August 31, 2006

Hands On: Tempus

Tempus.8.2.06.jpgPeople have likened Tempus [Funagain] to a simplified version of a civilization style game - namely, the game Advanced Civilization. We like to think the game falls in line with this other analogy: Tempus is to Civilization, as stuffed French toast (at I-Hop) is to a traditional French breakfast.

Tempus wraps a sugary crepe around the complexities of a social evolution and conquest game like Civilization, and pours a gobs of syrup on top so that anyone will give it a try. In fact, Tempus simplifies so much into a sweet gooey essence that a lot of the inspired flavor is lost. Although the soul of the game is still anchored in the dynamics of growing societies, almost nothing in the gameplay or in the pieces sells the feeling of social evolution. Don't get us wrong - the game definitely satisfies, but there's very little to instill a feeling that you're leading a society out of caves, through feudalism, into the age of exploration and finally the modern era.

Tempus does have some mechanics of technological progression, but only in the sense that the entire world's technology level is slowly evolving as a whole. Each turn begins with the world technology meter going up one 'age' (writing then farming, etc), which increases the power of each of the payer's actions (increased movement distance, increased number of actions players can make, increased population growth, etc). Players can gain a technological advantage over their competitors, but for only one turn at a time. At the end of the turn everyone catches up with each other, and the playing field is once again leveled.

That brief technological edge is determined at the start of each turn. The game has a linear technology track, and each spot on that track is tied to a resource type on the game board. Those players who start the turn with the most units occupying that resource type will gain a technological boost - for one turn their level of technology is actually the next level on the progression track. Depending on the technology age, this could give them a short boost to hand size, unit stacking limit, movement distances, etc. At the end of the turn the track is normalized (everyone is the same technology level again), the next technology resource type is checked, and a new technology advantage is given.

Tempus.Session.8.31.06.jpgThe resources required for the progression of society varied greatly in human history, and this is well reflected in Tempus and is an important mechanic of the game. Moving your society into place to adapt and take advantage of the various resources and technological boons will take careful consideration. And even with plans in place, the progression of your civilization never seems the least bit inevitable - an opponent may win the tech race one turn, launching his units over land and sea faster than you can move your tribe, and they might beat you to the resources that you had planned to conquer three turns in the future.

One last thing we'd like to go over is the game cards. Each card has special text that can be played at any time your turn. The cards are mainly boosters to the normal actions a player can take. For example, if a player chooses to Have Babies as one of their turn actions, then the Medicine card can be played to increase the number of units placed. The cards also have a colored background matching the various resources on the board. In this way the cards can also be used to boost the resources accumulated for the technology race, OR to increase the combat strength of your unit when fighting on a space that contains that resource. The multipurpose cards can be very confusing at first, as there are times when you it's confusing if you have to match resource types with the card and the target or not. However, once the state of confusion is broken, the multipurpose aspect becomes a huge strength of the game. Should you use cards to boost the power of a particular action this turn thus increasing your civilization's infrastructure, or do horde them to increase your resources for a technological edge? Or do you save them for stronger defense, or to push an attack into enemy territory?

To us, weighing these decisions is the essence of the civilization game genre. Is Tempus [Funagain] worth it after all of the historical theme and complexity has been stripped bear? So far, we strongly nod yes. Unlike its predecessors, a game of Tempus can easily be wrapped up in an hour to an hour of a half (instead of three to twelve hours), and there's a lot of strength in that. And thanks to Tempus' random board layout, no two games will play the same.

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August 30, 2006

Coming Soon: "Catan Event Cards"

CatanEventCards.8.29.06.jpgIf you're looking to add a little extra oomph to your Settlers of Catan [Funagain,Amazon] gaming experience, then you'll find a cheap way to do so this fall. Introducing Catan Event Cards [Amazon,Funagain] - the deck adds a new system for determining the resource production of Catan tiles, while also introducing random events for extra oomph and flavor to the straight-forward Settlers turns.

The Company Line: Drop the dice and spice up your Settler's of Catan or Cities and Knights games with this new set of cards. The Catan Event Cards feature thirty-six cards that act as a deck of dice, replacing the need for dice in your Catan game. Special events are triggered by these cards each time they are turned over, adding an exciting new element to your Catan play. Also included are 6 scorekeeping cards, the rules card, and a reshuffle card.

