April 6, 2009

New York Times' Masters of the (Tabletop) Universe

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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."


What group would be intriguing without at least one backstabber?

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

April 3, 2009

Axis & Allies Anniversary Edition is Almost Gone

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Over the last few days we just noticed that it's getting hard to find a good deal on the mammoth Axis & Allies Avalon Hill 50th Anniversary edition [Amazon, Funagain] . We did some poking around Amazon and Troll and Toad and noticed that the game has actually gone up on price by about 30% already. Someplaces it's up 100%. Considering that this title came out only 5 months ago, that's saying something.


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.

Good luck. And have a good weekend!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

March 26, 2009

5 Tips for Empire Total War Beginners

TotalWarRedVBlue.jpgEmpire Total War has been out for a few weeks now. It's topping the sales charts so we know that a lot of people are enjoying this title as much as we are. That's a good thing, because the grand strategy Total War franchise has been quite overlooked over the years if you ask us.

With its success comes gobs of new players. Since the game sticks you in the middle of of 18th Century Europe complete with empires ready to explode across national boarders, and the colonization of the new world at your finger tips, we thought we'd give you some quick tips to increase your early game survivability a ton:

1: Start Small, Start Landlocked
The world is a busy place when you start, and it may feel like the game has strapped lampchops onto your arms and legs and slowly lowered you into a pool of sharks when you first startup a campaign. You've got to learn a lot,and fast: Who are your friends? Wheres my money coming from? What buildings should I upgrade? Do I have any religious enemies? Which borders do I have to protect? Who should I attack without gaining the ire from an allied super power? I have colonies in India AND America?! Sweet crap, how do I keep track of all this stuff?

Well thankfully you can make things a bit easier on yourself by picking a 'easy' nation during the campaign selection screen. If you're feeling lost then definitely don't pick England, France or Spain; they have enough going on in any one turn that would make a dolphin seasick. We recommend selecting the Ottomans, Prussians, Russians, Austrians or Swedish. Most of these nations are either land locked, have their back to the wall, or generally are in a strong position at the beginning of the game. Prussia starts with only 2 territories at first so we'll also offer this little nugget of goodness: Sweden is a goldmine, so head north and you'll have gobs of money coming in, AND you'll have an easy to guard flank.


ArrowContinue reading: "5 Tips for Empire Total War Beginners"

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

March 20, 2009

One Last Battlestar Galactica Hurah

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Tonight is the end of the best show ever aired on the Sci Fi Channel (considering the flotsam that constitutes the rest of that station's lineup, that may actually not quite do the show justice.) We celebrated this week with another go around with the Battlestar Galactica Board Game [Amazon, Funagain], and man, that game only gets better with repeat plays.

We had a pretty interesting experience this time around: one of the skinjob cylons remained hidden amongst the four remaining humans until just the very end. He kept the humans guessing, paranoid and caused infighting through the entire game. He even did a few things to help out the fleet as to obscure his true identity and motives, including once springing one of the humans from the dreaded Brig.

But it all backfired. The humans ended up winning the game. A series of crisis cards and some risky premature jumps kept the turn count low and sprinted the fleet to victory. Sure, it was a close nail-biter, with the population reading a dismal 2 by the end of the show.. err.. game session, but for the first time in our group the Humans prevailed.

So it got us wondering: when exactly is a good time for the hidden cylon player to reveal himself. Does infighting and paranoia keep the humans in a quagmire, or is it advantageous to reveal and go for a dual cylon attack?

After some rambling half-drunken discussion at our favorite bar we came up with the conclusion: it depends. It depends on the level of paranoi, the state of the game, including the number of cylon ships, etc. Or if there are enough other players in the brig that you can keep them there and create havock on the Battlestar with wreckless abandon, like say by purposefully jumping the Battlestar early to kill off some population, or to use the communications room to move civilian ships toward the encroaching cylon raiders instead of away from them.

After all, it might be ok to 'reveal' yourself as a cylon via such treachorous acts even if you don't use the Reveal action to do so. It'll take an entire human turn to stick you in the brig, and perhaps you can cause some applied mayheym in ways that you reveal ability could only dream of.

So we did some poking around the Battlestar Forums to see what other thoughts, and we found this great thread: Battlestar Galactica: To reveal or not reveal?.

