Our Game Reviews

July 22, 2011

Review: Politics - Unpretenious Package But Packs Plenty of Punch

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There are only a few topics that are commonly understood to be taboo during discussions at work or in public areas, at least in the United States: sex, religion, and politics. There are some valid reasons for this forbiddance, most notably that most wars that are waged are because of these subjective topics. The fate of the Earth even seemed to come into question due to a significant difference in political ideals during the Cold War and the threat of nuclear winter. Politics, designed by John Ruf under No Mana Games, won't put the fate of humanity in the palms of power hungry politicians, it will, however, cause debates, strife, and backstabbing (so choose your players carefully)!

Critical Gamers would like to extend a special thank you to John Ruf for supplying us the review copy.

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June 19, 2011

Review: City Square Off - If You Build It, Fun Will Come

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City Square Off is a recent release from Gamewright that was showcased during the New York Toy Fair back in February. Designed by Ted Cheatham, City Square Off is a spacial recognition, tile placement, and puzzle game (ala Tetris) that puts 2 players against each other to plan and build their city in the most efficient manner possible. Each game takes anywhere from 10-15 minutes with very little setup required and is meant for ages 8+, however I think with a little guidance a 6 year old could grasp the concepts. Critical Gamers would like to extend a special thank you to Gamewright for providing the copy we used to review this game.

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May 23, 2011

Review: Magestorm - It's Raining Mediocrity

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Magestorm is a 2010 European release by Nexus Games (NG) International and was designed by Piero Cioni. Earlier this year, the game saw a North American release and Nexus Games was kind enough to send a review copy to us here at Critical Gamers, to which we would like to thank them. Magestorm is a 2 player head-to-head fantasy wargame that marries the excitement of spell casting with the strategy of army unit coordination. Magestorm is meant for players aged 12 and up and takes about 60-90 minutes to setup and play.

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May 8, 2011

Review: FlipOut - Hey, Don't Mind if We Do!

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FlipOut from Gamewright is a recent re-release of a title previously known as Patchwork designed by Daniel Weaver back in 2008. FlipOut is a family game meant for 2-5 players, ages 8+, and takes about 15 minutes to setup and play. I am not familiar with the original version but from what I have gathered from my research, the only difference between the original and the Gamewright release are the holders. The holders are made of wood and are one solid piece in Patchwork; whereas in FlipOut they are plastic and separated into two pieces for easier storage. A special thanks goes out to Gamewright for supplying a copy for review!

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April 26, 2011

Mousquetaires du Roy - One for All, All for More!

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Mousquetaires du Roy (King's Muskateers) is a board game interpretation of the famous Alexander Dumas novel The Three Musketeers. Designed by Fran├žois Combe and Gilles Lehmann, Mousquetaires was released at Essen 2010 by Ystari Games and brought to the states by Rio Grande Games shortly after. Meant for 1-5 players ages 12+, a play typically lasts around 90 minutes. Critical Gamers would like to extend a special thanks to Rio Grande Games for providing the review copy.

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April 18, 2011

Game of Life - A Review of a Family Classic

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Coming from a fairly large family of seven, board gaming was an integral part of our growing up and the Game of Life is one of those classic games I played and loved as a child. Whenever the games were brought out, it was always on the top of my list. The cars and distinct people pegs, that unmistakable sound of the spinner turning, and all of the cool spaces to land on were just a few of the draws that I latched on to. Can that wonder hold up against an older, less forgiving critic?

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April 1, 2011

Mansions of Madness - It's a Mad House With a Few Squeaky Floorboards

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Designed by Corey Konieczka (Battlestar Galactica, Runewars, Middle-earth Quest) Mansions of Madness, the latest blockbuster hit from Fantasy Flight Games, takes H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos into a living, creepy, haunted mansion located in Arkham, Massachusetts. Filled with macabre, Mansions attempts to engross the player in mystery, terror, insanity, and pain as they endeavor to unlock the secrets of the house. Will the walls run red with blood or crumble under the pressure?

