Its Friday afternoon here and word has it the Swine Flu pandemic might soon attain Level 6 (out of 6) on the World Health Organization's pandemic defcon track of disasterous disasters. Don't panic yet though. Scientists are saying the disease isn't as lethal as first reported, and certainly not as big as the Spanish Flu that swept the world in the early 20th century.
Unfortunately they've also said that the these diseases could mutate at any time. So we decided that this weekend we'd head up into the hills of Vermont and throw down a board of the cooperative game Pandemic [Funagain] to celebrate the end of the beginning of the end. Unless it doesn't mutate, then it'll just be the end of the weekend, which would be great.
Now as if on-queue, the makers of the original Pandemic [Amazon] have released details of their upcoming expansion Pandemic On the Brink. The expansion will include new player roles, special events, and challenges, including a new game mode that pits one player against all others.
We've been complaining a bit over the last year since the release of the D&D 4th Edition. See, the game puts a huge emphasis on tactical combat, with square maps in the all the modules, and all those rules that have you map out spacing and ranges to determine area of effects.
The problem is, there hasn't been a great official way to represent your characters on your table top. Sure, you could have blindly bought D&D Miniature boosters in hopes you would get someone cool and that slightly resembled your character's class, race, and gender, plus looked cool to boot, but that was a total crap shoot.
Finally, ten months later, Wizards of the Coast has a nice little gift for you. Behold: prepackaged miniatures of all the classes and races of the Players Handbook, presented in clear plastic so you know which miniature your dropping your cash for:
Player's Handbook Heroes - Arcane Heroes #1 [Amazon, Funagain]
Female Eladrin Wizard
Male Tiefling Warlock
Male Half-Elf Bard
Player's Handbook Heroes - Arcane Heroes #2 [Amazon, Funagain]
Male Human Wizard Female Eladrin Sorcerer Male Half-Elf Fighter / Warlock
Player's Handbook Heroes - Divine Heroes #1 [Amazon, Funagain]
Male Human Cleric Female Halfling Cleric Male Dwarf Paladin
Player's Handbook Heroes - Martial Heroes #1 [Amazon, Funagain]
Female Dragonborn Rogue Male Human Fighter Male Elf Ranger
Player's Handbook Heroes - Martial Heroes #2 [Amazon, Funagain]
Female Eladrin Fighter Male Tiefling Warlord Male Dwarf Rogue
Player's Handbook Heroes - Primal Heroes #1 [Amazon, Funagain]
Female Elf Druid Male Human Barbarian Male Goliath Barbarian
Not every class combo is there, but you should be able to make do with what's available. Unless you're picky, which would really stink since you've waited almost a year for this moment. We feel for ya. Wait, no we don't, stop dilly dallying. Just pull the trigger, have a cold one, relax and work on your anxiety problems.
Here are the official details:
The Player's Handbook Heroes: Series 1 expansion for the Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game features high-quality miniatures representing iconic player character races and classes described in the Player's Handbook and Player's Handbook 2 core rulebooks.
There are six booster packs in all: 2 packs of martial heroes, 2 packs of arcane heroes, 1 pack of divine heroes, and 1 pack of primal heroes. Each booster pack contains 3 visible, high-quality, non-random plastic miniatures representing D&D player characters, plus an exclusive power card not available elsewhere! Each miniature comes beautifully painted and fully assembled.
Fully assembled miniatures. Sweet. Put away your exact-o knife and sniffing glue.... err.. gluing glue.
Fantasy Flight Games has just released the Talisman: The Dungeon [Amazon, Funagain] expansion to the dungeon romping Talisman 4th Edition. The Dungeon is a remake of one of the original Talisman expansions released nearly 22 years ago (aka Back in the Day) that adds a L shaped dungeon area to the board standard game board. Adventures who head in will find new encounters including new monster types, traps, and swine flu laded burritos. And, of course, players should expect new rewards to boot.
