March 6, 2007

Puerto Rico to Join Xbox Live Eurogames, But at a Cost

SMASHThere were rumors going around late last week that the acclaimed board game Puerto Rico was going to join Catan, Carcassonne, and Alhambra in the new line of Eurogames titles on Xbox Live.

We've made it pretty clear that we're a huge fan of playing these social board games on the Xbox Live service. Our group keeps losing players to distant parts of America with cheaper real estate, warmer weather, and fewer taxes. These Xbox Live titles will be a great way for us to continue playing some of our Eurogame favorites in a clean, easy to setup environment. And with voice chat, we might add.

But The addition of Puerto Rico to the Xbox Live roster has a very unfortunate side effect -- Xbox Live has snatched up exclusive rights for the online version of Puerto Rico. Key word there: exclusive. The rug has been pulled-out from beneath the feet of those fine folks who played Puerto Rico on other online web services, like www.brettspielwelt.de.

There's a huge potential audience of players in Xbox live who haven't been introduced to Eurogames, and the horizon for Eurogames on consumer electronics is looking bright. But do video gaming mega corps really need to snatch up exclusive rights to these titles? We're pretty sure the www.brettspielwelt.de and the Xbox Live gang aren't eating at the same diner, so why can't both groups have their 'Rico and play it, too?

So now we're back to being less enthusiastic about Xbox Live Eurogames. In one hand is an exciting newborn puppy, cute and innocent, full of potential, but we're using the other hand to feed it the freshly killed corpses of established Eurogame communities.

This is the sort of stuff that keeps us up at night.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

February 28, 2007

February '07 Roundup

Roundup2.jpgFebruary is cold, sleepy and if it isn't snowing, or raining, or sleeting, then there's slush melting in the backed-up street gutters. Thank goodness that month is over!

We have to be honest, even given the short month, the number of releases in February didn't blow our minds. The most substantial was the release of the next title in the long line of Catan games: Catan Histories: Struggle for Rome. Romping through the Apennine Peninsula should tide us over until Spring when even more titles start churning off the factory line, including Days of Wonder's stadium building title Colosseum, the space opera Galactic Destiny, and the WWII tactical wargame system Tide of Iron. Plus we'll be soon slaying demons and kicking WWI butt in the upcoming Fantasy Flight translation of Tannhauser, and how could forget the long awaited news on the upcoming World of Warcraft TCG expansion The Dark Portal. It's about time Upper Deck loosens its lips about that title and spills the details; the set is due April/May, so if not March then when?

Even more important is this: When will then be now?

Board Games


Collectable Card Games


Gaming Culture

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

February 26, 2007

Xbox Live: Catan Interview on Joystiq

'Catan' on Xbox LiveWe've sat back and enjoyed a scotch and a Valium since posting our frustrated article last week about the delay of Catan, as in the Settlers of. It turns out that there's already a new date set for the release of the new Xbox Live title: sometime in March '07.

Honestly, though, the reaffirmed release date isn't what calmed us down. It's more about the exciting details revealed in the Joystiq Interview with Big Huge Games' CEO Brian Reynolds. As it turns out, Brian is a tournament player of Settlers of Catan, which of course means that this upcoming Live release will be done with love and enthusiasm for the original title. Also, Brian was handed a very in depth set of strategic data to serve as the foundation of Catan's Artificial Intelligence code, from none other than Settlers of Catan designer Klaus Teuber.

It's great to hear that Klaus had some significant hands-on contributions to the project.

So although we're a bit dismayed that we're not amidst office wars with Catan right now, at least our outlook of the game has changed for the better. We have a feeling this isn't just hype either: Catan might be the groundbreaking adaption that lays the groundwork for a slew of Eurogames to appear on the Xbox Live service. Cant' wait, and here's hoping!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

February 16, 2007

World of Warcraft TCG Molten Core Raid Preview Pt 3

World of Warcraft TCG: Molten Core

The WoW TCG Molten Core Raid Deck has been released, and is now available from Shopzilla and Funagain Games.

Over the last two weeks we've gone over some of the lesser bosses and trash mobs who inhabit the fiery underworld of Wold of Warcraft known as The Molten Core. Our goal: to get any non World of Warcraft MMORPG players in the know before they dive into the upcoming Molten Core Raid Deck for the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game that we all know and love.

