March 6, 2009

Age of Conan Board Game Previews

AgeOfConan.jpg

World has it from Fantasy Flight Games that the Age of Conan [Amazon,Funagain] board game is done, shrink wrapped, and heading out on flat bed trucks even as you read this now. That means the title should be in stores as early as next week. And it's about time; the game was originally slated for release a year ago. But good things take time, and we're really hoping this one is really, really good.

Age of Conan is done by the same board game group who made the War of the Ring games for the Lord of the Rings franchise. That was a game of deep strategy, luck, massive battles, and often putting everything on the line to just get that one inch closer to victory. Age of Conan seems quite similar, with a grittier setting, and the complexity scaled back a bit with turns being more streamlined.

Of all things, that list bit - about the streamlining - is a welcome change. There was a bubble of FFG titles that were a bit over the top with the painstaking turn length and rules in the mid 2000s. War of the Ring and World of Warcraft became too much of a burden to play after a while. Devoting an entire day to game with such random elements - albeit often an awesome epic struggle - is just not in the cards for us these days. Perhaps we've tired of games like that, or gotten older and slower, or both.

So if you're like us then perhaps you should delve into the preview content of the game over the weekend. There are some general Age of Conan details here, even better are a series of Feature Articles that published on the game's Official Website:

  1. Conan the Barbarian - Force of Nature!
    [A sneak peak at the upcoming Age of Conan - Plus Rules!]
  2. A Designer's Recollections
    [The first part in a 4 part designers diary on Age of Conan]
  3. Direct From The Designer
    [The second part in a four part series on Age of Conan]
  4. The Role of Conan
    [Pirate, Mercenary, General, King... the impact of Conan on the Hyborian world ]


Well let you know when we start seeing Age of Conan [Amazon,Funagain] in stores. Till then - have a good weekend.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

March 4, 2009

Empire Total War Brings 18th Century Warfare to Your PC

The day has finally come. The next historically set Real Time meets Turn Based Strategy game in to the Total War series is finally out. Empire Total War is now available from Amazon and Steam, and we're quite busy conquering central Europe as the Austrians or storming the American beaches in the Revolutionary War to offer much of a comment.

Know this though: The game is huge -- brimming with historical detail and with three connected campaign maps (North America, Europe and India) it's easily the biggest Total War game yet. We're even willing to overlook some of the early AI glitches that cause computer controlled opponents to sometimes get hung up on rock walls amidst the chaos of battle, 'cause sometimes they over compensate on our green buttocks with ambushing tactics from grassy gnolls that take our artillery unawares. The way we see it, their wall hugging problems definitely compensate for our early gross incompetence. We'll consider it a gift from Creative Assembly meant as a window to practice our 18th century military maneuvers for a few weeks before really taking the game seriously.

We'll have more news and reviews about Empire Total War as the sheer grand immensity of this living board game is realized over the next few weeks. Till then, we'll leave you with this shot to the stomach: only the boring predictable pedestrian historians pick England as their first faction. Well, those scalawags and the people who are actually English. No offense intended to them.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

March 3, 2009

WoW TCG Blood of the Gladiators Previews

BloodOfTheGladiatorsBooster.JPGIt's that time of year again -- another World of Warcraft TCG expansion looms on the horizon. The Blood of the Gladiators is the middle set to the PvP Cycle that started back in fall 2008 with Drums of War, with the subfocus now directed toward the carefully constructed group combat of Arena teams.

And with it comes a new Ally type: Arena Ally. These guys are new versions of allies past, sporting Arena gear familiar to WoW MMORPG players, and retooled to buff other allies (spposed team mates). While it's true that we probably wont see many Arena Allies outside oft this cycle, at least they be slid into any deck of the past or the future. That makes them many more times useful than last year's ho-hum Servants of the Betrayer decks, which haven't aged well. They're now entombed in our Temple of Forgotten WoW cards (ie: collecting dust beneath our spare night stand.)

Now if you would have asked us .. oooh... just last week actually, we wouldn't have been really too excited about another WoW TCG expansion was just around the corner. After all, Drums of War last fall was overshadowed by the then impending release of WoW Minis, and we're we're still haven't gotten over our ho-hum blues associated with the launch of that mediocre release.

But after we started delving into the Official Preview Articles, our pulse began to quicken. There really does seem like theres a lot of good stuff coming down the pipe, and it's very flexible. There's a lot of cool things going on here:

GrimReach.jpgNot to be confused with Neutral allies, which have been around since the dawn of time of course. These guys are affiliated with both alliance and horde, which means that any cards you have that buff horde allies or alliance allies can be applied to both. Additionally, these guys seem to not only buff both factions themselves, but some allow you to capture your opponents allies, and then give your new bretheren a swift kick in the butt with a buff, too. Sweet.

