July 19, 2006

"Thurn & Taxis" wins Spiel des Jahres Award

ThurnAndTaxis.7.10.06.jpgLast week we reported that "Thurn & Taxis" shipped from Rio Grande Games. Not to toot our own egos for being on top of stuff, and junk, but we wanted to let you know that "Thurn & Taxis" just won the Spiel des Jahres - the German Game of the Year.

Why do we care what the Germans think? Well for one they throw an absolutely swinging World Cup, but more appropriately they're one of the driving factors for the reemergence of board games as a popular past time. One of the activities German families love to do on family-night is toss down the latest board and play some constructive social gaming goodness.

Yes, we know that sounds corny. If our parents dropped "Sorry!" on the kitchen table instead of taking us out for pizza and Bomb Jack, then there would have been hell to pay. But consider the incredible series of Eurogames to come out of Germany in the last 10 years, like: Carcassonne, Settlers of Catan, Tigris & Euphrates, and Attika. If 'Pa through down those titles then he certainly would have received our full attention.

We digress. "Thurn & Taxis" is by Andreas Seyfarth (Puerto Rico, Manhattan ) and his wife Karen. They received the the official Spiel des Jahres award in German, as should be the case. Unfortunately only one of us speaks German, and it's only a little German at that, so we left it up for AltaVista's Babel Fish to translate the official announcement. The result is a bit broken, but that's what gives it character.

"The outstanding board play "Thurn and taxi" reminds those already of the inventors of the modern postal service, end 15. Century organized a functioning delivery of letters. Task of the players is it to develop a Postkutschenbetrieb in Bavaria and Umgebung. In addition the correct distance maps must be collected and out-played in sequence. Who does this in time, can post office stations into one of the 22 cities on the plan set. But there are points - whenever in all cities of a region own stations are located. The race with the competition around the suitable maps, the longest distances and the largest kutschen is high-exciting. That folds with each player number and is for few players as for professionals a genuine challenge. "Thurn and taxi" have that things to the long-lasting phenomenon. From: The Babel Fish Translation of the Spiel des Jahres website

JA! "Thurn u. Taxis" ist ein gutes Brettspiel. Kaufen Ihre kopie heute! (translate)

Also see:

  • What Makes a Eurogame Game?
  • Now Shipping: "Thurn & Taxis"
  • The 2005 Meeples' Choice Awards are in

    Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking
  • July 18, 2006

    Official World of Warcraft TCG Website Launches

    WoWStarter.7.3.06.jpgThe hub for all things World of Warcraft has launched. The official World of Warcraft Trading Card Game website already has four feature articles from the game's designers. Here's where things kicked off:

    "Basically, we want to give you as elegant an introduction to the TCG as possible. We’re going to do this by providing you with designer and developer interviews, art features, and preview articles each and every week until the game hits the shelves. After release, WoW TCG Online will be your hub for everything about the game. We’ll have info about new sets, strategy articles, and tournament reports." ~ From "The World of Warcraft TCG Website is Online!", by Anand Khare

    There's more release content alongside Anand's opening pleasantries. A lot has been said about Upper Deck's ability to attract high quality artistic talent for the WoW TCG, and the website celebrates this instead of diving into game mechanics right away. The feature section includes interviews with WoW card artists Matt Dixon, and Jeremy Mohler. Also, the art gallery hosts four images of their card art, including: "Barman Shanker", portraying an orc with a broken bottle shoved in his face; "Vanquished" depicts a human protection warrior / paladin standing on a hillside littered with fallen combatants; "Seal of Wisdom" has s dwarven Paladin shocking the monkey out of a Troll priest; and we want some of what "Lorekeeper" is smoking.

    Bringing up the rear, lead designer Brian Kibler has written his inaugural feature article about who he is, where he comes from, and what the plans are for the WoW TCG release.

    "We have a tremendous supporting cast helping us out, all of whom are WoW players with a wide range of experience. It’s not just those of us in R&D who are WoW fanatics, either—people at every level of the process play the online game, from our customer service reps, to the product and brand managers, all the way to the head of the game development group. I get as many emails about Hunter talent builds and Raid boss strategies as I do about my actual work, and the morning water cooler conversations lean more toward stories about the previous night’s battleground games than whatever might have been on television."~ From "Welcome to World of Warcraft - TCG!!", by Brian Kibler

    Yikes. We thought we were addicts, but imagine playing WoW and calling it your job! We can't decide if that's a blessing or a curse that feeds a ravenous addiction. Hopefully they'll take some time to pop their heads out of the MMORPG goodness to create a high quality and entertaining TCG, too. Our fingers are crossed.

