November 27, 2006

Board Game Holiday Shopping Steals at Amazon.com: Settlers of Catan, Axis and Allies, Carcassonne, and More!

HolidayBuyersGuide.11.15.06.jpgIf you've spent the holiday weekend feasting on left-over sandwiches of Turkey and stuffing, and dozing on the couch in front of an endless parade of football, then you might have fallen a bit behind in your holiday shopping duties. Face it - the day after Thanksgiving is a day that plays host to some obscene shopping sales, but nobody in their right mind wants to plow through droves of anxious consumers at their local commercial mega-malls.

Instead, play it smart - sit back and relax - and check out these sweet deals at Amazon:

  • The Settlers of Catan [Amazon] : This is the game that started the modern board game craze in America, and it's currently highly-discounted at Amazon. If your loved-one is unlucky enough to have never played 'Settlers', then this is where you become their hero. Buy them a copy of this new modern classic with Monopoly-undertones at 34% off for only $26 bucks, and consider yourself done.

  • Carcassonne [Amazon] [Our Review]:
    Perhaps our favorite family-friendly eurogame, Carcassonne will remain atop our gaming stack probably for the next few years at least, and is definitely a steal at $17 bucks. In fact, this is the lowest we could find it in stock anywhere.

  • Axis and Allies Revised Edition [Amazon] : The revised edition of the WWII classic that anchored our gaming library for most of the early-to-mid 90s, this game will always remain great and for $33 it's indeed a steal.
    As we grew up and we realized that Risk was a bit too flat, Axis and Allies was there with deep gameplay including: economics, production, multiple unit types, naval actions, amphibious warfare, the works. Complicated enough to be interesting, yet easy-enough to be a key stepping stone from Risk on up, Axis and Allies is a great game to give to any young strategy gaming enthusiast.

  • Stratego [Amazon] : Another must-have in a traditional gaming collection, this version of Stratego packs away into a book-shaped case that fits upright on a bookshelf. Classy!

  • Ticket to Ride Marklin [Amazon] [Our Review] : Another perfect family game for under the tree, Ticket to Ride Marklin is $12 bucks off the standard price - which puts it at a measly $34. A great game for a great price - we're still playing this one seven months after release, and we continue to find new strategies here and there. One of our favorites of 2006 for sure.

Also be sure to checkout our Holiday Shopping Guide for other holiday gift ideas.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

November 22, 2006

BattleLore Discussion with Eric Hautemont on Boardgame News

BattleLore Cover Patrick Korner of Boardgame News has posted a lengthy article detailing the design history of BattleLore [Funagain], and his reflections on a talk he had with Days of Wonder Big-Wig Eric Hatuemont. The discussion (which isn't quoted verbatim) was about the company's line of high-quality games in general, and about the emergence of Battlelore's design out of the lessons learned from the WWII war game
Memoir '44 [Amazon,Funagain] specifically.

This is a pretty beefy article. If you're haven't been sold on the upcoming Battlelore wargame system then the article probably won't win you over. Instead you should checkout some of our previous coverage such as "Battlelore Primer" and "Days of Wonder Announces 'Battlelore'".

But for those of you who've already swallowed the Battlelore punch then this article is a great read. It reassures us that Battlore isn't going to be a flash in the pan game release, but an entire system poised to be something big - something that could have a huge impact on the entire gaming market.

BattleLore Army BannersHere's one of our favorite bits:

"So what kind of expansions will we see? Well, the simple answer is: All kinds. Eric indicated that it’s true, gamers will be able to buy a ton of stuff, but all of it is focused on player development, not army escalation. In other words, the expansions are intended to allow players to play the game differently or with new goals, and the plan is to provide a lot of company support for player input. One example of this is the online scenario editor, which is being made freely available to the online community and will be heavily supported. DoW is hoping that some players will adopt the game the way that some have adopted Memoir ’44, and want to do what they can to ensure that these creative individuals have all the tools they need to produce new and unexpected gaming experiences." -From "Patrick Korner: BattleLore Discussion with Eric Hautemont (DoW)"

From: http://blog.battlelore.com/2006/10/26/back-from-essen/en/Awesome - sounds like it's be like approachable and expandable but yet not entirely complicated like the money-sink Warhammer franchise. Even better, those colorful banners mean we won't have to paint any models. Thank you Days of Wonder! - we're not quite willing to take that giant step down Obsessive Lane in our gaming lives.

