There were gobs of announcements this month but few releases, so we had the time to focus our heads to the table to review a select list of games for May. This month we should have a 4-5 reviews including Sen So, and a few WoW TCG products including the killer Servants of the Betrayer expansion release. We even put the litmus test to a children's game that marries Candy Land with the fun! exploration of the finer points of Lawsuits. No, we're not joking.
Looking forward the future months: we're pretty darn excited about the 4th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons that's schedule to ship in early June. Some preview articles were released this month that paint a pretty picture of a refined set of roles for characters, their abilities, and combat structure, how could we not be salivating and chomping at the bit for a few more details from Wizards of the Coast? We'll keep you posted of the finer points near the end of May during the two weeks running up to release.
It's 40 days till the D&D 4th Edition Worldwide Gameday on June 7th, 2008. That's just 1.3 months, or just over 5.5 weeks, or 6 Battlestar Galactica episodes away. It's very, very soon.
To celebrate this significant countdown milestone before the momentous occasion, Wizards of the Coast has started to post 4th Edition feature preview articles at an accelerated rate. They used to trickle in amongst the D&D Miniatures stories, and D&D 3.5 content. But lately that's changed.
Things kick off with a CNET preview of the upcoming source materials, including the Players Handbook, Dungeon Master Guide, and the Monster Manual. Following which are a series of excerpts of the Player's Handbook source material and rules. The individual articles are below, each one is chalk full of great content from class statistics, monster backstories, and rules mechanics.
The only thing that has us skeptical at this point are the D&D Insider tools. Sure it includes everything you'll need to design your adventures and play within a clean virtual environment, but they don't expect all of us to either a) have our own laptop, or b) all huddle around one laptop, do they? That's just crazy talk.
There's always the old fashioned way, we suppose.
Here are the official 4th Edition Exceprts:
Devil [link]: A close look at those red hot pointy eared beasties from the Nine Hells of the Astral Sea, which sounds quite similar to the sights, sounds and emotions of the 2 hour line at the Teacup Ride at Disney World.
Tiers of Play [link]: This article takes excerpts from both the Dungeon Master Guide and the Player's Handbook to detail the standard tiers your adventures will achieve throughout gameplay: the Heoroic, Paragon Tier, and Epic Tier
The Phane [link]: Living weapons created during an ancient cosmic war, these guys manipulate time to install chaos among mortals.
Customizing Monsters [link]: A primer and example on how a DM can tailor a monster's stats to fit all your encounter needs
The Warlord [link]: An indepth look at the new Warlord Class, who's commanding presence buffs nearby allies.
Paragon Paths [link]: Details on the new take on customizing characters beyond the normal class specializations ( aka: old school prestige classes)
Powers [link]: Everything you need to know on how to read and resolve the new Power rules, including charms, stance powers, illusions, and healing.
Angels [link]: And finally a complementary article to the details on devils, this article looks at the Angels creature type, including example 'monster' stats and backstories.
Every time we read new info about D&D 4th edition it just keeps sounding better. The Early June launch day is only a short time away but it's going to be a killer wait. We'll let you know as soon as the Players Handbook ships to stores!
According to a story on IC2V.com, the Xbox 360 Gears of War [Amazon] third person shooter franchise is slated to get a board game treatment this fall. Fantasy Flight Games will publish the title, with initial details stating that the players will take control of the Marcus Fenix and the squad of marines as they struggle to plant the Lightmass bomb to exterminate the Locust hordes infesting the underdark of planet Sera. Fans of the franchise will immediately recognize that this is the story of the the original Gears of War title.
The Gears of War franchise video gaming has a sequel scheduled for September of this year. With the board game installment focused on the first Gears of War title, we can assume that this first release will kick-off a entire franchise line of other Gears of War board game expansions. We would speculate that an expansion will also release sometime next Summer with content from the second Gears of War Xbox 360 title.
The board game publisher Fantasy Flight Games is one of the most top notch publishers in the strategy board game market, and has been responsible for some pretty successfully computer game crossovers. They've brought the popular board game titles like Starcraft and World of Warcraft to the kitchen table top, and have also recently purchased rights to publish the Warhammer franchise. These are some beefy titles that take hours to play, and we really hope that they tone-down the complexity scale for the third person shooter Gears of War. But with the FFG lineage weren't holding our breath that Gears of War will have quick and streamlined gameplay.
This news comes during a week of other cross-platform gaming announcements and news: Upper Deck announced a Call of Duty TCG over the weekend, and the award wining Lost Cities launched on Xbox Live . It looks like board games and video games are making a stronger bridge than Hollywood could have ever done between video games and movies. Though, scary as it may be, they're still trying to bust down the doors into both genres, with a World of Warcraft, Halo and - get this - a Monopoly movie in the works. Oy.
