October 19, 2007

Axis & Allies Campaign Setting Timeline

This week Axis&Allies.org began to preview the upcoming release of Axis & Allies: Guadalcanal with a first installment looking at the various faction’s pieces. It’s not quite a dateline expose but it tickled our A&A funnybone, and given that we’ve been recently hooked on Ken Burns’ recent PBS documentary The War – it got us salivating for the series of naval and marine battles that'll take place on our table tops this fall.

But since the game isn’t out yet our excited energy had to be focused elsewhere, and so we thought we’d layout a bit of historic time line ourselves by listing the Axis & Allies games in chronological order of the theaters each represents. And ‘no’ Mr Fancy Pants, the mainstream Axis & Allies title doesn’t come chronologically first in the series - in fact it’s smack dab in the middle- so sit down, listen up, and have a nice tall slice of Belichickian Humble Pie.

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October 15, 2007

Ticket to Ride Switzerland Released

Ticket to Ride SwissThe slim expansion to the excellent Ticket to Ride series of board games has shipped to stores. Ticket to Ride: Switzerland [Amazon, Funagain] condenses one of our favorite board games down to 2-3 players, with a new map and a few new rules. The train pieces aren’t included, so players will need either the original Ticket to Ride or Ticket to Ride Europe to play.

This time around Switzerland is the main focus of this railway building card collection board game. As we reported earlier, there are a few new mechanics, including tunnel building which alters the wildcard mechanics and adds some more chance to the game. These tweaks are minor, though. The major change is the smaller map, which feels more crowded and the game become competitive early.

That’s great as the level of direct competition doesn’t build until the late game when 2-3 players play the original titles. The board is just too large for people to seriously butt heads. So those of you who often find yourselves with only two other players might want to spice up their Ticket to Ride collection with this Swiss edition, which keeps gameplay tight throughout the duration of the game.

There are two great reviews out here for to checkout. There’s this User Review on Board Game Geek, and another in depth review by Tom Vasel - the gaming guru himself.

Ticket to Ride Switzerland is now shipping from Amazon and Funagain Games.

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October 12, 2007

Illuminati: Bavarian Firedrill

The release of Bavarian Firedrill [Funagain] this week marks the first expansion to the classic Illuminati [Amazon, Funagain] card game from Steve Jackson Games in three years.

We were quite the fans of the dark humored game full of liars and backstabbers when it was re-released in the Illuminati Deluxe Edition just as we were exiting college. At that time we full of vim and vigor - we were raring to take on the sinister puppet masters of the world economies and social movements, and drink beer, and Illuminati totally played into our egotistical lifestyles. We haven’t picked it up in a while, but now it seems time to dust it off.

Bavarian Firedrill updates the game to make it more appropriate for the later years of current decade. The frankenstien monster that is FEMA is now a gropu, so are Bloggers and a new gameplay mechanic of scientific and religious artifacts enters the scene. Here’s the company line:

”Control new and terrifying groups like Bloggers, Reality Shows, and Intelligent Design. Will you use Embedded Reporters and FEMA to destroy the Webcams, or will you be defeated by Bird Flu and Bobbleheads? Fans of the mega-hit INWO will recall the Deprogrammers and Science Alarmists, as well as more of the best groups from the best-selling conspiracy CCG. BFD also introduces a new kind of card: Artifacts! Some are magical, some are technological, some are just... strange. But all of them give their owners an unfair advantage in the struggle for world domination. Hitler's Brain, the Spear of Longinus, the Screaming Meme and these are just the beginning. Bavarian Fire Drill. You know what it means, but your cover demands you pretend not to... "

Contents:

  • 110 cards
  • rules

Illuminati: Bavarian Firedrill is now shipping from Funagain Games.

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October 10, 2007

Top 5 Halloween Games 2007

EvilPumpkin.10.31.06.jpgThe weather just turned all overcast and rainy up here in New England, and when darkness fell as the sun set at about 3:30 pm it suddenly struck us: Halloween is just a few weeks away. Something about the cold rainy weather of autumn complements the theme of fighting undead beasties, and that’s a-ok with us. Our game nights for the next few weeks just went into zombie / demony / vampire slaying-fest mode.

Here is our select top 5 games to throw down for the 2007 Halloween season. Some of our choices might surprise you, but hey toughen up -- it’s freakin’ Halloween ya pansy. Close your eyes and stick your hand in this bowl of eyeballs, or even better read on to see our selection for this year.

