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

December 21, 2006

Eight "Axis and Allies: Battle of the Bulge" Design Articles

BattleOfTheBulge1.jpgLarry Harris the creator of Axis and Allies and all of the titles in that line has been hard at work over the last few months posting a fantasitc series of articles regarding his latest release: Axis and Allies: Battle of the Bulge [Amazon, Funagain]. With his latest installment - his eighth - he completes the entire entertaining series that details the design of the game from soup to nuts.

We have to be honest with you: this comes at the perfect time for us because we've recently rediscovered our love for the dice tossing classic. For a good long while we poo-pooed the randomness of dice combat and thirsted after something with a bit more structure. We found ourselves attracted to the to diceless and more predictable Eurogames. But our tastes are cyclical, like all good things should be, and we're over ourselves - we're once again hungry for the simulated chaos of an Axis and Allies slugfest.

And Larry Harris delivers the goods just in time. His articles are fantastic, detailing the history of the franchise, running through the rules, and most importantly - he provides the reader which historic context of the real Battle of the Bugle and how the true events in that campaign affected his game design. The articles bring life to the game systems of "Battle of the Bulge". Thankfully the game doesn't ship with any exploding trees.

Here's the lineup of articles:

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

December 1, 2006

November '06 Roundup

Roundup2.jpgIt's official - November is kaput, and now the chaotic Holiday Rush is in full swing. To ease you through the shopping mayhem we've posted our Holiday Gift Guide this month. We've also covered a lot of the holiday releases that deserve your utmost attention. For instance - all of Carcassonne and its expansions have been packaged into one nice giant box, the World of Warcraft board game has been expanded, and Axis and Allies received a nice new installment. Unfortunately the new Days of Wonder flagship title "BattleLore" hasn't arrived yet, but it's only days away from hitting retailers so the heart stopping prerelease anxiety is almost over.

In the meantime we've taken a short break to revisit some the best games of the year. We've been heads-down in the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game (and can't wait for the Onyxia's Lair Deck to finally arrive), and we've come up for a few gasps of air here and there by playing Ticket to Ride Marklin. We've also had a couple of great sessions with the recently released Blue Moon City - which has got to be one of the best four player games to come-out in the second half of 2006.

Here's our complete list of all the interesting news bits that occurred in the gaming holiday release rush of November. Enjoy!

Board Games


Collectable Card Games


Gaming Culture

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 1, 2006

October '06 Roundup

Roundup2.jpgThis is it - we're heading into the Holiday season. Halloween was just a gateway event - a relatively sideshow compared to the upcoming Holiday season. We're about to head into bigger and better things as the Fall season releases continue.

Days of Wonder is boxing up the very large, and very delicious looking Battlelore. Rio Grande Games is prepping Yspahan, and is stuffing all of Carcassonne and its five expansions into one Big Box. Mayfair Games is churning-out copies of there upcoming titles Anasazi and Justinian, and Fantasy Flight Games is putting the finishing touches on Marvel Heroes and expansions for Wings of War, Twilight Imperium, and World of Warcraft.

Speaking of WoW, the TCG is selling like hotcakes. The game's retailers are having a hard time keeping the product on the shelves, and prices are skyrocketing with news that the Upper Deck factory warehouse has been stripped completely bare. We knew that the WoW TCG was going to be huge (and if our excitement over the title hasn't been obvious, then you're in optical prescription is past-due), but we didn't quite realize that the game would sell out in a matter of days. Hopefully this isn't a press stunt that was designed to garner publicity. At any rate, let's not make rain when there's the potential for some pretty intense sunshine. We'll have word on our WoW TCG experiences shortly.

Until then let's take a stroll down October lane to remember those calmer days of fall:

Board Games

Collectable Card Games

Gaming Culture

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

October 31, 2006

Halloween Safety Tip #12

EvilPumpkin.10.31.06.jpgIt's Halloween. Tonight the entire nation will be out roaming the countryside and groping around in the black for free candy. Darkness is dark, and stumbling around could be a bit on the dangerous side, so here's some advice for staying safe:

Halloween Safety Tip #12: If you're driving around tonight and see the Angel of Death walking down the street, then don't mow him down with your car. Nine times out of ten that'll be a prize winning Home Ec student in a well-tailored costume sailing over your hood. Trust us - you really don't want that to happen. It's a crap load of paper work, and it'll dent your car up good. Besides, if it turns-out that you roll that 10% chance that it is the Angel of Death, then do you truly believe that throwing a four-door sedan into him is going do anything other than piss him off? This is the guy who snuffed such greats as Genghis Khan and Jack the Ripper for his job, and you don't want him unwinding his day on your civilized, sedan-driving tuccus.

