February 28, 2007

February '07 Roundup

Roundup2.jpgFebruary is cold, sleepy and if it isn't snowing, or raining, or sleeting, then there's slush melting in the backed-up street gutters. Thank goodness that month is over!

We have to be honest, even given the short month, the number of releases in February didn't blow our minds. The most substantial was the release of the next title in the long line of Catan games: Catan Histories: Struggle for Rome. Romping through the Apennine Peninsula should tide us over until Spring when even more titles start churning off the factory line, including Days of Wonder's stadium building title Colosseum, the space opera Galactic Destiny, and the WWII tactical wargame system Tide of Iron. Plus we'll be soon slaying demons and kicking WWI butt in the upcoming Fantasy Flight translation of Tannhauser, and how could forget the long awaited news on the upcoming World of Warcraft TCG expansion The Dark Portal. It's about time Upper Deck loosens its lips about that title and spills the details; the set is due April/May, so if not March then when?

Even more important is this: When will then be now?

Board Games

Collectable Card Games

Gaming Culture

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February 27, 2007

World of Warcraft TCG "Fires of Outland" Announced

FiresOfOutland.gifUpper Deck has released details on the next set release for the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game: "Fires of Outland". And when we say "next", we actually mean the next-next release.

Details are still up in the air about the upcoming release of "The Dark Portal" Expansion, and the upcoming "Molten Core Raid Deck". And now Upper Deck releases teaser news of third upcoming release for the Fall?? That makes us feel a bit hollow on the insides. Upper Deck: Could we lay down some groundwork for the next 2 Spring releases before announcing a third, please?

Anyway, enough squabbling. If these Spring expansions are as good as the game's original Heroes of Azeroth content, then we'll be happy that the publisher has already signed the dotted line to produce more content for the fall.

And here are all of the official details:

"After the opening of the Dark Portal, the battle rages on and Upper Deck Entertainment Introduces….

World of Warcraft "Fires of Outland™" Booster Packs

Rush to war as the conflict is joined in Outland! The armies of Azeroth lay siege to the mysterious world, while the Burning Legion throws its might against the Stair of Destiny.

Prestige and glory await those who are bold enough to join the fray. Let your battle cry be heard as echoes of war engulf the blood-soaked world.

Heed the call!

Fires of Outland™ is the third set in the World of Warcraft® Trading Card Game, which is based upon the award-winning massively multiplayer online role playing game, World of Warcraft®.

Key Features:

  • Uniquely coded rare Loot™ cards feature cosmetic upgrades for your World of Warcraft online character. New Burning Crusade content now available!
  • Collect UDE Points cards with unique codes in every pack of the World of Warcraft® TCG. Enter those codes on your online account and earn special TCG cards, promotional materials, and distinct cosmetic upgrades for your online World of Warcraft® character!
  • Play as your favorite class and race, including the new Draenei and Blood Elf races, and experience all the depth of World of Warcraft® in a TCG!
  • Compete in Darkmoon Faire and other robust World of Warcraft® TCG Organized Play programs and win amazing prizes
  • 15 game cards & 1 UDE Points card per pack
  • 24 packs per display
  • 12 displays per case.
Arrival date: August 2007"

Looks like there aren't any Starter Packs for this expansion, and beyond that - that's all we know. We'll check back in with the WoW TCG when we learn more about the upcoming Into the Dark Portal expansion, and the upcoming Molten Core Raid Deck. Catch ya latah mon.

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February 26, 2007

Xbox Live: Catan Interview on Joystiq

'Catan' on Xbox LiveWe've sat back and enjoyed a scotch and a Valium since posting our frustrated article last week about the delay of Catan, as in the Settlers of. It turns out that there's already a new date set for the release of the new Xbox Live title: sometime in March '07.

