October 19, 2006

Now Shipping: "Pop 5"

Pop5.10.18.06.jpg

Cranium, Inc, creators and publishers of the hit party game Cranium, have released their latest gaming creation onto the world. Pop5 [Amazon,Funagain] is a party game that includes the fun activities of acting, drawing, humming, and sculpting, but with a twist that seems to nicely differentiate the game from its older brother Cranium [Amazon,Funagain].

Each turn the opposing team looks at the one clue on the drawn card, and assigns points - ranging from one point to five - to each of the five activities. Some things might be hard to draw with a pencil, while others might be difficult to hum, etc. Based upon the point assignments it's up to the current team to decide if they want t go for big points inspite of the potentially difficult task, or play it safe and try for the easier, yet less rewarding way to solve the clue.

We have played Cranium a bunch, and after a few parties it became apparently that certain categories contain questions that far easier than others. A true/false Datahead question is at least a 50/50 shot, for instance, while sculpting a glob of clay into a visible resemblance of Michael J Fox is.. uh, not. Looks like Pop 5 avoids these inconsistencies by providing a customized weighting mechanic, and on a question-to-question basis to boot. Good stuff!

The Company Line:
  • Guess and perform hilarious pop culture clues
  • Opponents rank activity difficulty each roundFun pop culture theme makes it a party must
  • Reminisce, laugh out loud, and compete
  • Everyone plays every turn, for maximum fun

Hilarious pop culture fun gets a Cranium spin! From Madonna and mullets to moonwalks and Monday Night Football, this party game isn't about what you know, but how you show it.

Here's how it works: Each turn, the opposing team draws a clue card and assigns points to each of the five activity choices, according to how hard they think each one will be. If they pull the "Red Bull" card, they may think drawing it is easy, so they'd give it one point. But acting? Hard. Five points! Now it's up to you to decide: Will you go for the easy points and draw, or go for the big points (and glory) by acting it out?

Each turn you get to choose to act, draw, hum, sculpt, or use letter cubes to get your team to guess the clue. With songs, celebrities, fads, fashions, TV shows, movies, and more, Pop 5 cards include all kinds of fun pop culture clues that span the decades -- and every turn, you get to choose how to get your team to guess!

  • Would you act out Iron Chef or draw it?
  • Would you rather hum a Spice Girls song or roll the letter cubes to give clues that start with the letters that come up?
  • Would you choose to sculpt a Chia Pet out of clay or hum the jingle?
Pop 5 is now shipping from Amazon and Funagain Games.
Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

September 1, 2006

August '06 Roundup

Roundup2.jpgGenCon has come and gone. Although the conference has cemented foundation in RPGs, we were still lucky enough to catch some great glimpses of both the Marvel Heroes boardgame, and gameplay footage of the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game. Also, Tempus shipped in August, which has turned out to be a strong strategic and fun title for a midsummer release. We'll probably be playing it well into the fall.

But of all the gaming news that came out in August, we're most excited about something which some will find small and inconsequential - the pending release of three Eurogames for Xbox Live. There have been other computer game ports of popular board game titles in the past (Days of Wonder has quite a lineup themselves), but never has there been such as an exciting distribution market as Xbox live. That service is teaming with video gamers who are hungry and willing to drop a little bit of electronic cash for a bit of a quieter and more social gaming experience. In a world where social networks are growing faster than grandpa's big toenail, a more cerebral interaction point might be just what XBox live community is looking for.

We can't wait to watch Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne make their splash in that network, which will hopefully resonate into our genre with an influx of new gamers making their way toward a face-to-face style of gaming.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. We'll keep the eye on the ball for September as: Settlers receives an expansion, the World of Warcraft TCG ramps up to release, and we try to get our hands on Lost The Game before the new season starts. Until then, this is what we were Critical about in August 2006:

Board Games & Party Games


Collectable Card Games

Gaming Culture

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 25, 2006

"Articulate!" with Feeling

Articulate.7.25.06.jpgWe've been on a pretty heavy regiment of war gaming news lately. Sometimes when it rains pretty flowers it pours stems, too... or something like that. If you're not following the train of thought here then it's probably because you're sane. Well done.

Anyway, we were just flipping through Amazon's catalog and a party game called "Articulate!" caught our eye (the exclamation point means it's exciting!) Aside from the flashy graphics and cool product description, the game has some pretty good user reviews, too. Here's the company line:

Outrageously simple, fast and hugely entertaining, Articulate challenges a member from each team to describe as many words as possible to teammates in just 30 seconds. It’s a ramped-up version of Charades but you can’t say classic Charade phrases like "rhymes with" or "sounds like." Passionate rivalries, animated banter and helpless laughter will break out in this fast and fun game that hits the mark with family members of all ages. Game includes one game board, 500 question cards, 4 player tokens and a timer. For 4 or more players, ages 12 years and up.