Now, we realize that the company's product description is a rather vague on the "Special events" front, here they are broken down a bit further:

  • Calm Seas: Whomever has the greatest number of sea ports receives a resource card of their choosing.
  • Conflict: Whoever has the largest army strong arms a resource card from each opponent.
  • Earthquake: Every player must damage one of their road segments. That road will be out of commissions until the the owner pays one brick card and one lumber card to repair the damage.
  • Epidemic: For one turn Cities (which normally produce two resources from each adjoining hex) only produce one resource per hex.
  • Good Neighbors: All players choose a resource card from their hand and pass it to their neighbor to their left.
  • Neighborly Assistance: The person who is currently in the lead gives each other player one resource card each.
  • Plentiful Year: Each player draws a resource card of their choice.
  • Robber Flees: The robber retreats back to his desert tile.
  • Tournament: The player with the largest army draws a resource card of his choice.
  • Trade Advantage: The player who currently controls the longest road 'taxes' a resource card from a player of his/her choice.

There are two other card types: one where no special action occurs on the turn (which is the most common draw); and as noted in the company line, one card that triggers a premature reshuffle of the exhausted cards back into the deck. The reshuffling recycles the rare numbers back into the mix in an attempt to conceal the fact that that rare dice numbers (12, 2, etc) cannot be drawn more than once in the 36-card system.

Gaming purest might scream bloody murder over the lack of true randomness - the card system follows the number distribution a bit too closely, and provides no chaos along the dice result distribution curve. Did we just dork out a little too much? - No! It's only after a reshuffle that a rare number will appear again. For instance, if the "12 card" has been drawn early in a game - then the players are certain that a tile with a 12 marker won't produce resources again for a very, very long time, at least until after a reshuffle (30 turns or so), and then who knows how long after that. When Settler's is played with dice, however, there is always a chance that 12 will appear on any roll, so long term forecasting will always be a game of odds.

Those who enjoy the spice of random event card will probably love this expansion. Those who love the chaos and the chance of dice might also want to pick it up anyway, if only to roll the dice for turn-production and then use the cards as a random event scheme. After all, what jerk said you couldn't use both?

Catan Event Cards [Funagain] is set to ship in October.

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August 29, 2006

Twilight Struggle Wins IGA's Best Historical Simulation 2006

TwilightStruggle.8.14.06.jpgA few weeks ago we reported on the International Gamers Awards list of nominees for 2006, including the 2-player game, multiplayer strategy game, and historical simulation categories. Twilight Struggle (2005) [Funagain], the acclaimed title that simulates the forty-five year dance of Soviet and American influence around the globe, was nominated twice, once in the Two Player game category, and once in the Historic Simulations game category.

Today the IGA committee has announced the winner for the Historical Simulation Category, and Twilight Struggle brings home the bacon. Here's the official press release.


The International Gamers Awards committee is extremely proud to announce the recipient for the 2006 IGA in the Historical Simulations category:

The award goes to Twilight Struggle by designers Jason Matthews and Ananda Gupta and publisher GMT Games. Using a card-driven mechanism that recreates the most critical events of the US-Soviet Cold War, Twilight Struggle pits two players in a struggle to exert influence throughout the world in a bid to make their philosophy dominant. Each player must watch closely as the battle for ideology is raged, the Space Race is launched and advanced, and the DefCon track (Defense Condition) monitors the globe's stability. A beautifully-balanced game with multiple strategic levels, Twilight Struggle gets better with each play as further depth is revealed.

The International Gamers Awards were founded in 1999 for the express purpose of recognizing outstanding games, their designers, and the companies which publish them. The awards have gained widespread acclaim and have helped bring these outstanding games to the public's attention.

The individuals who serve on our General Strategy and Historical Simulation committees are extremely qualified, knowledgeable and respected within the gaming hobby. Each and everyone have extensive experience in the playing, reviewing and critiquing of games.

You can learn more about the International Gamers Awards by visiting our website at:

Unfortunately it seems that publisher GMT Games didn't expect all of this great press for their title - the game is pretty darn hard to get a hold of these days. Thankfully there's another printing of the game scheduled to hit storeshelves this October. We'll keep you posted on it's release, or if this date slides either way.

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August 28, 2006

BlogPire Podcast - Summer WrapUp 08.28.06

Blogpire 144We talk about the summer "best of" from as well as other products and news from around the 'pire. We also answer your questions from the past couple of weeks so keep sending them in to podcast at blogpire dot com.

