June 30, 2008

Critical Gamers' June 2008 Gaming Roundup

RoundUp.jpgBoy howdy, what a June. Let's see, D&D 4th Edition hit the shelves, Ticket to Ride received two installments: Ticket to Ride the Card Game and an Xbox Live edition of Ticket to Ride, the classic board game Acquire has resurfaced, an the march up to Hunt for Illidan's WoW TCG release has led up to this moment - it launches today.

Oh yeah, and Pillars of the Earth expanded and is finally playable with 5-6 players. If that's not a great month of gaming then salami is an organic vegetable.

We're currently trying to eat up as much of the D&D 4th Edition as we can before the second module is released this month, and before Hunt for Illidan releases (tomorrow), causing WoW TCG cards to top our our tables again. It's going to be a tough month of split-personality and infighting when both behemoth properties vie for our gaming attention. And let's face it - they both deserve it.

What We're Playing:

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June 30, 2008

WoW TCG: Hunt for Illidan Preorder Deals

HuntForIllidan.gifIt's the eve of July first, and truck fulls of the WoW TCG set expansion The Hunt for Illidan [Amazon, ToyWiz] are on the verge of shipping to excited card players across the world.

Now - a box of boosters is MSRPed for 96 bucks at the official Upper Deck Store. No offense Upper Deck, but that's crazy talk.

We were about to write to you about a sweet deal at StarCityGames where a box of boosters was at $59.99. Unfortunately that was when they still had 250 boxes in stock. Now that they've sold off 200 of them the prices has shot up to 69 bucks. Still not to shabby when comparing to some of the other mainstream stores out there - like this deal at Amazon.com or at ToyWiz.

Thankfully we ran into a similar deal at AnimeOC.com. They're selling boxes of Hunt for Illidan boosters for 59.95, and at price like that then it's probably for the short term. Get on it!

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June 27, 2008

WoW TCG: Hunt for Illidan Preview

HuntForIllidan.gifThe final set release in the second World of Warcraft TCG cycle is slated to hit stores next week, and Upper Deck has once again given us a nice introduction to the key cards that will set the theme of The Hunt for Illidan.

The following official feature articles were rolled out over the last few weeks, and though these are mainly Rare Blues which are supposed to be hard hitting and slightly over powered, we have to say we like what we see. Most of us participated in last week's Hunt for Illidan sneak peak event, and this set should take the game to some exciting new places without burning any bridges. Best yet, it's going to be here in our hands next week!

Until then take the a nice relaxing weekend and mull over the nitty details of these few select cards from the set of 250+:

ArrowContinue reading: "WoW TCG: Hunt for Illidan Preview"

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June 25, 2008

Ticket to Ride Board Game Launches on Xbox Live

TicketToRide.jpgThe boiling pot of Xbox Live board games just got a whole lot sweeter today with the latest addition Ticket to Ride, and we're pretty pumped. Ticket to Ride slides into its rightful place alongside Xbox Live versions of Carcassonne and Settlers of Catan to fulfill our favorite compendium of gateway gaming goodness.

Xbox Live's first Ticket to Ride installment starts things off with the original Ticket to Ride board game. You can start playing immediately by virtually spending 800 Microsoft Points in the Xbox Live Marketplace (~ $10.00 US). More installments are planned for the future: the Ticket to Ride USA 1910 Expansion should spice up the original map with new routes and scoring options, and a Ticket to Ride Europe installment with its new rules (tunnels & stations) is planned as well.

No word on if our favorite Ticket to Ride Marklin will get some Xbox love, but we're guessing 'no'. Such a shame.

