January 17, 2007

Become One with the Dice. Nanananana...

This time with Spirit!We've been on a bit of an Axis and Allies kick lately - as we've noted - but in our years of playing diceless Eurogames we've lost the talent for mastering the dice toss. This might sound silly but our lack of skill with the old ivories has caused more heartache than you'd think two innocent cubes ever could. There have been obvious lulls and crappy trends produced by our chucking techniques which has turned the tide of many games, squandering what seemed like certain victory with a flash of absolute ineptitude.

Enter Nairb Attobas' post in the BGG forums "A Treatise On Dice Rolling Strategy" which points-out that our problem probably isn't Lady Luck, nor bad Karma for playing as the Germans in a simulation of one of the worst tragedies of humankind. No - our horrible performance stems from a general lack of finesse.

It appears that we're stuck at the Beginner Level with an uninspired "Hyper-Active Closed Fist Dominant" tossing style, and it's brought us absolutely nowhere. Take that last blitz on Russia for instance: those ammunition-starved Russians made short work of our top of the line Panther tanks.. not because we lacked the numbers, or the know how, but we simply lacked the bravado. As Nairib Attobas points out: such a momentous battle should have called for an intermediate level "Off-Hand High Drop" or - even better - an advanced "Swaying Monkey" or "Belligerent Weasel".

We're going to add some zip to our toss the next time the odds are stacked against us, and maybe then we'll finally break through that Russian line with a cheerful smile.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

January 15, 2007

"Cave Troll" Rules Released

Cave TrollWhile some publishers seemed to have taken a bit of a PR break through the holiday season, Fantasy Flight games has kept cranking out the news. Case and point - within the last week they've released: a Tide or Iron feature article, a series of Twilight Imperium Star Maps for those anal gamer types, and now they've released the rules for their upcoming board game Cave Troll 2nd Edition [Funagain].

The rules for the light title can be found here [pdf] in a nice and small 2 page document. For those of you unfamiliar with Cavetroll - expect a quick game of dungeon exploration as players vye for positioning within a dungeon that pours out gold. Although the game has a fantasy theme, the theme is lite and it can eaisly be enjoyed by just about everyone.

The Company Line: Adventurers brave or foolish enough to enter the cave troll's lair can reap riches beyond their wildest imaginations. However, they must face not only the mighty cave troll and his vile minions, but also other adventurers intent on keeping the dungeon's bounty for themselves!

In this new edition of Cave Troll, Fantasy Flight's board game of dungeon-looting and monster-bashing, players command brave adventurers trying to reap the most treasure from the dungeon. Players wield powerful artifacts and summon fearsome creatures in their attempts to control the richest areas of the dungeon, while trying to avoid their opponents' minions, including the mighty cave troll himself!

Cave Troll is a board game for 2-4 players, from renowned game designer Tom Jolly. Fantasy Flight's new edition of Cave Troll features detailed plastic figures depicting the different heroes and monsters in the game. It also features stunning new artwork and graphic design, a sturdy folding game board depicting the cave troll's lair, and an alternative set of skills and abilities for each hero and monster in the game.

The original Cave Troll (1st edition) shipped in 2002 and was well received by many reviewers. This second edition is scheduled to ship in January (so soon) and is available to preorder from Funagain Games.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

January 12, 2007

Axis & Allies Strategy Guides

Our Original Board Game Love: Axis and AlliesWe've fought each other over every inch of the the world of Axis and Allies [Amazon, Funagain] umpteen times over, and our stress levels are at an all time high. We've played so many rounds of W.W.II on GamesByEmail.com that our office has vendettas on top of vendettas, players have plans within in plans, and the parking lot is stained with the blood of numerous cut break lines.

One thing is for sure across all of our gaming sessions - the first turn means just about everything. If it goes wrong for Germany, or Russia, or UK, or Japan, then the war is all but over already. We had a problem: we wanted to make sure that we always do the right thing from the get go, and we kept second guessing ourselves. Through our numerous trials and tribulations of failed world conquest we've found solace in some Axis and Allies strategy guides that we've dug up online. We'd like to take some time on this lazy Friday afternoon to share some of these resources so that you, too, can beat the snot out of your friends. Aren't we so generous?