    We'll keep you posted of any good updates on the WoW site as they're published.

    Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

    July 17, 2006

    Now Shipping: "A Game of Thrones: A Storm of Swords" Expansion

    AGameOfThrones.3.16.06.jpgFantasy Flight Games has released the second expansion to their A Game of Thrones [Funagain] boardgame line. A Storm of Swords [Funagain] includes a impressive set of new content ( including 42 new house cards, and 40 Westernos cards ) to expand upon the existing individual factions, turn rules and game mechanics.

    A brand new board details the northern half of Westeros. Gone are the naval vessels of the original game, so no more sneaking around the front line to attack the exposed underbelly of your opponent. Instead combat is focused inward. The game board still does have a sense of fringe territories (like the islands of the original) as weather patterns can unexpectedly impede movement onto the various fjords on Westeros' extreme coast.

    Players may deploy garrisons on the board to defend their cities, and call upon the new faction leaders to give their armies that extra bit of offensive oomph on the front lines. As an added dynamic to battle system, leaders are captured when defeated in battle, and can be ransomed back to the controling player for a price. Leaders who stay in captivity for too long face the growing risk of execution from one of the game's 40 new Westeros cards.

    The game also adds a new "Tactical Card" gameplay element. Each turn players chose from one of 8 cards in their hands, each provides their faction a focused boost in various elements of the game. Tactical cards can be used to augment the offensive or defensive values of armies, or rescue a captured leader, or recruit the aid of the various new allied factions.

    A Storm of Sword's rulebook provides details on how these new pieces and gameplay elements can be used to play with the original A Game of Thrones board game. A Storm of Swords also includes content for House Martell which was introduced by the Funagain"A Clash of Kings expansion [Amazon,Funagain]. However, a Clash of Kings is not required to play this second expansion.

    The Official Line: The land of Westeros is about to get a lot more interesting. The A Storm Of Swords expansion for the A Game Of Thrones board game offers two different gaming experiences. First, the expansion features a brand new 4-player game, including new components, new victory conditions, and a plethora of strategic options. Second, the expansion includes rules on how to incorporate many of these new options into the classic A Game Of Thrones game.

    The new Storm Of Swords game board depicts the Trident Riverlands area of Westeros. New Tactics cards allow you to gain combat bonuses, make your armies more mobile, or gather more power. New Ally cards enable you to gain the support of lesser houses, hardened mercenaries, and cold-blooded outlaws. New Leaders allow you to march devastating forces into battle, and you can make your opponents beg for mercy when you take their Leaders hostage.

    The expansion also includes new House cards for all six of the great houses, an alternative set of Westeros decks, and rules on how to incorporate Tactics cards, Leaders, and other new mechanics into the original A Game Of Thrones board game. Tons of new options and two different gaming experiences are all found in the Storm Of Swords expansion.

    The expansion's rule book is posted online, so you can check out even more of the game's details before you buy it.

    "A Storm of Swords" and "A Game of Thrones" are now shipping and are available for purchase from Funagain Games.

    Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

    July 14, 2006

    "Ticket to Ride: USA 1910" Announced

    USA1910.7.14.06.jpgDays of Wonder has announced a new expansion to their popular (and fantastic) board game Ticket to Ride [Funagain]. Ticket to Ride: USA 1910 supplements and extends the original Ticket to Ride board game by: replacing the game's old deck with new large-format cards, expanding the destination tickets by an additional 35 cards, and adding two new ways to play the game.

    The Company Line: USA 1910 consists of 181 new large format cards (the same size as the cards in Ticket to Ride Europe and Märklin) including 35 new "Destination Tickets," a new "GlobeTrotter" bonus card for completing the most tickets, plus a complete replacement deck for all the cards from the original game deck.