In true Fantasy Flight Fashion, the expansion is well previewed on the Fantasy Flight Game's website in a series of articles:
Ok, so the collection of titles doesn't have a top shelf level of awe inspiring inventiveness. Thankfully each of the previews itself is a great read complete with rules and flavor. And while they might tell you all you've ever wanted to know about the game and more, we're still going to quote the rounded off product details, 'cause maybe you're in a hurry, but more importantly it's like, our 'thing'.
Talisman: The Dungeon features five new characters, including the Gladiator and the Philosopher, 20 new Spell cards, 10 new Adventure cards, and 10 new Treasure cards. The expansion also features a board expansion, the Dungeon, which adds a whole new area of exploration, and 128 Dungeon cards, featuring events and encounters that only occur in the Dungeon. Game Contains:
Words cannot describe how cool things little nobblets are. If you're into creating tricky stuff with your hands, or into things produced by Zombo.com or puzzles with no end, then this is right up your alley.
"Imagine a Rubik's Cube that actually makes you smarter; an Erector Set that never stops erecting; a Hula Hoop you don't look ridiculous playing with; Silly Putty that isn't silly; cram it all in a jar, turn the fun up to 11, and you've got BuckyBalls!
Each set contains 216 powerful rare earth magnets that can be shaped, molded, torn apart and snapped together in UNLIMITED WAYS. Make sculptures, puzzles, patterns, shapes, stick stuff to the fridge, invent a new game--trying to find something more useful is useless."
Small World [Amazon, Funagain] is the Days of Wonder fantasy themed spiritual successor to the critically acclaimed Vinci, which is amazingly 8 years old this year. And hey, not it's finally in stores!
We've written quite a bit about Small World in our previous coverage, including praise for Days of Wonder for being the pinnacle of quality these days, so check our other stories (below) for all of the game details and previews. Also, BGN is quick on the trigger with Small World Board Game Review already posted n their site. It's more of a testimonial of a session than a full on critique, but it's a great read none the less.
Here are the game's official details:
In Small World, players vie for conquest and control of a world that is simply too small to accommodate them all.
Designed by Philippe Keyaerts as a fantasy follow-up to his award-winning Vinci™, Small World is inhabited by a zany cast of characters such as dwarves, wizards, amazons, giants, orcs and even humans; who use their troops to occupy territory and conquer adjacent lands in order to push the other races off the face of the earth.
Picking the right combination from the 14 different fantasy races and 20 unique special powers, players rush to expand their empires - often at the expense of weaker neighbors. Yet they must also know when to push their own over-extended civilization into decline and ride a new one to victory!
In a multiple generation bridging exercise we decided to present the D&D 4th Edition Player's Handbook to one of our grandparents last weekend. After he leafed through it for a while, we asked him what his thoughts were.
Apparently it doesn't hold a candle to a more classical read.
The new additions to the FAQ have the standard set of new questions answered, but most of the content comes in an on a whole new section dealing with the secrecy rules of the game (more on that below). Here are the standard QA updates:
Q: What happens to a viper if the piloting character reveals himself as a Cylon? A: The viper is returned to the Reserves.
Q:Can multiple Centurion tokens be on the same space of the Boarding Party track? A: Yes. They do not push each other, or prevent other tokens from being placed on their space.
Q: Can a player use the "Command" location to launch a viper and then move or attack with the same viper? A: Yes. There is no limit to the number of times an unmanned viper may be activated per turn.
Q: What happens to the Sympathizer card once it is revealed? A: It remains in play, but is unaffected by abilities that normally affect Loyalty cards. For example, if an opponent is able to look at one of his random Loyalty cards, the Sympathizer card is excluded.
As we mentioned, the FAQ also has a section of Zen guidance tailored for groups who've encountered a bit of trouble agreeing to games oh-so-important rules of secrecy. If you find yourself wondering just how many adjectives players may use to describe the strength of cards they've played in crisis checks, or how to deal with leading comments from players peeking at the Destination deck or Loyalty cards, then this section should help keep your BS:G experience fair and even.
