tossing off some of the other directions the game has taking over the last few years. Most notable is the fact that there’s not one Human creature card in the deck.

It’s not 100% classic though. First off all of the creatures are straight out of a fantasy story, including Goblins, Elves, Giants, etc – but there’s not one Human Creature card in the set. Secondly there’s a new card type called a Planeswalker which straddles the line of enchantment and creature, and could provided some interesting game dynamics.

While in play they can trade-off counters for performing some pretty slick abilities, like giving players card advantage, resurrecting creatures from the graveyard, etc. Each Planeswalker has three abilities, one of which has a relatively weak effect but adds counters to the ‘walker in return. These counters build over time and can be spent on some of the more game changing effects. Counters are also removed when the Planeswalker takes damage – and yep, the hazy bastage dies when the last counter is removed from the card.

Each land type gets a different Planeswalker in the Lorwyn base set, but each are rare so we probably won’t see too many in any series of games. However, they seem to be the flagship dynamic Lorwyn.

There’s a new keyword action “Clash” as well, which pits each player in a war-draw. Both players overturn the top card of their deck, the winner of the Clash is the player who drew the card with the highest converted mana cost. If the player who played the Clash card wins, then he/she is rewarded with a little extra oomph of something special.

The complete card list can be found here on Gatherer. Read on for details on all 5 of the Lorwyn theme decks.

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October 15, 2007

Ticket to Ride Switzerland Released

Ticket to Ride SwissThe slim expansion to the excellent Ticket to Ride series of board games has shipped to stores. Ticket to Ride: Switzerland [Amazon, Funagain] condenses one of our favorite board games down to 2-3 players, with a new map and a few new rules. The train pieces aren’t included, so players will need either the original Ticket to Ride or Ticket to Ride Europe to play.

This time around Switzerland is the main focus of this railway building card collection board game. As we reported earlier, there are a few new mechanics, including tunnel building which alters the wildcard mechanics and adds some more chance to the game. These tweaks are minor, though. The major change is the smaller map, which feels more crowded and the game become competitive early.

That’s great as the level of direct competition doesn’t build until the late game when 2-3 players play the original titles. The board is just too large for people to seriously butt heads. So those of you who often find yourselves with only two other players might want to spice up their Ticket to Ride collection with this Swiss edition, which keeps gameplay tight throughout the duration of the game.

There are two great reviews out here for to checkout. There’s this User Review on Board Game Geek, and another in depth review by Tom Vasel - the gaming guru himself.

Ticket to Ride Switzerland is now shipping from Amazon and Funagain Games.

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October 12, 2007

Illuminati: Bavarian Firedrill

The release of Bavarian Firedrill [Funagain] this week marks the first expansion to the classic Illuminati [Amazon, Funagain] card game from Steve Jackson Games in three years.

We were quite the fans of the dark humored game full of liars and backstabbers when it was re-released in the Illuminati Deluxe Edition just as we were exiting college. At that time we full of vim and vigor - we were raring to take on the sinister puppet masters of the world economies and social movements, and drink beer, and Illuminati totally played into our egotistical lifestyles. We haven’t picked it up in a while, but now it seems time to dust it off.

Bavarian Firedrill updates the game to make it more appropriate for the later years of current decade. The frankenstien monster that is FEMA is now a gropu, so are Bloggers and a new gameplay mechanic of scientific and religious artifacts enters the scene. Here’s the company line:

”Control new and terrifying groups like Bloggers, Reality Shows, and Intelligent Design. Will you use Embedded Reporters and FEMA to destroy the Webcams, or will you be defeated by Bird Flu and Bobbleheads? Fans of the mega-hit INWO will recall the Deprogrammers and Science Alarmists, as well as more of the best groups from the best-selling conspiracy CCG. BFD also introduces a new kind of card: Artifacts! Some are magical, some are technological, some are just... strange. But all of them give their owners an unfair advantage in the struggle for world domination. Hitler's Brain, the Spear of Longinus, the Screaming Meme and these are just the beginning. Bavarian Fire Drill. You know what it means, but your cover demands you pretend not to... "

Contents:

  • 110 cards
  • rules

Illuminati: Bavarian Firedrill is now shipping from Funagain Games.

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October 10, 2007

Top 5 Halloween Games 2007

EvilPumpkin.10.31.06.jpgThe weather just turned all overcast and rainy up here in New England, and when darkness fell as the sun set at about 3:30 pm it suddenly struck us: Halloween is just a few weeks away. Something about the cold rainy weather of autumn complements the theme of fighting undead beasties, and that’s a-ok with us. Our game nights for the next few weeks just went into zombie / demony / vampire slaying-fest mode.

Here is our select top 5 games to throw down for the 2007 Halloween season. Some of our choices might surprise you, but hey toughen up -- it’s freakin’ Halloween ya pansy. Close your eyes and stick your hand in this bowl of eyeballs, or even better read on to see our selection for this year.

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October 8, 2007

Starcraft: The Board Game Preview News

Starcraft The Board Game

A heads up today on the progress of Starcraft: The Board Game [Amazon, Funagain] prerelease media news. Early last week Fantasy Flight Games started posting feature preview articles about the various factions that inhabit the game: the Terrans, Zerg and Protoss, and an article about the design philosophies of the upcoming Big Box adaptation of the massively popular RTS computer game.