The release of Battlelore is rumored to be somewhere on the cusp of November and December 2006, just in time for the Holidays. Battlelore is currently available to preorder at Funagain Games.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

"Arkham Horror: Dunwich Horror" Released

Dunwich.11.22.06.Cover.jpgFantasy Flight Games have released their second expansion to the popular Arkham Horror [Amazon, Funagain] board game: Arkham Horror: Dunwich Horror [Amazon, Funagain]. It seems that evil doings-a-transpiring have spilled over from the town of Arkham into the neighboring town of Dunwich. The expansion includes new investigators, new monsters, and new cards that also expand the base game of Arkham Horror (if you chose to go back and play the original without the expansion). Dunwich Horror also ships with a new game board that expands the original Arkham Horror by as much as 1/3 more. You can read the official rules for the expansion here [pdf].

The Company Line: The supernatural disturbances that plague Arkham, Massachussets, are not limited to that unfortunate place. The town of Dunwich is only a short train ride from Arkham, and if anything it is a darker, more frightening place, with its own secrets and its own perils. It looks like the investigators are going to have to protect two towns now instead of just one; if they ignore the dark forces that are stirring in Dunwich, they'll have to face the wrath of the Dunwich Horror ...

Dunwich Horror is an expansion to Arkham Horror, complete with an extra board and the entire town of Dunwich - accessible via train from Arkham. There are plenty of new rules and new components, usable either with or without the Dunwich board addition. Features include:

  • The town of Dunwich, on a new board with new locations and new rules!
  • 8 new investigators with their own reasons for saving the world.
  • 4 new Ancient Ones to desperately struggle against.
  • New Injury and Madness cards for particularly unfortunate investigators.
  • New game concepts, such as gate surges and the Dunwich Horror itself!
  • Over 20 new monster tokens, dozens of new items and skills, new encounters - over 300 new cards in all!

Now we're from New England - Massachusetts actually, and we thought we'd let you know that we're a sleepy state compared to our southern neighbor Rhode Island, which has a history of Vampire-related killings, and rekillings. And sure you could counter by saying that Massachusetts has a history of it's own, with our "burning witches" and "breeding axe murderers", but our tourism board will have you know that we have great textiles and our clam chowder is second to none. Don't forget to pick-up a patriotic Minuteman refrigerator magnet and a snow globe of Boston's skyline before you leave!

The Arkham Horror: Dunwich Horror expansion is available to order from Amazon and Funagain Games.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

November 21, 2006

Now Shipping: "Axis and Allies: Battle of the Bulge"

BattleOfTheBulge1.jpgThe Battle of the Ardennes began when German Artillery opened up on snowed-in Allied positions in Belgium on December 16th, 1944. It was the German's last-ditch attempt to break the Allied advance in Western Europe. The German High Command banked the entire operation on being able to capture gasoline and supplies from the defeated allied army in order to fuel the German advance.

Short of supply themselves, and without air support due to foul weather, the Allies held their ground for long enough to stall, and then repel the German advance.

At the start of the attack, the American 101st Airborne Division and Combat Command B of the 10th Armored Division occupied the hub town of Bastogne, the focal point of the battle. Whoever controlled the town had access to a network of roads that allowed troop movements in all directions. By the second day of the attack they found themselves surrounded by mechanized forces. Under constant attack, out-manned, out-gunned, but not to be outdone, the 101st stood-fast through the siege for seven more days. Their resolve became the flagship story of the Battle of the Bulge.

