February 12, 2009

Rubik 360 Revealed as a Puzzling Sphere

The Rubik 360 was revealed to the world last week with a rush to fanfare. When we heard the latest puzzle is series of concentric spheres with colored balls in the middle, we thought it was pretty darn interesting. But to see it, and now hear it shake and rattle, the mass of plastic detracts a bit from the puzzle. We're pretty sure that it's not built with cheap materials, but it instills the feeling that it is.

Hopefully the puzzling aspects of the device outweigh the hamster ball vibe. At least the puzzle is complex enought that it won't ever be solved by a simple iPhone App. See for yourself -- here (above), a fan unwraps it for the first time.

The Rubik 360 should hit shelves sometime mid summer. To tide you over until then, also checkout this interesting Time Magazine video interview with Erno Rubik, creator of the Rubik Cube and the Rubik 360.


Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

February 4, 2009

Cosmic Encounter Revised (2008)

CosmicEncounter.JPGThe original Cosmic Encounter was a classic romp of negotiation and quick, simple galactic warfare the took half skill, half luck, half negotiation, and very little math to win - and that's why we liked it. The game was quick, had few pieces, and was one of those all around classic 1980's games that held up over numerous repeat plays, and never panned out the same way twice.

There have been numerous revisions of the game over the years, as the title jumped from publisher to publisher, but each one fell short in one fashion or another compared against the background of its original predecessor. It became common for fans to mix the rule and pieces of various iterations to create their own Frankensteinian hybrid that's fit enough to live up to the title.

CosmicEncounterHate.jpgThis time around it's Fantasy Flight's turn, and everything is top notch in true FFG fashion. Cosmic Encounter 2008 [Amazon, Funagain] remains a card game at heart, where players spend cards form their hand to win over an opponent's star systems in a battle royal each turn. The diplomacy edge comes from players petitioning their friends to join in the fight, either helping to conquer new territory for their mutual benefit, or to come into the defnese of a player so that another competitor doesn't get too big of an edge in the overaall game. Cosmic Encounter ends when a player controls enough systems. Easy Peasey.

The game throws curve balls with the selection of 50 alien races, which give certain players specific powers. The powers span the range of replacing destroyed ships, limiting the number of strength cards a player can contribute to a battle, or even changing the end game rules. The Masochist - for instance - wins if all his ships are destroyed. Crazy. Expansions will certain be on the way with even more crazy powers to cause controlled chaos tot he game.

If you're looking to learn more, then we highly recommend a pair of video reviews from board game review czar (in the good way) Tom Vasel from The Dice Tower. They're aptly named: Cosmic Encounter for Newcommers and Cosmic Encounter for Veterans, Both videos well worth your time if you're looking to be sure you want to relive some of your best childhood gaming memories. Hey - we know sometimes things don't pan out so well when they're revisited 20 years later (OMG, actually 30 years! We're old). Thankfully the latest Cosmic Encounter pans out wonderfully.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

February 3, 2009

New Rubik's 360 Debuts in Just Two Days

Rubik.jpg

There are three major toys that we remember from our youth that should sit comoftably in our consciousness until the day we die: the original Light Brite, Simon, and Rubik's Cube. Sure, there's Tiger Baseball and Speak & Spell, but those seem to hover a level above "toy" raiting so we wont' even mention them. Oh Crap.

While Light Bright and Simon have both stagnated for nearly 3 decades, the Hungarian doctor of puzzles Ser Rubik has put his finishing touches on a new masterpiece. This is truly his new invention, too, not a marketing board table's reinvisioning of the classic cube with more squares, or fewer squares, or with a key chain. zzzZZzzz

RubiksCube.jpgWell this time the doctor is back to square one, and the movable clicky shapes are no more. Will the Doctor be able to create a craze the size of his original cube? Probably not. The original sold 350 million worldwide, which is off the wall crazy numbers. Those are tall shoes to fill.

Unfortunately the new Rubik 360 puzzle - which is still officially under wraps - looks a bit hampsterballish. Made with clear plastic the sphere doesn't really scream high quality with first glance, or 'cool' like the primary hued cube once did back in the color confused 1980s. Still, the concentric sphere idea does sound quite intriguing, and if the gameplay holds up then it should make a rather significant crash on the market later this year, and perhaps as stocking stuffers for the next decade.