Of course, they're epics, so good luck getting 'em. [Read More]

  • New Keyword: Inspiring Presence: If a hero or ally in your party would deal non combat damage, it deals that much damage +1 instead. This seems to be a Draenei racial ability, so don't expect your damage over time Horde Warlock, Priests or Mages to get any love. Sad for us, because we almost always roll Horde. Guess it's time to make a few more decks. [Read More]

  • New Keyword: Arcane Torrent breathes a bit of life into those pompous Blood Elf allies: When this ally enters play, target opposing card in play loses and and cant' have powers this turn. Used well this could seriously run somebody's day. [Read More]

  • New Keyword: Hardiness can be found on the new Orc allies in Blood of Gladiators. This ability says "if this ally would be dealt damage, prevent 1 of it." About as dry as a Vodka Martini. Those poor orcs need some more interesting stories. [Read More]

  • Loot Cards Hmm.. nothing here really great to report. At least not from a World of Warcraft fan's perspective, and isn't that kind of the point? [Read More]

    Here's an index of the Preview Articles thus far. Special Comments added to those articles featuring specific cards:

    Meltdown.jpg

    1. Into the Arena
      The Expansion and You
    2. Teaming Up
      Arena Allies
    3. Meltdown:
      Mage Ability that melts... stuff
    4. Hardiness
      Orc Racial Ability
    5. Arcane Torrent
      Blood Elf Racial Ability
    6. Scatter Shot
      Hunter Ability for use with Two Hands
    7. Utopia
      Druid Ability do over
    8. Inspiring Presence
      Draenei Racial Ability
    9. Divine Favor:
      Paladin Healing Ability via personal card removal
    10. Focused Will:
      Priest Ability that does some crazy damage swapping each turn.
    11. Deadliness:
      Rogue Destruction Ability that roadhouses up to three exhausted card types.
    12. Tidal Mastery:
      Shaman Ability that suddenly makes a plethora of totems so much more worth while.
    13. Grim Reach:
      Warlock temporary Health Sap that becomes more powerful with the more ongoing abilities you have in play. Very, very nice.
    14. Shield Wall
    15. Foul Magics
    16. Split Decision
    17. Pally Power


    The World of Warcraft Trading Card Game expansion Blood of the Gladiators is slated for release this month - March 2009. We'll keep this link live with the latest and greatest feature articles, and we'll let you know as soon as its hit shelves.

    Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking
  • March 1, 2009

    Critical Gamers' February 2008 Board Game Roundup

    DawnOfWar2SpaceMarine.JPG

    Welcome to March which - despite throwing a snow storm our way right off the bat - promises to be a pretty nice month for gaming. Our unexpected straddle from table top to PC continued throughout te entire month. First, we grow more more accustomed to the fantastic RP Tools, which is breathing new life into our D&D campaign. With members moving to distant states it was our last resort to switch to the PC and the Internets to continue play, and RP tools has come up spades in all capacities, and then some.

    Also on the PC we've been making our way through the epic Warhammer 40K Dawn of War 2 real time strategy game from Relic Entertainment. Fans of the original Warhammer table top strategy game should also find tons in that title to enjoy. And in just a few short days we'll be scaling back 39K years to the historic Imperial Age of world history in the turn based and real time simulation Empire Total War. We're going to be strung out on RTS gaming bliss by the time March's first full weekend hits. We can freaking wait.

    March is also the slated release for the new World of Warcraft TCG expansion Blood of the Gladiators. Hopefully Upper Deck will put things back on track in that universe, redeeming itself after the dismal amount of support for the WoW Minis franchise. Read more about our thoughts concerning that in our World of Warcraft Minis review

    Happy gaming folks, and watch out for snow drifts.

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    Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

    February 27, 2009

    Age of Steam 3rd Edition Board Game Released

    AgeOfSteam3rdEdition.jpgAttention fans of rail builders out there, specifically Rail Road Tycoon fans, the more complex strategy classic Age of Steam 3rd Edition [Funagain] has been released. This new revision shares common rules with the perevious editions, but sports components far superior to to those releases; Additionally the base game in Age of Steam 3rd Edition is also designed for 3 to 6 players to play over the course of two hours, but also sports two additional fold out maps that offer single player and two player scenarios.

    The game definitely kicks it up a notch on the old difficulty scale compared to Rail Road Tycoon, so if you're a fan of that franchise and you'll looking for something a bit more challenging, then Age of Steam is certainly worth your time. Fans of Ticket to Ride may find Age of Steam 3rd edition a significant step up from the fun Family Game they're used to, so they may want to try out Railroad Tycoon instead.