Now, in the second installment of focused WWII campaigns, the popular Axis and Allies series ships Axis and Allies: Battle of the Bulge [Amazon, Funagain]. Here's the official word:

Battle of the Bulge Board and Pieces

The Company Line: Prepare for a major offensive as German tanks thunder into the snow-covered Ardennes forest, opposed only by a few unsuspecting divisions of exhausted American troops! Providing the historical counterpart offered by Axis & Allies: D-Day, Battle of the Bulge challenges players to control territory and contend with supply shortages, while directing infantry, artillery, tanks and aircraft in one of the most decisive conflicts of World War II.

Contents:

  • 1 Game Board
  • 157 Combat Unit Playing Pieces
  • 135 Plastic Chips
  • 110 Supply Tokens
  • 30 Front-Line Markers
  • 2 Twelve-Sided Dice
  • 6 Combat Strips
  • 4 Reinforcement Charts
  • 1 Victory-Point Marker
  • 2 Turn-Order Charts
  • 1 Turn Marker
  • 1 Rulebook

We'll always have a place in our hearts for the Axis and Allies line of games - the original was a stepping stone for us between the simplistic world of Risk warefare and the wargames with far more beefy rules. Battle of the Bulge looks like to be a great extension of that franchise.

Axis and Allies: Battle of the Bulge is now available from Amazon and Funagain Games.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

November 20, 2006

Battlore Designers Answer "Commonly Asked Questions"

BattleLore.9.11.06.jpgThe designers of the upcoming Battlelore [Funagain] board game war system have heard enough. Apparently they've been pestered by the gaming masses who are asking the same old questions: What's Up with the Special Preorder Figures, and what should we expect in the form of future Expansions to the Battlelore base system?. Well they've released some detailed responses in an attempt to appease the hungry mob.

We're a bit shocked to hear how much this game is going to take off by Spring. Sure, the box ships with 10 scenarios, but then check this out:

"Starting in March 2007, we hope to release 2-3 mini-expansions every month. These expansions will come in the form of easily recognizable blisters (similar to those used for the promotional miniatures), which will be available through our regular distribution channels as well as our web site.

Pricing will typically be in the $7.00 to $12.00 range, with some items lower, and a few higher.

The objective of these expansions is NOT to start an arm’s race toward the most powerful Creatures, Units or Armies. While these expansions will come in blister packaging, they will not all be plastic figures, units or battalions.

Instead, our goal is to both surprise you and delight you, by building upon some of the many foundations introduced in the game’s core rulebook." -From "Some Commonly Asked Questions"

Wow, two to three per month? That's some extensive expansioning right there. And that's on top of the user-created scenarios that players can share with the online scenario editor. There's going to be a plethora of war gaming to be done this Spring.

Battlelore is set to ship ths month, and is available to preorder from Funagain Games and from the game's official website.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

November 15, 2006

Critical Gamer's Holiday Gift Guide 2006 - WoW TCG, Board Games, and Party Gaming Gifts

HolidayBuyersGuide.11.15.06.jpg

Be sure to checkout our
2007 Holiday Gift Guide!

The Holiday Season is approaching all-too quickly. Soon the malls will be a swarm of ravenous consumers elbowing their way to the top-shelf merchandise.

In an effort to keep the world civil, here's our guide that will help you get around all of the holiday shopping mayhem.

Not all gamers are the same, so we've segmented our guide into a series of gamer stereotypes. Face it, when someone asks for Voltron for Christmas they mean the Lion Voltron, and they would be quite disappointed to unwrap the cheesy Car Voltron on Christmas morning. This guide will help you avoid such unpleasant mistakes by getting the best-fit gift into your loved-one's gaming hands come December.