Read the full prerelease story on Telegraph.co.uk. The Rubk's 360 will be officially released to public scrutiny on Thursday.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

February 1, 2009

Critical Gamers' January 2009 Board Game Roundup

ZontikGamesChess.jpg
Welcome to the year of the Ox. We're ignorant to what that truly means. Oxen must game like no tomorrow, though, 'cause we haven't had this much fun wile gaming since we played Hungry Hungry Hippos with Cherry Bombs (don't try this at home kids).

This month our our infatuation with the Battlestar Galactica board game has gone full steam ahead. Most of it is how well balanced, entertaining, and well themed the game is. The icing on the cake though is the level of paranoia the game instills. Repeatedly accusing each other of secretly being "frakking cylons" with the lisp of a drunken Colonel Tigh is not only hilarious, but adds to the meta game of political infighting and intrigue. Dear Fantasy Flight Games, there had better be an expansion in the works, or you're gonna be white knuckling an air lock support pylon.

We're also full blown into our D&D campaign. Unfortunately we've just lost another group member to a move that brought him out of state. While we continue to impatiently wait for the official D&D Insider Table Top Tools, we've been trying to make our webcam + Skype work with multiple players (2 at this point, but soon maybe 3), and it's just not scaling the way we want. So we've formed an exploratory commit to try out some collaborative tools that let groups play D&D through the interewebs using Java game clients on everyone's home PC -- essentially the D&D Insider tools except that are free, that work, and.. well frankly: exist. We'll let you know what if we find anything worth your while.

What We're Playing

Board Games<

Card Games

Collectable Card Games

Gaming Culture

Gaming News

RPGs

Variants

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

January 28, 2009

Small World coming this May from Days of Wonder

SmallWorld.jpg
These days we have two favorite modern American Board Game Publishers vying for control of our gaming attention. On one hand we have Fantasy Flight Games, who make some top notch stuff like Battlestar Galactica (which we promise we won't mention again for at least a week), Tide of Iron, and Twilight Imperium . The problem is that as a whole FFG games have levels of complexities that hit the points of complication, and so epic that they're very tough to squeeze into a weeknight gaming session.

That's where Days of Wonder comes in. Their games are top notch, too, and while they remain deep in the gameplay department, they're often much easier to setup and play in the evening. The Ticket to Ride franchise, for instance, remains one our favorite releases ever. And when Days of Wonder announces something new, we sit up and listen.

Small World looks to be Civilization Light, or Tempus Heavy, where players lead their own civilization out of the caves and into the light of day. The problem is,t he world is just too small to support every tribe. Thefore each must lead their social and technical expansion at the expense of other's resources, and lives (aka: war).

There's a great video sneak peak of the game on the official Days of Wonder Small World website. The full blown Prelease Release can also be read here, but we've included the juicy bits below:


"Designed by Philippe Keyaerts as a fantasy follow-up to his award-winning Vinci, Small World is inhabited by a zany cast of characters such as dwarves, wizards, amazons, giants, orcs and even humans; who use their troops to occupy territory and conquer adjacent lands in order to push the other races off the face of the earth. Picking the right combination from the 14 different fantasy races and 20 unique special powers, players rush to expand their empires - often at the expense of weaker neighbors. Yet they must also know when to push their own over-extended civilization into decline and ride a new one to victory.

"Small World marks the return of the 'classic' Days of Wonder big-box game," said Eric Hautemont, Days of Wonder CEO. "The theme is playful and fun; the rules are simple enough to learn for any family member; but the gameplay can get as cutthroat as anyone might wish. Players will take delight in discovering the best combinations of races and special powers and devising ever more devious new ways to play them; they will also have fun trying to time the decline of their own civilizations just right!"



Small World is currently slated to hit gaming stores in May 2009, and is now available for predorder from Fuangain Games.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

January 26, 2009

Obsidian Portal Seeds a Golden Age of RPG Authoring

WarcraftPortal.jpgHere's a sweet little... actually quite large site that was brought to our attention from two directions at once over the weekend. The Obsidian Portal is a Wikipedia for RPG players, specifically created for a DM and his/her party to keep track of the story so far, the equipment they've gathered, and the maps they've obtained. Pages include all the Wiki perks such as URL and Image embedding, and of course, all the cross referencing you can muster.

So if you've been looking for a way to disseminate your adventure materials for the next session, or to track all of your past progress to keep track of the story so far, then this is this the site that gets it all done for you. The best thing is that the site has an established set of user rated content, so you can browse and borrow material from DMs that may be a bit craftier than you are - if you care to admit it. Everything from factions, to NPCs, to items and custom rules. There's a library already there, and it's growing even as we speak.