So far inside the Molten Core we've seen living flames, giant dogs, magma men and maybe a giant flamewalking salamander or two. This week we finish off the list and get to the final Lord of Fire himself: the magma giant Ragnaros, a guy just found out there is no topical cream for what burns, and he's looking to work out his pissiness on something roughly the size of your face. This guy could melt the paint off your house and given your family a permanent orange afro.

So you, there in the back with the fake tan, yeah: you might want to educate yourself on what Rag might toss your way in the Molten Core TCG Raid Deck before you get all cocky, flipping your collar up and trying to generally hip. A glass of seltzer water isn't going to kill this guy, so listen up.

Anyway, where were we? Ah yes. Chapter the first:

ShazzrahShazzrah
We start off the day with another wyrm of doom, and of course being further down the list he's the most dangerous one so far. Shazzrah does two major things to ruin your day. First he loves to do an Arcane Blast in a radius around his.. feet-things, blasting people for about 1/3 of their health. Most raid groups tend to have a tank deal with him up front, and everyone else form a circle around to stay back as far as possible. The trick in his second act: He loves to teleport himself to the feet of anyone in the raid group, thus pouncing on softy cushy types and blasting them to hell.

Raid Deck Notes: Expect Shazzrah's to be avoid any protectors, and on attack he'll blast the entire party with gobs of damage. Your best bet is to have someone exhaust his wormy butt ahead of time.
ArrowContinue reading: "World of Warcraft TCG Molten Core Raid Preview Pt 3"

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

February 9, 2007

World of Warcraft TCG Molten Core Raid Preview Pt 2

World of Warcraft TCG: Molten Core

The WoW TCG Molten Core Raid Deck has been released, and is now available from Shopzilla and Funagain Games.

Last week we presented the trash monsters of the Molten Core in our first installmenet of World of Warcraft TCG Molten Core Raid Deck preview. But don't let the 'trash' term fool you: each of these guys is literally 40 times toughter than any one whelp from Onxyai's Lair, and eventhough most Core Hounds, Molten Giants and Lava Annihlators would chew-up any normal character in seconds, the real challenge of a Molten Core raid run still slithers deeper in the shadows.

We're speaking of the raid bosses of course. These guys form the first true challenge of a 40-man raid in the World of Warcraft MMORPG. They can take-in and dish-out mammoths amounts of damage, and they require discipline and teamwork on a massive scale in order to defeat.

None of these bosses can be taken-on with the straightforward "tank and spank" tactic (that is, warrior protects while everyone else pumps the boss full of lead). Blizzard designed each of these Guys to have special abilities that will throw a monkey wrench in any standard tactic up until now, and we assume the Molten Core Raid deck from Upper Deck will have the same sort of quirks to keep you on your toes.

It's always been Molten Core's place in the World of Warcraft universe to mix things up. So before your teammate turns into a bomb and blows up your entire raid, or before you're feared into a flaming pile of dog poo and say that we didn't warn yah, be sure to read on.

LucifronLucifron: Right away we hope the upcoming Dark Portal expansion set includes resistance cards, specifically shadow resistance. This guy looks like a giant fire salamander but don't be fooled: he's a master of shadow magic. And aside from spiking you through the head with a giant trident, he also has three pretty sick indirect ways of casting crap that can seriously mess with your day.

First up is a shadow shock that pulses every few seconds hitting anyone standing nearby with some pretty painful stuff. In the raid deck this might be a passive ability of Lucifron, inflicting shadow damage on anyone who engages him in hand to hand combat. Next up is a curse ability that he places on nearby players that increases the cost of spells and abilities by 100% Make sure to get this off your healers and mages fast, or your entire party will flounder, gasping for resources. Finally Lucifron has a damaging curse that lasts 30 seconds (a few turns) at which point it slams the target with 2000 hp of shadow damage. In the MMORPG that's about 1/3 a warrior's health and nearly half the health of any other class.

And if that's not bad, then we should mention that Lucifron is flanked by two guards who can mind control any player in the party. Usually these guys are brought-down first, as they can wreek havoc on your group behind the lines, turning warriors and rogues on clothies, or by pulling healers away from their bandaging duties.

Magmadar.jpgMagmadar: The dog-like pet of the boss Ragnaros (who is the final boss of the raid). Magamadar has behavioral issues, probably due to neglect.

Not only does he spit fire from not just one, but two mouths, he also poos fire, too. We're not talking about jets of hot plasma, but boulders of flaming flatulence that stick to surfaces until they burn themselves out. Anyone running into one of these things becomes burnt toast, and fast.

