July 28, 2008

Shadows Over Camelot: Merlin's Company Expansion

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Days of Wonder have packaged and shipped Merlin's Company [Amazon, Funagain], the first true expansion to the popular cooperative board game Shadows Over Camelot [Amazon, Funagain]. The expansion ratchets up the difficulty, where quests are a bit more vicious, witches now are on the prowl, and new set of knights characters aren't quite battle as hardened and - let's say - full of testosterone and backhair when compared to their counterparts from the original Shadows over Camelot board game.

Oh, and to make things even more difficult and full of paranoia, now a second traitor might be in the players mists. Stay frosty.

For more information on the new Shadows over Camelot: Merlin's Company rules you can read the Official Rules [PDF], or check-out our previous coverage in our Merlin's Company announcement story.

Here are the official details:


"The swallows have long departed, replaced by sinister crows of dark omen. The land has grown more desolate, and travel ever more dangerous since a traitor was discovered in our midst. Rumor has it that Merlin himself is now scouring the plains around Camelot, rallying new knights to our cause. But will that prove enough to counter Morgan's newly assembled coven of witches?

Merlin's Company is an expansion for the popular Shadows over Camelot board game. It introduces a host of new characters -- including 7 new knights and Merlin himself -- to the Shadows over Camelot epic. The wise old wizard is now a full-blown independent character in the game, complete with his own figure. He travels the board lending guidance and a helping hand to the embattled knights.

Merlin's Company also introduces 63 new cards: the all new Travel cards -- events that may occur as you move from Quest to Quest; additional Black cards, including 7 witches allied with Morgan; and additional White cards that will help you and your fellow knights in your battles against the forces of evil."


Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

July 25, 2008

Ticket to Ride: Europe Comes to Xbox Live

TicketToRideEurope.jpgThat was fast. Hot on the heals of release of Ticket to Ride: Xbox Live, which launched just a month ago, the release of Ticket to Ride Europe has been announced, and it's just a week away. On next Wednesday, July 30th, Ticket to Ride: Europe [Amazon, Funagain] will hit the Xbox Live Arcade Marketplace for 600 Microsoft points, and be available as add on content to the original Ticket to Ride Xbox Live. Wednesday can't come soon enough.

Ticke to Ride Europe is the second installment in the series, which moves the map 3,000 miles eastwards and is set in the European age of rail in the early 20th century. Like the original, players compete against one other to gain the most victory points, gained from playing sets of colored cards to complete individual train routes, and by stringing these routes together to complete pan European destinations drawn randomly from a deck. However, there are a few new mechanics that mix up the game, for the better.

For one, the destinations are drawn from one of two decks: either short routes, or long routes, or you could draw from both. This balances out the route mechanics so you're not tragically stuck trying to connect Seattle to New York with only 10 cars left in the late game.

Also new to the series are Train Stations which you can place on the board use an opponent's train route to help complete one of your destinations. These pieces come at a cost: You must discard cards, lose a turn, and dock yourself 4 victory points, so use them wisely.

TicketToRideEuropeBoard.jpgFinally Ticket to Ride Europe includes two new routes types: Ferries and Tunnels. The Ferry routes hug the coast of the Mediterranean, and connect England to France and Holland, and Scandinavia to mainland Europe. Unlike standard routes, Ferry Routes require at least 1-2 of locomotive wildcards to complete, in addition to standard train cards.

The Tunnel routes plow through the Alps, and offer some random risk to their completion: the player who wishes to complete a tunnel first plays the cost of the route, say 3 Blue Train cards. He/she then flips the top 3 cards off the top of the train deck, and must pay an additional card for each Blue card that's revealed. This can be nasty for ill prepared, or those players who are scrambling to complete a tunnel route before their competition beats them to the punch. Some Ticket to Ride aficionados dislike this mechanics, but we think they spice up the game, and we love 'em.