    The USA 1910 Expansion, which comes in a small metal box, also includes a new rulebook that gives players three new ways to play the game including 1910 rules. Players can choose to use only the new "Destination Tickets," or play a "Mega Game" featuring all the tickets, or just a "Big Cities" version, which uses only tickets to certain large cities.

    Ticket to Ride: USA 1910 is set to ship in October '06, and is already available to preorder from FunagainGames.

    Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

    July 11, 2006

    World of Warcraft TCG: InQuest Magazine Feature Preview

    WoWStarter.7.3.06.jpgWoWcards.org has posted scans of a recent WoW Trading Card Game preview article published in the latest issue of InQuest magazine. The scanned images contain all of the article's images and text from the story on magazine shelves now. There's a ton of content in here, including info on the various character classes, gaining loot, versus combat, expansions, and cooperative raid combat.

    This last bit, the raid combat, stands to differentiate the WoW TCG from other popular collectable card games. Beyond the normal One vs One character deck building, players will be able to buy sealed raid decks which will include special challenges and difficult boss fights. One player will pull the strings of the bad guys, while all of the others players in your group work together to defeat the raid. If successful then the players may open a special Loot deck that comes sealed in gold foil with the raid. The loot will includes top of the line equipment to split amongst the group, used to outfit characters to make them even more powerful than before.

    The article paints a rather complicated picture of the game -- there's so much content in this system (which closely mimics the World of Warcraft massively online RPG) that the final card game might be too complicated for for the faint of heart. But that's just a generalization; we haven't seen the rules yet, and the appearance of familiar content from the computer game might drive rabid fans right-on up and over any steep learning curves.

    We'll keep an eye out for more World of Warcaft TCG news as we get closer to the games' October release.

    Also see:

    Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

    July 10, 2006

    Now Shipping: "Thurn & Taxis"

    ThurnAndTaxis.7.10.06.jpgRio Grande Games' "Thurn & Taxis" [Funagain] has shipped to retailers and is now available in stores. The game is set in the late 15th century and has players carving routes out of German towns for the then-budding postal service.

    Players collect cards (which contain a series of city names) in an attempt to link together a postal route across the board. When a chain is finished, the player gains points and also places a pair of post offices to claim territories along the route. When a territory has been fully populated by a player then he/she snags even more points.

    The general gameplay is similar in style to the award winning Ticket to Ride, but the game plays quite a bit differently. Players must collect specific city names, instead of running a series of colors as in Ticket to Ride. This makes card selection a far more focused task. There are also some disconnected aggressive elements where players can clear the pool of selectable cards, ruining the day of any player lusting over a face-up card they needed to extend their postal network. Finally, the placement of a route in a game of Thurn & Taxis doesn't eliminate the potential for other players laying that same route down the road. Player's aren't racing to lay track over physical spaces on the board before their opponents, but instead indirectly competing to connect as many cities as possible before their opponents do.

    Here's the game's official description:

    In 1490, Kaiser Maximilian I awarded Franz von Taxis the contract to deliver mail between the Kaiser's residences in Innsbruck and Brussels. He did such a good job, that postal services in the country continue to be connected with the name Thurn and Taxis. With the introduction of postal carriages in the middle of the 17th century, members of the family were raised to Count status and given the hereditary title of Postmaster General. The game begins at this point in history.

    Can you emulate the achievements of this family and build a successful postal network? Do you have the talent to connect the right cities to create an effective network and not lose sight of the need to acquire new carriages when they are needed? Plan your moves carefully and watch your opponents' moves carefully, so you are prepared to respond to them.

    The game takes you back in time and gives you challenges that will bring you back to the game over and over.

    Thurn & Taxis was created by designer Andreas Seyfarth who created the award-winning title Puerto Rico [Funagain]. Initial impresssions of the game have been very positive, and it looks like Seyfarth may have another award winner with Thurn & Taxis [funagain].

    Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

    July 7, 2006

    The 2005 Meeples' Choice Awards are in

    MeeplesChoice.7.7.06.jpgWe may be critical, but we don't have giant egos. When another game group comes together as a collective voice to select the very best, we listen.

    Spielfreaks, a Yahoo Games group formed in 2000 to discuss Eurogames, polled it's readers to see which titles they felt were the cream of the crop of 2005. Selections from past years include Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne [Our Review], Puerto Rico, and Ticket to Ride.

