August 10, 2006

Conan Boardgame in 2007

Conan.8.10.06.jpgParadox Entertainment has announced that their working on a new 'Big Box' strategy board game: "Age of Conan". We could sum up the game a bit ourselves, but it turns out this snippet from the official press release does quite a good job for us:

Tentatively titled Age of Conan – The Strategy Board Game, the game is planned to be released in late 2007. In Age of Conan, two or more players will lead the nations of the "Hyborian Era," the fantasy world created by Robert E. Howard as a background for the stories of Conan. Employing weapons, wealth or magic, each player will strive to achieve hegemony over the others.

"We're very excited about this deal with Paradox Entertainment. As we've done in our previous projects based on famous stories and characters, like War of the Ring and Marvel Heroes, we will take much care bringing to the game the characters, the places and events featured in the Conan stories. We want to create an exciting game faithful to the great tales created by Robert E. Howard," says Roberto Di Meglio, CEO of Nexus Editrice.

"We are thrilled to see a boardgame based in Hyboria. Robert E. Howard created a world filled with adventure and a board game is a great way of discovering it first-hand. Nexus has a formidable reputation of developing visually stunning games in established universes, and we trust our character in their hands", says Fredrik Malmberg, Head of Licensing and Creative Affairs at Paradox Entertainment.

Paradox is responsible for the highly successful War of the Ring strategy board game, and also just recently put the finishing touches on the upcoming Marvel Heroes boardgame for publisher Fantasy Flight Games (in production now).

We all remember the Conan movies from our childhood which put Arnold on the Map ( "Hercules in New York" doesn't count), but the gritty fantasy world of Conan was created by author Robert E. Howard more than eighty years ago. Since then there have been millions of books sold, movies, posters, lunchboxes, the works. If Paradox can do for the world of Conan what they did for LOTR gaming with the War of the Ring, then this game is going to be huge.

We should also note that the game's title "Age of Conan" shares its name with a Massively Online Role Playing Game slated for a 2007 release. Conincidence? Porbably not, but we hope that the two aren;t closely tied. The cross-branding or translation of a board game to a video game (and vice versa) still gives us the heebee-geebees, despite some recent successes. Call us untrusting.

Of course we haven't read anything that suggests these two games are even remotely related. It's probably just a over cautious thought by our part, especially considering the board game is all about warring factions and strategy, not living a second life as a bunch of half naked men in loin cloths as in the video game. Perhaps now you can see why we're scared of any cross pollination.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

August 9, 2006

Now Shipping: "Blue Moon City"

BlueMoonCityCover.8.9.06.jpgFantasy Flight Games has just released the board game "Blue Moon City" [Amazon,Funagain], a sequel to the non-collect able 2-player card game "Blue Moon" [Amazon,Funagain]. The original title was a 2004 Nominee for the International Gamers Awards Best 2-Player Game, though it eventually lost out the highly popular Memoir '44.

For "Blue Moon City ", game designer Reiner Knizia (LOTR: The Confrontation, Tigris & Euphrates, Merchants of Amsterdam) once again visits the fantasy world of Blue Moon, but this time drops the direct Head-to-Head cardplay of the original for a more more constructive Eurogame-styled city builder. Here's the official line:

The Dark Age is over. The royal heirs, who caused the conflict and the destruction of Blue Moon City, have fled, and their corrupt advisors have been banished to faraway lands. The bitter division between the peoples of Blue Moon is beginning to heal.

Blue Moon City lies in ruin, but the people have vowed to restore the city to its former magnificence. The three elemental dragons have returned to help in the renaissance of Blue Moon City. They reward good leadership with shards of the Holy Crystal from the destroyed obelisk in the center of the city.

Blue Moon City -- the board game for 2 to 4 players -- picks up where the 2-player card game ended: with the reconstruction of the destroyed city of Blue Moon. Players vie to impress the dragons, collect crystals, and ultimately gain the leadership of Blue Moon City and win the game. Blue Moon City’s modular board is formed from 21 large building tiles, which show building plans on one side and the buildings in their reconstructed glory on the other. The game also includes wooden player figures, 80 cards depicting the 8 races of Blue Moon, and, as in the card game, 3 large molded plastic dragons.

BlueMoonCityBack.8.9.06.jpg


Fantasy Flight Games has also published the Official Rules for Blue Moon City on their website. Its definitely worth checking out if you're into the city building genre, or are looking for a non combative yet competitive and moderately complex game. The title has a simple building contribution mechanic for the new players to learn, and its complex reward system creates potential for some serious strategic elements to present themselves after a few sessions..