We started things off with The Family Gamer, who's tired of television dominating their evenings and is looking for a game to throw-down on the dining room table after Wednesday's Prince Spaghetti Day. The Party Gamer wants to entertain her adult friends following dessert at a Dinner Party, or spice-up a New Years Eve with a humorous preamble activity that makes everyone laugh their gourd off. The Trading Card Gamer strives the mold a deck of cards into the best extension of his personality, and play in a community of other gamers doing the same. The Warmonger enjoys pushing plastic military figures to secure a hill and rolling dice to win the day on the tactical battlefield, while The Strategist is about a checkmate in 5 moves, or playing a game of worldwide CIA cloak and dagger.

Now all you have to ask is yourself: for whom am I buying a present for? Then read-on for some great gaming gift ideas:

ArrowContinue reading: "Critical Gamer's Holiday Gift Guide 2006 - WoW TCG, Board Games, and Party Gaming Gifts"

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

November 13, 2006

Now Shipping: "Ticket to Ride: USA 1910" Expansion

Ticket To Ride 1910 ExpansionThe newly released Ticket to Ride: USA 1910 [Amazon,Funagain] expands the award-winning original Ticket to Ride [Amazon,Funagain] game with new destination cards and new scenarios that should spice things up.

For those unfamiliar with the Ticket to Ride series of games: players draw and collect sets of train cards of various colors, and play the cards to construct rail lines of varying lengths on the board; the longer the route the more points the player earns. Players can also earn points by drawing and fulfilling the demands of the game's Destination Cards. These list two cities on the board, and the player earns bonus points if their rail network connects the two locations.

As the game progresses the players build strong rail networks across America, connecting the cities of United States in order to grow their own rail empire, and laying track to block competitors from doing the same.

The 1910 expansion mixes things up, providing even more destinations to connect, and by adding three new ways to play the game. Here's the official word:

The Company Line: USA 1910 consists of 181 new large format cards (the same size as the cards in Ticket to Ride Europe and Marklin) including 35 new "Destination Tickets," a new "GlobeTrotter" bonus card for completing the most tickets, plus a complete replacement deck for all the cards from the original game deck.

The USA 1910 Expansion, which comes in a small metal box, also includes a new rulebook that gives players three new ways to play the game including 1910 rules. Players can choose to use only the new "Destination Tickets," or play a "Mega Game" featuring all the tickets, or just a "Big Cities" version, which uses only tickets to certain large cities.

Ticket to Ride: USA 1910 is now shipping from Amazon and FunagainGames.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

November 9, 2006

Battlelore "Adventures" and 3rd Party Review

BattleLore.9.11.06.jpgA couple of cool things were released today in the realm of "Battlelore" [Funagain] prerelease media. First up is a new official preview article from the game's designers. "The Adventures" describes how the boys in creative bent history to mold the various Battlelore scenarios shipping with the game.

Apparently French author Jehan Froissart chronicled a lot of history during the 100 years war, but left some details unmentioned, or alluded to some supernatural events that might have affected the outcome battles. That's where Battlelore steps in, inventing scenarios which involve units out of both medieval history and medieval fantasy.

Here's a snip from the preview article:

"As you delve into the Adventure’s booklet that comes with the game - Froissart’s Vrayes croniques de France, d’Engleterre et païs voisins - you won’t be able to help but notice that even the best history books didn’t quite get it right!

Maybe it will be the frequent sighting of mercenary bands of mythical races; or the rumors of the monstrous creatures said to roam the land; or the whispered talk of Lore, this arcane power that is said to draw as much from science as from witchcraft;

It doesn’t matter: soon enough, you will acquire the conviction that not all is at it seems in old Europe." - From "The Adventures"

We should also note that article mentions that players will be able to create their own scenarios - err, adventures - with an online editor, and then share their creations with the rest of the Battlelore community on the game's website. Very, very nice.

A Battlore AdventureNext up on the Battlelore front is a review on BoardGameNews.com entitled "Frank Branham: Rant 9 and Battlelore Review". Frank has somehow snagged an advanced copy of the game and he has already ran through it few times. He critiques the pieces, art, and gameplay in this punchy review. If you're looking for views outside the official press then look no further.

