May 27, 2009

2009 Board Game of Year Award Nominees at The Dice Tower

WorldCup.jpgThe boys over at The Dice Tower are game review demigods. Their word is usually the moderate voice of the game community, and they play more games than any reviewer we know.

We'
ve said it before and we'll say it again: these guys seriously know what they're talking about.

So we're stoked to see that some of our favorite games from the last year, and a lot of the games we've focused our coverage upon, have been nominated for numerous categories. Games like Chicago Express, Argicola, Space Alert, and Pandemic, which we've covered. But also games we've fixated on, like Battlestar Galactica which has been nominated for Best Game of the Year, Most Innovative Game, and Best Game Artwork.

We like their criteria, too:


"The purpose of the awards is to:
  • Encourage new developments and innovations in the board game industry.
  • Promote board and card games to a larger audience
  • Award the best games in different categories released each year.
  • Present a slate of games with wide appeal from a variety of genres.
  • Point out games that are simply fun!"

Here's the full list of 2009 Dice Tower Board Game Award Nominees. We'll let you know when the awards are officially.. awarded.

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May 26, 2009

Middle-earth Quest Details Emerge

MIddleEarthQuestBox.jpgThis potential gem of a game was official announced by Fantasy Flight Games about 2 weeks ago. At the time we got the original overarching product info, but now Fantasy Flight has started to post preview articles detailing the title. The first steps through the abilities that makeup the each and every force of good:


"Over the coming weeks we will be diving into the world of Middle-earth Quest. Each preview will feature a new facet of this fantastic game. Starting us off, we focus on the attributes of the heroes facing down the schemes of Sauron. Each hero has much to prove, and will be forced to use every trick they can think of to overcome the evil machinations of Sauron."

The article steps through and describes the stats you'll find on the the unit cards in front of you. They sport the standard lot of fantasy themed dork stats like Strength, Wisdom, etc. What's interesting is that they seem to effect the amount of cards you draw, not just dice rolls.

It's obviously still too early to tell if this game will have the lasting appeal of the recent Fantasy Flight titles. So far, though, so good. It also seems the game will come in a large box, but it won't have mind numbing rules since it's targeting a 13+ audience.

Wait, scratch that. While War of the Ring wasn't over the top, it was pretty freakin' complicated, and that targeted a a 12+ audience. Sometimes Fantasy Flight is just flat our crazy. Not that we don't love them.

Middle-earth Quest is slated for release this Fall.

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May 21, 2009

WoW TCG Arena Grand Melee

WoWTCGArenaGrandMelee.jpgFor better or worse throw away every preconception of what it means to be a World of Warcraft TCG expansion. WoW TCG Arena Grand Melee [Amazon, Funagain] is a hybrid of old and new. In one had. there's the small set of themed cards similar to Feast of Winter Veil and Darkmoon Fair set. However this time around the major theme is that of game mechanic instead of an holiday event: that of preparing your toon for battle in the World of Warcraft Arena.

Prepare Your Face
In WoW (the 'real' WoW), players entering the Arena have a few moments to cast any buff they want, for free. And mirroring that theme is the new Preparation key word introduced in Arena Grand Melee. It's brandished on each Ability and Equipment card within this mini set, and allows each card to be be played for free if you're lucky enough to have it in your hand on your first turn. These cards normally cost around 3-4 resources to play, so if lady luck is shining on you then your game should seriously speed up fast enough to lay some quick smackdown. Alternatively, if you draw these cards later on in your game, then they can be payed for their full price at that point in time. Win/Win.

Well, sorta. Die hard tournament players may find some of these cards aren't worth their full resource prices. There are some better cards out there that do things for "cheaper". Of course, some of these other cards cost 20 bucks on ebay, which is less than this entire set's strike place.

For us, life isn't all about tournament play. If it is for you then you're probably reading the wrong blog, 'cause we're all about sitting back, enjoying a beer, and beating the ego off our friends, not strangers.

