In the Year of the Dragon Board Game is a Beacon in Dark Times
You might have noticed that we haven't reported on any new Euorgames in a while. This hasn't been due to a lack of effort, or a growing disinterest in that genre of games. Nope - instead there seemed to have been a pretty strong drought of very strong Eurogame releases, and we've been waiting for something like In the Year of the Dragon [Funagain] from Rio Grande Games for quite a while.
The game isn't difficult, but can be pretty tense. Each player in control of a Chinese town around the turn of the 11th century AD, with the goal of becoming one of those most prestigious towns in the empire by expanding their royal court. But players have to balance their royal ambitions with building a healthy robust village of workers and warriors; focusing too much on the aristocracy will leave your town vulnerable to the random events that affect play each turn, including the chances of droughts or the dreaded Mongol invasion. Players are limited to only one or two actions a turn, which makes every turn a pretty tough decision on how you want to lead your town toward survival.
Here are the official details:
"In this game, each player takes on the role of a Chinese prince, seeking to maximize the prosperity and prestige of his province in the ancient China of approximately 1,000 A.D. To assist in these endeavors, the princes must call upon the diverse talents of their courtiers, from scholars and monks to warriors and craftsmen. These loyal subjects will lend their expertise to the struggle to shield their rulers from the often disastrous consequences of the myriad untoward events that plague the populace from month to month. Be it drought, contagion or Mongol invasion, only foresight and planning will spare the princes and their subjects from these fates. The better a player can manage his province and withstand the seemingly unending onslaught of hazardous events, the more honor and victory points he will have to show for it in the end."
The game seems focused on the players struggle for survivial in an increasingly dificult world, full of natural disasters, Imperial taxes and wars. Those groups who like to fight as a beacon of civiliity within a somewhat dark world will find this game entertaining. Those who might not like trying to constantly beat back the odds - and instead consistently work toward the positive goals instead of mitigating negative random event influences might want to checkout the lighter Notre Dame [Amazon, Funagain], which has many similar elements (aside from theme).
We can't wait to get our hands on it and stomp our overachieving heroes into juicy bits of goo. With every expansion release our decks have become more lean and mean, violent (we love the Horde) and powerful. The Molten Core was a challenge, but we still tackled it with our 5 elite heroes built off the first two sets: Heroes of Azeroth and Through the Dark Portal. Since then our decks have become even more stack with powerful cards from the Fires of Outland and the latest March of the Legion expansion, which really takes the game to the next level. Hopefully Magtheridon's Lair can keep pace.
Here are the the official details :
"You’ve taken down the dreaded Onyxia, and you’ve taken Ragnaros’s mace from his dead grasp. But what are you going to do against a pit lord so powerful that Illidan has to keep him locked up? Well, you’re going to have to figure it out quickly, because on January 8, the third WoW TCG Raid deck is hitting shelves. Players will have to figure out how to deal with Channelers, Abyssals, Manticron Cubes, and one big, angry Demon. You’ll have to try new strategies and work around the exciting new mechanics if you’re hoping to take down Magtheridon to get your hands on some of the twenty exclusive new treasure pack cards. "
Christmas comes a little early for those lucky few who actually got their hands on the first run of Galaxy Trucker [Funagain]. According to this story on BoardGameNews.com, publisher Czech Games will release a free downloadable expansion on their website on Christmas Eve! Here are the details:
"This expansion is designed for experienced Truckers. If you routinely build ships that overcome every obstacle and arrive nearly unscathed, if you shed a nostalgic tear recalling your first flights when your ships were smashed to pieces and you arrived with only a few sad fragments, then this expansion is for you. This expansion puts the kick back into space travel, and it kicks so hard that the tears will be in your eyes once again." - Board Game News
Heroes of Might and Magic Kingdoms - Move over Travian
If you're addicted to Travian like we are then Ubisoft might have just the thing for you. Their classic strategy game series Heroes of Might and Magic is getting a next installment, and it's entirely browser based against 1,000 other players.