We like the board game cross adaptations a heck-of-a-lot much more.
For more information please see the ICv2.com announcement. No official word yet from no the Gears of War Board Game from Fantasy Flight Games, but we'll let you know as soon as the release details.
Lost Cities [Amazon, Funagain] is one of the best 2 player games around, and now you can enjoy it with friends and strangers alike through those newfanged electronic devices.. The Xbox live microphone and the optional camera staves-off the socially sterile game play normally associated with online board games, and the ability to play at home any time means you can enjoy some Lost Cities from the comfort of your own couch butt grove. Pants are optional without the camera, but they're highly recommend. Think of the children.
Even better, this Xbox Live version lets you play in mano e mono e mano (that's 3-player games)..we're not quite sure how well it works, but pants are still for the best. (edit: it's not 3-player, but some weird wording for 3 other players in a 2v2 match.)
Here's the Company Line:
"Risk it all on the expeditions of a lifetime in the award-winning card game Lost Cities™ as it comes to life on Xbox LIVE® Arcade. Draw from a pool of cards to amass the most points, play your cards wisely, take chances with your money, and create the best strategy to outwit your opponent on the road to victory.
True to the original: All of the fun and strategy of the original card game has been faithfully translated for the console audience.
Easy to learn: Jump into a game and start devising strategies within minutes.
Exotic locales: Manage prosperous expeditions through the lost cities of the frozen Himalayas to the sandy deserts of Egypt, and even the Brazilian rain forest.
Online play: Play with up to three of your friends over Xbox LIVE.
You can read more about the game at the official Live Arcade website, and you can purchase Lost Cities from the Xbox Live Marketplaces through your Xbox360. The game sells for 800 Microsoft points, and with oil at 117 bucks a barrel that equates to 10 dollars American, or one 5 lbs sack of green coffee beans. Enjoy!
We were shocked over the weekend when we heard the first details on Upper Deck's latest TCG line: Call of Duty due out this fall. We're some serious WWII buffs, and we've been playing Call of Duty computer / console games since they first immersive installment
The Call of Duty TCG has been dubbed a "Real-Time Card Game", which has players throwing down cards from officially preconstructed decks to maneuver and fire three soldiers in a player's squad. Soldier types include regular infantry, commandos and snipers, with each of the 8 prepackaged squad decks containing soldiers \from various national forces of the WWII.
The game has been designed so that matches last around 30 minutes, and every so often during a game a player can throw down a card that pauses the combat and forces the players to stop their real time to play to resolve an event of some sort. However it seems like most of the time players will play cards in real time, without the stuffiness of standard turn / interrupt mechanics, which could keep games chugging along nicely.
We're a bit put off that Call of Duty seeming shuns the idea of booster packs (see below.) Sure, for some a title truly shines as one-time investment in gaming materials with the purchase and play of predesigned decks . But we absolutely love the theme of customizing decks with your own collection of cards, and this could seriously harm the longevity of this title in our eyes.
The official details can be read on the Call of Duty TCG official webpage, which includes a FAQ. We've lifted a few of the more important questions from there page and place them below for your reading pleasure:
Do I need to purchase booster packs or other random items to play the game?
Call of Duty® Real-Time Card Game premade Squad Decks include everything you need to play the game right out of the box. To get the full playing experience, you may want to get all eight Squad Decks and the Deluxe Set.
Want to play a high-quality card game, but don't want to buy booster packs? This is the game for you!
How does the game work?
Each player starts with a squad of three soldiers in play. Each soldier has a different role. When a soldier dies, it can periodically respawn.
Players use "move" cards to ideally position their troops around the board: snipers like to hang in the back, commandos want to get up close for some melee action or to use grenades, medics want to help out with their rifles from covered positions until they're needed, and so on.
"Fire" cards are the main method of attacking. Snipers have a long-range attack, while others have various ranges that are based on their primary weapons. "Cover" cards can help avoid fire.
Examples of different soldier types are:
French Resistance Medic
The Call of Duty TCG is slated for a Fall 2008 Release.
The original game had players draw to see which of them is a secret traitor, who strives to secretly sabotage the efforts of the group throughout the game. The new expansion includes a second traitor card for twice the backstabbing fun, and increases the number of potential players from 7 to 8. The game also ships with 7 new knight characters, a Merlin character - which we're not sure how he'll affect gameplay - and some enemy witch agents for added flavor.