We'll let you know when Ticket to Ride Europe finally hits the Marketplace. Sometimes these releases are delayed at the last minute, but we hope that doesn't happen in this case. Hopefully we'll see some of you online!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

July 18, 2008

World of Warcraft The Adventure Board Game Hits Stores

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A new installment to the World of Warcraft line of games has just hit shelves with World of Warcraft the Adventure Game [Amazon, Funagain]. Players chose one of four classes and hit the Eastern Kingdoms t compete against each other. Each player's character grows in ability as they plow through portions of the board, and numerous tiers of monstrous fodder pulled straight from the World of Warcraft universe. The winner is the player who becomes the baddest mofo around (ie: reaches a certain level).

As the adventure moves on players are rewarded with new Ability cards that scale with their character's level. These abilities can be used to aid in combat against monsters and bosses. And though the characters aren't in direct competition with one another, the players can use numerous ability cards to hinder an opponent's progress.

The game is much simpler than the previous World of Warcraft big box board game from Fantasy Flight, which sometimes required a Mentat, Abacus and a Bottle O' Scotch to play. The previous title came with some unwanted combat baggage, including a lot of downtime between turns. Unfortunately, although smaller in scope, the World of Warcraft the Adventure Game continues to have also has some downtime problems of its own. They're nothing serious thankfully - some turns may by 5-10 minutes long on your first go - and after a while that time decreases with familiarity of the rules.

Additional drawbacks include a limited number of characters classes to chose from: Hunter, Mage, Warrior, Warlock, and only a few races so toying with racial bonuses and mixing them with various classes is just not present.

Thankfully the game works, and is fun for WoW fans that aren't die hard enough to slog through the previous board game - which took an entire day to play. If you're looking for more info then there's read a great series of user feedback in this Board Game Geek forum post. More information about the game's mechanics can be found on the Fantasy Flight Games' World of Warcraft the Adventure Game Support Materials page, which includes the instructions and FAQ in PDF format, and 5 preview articles written the staff and designers of the game.

Here are the game's official details:


World of Warcraft: the Adventure Game is an exciting and fast-paced journey through the world of Azeroth for 2 to 4 players. Choose your favorite hero and embark on an epic journey from humble beginnings to immense power, battling vicious monsters, powerful overlords, and your treacherous fellow players! Will you be the mightiest hero in all the land?

World of Warcraft: the Adventure Game includes:

  • 1 Rulebook
  • 1 Game Board
  • 4 Plastic Figures
  • 108 Bridge-sized Cards, including:
    • 16 Character Cards (four per character)
    • 92 Ability Cards (four decks of 23)
  • 224 Small Cards, including:
    • 18 Starting Quest Cards
    • 30 Elite Quest Cards
    • 16 Trophy Cards
    • 160 Challenge Cards (four decks of 40)
  • 1 Blue Movement Die
  • 2 Combat Dice (one red and one black)
  • 4 Challenge Deck Organizers
  • 106 Cardboard Tokens, including:
    • 10 Encounter Markers
    • 20 Discovery Markers
    • 32 Damage Tokens
    • 4 Bag Tokens
    • 4 Quest Log Tokens
    • 36 Character Tokens (nine per character)

The World of Warcraft Adventure board game is now shipping from Amazon and Funagain Games.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

July 14, 2008

Game Table Online becomes Free Gaming Service

10DaysInAfrica.jpgGame Table Online has been alive and kicking for a while, but as an online subscription service only. Today Game Table Online has opened its doors to everyone for free. All you have to do is register and you'll have access to their suite of their online board games.

Their collection includes the classics such as Chess, Checkers, Backgammon, the works, but also includes some Eurogames to boot. The site hosts an online adaptation of the award winning Tigris & Euphrates, 10 Days in Africa, New England, and the 1965 classic Nuclear War. They also has some card games like Condottiere, a modern - and importantly, fun - adaptation of the classic War card game we grew up on.

All you need to do to start playing with your friends is to register your email address, and you're in. Enjoy!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

July 9, 2008

Settlers of Catan: Traders & Barbarians Expansion

CatanTradersBarbarians.jpg
Catan: Traders & Barbarians [Amazon, Funagain] expands the general gateway board game of choice Settlers of Catan, and in a very convincingly way. The expansion not only ships with a boat load of new pieces and mechanics, but it sports 5 new scenarios as well. Plus, it works with the past expansion, and even includes a variants booklet to boot.