Just keep driving.

The more you know. Happy Halloween folks!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

October 30, 2006

Top Ten 2-Player Games

Number 1: Lost CitiesGame players from all corners are submiting their picks for their favorite two player games in a very popular forum thread at BGG. This is a perfect time to check the pulse of what's popular in gaming right now -- you know, in case you're tired of playing Mastermind with Uncle John.

Here's the top ten games from the list right now.

-- Players' Choice of Top 2-Player Games --

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

October 17, 2006

Halloween Game Buyer's Guide: Arkham to Werewolves

The sweet smell of rotting leaves is in the air, both 'Thriller' and (regrettably) 'Monster Mash' are making their annual run up the charts, and costume shops are sweeping druggies out of empty store lots normally vacant ten months out of twelve. Yes, Halloween is coming, and we thought it was high time to go through a list of our favorite monster smashing games.

Most of these titles have seen a few fall seasons but they still stand strong against the test of time. We've also noted if a game has any noteworthy expansions - so even if you own the original there might be something new lurking in the darkness that spices it up.

And without further ado:

ArkhamHorro.10.17.06.jpgArkham Horror [Amazon, Funagain]

The town of Arkham, Massachusetts is in a panic. Horrific and bizarre events have begun to occur with increasing frequency -- all seeming to point towards some cataclysmic event in the near future that may spell disaster for everyone. Only one small band of investigators can save Arkham from the Great Old Ones and destruction!

Arkham Horror was originally published by Chaosium, Inc. almost two decades ago. This new, updated edition features stunning new artwork and graphical design as well as revised and expanded rules! No fan of the Cthulhu Mythos will want to miss this opportunity to acquire this classic Call of Cthulhu boardgame!


We should note that Arkham Horror is currently on schedule for a reprint, which should hit store shelves before Halloween. So if this title is currently out of stock, then check back at your store daily!

Expansions: "Arkham Horror: Curse of the Dark Pharaoh (2006)"[Amazon,Funagain]


Betrayal.10.17.06.jpgBetrayal at House on the Hill [Amazon,Funagain]

Build a House of Terror. Tile by Tile.

It's never the same game twice. As one of twelve mysterious characters, you'll explore a house filled with deadly secrets. As you play, you'll build the house. But beware! One of your fellow players will betray you. The traitor will test your sanity as you use all your skills to survive.

With fifty fiendish scenarios, Betrayal at House on the Hill puts you face-to-face with legendary monsters, modern nightmares ... and your friends.

There have been some considerable changes that the publisher has made to patch this title, so make sure you check out the Official FAQ and Updated Rules Errata to make the game a smoother and more enjoyable experience.


FearsomeFloors.10.17.06.jpg
Fearsom Floors [Amazon,Funagain]

It was fabulous! Fearlessly, you found the 3 fetishes in the Finnish fjord. With light-footed and foxy feints you ferry the fetishes to prince Fieso in France to free the fascinating faerie Fabula. But Fieso is not fond of foreigners, what a fiasco! You land freezing and foolishly find yourself trapped in a frightful fortress with sinister corridors. Now you must flee Fiesos trap. Furunkulus, the monster, is a frightening freak, especially fond of foolish foreigners. He will feed on you if he is able. So you want to fool Furunkulus and flee to freedom.

Fearsome Floors is a race game in which the players must move through a dungeon as fast as possible - or at least within 14 turns - before it crumbles over their heads. This could be done in 7 turns if everything was peaceful and quiet, but unfortunately is the dungeon also the home of a very hungry monster! Players must maneuver their disks through the dungeon trying to manipulate the movement of a monster who is always after fresh prey. Players can try and lead the monster to their opponents' pieces, but may find themselves eaten instead! Pieces might slide along blood slicks, or be crushed between a boulder and a wall. You can even try to get the monster to teleport to another part of the board, where he will fall upon his next victim. This family strategy board game is for 2-7 players and takes about an hour to play, and it can be learned in 10-20 minutes.


Werewolves.10.17.06.jpgWerewolf [Amazon,Funagain]

For some time, the village of Millers Hollow has been afflicted by werewolves who attack each night. The village inhabitants must find out who among them are werewolves before they all fall victim to the evil creatures...

Werewolf or villager?
You draw a card which determines your secret identity. You play out your role under the direction of the game leader.

You are a werewolf.
Your goal: To eat a villager each night. During the day you are an honorable citizen.

