While we're excited to start hacking and slashing in the Forgotten Realm campaign setting, Scepter Tower has come under a bit of fire. Like other official adventures, the module packs just about everything you need to run the adventure from the DM's perspective, from room and character descriptions, to maps, to monster encounters, etc. The chief complaint that we've been hearing about Scepter Tower is in the organization - you may find yourself flipping around quite a bit from maps to encounter descriptions, which honestly has been a problem in all 4th Edition module releases up until now. Additionally, Scepter Tower's backstory is a bit lacking, and the module is mainly a series of combat encounters that lack significant installments ont he Role Playing encounter front.
Thankfully we're a big fan of the combat encounters, so this last complaint falls on deaf ears in our group.
"A Forgotten Realms adventure for 2nd-level characters.
A mysterious presence has taken up residence in one of the towers of Spellgard, and now its dark minions plague the Gray Vale!
Scepter Tower of Spellgard is the first full-length Forgotten Realms adventure published for 4th Edition D&D. When paired with the adventure that appears in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide, this adventure provides the Dungeon Master with all he needs to get his campaign started. This stand-alone adventure is designed to take characters from 2nd level to 5th level."
Similar to the hit Shadows Over Camelot, the Battlestar Galactica board game puts players in control of the cannon's tier-one characters as they struggle to survive on the run as the life of the last human colony . Each character has a suite of abilities that could come in handy in political situations, or in combat situations whenever a Cylon base star warps-in to hose everyone down with nukes. Certain characters will also need to position themselves to repair any and all damage done to Galactica to ensure its survival until the convoy finds Earth.
Although the players will be striving together for a common goal, things aren't always so warm and fuzzy in post apocalyptic space. At the start of the game one player is secretly made a Cylon agent, and must work to sabotage the player's goals without giving away his/her true identity. Then, later in the game a player controlling a human character may also find out he's a Cylon who has just be activated, too, which means you could have two double agents running around your ship. Paranoia will ensue, and trust will become a major factor in the game.
"Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game is an exciting game of mistrust, intrigue, and the struggle for survival which places each player in the role of one of ten of their favorite characters from the show. Each playable character has their own abilities and weaknesses, and all must work together in order for humanity to have any hope of survival. However, one or more players in every game secretly is secretly a Cylon, and wants the humans to perish."
We really weren't expecting this. After releasing both the Ticket to Ride the Card Game, which sometimes gives us a headache after repeat plays with all it's state memorization, and the worldwide release of Ticket to Ride Nordic Countries just a few months ago, publisher Days of Wonder is throwing another Ticket to Ride title at us: Ticket to Ride the Dice Game [Funagain].
We think we may have one more Ticket to Ride sideshow in us, but if another looms on the horizon shortly afterward, then we may raise the white flag and declare the franchise has fully run it's course.
Thankfully the Dice Game doesn't seem nearly as dry as the Ticket to Ride Card Game. Instead of reinventing the Ticket to Ride formula we've all grown to love with a card based solitare / gin abstraction, Ticket to Ride the Dice Game simply replaces the standard turn mechanic of each of the Ticket to Ride Board Games with a little random spice. Oh, and it's compatible with all Ticket to Ride board game releases (original, Europe, Marklin and Nordic), which is actually quite nice.
Here's the general gist of how it works: Players will toss 5 dice instead of drawing train cards. The players may spend his/her dice result to claim routes, claim route tokens (which you'll need to collect in order to 'afford' the longer routes), collect route cards, etc. Other wildcard dice will permit players to use the special option specific to each of the major releases, like build tunnels in Europe / Nordic, build stations, or move passengers, etc.
At first glance it may seem that the dice completely strip the critical suite of decisions a Ticket to Ride player would make: Should I draw another set of cards or play a route before that captain claims it for his own? And we're not quite sure we like the idea of completely removing the colorful train cards. Oh we like them so; collecting them is half the fun!