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March 21, 2011

Legions of Darkness - Can You Hold Off the Legion Until the Final Twilight?

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Legions of Darkness is the new 8th installment in the States of Siege solitaire line from Victory Point Games. Designed by Chris Taylor, Legions looks to take the series into the fantasy realm with a small rag-tag band of defenders and heroes trying to hold off the advancing fronts of the greenskin or undead armies. Will Legions of Darkness hold off the adversary or will the walls crumble under the pressure?

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March 6, 2011

Castaways of Deadmans Bay - Yo Ho, A Pirate's Life for Me!

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If you have never heard of Ian Volkwein, then I suggest you remember his name. Ian has accomplished something that a lot of others have been unable to do; that is self-publish a mechanically sound, high quality, fun and exciting pirate themed card game. Castaways of Deadmans Bay is the first game published by the newly founded PonderZombie Games. I think I see a meme trend here. Pirate themed game card game and Zombie named company, all thats missing is a Ninja based board game and the trifecta will be complete.

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February 24, 2011

Feast & Famine - Does it Serve Up a 4-Course Meal or Will it Leave You Starving?

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Feast & Famine: Joseph in Egypt is the first unplugged game produced by Good Knight Games in early November of '10. It was designed by Jason Conforto and illustrated by Ryan Braman and after opening the box, you can tell immediately that these two gentlemen cared about producing a quality game. This game is meant for 2-4 players and, depending on if you play feast, famine, or both, game time could range from 10-60 minutes.

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February 11, 2011

We Must Tell the Emperor: Can You Help the Red Sun Rise to Victory?

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Japan: the land of the rising sun, a nation of proud and industrious people, and the main focus of the game We Must Tell the Emperor, published by Victory Point Games (VPG) in the later half of 2010. In this 7th installment of the States of Siege solitaire series, players must control Japan during the Pacific Theater of World War II, from 1941 to 1945, and protect it on multiple fronts from advancing Allied forces, all while balancing resource consumption.

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January 26, 2011

Triplica: A Simple, Quick, and Fun Addition to Any Game Night

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Triplica, published by Fun Q Games in 2010, is a simple, quick, and easy to learn card game, meant for ages 7+. It employs a straight forward matching system to complete goals. The player must place 'Play Cards', which have a unique set of 3 symbols, onto the existing piles to create 3 of a kind either horizontally or diagonally, in hopes of matching one of their 'Goal Cards'. As simple as it sounds, there are actually 3 different versions of the game you can play (they sure do enjoy that number, don't they?): All Play, Single Play, and Solitaire. The All Play and Single Play versions support 2-6 players, and the Solitaire version is just that, solitaire.

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March 16, 2010

"Sword And Poker" Stabs Its Way Into Our Hearts

SwordNPoker.JPGThis iPhone/iPod Touch game is something special. It's so simple, yet enthralling, highly addicting and fun. It's even got that "just one more turn" feel that make so many of the classic games .. well, classics.

Here's the elevator pitch: Sword & Poker one part an RPG character-building dungeon crawl, including gathering treasure and parlaying your riches into better items like armor and weapons, and one part Poker Matching Game.

And yes, the beef of the game is on a grid like poker board. You and a monster square off mano e monstero, taking turns trying to match 2 cards from your hand to make poker hands with the 3x3 grid of cards on the board. If you can make a match either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally then you deal damage to your opponent. Keep it up and soon you'll find yourself with a dead monster at your feet and a vast dungeon chalk full of riches waiting just for you.

SwordNPokerSS1.jpgThe amount of damage you do for any given hand depends on the rarity of the hand you played and the weapon you have equipped. At first scoring One Pair may knock the monster in the chin for 1 point of damage. But save up your dungeon booty, upgrade to a samurai sword, and soon you'll be hacking 10 points out of the baddie with a single pair of 2's. Something like a Flush may net you 30 damage, slicing some of the mid ranged monsters in half.

Of course the monsters are doing their best to deal damage back at you, and their abilities and capacity for hurt are closely tied to the type of critter you're fighting.

