February 27, 2009

Age of Steam 3rd Edition Board Game Released

AgeOfSteam3rdEdition.jpgAttention fans of rail builders out there, specifically Rail Road Tycoon fans, the more complex strategy classic Age of Steam 3rd Edition [Funagain] has been released. This new revision shares common rules with the perevious editions, but sports components far superior to to those releases; Additionally the base game in Age of Steam 3rd Edition is also designed for 3 to 6 players to play over the course of two hours, but also sports two additional fold out maps that offer single player and two player scenarios.

The game definitely kicks it up a notch on the old difficulty scale compared to Rail Road Tycoon, so if you're a fan of that franchise and you'll looking for something a bit more challenging, then Age of Steam is certainly worth your time. Fans of Ticket to Ride may find Age of Steam 3rd edition a significant step up from the fun Family Game they're used to, so they may want to try out Railroad Tycoon instead.

We should also mention that this Age of Steam 3rd Edition release comes out on the eve of Steam, a restructuring of the Age of Steam franchise. So if you're a long time Age of Steam fan, then you might want hold off to see what that release brings to the table next month.


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February 25, 2009

Tide of Iron Designer Series Volume One

TideOfIronDesignerSeriesV1.jpgWe're pretty big fans of the WWII tactical board game Tide of Iron. In fact the only glaring flaw is that we don't have enough time to devote to the well-designed scenarios that ship with the game and its expansions (sessions take about 3-5 hours).

If you're gang busters about your war games, then you know this series is alive and kicking with some great expansions, like Days of the Fox and the new Normandy Expansion both of which added new units, pieces and rules to the mix. The fact that Fantasy Flight continues to deliver with well produced materials speaks volumes to the longevity of the system. Now Fantasy Flight has also shown the series some more love with a new hardcover supplement of well-designed and balanced scenarios.

The Tide of Iron Designer Series [Amazon, Funagain] is cheaper than your normal expansion, and has scenarios for the base game, Days of the Fox, and Normandy.

Astute gamers may note that the Designer Series came out sometime around the new year. We didn't speak of it because there were gobs of incredible titles coming out at the time . But now, after the dust from the holiday shelling has settled, it's time to emerge from our bunker for some more Tide of Iron goodness.

Here are the official details:


Compiled by distinguished conflict historian Dana Lombardy (Streets of Stralingrad), the Tide of Iron: Designer Series is a hard cover collection of twenty scenarios crafted by today's most famous wargame designers. Using the mechanics of the Tide of Iron base game, these design masters have crafted the first volume in one of the most exciting collections of wargaming history. The Tide of Iron: Designer Series is an incredible addition to the Tide of Iron base game, offering a whole new level of depth and historical context for players to enjoy. - Scenarios vary from short, fast-play skirmishes to massive tactical battles. - Historical backgrounds and anecdotes for each scenario written by the scenario designer. - Several scenarios incorporate the North Africa Days of the Fox Expansion. - One epic scenario which requires two copies of Tide of Iron for a massive, multiplayer experience.
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February 24, 2009

Empire Total War Demo Debuts on Steam

EmpireTotalWarRedCoats.jpgLong time readers know that we're avid fans of Creative Assembly's Total War Franchise for the PC. Well in just over a week's time, the new installment Empire Total War [Amazon] hits shelves, and we'll be knee deep in marathon sessions of Imperial Age warfare - both on tactical and strategic levels - from the very moment the game is released.

Those thirsting for some of the tactical action right right must no longer wait: the Empire Total War Demo is now available on the Steam download service. It includes two battles: the American Revolution Battle of Brandywine Creek, and the naval Battle of Lagos.

The naval battles is a new feature for the Total War games, and though it depicts an English fleet against a mass of French vessels, the demo's scenario still lacks certain acoutremonts to bring the system to life. We would like to hear more atmosphere to bring us into the battle: sailer calls, marine gunfire, and the crack of opening sails, but perhaps we'll have to just wait for someone to mod the game a bit after launch. The naval warfare also lacked some strategic depth at first -- at least until we figured out the whole broadside mechanism. Toy a bit with the round cannon buttons in the lower right and you'll soon be on your way to kicking some scurvy butt. Unfortunately you can't roll as the French in the demo.