Here's the upside though: The randomness of trying to draw the right color of train card to complete your collection has been replaced with the randomness of rolling the correct series of dice to claim a route. Any route. Things could get pretty cutthroat.
We'll have a better understanding and our thoughts when the game releases in October. Here are the official details to tide you over until then:
"In this expansion, players still attempt to complete their Destination Tickets and claim routes and block each other on the map. But rather than draw and collect Train cards, they roll five custom Train dice each turn.
Depending on the outcome they can reroll some or all, then use the dice to claim routes on the board; grab Route Tokens for future use; or draw more Destination Tickets.
For board maps that feature Tunnel routes, such as Ticket to Ride Europe, 3 Tunnel dice are also included.
This expansion requires trains, Destination Tickets and a board map from any of the Ticket to Ride series.
The Dice Game Expansion is multi-lingual with rules in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Finnish, Danish, Swedish and Norwegian."
We haven't been writing about this game before release, for a few reasons:
It's not a board or card game, but a PC Game - the horrors!
It had so much prerelease hype that it was bound to not meet such high expectations when it launched earlier this week (and it sooo doesn't); and
We weren't quite sure that folks you and us would be interested.
We'll you darn well should be because Spore [Amazon] is a really wonderful thing.
If you haven't heard anything about Spore and it's promised riches, here's a quicky summation:
Spore starts you off a one planet in a galaxy of millions, which has just been hit by a comet that has deposited life first life into its oceans. The gameplay kicks-off with you in the control of a small organism as it attempts to fend for itself as a little bugger in a very, very large pond. You'll direct your cute cellular self as it swims away from the bigger mouths trying to consume him, and toward the smaller pray for food, or steer him around the ecosystem of the early oceans collecting plant matter like a cellular Pac Man.
You can customize almost every facet of the creature in a very powerful and simple to sue creature creator. You're almost design this creature out of clay, pulling the spine here, attaching spikes, eyes, mouths and antennae there, etc. Each element you add alters the the creature's ability to swim, defend itself, attack and eat. You can even choose if your creature is a herbavore, carnivore or omnivore. The combinations are nearly endless.
As you continue to play you'll continue to evlove your creature by dding more expensive body parts, changing its shape, etc. And you'll keep this this until it's complex enough to evolve legs, and climb up of the seas. This is where the gameplay shifts to a tribal face where you beging to evolve your creature's social skills with your kin, and then technology, and eventually you'll evolve your creature into the space age.
Yes, the game spans the life of your creature from the dawn of time on your home planet until it can venture out into that galaxy of millions of planets and start new colonies of its own. Watch out though, there can be other hositle creatures created by other players (like us, for instance) that are waiting to eat you in the much, much, larger pond of space.
We haven't played enough of the game to do a full a review, but we're giving it a preliminary 4 stars out of 5 after having toyed with it for the last few days. The game is entirely approachable, strokes the creative side of your brain with a comb made of feathers, and is incredibly fun rewarding. Check it out:
After taking control of the Days of Wonder fantasy warfare board game franchise BattleLore two weeks ago, Publisher Fantasy Flight Games has posted a FAQ regarding the fate of the BattleLore [Amazon, Funagain] franchise.
The FAQ includes 7 questions in all, but here are the select important parts:
Q. Will Richard Borg be involved in the development of new content?
A. Yes, we are very excited to be working with Richard on creating new content and products for BattleLore.
Q. Is FFG planning to release the BattleLore expansions that DOW already had in the works?
A. Yes, we will be releasing the expansions which were already being manufactured by DOW. These are the Heroes expansion and For Troll and Country, which we hope to ship sometime this Fall.
Q. When will FFG announce their future plans for BattleLore?
A.We intend to have more details on our support and release plans for BattleLore around the time of the Essen Game Fair (towards the end of October.) Around that time, please stay tuned to the FFG website for more information. " - Fantasy Flight Games
Fantasy Flight also recognizes that the online BattleLore community that's well integrated in the Days of Wonder website may take some time to migrate to Fantasy Flight's side. Not only will they have to bring over the scenario editing tools, but also migrate a database full of existing scenarios, which is something that could be pretty darn tricky if they don't have the staff on-hand to do the work for them.
