November 11, 2007

Critical Gamers 2007 Holiday Gift Guide - Wargame Board Games and Card Games

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For more great gift ideas across all genres of games please see our
Holiday Gift Guide Index

In our third installment of our series of 2007 Holiday Gift Guides we take a look into the titles the wargamers will eat-up this December. 2007 has a been a great year for some blockbuster wargame releases, and as usually they're centered around the great WWII. One - Tide of Iron - is our latest favorite wargames becuase it's a complete system, so its the gift that keeps on giving.

But we realize that it - and other war games - are more complicated than others, and a player usually is interested in a particular level of complexity when they sit down to capture that hill. So to that end we made our selections ascend a ladder of complexity. Titles at the top of list will fit those interested in the lighter side of war gaming - like Risk fans - and those at the bottom of the list have no qualms about slapping down a ruler to determine unit line of site, or checking for artillery hit effects in a 2d6 dice chart.

Enough talk, here are our selections for Best Wargming gifts for the 2007 Holidays:

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November 9, 2007

Critical Gamers 2007 Holiday Gift Guide - Strategy Board Games

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For more great gift ideas across all genres of games please see our
Holiday Gift Guide Index

It's true - the Holidays are coming - and in our ongoing series of 2007 Holiday Shoppers Guides we hope to arm you with the knowledge you'll need to buy that killer game for your friends or loved ones.

In part two of our Holiday Shopper Guides we look into gifts for the Strategy Gamer. These are the folks who grew up playing Chess, Stratego, and the classic Diplomacy, and are now ready for evolved games with better themes and potentially deeper gameplay.

Most of these games are for the more serious gamer who in their mid-teens and up. If you're looking for a title to fit the younger generation or pickup a mainstream game then you should checkout our 2007 Family Games Holiday Gift Guide, which lists some greats games that are more relaxed and interest a wide range of player types. For those of you looking for strategy war games:we ask you to wait until next week when we run down our list of the best war gaming gifts for this year.

But those who want some great standup strategy games then look no further. We've got quite a list here, including many award winners which should satisfy any strategy gamer when they tear off the wrapping paper come late December.

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November 8, 2007

Settlers of Catan 4th Edition Released

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Mayfair Games has released the next edition of probably the most popular gateway Eurogame of all time: Settlers of Catan [Amazon, Funagain]. This Fourth Edition doesn't change the mechanics of the game, but is manly a face lift with new materials and a lot more art great for upgrading anyone's worn copy with something fresh. Each tile now sports a unique illustration, which should go quite a ways to making the entire island for that much more alive. Also released is the 5-6 player Expansion [Amazon, Funagain] with sports similar art and pieces for those who like the play the game in larger groups.

If you're new the whole Settlers of Catan thing then you're in for a treat. Check out this great online introduction from Mayfair Games' official website. It's a nice and quick visual introduction to the rules and mechanics of the game that has inspired a gaming revolution in the states, both on the designer and player front.

As a perk to the 4th edition release Mayfair Games has thrown in a nice little trinket that we'll especially appreciate. We are usually pretty jittery on game nights, or potentially a bit clumsy if playing a round of Settlers after a few glass of wine at a dinner party. Inside the 4th edition box is a locking mechanism that cradles the board and ensures that the tiles don't fall out of place with a clumsy hand movement bumps the board, or a roving dog knocks against the table. It's the little things in life.

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November 7, 2007

Axis & Allies Guadalcanal: Near Release Preview Blitz

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We’re are beginning to get more details on this year’s installment of the Axis and Allies franchise: Axis & Allies Guadalcanal [Funagain] as we march closer to its release on November 16th. First a new feature article has been written by the A&A lead designer Larry Harris, and then some news follows that with AxisandAllies.org who has gotten their lucky hands on a review copy of the game and started releasing some preview articles of their own..

The Larry Harris feature article A Guadalcanal Diary sets the mood on the Avalon Hill official website website This isn't a standard developer's release diary, but instead 'diary' refers to his father’s war diary which was written when he served in the navy during World War II and includes notes and reflections on his experiences of the true battle of Guadacanal. Mr Harris (out of respect) has created a great series of Axis & Allies games reaching far into our early years of gaming, but this latest installment - which includes the first major American Marine action in the Pacific - strikes home for him more than any other to date.