Sounds like a cool little cross between "Trivial Pursuit" and our favorite party game "Celebrity". Unfortunately the title is out of print, so Amazon doesn't have many copies. Don't fret, though, because AreYouGame.com has it in stock! (unless we buy the last copy :). Enjoy!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

July 2, 2006

June '06 Roundup

Roundup2.jpgWow, what a month. Not only did the long-awaited Battlestar Galactica CCG finally ship to stores, but there was a good-deal of board game release news. Shots of the Age of Empires board art were 'leaked' in the game's official forums, and Fantasy Flight Games kept us busy with War of the Ring: Battles of the Third Age and preview details of their upcoming Marvel Heroes board game release.

More importantly, we've been in the news for most of the second half of June, and it's been a big month for increases in our readership. For those of you new to the site - welcome! For those of you who've been with us for a while - thank you, and expect more product reviews that ever before as we roll into the lazy-gaming days of July.

Board Games

Party Games

Collectable Card Games

Gaming Culture


Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

June 16, 2006

Celebrity - A Free Party Game

Celebrity2.6.16.06.jpgDespite the genre's name, there are some parties that aren't conducive to party-gaming. You know what we're talking about - when your gathering is going great, and everyone lounging, laughing and cruising through a PBR 12 pack, you wouldn't dare mention the idea of breaking out a "box" and setting up a board.

We've been there. Selling the idea of a game to a ragtag group of people can be near-impossible. Yet whenever someone mentions 'Celebrity', a game that we've played at quite a few late-night occasions with various groups, everybody's ear perks up.

Why? Because Celebrity has something for everybody. It can break the ice between strangers, cure disease, stop war, and align the planets into orbits of peace an harmony. Yeah - it's got a lot of things going for it.

Here are the rules:

1: Split the group into two teams. The game lends itself for some great Guys vs Girls gameplay.

2: Everyone gets five strips of paper, a pencil, and a few minutes to jot down some random celebrities. It doesn't matter how these celebrities became famous -- they just have to be widely known people. Say... movie stars, sports stars, world leaders, fictional characters, astronauts, televangelists, muppets, you get the idea.

ArrowContinue reading: "Celebrity - A Free Party Game"

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

June 7, 2006

Now Shipping: "Apples to Apples Party Box Expansion 2"

ApplesToApples.6.7.06.jpgOut of the Box Publishing has announced that the latest expansion to their award winning Apples to Apples party game has shipped to stores. Apples to Apples Party Box Expansion 2 [Funagain] extends the content of the original 4-10 player game by adding half a thousand cards to the mix. Yikes. That's uh, a boatload of cards.

The Official Line: The game of hilarious comparisons. The laughter continues! These beautifully crafted wooden creates hold the same cards as the Apples to Apples Party Box Expansion Sets. Mix the 576 new cards from a Party Crate Expansion Set with the cards from the Apples to Apples Party Crate for thousands of new and outrageous comparisons!

The original Apples to Apples [Amazon, Funagain] is a fast and fun word-matching card game meant for large groups of people. Players create comical associations of names (nouns) and characteristics (adjectives) in order to score points from the judge-player. The rotating judge mechanic means that players and constantly altering their creative juices to appease different senses of humor.

There's a great video tour of the game on OutOfTheBox Publishing's official web site. Or if you're gruff like we are, and you'd rather skip the smiling, laughing marketing-guy, then we also have a short overview of Apples to Apples here.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

June 1, 2006

Review: Interact toGo

InteractToGo.5.30.06.jpg

Overview
Interact toGo is produced by Interact Games Ltd which has released a series of games with the goal of uniting intra office cultures (aka team building). Interact toGo extends the franchise by opening up audience to groups of friends and family.

The Company Line: Interact toGo is a card game that is fun, thought-provoking and entertaining. The purpose is to predict your opponent’s answer and the reason WHY behind it. That’s where the real fun begins!

Your opponent is your spouse, partner, neighbor or friend! Find out something new or different about the people in your life, those you think you know well and those you just met. Build relationships, value other’s perspectives and stimulate interesting dialogue while gaining points along the way.

The Gameplay
Playing a round of toGo is quite simple. A player picks a card off the top of the deck and reads the question aloud. The card also supplies multiple choice answers, which are also read aloud. The Question Reader selects an answer in secret, and jots down a description of "why" he/she chose the answer. It's the job of the other players to guess which answer the Question Reader chose (by writing it down), and also to guess the answer to the "why?" portion of the question. Then, everyone's responses are revealed, and 1 point is awarded to players with the correct answer to the multiple choice question, and 1 more point is awarded to players who correctly guessed "why".

Critique
The design is as about as streamlined as you can get, but let's dive into the nitty gritty details of the game's execution.