    We should also mention that this Age of Steam 3rd Edition release comes out on the eve of Steam, a restructuring of the Age of Steam franchise. So if you're a long time Age of Steam fan, then you might want hold off to see what that release brings to the table next month.


    Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

    February 25, 2009

    Tide of Iron Designer Series Volume One

    TideOfIronDesignerSeriesV1.jpgWe're pretty big fans of the WWII tactical board game Tide of Iron. In fact the only glaring flaw is that we don't have enough time to devote to the well-designed scenarios that ship with the game and its expansions (sessions take about 3-5 hours).

    If you're gang busters about your war games, then you know this series is alive and kicking with some great expansions, like Days of the Fox and the new Normandy Expansion both of which added new units, pieces and rules to the mix. The fact that Fantasy Flight continues to deliver with well produced materials speaks volumes to the longevity of the system. Now Fantasy Flight has also shown the series some more love with a new hardcover supplement of well-designed and balanced scenarios.

    The Tide of Iron Designer Series [Amazon, Funagain] is cheaper than your normal expansion, and has scenarios for the base game, Days of the Fox, and Normandy.

    Astute gamers may note that the Designer Series came out sometime around the new year. We didn't speak of it because there were gobs of incredible titles coming out at the time . But now, after the dust from the holiday shelling has settled, it's time to emerge from our bunker for some more Tide of Iron goodness.

    Here are the official details:


    Compiled by distinguished conflict historian Dana Lombardy (Streets of Stralingrad), the Tide of Iron: Designer Series is a hard cover collection of twenty scenarios crafted by today's most famous wargame designers. Using the mechanics of the Tide of Iron base game, these design masters have crafted the first volume in one of the most exciting collections of wargaming history. The Tide of Iron: Designer Series is an incredible addition to the Tide of Iron base game, offering a whole new level of depth and historical context for players to enjoy. - Scenarios vary from short, fast-play skirmishes to massive tactical battles. - Historical backgrounds and anecdotes for each scenario written by the scenario designer. - Several scenarios incorporate the North Africa Days of the Fox Expansion. - One epic scenario which requires two copies of Tide of Iron for a massive, multiplayer experience.
    Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

    February 24, 2009

    Empire Total War Demo Debuts on Steam

    EmpireTotalWarRedCoats.jpgLong time readers know that we're avid fans of Creative Assembly's Total War Franchise for the PC. Well in just over a week's time, the new installment Empire Total War [Amazon] hits shelves, and we'll be knee deep in marathon sessions of Imperial Age warfare - both on tactical and strategic levels - from the very moment the game is released.

    Those thirsting for some of the tactical action right right must no longer wait: the Empire Total War Demo is now available on the Steam download service. It includes two battles: the American Revolution Battle of Brandywine Creek, and the naval Battle of Lagos.

    The naval battles is a new feature for the Total War games, and though it depicts an English fleet against a mass of French vessels, the demo's scenario still lacks certain acoutremonts to bring the system to life. We would like to hear more atmosphere to bring us into the battle: sailer calls, marine gunfire, and the crack of opening sails, but perhaps we'll have to just wait for someone to mod the game a bit after launch. The naval warfare also lacked some strategic depth at first -- at least until we figured out the whole broadside mechanism. Toy a bit with the round cannon buttons in the lower right and you'll soon be on your way to kicking some scurvy butt. Unfortunately you can't roll as the French in the demo.

    The demo's land combat scenario is everything a Total War game is and more. The engine really has come a far way since Medieival II Total War, and that's saying something 'cause that game is still gorgeous.

    Soon we'll have our hands on the full version and constructing our Austrian empire from the ground up. The game is slated for release next week (March 3rd), and if you can't wait and you're hankering for more Empire Total War coverage then checkout these quick battle walkthroughs from some of the game's AI Programmers:

    1:Empire: Total War Superior Tactics Walkthrough
    2: Empire: Total War Superior Tactics Walkthrough Part II HD

    They're a bit over produced and has too many quick-cuts for its own good, but it has great examples of what makes Total War battles so great: the scale of the fights is unparalleled.

    Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

    February 20, 2009

    RP Tools Save Our D&D Group From Implosion

    D&DDice.jpgWe have a problem. An alarming number of the D&D 4th Edition fans in our group are moving away. It's that time in our lives where people start families, flee imminent natural disasters or rising seas and giant earthquakes, and move somewhere thats a heckuvalot cheaper than Boston.