Blue Moon City is now shipping from Amazon.com and the Funagain Games online store.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

August 7, 2006

Checking In with Warhammer Mark of Chaos

MarkOfChaos.8.7.06.jpgA while back we posted some highlights of two Warhammer games coming out for the PC. Warhammer Online is still quite a ways off (probably not until Holiday season 2007), but the Real Time Strategy title Warhammer: Mark of Chaos is slated for a release this September. Black Hole Entertainment recently started a media blitz to publicize the upcoming launch, and we thought we'd keep you posted with a few of the better interviews that we've seen published across the interweb.

First up is a two part interview from "Computer and Video Games". Part one kicks things off with lead Designer Chris Wren about the developer's philosophy on bringing the Warhammer tabletop slug fest over to this Mark of Chaos PC version.

Chris Wren: "We decided to hire an author from Games Workshop's Black Library to craft our story and to give life to our characters and responses within the game, the story has turned out great and the responses you get from units still makes me laugh each time I hear them." From the CVG Interview

The second part continues with Chris Wren, but focuses on the game mechanics such as the terrain's effects on combat, resource production and army customizations. The game sounds complicated and deep, and so they've decided to cull a lot of the other Computer RTS mechanics in order to make way for some cooler warfare / Warhammer moments. Players can utilize roads to quickly transport artillery across the battlefield, buildings can be captured and garrisoned, and farms must be protected to ensure that their resources continue to flow into your army's supply pool.

Gamespot also has a great preview article that covers tons of info about the game without being at all redundant. The story includes information about the game's Champions, their customization, etc, and other gameplay mechanics such as morale, aggro (in an RTS?!), and the shared mana pool. Plus, what would Warhammer be without a lot of gore?

As the battle progresses, the remnants of the mayhem you've caused will remain on the battlefield, making it possible to trace your route via a grim trail of blood and corpses--such details will remain where they are for the duration of the game, rather than disappearing. The team is also working on detachable limbs, which should add to the sense of slaughter. And fun. From the Gamespot Preview

Sweet.. reminiscent of Myth.

MarkOfChaos2.8.7.06.jpgThe game mechanics seem to be shaping up nicely, and the game sounds great on paper, but we've had some recent concerns over footage that we found on Gamespot's media page. The still shots show armor shining in the ambient light bloom haze, and the game's terrain engine is extraordinarily detailed, but the live action movies show some jerkiness and stuttering in the unit animations. We're feeling a lumpy feeling of inevitable disappointment in the back of our throats -- if the developers can't run the game smoothly for demo reels, then how will the game perform for fans with lesser machines?

So far THAT alone has made us a bit weary of this title, despite all the good preview press. We know how the computer gaming mags love to over-hype elements, and gloss over shortfalls and engine issues pre-release. But come now, we shouldn't see these "imperfections" like these at such a late date in the game's development cycle. Maybe the developers will clean up the title before release, but maybe not...

We'll find out for sure in only a month's time. Blackhole Entertainment will ship "Warhammer: Mark of Chaos" for Windows-based PCs in September

Also See:

We know that this site isn't about computer games (a little defensive here), but Mark of Chaos is a port of one of the most popular table top wargaming franchises in history. How could we not cover it?

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

August 3, 2006

World of Warcraft TCG Website Reveals Cards

WoWCardTazo.8.3.06.jpg

Want to get started playing the WoW TCG? Then pick up a Starter Deck and a few booster packs. Also check-out Our Review.

Finally, the official World of Warcraft TCG website has started to reveal some of the game's cards. First up on the docket are the game's hero cards. These cement a player's deck, dictating what type of armor, weapon, ally and ability cards that the player can use in any game.

Example: The fugly Troll Mage Ta'zo to the right here. He's a fire mage for the Horde, with enchanting and tailoring skills which allow him to play and use enchanting and tailoring items and abilities. His class (Mage) and race (Troll) dictate the type of spells, abilities, and allies that he can take into a fight. Ta'zo also has a special ability to burn a target for 3 damage - but he can only do it once per game.

When a player uses his hero ability, he flips the hero card over. And in a nice execution of design, the back sides of hero cards have all of the same information as the front, but the design crops-out the special ability (since it's been used) and repositions the rest of the card information into a small heads down display, making room for the card's killer art. Nice. Check out the backside of Ta'zo. Err.. the backside of his card.

There's another post featuring the Ability card "Gouge", which is something for the rouges of the world. The Gouge card lets Rogues exhaust (tap) a target Hero or ally. Other than that, there really isn't much going on here, but the article goes WoWCardGouge.8.3.06.jpg through the anatomy of the ability card type. Also worth mentioning is that this article let's us now know that there are two classifications of Abilities: the standard, and the Instant ability which can be played at any time. Also, we get a look at the WoW TCG card rarity scale works:

"A white number means the card is common. (Gouge is a common.)

A green number means the card is uncommon.

A blue number means the card is rare.

A purple number means the card is epic.