Wackiness Ensues
So what, a new expansion with a new keyword, big deal. Well the Arena Grand Melee also ships with a side deck of about 100 cards that are drawn during play. Similar to the Event cards of Boss Battles, these cards inject some randomness to the battle. Some are serious, like damaging specific hero types, etc. There's also some silly cards, too, that are supposed to make things 'more fun'. Like forcing people to whisper through the game, or else suffer the consequences.

We'll try anything once. Considering that there are gobs of cards in the set, were sure that some will make the game pretty freaking interesting, and others we'll just kick to the curb.

Previews
In true Upper Deck fashion the previews are a bit chaotic. On one hand the official WoW TCG website has a series of card previews from the new mini set. This includes the new pair of heroes and the ability and equipment cards that can be placed right into your collection.

Finding official details on the Arena Grand Melee event cards is a bit more tough, but we tracked down a Preview of Cards at Upper Deck's TCG Designer's Blog. Its worth checking out to see if this new game type seems worth your time.

Here are the official WoW TCG Arena Grand Melee Details and Previews:


You want to stand in the grand arena. Do you have what it takes? Are your blades keen and deadly? Do your spells have the ferocity of an archmage? The Gladiators think not. Walk across the sands of the arena and prepare yourself for the greatest test of all. Soon your worth will be revealed!

Opening up an entirely new dimension of the World of Warcraft TCG, Arena Grand Melee adds all-new content, including a new twist on standard play! Now, players each bring a deck from their own World of Warcraft TCG collection and use a shared stack of Grand Melee cards to recreate the chaos that happens when battling in the Arena!

  1. Arena Grand Melee Preview - Heroes
  2. Arena Grand Melee Preview - Are You Prepared?
  3. Arena Grand Melee Preview - Be Prepared
  4. Arena Grand Melee Preview - Prepared, Illidan... Awww You Get It...

WoW TCG Arena Grand Melee is out now, and available to order from Amazon and Funagain Games.

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May 19, 2009

D&D 4th Edition Monster Manual Miniatures: Dangerous Delves

BloodragerTroll.jpg

We've said it before, and we'll say it again, D&D 4th Edition has a lot of great things going for it - streamlined rules, tactical combat, cleaner skills, defined class roles, etc. But one thing that has always been a thorn in our side is that Wizards of the Coast never actually gave us an effective way to represent our characters on a tactical map. This would be a petty complaint if this latest and greatest edition hadn't put so much emphasis on positional combat.

The official solution was for players to sink money into the D&D Miniatures game, which is a closed box booster system so you never know what you're going to get when you hand over your money. This stunk for both the players attempting to find a mini representative of their character, and for DMs trying to collect figures for the monsters and NPCs.

Things shifted slightly toward the positive side in late April with the release of D&D 4th Edition Player's Handbook Miniatures, which had an assortment of populare character class/race combinations. It wasn't perfect though - there were some combos missing, and you had to buy at least three figures in each pack.

Now a similar treatment is being done with 40 monsters in the Dangerous Delves set. The figures have been pulled from the new 4th edition Monster Manuals, with each containing ''one visible figure, always Large; one rare figure, about half are Large; one medium or small uncommon miniature; and two common miniatures.' We should also mention that these figures are actually part of the D&D Miniatures game (tough we don't play it ourselves!)

Further details on how the miniatures are distributed can be found in the set's First Preview Article (all preview articles are linked below):


"We've worked to make it much easier to collect a set. Dangerous Delves contains 40 different miniatures, with 16 rares, 8 uncommon, 8 visible, and 8 common miniatures in the set. A case of miniatures has 8 boosters, and you'll get one of each visible figure in a case. This means collectors won't be stuck with 6 or 8 common miniatures for each rare. The ratio is closer to 1 rare for every 4 different commons."

