January 28, 2008

A Pillars of the Earth Expansion Witihin a Pillars of the Earth Expansion - It's Full of Stars

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The Pillars of the Earth board game adaptation of Ken Follett's novel is one of our favorite games from last year. In fact, it might be our #1 game of 2007.

We've heard news of a 5-6 player Pillars of the Earth boxed expansion due out this year, which is great because you know - the more the merrier. But then on another front Spielbox Magazine's issue #6includes a 6-card expansion to the main game, which offers furhter depth and also works with the upcoming 5-6 player expansion.

But news has surfaced that the Spielbox expansion will be bundled within the 5-6 player expansion. Check your junk mail filters now; with both expansions together everything will be all tightly bound into one box, both enhancing and expanding our favorite cathedral builder Eurogame for better performance and deeper gameplay.

Information and images of the Spiebox Expansions' cards and rules can be found here on Board Game Geek. We'll keep you posted of when the official Pillars of the Earth boxed 5-6 player expansion hit shelves.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

January 21, 2008

Tide of Iron Days of the Fox Preview Blitz

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Fantasy Flight games continues to churn out the preview coverage of the upcoming Tide of Iron expansion Days of the Fox. Due out sometime this month (January 2008 in case you haven't replaced your desk calendar yet) the expansion brings the tactical WWII board game system to the front lines of the Africa Campaign.

As we already learned in history class, and in the expansions' first preview article, you should expect lots o' vehicles in Africa. Tanks and trucks were largely responsible for moving troops and attacking through the flat North African desert wastes, and many of the Days of the Fox scenarios feature large-scale tank and vehicle battles.

So what better time to introduce the mighty Anti Tank gun to the Tide of Iron system. The allies get the British QF 6-Pounder - not a shabby weapon, but no match for the German Flak 36 88mm. This anti aircraft gun turned horizontal could shoot through a high school and still explode a bus load of nuns parked at a red light on their way to Bingo night. And perhaps the best thing about both of these babies: they can be captured. Storm a gun position with a bunch of brave souls and turn that bad boy around on flanked enemy tank position and you got yourself a party. Read all about them in Anti-Tank Guns in Days of the Fox on Fantasy Flight Games' Tide of Iron website.

The previews continue with Desert, Decks, and Allied Cooperation in Days of the Fox and its look at the new expandable desert-themed boards. And in a nice shift to the somewhat unbalanced command point cards of the original release, some of the Days of the Fox scenarios have the German and Allied players sharing operation decks. Sweet parity.

Tide of Iron Days of the Fox is slated for release this month, and is now available to preorder from Funagain Games.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

January 19, 2008

BattleLore Scottish Wars Marches out of the Highlands

Days of Wonder released their latest expansion pack to their BattleLore Medieval / Fantasy themed wargame system. Now despite there being a bloodcrazed (and probably intoxicated) cow-riding dwarf on the cover of the box, Scottish Wars [Amazon, Funagain] includes mainly historic battles featuring the Scots and their fight against the English during the Medieval Period.

The dwarf figures represent the Scots here, but also serve to fill out the ranks of other fantasy-themed expansions to the BattleLore main set - like the Dwarven Battalion expansion.

We're not quite sure the Scots appreciate being constantly compared the dwarves - we think it stems from a Warcraft II & Shrek-applied relationship from the 1990's and the turn of the century, but that's grown a bit tired over the years. None of us have ever been to Scotland, but we've seen pictures with quarters and pencils used as scale and Scotts simply ain't that short. Call this a superficial complaint, but seriously the Scottish must be on the brink of furious revolt against their oppressors and their slightly-insulting stereotype.

But as usual - we digress. For further details check-out this very detailed BattleLore Scottish Wars post in the BGG forums. It includes extensive information on the expansion's scenarios and the unit details which isn't included in the product literature. The box just ain't that big, kinda like a red bearded Scotsman.

Here's the company line:

"The Scottish Wars expansion takes BattleLore players straight to historical highland battles, but with a new twist -- Dwarven armies. The Scottish Wars feature 42 new figures including: 6 Iron Dwarves Cattle Riders, 8 Iron Dwarves Clan Chiefs, 12 Mounted Knights, and 16 Iron Dwarves Spear Bearers; plus a rules booklet with 5 new adventures -- Stirling Bridge, Falkirk, Bannockburn, Dupplin Moor and Neville's Cross."
Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

January 17, 2008

C-Jump Board Game Mixes Skiing and Computer Programming. Seriously.

Wow. A majority of we Critical Gamers are either computer programmers or in quality assurance. For so long our family and loved ones looked at our computer screens with skeptical reverence, wondering if they'd ever be able to understand what we did. And on our side of the fence we have trouble describing exactly what we do.

You'd think that we'd be excited about any sort of programming-awareness in the normal world. But sometimes peanut butter and chocolate don't mix.