The entire section is too big for us to describe here, so we'll just show you the gist via the introduction:
This section of the FAQ further clarifies the Secrecy rules found in the rulebook. It covers general secrecy as well as specific rules that apply to unique situations and components. This section is only intended for play groups who have trouble agreeing on what should and should not be allowed under the current Secrecy rules."
Upper Deck will release the first expansion to the World of Warcraft miniatures table top game that launch last fall. Devout readers may note that while we enjoyed the internal mechanics of the franchise, we thought it had some problems. For one there just wasn't enough interesting content and game modes to keep our attention for long.
We're hoping that this next release will have the standard clean injection of new characters, abilities, etc, but more importantly, we're keenly looking for some map kitss. Something official that we don't have to buy $30 boxes to randomly collect from a set of 3, and which match the theme and balance of World of Warcraft PvP. So far, in the previews, we haven't seen it, and we've been forced to buid our own, and that gets tiring after a while.
Despite the dearth of cool battlegrounds, there's still still some pretty interesting things coming down the pipe in Spoils of War [Amazon, Funagain]. For one we're treated to new Weapon and Armor items that can be placed in your character's action bars. These things are so powerful that they actually contribute to the hero's honor value, so use them wisely. This could be a pretty nice addition if executed well.
Spoils also includes new Channeling powers, which generally continue to deal damage so long the caster stops, concentrations, and essentially doesn't do anything else for the duration. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out considering the game's already strong strategic depth the cost / turn mechanic where choices on what to do, when, and where play an extremely interesting role in the game.
Other than that, the set release is all about the content. Here are the preview articles so far, which mainly focus on previews of the new figures themselves. And when we say 'figure previews', it's the whole thing from 3D imagery of sculpts, all the way down to tick powers and strategy.
The Wings of War table top game made the slick transition from 2D card game to 3D miniatures a while ago without ever missing a beat. But now the miniatures have made that fantastic jump from from the original knights of the sky dogfights of the First World War, into the boom and zoom dogfights of the Second. We have respect for WWI themed, because there really isn't much out there about that war. Still, we're ready to admit that we're shallow, and with this one step of migration from WWI to WWII, we're now entirely interested in this game.
Wings of War is a pretty unique sort of game. Players pit fighters against one another in a aerial dogfight that exists as far as their table allows. Traditionally each fighter was represented as a card, but with the somewhat new addition of miniatures -- the game takes on a life of its own.
Players then play maneuver cards from their hand, laying them on one of the edges of their fighter, and repositioning their fighter exactly where the card displays. Picture yourself putting a card down in front of your plane which moves your plane forward but also makes a 90 degree turn to the right. You place your fighter where the arrow points, and your turn is done. And so with the cards in your hand, you jockey for firing position against your enemy, who's doing the same.
There have been many card sets, with different maneuver styles and a large collection of fighters. The game has both dabbled in WWII (traditionally it was WWI) and dabbled with miniatures, but now - at last - both WWII and miniatures are converging.
And both the WWII buff and the Gamer buff are really freaking excited.
For more information about the upcoming WWII Minatures, check out "The Heroes of the Sky Come to Life Once More" story on Fantasy Flight Games, and keep an eye on the official Wings of War website. So far we know that the Supermarine Spitfire and Messerschmitt BF109 will be part of the first release. The classic turn fight v boom and zoom Battle of Britain coming right at ya.
The WWII Wings of War Miniatures will be released in Summer 2009. We'll keep you posted on the details as they emerge.
Attention Settlers Fans, the designer and publisher that brought you the most famous Eurogame of all time decided to put their heads together once again for the 60th anniversary celebration of the founding of Germany. The result: Catan Geographies: Germany [Amazon, Funagain], a well-themed and streamlined version of the Settlers of Catan experience.