Honestly, though, the reaffirmed release date isn't what calmed us down. It's more about the exciting details revealed in the Joystiq Interview with Big Huge Games' CEO Brian Reynolds. As it turns out, Brian is a tournament player of Settlers of Catan, which of course means that this upcoming Live release will be done with love and enthusiasm for the original title. Also, Brian was handed a very in depth set of strategic data to serve as the foundation of Catan's Artificial Intelligence code, from none other than Settlers of Catan designer Klaus Teuber.

It's great to hear that Klaus had some significant hands-on contributions to the project.

So although we're a bit dismayed that we're not amidst office wars with Catan right now, at least our outlook of the game has changed for the better. We have a feeling this isn't just hype either: Catan might be the groundbreaking adaption that lays the groundwork for a slew of Eurogames to appear on the Xbox Live service. Cant' wait, and here's hoping!

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February 23, 2007

Age of Empires III Preview at Board Game News

AgeOfEmpiresIII.jpgThe good folks over at BoardGameNews.com have thrown together a collection of preview snapshots for the upcoming title Age of Empires III [Funagain]. The page includes images of the fantastic looking board (see image below right), the box, and some images of the game pieces from various factions.

For those of you who don't remember early 2006 when the game was first announced (and before Eagle Games feel on hard times) Age of Empires III is set during the Age of Colonialism, when the major European powers fought to take control of the trade centers of American trade. Players must build infrastructure to harvest goods and resources in the New World to ensure they become the strongest and richest power in the region.

The Gorgeous Age of Empire III Game BoardThe good news of the day is that Age of Empires III has survived the collapse of publisher Eagle Games, which closed its doors last year. Publisher Tropical Games has now taken control of the torch and is working to bring the game to market sometime around May of this year. Nice.

Here's the game's official mass media literature:

The Company Line: It is the late 15th century and a new age is dawning. While searching for a new trade route to India, explorers have discovered a new land. The first reports tell of strange creatures, exotic people, and fabulous wealth. Captains and adventurers flock to these new lands in search of gold. They are quickly followed by colonists, soldiers, merchants, and missionaries all seeking wealth of one kind or another. Colonies begin to spring up, and soon competition among the great nations of Europe begins.

Take the role of one of Europe’s colonial powers and stake your claim in the New World. As the leader of your nation, there are many paths that lead to victory: Discover and colonize new lands; acquire trade goods that will build your economy; develop new technologies and infrastructure in your home country; build your merchant fleet to dominate the trade routes; and build your army to defend what is rightfully yours!

Age of Empires III is currently set to ship in May of 2007, and is now available to preorder from Funagain Games.

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February 22, 2007

Still No Catan on Xbox Live

SMASHBack in August we heard that Xbox Live was gearing up to bring some of our favorite games to their Xbox Live Service, including: The Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, and Alhambra. Then in January the Xbox Live team announced a list of ten titles that would be released in the month of February 2007, and on that was Big Huge Games' adaptation of the Settlers of Catan.

Microsoft just announced that the title scheduled for release Wednesday (their normal release day) was delayed due to quality control issues. They didn't mention the name of the title, so we can't be certain if it was Catan, but that means we're now three Wednesdays into February and only two of the ten scheduled games have been released for Xbox Live.

Either next Wednesday is going to be a huge day for Live, with eight new releases, or Microsoft will sideline Catan for a while. Boo. Also, rumor has it that Microsoft has purposefully slowed Xbox Live releases in order to create a gaming vacuum around their latest blockbuster release Crackdown. So either Catan has been sidelined due to it being a poor implementation, or Marketing has determined that blowing crap up with a gun is better than wholesome family fun. Sigh.

'Catan' on Xbox LiveWe thought the success of their Uno title on the Live Service, and then the announced addition of three Eurogames to the Xbox Live service, was a sign that Microsoft might be taking the board game and social gaming scene seriously. However this latest bit of news - combined with the latest from the rumor mill - has us a bit depressed. We really hope Microsoft doesn't start a trend of skirting potentially great titles to the periphery even before they're released.

We're still hoping for the best, but now with a little less confidence.