TicketToRideLiveGameplay1.jpg

Here are the official details:

"All aboard! Travel from coast to coast and visit all the stops on the exciting train adventure Ticket to Ride™. Plan your routes and connect your cities across the country to become the ultimate traveler. Earn points as you claim your tracks and complete your tickets for your chance at the big score. From sea to sea, crisscross the nation as you build the longest route and take home the prize. It's hours of fun for your family and friends. Who will come out on top when the steam clears? Get your Ticket to Ride and see!
  • Variable difficulty levels: Either locally or in Xbox LIVE® matches, choose Easy, Medium, or Hard A.I. opponents to challenge your gaming skills.
  • Multiplayer: Play with up to three of your friends on a single console, or take on Ranked or Player matches over Xbox LIVE with up to five players.
  • Leaderboards and achievements: Post your Xbox LIVE match results to the leaderboards. Follow game stats for each player such as Highest Score, Total Trains Played and their Time Spent Playing. And track your progress with twelve new achievements.
  • Camera support: See yourself and your friends during gameplay with Xbox LIVE Vision Camera support.
"
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June 23, 2008

D&D 4th Edition: 5 Tips for a Good First Session

DD4thEditionPlayersHandbook.jpgThe 4th Edition of the Dungeon and Dragons rules has hit the shelves. We've noticed that the core rules have been backordered in quite a few places, but a second run should hit stores presently.

We though it'd be too obvious to include obtaining a Player's Hand Book as part Top 5 tips, so we won't waste the breathe or the page space. Crap, we just did. Well, we won't include them as part of the enumeration anyway, but know this: those groups looking to streamline character creation and familiarizing yourself with the rules shouldn't use you DM's copy as a crutch. Every player should pick one up; it's for the best.

Having said that, read-on for our Top 5 Tips to make your first few sessions go off swimmingly/

ArrowContinue reading: "D&D 4th Edition: 5 Tips for a Good First Session"

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June 20, 2008

Acquire the Board Game: A Classic's Reprint Hits Stores

Acquire.jpgFans of the classic board game Acquire [Amazon, Funagain] has been starved of adequate supply for years now. Even worse, demand as soaked up so many copies that some folks may not have even had a chance to play it, and that's quite a !!! shame.

Thankfully a new edition has just been released from Wizards of the Coast

Acquire players sit with a row of hidden tiles in front of them, akin to a 'hand' of ties in Scrabble, and to lay and connect tiles on the gridded board to form companies. Tile placement is restricted to certain areas of the board by the tile type, so the player created companies grow at different rates, and in different directions. As each grows the players can can invest in the companies, with each player vying for ownership over particular regions of the board. When two companies grow to intersect each other, then a corporate takeover occurs a payouts are given to those folks in majority control of the newly form company.

The rules are relatively simple and clean, yet the gameplay is deep in an elegant. Othello-esque in many sort of ways.

This latest production from Wizards of the Coast is cheaper than some past runs, and unfortunately the game materials show it. While the title plays like any other game of Acquire, players who put stake in the quality of the components may find 2008's run to be somewhat lacking. Have no fear though; there are quite a few copies of the high quality vintage Acquire Board Games available on Ebay, spanning all generations of the game line (back to 1962!).

Here are Acquire's official details about this game:

"As a powerful real estate tycoon, there are only seven hotel chains in the world worthy of your attention. Using nothing but your wealth and wits, you must vie against other business magnates to manipulate construction and capitalize on mergers -- buying, trading, and selling stocks in order to get the greatest return on your investments.

Acquire challenges you to pit your resources and resolve against other players in this high-finance game of speculation and strategy!"

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June 18, 2008

WoW TCG: UDE Points Just Got Useful

MagtheridonLairRaidDeck.jpgLooking for a good place to spend your UDE Points? We have to admit the current lineup of 'fun' UDE point options are pretty limited. Aside from a few cool playmats there really hasn't been anything to entice us to spend our points. Until now.

Today at the Upper Deck Store you can redeem 4000 UDE Points for one Magtheridon's Lair treasure pack. That's 10 cards from 20 of the some the sweetest rare equipment around, mostly filling in those secondary slots like rings, off hands, and backs that many set releases barely dabble in. Not to mention some pretty sweet wands and weapons to boot (Crystalheart Pulse-Staff or Glave of the Pit anyone?)