The demo's land combat scenario is everything a Total War game is and more. The engine really has come a far way since Medieival II Total War, and that's saying something 'cause that game is still gorgeous.

Soon we'll have our hands on the full version and constructing our Austrian empire from the ground up. The game is slated for release next week (March 3rd), and if you can't wait and you're hankering for more Empire Total War coverage then checkout these quick battle walkthroughs from some of the game's AI Programmers:

1:Empire: Total War Superior Tactics Walkthrough
2: Empire: Total War Superior Tactics Walkthrough Part II HD

They're a bit over produced and has too many quick-cuts for its own good, but it has great examples of what makes Total War battles so great: the scale of the fights is unparalleled.

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February 20, 2009

RP Tools Save Our D&D Group From Implosion

D&DDice.jpgWe have a problem. An alarming number of the D&D 4th Edition fans in our group are moving away. It's that time in our lives where people start families, flee imminent natural disasters or rising seas and giant earthquakes, and move somewhere thats a heckuvalot cheaper than Boston.

When our first player moved away two years ago, we planned to lean on the then 'upcoming' D&D Insider tools from Wizards of the Coast to keep us connected and playing through the Internets, but Wizards has really flopped like a fish out of water after a year and a half of seemingly broken promises.. and just when needed them the most, too. First the tools were going to be free with a D&D Source Book purchase. Then it turned out there would be a monthly fee steeper than our World of Warcraft subscription -- not cool. Then we hear that Macs won't be supported. Then we heard the crickets churp and a wolf cry in the distance when D&D 4th Edition was released nearly a year ago. Still, nothing.

USASatNight.jpgAs the proposals from WoTC bittered, the players in our group kept moving away. Some could still commute, but it was nearly an hour. Others left the state altogether. We tried to keep things going by setting up our Frankensteinian system with web cams that point at the map, and with Skype and a sweet-ass microphone a friend had from a failing podcast. For while it was novel to have giant heads on laptops sitting along side real people at the table, but after some time the system proved a) prone to glitches, and b) dorkier than we'd ever care to admit to anyone but you.

In between these dysfunctional sessions, we scoured the web for online tools similar to the original promises of D&D Insider in the hopes we could switch the a virtual gametable. For months our searches came up short as we found numerous highly cryptic pieces of software with a substandard community base, that required a lot of work to import art assets, and just generally looked like an upturned baseball cap full of poo.

RP Tools Becomes Our Saving Grace
Then one of us discovered RP Tools sometime around the new year. We poked it with a stick for a while 'cause we were used to disappointment, but and after the first session we were giddy with dorkish delight. It not only worked well, it actually made the game more enjoyable beyond our wildest imaginations. The RP Tools system has a lot of things going for it, and now that we have it setup, we're not sure we're going to want to play D&D the old fashioned way anymore.

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February 18, 2009

Funagain Games' February Board Game Sale

ConquestOfTheEmpire.jpg
One of our favorite online board game stores Funagain Games is running a February Board Game Sale with 30 different titles discounted up to 90% off MSRP. Tough times demand tough talk.

While there's some flotsam in there - all clearance sales have that problem - there are also some worthwhile titles to pick up for cheap. Conquest of the Empire is well renowned wargame and has been discounted 40% to 25 bucks, and the Puerto Rico PC Game (73%) is a measly 5 bucks.

Merchants of Amsterdam, while some older, is still a sold title and is 62% off, and Oasis (66%) is a pretty solid title, too.

Enjoy!

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February 17, 2009

Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War 2 is Upon Us

DawnOfWar2SpaceMarine.JPGThe second iteration of the incredible PC adaptation of the Warhammer 40K franchise hits shelves tomorrow, and we're wicked excited. That's not New England sarcasm, either. Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War 2 [Amazon] is another title in a long lineage of Real Time Strategy releases by Relic Entertainment, a company who has produce hit after hit in the RTS gaming world. They made the amazing Dawn of War, that introduced some crazy terrain deformation, and limb tearing robots, our beloved Company of Heroes WWII real time tactical strategy game, and their classic flagship Homeworld.