It's chalk full of great scenarios where the best thing to do is perhaps not the most intuitive decision.

Enjoy the read, and enjoy the series finale. We'll see you on the other side.


For more information about the Battlestar Galactica board game, checkout out our other stories:

  1. Battlestar Galactica Board Game is Frakking Awesome
  2. 5 Helpful Tips for the Battlestar Galactica Board Game
  3. 5 Tips for Cylons in the Battlestar Galactic Board Game

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

March 18, 2009

Small World Board Game Previews

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The upcoming Small World [Funagain] looks to be Civilization light, or Tempus heavy, and tasks players to lead their own civilization out of the caves and into the light of day. The problem is the age old limitation to budding societies: the world is just too small to support everyone.

Players are therefore tasked with bringing fire and social well being to their civilization of fantasy themed creatures, while beating everyone else's with a sharp nail stuck through a stick.

As we reported last month the publisher Days of Wonder has launched a website detailing the seemingly very approachable game. Recently they've posted a series of preview slide shows that show off the cool facets of the title:

  1. Small World - Overview
    A general what's what, and an introduction to the stylings of the game.

  2. Small World - Races and Special Powers
    Details the various different army types, and how they can very easily mixed and matched with a series of special powers. Quite cool actually, where combining troops, with their own innate abilities, with an over arching special ability can seriously alter the game and player's strategy on the fly.

  3. Small World - The Decline of Civilizations
    Introduces the idea that your civilization pulses through various races as you play. For instance, at some point you pulling the strings on a series of Elves, and found that their time is at an end. You can therefore put them in a "state of decline", limiting their contribution in your empire, but freeing you to adopt an entirely new race / special power combination. In this way the game seems to borrow from the ebb and flow empire building themes of History of the World.

  4. Small World - Playing the Game
    Steps through the turn order. Sure, great to know, but what we found particularlly interesting is that the game is slated to ship with a series of maps, each designed for a set number of players: 2, 3, 4, or 5. That's both fantastic, but also reeks of map expansions. In a good way.

For more information about Small World: checkout our previous coverage "Small World coming this May from Days of Wonder", or checkout the Small World Official Website.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

March 13, 2009

Hab & Gut Board Game Preview on BGN

Hub&Gut.jpgHere's another upcoming German board game import that very well could be a family friendly it. Hab & Gut [Funagain] is all about predicting the rise and fall of stocks on the open market. Each stock is effected by playing cards from player "hands" of randomly dealt cards, with positive and negative numbers adjusting the stock prices. Players can buy low if they can predict a stock may rise, and dump it if the feel another player might send it into the gutter.

We quoted 'hand' because each player doesn't actually have their own personal hand o cards. Instead, picture yourself at a table with cards placed in a scrabble-like rack to either side of you. You can see both sets of cards, but your neighbor to the left shares the left rack with you, and your neighbor to your right shares the right rack. In this way players hands are split in two, each half shared with one other player.

Now there are only a certain number of cards in the game, so a big part of your play is reading your cards, and reading a player's actions to figure out what they might be up to. In this way you can try to spot upcoming trends on how stocks will perform, and get out before you get bamboozled, or get in on a stock deal before another player, or you, sends it skyrocketing.

There are a couple of other cool mechanics to the game, too. We highly recommend you check out the Hab & Gut preview on BoardGameNews.com. It's chalk full of high quality detailed experiences, including how well it balances depending on the number of players involved.

Hab & Gut is slated for release sometime this year -- exactly when isn't yet known. Here are the game's official details:


"Rich is good. Rich and well respected is better according to the thinking of the industrial barons in the game Hab & Gut by Carlo A. Rossi. For 3 to 5 players ages 10 and up, the game is not just about raking in the money, the players must also excel at charity. Because whoever spends too little of his hard-earned wealth is eliminated from the game, regardless of how much money he may have earned."

We'll let you know more about Hab & Gut - which might be the best name ever - once more information about its scheduled release becomes available. Have a good weekend!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

March 12, 2009

Age of Conan Board Game Ships to Stores

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By Crom the day is finally here! The next Fantasy Flight strategy wargame epic Age of Conan [Amazon,Funagain] has begun shipping from stores.