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October 8, 2007

Starcraft: The Board Game Preview News

Starcraft The Board Game

A heads up today on the progress of Starcraft: The Board Game [Amazon, Funagain] prerelease media news. Early last week Fantasy Flight Games started posting feature preview articles about the various factions that inhabit the game: the Terrans, Zerg and Protoss, and an article about the design philosophies of the upcoming Big Box adaptation of the massively popular RTS computer game.

The individual faction articles detail each of the units which have made the leap from the PC Game but not much else on their play style and role in the overarching story. Those familiar with Starcraft will find an instruction-booklet like description of the vehicles and troops they’ve grown to love, but little else in terms of the gameplay details.

One thing that seems glaringly missing from the catalog of units are the gremlingesque zerglings, which are the rushing grunt troop for the Zerg race (duh). Oh you cute mass-attack fodder units, wherefore art though sweet brooding creep?

The Designing the Game preview article goes into some of the considerations made while the producers crafted-up the game’s art assets, and while designing the main theme of skirmish combat over the large battle combat we're used to seeing in the Starcraft RTS.

” While we wanted to capture the theme of the video game, we also wanted to create a unique StarCraft experience that could not be found anywhere else. At the same time, it was important for it to feel like StarCraft. While walking this razor's edge, we brainstormed and formed the core ideas of what the game would be all about.”

There’s some great info on what seems to be a pretty cool card component to unit combat. Some unit types have a hand of cards to act as a persistent level of integrity, instead of keeping track of the state of damage. For example: a Protoss carrier is rather beefy, and has a lot of protective cards in its deck, but playing those cards from the hand bleeds away the carrier’s ability to take hits, and makes it more susceptible to destruction by even the weaker opposing units as time progresses.

Finally, the Starcraft board game is now available to preorder from Fantasy Flight Games directly [details]. If you preorder the game through Fantasy Flight then you will also receive three art prints from the upcoming Starcraft 2 RTS game for the PC. Those looking for a cheaper alternative can forgo the art prints and preorder Starcraft: The Board Game from Funagain Games, which currently has it at 16 bucks off the MSRP.

Starcraft: The Board Game is slated to ship later this month, in October 2007.

Other Starcraft The Board Game stories of interest:


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October 4, 2007

Carcassonne Travel Edition

Nearly a year after Carcassonne Big Box was released with four large expansions contained within one shiny blue wrapper, the original Carcassonne has now been reduced over constant heat, pressed form all sides, and emerges in the Carcassonne Travel Size [Amazon, Funagain] brick form for those who like to play on the go.

This of course suits all sorts of gaming locales for us - camping, evenings in a motel on a long road trip while running from the law, heading out to the bar to relax with a few drinks after work, etc.

It's funny, because we've stuffed our luggage with the full-sized Carcassonne on quite a few trips already since it's a great way to relax. It's especially good overseas where the talking heads on TV speak in foreign tongues, or domestically when all that's on is a local news station's expose on the safety in handing cheese.

Here are the official details:

"Now you can take Carcassonne everywhere you go. The scoring track is printed on the cloth carrying sack, which has room for all the tiles and followers. Of course, all components are a bit downsized to make it more convenient to carry along, but the game is the same great game that won the Spiel des Jahres award in 2001!"

Carcassonne Travel Edition is now shipping from Amazon and from Funagain Games.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

September 26, 2007

Last Night On Earth:The Zombie Game

LastNightOnEarth.jpg
Last Night on Earth [Amazon, Funagain] Zombies scare the living crap out of us to the point of fascination. There’s obliviously something scary about being eaten to death by a dead man - anyone who says otherwise is walking bravado - but then also to become one of the shuffling masses of brain eaters by simply being bitten once by them is terrifying kicked up to the level of absurd. Anyone who’s played rugby or fought back a sea of aggressive children after ice cream night know just how easily it is to be bitten in hand to hand combat. And that’s all it takes.

For a long time we’ve had a very rough time of trying to let our Zombie fascination bleed into our gaming lives. There have been a few games out there including the somewhat entertaining Zombies!!! series, but even that can be somewhat dry for fans who aren’t quite as die hard for the genre as we are.

But now publisher Flying Frog is aiming to change all of that with Last Night on Earth. This zombie romp has some of the highest production values we’ve seen in the zombie game they’ve hired actors to fulfill roles of the characters that you can play and they appear everywhere in the games content, and the game ships with an ambient zombie sound track to set the mood. The game itself includes high quality plastic bits, glossy cards printed in full color, and a scenario book and a componentized board layout scheme to keep things fresh on repeat plays.