Warhammer 40K Dawn of War 2 is destined to be another classic RTS, despite the fact that it's a game about tactics. Base building in this game is deemphasized. Instead your customization comes in how you outfit and upgrade your handful of squads under your control. And when the guns start firing, and the body parts start flying, the game doesn't enter into a tug of war of economies, but instead rests on the ability for you to tactfully command your forces on the front line. Skirmishes erupt with some of the most vivid animations in a strategy game to date. See for yourself:

In the singleplayer campaign, players following their customized squad of Space Marines from map to map as they take on the forces of the Orks, the Eldar, and the vicious instectoid Tyranids. In a slick feature somewhat new to the RTS genre, your friend can team up with you to play through the entire campaign cooperatively. Or, if you'd rather, fight against your friends online in skirmish battles where you can control any of the other factions. We're pretty excited to implale and dismember some Orks with the sword like limbs of cluster of Tyranids ourselves.

We'll see you planetside.

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February 13, 2009

Tannhäuser: Operation Novgorod

TannhauserOperationNovgorod.jpgThe well previewed expansion to Tannhäuser, the alternate reality strategy game of WWI Nazis, Zombies, and American Paratroopers, has hit shelves. Tannhäuser: Operation Novgorod [Amazon, Funagain] adds a series of interesting new missions, characters, and weapons to the game. Oh, and now the Russians are getting involved, with their own chilly Slavic Gods at their backs, they have a selection of new abilities including mind number psionics that should add some interesting things to the game. Here are the official details:


"A new faction has risen to challenge the balance of power in the Great War. The forces of the Russian Matriarchy command advanced technology and ancient theology as they emerge from their torpor to purify the world. By using the technology of President Edisons one-time pupil Nikola Tesla, they have devised a way to bring ancient Slavic divinities to a semblance of mechanical life. The power they have harnessed threatens to tip the balance of the war forever. -- Featuring a new faction, new heroes, robotic minions, and an all-new character type, Operation Novgorod is a completely new way to play Tannhäuser."

For more information about Operation Novgorod, checkout our previous story Tannhäuser: Operation Novgorod Previews. The expansion is now available from both Amazon and Funagain Games.

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February 12, 2009

Rubik 360 Revealed as a Puzzling Sphere

The Rubik 360 was revealed to the world last week with a rush to fanfare. When we heard the latest puzzle is series of concentric spheres with colored balls in the middle, we thought it was pretty darn interesting. But to see it, and now hear it shake and rattle, the mass of plastic detracts a bit from the puzzle. We're pretty sure that it's not built with cheap materials, but it instills the feeling that it is.

Hopefully the puzzling aspects of the device outweigh the hamster ball vibe. At least the puzzle is complex enought that it won't ever be solved by a simple iPhone App. See for yourself -- here (above), a fan unwraps it for the first time.

The Rubik 360 should hit shelves sometime mid summer. To tide you over until then, also checkout this interesting Time Magazine video interview with Erno Rubik, creator of the Rubik Cube and the Rubik 360.


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February 9, 2009

World of Warcraft Minis Review

WoWMiniDeluxStarter.jpgWe don't have a long standing relationship with miniature games. In fact, our only experience was with Warhammer, and that was only a few of us who put the World of Warcraft Minis through its paces. Already hooked on World of Warcraft, and WoW TCG, we immediately liked what we saw through the drum-up to release, from the few official preview articles, and the hands-on prerelease demo that we participated in while at the Penny Arcade Expo. The question still remained, though: Will WoW Minis hold up to repeat play, and as a secondary question, will it supplant our interest in the WoW TCG?

After toying with the premier release of WoW Minis over the last few months, we have our answer.

ArrowContinue reading: "World of Warcraft Minis Review"

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February 4, 2009

Cosmic Encounter Revised (2008)

CosmicEncounter.JPGThe original Cosmic Encounter was a classic romp of negotiation and quick, simple galactic warfare the took half skill, half luck, half negotiation, and very little math to win - and that's why we liked it. The game was quick, had few pieces, and was one of those all around classic 1980's games that held up over numerous repeat plays, and never panned out the same way twice.

There have been numerous revisions of the game over the years, as the title jumped from publisher to publisher, but each one fell short in one fashion or another compared against the background of its original predecessor. It became common for fans to mix the rule and pieces of various iterations to create their own Frankensteinian hybrid that's fit enough to live up to the title.