There's a lot going on here. And considering Days of Wonder lineage of polished, high quality, and and fun games (Ticket to Ride anyone?) - oh baby, Merlin's Company should be good.
Here's the company line:
"Merlin's Company is an expansion for the popular Shadows over Camelot board game. It introduces a host of new characters - including 7 new knights and Merlin himself - to the Shadows over Camelot epic. The wise old wizard is now a full-blown independent character in the game, complete with his own figure. He travels the board lending guidance and a helping hand to the embattled knights.
Merlin's Company also introduces 63 new cards: the all new Travel cards - events that may occur as you move from Quest to Quest; additional Black cards, including 7 witches allied with Morgan; and additional White cards that will help you and your fellow knights in your battles against the forces of evil.
The Merlin's Company expansion, supports up to 8 players, including 2 possible Traitors, assuring that even the most innocuous Shadows over Camelot Quest will be filled with grave peril."
Every year the smartacular organization Mensa puts a slew of creative games to the test. They look for games that are fun, approachable, and that knock the cobwebs off the neglected corners of your brain unit.
"Mensa Select games are chosen based upon several criteria including aesthetics, instructions, originality, play appeal and play value. You don't have to be a genius to enjoy these games but you should be ready to have a great time!"
Not to taint the all happy-happy rhetoric, but as our apt friends at BoardGameNews have observed, the contestants had to pay for a fee to enter, which doesn't quite make it an open contest. Still, these top 5 have bubbled up from a list of 54 creative games meant to tickle your noggin, and that's saying something.
If you'd like more information about the selection process, or the games in general, checkout the press release.
And without further ado, the Top 5 games for 2008 as described by Mensa Mindgames:
AmuseAmaze [Amazon] HL Games
A spell-binding word race in a letter maze, where even little words are winners. The board changes each time the game is played, as it's played, so it's never the same game twice!
Eye Know [Amazon] Wiggles 3D
A board game featuring trivia with a poker twist. Players identify images, answer compelling trivia related to the image and collect cards while placing strategic bets.
Players build new words, rearrange tiles and claim lines while simultaneously searching for a Jumbulaya.
Tiki Topple [Funagain] Gamewright
A fast-paced strategy game. Players try to maneuver their secret tikis to the top of the line by playing the right combination of action cards. The player with the most points wins!
Wizards of the Coast has announced a D&D 4th Edition Game Day at gaming and hobby stores across the world. The date: Saturday June 7th, 2008 - the day after the rumored official D&D release day (and the historic D-Day) when the 4th Edition Players Handbook [Amazon] is released in stores. Mark your calendars.
So far the details are tailored to store owners looking to get a Gameday kit, but that doesn't mean there aren't juicy bits. The day should be centered around an introductory adventure to partake with a few friends, as well as a introductory rule book (unfortunate there won't be any full-scale players handbooks given for free). Here's a list of the schwag that comes with the kit, some of which you should expect your Hobby Store should be tossing your way on June 7th:
"WHAT DOES THE EVENT KIT CONTAIN? The kit is designed to support 30 players. You get:
5 bags of miniatures and dice to run the adventure
5 sets of 5 different character sheets for the adventure
5 full color maps for the adventure
5 copies of the launch event adventure Into the Shadowhaunt
Fun trivia events including Monster Charades, d20 Questions, 4th Edition Trivia and Dungeon Feud
D&D Miniatures event rules
Instructions on how to run a fun, action-packed 4th edition Game Day"
Here's the deal though - the expansion has been released with some flak. The game only comes with 3 scenarios and 2 new board components, the impact of which doesn't shake the very foundation of the game. Additionally the backs of the cards don't quite match the colors on the originals, so by looking at the top of the deck you'll know if new card is about to be drawn. Players won't know WHICH card it is - of course - but for the price tag of Growing Hunger we would have expected more from Flying Frog Productions' quality control division.
For more information about Last Night on Earth's Growing Hunger Expansion please see our original preview story. Here are the official details:
"As the living nightmare of the Zombie attack continues, the bitter struggle for survival grows increasingly deadly. Desperate for flesh, Zombies swarm over the town of Woodinvale, leaving a gruesome wake of death and destruction in their path. With nowhere to hide and a renewed determination, the remaining Heroes add more survivors to their ranks and find new weapons to fight back the growing hunger of the dead.
The Growing Hunger Expansion introduces new game mechanics and three exciting new Scenarios to challenge players as well as a two-player mini-game. Take control of four new Heroes, each with a highly-detailed plastic miniature as well as seven new Red Zombies for use as Plague Carriers, Grave Dead, or to increase the Zombie Horde. New modular game board sections expand the town and feature unique buildings such as the Supermarket, Library, and Antique Shop. New game cards give Zombies a chance to steal weapons from the Heroes and add powerful Double-Handed weapons to the Heroes' arsenal, such as Garden Shears and the Fence Post.