There are a few major difference between this title and your average Settlers. The elephant in the room is that the map is set in stone: You'll be settling Germany from towns all the way to a full nation, and not populating a randomly drawn set of terrain (this is very similar of what Catan Histories did for Western Europe). Additionally you'll start with three settlements instead of two, and there's no city building; instead you're tasked with building your faction's catan-like infrastructure, and tasked with building a collection of famous landmarks pulled from German history.
But like Settlers, things that affect you happen on every turn, and the first person to 10 victory points goes home the victor.
'Catan: Germany' was first available in Germany in 2008, but has rolled up on American shores this year. That means it's been out for a long enough time for the community to put it through its paces. Check the Catan Geographies: Germany page on BGG for a selection of user reviews and raitings.
Here are the game's official details:
A Game of Discovery, Geography, and History in the land of Poets and Thinkers.
Explore and settle the storied land of Germany using the elegant, award-winning game design from The Settlers of Catan®. Here, you will find great social interaction, simple rules, beautiful German geography, rich history and lore, and 12 wonderfully-sculpted landmarks.
"Catan Geographies: Germany" is a game about trade, building, and settlement. Start with town halls in 3 cities. Then build roads to neighboring cities, where you can purchase landmarks and new town halls. Town halls create resource production, while the unique landmarks generate special awards. Both yield victory points-- as do the Longest Road, Largest Army, and the historically-based victory point cards.
So, have fun with friends or family while casually discovering the novel geography and history of Germany.
"Catan Germany" contains:
An amazing, color map board depicting 28 different city scenes and 12
120 cards (including 90 resource cards, 26 development cards, and 4
building cost cards).
141 game pieces (including 12 landmarks, 80 roads, 48 town halls, and 1
"Götz von Berlichingen").
Just a quick note about a game we've been covering the last few months. Days of Wonder has announced that it Civilization Game meets Fantasy themed quirkiness - Small World - is slated for release on April 22nd in just over a week's time.
The family friendly game (Ages 8 & Up) from the publisher of such greats as Ticket to Ride, Memoir '44, and Mystery of the Abbey, puts each player in control of their own fledgling civilization. Players will quickly determine that the island that everyone is stuck on is just a tad too small for things to remain friendly. Through the adoption of a choice Fantasy-themed races, and unique special powers, players can customize their Civ to defend their territories and exploiting weaknesses of their neighbors.
While there have been a sea of complicated Civilization style games over the years, there are few that remain light enough to be appropriate for casual and family gamers. We've covered a few, like Tempus, which was easy to play, but portions of the title were a bit unbalanced, and the game itself didn't LOOK approachable. But seeing the accoutrements of Small World, and knowing the pedigree of Days of Wonder's - a publisher known for approachable and high quality titles - we have faith that this title will make quite a splash.
For more information about Small World, please checkout our previous stories:
Use the touchscreen to drag and drop animals and vending stalls into your zoo
Drag the "roller blind" from the top to gain an overview of your zoo and the zoos of the other players
Unlock new player characters and future add-ons in the integrated shop
3D-view for zoos, animals and vending stalls
Animations and sounds of the animals makes you feel like you are in a zoo
Learn exciting details about all animals from the game in the encyclopedia
Play against the computer or up to 4 other players (Pass'n Play)
iZooloretto is slated for release in "April 2009", which is sometime between now and the next 2 weeks -- we worked that out for you in case a panda accidentally ate your calendar. So look for the game to soon appear in your Grocer's Freezer (ala the Apple App Store)
Alright Grognards, listen up. A new independent Wargame Magazine just made its presence on the net, and it's available for order before its official launch at the end of April. Battles Magazine is slated to deliver 124 color pages of wargame news, reviews, scenarios and interviews about three times a year.
Battles Magazine is a collaboration of war gamers seemingly from England and France who banded together to create a publication that ships worldwide. We should mention the cost of the issues are listed in Euros. If you order the first issue before April 20th then you can nab it for 20 Euros, instead of the standard 26 Euro cover price It's a bit of a hit on the wallet, but given the amount of the content in each, and the quality we see in the previews, it makes us feel it's gonna be worth the price of admission.