The general main goal: stay alive throughout the night and kill as many zombies as possible by sunrise. One player pulls the strings on the zombie horde while everyone else loots weapons and searches for material to keep themselves alive and to hack down the undead. The game strikes a nice balance of intensity – players have to slow down and burn time in order to scavenge for useful bits throughout the town. Meanwhile the zombie player is rolling dice – if they roll a number greater than the number of zombies in play, then they roll again to add that many more new zombies. Things can get harry fast, and just when you thought your character could catch a breath another wave is knocking on your barricade.

The best part about all of this: Halloween is only a month away. Sweet Zombie Crap.

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September 19, 2007

Galaxy Trucker - Hauling A' Your Way October 2007


Dennis Hopper not included

Despite its clumsy name "Galaxy Trucker" looks to be a very entertaining release for the fall. In a near-perfect gaming sessions of 60 minutes GT attempts to straddle the large broad line that separates the light gaming audience from the strategy gaming audience - it's got the Reese's feeling of "you spilled fun into my strategy game" and "you got strategy in my light entertainment". Prerelease sessions paint a pretty picture - and a very successful game - that might be a 2007 award winner. Nice.

Here's the elevator pitch:
1-4 Players begin pulling colorful starship component tiles from a pile, and quickly design their own spaceship. The first person finished flips a sand timer - which makes the last homestretch for everyone else a frantic tile toss instead of another boring installment of analysis paralysis. The main underlying goal is to make deliveries of goods to the outer stretches of space each round, but then a narrative is developed with event / adventure cards which are drawn as sidetrack treks with which to earn more money.

Depending on which tiles you've drawn and placed on your board, the resulting ship could have different strengths and weakness. A ship with a larger crew quarters will be able to take on a mission where they capture an derelict spacecraft and pilot it home. Ships with gigundo lasers will have a better shot at tackling missions against Ice Pirates.

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September 17, 2007

The Settlers of Catan Relaunches in Fall 2007

CatanRelaunches.JPG
Settlers of Catan 4th Edition is Out! Checkout our Release Story for more details

The Setters of Catan is about to receive an overhaul just before the Holidays - and it's about time that we've received some good Eurogame news. Mayfair Games has decided to produce another release of the cult classic Catan with higher quality materials and new art - including a unique illustration for each individual tile with the goal of breathing a bit of life into the island. Also included is a slick little board bracket system that clamps down on the board making set-up much easier, and decreasing the older version's aptitude to scramble chaotically with the slightest table bump.

The initial release of titles includes the standard Settlers of Catan and two expansions: Catan: Seafarers, Catan: Cities & Knights. And from the Mayfair verbiage, it sounds as though the rest of the Catan expansions are slated to receive a similar overhaul in the near future.

This newest incarnation of Catan: Seafarers, and Cities & Knights are set for a November release, just in time for the gift giving season. You can find out more at "Mayfair Re-launches the Catan Line!" on the Mayfair Games official website.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

September 14, 2007

Starcraft the Board Game Review from GenCon

Starcraft The Board Game

We weren't at Gen Con this year so we couldn't lay our own hands on the prerelease copy of Starcraft from Fantasy Flight Games. But now that the dust of the show has settled there's this great Starcraft Board Game User Review on Board Game Geek.

Starcraft aims to be another Big Box game from Fantasy Flight - like Twilight Imperium and World of Warcraft - which means a lot of rules, a lot of pieces, and some pretty epic gameplay: 3-4 hours of a planet hopping strategery. The game has taken some flak for not emulating the planet-battle theme of the computer RTS, instead abstracting the gameplay into a war over multiple planets - but it seems to us that it's an a-ok way to do it. We just wonder why it takes so long in a game session considering a standard Starcraft RTS fight usually only lasts an hour. We also hope this interstellar theme doesn't overlap with Twilight Imperium - a game that we already own, and have paid for, and we don't really want to pay for it again for a Starcraft face lift. And the review suggests that the instruction book is a bit hard to reference and that's a major pet peeve of ours.

The review, and the resulting comments that fall out of it, also suggests that Starcraft plays a lot like Nexus Ops. So maybe the Twilgiht Imperium overlap concern is being overly cautious. And a 3-4 hour game might not be so bad now that we're entering into the dark Fall - Winter months.

W'e're currently conflicted.

Starcraft is slated for release this October and you can checkout more info from the game's official website. We'll keep you posted of any other prerelease and release news as we approach its release.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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