But it's not just a repository to shove stuff into. DMs looking for constructive tools will find it easy to create quick cross reference between concepts and NPCs. Refer to an NPC in a few descriptions, and then link them to a character description entry in your group's own customized wiki. Such consistency and organization won't just earn applause from your players - it'll help you sculpt out a complete world from start to finish, too.

Gotta love the Internets.

PS. Everything that Obisidan Portal is was supposed to be a feature of the D&D Insider and Gleemax, too, but the slothlike progression of that compendium of tools and the cancellation of the social community piece has caused the official D&D 4th Edition tools to loosen theirgrip on relevance even further.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

January 23, 2009

5 Tips for Cylons in the Battlestar Galactic Board Game

CylonModel5.jpgYesterday we posted 5 Helpful Tips for the Battlestar Galactica Board Game [Amazon, Funagain], which hopefully will help the Human Faction players outlast the Cylon onslaught. But what if you're caught on the other side of the lines, embedded in the Human Fleet as a sleeper agent for the Cylons?

Knowing what to do and when can be tricky for cylon skinjobs. You don't want to be too heavy handed or lest you risk exposing yourself as a double agent, and you certainly don't want to be too laid back or those sweaty humans might make it all the way to Kobol. Balance is key.

Keeping that in mind, here are our 5 Tips for Cylon players who find themsevles on the other side of the fence in the Battlestar Galactica board game we love so much.

1: You're a Traitor, so Give Yourself a Hand
Since you'll have to discard your hand down to three, don't expose yourself until you have three high-value cards that you can take with you into the Cylon fleet. Once you're there you'll be starving for cards and it'll be nice to have some killer tools to mess-up the best laid plans of mice and men. Mostly just the men.

ThreeSixEight.jpg2: Know the Cylon Cards
Go through the entire You Are a Cylon deck before you sit down and start playing. Each card has its own set of specific rules on how you can inflict the most damage upon the Galactica and her mates, so get those things down pat.

Here's the trick: while the "You are a Cylon" cards are chalk full of text, the "You are Not a Cylon" cards, have very little. So if you appear to be reading a lot from the card dealt to you in the loyalty phase, then people will peg you as a toaster. Don't let this happen.

3: Timing is Everything
If an opportunity presents itself to cause maximum chaos at a critical time, then it's worth exposing yourself right then and there. Just pull the trigger, and don't look back. You may not get a better chance to cripple the fleet.

4: Be Nice, But Spread Mistrust
While you will surely be mistrusted, you can go far to create pockets of new mistrust elsewhere, too. Try to setup circumstances where your ship mates would put blame on someone else, while you passively do nothing. You may get lucky and get your target thrown into the brig, too, where they're nigh useless. Don't be too heavy handed though. Dabble, don't gush mistrust.

Conversely, if you're Cylon or Human, its in your best interest to play the good guy at least for a while. You have to build trust in order to backstab properly. But just like spreading the mistrust, don't lay it on too thick. Especially if you're a bad actor.

5: A Resource Wasted is a Resource Gained
If you're in a position of power then try to bleed as many resources as you can. Risk raptors to get goods that your fleet already has an abundance of. Feign despair and send Vipers into horribly dire situations where they're protecting civilian ships but they're completely outnumbered and will certainly die. Use a Nuke because you think "it's time", when you bloodly well know it isn't time yet.

Happy Hunting.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

January 22, 2009

5 Helpful Tips for the Battlestar Galactica Board Game

BStarBoardGame.jpg
We love the Battlestar Galactica Board Game [Amazon, Funagain]. We've admitted it before, and now it's currently slugging it out with a few other titles for our favorite game of 2008. We just finished a heated session last night, and while it's still fresh in our memories we thought we'd share some of the lessons we've learned so far. Here are 5 tips for the Human players, but we've also carved out some Tips for Cylon Players, too. Enjoy!


1: Easy Does It
Beginner players tend to overcompensate on the crisis cards, dealing in what they think is 'their share' to ensure the group passes the crisis and moves onto better days. But when you win the crisis 23-6 about five times in a row, then you're just bleeding away valuable cards. Cool it. Save it for when a cylon throws you in a brig.