W.W. II at GamesByEmail.comWe should note that we play with optional the rule "Russia can't attack on the first turn", which is supported by W.W.II on GamesByEmail.com. This rule is so very important because the game is seriously imbalanced otherwise. Also, W.W. II uses the original Axis and Allies rules and board - the Axis and Allies Revised Edition is an entirely different animal so you should probably ingore those guides altogether if you can.

Okay, enough clarification and butt covering. Here are the guides we found most interesting:

  • Axis and Allies is a game of momentum, and it's oh-so-very important to get the game started off on a good note. The website Axis&Allies.org has a pair of good opening move strategies for Germany (including handling the worst case scenario if you allow Russia to attack first). Similarly, the website has some two great Russian strategies, but Russia's Opening Round is that one that fits the Russia Can't Attack rule option.

  • Steve Winter has posted an official article on the Avalon Hill website about Infantry and You: a look at the often neglected unit type. He describes the probabilities of combined arms attacks with tanks (what's the right mix) and the defense efficiency of infantry given their IPC cost. A must read to improve your overall A&A game.

  • Fall of Franco: The Spanish Option in the BGG forums does a great job of breaking down the alternative to the D-Day European invasion strategy. The 3 IPCs for violating neutrality and dodging a potentially devastating invasion is a steal.

  • "Strategic Placement of Industrial Complexes" is great read for all factions, and the title pretty much speaks for itself. Where and When is the best time to create production centers in the far stretches of 1940's industrial geography?

  • Here's a great thread about Japan's strategy (including opening moves) for placing industrial complexes on Asian soil, and another about benefits of transport manufacturing to ferry troops to Asia from Japan proper.

  • And although Germany's general strategy is fairly straight forward - attack Russia, attack Russia, then attack Russia again - here's a great article detailing the benefits, pitfalls, and percentages of attacking the UK's fleets with sea and air power. Alternatively waiting for Japanese air power for backup! Wowzers.

Dismissed!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

January 11, 2007

Now Shipping: "Midgard"

MidgardCover.jpgAbove: horns, hats, sheep, English abbey booty, woodsmen competitions, boats, axes and eating, Vikings like to die fighting. It really fills their engine. And publisher Z-Man Game's latest release Midgard [Funagain] has just the thing for the Viking- kid in all of us: the battle at the end of the world.

The Company Line: The world of men, called Midgard, is in its final days, and the battle at the end of the world, called Ragnarok, has begun. Those warriors brave enough to fight to the end will have a hallowed place in the halls of Valhalla when the battle is over, but only one clan will hold the seat of highest honor. Will it be yours?

Midgard is a strategic board game of kingdom control for 3 to 5 players... with a twist. Over three escalating rounds, players semi-secretly draft from decks of action cards, taking cards they need for their strategy or denying their opponents the best cards in the rotation. Then, after the action cards are played out, comes Ragnarok, in which some kingdoms will become doomed. And all battling Vikings therein are destroyed in glorious rapture, scoring many points for their owners.

Thousands of possible combinations and interactions make Midgard endlessly replayable, and always tense right up until the end of the world!

Sounds tasty.

We should note that Z-Man games has some a few mediocre titles, and the pieces of Midgard are a bit lacking on the quality level. But the gameplay of Midgard is said to more to make-up for any physical shortcomings; if you're not a shallow gamer then you're in for a good time.

And checkout this great review at BGG.com if the Z-Man Marketing department didn't convince you

Midgard is now available to order from Funagain Games.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

January 9, 2007

Now at Amazon: "Rumis"

RumisCover.jpgRumis [Funagain, Amazon] isn't a new arrival to the party but the block laying game inspired by Incan building techniques - and similar to a multiplayer version of Tetris - is now available and shipping from Amazon.com.