CosmicEncounterHate.jpgThis time around it's Fantasy Flight's turn, and everything is top notch in true FFG fashion. Cosmic Encounter 2008 [Amazon, Funagain] remains a card game at heart, where players spend cards form their hand to win over an opponent's star systems in a battle royal each turn. The diplomacy edge comes from players petitioning their friends to join in the fight, either helping to conquer new territory for their mutual benefit, or to come into the defnese of a player so that another competitor doesn't get too big of an edge in the overaall game. Cosmic Encounter ends when a player controls enough systems. Easy Peasey.

The game throws curve balls with the selection of 50 alien races, which give certain players specific powers. The powers span the range of replacing destroyed ships, limiting the number of strength cards a player can contribute to a battle, or even changing the end game rules. The Masochist - for instance - wins if all his ships are destroyed. Crazy. Expansions will certain be on the way with even more crazy powers to cause controlled chaos tot he game.

If you're looking to learn more, then we highly recommend a pair of video reviews from board game review czar (in the good way) Tom Vasel from The Dice Tower. They're aptly named: Cosmic Encounter for Newcommers and Cosmic Encounter for Veterans, Both videos well worth your time if you're looking to be sure you want to relive some of your best childhood gaming memories. Hey - we know sometimes things don't pan out so well when they're revisited 20 years later (OMG, actually 30 years! We're old). Thankfully the latest Cosmic Encounter pans out wonderfully.

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February 3, 2009

New Rubik's 360 Debuts in Just Two Days

Rubik.jpg

There are three major toys that we remember from our youth that should sit comoftably in our consciousness until the day we die: the original Light Brite, Simon, and Rubik's Cube. Sure, there's Tiger Baseball and Speak & Spell, but those seem to hover a level above "toy" raiting so we wont' even mention them. Oh Crap.

While Light Bright and Simon have both stagnated for nearly 3 decades, the Hungarian doctor of puzzles Ser Rubik has put his finishing touches on a new masterpiece. This is truly his new invention, too, not a marketing board table's reinvisioning of the classic cube with more squares, or fewer squares, or with a key chain. zzzZZzzz

RubiksCube.jpgWell this time the doctor is back to square one, and the movable clicky shapes are no more. Will the Doctor be able to create a craze the size of his original cube? Probably not. The original sold 350 million worldwide, which is off the wall crazy numbers. Those are tall shoes to fill.

Unfortunately the new Rubik 360 puzzle - which is still officially under wraps - looks a bit hampsterballish. Made with clear plastic the sphere doesn't really scream high quality with first glance, or 'cool' like the primary hued cube once did back in the color confused 1980s. Still, the concentric sphere idea does sound quite intriguing, and if the gameplay holds up then it should make a rather significant crash on the market later this year, and perhaps as stocking stuffers for the next decade.

Read the full prerelease story on Telegraph.co.uk. The Rubk's 360 will be officially released to public scrutiny on Thursday.

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February 1, 2009

Critical Gamers' January 2009 Board Game Roundup

ZontikGamesChess.jpg
Welcome to the year of the Ox. We're ignorant to what that truly means. Oxen must game like no tomorrow, though, 'cause we haven't had this much fun wile gaming since we played Hungry Hungry Hippos with Cherry Bombs (don't try this at home kids).

This month our our infatuation with the Battlestar Galactica board game has gone full steam ahead. Most of it is how well balanced, entertaining, and well themed the game is. The icing on the cake though is the level of paranoia the game instills. Repeatedly accusing each other of secretly being "frakking cylons" with the lisp of a drunken Colonel Tigh is not only hilarious, but adds to the meta game of political infighting and intrigue. Dear Fantasy Flight Games, there had better be an expansion in the works, or you're gonna be white knuckling an air lock support pylon.

We're also full blown into our D&D campaign. Unfortunately we've just lost another group member to a move that brought him out of state. While we continue to impatiently wait for the official D&D Insider Table Top Tools, we've been trying to make our webcam + Skype work with multiple players (2 at this point, but soon maybe 3), and it's just not scaling the way we want. So we've formed an exploratory commit to try out some collaborative tools that let groups play D&D through the interewebs using Java game clients on everyone's home PC -- essentially the D&D Insider tools except that are free, that work, and.. well frankly: exist. We'll let you know what if we find anything worth your while.

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