We know that it's been a while since Magtheridon's release, so if you need a refresher on what's in his.. err. it's set of loot, here are the cards from head to toe from the WoW TCG DB:

AdalSignet.jpg

Magtherion's Lair Treasure
  1. Aegis of the Vindicator
  2. Cloak of the Pit Stalker
  3. Girdle of the Endless Pit
  4. Liar's Tongue Gloves
  5. Soul-Eater's Handwraps
  6. Terror Pit Girdle
  7. Thundering Greathelm
  8. A'dal's Signet of Defense
  9. Band of Crimson Fury
  10. Eye of Magtheridon
  11. Heavy Netherweave Bandage
  12. Karaborian Talisman
  13. Naaru Lightwarden's Band
  14. Phoenix-fire Band
  15. Ring of the Recalcitrant
  16. Super Mana Potion
  17. Superior Mana Oil
  18. Crystalheart Pulse-Staff
  19. Eredar Wand of Obliteration
  20. Glaive of the Pit

Our points have been burning a hole in our pocket for far too long. Release the hounds!

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June 16, 2008

Ticket to Ride Card Game Review

TicketToRideCardGame.jpgPublisher Days of Wonder has once again brought another solid release to the approachable gateway gaming franchise Ticket to Ride, with Ticket to Ride the Card Game [Amazon, Funagain]. Set within the traditional American rail frontier, this installment takes Ticket to Ride to a few new places while holding onto many good aspects of the successful line of board game predecessors.

But without the colorful & fun train pieces, and the classic scramble to claim routes on the board to lock your opponents out of cities, does the Ticket to Ride card game bring enough strong new experiences to the table to warrant your purchase?

The general answer is... Those of you new to the Ticket to Ride line of games should probably start with one of the board game varieties - we suggest Ticket to Ride Europe.

If you're already a fanatic of the Ticket to Ride line of games, then be forewarned: Ticket to Ride the Card Game leans heavily on the use of your memory. If you don't mind that then there's plenty of gaming to enjoy in this new, clean and fun installment.

ArrowContinue reading: "Ticket to Ride Card Game Review"

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June 13, 2008

Settlers of Catan Resource Analysis

Settlers of Catan Box Shot - 4th EditionA fantastic read for Settlers of Catan strateticians surfaced yesterday in one of the major Board Game Google Groups. An apt player has derived a list of the most important resources to focus your economy on to ensure your settlement has that extra kick to get it rolling and bring your game home. Players looking for a competitive edge over friends should definitely give it a once over.

We thought about trying to derive our own such list once, but we got distracted by a fancy doodle we drew, and then got wicked argumentative about whether Alpine cheese is superior to the few common English varieties. At the end of the day our list ended-up being a torn mustard stained contract of IOU a salami sandwich on french baguette, hold the swiss.

This new list is much better. It not only doesn't smell of vinegar, but it also sorts the resources in numerical importance from top to bottom with very convincing arguments to defend the order.

Those of you looking for a quick-fix should know this: Ore is better.

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June 12, 2008

Pop Quiz: Would You Survive a Zombie Apocolypse?

ZombieApocolypse.jpg

Answering the quiz honestly, one of our top scores was 80%. Most of us are considerably lower, with a 59% average. How would you do if the zombies started munching brains in your neighborhood?

The quiz is one of a large suite of quizzes hosted by a dating / social website called OnePlusYou, with which we have no affiliation, which serve as icebreakers for meeting new folks. Other quizzes are "How Long Could You Survive in the Vacuum of Space?" and "Would You Make a Good Human Shield?" -- two icebreakers that should top any well-polished first date question list.

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June 11, 2008

D&D 4TH Edition: Where are the Miniatures, Wizards of the Coast?

DMG4ed.jpgA major shift of the new D&D 4th Edition is its strong emphasis on positional combat. Melee class push mobs from square, sweep based on position, and get and give buffs depend on their proximity to both monsters and fellow party members. This new level of tactical play adds a requirement of gridded terrain maps on the table and figures to represent bodies on the field.

This shift in combat mechanics has gotten some prerelease flak recently, but we're actually pretty big fans of it. There's nothing like coordinating attacks through smart positional tactics - fighting side by side and working combos to beat back the beasties from dimension X.

Here's the thing though - both the Players Handbook and introductory adventure Keep on the Shadowfell have suggest that players should represent their characters no the tactical map by buying into a second D&D franchise, also run by Wizards of the Coast: the D&D Tradable Miniatures Game. In practice this solution stinks, largely due the nature of collecting pieces in a Tradable or Collectible miniatures or card game. It also slightly stinks of the cross pollination of two WoTC cousin franchises for the purposes of greed (?), but if the coupling were more streamlined then this secondary beef could have been completely overlooked.