You are a villager.
Your goal: To discover the werewolves and to convince the other players to take them out (and make sure you don't get mistaken for a werewolf). No easy task. But fortunately there are a few villagers with special abilities: The old seer, the hunter, the witch... They will be helpful in defeating the werewolves

This is a great party game classic for 8+ players. In fact the more people, the better. Simple rules, and no board nor confusing pieces, so just about anyone get pick it up and start playing - even the usual non gamer!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

October 12, 2006

November Games Quarterly Magazine Details

GamesQuarterly.7.28.06.jpgGames Quarterly Magazine has announced the final meat and potato details of their next issue scheduled to hit magazine racks this November. The magazine will ship with a twelve tile expansion to Carcassonne, and include an exclusive premier of a so far unannounced title from Days of Wonder (publisher of Memoir '44 and Ticket to Ride).

The Company Line: Games Quarterly is marking numerous milestones as a leading magazine for games. In the coming issue we begin a three-issue exclusive serialization of a new fantasy story by New York Times best-selling author Ed Greenwood, titled Castlemourn. Castlemourn is a new post-apocalyptic fantasy role playing game setting coming from Margaret Weis Productions, Ltd.

Games Quarterly #11 includes a brand new 12-piece expansion for Rio Grande Game's award winning game Carcassonne™, polybagged in each copy.

Games Quarterly has great coverage of all types of non-electronic games. With fantastic extras like The Great River of Catan™ in GQM10 and the Carcassonne™ Expansion in GQM11 it’s worth far more than cover price. The ensuing three issues already have game expansions planned, alternating between Mayfair Games in issues 12 and 14 and Rio Grande Games in issue 13.

Also in GQM11:

  • Interviews with NPR’s Puzzlemaster & NY Times Crossword Editor Will Shortz and TV’s CSI Creator Anthony Zuiker on his new CSI: SENSES The Game by Specialty Board Games.
  • Wizards of the Coast Expands Dreamblade
  • Detailed plans for the huge Games Expo 2007
  • Days of Wonder unveils their next incredible game
  • Front Porch Classics’ Word Count
  • Bruce Whitehill's The European Scene
  • A preview of Mongoose Publishing's Battlefield Evolution
  • Profiles of National Games Week Sponsors
  • Word Up!– Games to build vocabulary in the classroom
  • Coverage of all kinds of non-electronic games.
  • All your favorite columns plus a few surprises we’ve cooked up.

Games Quarterly #11 will reach game stores, book stores and newsstands worldwide in the second week of November, cover price $4.95, $5.95 Canadian. Release date is November 8. Ask your local store for every issue. Subscriptions are available by phone.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

October 11, 2006

"Medieval II: Total War" Demo Released

Medieval2TotalWar1.jpgObviously this isn't a computer gaming website. For the most part we like the socially rewarding boxed variety of strategy games more than the cold disconnected feeling you get from staring into a monitor's warm glow for hours on end. But every once in a while a computer strategy game comes along that's so absolutely chalk-full of board game-esque entertainment that it makes those hours on end in solitude not only tolerable, but something that we thirst after.

Enter Medieval II: Total War [official website], a game that simulates the military conquests and technological evolution of 1000AD-1500 AD Europe, within a map that spans from the west coast of Portugal into the deserts of Asia Minor, and all the varying terrain types in between.

At the start of every game you pick a nation from a list of about 20 historically accurate factions, and the game gives you a kingdom of only a handful of cities to cultivate your empire. Your technology starts in the early Medieval period when towns were mostly surrounded by wooden walls. From there you can set out in a turn based mode to make good (or bad) relations with your neighbors, fight wars, convert enemies to your religion, antagonize or support the Pope, pump out new units to outfit your armies, build infrastructure, and discover new technologies, weapons and units. And when we say new units, we really mean it - the game contains over 100 detailed unit types with special abilities, weapon types, tactics -- the works.

Medieval2TotalWar2.jpgWhen your armies clash on the world map the game enters into a detailed battle view. Here you will control the formations of your troops - lining up spearmen to block cavalry charges, charging in your swordsmen to break up enemy lines, launch arrow barrages, and batter castles with siege equipment or pepper them with flaming arrows.

If you've ever been a fan of block war games, then this one animates that type of game into living color. The battle mode of Medieval 2 features fully detailed units who march under flowing banners, hack off limbs, send heads flying, and who suffer to (or are bolstered by) morale effects.

This game is a complex, but the series has been in-place for years so they have a very refined and entertaining tutorial system. The final game ships this November, but the demo was just released! Download it now (for Windows Only) from any of these various gaming download websites:

Medieval II: Total War Demo:

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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