In the end, though, we like what we see. New Content, no new re envisioning of the series, and the original designer Richard Borg is on board to lead the franchise through the transition.
This fall the British are coming, WWII Style. Yes for the first time ever the approachable Memoir '44 tactical war from Days of Wonder will include the British, and this October its 8th Army will hit the sands of North Africa on a table top near you to fight the good fight against Rommel and his Afrika Korps.
"On the day war broke out, few nations imagined they would soon be forced to conduct land warfare outside of Europe. As a result, when the war reached North Africa, both men and machines were ill-prepared for the harsh demands of a desert campaign.
But history is a testament to the caliber of leadership, ingenuity and resolve of those who fought under such harsh conditions. Thanks in part to its long-established presence in far-flung corners of the globe, no army would display these qualities better than the British Commonwealth Forces.
A complete British Army set including: 42 British infantrymen, 24 Crusader tanks, 6 25-pounder guns and 3 anti-tank weapons
New rules including: the "Stiff Upper Lip" so common to the British Commonwealth Forces, the Motorized Divisions and "Artillery Bravery" of the Italian Royal Army, and a new class of embedded equipment pieces - the Special Weapon Assets!
10 Round Markers: British medals, minefield tokens and "Exit" markers
4 Obstacles including: desert bunkers and roadblocks
14 new Special Forces badges including: including the British SAS, Royal Engineers, and an assortment of Italian badges
8 Historical Scenarios: from the tank disaster of Operation Battleaxe at Halfaya Pass to the relief of the Siege of Tobruk in Operation Crusader; 5 scenarios cover the drawn-out engagement of the Battle of Gazala!"
Every year we take stock in two major game awards groups. One is the International Gamers Awards, while the other is the coveted Spiel des Jahres, or the Germany Game of the Year.
And the 2008 winner is: Lost Cities the Board Game! We must admit, this one took us off guard, seeing that it's a derivative of the original card game [Amazon, Funagain] of the same name. And as you know, sometimes derivatives - no mater what the medium - don't compare well against their predecessor than - say - other fresher titles that inject fresh gameplay elements into the genre.
As you may know EuroGames - the genre of board games Spiel de Jahres tends to cover - are the leading edge of Family Friendly and most importantly well balanced and fun games that were spearheaded by a German movement nearly two decades ago. These games include such classics as Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, Puerto Rico, and countless others. If you have any titles from Rio Grande or Mayfair games, then chances are you're a Eurograme fan.
So when the panel of gaming critics convenes in Germany to announce the best games of 2008, we stand up and take notice. Our friends over at Funagain Games say it best:
"The German Spiel des Jahres is perhaps the world's most prestigious game award. Founded in 1978 by a group of German game critics to promote awareness and to increase the cultural value of games, the award recognizes outstanding games based on originality, playability, and educational value of the game idea; organization, clarity and understandability of rules; packing and layout of the gameboard and the game rules; and functionality and overall quality of the game materials included. " - Funagain Games
Here are a majority of the runners up and recommend titles from this year's award ceremony that are currently available stateside:
It's crazy to think that the Summer is officially unofficially over. Its sad to look over our shoulder and wave goodbye to the crazy nice weather, but there is a bright sight waiting for us just a few paces onward: with Fall comes the holiday release season where gobs of games race to be published before shopping commences!
That includes a the new Battlestar Galactica board game, more D&D 4th Edition goodness, and a new WoW TCG set release, Raid Deck, and a new line of World of Warcraft Miniatures.
Thats on top of the standard Eurogame releases from Rio Grande and Mayfair, and the Days of Wonder updates to both BattleLore and Memoir '44.