    If you've enjoyed those titles then you know the Spielfreaks' list has weight.

    So which titles rest atop the slew of new games from 2005?

    ArrowContinue reading: "The 2005 Meeples' Choice Awards are in"

    Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

    July 6, 2006

    "Marvel Heroes" Preview Part 4: Combat Mechanics

    MarvelHeros.3.16.06.jpgFantasy Flight Games' boardgame designer Roberto Di Meglio has posted Part 4 of his Marvel Heroes preview article to the Boardgame Geek forums. This time he focuses on the game's quick combat mechanics.

    The article goes into details, but here's a summary -- Superhero and Villain characters have one or more super/evil power. Players must chose one of these powers to use in each round of combat. The power has varying ranks of three elements: Attack, Defense and Wits. Attack and defensive values affect the number of dice tossed when they two super hero and villan are slugging it out. A battle of Wits follows up the fisticuffs (if both characters are still standing), with the winner scoring another hit and also gaining initiative for the next round of combat.

    It seems simple enough, with the dice randomness (blech) controlled by the gaminess of power selection (cool). The point was to keep combat simple, fun, and quick so other players aren't doing their taxes between rounds. Here's a snippet:

    Designing the combat system for our Marvel Heroes boardgame was one of our 'challenges'. This is a multi-player game, and it was not acceptable to have each combat to be too long. Also, too much detail on the combat would have detracted from the need of creating a larger story than a head-to-head bashing.

    At the same time, super-heroes are different, with different super-powers, levels of strength, special abilities, and combat is an important element in many comics, so we had to get enough detail and strategy to give the right feeling and fun factor.

    In the desingn, we also wanted to avoid a common pitfall of other super-hero games from the past, where the different power level of the abilities of a super-hero made the choice of a certain strategy too obvious. From Marvel Heroes: "A Preview (part 4)" by Roberto Di Meglio

    Part 4 of the Marvel Heroes preview can be found here. The game is slated for a Fall 2006 release, and will be published by Fantasy Flight Games.

    Also see:

    Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

    July 5, 2006

    Now Shipping: Rum & Pirates

    RumAndPirates.7.5.06.jpgRio Grande Games has released Rum and Pirates [Funagain], a simple board game set at night in a coastal pirate town. Players take turns moving pirates around town in attempt to gain renown by: collecting rum, fighting town guards, finding pieces of treasure maps, recruiting more pirates, etc. This isn't the most complicated of all games, but that makes it a great title for family gaming night or for leisurely gamers. Here's the official line:

    The players take on the roles of pirates.They move the captain along the alleys of the pirates nest, looking for treasure maps and treasure chests. Or they meet the city guard and deal with them if they can. Naturally, they will visit the few pubs to gather and drink some rum together. They will also have opportunities to acquire the special wares needed by pirates like wooden legs and eye patches. At the end of the day, they head back to the ship and wrangle for the few sleeping places available there. All these activities earn the players tiles, which are worth honor points - most positive, but some are negative. These honor points are tallied at game end.

    The player who ends the game with the most honor points is the winner!

    2-5 players, aged 9 +;
    Length: 60 minutes;
    author: Stefan Feld.

    Rum and Pirates is now shipping from the Rio Grande Games warehouse, and is available to order from Funagain Games.

    Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

    July 3, 2006

    World of Warcraft CCG Box Art Released

    WoWStarter.7.3.06.jpgA lot has been said about Upper Deck's ability to draw some major artistic talent for their upcoming (October) release of the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game. Images of the game's vibrant packaging have began to surface across the Internet in the last few days. The starter box (clickable to the right -->) is looking pretty sweet, and it acts as the basis for the art on the two booster packs. One focuses on the Horde while the other on the Alliance, both are branded with the initial release name "The Heroes of Azeroth".

    So there you have it. Looks like they're sparing no expense on materials -- that starter box DVD-like case is looking pretty sturdy. Also, we expected that the WoW CCG would be smothered with cool artwork, and that's what we got. The facial expressions of the two character's is especially good.

    Now if we could just see some more of the cards...

    For more information on how the WoW TCG game will play (including the cooperative raids), check out our "World of Warcraft TCG Interview" story.

    Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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