An orange number means the card is legendary. (The legendary cards in the Heroes of Azeroth set are alternate versions of regular cards. They come with a special code you can enter in the WoW online game that gives your character cool new stuff.)"
From "World of Warcraft Trading Card Game Preview: Ability"

The "number" refers to the card's index into the complete block. Gouge is card 99 out of 381 in the Azeroth block.

It looks as though things are shaping up nicely for the WoW TCG. The card art is top notch (as expected), and the information / rules on the cards is concise and easy to read, and they have good flavor text. And what would WoW be without it's insanely deep flavor?

We'll keep you posted when the site reviews the armor, weapon, item, ally and quest card types.

Also see:

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

August 2, 2006

Now Shipping: "Tempus"

Tempus.8.2.06.jpgCafe Games is now shipping Tempus [Funagain], a new civilization building game deep in strategy but simple enough for the whole family to enjoy.

Normally we react to to Civ games with an immediate cringe, as most of their rules are dynamic (to give room for modifier hooks used to represent technological advancement), and therefore inherently complicated. We also don't get much joy over tracking civil population, or adding a series of weapon modifiers to an attack roll, or offsetting them with negative morale, or keeping a supply chain intact while marching armies from one side of the Mediterranean to the other. *deep breath*. You get the idea.

Tempus aims to be a Civ game with depth, but that depth comes in the tough turn decisions instead of stacks of units and upgrade counters twenty chits high. The title is said to take only ten minutes to learn and a little over an hour to play. Players chose from only five options in a turn, including attack, breed, build cities, use idea cards, etc. The five options may seem like an oversimplification, but they can be use as building blocks for some great strategic moves. Here's the official line:

At the dawn of time, Stone Age civilizations are scattered across the land, each one struggling for survival. However, the spark of civilization has been ignited and cannot be extinguished. Ideas and inventions are spreading like wildfire across the continent and your people are taking their first steps towards building a modern society. Lead your civilization through conflicts as they strive to master world-altering advancements such as writing, road building, seafaring and more, always working towards the final goal of flight.

In Tempus, every decision is challenging, as your culture clashes with your opponents' while time marches inexorably on. Building cities, expanding population and wars with other empires are ever-present challenges. Each era of history presents you with new innovations, which beg to be mastered.

Success in Tempus is defined by the player who can build the greatest civilization. If your civilization also manages to conquer the skies you will likely dominate the world, and win the game.

Tempus is now available for purchase and is shipping from Funagain Games.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

July 31, 2006

July '06 Roundup

Roundup2.jpgJuly flashed before our eyes. Pretty soon we'll be admist the dog days of August, lazily sitting and watching the twilight of Summer go by. It's sad really. But at least it's almost time for Football!

Thankfully we're far from bored. We had two great family board game releases this month with "Rum and Pirates", and the Spiel des Jahres Award winning "Thurns and Taxis". The World of Warcraft TCG prerelease media is finally starting to ramp up. And, we've been busy slugging it out in the War of the Ring expansion "Battles of the Third Age". We'll have more of that tomorrow (but here's a preview: we like what we see).

Board Games

Party Games

Collectable Card Games

Gaming Culture


Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

July 28, 2006

Carcassonne Expansion Ships in Games Quarterly Magazine

GamesQuarterly.7.28.06.jpgWe just got word that the next issue of Games Quarterly Magazine (November 8th) will ship with an official expansion to one of our favorite Eurogames, Carcassonne [Amazon, Funagain].

Of course GQM has to tease us first. Today's news mainly focuses on the sole fact that they're printing an expansion, but no word yet on exactly what the expansion is. Still, it's grabbed our attention.

"Games Quarterly #11 will feature a brand new Expansion for Rio Grande's award winning game Carcassonne™, exclusively in Games Quarterly.

The Expansion For Basic Carcassonne will include 12 new tiles, never before seen, perfectly matching your Carcassonne game. Rio Grande is keeping the look of the expansion, and it's name, secret for now.

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 Basic Carcassonne™ Expansion in GQM11 it’s worth far more than cover price.

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 SBG/b EQUAL.
  • Detailed plans for the huge Games Expo 2007
  • Days of Wonder unveils their next incredible game
  • Front Porch Classics’ Word Count
  • 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’re cooking up right now.

Games Quarterly #11 also has a new cover price of $4.95, $5.95 Canadian.
A free countertop display is shipped with each order of 12 copies.

Available November 8, 2006."

Hmm.. wonder what the new Days of Wonder title will be.

If you recall, about two months ago we heard that the latest issue of GQM includes an official expansion for the monster hit Settlers of Catan [Amazon, Funagain]. That issue is on shelves now, and more information can be found on the Games Quarterly Magazine website.

This is a very smart move on their part to move more magazines. And we hope the expansion trends continue, too, because let's be honest - $5.00 (newsstand price) for an official expansion is dirt cheap.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

July 27, 2006

Monopoly and Visa - Is Nothing Sacred?