We've been witting about Age of Conan for a while, so we won't talk your ear off about the game's details again. If you'd like to know more about the title then please checkout last week's Age of Conan Previews. Also here are the game's official details:


Thief, barbarian, pirate, king. Robert E. Howard's tales of the exploits and adventures of Conan have inspired generations. The Age of Conan strategy board game allows players to each control one of the four major kingdoms of Hyboria. Command armies, wield dark sorcery, or weave cunning intrigue - all are needed in order to conquer your enemies and make your kingdom the most powerful in the world. Yet, even the most powerful of rulers ignores one man at his great peril. Only one kingdom will harness the volatile alliance of the mightiest hero of all - Conan the Cimmerian!

Age of Conan is a strategy board game for 2-4 players, ages 12+, playable in 90+ minutes. Age of Conan includes:

  • 1 Rulebook
  • 1 Game Board
  • 2 Punchboards of cardboard counters and tokens
  • 7 Fate Dice
  • 6 Contest Dice
  • 168 Plastic figures in 4 sets
  • 1 Conan Figure
  • 1 Conan Destination Marker
  • 165 Playing Cards.

Age of Conan is now available from Amazon and Funagain Games.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

March 6, 2009

Age of Conan Board Game Previews

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World has it from Fantasy Flight Games that the Age of Conan [Amazon,Funagain] board game is done, shrink wrapped, and heading out on flat bed trucks even as you read this now. That means the title should be in stores as early as next week. And it's about time; the game was originally slated for release a year ago. But good things take time, and we're really hoping this one is really, really good.

Age of Conan is done by the same board game group who made the War of the Ring games for the Lord of the Rings franchise. That was a game of deep strategy, luck, massive battles, and often putting everything on the line to just get that one inch closer to victory. Age of Conan seems quite similar, with a grittier setting, and the complexity scaled back a bit with turns being more streamlined.

Of all things, that list bit - about the streamlining - is a welcome change. There was a bubble of FFG titles that were a bit over the top with the painstaking turn length and rules in the mid 2000s. War of the Ring and World of Warcraft became too much of a burden to play after a while. Devoting an entire day to game with such random elements - albeit often an awesome epic struggle - is just not in the cards for us these days. Perhaps we've tired of games like that, or gotten older and slower, or both.

So if you're like us then perhaps you should delve into the preview content of the game over the weekend. There are some general Age of Conan details here, even better are a series of Feature Articles that published on the game's Official Website:

  1. Conan the Barbarian - Force of Nature!
    [A sneak peak at the upcoming Age of Conan - Plus Rules!]
  2. A Designer's Recollections
    [The first part in a 4 part designers diary on Age of Conan]
  3. Direct From The Designer
    [The second part in a four part series on Age of Conan]
  4. The Role of Conan
    [Pirate, Mercenary, General, King... the impact of Conan on the Hyborian world ]


Well let you know when we start seeing Age of Conan [Amazon,Funagain] in stores. Till then - have a good weekend.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

March 4, 2009

Empire Total War Brings 18th Century Warfare to Your PC

The day has finally come. The next historically set Real Time meets Turn Based Strategy game in to the Total War series is finally out. Empire Total War is now available from Amazon and Steam, and we're quite busy conquering central Europe as the Austrians or storming the American beaches in the Revolutionary War to offer much of a comment.

Know this though: The game is huge -- brimming with historical detail and with three connected campaign maps (North America, Europe and India) it's easily the biggest Total War game yet. We're even willing to overlook some of the early AI glitches that cause computer controlled opponents to sometimes get hung up on rock walls amidst the chaos of battle, 'cause sometimes they over compensate on our green buttocks with ambushing tactics from grassy gnolls that take our artillery unawares. The way we see it, their wall hugging problems definitely compensate for our early gross incompetence. We'll consider it a gift from Creative Assembly meant as a window to practice our 18th century military maneuvers for a few weeks before really taking the game seriously.

We'll have more news and reviews about Empire Total War as the sheer grand immensity of this living board game is realized over the next few weeks. Till then, we'll leave you with this shot to the stomach: only the boring predictable pedestrian historians pick England as their first faction. Well, those scalawags and the people who are actually English. No offense intended to them.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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.


Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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