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February 21, 2007

Tide of Iron: Ground Force and Artillery Details

TideofIronRules.JPGPublisher Fantasy Flight games has started to roll out the preview articles for their upcoming World War II epic war game Tide of Iron [Funagain].

As our Axis and Allies renaissance continues in the Critical Gamers offices, every bit of information we learn about Tides of Iron gets us pumped for an upcoming change of pace to a more tactical simulation of WWII action.

Part One of series starts off with a few unit types that you'll have hoofing-it around Western Europe. The article covers regularly infantry men, machine gun troops, and eventually gets into some of the details of Allied and Axis armor. It's nice to see that right off the bat the game contrasts the overwhelming raw power of Axis armor against the weaker but more maneuverable Allied counterparts. There seems to be plenty of gaminess to be had in those aspect.

Pour it on, boys!The second article focuses on various Offensive Artillery command cards to showboat the game's command point system. Players will earn points by capturing objectives on the map, and then use those points to call in off-map artillery strikes, air support, etc. We like the fact that things don't always work out the way you want them to: the game simulates the chaos and mayhem of battle through a dice mechanic where the orders might not come through. Can your troops successfully contact and coordinate with HQ to get the Artillery to drop ordnance in the right spot? *... rolls dice*.

Sounds like it could be an complication more than a gamey simulation, but in the end we doubt it. Most of the rules seem lean enough to keep things chugging along at a good pace.

Tide of Iron is currently set to ship in April, and is available to preorder from Funagain Games.

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February 19, 2007

Rio Grande Games' Spring Schedule: Vikings and Thurn and Taxis Expansion

Rio Grande Games RocksRio Grande Games, publisher of many of our favorite family-friendly games out of Germany, has released Volume 8, Issue 1 of their newsletter [pdf]. You can download it digitally here. Included in the publication is information about their Spring schedule for upcoming game releases:

"In April we will release... Thurn and Taxis: for Power & Glory, Vikings, Cartagena II, Caylus Magna Carte, If Wishes were Fishes, Arkadia, Jenseits von Theben, Vikings, Ponte del Diavalo, Guatamala Cafe, Notre Dame, and Sakkara... And, we expect to release Race for the Galaxy in June or July."

You might have noticed that we substituted some ellipsis there for .. something. Wouldn't you like to know what it is? Turns out that many titles from Rio Grande Games' have recently sold out, and the publisher has updated their schedule to reflect when you should expect reprints. We've included the details on these second/third runs down below, in case your local game store is out of stock of one of them.

But first, we thought we should fill you in on the details of some of the upcoming titles from Rio Grande Games that we're most interested in. Starting with an expansion to last year's family friendly hit title:

ArrowContinue reading: "Rio Grande Games' Spring Schedule: Vikings and Thurn and Taxis Expansion"

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February 16, 2007

World of Warcraft TCG Molten Core Raid Preview Pt 3

World of Warcraft TCG: Molten Core

The WoW TCG Molten Core Raid Deck has been released, and is now available from Shopzilla and Funagain Games.

Over the last two weeks we've gone over some of the lesser bosses and trash mobs who inhabit the fiery underworld of Wold of Warcraft known as The Molten Core. Our goal: to get any non World of Warcraft MMORPG players in the know before they dive into the upcoming Molten Core Raid Deck for the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game that we all know and love.

So far inside the Molten Core we've seen living flames, giant dogs, magma men and maybe a giant flamewalking salamander or two. This week we finish off the list and get to the final Lord of Fire himself: the magma giant Ragnaros, a guy just found out there is no topical cream for what burns, and he's looking to work out his pissiness on something roughly the size of your face. This guy could melt the paint off your house and given your family a permanent orange afro.

So you, there in the back with the fake tan, yeah: you might want to educate yourself on what Rag might toss your way in the Molten Core TCG Raid Deck before you get all cocky, flipping your collar up and trying to generally hip. A glass of seltzer water isn't going to kill this guy, so listen up.