7.27.06.jpgOh boy. It seems as though The Man has gotten control of Monopoly. Hasbro has decided to get rid of the paper money from the game that taught us all about cash and bartering. In place of the game's low value paper bills, kids will learn the valuable lesson of debit cards, complete with Visa co-branding and the bells and whistles of a nifty card swiping gadget.

"We started looking at what Monopoly would look like if we designed it today," said Chris Weatherhead, a U.K.-based spokesman for Hasbro Inc., which makes the best-selling board game. "We noticed consumers are using debit cards, carrying around cash a lot less."

British players might not be the only ones switching to plastic. Officials at Pawtucket-based Hasbro say they're considering a similar change for American versions. From the Boston Globe

Organizing stacks of Monopoly moola and shoving them halfway under the board was always a wonderful feeling. And counting the individual bills was not only a great math exercise for kids, but made for some fantastic gloating moments. Now the game turns cold, and in a day and age when credit card debt is running rampant, do we really need to shove a toy debit card in to the hands of our kids at such an early age?

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

July 26, 2006

Now Shipping "Battlestations: Pax Galacticum" Expansion

BattleStationsCover.7.26.06.jpgPublisher Gorilla Games have released their latest expansion to the cooperative rpg / board game hybird "Battlestations". "Pax Galacticum" (Adventures in the Verdant Nebula) comes with a new setting, new ship tiles, rules, and hero skills. Here's the official line:

Adventure beyond combat in the second exciting supplement for Battlestations! Challenges of skill, rescue missions and puzzling space anomalies will add intrigue and depth to your adventures. New Combat skill actions and equipment allow an easy translation for 'marines' to become brave rescue workers! (The adventures, equipment and bonus modules are completely compatible with the basic game.)

Contents:

  • 1 rulebook
  • 6 double-sided modules
  • 30 double-sided markers
  • 16 fungaloids

The "Pax Galacticum" expansion is now shipping from Funagain Games and the online at the official Battlestations! store.

For those of you new to Battlestations - the game is a cooperative hybrid board game where players work together to control a starship of their design. The design is decided by the group, and reflected in the placement of the various ship tiles, including rooms like the Helm, Missile Bay, or Science Bay. Players control custom hero characters who walk around the various rooms of the ship pushing buttons, putting out fires, operating the zero-G toilet, firing weapons, and pushing back alien boarding parties. BattleStationsCover2.7.26.06.jpgPicture a board game where players fulfill the officer roles of Star Trek (but in a more colorful universe) and you can see where this game gets its popularity. Here's the Battlestation's official description:

Battlestations is a pulp sci fi adventure boardgame. Ongoing adventures feature simultaneous ship-to-ship and boarding combat in space. Players work together as a starship crew aboard a ship of their own design facing referee-controlled forces. You’ll track the heroes' positions on the starship layouts and the starships’ positions on the space map. The action in Battlestations is character driven. If you want the ship to turn, speed up, or launch a missile or blast the enemy ship, a hero has to take an action to make it so.

Take action to defeat enemy warships, resolve alien encounters or adventure through uncharted astral phenomena.

With the expanding Battlestations universe, there's always a new adventure in the stars!

Contents:

  • 48 double-sided 3.5" Starship Modules
  • 8 8.5" x 11" Hex Maps
  • 160 Die Cut Counters
  • 32 Die Cut Hexagonal Markers
  • 10 Glass Marker Beads
  • 6 Dice
  • 128 cardboard Fold-up Heroes
  • 112-Page Adventure Book

Tastey. The original Battlestations starter set is also available at FunagainGames. Also, read more about the game at the official Battlestations website.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

July 24, 2006

World of Warcraft Board Game "The Shadow of War" Official Expansion Preview

WoWShatteredKingdom.7.24.06.jpgPublisher Fantasy Flight Games has posted a preview article regarding the upcoming expansion for the World of Warcraft board game [Funagain]. "The Shadow of War" doubles the number of cards of the original monster of a title, adding new: trinkets, quests, equipment, the works. Here's a snippet:

One of the expansion’s biggest additions is that each class receives 10 new powers and 10 new talents. The new class cards flesh out the characters’ strengths and compensate for some of their previous weaknesses, not to mention adding a ton of flexibility and replay value to each class. Some of the powers are not combat-related, but are just as powerful and add variety for players that are looking for interesting new tricks.

The preview feature was written by the aptly name John Goodenough - this is a very straightforward and vanilla article. It does a great job of running through the new features, but if you aren't a World of Warcraft board game aficionado then this preview certainly won't turn you into one. If you're interested in reading about the successful WoW boardgame first, check out this great BGG forum post review of the game.

"Shadow of War" [Funagain (preorder)] is at the printers now, and should be available for purchase this September.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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