ArrowContinue reading: "D&D 4TH Edition: Where are the Miniatures, Wizards of the Coast?"

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June 9, 2008

300 the Board Game A Success?

300.jpgWho would have ever thought that the slick but yet somewhat shallow cinematic adaption of Frank Miller's take on the Battle of Thermopylae could have been made into a successful board game. After being burned by prerelease hype surrounding the closed door sessions of the the abysmal Lost the Board Game, we sure as heck didn't think expect 300 The Board Game [Ebay, Starlit Citadel] to take critical gamers by storm.

But here it is. 300 is a 2-4 player game, pitting the Spartan Army against hordes of Perisan troops, who seem most anxious to throw their life away. In a game of 7 solid turns of streamlined but interesting gameplay (around 20-30 minutes) the Spartan players jockey for position and line up attacks to slaughter troops for the greater Glory. The Persians do their part to push the Spartans back into their homeland, as they try to prevent the Spartan team of players from reaching their goal of 100 glory points.

Combat is quick and streamlined. Where the Spartan army abuts the Persian horde is where battles go down. Total army strengths of mixed units are summed up and then used as a quick look-up on a dice chart printed on the board. Dice are tossed and casualties are notched into belts faster than you can lob a spear at a 8' body waxed Persian demigod. The game runs quick and smooth, but there's plenty of chance for thoughtful tactics; players also have a hand of cards which mixes up gameplay considerably, sprucing the game up enough for multiple sessions in one sitting.

For more information checkout this fantastic 300 the Board Game Review in the BGG forums. Otherwise here are the more general official details for those who haven't the time:

"Will you win honour and prestige at the hot gates of Thermopylae? Or will you crush those arrogant Spartans? Take on the role of the Spartans or the Persian Empire in this board game based on the blockbuster movie 300.

In 300 the board game, you will recreate the famous battle of Thermopylae as shown in the blockbuster film 300. As the Spartans, you'll need to kill as many units of the Persian Empire as possible to gain 100 Glory points. As the Persian Empire, you'll need to either smash the Spartans entirely or delay them long enough for Ephialtes to come through the goat track (6 rounds).

Number of players: 2 - 4
Playing Time: 30 minutes
Ages: 10 and up"


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June 6, 2008

D&D 4th Edition Source Books: Players Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide and Monster Manual

PHB4ed.jpgThe biggest title release of the summer is now in stores, and unlike recent installments, the 4th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons hits RPG shelves with a fist chalk-full of source books. That means there are nearly 1000 pages of D&D 4th Edition source material available today.

Fans of D&D can pick up all three source books in one bundle, at a severely discounted rate (nearly 50%) with the Dungeons and Dragons Core Rulebook Gift Set [Amazon]. With this one bundle of books, you'll have access to everything a Dungeon Master or a D&D collector would need.

Here are details of each of the source books. Those of you not interested in every becoming a DM may want to pick them up one piece at a time, as required, starting with the Players Handbook:


PHB4ed.jpgD&D 4th Edition Player's Handbook [Amazon]

Everything you need to get started. This book contains all the rules required to create characters and the foundation of the game rules. Also included are a set of character abilities, their spells, feats, and weapons and equipment.

This book is the heart of any D&D release, and at 320 pages - it's the main body, too.


DMG4ed.jpgDungeon Master's Guide [Amazon]

You'll need a Dungeon Master in order to play D&D of course, but if you're new to D&D you might not even need a Dungeon Master's Guide (DMG). We highly recommend working through the Keep on the Shadowfell to get your feet wet. Afterwards, you migh twant to pick up a copy of the DMG, which should help you create new adventures, settings, monsters, and encounters for your D&D jam sessions. The DMG also includes some of the more particular rules for those rare/advanced encounters.