[iTunes]Subscribe to the Podcast directly in iTunes (MP3).
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With Hosts: Russell Miner and Jay Brewer


2:30 Best of
3:30 Best Razors
3:55 Best shaving cream
7:20 Best aftershave
8:30 Best shaving oil
10:30 Best shaving online stores

13:30 The Scotch Blog
14:15 Guest Review: Tanqueray Rangpur Gin
16:03 Home Composter
19:14 Organic Beer
21:10 Prefab Sunset Cabin
23:55 Tivo Series 3
28:25 Oppo Digital LCD/DVD TV
29:25 Samsung 70' LCD TV
33:02 Mix and Measure Bowls
34:44 Gourmet Basting Brush
36:01 Electrolux Cyber Fridge
39:27 World of Warcraft Collectible Card Game
43:37 Lost the Game
43:38 Gametap
53:06 Questions
60:00 Ending

Contact the BlogPire Podcast: podcast at blogpire dawt com.

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August 28, 2006

Xbox Live Eurogame Screenshots

Last week we reported that the Xbox Live service was going to launch three Eurogames for your Xbox 360 gaming pleasure: Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne and Alhambra. At the time we had no media to share with you of the upcoming releases, but some images have been leaked to the net (thanks to Ozymandias) and without further ado, here they are! (click the images to enlarge them.)

Settlers of Catan [Amazon,Funagain]
"The Catan series is one of the best-selling and most widely played game lines ever developed. Over 11 million Catan games have been sold since the brand’s debut in 1995. Millions of people will testify that it is one of the greatest games ever! Then try one, or even combine, its many expansions. Some let you explore new aspects of the game. Others let you add more players.


The “Game of the Year” in Germany, the U.S, and a host of other countries, The Settlers of Catan is a classic, stand-alone game for 3-4 players. You journey to the unsettled wilds of the grand new world known as Catan. It’s an exciting frontier, one rich in opportunity. No place could be more perfect for casual adventure. Compete with your opponents to discover and settle the choicest lands and seaports. Gather resources, trade with friends and foes, and build roads and settlements—all in a quest to be master of Catan.

Catan is a little different every time you visit. You’ll always find it a land full of intrigue and surprise. Careful trade and clever building are your keys to success. Plenty of fast-paced player interaction is guaranteed. Win or lose, adventure always awaits in Catan!" From

Carcassonne [Amazon,Funagain]
The southern French city of Carcassonne was founded on an important trade route between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. Because of its strategic location, the city was often conquered and has known many rulers. As a result of this varied history, the city is famous for its unique mixture of Roman and Medieval fortifications.

The players develop the area around Carcassonne by placing land tiles. Each turn the area becomes larger as the players expand and add roads, fields, cities, and cloisters. The players may also deploy their followers as thieves, farmers, knights, and monks to control and score points for the roads, farms, cities, and cloisters. As the players have only a few followers, the wise player will plan his moves carefully and deploy followers when and where he can earn the most points.

Carcassonne is a simple, clever tile laying game that brings new challenges with every turn.

Alhambra [Amazon,Funagain]
In Granada, one of the most impressive building projects of the Middle Ages has begun: the construction of Alhambra. A palace, fortress, and a small city -- all-in-one -- Alhambra is made up of the world's most beautiful gardens, pavilions, chambers and towers.

The most prominent builders in all of Europe and Arabia want to demonstrate their skills. Employ the most talented teams of builders to construct your Alhambra. Hire stonemasons from the north and gardeners from the south, who all want a fair wage and insist on being paid with their native currency. With their help, towers can be constructed, gardens designed, pavilions and mezzanines erected, and manors and royal chambers built. Compete against your opponents to build the greatest and most impressive Alhambra.

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August 25, 2006

World of Warcraft TCG Session Video


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

We realize that it was only two weeks ago when we covered a lot of the World of Warcraft TCG for our first TCG It's Friday installment, but we were sucked back in with some cool news that we couldn't just sit on. To be honest, it wasn't hard to go back - we haven't been this excited about a release since Belichick put Brady in for the playoffs and set Bledsoe out to footballer's pasture (sorry Buffalo - the fact that he didn't then take an early retirement was his own doing).