With C-Jump there's a chance to play through the logic puzzles that our rap our noggin's against a tree each day, with the hope of players learning some of the fundamental thought processes of programming. Our initial reaction - though - is that C-Jump goes too far, tipping the scales way too far towards dork. A board game about porgramming, really?? Color us skeptical.

Programming isn't a game. It's a dangerous job that we take very seriously. Thousands of orphans could die, or worse - lose their souls - with a misplaced semi-colon, bracket or dereferenced pointer, and we can't hardly celebrate a game that trivializes our work with simple if-then-else statements, loops and Sorry! pieces.

The title seems like one of the many bad-idea games that came out of the 1960's and 70's, soon to be relegated to the bottom of a gaming pile, filed atop Chicago's Great Blizzard.

Learn more at c-jump.com.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

January 15, 2008

Top 10 Games of 2007 - The Dice Tower Lays it Down

Tom Vasel and Sam Healey of The Dice Tower put their top 10 games of 2007 to paper. Then they go above and beyond with focused lists of games in particular genres and award special achievements to those board game titles that went beyond the call of duty in the last year.

The other lists include Best Children's Game, Strangest Game, Gateway Games, and the most disappointing games of 2007.

Their top games include many titles that we've covered here over the last year, including: Age of Empires III, Zooloretto, Colosseum, Tide of Iron, and Fire and Axe. Don't ever tell us that we're steering you the wrong way.

Though in their eyes we do have to eat a little crow: Starcraft the Board Game from Fantasy Flight Games did make one of the Most Disappointing Games of 2007 list. They can't all be winners, right?

View the complete article here at the Dice Tower.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

Hamburgum - A Great Family Friendly Strategy Eurogame for the Winter

Don't let the funny burger-esque name or the happy-go-lucky German cover art fool you - this game has staying power.

Hamburgum [Funagain] builds a Eurogame cathedral & city builder around the Rondel turn order system, made famous by the war-themed strategy titles of Antike and Imperial.

It goes a little something like this: On your turn you have to chose of one of three free actions before your turn marker. Picking an action progresses you around the Rondel circle to that spot, thus opening up three different actions for your next turn, and making the action you just chose the furthest from being picked again.
And so you go, marching your pawn around a circle as you plan your moves and scheme your way through the game.

The game bridges many sets of players; Hamburgum has no dice - with the Rondel system a player's turn is in their own hands - which means that strategy gamers will be able to plot their moves and react to situations keeping their destiny in their own hands. But there are few rules, and the theme is light, so the game works well in those more relaxing Eurogame settings where strategy and social entertainment shake hands without diluting themselves individually.

ArrowContinue reading: "Hamburgum - A Great Family Friendly Strategy Eurogame for the Winter"

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

January 11, 2008

Rome is in Dire Straits - Commands & Colors Ancients Expands Twice

Even the bloodthirsty Romans yearned for peaceful times. It wasn't all about conquest - sometimes Rome itself was the prize.

The award winning and amazing Commands and Colors Ancients line of wargames just got a whole lot larger today with two new expansions. Each brings new battles to the Roman Empire, and like the Commands and Colors Ancients base set, are aimed for two players to slug it out in about an hour mano e mano.

The C&C system forms the backbone of other wargame hits such as the fantasy wargame BattleLore and the WWII hit Memoir '44, both top of the line systems which seem to be more popular on the commercial front. Critically speaking though, the Command & Colors mechanics breathes life into the Roman era just as much, if not more, in the Ancients series.

Now Ancients is a block game - meaning the formations of units are represented by colored blocks with stickers on them which you push around to form battle lines instead of figurines. This may sound second-class but in reality it goes far to immerse historically-minded players into the ancient battles of Rome. Walls of troops and flanking maneuvers are far more visually obvious, and also physically gratifying as troops move around in formations across the map. The whole thing feels as though you're observing and planning the battle from an overlooking hilltop.

Commands & Colors Ancients: Rome vs The Barbarians [Funagain] kicks things off with 20 new scenarios focusing on Rome and the early Gallic invasion, the Servile War slave uprisings (I'm Spartacus!), and Caesar's conquest of Gaul.

Commands & Colors Ancients: The Roman Civil Wars [Funagain] is the next expansion and includes the bloody Roman on Roman action steming from power shifts within the Republic. Here's a snippet from the official game details:

"The Roman Civil Wars features familiar units with new capabilities. The Roman legions have evolved into the deadly fighting units of legend. In terms of Commands and Colors performance, the medium infantry units (representing less experienced legions) and heavy infantry units (representing the veteran legions) will now be able to move two hexes without engaging in close combat, or still move one hex and have close combat (as well as throwing their pilum -- a capability acquired in Expansion #2: Rome and the Barbarians). You will be able to fight battles with medium and heavy infantry as you have never fought them before!"