MM4ed.jpgMonster Manual [Amazon]

This Monster Manual is this official Encyclopedia of Beasties and bad guy, and the perfect desk reference for adding new and popular creatures to your D&D adventures. This book gives you nearly 300 pages of the stats, abilities, and tactics of your stock D&D monsters, including: Dragons, Golems Vampires and Zombies. It also provides detailed back stories of where creatures should fit into the D&D world and settings, which will help you weave a tight-knit line to make the plot, setting and encounters of your adventure all work together to tell a great story.

Have a good weekend!

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June 4, 2008

Lawsuit: The Board Game Review

Lawsuit.jpgLawsuit [Official Website, Amazon] is a board game for kids. No really! Designed to entice little kiddos ages 6-9, Lawsuit puts each player in the occupational role of a Lawyer, working their way through their own careers.

We have lots of friends who lawyer away in to the wee hours of the morning, and hands-down we love them all. But we know what you're thinking - 'cause we thought it to: in this day and age of stereotypical 'I'm gonna sue you butt off!' we expected Lawsuit to be a bit upsetting, awkwardly making vengeance and greed "fun!" for such a young age group.

When we cautiously lifted the lid and started playing we made note of only a few moral monkey wrenches. Best of all - there's never a point where one player sues another. Instead, it's a game of collecting legal fees from cartoonish cases, which you can use as moral talking points if you wanted to.

Still - those of you with the same cautious knee-jerk reaction that we had might not find much here; as a children's game Lawsuit doesn't have many original virtues. Most of the game is centered around counting spaces and exercising math skills associated with counting money. These mechanics are stock from just about any children's game for ages 6-9. So if you're uncomfortable with the litigation theme for your youngins then you may want to look elsewhere.

But if you're looking to introduce the occupation of Lawyers ('cause, like, maybe you are one?) to your little ones, then Lawsuit just might be the game for you. No really.

ArrowContinue reading: "Lawsuit: The Board Game Review"

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June 2, 2008

Pillars of the Earth Board Game Expands to 5-6 Players

PillarsOfTheEarthExpansion.jpgIt's been a long time coming. The Pillars of the Earth - a board game adaption to the best-selling historical fiction novel - was one of our favorite titles of last year. Instead of being just washed up adaptation of a novel and just another cathedral builder, it introduced new turn mechanics, interesting resource gathering and construction mechanics, and it's simplly put: a blast to play.

But there was one drawback - it only supported 4 players, and since we usually have 5+ players at our table, The Pillars of the Earth was regrettably pushed to the bottom of our gaming stack. But thankfully, not anymore.

The new The Pillars of the Earth Expansion Set [Amazon, Funagain] ups the player count to a potential 6 while also adding more characters from the Ken Follett masterwork to the workers and event cards. In fact, 30 more cards are added The evil William Hamleigh now makes an appearance, and new mechanics and a hefty board expansion provides hooks for a player to take on the new role of tax collector, or to send architects to France for inspiration in cathedral design, or even help out the king and church by joining the Crusades.

The goal remains the same - be the most influential resource gatherer, builder, artist, or even merchant through out the lifespan of the construction of Kingsbridge Catheral, by whatever means possible. The original title was a blast in the exercise of player adaptability in a turbulent turn structure, and now with even more options on the table, Pillars of the Earth should shine even brighter than ever before.

ArrowContinue reading: "Pillars of the Earth Board Game Expands to 5-6 Players"

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June 1, 2008

Critical Gamers' May 2008 Gaming Roundup

RoundUp.jpgJune is here and that means the 4th Edition of D&D is just around the corner. Actually, it's already here. Though the core rulebooks aren't slated to ship until Friday, the first adventure is already on store shelves, and it's so very-well done.

Keep on the Shadowfell sets the bar high for the quality of 4th Edition materials. Instead of the low grade white paper staple-bound modules of old, Keep on the Shadowfell is a solid binder chalk full of quick start rules, maps, and a very detailed adventure all printed on high quality paper. We'll be interested to see if this level of quality continues, or if it's just for this first release.

We also hope to have a review for you sometime soon, but we can tell you right away - if you're wondering if Keep on the Shadowfell is worth your time and money, or if it's a great introduction to Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition for your group, then the answer is a very strong: Yes.

But enough D&D. Tons of other things happened this month, including numerous stories in the world of Board Games, and our World of Warcraft TCG Servants of a Betrayer review. Don't miss it!

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