Some of these scenarios are throwback to past mini-expansions that you may not have picked up. The first scenario The Fishermen of Catan, and the second The Rivers of Catan, are either repackaged or revamp expansions that shipped in Games Quarterly Magazine issues dating back to Spring of last year. The rest of the scenarios change the game up considerably, including players struggle against a barbarian invasion while they attempt to rebuild the now castle city-state of Catan, an island that has come a long way since the original.

We should note that this edition is part of the new 4th Edition Line of Settlers of Catan that started shipping in November 2007 with revamped art and upgraded materials. If you don't have the 4th edition then don't sweat - either Catan: Traders & Barbarians will work fine, or you'll need to get the 4th Edition Ddapting Kit. Here's an official tidbit form a May Fair Games repot posting in the BGG Community Forums:

"...most of [Traders & Barbarians] will be 3e-compatible directly out of the box, but some scenarios will require the frame from the 4th edition base, obtainable in the adapter kit for 3rd edition owners.

Three familiar pieces are in this box: the Catan event deck (basically unchanged), the Fishermen of Catan (expanded from the previous stand-alone version) and the Great River of Catan (greatly expanded from the previous version). Official 2-player rules are also included in the 4 variants and 5 scenarios.

Lotsa wood pieces and bits, and scenarios ranging in weight from simple to C&K-challenging - there's a lot to explore!" - Alex Yeager, Mayfair Games


A bit confusing, but it's not so bad. Basically if you're a Catan Nut but don't have the 4th Edition then you might want to pickup the adapter kit just to be safe. And without further adieu, here are the Settelers of Catan: Traders & Barbarians Expansion official details:
"Delve deep into Catan! In Catan: Traders & Barbarians™ you'll find lots of cool new ways to explore Klaus Teuber's award-winning game series. You can now play with just 2 players! Add a harbormaster, a friendly robber, or special events. Play with a wealth of new wooden pieces and capabilities.

You can even link your games to create an intriguing campaign. Use these 4 variants and 5 scenarios to reinvent your Catan experience!

5 Challenging New Scenarios:

  • The Fishermen of Catan- Fish in the great lake or try casting in rich coastal shoals. A fresh, expanded, and updated version!
  • The Rivers of Catan- Not one, but two, great rivers invite flourishing commerce. Bridge them en route to glory and wealth.
  • The Caravans- Nomads of the oasis seek wool and grain. Camel caravans offer trade.
  • Barbarian Attack- Eager for booty, vile barbarians land and occupy Catan's fertile shores. Brave knights unite and ride to battle.
  • Traders & Barbarians- Your wagons transport fine marble, glass, tools, and sand to help restore Catan's castle to splendor. Combine these rich scenarios to create a compelling campaign!

Contains:

  • 24 wooden knights
  • 12 wooden bridges
  • 36 wooden barbarians
  • 22 wooden camels
  • 4 wooden wagons
  • 40 coin counters
  • 14 new region and water tile pieces
  • 120 new cards

  • Special victory point cards and tokens
  • Variants and scenarios booklet

With 98 new wooden game pieces in 5 colors and flavors!"

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

July 7, 2008

Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries Coming This Fall

TicketToRideNordicCountries.jpg

By now you know: we love the award winning board game franchise Ticket to Ride [Amazon, Funagain], and coming this fall we'll be rolling up our sleeves to play a title that was once only available for sale in Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway! Days of Wonder has decided to lift the publishing restrictions and Ticket to Ride Nordic Countries will be in stores all over the board game playing world this fall!

Now we haven't had the opportunity to get our hands on the Nordic Countries edition, but it's been well-received on BGG . This installment has your basic tunnel building and passenger ferry elements from Ticket to Ride Europe, but now you have a twist on the wildcard options: you can now use 4 cards of any one color as a single wildcard when completing a route of another color. Meanwhile Locomotive cards are the new tunnel and ferry builders. You can also now draw two faceup locomotive cards on your turn, and from the looks of the board - which is a crowded collection of tunnels and coastal routes - you're really going to need gobs of Locomotives to make your connections.