Anyway, where were we? Ah yes. Chapter the first:

We start off the day with another wyrm of doom, and of course being further down the list he's the most dangerous one so far. Shazzrah does two major things to ruin your day. First he loves to do an Arcane Blast in a radius around his.. feet-things, blasting people for about 1/3 of their health. Most raid groups tend to have a tank deal with him up front, and everyone else form a circle around to stay back as far as possible. The trick in his second act: He loves to teleport himself to the feet of anyone in the raid group, thus pouncing on softy cushy types and blasting them to hell.

Raid Deck Notes: Expect Shazzrah's to be avoid any protectors, and on attack he'll blast the entire party with gobs of damage. Your best bet is to have someone exhaust his wormy butt ahead of time.
ArrowContinue reading: "World of Warcraft TCG Molten Core Raid Preview Pt 3"

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February 15, 2007

"Colosseum" Game Details

Colosseum from Days of WonderRome was a fickle mistress. On one hand it was a dirty, brutal, scandalous society, and has inspired some pretty horrible gladiator movies best forgotten. On the other Rome created and inspired many great things, including the Republic form of government, organized armies, public works, streets, and a killer TV series on HBO. Note that we used the past tense - inspired - because unfortunately the HBO show has been canceled due to 'production expenses'. Yeah, we hate be the bearer of bad news, but it's true.

We're there with you: it's sad. Rome (the TV show) really gets our blood pumping every Sunday night, and there's going to be a huge void that we'll need to feed our curiosity of this fascinating society. If there were only something to replace, and some way to make it fun for the whole family, too. Less stabbing. and skin and more sporty.. and maybe some lions. Oh and food, there better be food, too. Larks' tongues. Wrens' livers. Chaffinch brains, anyone? (hint)

ArrowContinue reading: ""Colosseum" Game Details"

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February 13, 2007

Tannhauser: English Edition Crossing the Pond this July

Tannhauser: Yes PleaseTannhäuser: it's 1949. World War I is still raging strong, and deep inside Central Europe the forces of the Reich stumble upon an ancient Relic. As it turns out this glowing shard-thing is the key to opening the door to Hell. Thirsting over absolute power, The Reich makes a move to activate the relic in hopes it'll bring an end to this bloody war once and for all.

The only thing that can stop them is a small crack team of allied soldiers who just airdropped in. Armed with firearms, grenades, and 1940's experimental weapons from the arcana, the heroes must lead an assault to stop the Reich at all costs.

Do you know where your children are?

ArrowContinue reading: "Tannhauser: English Edition Crossing the Pond this July"

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February 9, 2007

World of Warcraft TCG Molten Core Raid Preview Pt 2

World of Warcraft TCG: Molten Core

The WoW TCG Molten Core Raid Deck has been released, and is now available from Shopzilla and Funagain Games.

Last week we presented the trash monsters of the Molten Core in our first installmenet of World of Warcraft TCG Molten Core Raid Deck preview. But don't let the 'trash' term fool you: each of these guys is literally 40 times toughter than any one whelp from Onxyai's Lair, and eventhough most Core Hounds, Molten Giants and Lava Annihlators would chew-up any normal character in seconds, the real challenge of a Molten Core raid run still slithers deeper in the shadows.

We're speaking of the raid bosses of course. These guys form the first true challenge of a 40-man raid in the World of Warcraft MMORPG. They can take-in and dish-out mammoths amounts of damage, and they require discipline and teamwork on a massive scale in order to defeat.

None of these bosses can be taken-on with the straightforward "tank and spank" tactic (that is, warrior protects while everyone else pumps the boss full of lead). Blizzard designed each of these Guys to have special abilities that will throw a monkey wrench in any standard tactic up until now, and we assume the Molten Core Raid deck from Upper Deck will have the same sort of quirks to keep you on your toes.