The premier release also includes a wargame "Striking the Anvil" about the liberation of southern France in 1944, complete with map, chits and rules. A Striking the Anvil plugin for Vassal is also slated for release, so you know these guys mean business. Additionally, the next 2 issues - slated for release in September and December - will also include a new games, too, including Rome v Gauls, and the Vietnam War battle of Hue.
Looks like great stuff. We wish the folks there the best of luck with their new enterprise.
We assume that by now you've ripped through all the shiny foil wrappers that separated you from your WoW TCG Blood of Gladiators cards, and you're elbow deep in a slew of arena grudge matches.
But is you savant friend still kicking the snot out of you with his uber hero, even with your new collection? Yeah, we know the type, and yeah, we hate him as much as you.
Its time to gather up all your UDE Point / Tradegood cards and give your favorite hero that extra oomph that might push your guy over the edge. The following are this set's custom crafted armor, created by sending in a mass of your collected Trade Good cards as part of the Blood of Gladiator Crafting Redemption Program.
You haven't been throwing those things away, have you??
New York Times' Masters of the (Tabletop) Universe
That old rag The New York Times - perhaps you've heard of it - has a nice piece called "Masters of the (Tabletop) Universe" about a crew of gamers in Long Island. There's nothing especially abnormal about the group, like they don't have angry ticks flying out of their nose, and they're not able to juggle Linda Ronstadt albums lite ablaze with nail polish (as far as we know), but that's the point.
The article tracks one gaming group to serve as an example of all the gaming groups who meet monthly across the country in their respective communities. I's about the draw of the group, who joins them, and what games they play.
Here's a snippet:
"The tone of play was cordial. Players prefer to win, but they can afford to lose. "We don't play to become Olympic gamers," Mr. Palermo said. "We play for fun."
Members adopt distinct strategic personalities. Those like Bill Herbst tend to hammer at people's minds. Someone will make a play and he might say, "Gee, I wouldn't do that." He is viewed by others as a disarming back-stabber at the game board, adept at applying the knife just when it will hurt the most."
And being an Anniversary Edition, we're thinking that this may be a one time dealio. They probably wont spin-up the presses in 2010 for an 2008 released 25th Anniversary Edition. We wouldn't be going out on a limb to say we won't see an Axis & Allies release this big again for a decade or more, either. After all, this thing sports a 8 square foot board, rebalanced with two new factions, custom dice, custom pieces, new gameplay mechanics and units, the works.
The love that went into this title might never be matched in another A&A game (you can read all about the details of the game in our Release Story from in November '08)
So we're giving you a heads up. You can still find a few copies on Ebay every once in a while, and still at the MSRP to boot. But their getting rare, and the retailers are jacking up the price like its the Cuban Missile Crisis, so act now.
We can safely say that this month we're become completely addicted to Empire Total War. While it's technically not a board game, we believe we've fairly equated it to a living board game on your PC, and the fact that it oh-so-sweetly mixes strategy, tactics, and historic content, makes it the best game released last month in any medium. We'll continue to post tips for those who are interested, and links the user created modifications that give an already exciting game that extra edge.
On the actual board game front, this March saw the release of Age of Conan, another strategy war game from the folks who brought us The War of the Ring. Thankfully unlike its spiritual predecessor, Age of Conant is easier on the rules, easier to setup, and well, easily fits in a game night session. Well done FFG.
And of course, while it only just came out, we can't fail to mention that our favorite collectible game is back kicking butt after a 5 month hiatus. The World of Warcraft TCG release Blood of Gladiators hit store shelves last week with new Arena themed gameplay which should lead up nicely to the new PvP game mode slated for release this summer by Upper Deck. We'll have our thoughts on Blood of Gladiators as soon as we've been able to fully put the game through its paces.