Sweet Mamma Jamma.
The game is slated for a early 2008 beta. Checking our calendar it seems that early 2008 is just a few weeks away. We'll keep you posted on when it launched. Until then check out the Heroes of Might and Magic Kingdoms Official Website which includes feature previews and visual tutorials of what you should expect from the game.
Here's a nice title for all you abstract strategy game fans. Blokus Trigon alters the shape of the board and pieces of the original Blokus, moving from a traditional square setup to a more advanced hexgon board. No, this isn't an aesthetic glitzy marketing maneuver -- the change in the shape changes the game significantly. Trying to fit triangles in the right place takes a lot long to master, and the level of strategy seems a few notches higher over the previous Blokus offerings.
The goal of Blokus ('block-us) is to place all of your pieces. The catch is you can't have any of your pieces touch sides, and you must place a piece on the diagonal of another one of your pieces on the board. It gets pretty trixy when your opponents are trying to do the same thing, while blocking you out of valuable reallestate.
Blokus Trigon [Amazon, Funagain] is best with 3 players, and players of Go seem especially enthusiastic. After all Blokus is the reincarnation of the Othello obsession we all had as kids back in the day, and we can see where they're coming from.
A lot of us here at Critical Gamers are tech savvy so we pretty consistently hold Wired in high regard. When the posted their Board Game gift guide for the Holidays we jumped to see how our gaming collections lined up.
Settlers of Catan - a no brainer as this title remains the gateway game of choice for introducing board games to a group. or the gateway game in the Eurogaming genre. It's also the best replacement for Monopoly, mimicking it's approachability and fun while trimming-off all the boring bits.
Wits and Wagers - a slick trivia party game where players bet how close everyone's answers are to some really outlandish trivia questions. The party game genre has stagnated a bit, but this title definitely breaths new life into the genre for 2007.
BattleLore - a tactical war game that made our list last year, but this ever expanding wargame system is still fresh and only getting stronger every month with new releases.
Not bad considering no New England breathing Critical Gamer has been in the same room as a Sunny San Franciscan Wired Employee, at least to our immediate recollection.
Wizards of the Coast Interview: D&D 4th Ed, Magic Online, and Gleemax
We used to listen to Gaming Steve a lot for our PC Gaming industry news, but then he sort of feel off the edge of the Earth. Now he's back, and in his latest informative Podcast he speaks to Randy Buehler of Wizards of the Coast.
Yes his theme music is a bit.. over the top. But man - it sticks around in our head. The discussion covers topics such as:
Gleemax and it's upcoming Board Game Portal
The online collaborative social networking site for games will have mostly Avalon Hill Titles at launch (Axis and Allies, Vegas Showdown, RoboRally, and Guillotine) but hopes to expand into a major hub of all gaming including other publishers as well.
Codename: "The Goblin Game" [link] Beta
The upcoming web browser turn based multiplayer game which seems similar in vein to Travian, except games are designed to last about 2 months and will have varying end goals.
Magic Online v3.0 and the D&D 4th Edition Online Initiative
Wizards of the Coast has found found that most of the people who play online are those who've played the original titles in the past, but have aged and don't get to meet up with their friends to play games together all the time. Their goal is to create a place where all of these players can meet up once again to play not only old classics, but new games as they're released. The overall vision is to have an interactive gaming metaverse, where players can trade online collectibles from one game for items of another. Can't wait to see how this pans out.
You can find the entire Gaming Steve Podcast here, including the timestamps of all the Wizards of the Coast discussions - in case PC Gaming is not you're thing.
GMT Games has released the second installment in the popular card-driven Combat Commander tactical WWII war game series: Combat Commander: Mediterranean [Funagain]. Aside from including 12 new maps and 12 Custom Scenarios for some Mediterranean slugfest, this second volume also includes new armies and decks of cards to breath character and life into each. The British Army & Commonewealth armies enter the scene with cards that provide marksmanship bonuses, for instance, while other armies include the Italians & Minor Axis Powers, and the French & Minor Allied Powers.