The video (which comes from includes about 20 minutes of footage from Gen Con last week. The reporter plays as a Warrior against Upper Deck Entertainment Product Manager David Hewitt, who pulls the strings of a fire tossing Mage. The coverage includes an entire game played from start to finish with open hands, and also contains a few thoughts from David Hewitt about the Onyxia raid deck. The video is free to download, doesn't require any registration or other bueracratic / marketing nonesense, and .. what the heck are you waiting for?

Here are some notes we took while watching the game session so that you can join in the fun even if your computer doesn't have any speakers, or if you're running on a Apple II GS and can't watch those new fangled moving pictures.

ArrowContinue reading: "World of Warcraft TCG Session Video"

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August 24, 2006

"Lost The Game"

Lost.Boardgame.8.23.06.jpgIn all honesty we were a bit hesitant about posting this. Before you also roll your eyes at what seems ( or could ) be a cumbersome media tie-in, we'd like to let you know that initial reports of the game point the opposite direction, and with a bit of conviction to boot. Don't get us wrong - this probably isn't a game that will sit atop the serious gamer's board game collection as an instant classic, but if you're a fan of the show (and so long as the writers minimize the soap operatic plot lines, then who isn't a fan?) then this game could certainly entertain. Especially when compared against other crappy tie-ins, like "Survivor: The Game" which entertains only by filming yourself throwing the thing against a wall, and watching the explosion of pieces in slow motion reverse. And even then, it's still a bit of a one trick pony.

Unlike other crappy tie-ins, "Lost The Game" [Amazon,Target] was designed from the ground up (what a concept)! This is not some rehashed version of "Monopoly" or "The Game of Life" that the ABC marketing department slapped a sticker on. This was a game built specifically with Lost in mind, and then tinkered with in refining cycles of repeated gametests.

But enough with the monkey on our backs. Let's get to the game itself. The island that plays a role of a shadowy character in the Lost TV show is represented in the game by a series of randomly drawn hexagonal tiles. The board can take any shape and will vary in content in each game session. We're a huge fan of random game boards because they're a spice of replayablity, and the mechanic perfectly fits the "where the heck are we ?" theme of the show.

Players of the game then explore the island and use cards to exploit and recruit characters. The card play is inspired by the collectable card game Magic: The Gathering , but we're not yet sure quite how that theme translates to Lost The Game.

Characters under your control fight for dominance of the island in direct conflict with other palyer's characters (this somewhat breaks the relatively passive behavior of the characters in the TV show, but for gaming purposes we can deal with it). We're sure that there will be some characters who prefer more a more subtile approach to getting what they want., before resorting to fisticuffs.

A lot of the game's public details stem from a pair of articles at The general game page loosely describes the components of the game, and even better, there's an interview with designer Keith Tralins that soothed our fears that this is simply a mass market media crapfest.

As a fan of designer games like Settlers of Catan, Tralins hopes that Lost: The Game will introduce more people to that style. "Lost took a niche genre and blew it up to mainstream. That's a goal I have with this game. There's a whole realm of board games -- the German games -- with social interaction and intellectual challenge. This is a chance to expose those mechanics and those pleasures to a whole new audience. - From "Lost: The Game - Interview with the Designer" on

Board Game Geek also has a thread where a player has posted his experiences during a play session with the game. The site hosts a picture of the game box and its pieces, here.

Those hex pieces look pretty sweet. Reminds us of Survive meets Settlers of Catan.

"Lost The Game" [Amazon,Target] is for sale at, and is currently shipping.

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Eurogames on Xbox Live

XBOX360.8.24.06.jpgWell here's an unexpected great bit of news. Microsoft is going to add the eurogames Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, and Alhambra to their successful XBox Live Arcade online service. Here's a bit from

Fittingly for a conference in Germany, the new games announced for Xbox Live Arcade had a European board-game heritage. Outpost Kaloki X is about to have some genre company on Xbox Live Arcade, as all three titles will call on strategic thinking from the players. The announced games include the civilization-building Settlers of Catan, the tile-based city-building game Carcassonne, and the Arabian-themed stock-market game Alhambra set to be available through the Xbox. - From "Catan tops new Live Arcade trio" on Gamespot

XBox live made a sleeper hit out of the unexpected title of Uno. People went crazy over that title, and continue to do so on a nightly basis. It looks like the Xbox Live team is trying to capitalize on the 'parlor game' genre by adapting some new, hotter titles to their online platform. It'd be interesting to see if the pace of the online Settlers of Catan could keep-up the real life form. Carcassonne will definitely be an interesting experiment as well, but seems more elegant and could be a smoother translation of the medium.