What did the Incans always say, "Late is better than never?" Or was that Uncle Walter..?

Rumis is a very family friendly title (ages 8 and up) but the game remains a good puzzler for a group of players of any age. Players chose from one of four boards: pyramid, stairs, wall or tower, and take turns placing blocks of various shapes to build-out that structure. Once the construction is complete, or once a point is reached where players can't add any more shapes to the structure, then the game is scored. The winner is the one who has the most visible blocks of their color when looking straight down on the structure.

Cool stuff. But don't take our word for it - here's the official mumbo jumbo from the marketers:

RumisHandshot.jpg

"There'll be no stone left unturned in this challenging strategy game. Inspired by Incan architecture, Rumis (meaning "stones") sharpens spatial awareness and critical thinking skills as players strategize to outwit their opponents while reconstructing historical Incan structures (pyramid, tower, stairs, and wall).

Each player receives eleven Rumis stones of one color. Players begin, one stone at a time, strategically placing their stones to prevent opponents from having the most visible colored stones. The player with the most stones visible from above wins!

Rumis comes with four beautifully designed game boards, a unique custom turntable, 44 wooden Rumis "stones", and instructions for variations on the game, including a habit-forming version of solitaire."

There aren't any reviews of Rumis at Amazon at this time but the game has received 3rd-party critical acclaim that lends it some credibility: Rumis took Mensa's Best Mind Game 2004, and the title was nominated by Games Magazine for Abstract Strategy Game of the Year 2005. Also Ted Alspache has written a great review in the Board Game Geek forums, and the game page at Funagain Games has three reviews in which users have given their highest praise to Rumis: each reviewer gave the game five stars out of five.

If those aren't good research links then we'll eat our hat.

Rumis is now available to order from Amazon.com, and is also available for purchase at Funagain Games.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

January 8, 2007

Monday Morning News Bites: Catan Newsletter, Twilight Imperium Star Maps, Tide of Iron News

TI.SE.cover.11.08.06.gifWe're through the 2006 holiday season. Welcome to the first full work-week of 2007.

Yes, yes, we're groaning and moaning along side you. The parties are over, the vacations are coming to an end, and we're newly sober and raring for something to entertain us through the upcoming months of cold and snowy weather.

Oh wait, the thermometer nearly hit 70 degrees on a sunny Saturday January 6th in Boston. The pear tree in front of the office is budding, and that's seriously starting to freak us out. But these bizzaro weather patterns can't last forever; we're due for some great gaming weather in the near-future.

And to that end, we want to be sure we're playing the latest and greatest. Thankfully we caught these three little news bites when they tried to sneak bye while we were on the roof working on our tans:

  • Settlers of Catan newsletter: Mayfair Games has created a Settlers of Catan newsletter so that fans of the game can be kept apprised of new Catan titles, expansions, contests, the works. Sign up for the Setters of Catan newsletter here.

  • Twilight Imperium Star Maps: Fantasy Flight Games has published a series of boards for Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition [Amazon, Funagain], balanced for those who find the randomness of the standard rules to be a bit too chaotic. To us this seems like a great way to nerf a good random draw system - we embrace the current system's chaos because it increases replayability and provides a unique story for each game session. But this latest release should impress those who've been repeatedly burned by bad tile-draws in the past. You can download instructions to create the boards here.

  • Tide of Iron News: Two things on the Tide of Iron front. Due to a printing error the upcoming Big Box game from Fantasy Flight Games has been delayed another month, and the title is now scheduled to ship by the end of February. But as consolation, Fantasy Flight Games has published a new designer article detailing Tide of Iron's Strategy cards and Operation Cards. These look like they'll add a nice narrative the each battle and - if randomly drawn - could seriously increase the replayability. Also, we can glean some info regarding the complexity of the game through reading the these cards:this game is definitely leaning toward the Expert level of rule systems. Though we're not complaining - the battles of WWII were pretty freaking complicated.