The game is well-flavored here. Heavy hitting monsters are the most straight forward. Hulking minotaurs and shambling mummies deal massive amount of damage with simple brutish hands. Dark, slinky creatures might not put up such a powerful upfront fight, but they'll make up for it with vampiric powers that siphon off your health, or through sneaky trixy plays like stealing cards from your hand. There are even funky spells that rearrange cards on the board halfway through a round, or spells that heal and steal. It's all there, and it's balanced very, very well.

Therefore we cannot recommend this game enough. If you have an iPod, if you like poker, and salivate over grinding through better equipment RPG style, then this game is totally for you. We give it 4.5 stars.

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February 17, 2010

Settlers of Catan for the iPhone - A Definite Winner

iPhoneCatan.jpgA baby joined our group this last week so I had a lot of time to sink into something handheld and entertaining. I found myself bored pretty quickly after tinkering with some of Reiner Knizia's iPhone & iPod Touch games. In principal the games were fun, but I needed something that I could play, put down on a moment's notice, and quickly pickup where I left off. Also puzzle games require a level of coherency that my sleep deprived brain couldn't embrace.

I suddenly remembered the news of a Settlers of Catan game for the iPhone. I quickly installed it, fired it up, and I was greeted with a clean menu system and a level of familiarity that I wanted. I could easily pick up a numerous series of sessions of the game without a bother in the world, and a variety of game configurations left me with a bunch of cool things to try out. Random maps, victory point and robber options, and a generous amount of AI opponents to chose from were all features that made me satisfied the game would hold up well to repeat plays.

I should note that I haven't played Settlers in years. The game was my gateway game of choice for a long time - and remains to be in some circles - but I've since moved on to newer, more modern things. But something about the iPhone version fit me like a glove.

The immediate first impression starts with a UI that's clean and crisp to the eye. More importantly the level of usability is high -- you can easily offer trades, build roads, towns and cities, or buy and play cards with only a few gestures.. The presentation of the dice rolls and subsequent resource rewards are also both very clear and quick to vvisually process.

CataniPhoneInGame.jpgThe game also does an excellent job of drawing your attention to the specific portions of the island that are being acted upon by other players. Construction projects clearly blink twice while the game quickly and smoothly snap-scrolls the screen to the portion of the map in question. And when it's your turn to build roads or cities, etc, the game visual prompts you with all of the potential positions for where you can spend your resources. Building out your small empire on Catan is as easy as tapping the screen.

Finally a nod to the AI. While tournament players might laugh at this, casual players like myself will find the AI characters quite capable. They're great at finding the best potential placements of their towns, and when you're ahead they do some nice moves to block you out of particular resources on the map, or block you out of trading, The game also has a very good trade offer and counter offer system that seems to work quite well.

I should also note that the game ships with a variety of AI personalities which you can play against, all having different values for things like Expansion, Aggression and Overall Skill. You can even hot seat with more than one human player in case your stuck on a bus or a long flight with a friend.

ThumbsUp.jpgOn the dark side: there haven't many things to complain about. I've noticed only one niggling 'feature' that rubs me the wrong way. Say you run out of settlements to place (the incarnate board game only ships with a certain number of houses after all). The game doesn't present you with an obvious error saying "sorry, no more houses for you! Next in Line!" Instead it greys out the possible construction project in the same way it does when you don't have the adequate resources to pay for it. So you may end up with nine out of ten victory points and yelling at your phone, telling it that you have the gosh darn resources to build a settlement and win the game, only after you've made an ass out of yourself do you notice the small fine print on the building screen "No more settlements available". They could have made this a bit more obvious, especially since you usually run out of settlements on the games with higher than 10 vicotry points.

Overall the Settlers of Catan for the iPhone and iPod Touch is a standup title. It's well produced, bug free, and easy to pickup and play. Most importantly it's a blast.

Our Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

The Settlers of Catan for the iPhone and iPod Touch can be purchased in Apple's App Store, accessed from your iPod or iPhone.

- From the Editor
Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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