Also included are two new full color, die-cut counter sheets adding Free Search Markers for the Heroes as well as many more fun ideas to the Last Night on Earth toolbox for limitless use with official web content or creating your own new Scenarios.
Yesterday the guys over at Gamers with Jobs kicked a Risk Black Ops giveaway contest . It's a piece of cake to enter - all you need is a camera, a board game, and a dream (see details below). The game isn't even out yet so this is a pretty sweet opportunity - get off your lazzy duff and enter!
As you may recall GamersWithJobs is the group who gotten their lucky hands on a Risk Black Ops preview release, and then posted a preview of the game back in January. They liked it, a lot, and from what we've heard Risk Black Ops is going to be a fantastic update to the classic but aging wargame system.
"We called and you answered! We got so many emails this week we're dedicating the whole show to them. Not only do we have new GWJ contributer Michael Zenke joining us, he was kind enough to offer a limited edition of Risk: Black Ops (the upcoming Hasbro board game) for a glorious new contest! All you have to do is send in a funny picture that involves a board game of some kind to email@example.com! What could be easier!?"
The official rules can be heard in the podcast itself at 1H 46M. Some notes: The photographs should be related to board games in some way, and the use of photoshop is legal. Have fun folks and go get 'em!
We received TwinBlade Games' Sen So Ninja Combat Board Game in the mail in slick little dvd sized case, and we haven't been this excited to play a tactical fighting game since we first took the wrapping off Battle Tech back in the day. In Sen So, players plan their moves two turns ahead an attempt to bring their swords, throwing stars, and arching nunchucks to bear on the opposing player, who is concurrently trying to smash you're head in. Think of it as Anachronism, but with more options, and more dynamic and longer lasting gameplay. In other words, think of Anachromism but fun.
But the game doesn't just sport dueling Ninjas. Expansion packs bring Zombies, Robots and Aliens (the H.R. Giger-esque incarnations) to the table top pit of death. All of them sport their own fighting and artistic styles.
Now TwinBlade just needs to add a Bloodthirsty Clown to the mix and they'll have completed the Pentamerate of R rated movie icons from our childhood glory days. And like some sort twisted 1980's Hanna Barbara cross-over show gone wrong, they meet to fight each other like Gladiators in sandy pits for our gaming pleasure.
Here's a bit of How-To Preview we lifted from the game's official website. Feel free to mull it over while we work out a few unfinished vendettas in the arena:
We tend to ignore the bad releases, and as 'Critical Gamers' one could superficially complain that we're doing our readers a disservice. In reality we cull all of the crappy games you shouldn't play, silently dismissing them to the bottom of the stack.
\We hope to start talking a more proactive approach to steering you way from games.
We haven't played Gisborne (Clementoni, 3-5 players, 40 minutes) ourselves, but we can smell a frustrating and unimpressive experience when we see it coming. We've done some research and what we've found just ain't up to snuff to win moneys from our gaming budget. And we thought we should warn you.
Gisborne is a game in which players explore New Zealand during the colonial age, and though isn't necessarily a game you should completely avoid, it sports some glaring faults. The over engineered components - once sloppily assembled - don't easily fit back into their box without a heavy sigh of dismantling, and the rules take a few gaming runs to go through to fully understand. Finally, the game is only a slight advancement on the innovation scale. In the end, this is not the most approachable Eurogame - a genre of games that are meant to be approachable - so we highly suggest that you spend your money elsewhere. It seems that this game can only be recommended to Eurogame fanatics who want to stay on top of the genre.
Here's an entertaining critical look from a Board Game News' review, specifically about the game's pieces and woefully inferior packaging techniques:
"Ideally, you'll convince a mortal enemy to open the game box. You'll invite him over under the pretense that you want to settle your differences, that you want to limit future confrontation to family board games and not acid-filled scarfs and showers booby-trapped with razor wire. You'll wave towards the box in a friendly manner, inviting him to open it, while you fetch him a drink from the kitchen. Will a Merlot be good?
Whatever he asks for, though, you can put it out of mind and pour a celebratory glass for yourself since his doom is near thanks to this lethal chunk of cardboard... "- W. Eric Martin's Review on BGN
Overly critical? Perhaps. In the hopes of being somewhat impartial (despite this article's name), we'll end this story with some links for you to research the game for yourself:
The gaming site GamesByEmail has been running browser based games for years. They first hooked us with their Risk clone Gambit, which made us huge fans of the site. We hadn't had a Risk stomp like that in while. Then we were totally addicted to WWII, and played nearly 70 rounds of Axis & Allies games. Yes 70. We became A&A crack addicts almost overnight.