At that time the American forces were only just starting out on their strike-back campaign against the Japanese Empire, who had all the momentum and combat experience heading into the fight. Moreover, at this point in thime the conclusion of the war was far from inevitable, and this first major land, air and navy coordinated offense pitted the green American forces against a very balanced and tough Japanese defense. The table was set for a for a difficult struggle from both sides.

Of course this lends itself perfectly to the opening of a classic strategy board game. And our friends over at AxisandAllies.org have started churning out the preview articles of the game itself. We've reported on Part 1 before, so don't do a double take. Part 3 is where we think things become really interesting. Here they are to date:

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November 5, 2007

Starcraft the Board Game

Starcraft the board game is out! Published by Fantasy Flight games, Starcraft [Amazon, Funagain] extends the collection of deep strategy titles of the publishers big box series of well-themed strategy war games. Supporting up to 6, players of Starcraft the board game take on the role of Human space marines, the zealous and high tech alien race of the Protoss , and the brooding insect-like Zerg as they fight over a board comprised of dynamically placed planetary systems. Players build up their faction’s tech level, construct units and conquer planets, wresting control of resources and coveted victory points from their competitors. The player who stockpiles the most victory points wins, but a few faction-specific victory conditions keeps the game from becoming straight forward and predictable.

This is a top notch title with high quality pieces, solid rules, and gobs of gameplay. It’s also a pretty serious game for some pretty serious strategy game fans, or for those who love the Starcraft Universe. Don’t get us wrong, this isn’t quite the die hard chit wargame with all the fixings of heads-down calculations, slide rules, and line of sight calculation, but a good Starcraft session could have a lot of ebb and flow and take around 3-4 hours to complete. And considering the fact that the dynamic board means that no two games will be the same, this is a lot of gaming in one box.

Highly recommend for those who like the following games: Twilight Imperium, Axis and Allies, Warcraft the Board Game and Civilization.

For more information about Starcraft the board game, please see our other related stories:

  • Starcraft the Board Game Trailer
  • Starcraft: The Board Game Preview News
  • Starcraft the Board Game Review from Gen Con
  • Starcraft The Board Game Official Details Released

    Read on for the Stracraft the board game official details:

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  • October 31, 2007

    October 2007 Round Up

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    Happy Halloween folks! Today also marks the end of another month of gaming, so here's our monthly index of gaming news and reviews.

    The gaming world had quite a few releases this month. Our favorite recently-released game this Fall goes to the zombie laden Last Night on Earth - which technically came out last month but we've been playing it mainly throughout the month of October. Following up as a close second is the latest Ticket to Ride: Switzerland, which is one of the better elegant Eurogame pickups to come along in quite a while.

    Meanwhile we're still standing by for our blasted WoW TCG Magtheridon' Lair raid deck. Upper Deck has remained tight lipped about yet another WoW TCG release and it's really beginning to rub us the wrong way. We thirst for prerelease news and details, and this seemingly lazy handling of Magtheridon's Lair really makes our blood boil. Thankfully Fantasy Flight Games seems to be treating the other major Blizzard franchise right by previewing Starcraft the board game in a series of great articles. Heck , the game even has a trailer! That title is shaping up to be quite the looker, and it should ship in next month just in time for Holiday gift giving and the Winter gaming season.

    Speaking of gift giving - the Holiday Shopping season is upon us and prepping the roll out of our annual Holiday Buyer's Guides. Look for a series of them over the next two weeks. Each one will be targeted for a particular gamer type so that you can rest assured the gift suggestion will meet the gaming styles of the giftee.

    Here's our flashback at the stories of October:

    What We're Currently Playing:


    Board Games & Card Games


    Collectible Card Games

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    October 29, 2007

    Starcraft the Board Game Trailer

    In a standard move of the great prelease lead-ups from Fantasy Flight Games, a trailer of the upcoming Starcraft the Board Game [Amazon, Funagain] has been released. The preview trailer – made in the same vein as the well-produced Tide of Iron trailer and the Tannhauser trailer – does a great job of overviewing the game. Included is a general break down of the gameplay, details of the interesting board setup and mechanics, a slight preview of the factions, and a walk through of the general overarching rules. It’s worth the time of any fan eying the upcoming Starcraft release. And hey, it's definitely a lot more interesting that simply reading the rules.