Unfortunately the series is pretty hard to find online in any way you can deliberately browse and buy a pack with your choice of visible figure (let us know if you find a good place). Best head down to your local hobby store for that. However, if you'd like to at least browse the miniatures, then take a look at the following preview articles which does a great job of cataloging them all.
DangerousDelves.jpg

  • Preview 1: Cyclops, Orcs, Gnoll, Arbalester
  • Preview 2: Unicorn, Medusa Archer, Yuan-Ti Fangblade, Harpy, Snake Swarm
  • Preview 3: Aboleth, Beholder, Foulspawn Grue, Berbalang, Xen'drik Drow
  • Preview 4: Frost Giant, Rust Monster, Blood Scarab, Githzerai, Githyanki
  • Preview 5: Hippogriff, Choker, Bloodseeker Drake, Banshrae Warrior, Ghaele of Winter
  • Preview 6: Bloodrager Troll, Clay Golem, Aspect of Vecna, and a pair of Goblins
  • Preview 7: Gold Dragon, War Devil, Hellstinger Scorpion, Grimlock, Chain Devil


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May 18, 2009

Memoir '44 Bulges East and West

TigersInTheSnow.jpgThe expandable WWII board game franchise Memoir '44 has built-out the franchise's European theater of operations even further. Following the first Battlemap Expansion Hedgrow Hell, the second Battlemap Expansion Tigers in the Snow / Operation Market Garden [Amazon, Funagain] includes 4 new scenarios, 2 new board layouts, and 6 detailed Tiger Tanks pieces. The major scenarios are balanced for 2-8 players, which makes for some pretty sweet gaming night action.

Those mainstream Western Front fans will get the blundering Operation Market Garden scenario, which tasks allied forces in taking and holding a series of bridges in Holland. Somehow Days of Wonder have managed to squeeze all the Dutch bridges onto one map, which doesn't seem entirely accurate, but it looks like a challenging romp of paratroopers and tank convoys all the same.

Still, Western Europe has been done to death, and we're far more excited with the Eastern Front setup. The late war Russian push against Germany includes some of the most amazing armor battles that are sadly missing from a lot of mainstream WWII games, be they on a computer or a board. The Tigers in the Snow scenario has German troops digging in to resist a Russian advance in the Winter of 1944-45. Of course, digging in instead of retreating was Hitler's crazy idea, a decision that was made under protest by the German field commanders, so their forces are understrength and generally not in a good way.

There is some duality in these two scenarios. In Market Garden the allied forces were lacking the tools to take and secure territory on their surprise paratrooper attack. Meanwhile in the other scenario on the eastern front, the tough roll is rotated to the defender's side, where the German forces are on the brink of desertion and must pull themselves together to ward off a massive attack. This contrast could make for some interesting gaming sessions.

The expansion also includes two scenarios for the standard Memoir '44 set. These other scenarios require only one Memoir '44 box to play. Operation Market Garden and Tigers in the Snow both require Memoir '44 and the Operation Overlord expansion, or two copies of Memoir '44. If you want to use the correct Russian pieces, then you could substitue the Eastern Front Expansion as well.

More information can be found at the official Tigers in the Snow / Market Garden websitee. Memoir '44 Battlemap Expansion 2 is now shipping from Amazon and Funagain Games.

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May 14, 2009

Sauron to Throw Some Smackdown in Middle-earth Quest

MIddleEarthQuest.pngPublisher Fantasy Flight Games released the first information about the announced "Middle-earth Quest" adventure game today, expanding upon their suite of Lord of the Rings board game titles. In this latest adaptation of the franchise, players will control three heroes trying to scramble to conceal the truth of the ring during the time it hasn't even left the shire. They'll need help from a lot of the novel's characters, of course, which hasn't quite been detailed yet. Perhaps from character decks and ability cards. Pulling the strings on the other end will be a player controlling the antagonizing forces of dark, attempting to reveal the ring bearer with the powers of Sauron and squash him like the hairy footed ewok he is.

As we hinted at before : details are a bit sparse at this point. We'll keep you apprised of more information as this game begins to take shape. Until then check out the Middie-earth Quest official release announcement.