We need to take a nap just thinking about the major publishers and the amount of titles they're pushing out this year. And then hopefully a dark horse will emerge and surprise us as well, and freshen things up from offstage.
But before we start chomping at the bit, lets first wipe the drool away and slowly digest the interesting month that was August 2008:
Queen Games has released Batavia [Funagain], a family friendly board game set during the Imperial age where companies like the East India Trading Company forged trade routes to the 'far east'. Players muscle each other into an economic position to control trade routes for 7 goods capitalized by the Dutch East Indies Trading Company back in the 17th century.
Players move across the board collecting goods while they forge their route. Players then place their goods in attempt to be the most influential trader in that good. Whoever has the most influence in a particular good at the end of the game scores the gold for that good, keeping in mind there are 7 out there to monopolize. Gold can be gained in slightly less installments through other sales mechanics, and the winner is the player with the most gold in the end.
Movement isn't a simple roll of the dice. Instead players collect sets of cards corresponding to Trading companies. These Trading Companies are have a corresponding symbol on specified locales on the board, and a player can only move to a Trading Company Locale if they currently have the largest set of said Trading Company's cards in play. In other words - you have to earn your right to travel to a specific Trading Company's spaces.
Why does this matter? Well for one each locale has a randomly placed Good (from before), so you'll want to seek out your majority of goods by ensuring you land on the best possible spaces. Additionally you can only move in one direction - so you have to plan ahead or you trading exhibition might end up like as barren as Geraldo Rivera's face peering into Al Capone's Vault.
It sounds a lot more complicated than it really is, and the game is actually quite easy to learn and thus is good for the family. It should move along quickly, too ( about 60 minutes), and there's that sweet spot of strategy that lies between too-easy and analysis paralysis, which is just where we like things in our 60 minute titles.
Here's Batavia's official details:
"Beautiful sunsets, a foreign animal- and plant-world, the scent of fine spices is in the air. The Far East has always magically attracted adventurers, soldiers of fortune, and explorers as well as traders and merchants.
For about 400 years merchants in different countries organized themselves into companies in order to send large shipping fleets to the Far East.
They expected rich profits from these trips, because spices such as pepper and nutmeg were worth their weight in gold.
Batavia takes the players to the Golden Age of the East India companies. Whoever can travel to the stations with the most lucrative goods can get the best varieties and rake in the gold by the end of the game."
Reasons have been given by Days of Wonder in an extensive FAQ about the BattleLore Migration, which cites a lack of Days Of Wonder resources to continue to produce a game series of BattleLore's scope.
The franchise will thankfully continue to march on, flying under the banner of Fantasy Flight Games. The two companies often complement each other, with Days of Wonder publishing the more approachable and lighter titles like Shadows over Camelot, Colosseum, and the aforementioned Ticket to Ride, while Fantasy Flight Games publishes the beefier and more complicated titles like Warrior Knights, War of the Ring, and Starcraft. This handing-off of such a venerable flashship franchise feels as though Worlds are Colliding for us, and we're not quite sure how we should feel.
Should we be glad that the system is now in competent hands, or should we fear that BattleLore will kick up a notch of complexity to an undesired level? Will the system slowly fade away, or will Fantasy Flight Games instill fresh blood and increase the level of quality of expansions, making them more involved and meatier? Will the light fantasy theme be replaced by the darker Fantasy Flight line of design?
"Battlelore is as perfect a fit for FFG as could possibly exist in the marketplace," said Christian T. Petersen, CEO and founder of FFG. "Needless to say we're very excited and proud to include this power title and brand into FFG's family of products. Previous to today, FFG had no fantasy 'battlefield' game, a void which we now can fill with this gorgeous industry leader. We plan to support this game vigorously. Even in the very first discussion with Eric and Richard about this deal, there was a flood of exciting ideas for how FFG can expand this game, serve its community, and move the brand of 'Battlelore' forward under the FFG banner."