The game floats in the medium complexity scale and is meant for 2 players to play in sessions of 1-3 hours. More ifnformation can be found on the official Command Command Mediterranean website. Here are some of the official features
12 new historical scenarios, each one including at least one of the three new nationalities.
An updated Random Scenario Generator incorporating the new nationalities and the twelve new maps, as well as allowing for the early years of fighting in 1939 and 1940. This random scenario system provides an almost unending variety of map configurations, force structures, and combat situations. Replayability value for Combat Commander gets even better with this new addition to the family.
A complete manifest of all 432 Fate Cards included in CC:E and CC:M. Number crunchers rejoice!
Assigned Point Values for all units, weapons, radios and fortifications in CC:E and CC:M, allowing players to easily create their own scenarios and Orders of Battle.
The trailer for Winter doesn't provide many details but definitely sets the theme for the upcoming release. We're a bit confused by a countdown timer on the trailer that's hinting that more details will come on the upcoming expansion on December 22nd, but many shops already claim the set has been released to stores. Go figure.
Here's the text of the trailer in case your lazy, formatted in poetic centered italicized text form. Unfortunately it's not a Haiku, but hey - they can't all be winners:
It has been five years
Of ice and fire.
Now, a white silence
falls across Westeros
Something moves in the North
In the East
Soon all will be revealed
Cranium hit the table a few years ago and quickly usurped Trivial Pursuit from the party game trivia thrown. With clay sclupting, sketches akin to Picktionary, and trivia and word games - Cranium seems like modern high-energy step forward that tunes into our bright and colorful pop culture blood pumping through our veins..
Now Cranium updates itself with Cranium: WOW [Amazon]. With 600 more questions and updated pieces that let you personify yourself like a parade of 1000 Nintendo Mii's, Cranium WoW is a a considerable update on your previous version. Plus a fresh injection of clay comes just in time to save the drying lump of purple sand barely hang-on in our current box.
Here's the official word:
"Cranium WOW is the newest version of the outrageously fun, smash-hit board game that brings friends and family together through a variety of activities that celebrate all of your interests and strengths. Whether you're an aspiring actor, artist, data hound, or wordsmith, Cranium gives you and your team a moment to shine.
You were born to play this game. Maybe you¿ve always wanted to use your best friend as a puppet to act out "milking a cow." Or you want to prove you can draw "bed head" with your eyes closed. Perhaps you¿re eager to show off your vast knowledge of "The Hoff," YouTube, and which came first, the toaster or sliced bread. If any of these are true -- and even if they're not -- you need to play Cranium WOW immediately. You shouldn¿t wait to show off your hidden talents when they're so impressive. Cranium WOW features 600 brand-new-we-swear-you¿ve-never-seen-them-before-unless-you-peeked-somehow cards and new movers so cool you might forget to actually play the game for a little while (but we hope you'll eventually remember).
This is all due to the 12 Days of Christmas Sale across the Upper Decks store, which has snaked through and discounted all of Upper Deck products for the last 11 days. Today is day 12, and with the final day of Christmas Upper Deck focuses on the Wolrd of Warcraft Trading Card Game sale which ends today!
Days of Wonder has announced the latest installment to their BattleLore franchise: The Scottish Wars [Amazon, Fuangain] slated to ship December 2007, just in time for the Holidays.
The Scottish Wars brings the historical / fantasy themed Command and Colors war gaming system BattleLore to the Scottish Highlands where players can experience historic battles seasoned with some fantasy elements of Dwarven troops.