Oh, and every thirty seconds or so Magmadar throws a fit on a massive scale - tearing into the garbage can, chewing on the couch, etc. This tantrum instills terror into the hearts of even the bravest adventurers, sending them running scared in random directions. And probably, you guessed it, into a flaming pile of doggy poo.

We think this could playout like Onyxia's Lava Cracks ability, which assigns a six-sided die's roll of damage to every hero. This one is a bit more humiliating, however.


ArrowContinue reading: "World of Warcraft TCG Molten Core Raid Preview Pt 2"

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

February 8, 2007

Warhammer Online Age of Reckoning: Early 2007 Preview Roundup

Warhammer Online is slated to ship in late 2007Every few months Mythic Entertainment opens its doors and the gaming journalists rush en masse to research another round of preview articles for Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. We're always very excited to read each wave of content about this game, because it really does seem to be shaping up to be something special, but the last couple of preview article iterations haven't really provided us with a lot of new info. It's been a while since we've been wowed by something fresh and new.

However, this time is different. We just entered 2007 - the year that Warhammer Online is scheduled to launch. With the mammoth Springtime E3 tradeshow pushing up the daisies through freshly lade earth, the Games Developer Conference '07 in early March will pick up the slack and carry some of the of glitz and glamor itself, becoming the first major showcase of the upcoming titles for 2007. And lo and behold, Mythic Entertainment seems to have begun to take the wraps off of their baby a month before the show, not only demoing the game to members of the press, but allowing them to go hands-on with the Player versus Player gameplay of their Massive Online Role Playing Game.

Over the last week a lot of our usual PC gaming haunts have posted interviews and hands-on experiences to their websites. Our favorite so far is the the Gamespot Article with the not-so-concise title: "Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning Updated Hands-On - Bright Wizards, Magi, and More Player Versus Player." [link]. OK, so while the article's title isn't concise, the content is: the two pages are probably the quickest way to get an up to date idea of what to expect out of Warhammer Online. For instance:

ArrowContinue reading: "Warhammer Online Age of Reckoning: Early 2007 Preview Roundup"

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

February 1, 2007

January '07 Roundup

Roundup2.jpgOver all not a bad month, we'd say. Despite the fact that January traditionally stands in the cold shadow of the huge holiday season - when publishers push titles out of the production pipe just in time for shoppers, and then rest and sip a scotch for a few - this January '07 has had quite the collection of cool news of titles coming our way in the near future.

January has seen the wraps have come off Fantasy Flight Games' Tide of Iron, and publisher Days of Wonder didn't rest after its release of BattleLore and is now gearing up for Colosseum. Also we received word that a new Thurns & Taxis expansion is coming down the pipe for March '07.

And February doesn't looks so bad herself. We're getting two new Catan games: Catan Histories Struggle for Rome is due out any moment now, and the Xbox Live Service is slated to release their "Catan" title on a Wednesday near you. Plus, sometime in the next 28 days expect Upper Deck to pop the lid off the World of Warcraft TCG: Molten Core Raid Deck and WoW TCG Dark Portal Expansion.

Oh yes, very tasty! Very tasty indeed.

But let's not look to far into the future until we realize where we are now. Here's the stories that made January 2007 such a great month:

Board Games


Collectable Card Games


Gaming Culture

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

January 31, 2007

Settlers of Catan on Xbox Live in February

'Catan' on Xbox LiveMicrosoft, the software behemoth behind the Xbox 360 and Xbox Live service, has released a press release listing their Xbox Live titles scheduled for release this February. On the list is the board game version of Settlers of Catan! The official press release can be read here.

As we reported earlier, Microsoft plans to bring three major board game releases to its Xbox Live service on the Xbox360: Carcassonne, Alhambra, and the Settlers of Catan.

The release of "Catan" in February will mark the first board game release on the Xbox Live service. What has us particularly excited is that the Xbox Live version of Uno become a huge success, and hopefully this line of upcoming Eurogames will also make a big splash in the online gaming community. If so then we can expect to see even more games bridging the divide between Computer/Video Gamer and Board Gamer.

But above that, the most important thing to us will be the chance to play some classics with friends who've moved to all corners of the country! Voice chat will really bring it home. Can't wait!.

There is no exact date for the release of "Catan", but expect it to be released on any Wednesday in February (which is the traditional release weekday for Xbox Live). And of course we'll keep you posted as soon as we find out when the exact date is.

Enjoy!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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 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

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