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May 12, 2009

WoW TCG Arena Grand Melee Previews Begin

KaunoStonehoof.jpgWow, this wasn't quite so expected. Once again the WoW TCG just got interesting, and before the implications of Blood of Gladiators have had enough time to set-in and stain our tablecloth, too.

So what's in store for us in the final expansion set in this cycle of PvP goodness? We'll we're still not completely sure. For one we know that Death Knights will hit the table for the first time, and thats pretty incredible. A whole new class is an extremely nice step (if done well). And now the first hero previews sampled from the standard lot of classes also prove to be extraordinarily promising to boot.

Like the bosses of the WoW TCG raid decks, the flip powers for Grand Melee heroes are on the back of the card. We'll let that sink in for a second. And so far they also seem to be passive, which means you keep reaping the benefits from the onetime upfront cost. How awesome is that?

Start organizing your piles of "flip target hero" cards.

The premier preview article "Arena Grand Melee Preview - Heroes" promotes two hero cards to start with. The first is alliance gnome warrior who gets +1 base attack on her flipped side. No offense folks, but alliance heroes are about as boring as a microwaved poptart.

That's what makes the second hero so awesome. Moonlighting as a 28 health Tauren Druid during the day, the flipped Kauno Stormhoof is an manscaped monster with 40 health on the other. And as the article aptly points out, he's not technically in bear form, which means he remains able to tap his library of cards that apply only when "not in a form," if so desired. Rock.

Grand Melee is slated for a June release, and it can't get here soon enough.

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May 11, 2009

Settlers of Catan Geographies: Germany Reviewed at BGN

CatanGeographiesGermany.jpg

There's a nice review with some great pictures posted over at BoardGameNews.com of Catan Geographies: Germany [Amazon, Funagain], the latest themed edition of the Settlers of Catan franchise.

Settlers of Catan was the gateway game of choice for years. Heck it might still be in some circles. Astute game aficionados will note that it's also the poster child for Eurogames, a movement that came out of Germany over the last few decades that makes for a lighter, more engaging gaming experience when compared to traditional American board games.

But that was years ago (Settlers came out in old school 1996). Catan Germany was published last year in its motherland in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the founding of Germany. In it players race to settle the major cities of the nation and construct historic / cultural landmarks to win victory points. Each of the landmarks is modeled after a true historic landmark in Germany, and list as one of the pluses by the review at BGN is that this installment teaches some Germany history and culture to its players. The game even ships with some supplemental descriptions of the significance of all of the landmarks.. something to read while it's not your turn. For us - as amateur historians - that's pretty cool.

The review at BGN also notes that the board in this installment is much tighter than your father's Catan, which makes for some urgent racing to quickly claim the best locals. Quite the different experience compared to the open ended beginnings of the traditional Settlers installments. Catan Histories:Struggle for Rome had this as well.

Read the rull review here: Geographies: Germany at BoardGameNews.com.

We wonder if these subtitles of "histories" and "geographies" will ever branch out into their own unique family lines of Catan games. Hopefully so, because we find them to be a bit more interesting than yet another round of Settlers. 'Rome' specifically brought a lot more interesting things to the table.

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May 7, 2009

WoW Minis Spoils of War Expansion

WoWMinisSpoilsOfWarBooster.jpgThe first expansion to the tactical and collectible World of Warcraft Miniatures game system is out on store shelves. Spoils of War [Amazon, Funagain] introduces new characters from the Horde, Alliance and Monster factions.

Of course if that were all then this would be a pretty sleepy expansion.
The cool, new interesting stuff comes via the introduction of card type thats distributable to your characters in addition to to the standard spell and ability cards, i.e. Armor and Weapons. After all, what would World of Warcraft be without the l33t equipment gravy train of self advancement?

The new sets of armor and weapons not only have their straight forward uses, like hacking off limbs for the cheap, but they also give your characters new miscellaneous abilities to boot. In fact, they're so powerful that they actually contribute to each character's honor rating, so use them wisely.