Battlelore is set to ship this month, and is available to preorder from Funagain Games.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

Now Shipping "Iliad"

Perhaps if we built a giant wooden badgerWe realize that your knee-jerk reaction to a game named Iliad [Funagain] must be: this is obviously a game for the history or literature buffs. Well from what we've heard from the review by Tom Vassal (the Churchill of game reviewers) everyone should be impressed by this interesting card game of ancient warfare. And with the eminent release of Medieval 2: Total War, this game certainly fits our current mood.

Players of Iliad lead Greek forces in their epic assault on Troy, vying against one another to become the most prestigious leader on the battlefield. The game evolves over a series of sieges that are like tricks in a card game or hands in poker (but without the gambling, so it's family-safe). Whoever claims the most prestigious victories in the entire war wins the game.

Here's the official word from publisher Asmodee Editions:

The Company Line: The Trojans abducted Helen, and the Achaean princes took advantage of the opportunity to lay siege to this proud city.

But war during ancient times has its own set of rules. Being more than just a single, well-organized army, the Greeks will present an assortment of princes, each fighting for his own glory. Each player is an incarnation of one of these characters!

The game proceeds in several successive sieges (phases of the game) during which victory cards are brought into play. With the aid of the cards in his hand, representing all the components of an ancient army (hoplites, archers, elephants, various siege engines, including the famous Trojan horse…), each player will construct a powerful army before himself, and will have to choose between sacrificing new cards from his hand (since those are not inexhaustible) or utilizing the abilities of the cards he has already placed.

Each player will have to form the best army from these cards, torn between the multiple choices offered to him with each round of play.

In this new, very tactical card game, Dominique Ehrhard brilliantly revisits the mechanisms that made Condottiere so successful. The superb illustrations by John Mac Cambridge, antiquity fanatic, are an additional invitation to join the voyage.

Iliad is now shipping from FunagainGames.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

November 8, 2006

Twilight Imperium "Shattered Empire" Expansion Preview

TI.SE.cover.11.08.06.gifThe Big Box game Twilight Imperium [Amazon,Funagain] from Fantasy Flight Games is set to receive a new installment this December, and designer Corey Konieczka has started breaking-down the Shattered Empire expansion in this first installment of what will become a weekly preview series.

The original Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition board game puts players into leadership roles of galactic civilizations, each one attempting to gain power through technological advancement, warfare and diplomacy. As one of Fantasy Flights "Big Box" fleet of games, Twilight Imperium is not for the feint of heart. Games are complicated, and can last hours, but Imperium can be extremely rewarding for those who love strategic depth and and an epic storyline to their gaming experience.

The "Shattered Empire" expansion brings four new races to the table, and allows two more players to take part in the action - bringing the total up to eight players. Now there's a honking board game. This first preview article breaks-down the expansion's new races, but the expansion includes a lot more. Here's the official word:

TI.Saar.11.08.06.gif

The Company Line: The Lazax empire has fallen - first into decay, and then, after a long twilight, into history. It is done and gone, but a new day is dawning, and your people have a new chance to mold the Twilight Imperium to the design of your race.

Twilight Imperium: Shattered Empire is an expansion for Twilight Imperium Third Edition. It enhances gameplay with a variety of new options and enables you to play with seven or eight players in an epic struggle for true galactic dominance!

Twilight Imperium: Shattered Empire includes:

  • Four never-before-seen races join the struggle for empire!
  • Two new colors of plastic units to allow for up to eight players in a single game.
  • Dozens of new system tiles, including new special systems such as Ion Storms, Hope's End, trade stations, and the Wormhole Nexus.
  • Brand new technologies for all eight players, including a new never-before-seen type of tech!
  • Eight new variant strategy cards for a completely different gameplay experience, and an additional variant Imperial strategy card for optional use with the core strategy set.
  • An even broader array of agendas and options in the form of new Action, Political, and Objective cards
  • Facilities, shock troops, artifacts, space mines, and more!

Twilight Imperium Shattered Empire is set to ship in December, and is now available to preorder from FunagainGames.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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