No word yet on when these online variants will be pushed up to the Live Service.

Related Links:

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August 23, 2006

Max Brooks' "World War Z"

WorldWarZ.8.23.06.jpgIt might not be true that all gamers love zombies, but it's definitely true that we do. In fact, we love zombies so much that we wrote this zombie haiku:

           Shuffling Masses
Reach out for human sweetbread
           An axe to the face

Masaoka Shiki would be so proud.

A few years ago we ran across the "Zombie Survival Guide" by Max Brooks [Amazon]; a must-read for any Zombie enthusiast. If you've ever sat in bed staring at the ceiling on a sleepless night wondering how you'd react to a zombiepocolypse, second guessing every move in a cold sweat, then this book is definitely for you. We had already planned our exit strategy for when Boston's inner circle fell into a pit of Zombie hell, but we had some things wrong. Max set us straight, and made us laugh about our stupid mistakes.

We just heard news that Max Brooks has parlayed his success with the ZSG into a full blown novel "World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War" [Amazon]. The book sounds like a War of Worlds sort of fictitious documentary, but dissimilar in that the story takes place ten years after the invasion. And uh, this time it's zombies (of course) not Martians.

"Ten years after the human victory over the world wide Zombie epidemic, referred to as World War Z, Max Brooks scours the world collecting the stories and experiences of those who have survived the conflict that almost eradicated humanity." ... Max Brooks’s previous book, The Zombie Survival Guide, formed the core of the world’s civilian survival manuals during the Zombie War. Mr. Brooks subsequently spent years traveling to every part of the globe in order to conduct the face-to-face interviews that have been incorporated into this present publication.

Sounds juicy. We've also learned that a script for a movie adaptation has already been shopped around Hollywood. IMDB has news that the script found a home in June of this year.

"After a bidding war between Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio's production companies (Plan B and Appian Way respectively) for the film rights to Max Brooks' unreleased book, Paramount came out the winner and Plan B will be producing the movie." -From 'World War Z" on IMDB

So it looks like the movie is going to be a Brad Pitt production, scheduled for a 2008 release.

"World War Z" (the book) is due out September 12th, and is now available for preorder from Amazon.

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August 21, 2006

World of Warcraft TCG Official Rules


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

The producers of the World of Warcraft TCG website have posted a link to the game's official 48-page rulebook. The rules are very simple to understand, precise, and go into the details of the seven card types that we had covered a week ago. The rulebook also contains new content including a clear description of the game's turn order and multiplayer rules, and includes detailed descriptions of the keywords for the WoW TCG Series-One cards.

We thought we'd include the keywords and definitions here since they're all very much tied into the flavor and presentation of the game. Some of the keywords are your standard TCG notions of Instant abilities and Unique cards, so we've pruned those snoozers out.

A special note about the rules of the "Protector" keyword - in combat it's usually the the attacking player who choses both the attacking and defending hero and ally. The "Protector" ability breaks that rule.

  • Bear Form: Some Druid abilities give your hero bear form. While in bear form, your hero has protector. When you play a non-Feral ability or strike with a weapon, you must destroy any ability cards in play that give your hero bear form.
  • Elusive: An elusive hero or ally can’t be attacked. However, it can still attack as usual. It can also be targeted by abilities as usual.
  • Ferocity: An ally with ferocity can attack on the same turn that it joins a party. However, even an ally with ferocity can’t use activated powers unless it has been in your party since the start of your turn. An ally with ferocity can still use regular payment powers that don’t require an activation.
  • Long-Range: Some weapons give your hero long-range. While a hero with long-range is attacking, defenders deal no combat damage to it.
  • Protector: A hero or ally with protector can defend in place of a proposed defender in combat.
  • Stealth: Some Rogue abilities give your hero stealth. While a stealthed hero is attacking, opposing heroes and allies can’t protect. As soon as your hero deals damage, you lose stealth and must destroy any card that gives you stealth.
  • Totem: A Totem is a special kind of Shaman ongoing ability. A Totem has a health value in its lower right corner. Totems can be attacked in combat or targeted by anything that would normally target an ally.
  • Unlimited: When a card has the “unlimited” keyword, you can put any number of them into your deck. For example, you could have 60 Orgrimmar Grunts cards in your deck instead of the normal maximum of 4.