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

January 7, 2008

Mayfair Clarifies Settlers of Catan 4th Ed. Compatibility Issues

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Mayfair Games, the publishers behind the deservingly oh-so-popular Settlers of Catan [Amazon, Funagain] line of Eurogames, has posted a Frequently Asked Question page. Currently the FAQ hosts only one interesting question/answer topic: the compatibility of the 4th Edition of Settlers of Catan, the 4th edition expansions, and their 3rd Edition counterparts.

Unless you're an early board game adopter who's way ahead of the curve then chances are you have the the 3rd Edition of Settlers, or the new 4th Edition released just before Christmas. Here's what Mayfair has said about using 3rd Edition expansions with your 4th Edition base set, or 4th Edition Expansions with your 3rd Edition base set:

Q: Can I use my 3rd edition pieces with the 4th edition sets?

A: As has been stated, the tiles are the same size between the two editions, so anything designed to work with 3rd edition tiles should continue to work with 4th edition sets. However, because the new set comes with a frame for the new board (replacing the water tiles), you will be unable to play Catan: Seafarers using 4th Edition base and 3rd Edition Seafarers (4th edition Seafarers includes only the water tiles necessary to add with the frame pieces included).

The resource cards have the same backs as 3rd Edition, but the development cards have changed backs. This means that you cannot mix the cards from 3rd Edition 5-6 Player Extensions and 4th Edition base sets (and vice versa).

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

January 4, 2008

Tide of Iron: Days of the Fox Digs In with Vehicle Details

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This first month of the new year also brings an expansion to one of our favorite approachable War Game Systems from Fantasy Flight Games. Released last year Tide of Iron shipped with configurable boards, 10 scenarios and customizable squads all set in the Western Front of WWII. This year the system expands with Tide of Iron: Days Of the Fox [Funagain] which crosses the Med into the North African campaign, whose land combat - as armchair historians know - was dominated by some massive armor battles.

And in true-form of high quality prerelease coverage, Fantasy Flight Games has posted this detailed article detailing the vehicles slated to ship with the expansion and their historical presence in that campaign:

  • Bedford OY Transport Truck
  • Bren Gun Carrier
  • Matilda
  • Crusader
  • Panzer III
  • Panther

The Panther actually didn't make it into North Africa, but has been included in this set for use in future expansions.

This comes hot on the heals of our recent addiction to Company of Heroes Opposing Fronts, a fantastic squad level expansion to Real Time Strategy game (required) for the PC. If you're interested in the RTS genre, or WWII games, then we highly recommend you picking it up, and the original Company of Heroes. Every night our multiplayer battles replay in vivid detail, floating above our heads like explosive sugar plums and mushroom clouds.

But in the world of the Board Game, Tide of Iron Days of the Fox is slated for a January release, and is available to preorder from Funagain Games.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

December 29, 2007

In the Year of the Dragon Board Game is a Beacon in Dark Times

You might have noticed that we haven't reported on any new Euorgames in a while. This hasn't been due to a lack of effort, or a growing disinterest in that genre of games. Nope - instead there seemed to have been a pretty strong drought of very strong Eurogame releases, and we've been waiting for something like In the Year of the Dragon [Funagain] from Rio Grande Games for quite a while.

The game isn't difficult, but can be pretty tense. Each player in control of a Chinese town around the turn of the 11th century AD, with the goal of becoming one of those most prestigious towns in the empire by expanding their royal court. But players have to balance their royal ambitions with building a healthy robust village of workers and warriors; focusing too much on the aristocracy will leave your town vulnerable to the random events that affect play each turn, including the chances of droughts or the dreaded Mongol invasion. Players are limited to only one or two actions a turn, which makes every turn a pretty tough decision on how you want to lead your town toward survival.

Here are the official details:

"In this game, each player takes on the role of a Chinese prince, seeking to maximize the prosperity and prestige of his province in the ancient China of approximately 1,000 A.D. To assist in these endeavors, the princes must call upon the diverse talents of their courtiers, from scholars and monks to warriors and craftsmen. These loyal subjects will lend their expertise to the struggle to shield their rulers from the often disastrous consequences of the myriad untoward events that plague the populace from month to month. Be it drought, contagion or Mongol invasion, only foresight and planning will spare the princes and their subjects from these fates. The better a player can manage his province and withstand the seemingly unending onslaught of hazardous events, the more honor and victory points he will have to show for it in the end."

The game seems focused on the players struggle for survivial in an increasingly dificult world, full of natural disasters, Imperial taxes and wars. Those groups who like to fight as a beacon of civiliity within a somewhat dark world will find this game entertaining. Those who might not like trying to constantly beat back the odds - and instead consistently work toward the positive goals instead of mitigating negative random event influences might want to checkout the lighter Notre Dame [Amazon, Funagain], which has many similar elements (aside from theme).

And If you would like to know more details about In the Year of the Dragon then checkout this great User Review in the BGG forums.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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