2: He's not a jerk, He's a Cylon OK, maybe He's Both.
The entire game is filled with sarcastic one liners of "sure thing, cylon" but when someone decides to throw you - an innocent human - in the brig, things get serious. You could be saving the fleet with your cards and actions left and right, and suddenly you're on trial for being a traitor. Chances are, the person calling the vote is a sleeper cylon himself, and he may have friends or humans who question your loyalty. Therefore always carry a nice balance of cards to ward off an arrest, or to spring yourself out when things get tough.

3: The Quorum is a Rabble
Sure the Quorum may get you out of a pinch of resource depleation or expose a Cylon - but only only to you, and that's not proof of anything. In fact, even if you tell people someone is a cylon 'because you know'', the rest of the group might not believe you and think that you're a sleeper cylon falsely accusing other people. Plus the cards seem to repeat themselves a lot. If you already have a few in your hands, then chances are that getting more won't pull you out of desperate times. Instead, avoid this Hail Mary Pass, and use a targeted action to ensure you're actually in a stronger position than you were when your turn started.

4: Save Those Nukes
When a Cylon finally reveals himself, be ready for some hurt. A well timed super crisis and crisis card could land your FTL in sleep mode in a system with multiple base stars, raiders and heavy raiders baring down on you, and more civilian ships than you care to protect. Plus, with the Cylon no longer masquerading as a Human, you'll be shorthanded to deal with it all at once. Even if things are looking slightly dismal before the second loyalty phase, let the Galactica soak up some hits - its easier to repair the galactica than to replace lost civilian resources.

5: Politics are All Talk
Politicians generally hang out on Colonial One managing resources, and stay away from Galactica herself. That means they're not going to be of much use destroying
Cylon ships, repairing locations, and fixing busted Vipers. We'd recommend only one full fledged politician in a 5 player game, and instead make sure you have a support player filling out your ranks.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

January 20, 2009

D&D 4th Edition Players Handbook 2 Slated for March

DD4thEdPlayersHandbook2.jpgA new layer of source material is slated to ship this spring, just nearly a year after the launch of D&D's 4th Edition. Coming down the pipe this year are new focused supplements, a new overarching Monster Manual 2, and a Dungeon Master Guide 2 slated for release this September.

But it's the D&D 4th Edition Player's Handbook 2 [Amazon, Funagain] that kicks-off things in March. The stand alone release extends the current Players Handbook materials with 224 pages of with new races, new classes, and new abilities that expand upon the already vast suite of slick things to chose from when making your own character from scratch.

Here are some of the details:


Player's Handbook 2 expands the range of options available to D&D players with new classes, races, powers, and other material.

This 224-page book builds on the array of classes and races presented in the first Player's Handbook, adding both old favorites and new, never-before-seen options to the game. Some of the racial options include the gnome, shifter, and half-orc. The classes featured include old favorites like the barbarian, druid, bard, and sorcerer.

The book adds a new power source for 4th Edition D&D: classes using the new primal power source include the barbarian and the druid.


It's crazy to think that a second iteration of source materials are preparing for launch, and yet the D&D Insider Tools we coveted so seem to be on the vaporware horizon. Come on guys, get cracking!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

January 18, 2009

Zontik Games' High End Game Store Relaunches

ZontikGamesChess.jpgWe live in the city - Boston actually - and though we aren't scraping the bottom of the corporate food chain, we're not exactly living in luxurious folds of space either. Many of our apartments are small, and have no storage so we must remain very utilitarian with the space we have.

But if we did live in the suburbs, or maybe in a region of the country that wasn't built on a 19th century landfill, and that actually didn't have basements that flooded when it slightly mists outside, then things would be a lot different. Our living room would sport two nice leather backed chairs and a chess board table with room for scotch on both sides. We're talking about the type of high quality set that abuts an old wooden globe , where the back wall would be stacked with well-bound books we've never read, and where Gentlemen retreat to carve up the world via games and politics.

Zontik Games makes these kinds of things. High-end gaming products of your favorite titles, like high quality chess sets, poker sets, or crafted wood versions of Scrabble, and the best looking Pentanque (Boule) set this side the Bay of Biscay.

We've mentioned Zontik a few years ago, and we're visiting writing again because they just relaunched their website, and they have even more high end gaming products. They also now offer a service called Custom Deluxe. where "people customize games by picking their own materials and designs," including "leathers, rare materials, precious stones, or any other thing a customer's heart desires." We're thinking a set of dice crafted from a handful Tunguska meteorites would add a tasteful edge to our gaming.

Their relaunch is worth checking out. Don't let the sticker shock scare you -- you get what you pay for.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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