    When our first player moved away two years ago, we planned to lean on the then 'upcoming' D&D Insider tools from Wizards of the Coast to keep us connected and playing through the Internets, but Wizards has really flopped like a fish out of water after a year and a half of seemingly broken promises.. and just when needed them the most, too. First the tools were going to be free with a D&D Source Book purchase. Then it turned out there would be a monthly fee steeper than our World of Warcraft subscription -- not cool. Then we hear that Macs won't be supported. Then we heard the crickets churp and a wolf cry in the distance when D&D 4th Edition was released nearly a year ago. Still, nothing.

    USASatNight.jpgAs the proposals from WoTC bittered, the players in our group kept moving away. Some could still commute, but it was nearly an hour. Others left the state altogether. We tried to keep things going by setting up our Frankensteinian system with web cams that point at the map, and with Skype and a sweet-ass microphone a friend had from a failing podcast. For while it was novel to have giant heads on laptops sitting along side real people at the table, but after some time the system proved a) prone to glitches, and b) dorkier than we'd ever care to admit to anyone but you.

    In between these dysfunctional sessions, we scoured the web for online tools similar to the original promises of D&D Insider in the hopes we could switch the a virtual gametable. For months our searches came up short as we found numerous highly cryptic pieces of software with a substandard community base, that required a lot of work to import art assets, and just generally looked like an upturned baseball cap full of poo.

    RP Tools Becomes Our Saving Grace
    Then one of us discovered RP Tools sometime around the new year. We poked it with a stick for a while 'cause we were used to disappointment, but and after the first session we were giddy with dorkish delight. It not only worked well, it actually made the game more enjoyable beyond our wildest imaginations. The RP Tools system has a lot of things going for it, and now that we have it setup, we're not sure we're going to want to play D&D the old fashioned way anymore.

    ArrowContinue reading: "RP Tools Save Our D&D Group From Implosion"

    Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

    February 17, 2009

    Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War 2 is Upon Us

    DawnOfWar2SpaceMarine.JPGThe second iteration of the incredible PC adaptation of the Warhammer 40K franchise hits shelves tomorrow, and we're wicked excited. That's not New England sarcasm, either. Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War 2 [Amazon] is another title in a long lineage of Real Time Strategy releases by Relic Entertainment, a company who has produce hit after hit in the RTS gaming world. They made the amazing Dawn of War, that introduced some crazy terrain deformation, and limb tearing robots, our beloved Company of Heroes WWII real time tactical strategy game, and their classic flagship Homeworld.

    Warhammer 40K Dawn of War 2 is destined to be another classic RTS, despite the fact that it's a game about tactics. Base building in this game is deemphasized. Instead your customization comes in how you outfit and upgrade your handful of squads under your control. And when the guns start firing, and the body parts start flying, the game doesn't enter into a tug of war of economies, but instead rests on the ability for you to tactfully command your forces on the front line. Skirmishes erupt with some of the most vivid animations in a strategy game to date. See for yourself:

    In the singleplayer campaign, players following their customized squad of Space Marines from map to map as they take on the forces of the Orks, the Eldar, and the vicious instectoid Tyranids. In a slick feature somewhat new to the RTS genre, your friend can team up with you to play through the entire campaign cooperatively. Or, if you'd rather, fight against your friends online in skirmish battles where you can control any of the other factions. We're pretty excited to implale and dismember some Orks with the sword like limbs of cluster of Tyranids ourselves.

    We'll see you planetside.

    Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

    February 13, 2009

    Tannhäuser: Operation Novgorod

    TannhauserOperationNovgorod.jpgThe well previewed expansion to Tannhäuser, the alternate reality strategy game of WWI Nazis, Zombies, and American Paratroopers, has hit shelves. Tannhäuser: Operation Novgorod [Amazon, Funagain] adds a series of interesting new missions, characters, and weapons to the game. Oh, and now the Russians are getting involved, with their own chilly Slavic Gods at their backs, they have a selection of new abilities including mind number psionics that should add some interesting things to the game. Here are the official details:


    "A new faction has risen to challenge the balance of power in the Great War. The forces of the Russian Matriarchy command advanced technology and ancient theology as they emerge from their torpor to purify the world. By using the technology of President Edisons one-time pupil Nikola Tesla, they have devised a way to bring ancient Slavic divinities to a semblance of mechanical life. The power they have harnessed threatens to tip the balance of the war forever. -- Featuring a new faction, new heroes, robotic minions, and an all-new character type, Operation Novgorod is a completely new way to play Tannhäuser."

    For more information about Operation Novgorod, checkout our previous story Tannhäuser: Operation Novgorod Previews. The expansion is now available from both Amazon and Funagain Games.

    Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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