This quirky little mixup in mechanics and a new well-balanced board for 2-3 players anchors this new installment, which should keep us satiated on Ticket to Ride goodness throughout the fall and winter.

For some unknown reason we just don't get sick on of this game!

Here are the official details:

TicketToRideNCBoardSetup.JPG

"Ticket to Ride Nordic Countries takes you on a Nordic adventure through Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden as you travel to the great northern cities of Copenhagen, Oslo, Helsinki and Stockholm. Visit Norway's beautiful fjords and the magnificent mountain scenery on the Rauma Railway. Breathe in the salt air of the busy Swedish ports on the Baltic Sea. Ride through the Danish countryside where Vikings once walked. Hop-on the Finnish railway and travel across the Arctic Circle to the land of the Midnight Sun.

Players collect cards of various types of train cars that enable them to claim railway routes and pass through tunnels and onto ferries, as they connect cities throughout the Nordic Countries.

As with previous versions, the game remains elegant, can be learned in 5 minutes and provides hours of fun for families and experienced gamers alike.." - Days of Wonder

Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries is slated to ship September 2008, and is now available to preorder from Funagain Games.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

July 3, 2008

Tribune - A Board Game of Roman Political Infighting

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Fans of both Pillars of the Earth and the Set Collection genre of games like Ticket to Ride listen up! Publisher Fantasy Flight Games has just released the eurogame Tribune [Amazon, Funagain, StarlitCitadel], a game set in Ancient Rome that squishes both styles of games together, and quite successfully to boot.

In Tribune players draft through a turn order and place their various pieces on the board. Depending on which areas a player elects to control, they will draw cards, and earn and spend money. Cards are drawn from various themed portions of the board, including the Roman Forum, Slave Market, and even from political intrigue occurring in the public Latrine. Those Romans knew a good time.

The goal is collect colored cards into your hand, and the play sets of the same color to influence 1 of 7 major factions that makeup the board. With influence won, each faction rewards the controlling player with themed set of special abilities.

The turn order drafting and placement is Pillars-esque, but to win you need to collection sets of colored cards like Tickets. It's literally the best of both worlds, just replace the trains with axe wielding gladiatorial slaves that fight for gold and well... there you are.

TribuneBoard.jpgFor an in-depth review and initial feedback from the gaming audience check out this fantastic Review by Jason Cheng in the Board Game Geek forums. Here are the official details from Fantasy Flight Games:

"Poor or rich, strong or weak, Patrician or Plebeian, hear the word of the Tribune! He is one of you, but he is the Tribune, he is the primus inter pares -- the first among equals!

Welcome to the most impressive metroplis of the ancient world -- Rome. A city full of life, with inhabitants of many differences. But beneath those differences they had one thing in common -- they were Romans.

Play as one of the great patrician families which held great power and influence. Gain control over the seven factions of the city which hold control over many aspects of Roman culture.

In Tribune, you try to become the most powerful family in Rome. Will the Legions stay faithful? Will you be honored with the favor of the Gods? Will you even get the title of Tribune? Get ready to rewrite history!"
Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

July 1, 2008

Vikings Played Board Games in Death. No Seriously.

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A pair of scientists have been hard at work excavating a Viking Boat Grave in Sweden over the past few months, and look what they found!

"The excavation uncovered 23 very rare amber gaming pieces, which illustrates the lifestyle of the family buried there, as well as their pagan beliefs in relation to the afterlife.
...
They also tell us that playing board-games, a popular pastime among the Viking warrior elite, was something the dead were believed to do, perhaps on their way to the afterlife, he added."

We're not quite sure how the boat grave survived its viking funeral, or how 23 rare artifacts survived the blaze, either, but this evidence substantiates something we've known all along: We love Vikings. Not only did they drink like nobody's business, but they threw down a good board game often enough to want to play Twigiht Imperium on the other side. Right on.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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.
"
Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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!"

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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