We've had innumerable killer 80's flashbacks on GBE without all the mess of a) having a real flash back, and b) setting up and playing the original board games. We love those original titles, but they're a cursed turbulent sea of precarious pieces which sometimes make us just wanna SMASH stuff when the dice, or elbows, or falling scarfs hit the stacks of chips and pieces like a giant deus ex machina doomsday device.
Thankfully GamesByEmail exists completely within a browser friendly environment. No downloads, no connecting emails, or running Unix listservs to auto judge gaming sessions. And over the last year the GamesByEmail labs have been working on their latest title Politics, this time brining a clone of the social backstabbing granddaddy of strategy war boardgames Diplomacy to the virtual table. And though it was just released, it's looking pretty darn sweet.
Players can either sign up to the existing games that pit strangers against strangers, or create their own amongst their group of friends. The game works entirely in a browser, which completely rocks. Not only is the map functional and colorful (and colored like a classic map from StrangeMaps), but you don't have to worry about emailing turn orders, or having an anxious panic attack while trying to formatting them properly for an auto judge. Gaming session also sport private chat options for you luring in enemies with a man hug, and then showing them just how good your letter opener is at shivving backs.
The games themselves has configurable turn length keep things timely, and includes an auto judge for detecting collisions and determining bounce back rules. It's a complete Internet based point and click Diplomacy package that runs on any machine!
"You are an Acolyte in the service of the Emperors' Inquisition. You stand in the front line of a great and secret war where your duty is to hunt out the foul stench of heresy, the vile alien, and the twisted influence of Chaos. You will tread where others fear, venturing to distant planets, ancient space hulks and the unsavoury depths of the under-hive.
You will never know fame nor reward, yet if you stand resolute your deeds will be whispered to the God-Emperor of Mankind and your name will be revered for millennia.
Dark Heresy is the new roleplaying line from Fantasy Flight Games based on the grim far future universe of Warhammer 40,000 from Games Workshop. The Dark Heresy core rulebook contains everything you need to start your adventure in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.
The second set in the Outland series of WoW TCG releases is now in stores! WoW TCG: Servants of the Betrayer introduces a new hero type to the mix: The Traitors. Playing a betrayer unlocks some pretty powerful and aggressive cards, but heroes lose all other trait abilities. Thankfully this set includes some pretty exciting replacements, and should bring quite the interesting twist to deck building potential.
Additionally the Aldor and Scryer factions with their Inspire and Sabotage abilities continue where they left off in March of the Legion. You'll have even more interesting possibilities on that front, too. With so many options the WoW TCG is really opening up for a variety different play styles. It's hard not to get excited. Seriously. If you're not then check your pulse, cause you might be dead.
Please see our other stories for more Servants of the Betrayer information:
Upon release we've found stores packed with booster packs (19 cards), and boxes of boosters, and preorder boxes of starters (Starters slated to ship April 15th) for sale in various places and in various forms. But no Starter Decks at release? Maybe they really don't exist.
We'll keep the list at the top updated as much as we can for the next few weeks. Enjoy!
The Company Line:
"Prince Kael'thas Sunstrider and Lady Vashj grow in strength, extending their reach across Outland as they corrupt the land. They twist the energies of the Nether and drain the waters of the Zangarmarsh. Who dares to confront the might of the Sunfury, or face the wrath of the naga?
Will you stand against them or betray your allies? Decide quickly-before your fate is sealed! You are not prepared!
New changes are taking place in the 5th Expansion titled Servants of the Betrayer. New Configuration! Find 4 additional cards in each pack for the same price! that's a total of 19 Cards Per Pack!! Along with this a New Consumable Loot item will be randomly inserted into booster packs providing better chances of upgrading your Online WoW Toon!
Fans will enjoy a once again Art-Filled Set of Rich and Detailed Illustrations from the WoW Universe as they have come to enjoy with each set thus far. UDE Point Cards will also be found 1 per pack that can be used at the UDE Rewards site in exchange for Special TCG Cards, Promo Materials, and Online Upgrades only available through this redemption.
The main news stories this month have an eye looking down the pipe of releases, some beyond April still and into June. D&D 4th Edition is gigantic blip on our anxious anticipation radar, as is the WoW TCG Servants of the Betrayer set release, and the new Carcassonne installment New World. Surely it's not a shotgun blast of releases, but each of these will be high impact release that host some considerable staying power.