And if that's not enough then the new Channeling spell type should change-up tactics nicely. These spells may continue their effect so long as your character doesn't movie. which should make for some very interesting decisions in such a dynamic game where players jockey for position.

The expansion is available in blind boosters packs of three whic promise a common -> epic rarity distrubution, with something substantial in each box. Word has it that the fabrication process has been improved, so here's hoping for better paint jobs for the figures and more accurately modeled UBases that don't reject their figures. Sadly, the set includes no new maps. While this might not bother some, it is pretty disappointing for us (see our WoW Minis Review) and may diminish the amount of time this expansion would hit our table otherwise.

More details about Spoils of War can be found in our WoW Minis Spoils of War Previews page, which has an index to all of the official preview articles and Minis.

Here's the official word:


Adventure into the Outland with the exciting, new characters introduced in Spoils of War, the second expansion set in the World of Warcraft Miniatures Game! Featuring new Epic Characters, Equipment, and Loot Cards, this expansion is offered in boosters containing three randomized, premium, pre-painted miniatures.
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May 6, 2009

Space Alert Board Game Preps for Launch

SpaceAlert.jpg
Fans of cooperative board games, in the strain of Pandemic, Battlestar Galatica and Shadows Over Camelot, have a new franchise to look forward to, and a very unique one at that. Space Alert [Amazon, Funagain] puts players in control of a space ship under a crazy string of disasters, and the players must survive the gamut in order to succeed. So far, sounds like Battlestar Galactica, right?

Well there are a considerable amount of difference. First off, trim the game down from 1-2 hours to about 10-30 minutes. Reluctantly, also remove the idea of a traitor character. There's no time for it anyway, because the game is not only about dealing with crises, but dealing with them fast. That's because the enitre pace of the game is driven by a CD soundtrack which tells you when crap hits the fan.

Yeah, pretty crazy. Each track of the CD has unique pacing and cadence, with its own timing of crises. And when one hits, the CD will tell your group which crisis deck to draw from. The combination of multiple tracks and multiple decks randomizes the game for repeat play. And if that's not enough for you then then are people already forming new MP3 audio tracks, splicing samples from the original CD, to keep things interesting over the long run.

With the CD driving the pace of the game, players must decide how to play the cards from their hand and delegate responsibility to quickly deal with each crisis before the next hit. The randomness of the crises, playing with the hand you're delt, cooperating with your friends to get the job done, and being driven by a randomized sound track, have made Space Alert one of the most anticipated cooperative board games for 2009.

And it's slated to ship this month. Joy.


"Space Alert is a team survival game. Players take on the role of a crew of space explorers sent out through hyperspace to survey a dangerous sector of the Galaxy.The spaceship automatically maps the sector in 10 minutes. The crew's task is to defend the ship until the mission is complete. If they succeed, the ship brings back valuable data. If they fail... it is time to train a new crew.

Space Alert is not a typical board game. Players do not compete against each other. Instead, they work together against the challenge presented by the game. The difficulty of this challenge can be chosen by the players themselves. Completing the most difficult missions requires close teamwork."


Space Alert is currently available for preorder from Amazon and Funagain Games. For more information also checkout the Space Alert page on BGG. We'll let you know as soon as it hits shelves this month.

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May 5, 2009

WoW TCG Death Knights Coming this June

ArthasDeathKnight.jpgThe World of Warcraft Trading Card Game has been our TCG of choice for two years now. Even so, there are been points where we feared the game's stagnation, but just as those fears became frustrations, Upper Deck injected something new to not only hold our attention, but excite us to boot.

Now they just dropped a whopper. We had already begun questioning why the Death Knight - a class introduced to World of Warcraft via the Wrath of the Lich King expansion of the MMORPG - hadn't arrived in the WoW TCG. Well now have to wait just two short months before we get our grubby hands on them.