Links to the online versions of the World of Warcraft TCG rulebook can be found here. We'd also like to make special note about the art of the "Battle of Darrowshire" , a Quest card detailed on the WoW TCG website this last week. The arrows to the neck is a perfect import from the undead models of the MMORPG, and that background is the coolest subtle, yet terrifying, background we've seen of a Trading Card in a long while. Totally fits the game's October release, too.

Can't wait!

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August 18, 2006

Dreambade: A Primer

Unspeakable FreakIn our second installment of TCG: It's Friday we'll take a look at some of the mechanics of Dreamblade, the hot ticket collectable miniatures game just released by Wizards of the Coast. It's what all the kids are talking about; it's all that WotC is talking about. It's what we're talking about.

A game of Dreamblade is about a conflict that takes place within the dreamscape - the shared unconsciousness of every sleeping person in the world. It seems that some mad scientists wanted to tap into our nightly horrorshow fantasies and watch how we retreat from the stresses of a normal work day. You know the dream they're after - You hear a crack as you bite into a old pretzel and realize your teeth are about to fall out, but then Chuck Norris swings down and saves you from the pit of ravenous squirrels only to be impaled on the mandebles of the giant soldier ants hellbent on taking over the government and installing an ironfist communist regime. When will those ants learn that it's a two party system?! Bah!

But we digress. The dreamscape of Dreamblade is represented as a board and starts as a neutral territory at the start of the game. Players spawn creatures in a race to be the first to gain control of the plane of unconsciousness. The presence of your creatures on specific places of the board will increase your control (read: score). Of course, your opponent is hellbent on doing the same thing, and can use his creatures to solidify his place in the dreamscape, or he could use them to attack your creatures in his attempt to kick you out of the plane once a for all.

Players collect creatures of various forms of dreams (Fear, Passion, etc) by buying them in booster packs. The player is then tasked with making a deck with a strong enough combinatoin of creatures to defeat his opponent through force or through trickery. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

ArrowContinue reading: "Dreambade: A Primer"

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August 16, 2006

Marvel Heroes GenCon Impressions in BoardGameGeek Forums

MarvelHeros.3.16.06.jpgWe're still on-watch for next installment of the Marvel Heroes preview articles in the Board Game Geek forums (see our posts covering parts 1 & 2, 3, and 4). Bad news: there's still no word on when part five is coming. Good news: we found a post with some interesting impressions about the game's showing at the GenCon gaming convention last week.

The post [link] steps through various details of a round of play, and offers some opinions of the title's game mechanics and content. We've enjoyed the official preview posts from Marvel Heroes designer Roberto Di Meglio, but it's also great to hear about the game from a source other than the horse's mouth.

Here's a snippet:

"I thought this game was excellent. The Demo table was always full and as soon as a game ended there already 4 or more players ready to start the next one. They surprised most of us with a game that is not just a tactical miniature combat game and they delivered an enjoyable experience. I can't wait for this game to come out." Post from User 'Ronaldo'

The entire article draws a pretty picture of the Marvel Heroes showing at Gen Con. A line up to a demonstration is always a good thing. Also, in the past we've heard that the game is meant to play fast with little downtime, and this hands-on impression confirms that it'll live up to those standards.

Here's hoping, anyway. The continuing reputation of Fantasy Flight's Big Box line of games is at stake, and we hope its reputation isn't tarnished by a ho-hum release of Marvel Heroes -- the recently announced Conan Big Box Game (which is being developed by the same group of designers) should get all the money and attention that franchise deserves. Not that we've heard anything bad about Marvel Heroes. We're simply paranoid.

Marvel Heroes is set to ship in September, which is only a month away!

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August 15, 2006

Board Games vs. Video Games. Fight!

Bugel.8.15.06.jpgThe Journal Gazette newspaper (out of Fort Wayne) has a posted an article [link] about the gaming industry's struggle to get out from beneath the shadow of its giant digital counterpart - Video Games.

It's a great read as it details the climate shift of the hobby gaming industry over the last few years. The older American industry giants have finally had their realization that traditional American board gaming is all but dead.