    But in the end it does feel a little dry because all it does is detail the framework of the game. So we thought you might enjoy a bit of a companion piece to complement the movie: a great Starcraft the Board Game session report on Board Game Geek. It’s probably one of the most detailed session reports that we’ve seen, and it doesn’t bog down in any rules details either.

    Recently we’ve been playing a lot of Fantasy Flight's WWII epic Tide or Iron -- getting in the mood for another involved strategy game from Fantasy Flight’s big box division, and we now we can’t wait to get our hands on the sci-fi themed Starcraft. Currently it’s slated for release on October 31st ! You can preorder it now from Amazon and Funagain Games.

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    October 26, 2007

    Hasbro's Holiday 2007 Board Game Sale at Amazon

    Amazon.com is running an exclusive Holiday 2008 Sale on all of the Hasbro line of bookcase styled board game titles. Their list includes all the old school classics from Monopoly, to Scrabble, to Yahtzee, and everything in between.

    Those of you looking to replace your family heirloom of busted cardboard boxed games will find these sturdy replacements in these wooden box varieties. And though we don’t have a bookcase full of classic literature to slide these games into, the leather-bound styling still seems somewhat classier than the blinding glitz of the overproduce box covers shipping with the standard titles today.

    It’s crazy that we’re in the holidays already, but we suppose it’s true – Christmas is just inside of two months away. And considering how compact these titles store away on a bookshelf, how cheap they are, and they should keep for quite a while, these titles should make great gifts for budding families whose parents wouldn’t mind revisiting the gaming lessons gleaned from the tried and true board game classics of their youth.

    The exclusive sale includes the following Hasbro titles:


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    October 24, 2007

    Wits and Wagers Review

    Self-captioned “Trivia for people who don’t know stuff,” publisher North Star Games’ Wits and Wagers [Amazon, Funagain] attempts to mix things up the trivia genre. Instead of players straight-up answering stock trivia questions on pop culture or mainstream history, the questions hit the edge obscurity requiring players to ballpark a guess at the answer. This increased challenge is balanced by betting phase where people stake points on which guess is the closest answer without it going over (every answer is a numerical value). This layer of abstraction keeps everyone involved and entertained throughout, and makes Wits and Wagers a great addition to anyone’s stack of party or trivia games. In fact, it conrasts some older titles in the trivia game genre, making them seem like the dinosaurs that they are.

    Yes Trivial Pursuit, you dice tossing and inconsistently challenging spawn of ancient early-1980s gaming culture, we’re looking at you.

    Slightly tarnished by the inclusion of some cheap components, Wits & Wagers’ gameplay shines through its foggy exterior to deliver a fast paced and most importantly fun 20-30 minute trivia party game that's well worth your time.

    Read on for a more detailed breakdown in our full review.

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    October 22, 2007

    The Burning Crusade World of Warcraft Board Game Expansion

    Fantasy Fight Games has released The Burning Crusade [Amazon, Funagain] - an amazingly heavy expansion to the already obscenely large World of Warcraft board game. Not only does Crusade expand upon gameplay facets and already deep content of the original game, including quests, class abilities, encounters, etc, but it adds so many, many more things. Things Like:

    • New Classes: In true Burning Crusade fashion the Alliance faction can now play as a Shaman, and the Horde has access to a Paladin character sheet through the Blood Elf race.
    • New Level Cap: The game allows players to reach Level 6, and gain flying mounts which are used to explore regions of Outland.
    • New Map: There’s a new board containing the regions of Otuland, which players can explore Outland once they’ve reached a high enough level.
    • Purple Quests: a new level of Quests go beyond the difficulty of the Blue level quests.
    • Dungeons: New three stage boss battles with minions provide item rewards, and make leveling up much more dramatic.

    Those of you who’ve played the original World of Warcraft Board Game might think back to some really long play sessions, and those of you who have a life might wonder why adding a whole new level would be “fun”. Thankfully the expansion comes with a new abbreviated experience track which has been gauged so that reaching Level 6 is actually attainable within a sane amount of time.

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