Have a good Monday!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

January 5, 2007

GamesByEmail.com Revitalizes the Classic "Axis & Allies"

Our Original Board Game Love: Axis and AlliesUp until now there really hasn't been a solid online offering to get our Axis and Allies groove going. Sure, there's been some clunky titles - including the extremely buggy original software release from Microprose, and the solid yet discontinued Iron Blitz Edition which sells for around $100 bucks a pop - but that requires a full blown application and all of your friends to shell-out cash, install the game, and email each other save games flies. It's not a very elegant solution: there's a ton of overhead involved, and it's not quite office-friendly.

And we won't even talk about the archaic play by email varieties from yesteryear - most of our friends aren't MIT computer science die hards.

Enter: GamesByEmail.com's latest release "W.W.II", a free web-based translation of the original Axis and Allies classic board game authored by the same group that Made Risk Fun Again a year ago. Sporting a slick interface and an automatic email notification system, "W.W.II" quickly became our biggest time-sink throughout the lazy weeks of this holiday season. It was especially nice while our group traveled to all four corners of the country. All we had to do is quickly kick-open a laptop, get online, and run through a turn with a few mouse clicks.

We've probably played through more Axis and Allies games in the last half month than we've played in our lifetimes prior, and we've seen all sorts of things: Japan has invaded the USA; Africa has turned into a naval factory for the Axis, and Russia has taken over the Pacific Rim territories down through Austria. We've even seen the goose stepping third Reich drinking whiskey in the Blue Ridge mountains of Tennessee

W.W. II at GamesByEmail.comThere's been no setup fuss, no shaking pieces, no Bavarian tidal waves from a knocked-over bottle of Harpoon IPA - none of the time sink that makes A&A a chore. And the game has been extraordinarily stable since we've picked it up. Nice work to the guys at GamesByEmail.com.

We admit the interface is a tad bit confusing at first (yet it's the best we think it could be), so we'll offer you the following words of wisdom. Ignore them at your own risk:

  • Above all else, read the game's Frequently Asked Questions (there's a link to the FAQ on the main game page). Additionally:
  • The game uses a movement system that's a bit different from the normal thinking of board game movement. You click on a destination space to move to - not to move from. The game will then list which units you can legally move into that space, both during the combat and non-combat movement phases. It's a bit of a perception-shift at first, but it makes a ton more sense as anything else would be very cumbersome.
  • There's a phase after the Combat Phase for landing planes. We originally forgot about this and were confused as to why wouldn't start our non-combat move step.
  • To use transports: click on a sea zone that you're moving a ship to. The game will list the available ships that can move there, this is where you click the "load" button to put troops on the transport. Once that's settled: click on the space to offload troops to. Your loaded transport and it's cargo will be part of the list of valid moves.
  • We recommend selecting the "No First Turn Combat Moves for Russia" game option, as the game is seriously imbalanced otherwise.

And with that you're well on your way to become an A&A master. So what are you waiting for? Email an old high school buddy and get your game on. Enjoy!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

January 3, 2007

"Imperial" Review at BGG

Imperial from Rio Grande GamesThe Board Game Geek user Michael Longdin has posted an excellent review in the Board Game Geek Forums of Imperial [Amazon, Funagain], one of the latest game releases from Rio Grande Games. The entire review can be read here.

Imperial places each player into the role of a wartime investor, each pulls the behind the scenes strings of many waring nations of World War One. One part wargame, two parts Investor game, the players elbow each other for control of the varying European superpowers in their attempt to become the most powerful wartime profiteer.

This review does a great job summing up the rules, the mechanics, and offers some opinions of the game both positive and negative. A great read if you're looking to start off your new year with a title that's both a Eurograme and a strategy game, which is the one heck of a combination!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

January 1, 2007

"Tide of Iron" Website Goes Live

1.01.07.TideOfIron.jpgFantasy Flight Games has opened the lid on their upcoming Big Box Game release Tide of Iron [Funagain]. The official website contains preliminary details about this WWII European Theater tactical wargame, including news of a downloadable scenario editor that fans can use to design and upload their own custom WWI battles to the website.