That article sets us walking down the road to sadville. It's partially because we've already heard that distant call of Taps playing its mournful remembrance of the conventional board gaming genre. You never really had to listen hard over the last few years to hear the giants like Parker Brothers and Mattel sound that familiar refrain. So long "Sorry!" Good bye "Life". Flip-over that big ole 'volcano hexagon in the sky', "Survive!" You were there for us, and entertained us in our childhood, but then you banked on repetitive success (these games are from the 1950's or older), and you failed to evolve. Your attempt to keep to attention of your audience was half hearted, uninspired, and ultimately it failed (and is that really the fault of Video Games?)

But in their wake sprouts green buds and new life in the form of smaller publishers. These more agile companies are breathing life into the board game market through the importation and the rebranding of successful German Eurogames. We're talking about your Rio Grande Games, Mayfair Games, etc, and they're paving the way for a new form of gaming in the United States. Their movement and impact on the gamescape is still small in the eyes of the flailing dinosaurs, and so these little-guys aren't much of a blip on the radar of this mainstream article. It's a shame, too, because they really do deserve some mass market press.

Anyway, there's another reason that we're sad. In fact, it stems from the author's slap in the face of these afore mentioned 'new board game publishers.' The article uses the upcoming Wizards of the Coast collectable miniatures game "Dreamblade" as an example of the older industry gaint's 'new take' on board gaming.. o_0 The last time we checked, "Dreamblade" wasn't a genre inventing game, nor a revolutionary board game, but a large-market parlay of past success. It could even be described as simply one progressive step in the overaching evolution of WotC's line of collectable card games.

Despite this, if the article were simply renamed "Traditional Board Game Publishers Reinvent Themselves to get Attention in a Tech World", then it's a pretty darn interesting read... despite its long-winded title.

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August 14, 2006

International Gamer Awards 2006 Finalists Announced

Every year the IGA Committee selects the best of the best board games from that year, including the genres of Multiplayer Strategy Board Games, Two Player Strategy Board Games, and Historical Simulations (read: Wargames). Past winners include Ticket to Ride Europe (2006), War of the Ring, Puerto Rico, and Memoir '44, which are all really top notch games. In other words, the folks in the IGA Committees don't make poor decisions, at least not when it comes to gaming.

So whats up for an award in 2006? Glad you asked! Here are the nominees for the Multiplayer and 2-Player Categories (if you're a wargammer, then you should check out the Official Nominee List which includes Historical Simulation category, too). Our favorite titles on the lists are described in detail

==Multiplayer Games==

Antike.8.14.06.jpgANTIKE [FunagainGames]

  • Designer: Mac Gerdts
  • Publisher: Rio Grande Games
  • Antike is a challenging strategy game about evolution and competition among ancient civilizations. Ancient nations create cities, build temples, sail the seas, and discover new principles of science and technology. Their legions and galleys open new settlements and defend their people against attacks from their enemies. Two scenarios can be chosen as the game board is two-sided. Players choose from Greeks, Romans, and Germanic tribes and Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Persians, Arabs, Egyptians, and Babylonians.

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August 11, 2006

TCG It's Friday: World of Warcraft Card Types

Warchief Thrall

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

In our first installment of 'TCG Friday' we thought it would be wise to catchup with the World of Warcraft TCG (one of the biggest releases slated for this fall) by reviewing the official websites previews the game's card types. We've already reported on the two official WoW TCG articles which previewed the Hero and Ability cards. Since then the WoW website has continued to turn out the previews, publishing six articles for each of the remaining five card types ( do the math, something doesn't add up...). Together these previews give us a great glimpse at how this game system will ultimately end up.

So uh, if you don't mind, let's start glimpsing.

ArrowContinue reading: "TCG It's Friday: World of Warcraft Card Types"

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A Letter From the Editor - Trading Card Game Fridays

LetterFromEditor.8.11.06.jpgWe had a meeting early this week decussing the potential for a regular installment article for Friday afternoons. A few theme ideas went around the table, with the most popular being an article on Trading / Collectable Card Games.

We're not really a website that focuses too much on the genre, but we realize that there are cool things coming down the pipe during the second half of this year. We thought that one TCG day out of five was probably a good ratio. So from here till Christmas expect our Friday stories to revolve around all things cool in TCGs.

If you have any requests or suggestions for TCG articles, or if you want to give us heads-up on news or rare TCG games that you're following, etc, please let us know!