Here are the expansions official details:
Introducing the latest BattleLore Expansion - The Scottish Wars - A Dwarven Perspective
The new Scottish Wars expansion will take BattleLore players to the highlands in these battles for the right to rule Scotland. You'll also be introduced to some of the stalwart Dwarven warriors who inhabit these lands! The Scottish Wars feature 42 new figures including: 6 Iron Dwarves Cattle Riders, 8 Iron Dwarves Clan Chiefs, 12 Mounted Knights, and 16 Iron Dwarves Spear Bearers; plus a rules booklet with 5 new adventures - Stirling Bridge, Falkirk, Bannockburn, Dupplin Moor and Neville's Cross. Suggested Retail Price: $30. Available in late December 2007.
We’ve received quite a few questions about the new World of Warcraft TCG Player Crafted Items – specifically “How the heck do I get my hands on them? – and so we decided to make this one stop shop for all your TCG crafting needs. We break down the cards you need to collect, the items that are available to craft, and the mailing instructions on how to get them in your hands all in this easy to read reference pamphlet! So create a bookmark and enjoy.
The theme for the crafting program stems from the crafting system of the original World of Warcraft MMORPG: players in the game collect goods off of fallen monsters, or skin freashly killed animals, or pick herbs – all of which can be combined in specific formulas to produce player items. These items include Armor, Weapons, Potions, etc.
In the WoW TCG, just replace "animals" and "monsters" with Booster Packs, and there you go! Players collect trade goods cards contained within Booster Packs, and then combine them (mail them in) and UDE will award the player an item card. This first series is limited to special WoW TCG Armor cards and two Weapons which are all quite powerful, and we hope in future iterations – which there will be – the crafting will expand further, potentially releasing new potions and even stronger variety of weapon types.
The cards in the crafting system are all Purple - which means that they're super rare, epic even. . It also implies they're good, and thankfully they really really are a cut above the rest. Read on for more details.
We want to take a break from the normal board game news to talk to you a bit about one of our new vices: Travian. When we first fired up this online web-based game and connected to Server 5 we expected another drab turn-based, and dry economic simulation. Instead we've been treated to a colorful, slightly addictive, social and fun online experience of carving little empire out of a much larger world.
Travian reminds us of a mix between the Settlers of Catan and an old BBS game from our youths: Solar Realms Elite. If you've played SRE then consider Travian a modern revamp of those same mechanics that kept you coming back for more.
Players start a village in "ancient times", which are loosely defined and include different civlizations including Romans, Gauls and the Teutonic Order. There are also some fantasy themed sects as well. As the day ticks on (in real life) your town produces resources which are placed in your warehouse and granary. You can use those resources to better your fields, clay pits and iron mining operations, or to upgrade your town with barracks, armories, embassies - the works.
For some people "hot" seems to be a bit different than what we thing is cutting edge in the world of board games, but there are still some nice finds in the 50% Off Games Sale at Amazon .
The list of titles in the sale rotate so on any given day you'll never know what you're going to get. Today you'll find some new classics in the family game and party genre such as: Settlers of Catan, Apples to Apples, and Scene It? Considering these are some of the hotter titles in mainstream gaming these days then we think they'll stick around
And for those who like to lean on the classics then you'll find some good Holiday discounts on the tried and true Monopoly, Pictionary, and Twister!
If you're thinking of picking up Monopoly then we highly recommend snagging The Settlers of Catan instead. It has the same themes but plays faster, is more balanced, keeps everyone involved \and rarely drags an epic game of Monopoly does. A nice step forward for the market and construction line of games.
November 2007 Roundup - Holiday Gift Guide, WoW TCG News, and Board Game News
We've been really busy this month putting together our Holiday Gift Guides - as you probably well know - and we hope you're enjoying them as much as we had fun compiling the lists of killer games of 2007. And as the lasso draws tight around another month of gaming news, we see another pack of games appear off the December horizon, too. Things are only going to get better.
Expect a WoW TCG March of the Legion review in the next few weeks, and a continuing mega horn of sweet shopping deals as we approach the final Holiday shopping crunch. Everyone hold on to your hats, December is going to be a sweet ride of gaming madness!