This of course follows the other latest news that the BattleLore Adventures editor builds an online user base around the same principle - communities sharing new gaming content is a viral mechanism to increase the longevity of a game system. We're a huge fan of this, and we hope more games make use of a flexible foundation of rules coupled with user generated content. Plus we're excited for the library of scenarios that are modeled after historic battles of the twilight months of WWII.

Tide of Iron is another in the line of Big Box titles from Fantasy Flight Games. Big Box games are big. Blows your mind right? Just how big: They ship with boards twice the size of most games, the box has a ton of pieces, and most games sport a forty-page tome of a rulebook. Traditionally these big box titles approach - if not surpass - the Expert level of gaming rules, but they reward players with ebb n' flow gameplay, random events that spice things up, and personal epic story lines that unfold as you play each game over the course of hours with your friends.

It's currently not very clear where Tide of Iron falls on that Beginner->Expert scale of things, but we'll be sure to let you know once the rules are posted online.

Here's the official game description from their website:

The Company Line: "TIDE OF IRON places you in command of a division of fighting men and machines in the most important conflict in the world's history. Your brave soldiers will capture and hold objectives, lay down covering fire, and under your command they will emerge victorious ... you hope.

PLAYERS
2-4 players on two teams. TIDE OF IRON includes American and German forces, and armies are divided into two divisions to support two players on a side.

SCENARIOS
TIDE OF IRON is a Scenario-based game, with the available forces, objectives, map, and victory conditions being set by each given scenario. The rulebook includes a variety of scenarios, and you can find more at the "Scenarios" link to your left, as well as create your own! " - From The Official Tide of Iron Website

Tide of Iron was originally scheduled to ship December 2006 -- but you know how that goes. Our radar currently blips the big box title for a relase sometime in late January 2007. We have our fingers crossed.

Tide of Iron is currently available to preorder from Funagain Games.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

December 28, 2006

"BatteLore Adventures" Editor Released

BattleLore Cover A little late, but it's finally here as promised. Days of Wonder has finally released the online scenario editor for the company's flagship strategy title of 2006: BattleLore [Amazon,Funagain]

The "BattleLore Adventures Editor" is a free web based tool access to anyone and everyone, and it has everything you need to design your own terrain layout, initial troop positions, etc. This is the same tool system that the Battlelore designers used to create the 10 base scenarios that come with the base system - and so users have the potential to create setup some pretty kill battles.

You can view all of the community scenario creations on the official Battleore Adventures Editor Webpage. Although there is one problem for the curious: users can't view the details of any scenario until they've registered a copy of BattleLore throught the Days of Wonder website.

It seems odd that Days of Wonder would have setup such a obscuring cement wall like this. It seems to us that they could have have at least provided outsiders with a more enticing tease of these scenarios. Perhaps a lowres image of the board, or some scenario flavor text from the author. The more content the better - in our humble opinions - as better glitz could act as a catalyst to have caused some customers to get off of the fence and rolling dice sooner rather than later. As it is now, this simple listing as it is now lacks oomph.

The Editor in all its glory.Although prospective buyers of the game can't see the battles, we can tell you that some of these scenarios are very cool. The online editor has an option to restrict the pieces to medieval battles only (eliminating the fantasy aspect of the game), and players have already begun churning out famous battles from medieval history. How cool is that? Of course this is on top of the other original user created battles which include scenarios where the players storm fortresses, rescue hostages, and other large battles from top-shelf fantasy settings like the Lord of the Rings.

Very cool stuff. Of course this is all part of the long term Battlelore plan. First step: Get a high-quality title into the hands of players and let it act cement the franchise and act as a base rule system. Then let the players create and share scenarios amongst each other, and then eventually start rolling out low-price content that expands the game with new official scenarios and plot lines.

If you already own a copy of BattleLore [Amazon,Funagain] then a visit to the scenario page is a must. Try-out any one of the highly rated scenarios to increase the longevity of war game system, at least until the new official scenario packs start shipping this spring.

Have fun!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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