Interact toGo ships with 100 questions cards. The questions themselves are somewhat diverse in subject matter, but they all fit the same cookie cutter template - the players select their favorite multiple choice answers from a list of "what if" scenarios. "If I could be a constant on a game show, which would I chose, and why?", "If I could travel back in time and meet a historical figure, would would I chose, and why?" These aren't exactly the deepest questions, so if you're familiar with the folks you're playing with then it isn't difficult to deduce their answer (the "why" follow-up question still might be a challenge, however). The game also lacks a strong set of moral questions, which is a surprise since "family" is one of the intended audiences listed on the front of the box.

The Interact toGo website promises laugh-out-loud gameplay, but the questions themselves aren't exceedingly funny. The title also lacks an obvious game-mechanic that would provide humor. All of the hilarious moments stem from the "why" portion of the question, so it falls on the players' shoulders to tickle each other's funny bone. This usually occurs the moment a question that was intended for a woman falls into the lap of a man, or vice versa, or when a player doesn't even try to answer the "why" part of a question, but instead creates a completely outlandish response. That's when the fun really starts.

Finally, the act of writing the "why" to every answer provides some very unique, custom-tailored, and yes - potentially humorous responses. But in our overly-critical ways we found that it can simply take too long, and it slows down the pace of the game a bit too much . If there were more humorous or biting questions in the game then the downtime wouldn't be such a bad thing, but in the end the game's pace and content combine to slow down the game a bit too much. This is especially true when Interact toGo is compared against other shallower, but faster-paced titles in the party-quiz genre (Apples to Apples).


Conclusion
Interact toGo provides an unparalleled level of personal-depth to the social trivia experience. This is the game's major strength (and the seemingly the flaghship design decision that inspired the game). The potential for humor is there, but it often comes in sharp spikes harbored between longer lulls. The game simply isn't always funny or entertaining enough to compensate for the long down-time between rounds.

Also, we would have liked to have seen a bit more edge to the questions - perhaps circumstances where the player is forced to select the lesser of two evils, or questions that tested the players' morales. The addition of a few deeper questions cards might have generated additional hooks for humor which otherwise don't exist. Humor is key here because it more effectively obscures the game's slower pace while still stressing the title's strength for interpersonal-discovery.

In a world of passive social entertainment where TVs blast their waves through the living room, over cell phones, and in the back seats of minivans, the interpersonal design behind Interact toGo is a breath of fresh air. But in the end we liked the groundwork of ideas more than the actual execution. People who enjoy games in the social trivia genre will most likely enjoy the experience of this game, but the title isn't a sure-fire winner for everyone.

Interact toGo is available for purchase from the game's official website.

3 stars out of 5 Our Critical Raiting System

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

March 9, 2006

Apples to Apples Online Demonstration

ApplesToApples.3.9.06.jpgApples to Apples [Amazon, Funagain] has been out for a few years now (2004) , but lately it's exploded in popularity and has made a huge name of Out of the Box Publishing. The game rules are simple, and there pieces are limited - just twotwo decks of cards. This could be a great title to throw-down on on the dinner party table after dessert, or when your vacationing with friends. Here's how the core of the gameplay works:

The group elects a 'judge' for the first hand (the title of judge rotates around the table after every hand is played). Players are dealt a a hand of RED cards, the noun cards, which contain the name of a person, place or event.

The first round starts when the judge flips over a GREEN adjective card, and places it on the table. The rest of the players have some time to mull over their hand of RED noun cards to select one that is best described by the GREEN adjective card in play. The RED cards are played in secret, then collected and shuffled together. The judge looks them over and then selects the one they like the most. Points are awarded to the player who played the RED card the judge thinks best matches the GREEN card. Then the role of judge shifts clockwise, and a new round starts.

The kicker of this one is that you're constantly playing to the judge in clever and creative ways. The relationship between the GREEN adjective and the RED noun could have an abstract relationship in your judge's mind, so knowing the judge's sense of humor could net you big points. For instance, if a GREEN card "Mean" is played, then Judge-Dave would probably elect "Algebra" over "Chuck Norris" from a RED card selection, where as Judge-Russ would probably pick the kickboxing Texas Ranger

Afterall, Chuck Norris doesn't see the color red, he hears it.

Anyway, Out of the Box has a complete demonstration of a hand of Apples to Apples on their official website. The game definitely looks interesting, especially when played amongst close friends

The Company Line: Apples to Apples® is the wild, award-winning card and party game that provides instant fun for four to ten players!
It's as easy as "comparing apples to apples"...just open the box, deal the cards, and you're ready to play! Select the card from your hand that you think is best described by a card played by the judge. If the judge picks your card, you win that round. And everyone gets a chance to be the judge!
Each round is filled with surprising and outrageous comparisons from a wide range of people, places, things, and events. Fast moving and refreshing, Apples to Apples is perfect for any get-together with family and friends!

Apples To Apples is currently available at Amazon.com, and at FunagainGames.com for a buck cheaper.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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