David DB
Editor at

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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.

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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.


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 and the Funagain Games online store.

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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?

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August 5, 2006

BlogPire Podcast - The Pilot 08.05.2006

Blogpire 144We've been working hard to get it together on the podcast front and can now officially say - we've got a podcast for the entire BlogPire! Hosts Jay Brewer and Russell Miner will take you through the best news and reviews from around the BlogPire. If you're not familiar with podcasts - they're basically a web based radio show and you can read more about them here.

The Pilot show features exclusive chat and banter about the launch of our new blog, a run down of the latest from,, and many others. We take a look at the latest in BBQ, Poker Drinkware, and of course high definition TV stuff. We hope you enjoy the BlogPire Podcast and expect it to show up on whatever BlogPire weblog you read every 2 weeks!

[RSS] Add the BlogPire Podcast feed to your RSS aggregator and have the show delivered automatically (MP3).

[MP3] Download the show (MP3).

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August 4, 2006

Xeko Trading Card Game

Xeko.8.4.06.JPGWe were surfing when we ran into Xeko, a trading card game for kids with a 'learn about the environment' theme. The first set is centered around the rare animals and unique ecosystem of the inbred cousin of Africa, Madagascar. The game reminds us of those National Geographic animal cards that were around when we were younger. In that series, each card detailed an animal (usually from Africa) including its habitat, behavior, and a purty color photo.

Xeko is like that, but makes a game out it, where players fight to create the strongest ecosystem. Man, this would have been fantastic when we were younger.

Here are the details:

Based on the Legend of Xeko and conservation hotspots, Xeko ignites imaginations and sends the next generation of heroes on an adventure to save the world.

The Xeko game features remarkable plant and animal species from Earth's biodiversity hotspots first identified by Norman Myers and recognized by Conservation International. Currently numbered at 34, the hotspots contain 75 percent of the planet's most threatened mammals, birds and amphibians while covering just 2.3 percent of the Earth's surface. An estimated 50 percent of all vascular plants and 42 percent of land vertebrates exist only in these hotspots.

Preserving our planet's biodiversity is Xeko Mission: Critical.

Every Xeko player is an eco-hero. Every game purchase helps fund conservation efforts in the field.

The Xeko motto: Have fun, do good!

Xeko's official website has more information, including a demo of the game. Also, here's a KidsWorld review of the game here, and it looks like a store called Queen Anne Books sells the game online.

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Learn the Art of Easy Espresso at

B00004Rbre.01. Ss400 Sclzzzzzzz V1099448119 Easy Ad-1Blogpire Productions is pleased to announce the addition of to its growing family of product and especially kitchen focused Web logs. will provide news, insights and reviews of espresso coffee, and espresso machines, especially the newer easy to use ESE Pod espresso machines and Super Automatic Espresso machines, both of which make espresso at the touch of a button that rivals the corner café.

" is the natural out-growth of that has seen great success in the Web log world," says Jay Brewer, founder of Blogpire Productions and editor of "While covering the explosive growth of single serve coffees, our readers kept asking us to cover the growing trend of espresso, and the newer easy to use E.S.E. machines that are becoming a lot more popular. With, we’ll be able to do a better job of helping our readers sort through the new espresso coffee market and help them enjoy great tasting espresso at home."

Please visit and also sign up for the mailing list.

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August 3, 2006

World of Warcraft TCG Website Reveals Cards


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:

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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.

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August 1, 2006

Hands On: War of the Ring Battle For Rohan

BattlesThirdAge.3.2.06.gifA soggy thunderstorm swept through New England this weekend, and we thought it would be the perfect time to crack open War of the Ring's [Amazon, Funagain] new expansion The Battles of the Third Age [Funagain]to give it a go. We met at six in the evening to setup the Battle for Rohan (one of 3 new scenarios in the Expansion), and got to playing. Before long we were elbows deep in one of the most engrossing war game experiences we've ever had, and nobody in our group noticed (or cared) when the clock stuck ten, then 11, 12, and 1 am.

Now that the dust has settled from our wargaming marathon, we've collected our thoughts on the game experience. Read on for our criticisms and accolades over the expansion's revised combat system, the new pieces and boards, and how succesfully they all mesh together into the new War of the Ring gameplay experience.

ArrowContinue reading: "Hands On: War of the Ring Battle For Rohan"

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