The individual faction articles detail each of the units which have made the leap from the PC Game but not much else on their play style and role in the overarching story. Those familiar with Starcraft will find an instruction-booklet like description of the vehicles and troops they’ve grown to love, but little else in terms of the gameplay details.

One thing that seems glaringly missing from the catalog of units are the gremlingesque zerglings, which are the rushing grunt troop for the Zerg race (duh). Oh you cute mass-attack fodder units, wherefore art though sweet brooding creep?

The Designing the Game preview article goes into some of the considerations made while the producers crafted-up the game’s art assets, and while designing the main theme of skirmish combat over the large battle combat we're used to seeing in the Starcraft RTS.

” While we wanted to capture the theme of the video game, we also wanted to create a unique StarCraft experience that could not be found anywhere else. At the same time, it was important for it to feel like StarCraft. While walking this razor's edge, we brainstormed and formed the core ideas of what the game would be all about.”

There’s some great info on what seems to be a pretty cool card component to unit combat. Some unit types have a hand of cards to act as a persistent level of integrity, instead of keeping track of the state of damage. For example: a Protoss carrier is rather beefy, and has a lot of protective cards in its deck, but playing those cards from the hand bleeds away the carrier’s ability to take hits, and makes it more susceptible to destruction by even the weaker opposing units as time progresses.

Finally, the Starcraft board game is now available to preorder from Fantasy Flight Games directly [details]. If you preorder the game through Fantasy Flight then you will also receive three art prints from the upcoming Starcraft 2 RTS game for the PC. Those looking for a cheaper alternative can forgo the art prints and preorder Starcraft: The Board Game from Funagain Games, which currently has it at 16 bucks off the MSRP.

Starcraft: The Board Game is slated to ship later this month, in October 2007.

Other Starcraft The Board Game stories of interest:


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October 4, 2007

Carcassonne Travel Edition

Nearly a year after Carcassonne Big Box was released with four large expansions contained within one shiny blue wrapper, the original Carcassonne has now been reduced over constant heat, pressed form all sides, and emerges in the Carcassonne Travel Size [Amazon, Funagain] brick form for those who like to play on the go.

This of course suits all sorts of gaming locales for us - camping, evenings in a motel on a long road trip while running from the law, heading out to the bar to relax with a few drinks after work, etc.

It's funny, because we've stuffed our luggage with the full-sized Carcassonne on quite a few trips already since it's a great way to relax. It's especially good overseas where the talking heads on TV speak in foreign tongues, or domestically when all that's on is a local news station's expose on the safety in handing cheese.

Here are the official details:

"Now you can take Carcassonne everywhere you go. The scoring track is printed on the cloth carrying sack, which has room for all the tiles and followers. Of course, all components are a bit downsized to make it more convenient to carry along, but the game is the same great game that won the Spiel des Jahres award in 2001!"

Carcassonne Travel Edition is now shipping from Amazon and from Funagain Games.

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October 2, 2007

WoW TCG Damage Dice Review

WoW TCG TreasureChestWe didn’t know what we should have expected from the WoW TCG Damage Dice [Amazon, Funagain], and Upper Deck accessory product that's a sideshow to the formidable WoW TCG. After all – it’s just a box, with dice in it. It’s a Box O’ Dice. Pure and simple. But to be honest, we thought it would be something at least a little bit cooler that it actually is.

The Good Points
It’s a handy little dice carrier that’s not too large and matches the artistic theme of the game, bringing some of the World of Warcraft cartoony art style alive on your table top. It really is a pretty slick looking treasure chest model... when viewed from afar*. The dice set contains both blue and red dice for assigning damage to your alliance or horde allies, and two 10-sided dice (one 1-10, the other 10-100) which work well in tandem to assign damage to your hero. In other words, the product does what it says it does without any major usability gripes.

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October 1, 2007

September '07 Roundup: Murdero Review, Fires of Outland Review, Tannhäuser and Starcraft News

Roundup2.jpgAh, the fine smell of autumn. It cooled off in the northeast this week and you can almost feel the weekends of gaming coming our way when the weather turns ugly. Actually the planets aligned this weekend and we finally had some quality time with our group of grognards to spend on Tide of Iron. Despite the gratuitous slaughter of countless squads of infantry who fell to long range machine gun fire we really liked what we saw. Of course it also helped that we were inspired by the Ken Burns' documentary The War and the new release of Company of Heroes Opposing Forces. It makes for an near-perfect storm of WWII gaming goodness.

But we digress. This month we started rolling out some new reviews of our own, including a WoW TCG Fires of Outland Review and a review of one our new favorite pickup card games Murdero. And as always, more reviews to come!

This month has also been the nice little ramp-up to the holiday season. News of the Starcraft board game has begun to bubble to the surface, and it looks like The Settlers of Catan line of games is going to get a nice facelift just in time for the gift giving season. Meanwhile we also so the release of Tannhauser, another mid century war game with a Wolfenstien/paranormal twist. Speaking of the undead bastages, Last Night on Earth was released and it looks like we have a new front runner zombie game that gives the genre justice just in time for Halloween.

Here’s a look back at gaming in September:

What We're Currently Playing:

Board Games & Card Games


RPGs


Collectible Card Games


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