In the final part of "Caverns of Time - Our History Thusfar" - a WoW TCG and WoW Mini restrospective and state of the union - Upper Deck has announced that a the new Death Knight class will be introduced in the next WoW TCG set this June. Here's the snippet containing the details near the end of the article:


"Even with nearly three full years of sets and products in the books for the World of Warcraft games, the games show no signs of stagnation or slowing down. Wrath of the Lich King's release shattered record books for Blizzard Entertainment and video gaming as a whole, much due to the introduction of the incredible Death Knight class. From the corpses of those slain by the Forsaken, the Death Knights in the TCG will be released this June. The plate-wearing, disease-spreading hybrid class will be the tenth class in both the Minis and TCG games. Plus, as always, we have infinite more loots to slip into packs of our WoW Minis and WoW TCG product. Who knows what items will be available in the future? All I know is that our WoW MMO characters want them ASAP!"

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May 4, 2009

Axis & Allies Spring 1942 Announced

AASpring1942.jpgAxis & Allies fanatics who missed their chance at the gigantic monolith off Avalon Hill 50th Anniversary Edition goodness (its single printing sold out last month) may get a chance to redeem themselves, at least partially. The newly announced Axis & Allies 1942 edition incorporates new rules and pieces introduced by last year's Anniversary Edition, but reduced down to normal Axis & Allies size.

While the standard size means the game will clock-in at the reasonable ~$30 price tag, the scaling obliterates the intricate board layout of Anniversary. Instead the title will adopt 2004's Axis & Allies Revised board layout.

We understand why this happened -- you can't shrink an intricate board and expect the layout to remain the same, but it makes us sad all the same. Anniversary has some great nuanced territory layouts that does some amazing things in the Pacific theater with its new frontier battles in China, and the addition of Italy as a faction was a breath of fresh air as well.

It's said that the 1942 Edition will become the new de facto Axis & Allies much like Revised did half a decade ago. So, seemingly, the advancements of Anniversary might be lost forever. Try to get your hands a copy of that one if you can (check ebay), 'cause they certainly will be THE collectors item in a few short years. And if not, then be satiated by what will surely be another great experience.

Here are the board game details so far:


Axis & Allies celebrates it's 25th Anniversary in August of 2009 with a new and updated edition of it's original classic game. Axis & Allies 1942, designed and developed by Larry Harris, will utilize the updated rules established in A&A Anniversary Edition. Cruiser class ships will make their debut in A&A 1942, forever changing the naval line-up. Newly sculpted playing pieces and all new packaging will position this game as the cornerstone of the Axis & Allies game line for years to come. Decide the fate of a nation in a few short hours!

Axis & Allies: Spring 1942 details:

  • Rulebook updated by Larry Harris, creator of the Axis & Allies game system
  • Packaging, play components, and game board map feature updated art
  • 370 game pieces featuring refreshed sculpts plus new models for cruisers
  • Updated naval unit rules as debuted in Axis & Allies Anniversary Edition


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May 2, 2009

Critical Gamers' April 2009 Board Game Roundup

CatanGeographiesGermany.jpgMan, quite a busy month int the board gaming world. Some high quality titles were announced, like a new Settlers of Catan installment, new WWII Miniatures for Wings of War, and the next set of WoW Minis started grabbing the preview spotlight.

Shipping news centered around the 4th Edition of the cult classic Talisman receiving its first expansion, and the family friendly civilization growing Small World, which has gotten some really strong preliminary reviews. It's currently clocking nearly an 8 on BGG, and that's quite impressive.

By the time you read this we'll already be elbow deep in our first annual board gamefest in the hills of Montpelier Vermont. On slate we'll be playing gobs of Imperial, Pandemic, Axis &Allies 50th Anniversary Edition, WoW TCG, Talisman, and some Battlestar Galactica, of course. We'll try to upload some shots if any good ones come through the Cheetos encrusted lens.

Otherwise, here's to a good May!

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