It's always been Molten Core's place in the World of Warcraft universe to mix things up. So before your teammate turns into a bomb and blows up your entire raid, or before you're feared into a flaming pile of dog poo and say that we didn't warn yah, be sure to read on.

LucifronLucifron: Right away we hope the upcoming Dark Portal expansion set includes resistance cards, specifically shadow resistance. This guy looks like a giant fire salamander but don't be fooled: he's a master of shadow magic. And aside from spiking you through the head with a giant trident, he also has three pretty sick indirect ways of casting crap that can seriously mess with your day.

First up is a shadow shock that pulses every few seconds hitting anyone standing nearby with some pretty painful stuff. In the raid deck this might be a passive ability of Lucifron, inflicting shadow damage on anyone who engages him in hand to hand combat. Next up is a curse ability that he places on nearby players that increases the cost of spells and abilities by 100% Make sure to get this off your healers and mages fast, or your entire party will flounder, gasping for resources. Finally Lucifron has a damaging curse that lasts 30 seconds (a few turns) at which point it slams the target with 2000 hp of shadow damage. In the MMORPG that's about 1/3 a warrior's health and nearly half the health of any other class.

And if that's not bad, then we should mention that Lucifron is flanked by two guards who can mind control any player in the party. Usually these guys are brought-down first, as they can wreek havoc on your group behind the lines, turning warriors and rogues on clothies, or by pulling healers away from their bandaging duties.

Magmadar.jpgMagmadar: The dog-like pet of the boss Ragnaros (who is the final boss of the raid). Magamadar has behavioral issues, probably due to neglect.

Not only does he spit fire from not just one, but two mouths, he also poos fire, too. We're not talking about jets of hot plasma, but boulders of flaming flatulence that stick to surfaces until they burn themselves out. Anyone running into one of these things becomes burnt toast, and fast.

Oh, and every thirty seconds or so Magmadar throws a fit on a massive scale - tearing into the garbage can, chewing on the couch, etc. This tantrum instills terror into the hearts of even the bravest adventurers, sending them running scared in random directions. And probably, you guessed it, into a flaming pile of doggy poo.

We think this could playout like Onyxia's Lava Cracks ability, which assigns a six-sided die's roll of damage to every hero. This one is a bit more humiliating, however.

ArrowContinue reading: "World of Warcraft TCG Molten Core Raid Preview Pt 2"

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February 8, 2007

Warhammer Online Age of Reckoning: Early 2007 Preview Roundup

Warhammer Online is slated to ship in late 2007Every few months Mythic Entertainment opens its doors and the gaming journalists rush en masse to research another round of preview articles for Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. We're always very excited to read each wave of content about this game, because it really does seem to be shaping up to be something special, but the last couple of preview article iterations haven't really provided us with a lot of new info. It's been a while since we've been wowed by something fresh and new.

However, this time is different. We just entered 2007 - the year that Warhammer Online is scheduled to launch. With the mammoth Springtime E3 tradeshow pushing up the daisies through freshly lade earth, the Games Developer Conference '07 in early March will pick up the slack and carry some of the of glitz and glamor itself, becoming the first major showcase of the upcoming titles for 2007. And lo and behold, Mythic Entertainment seems to have begun to take the wraps off of their baby a month before the show, not only demoing the game to members of the press, but allowing them to go hands-on with the Player versus Player gameplay of their Massive Online Role Playing Game.

Over the last week a lot of our usual PC gaming haunts have posted interviews and hands-on experiences to their websites. Our favorite so far is the the Gamespot Article with the not-so-concise title: "Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning Updated Hands-On - Bright Wizards, Magi, and More Player Versus Player." [link]. OK, so while the article's title isn't concise, the content is: the two pages are probably the quickest way to get an up to date idea of what to expect out of Warhammer Online. For instance:

ArrowContinue reading: "Warhammer Online Age of Reckoning: Early 2007 Preview Roundup"

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February 7, 2007

Twilight Imperium FAQ 2.01

Twilight Imperium, how we love the.We just got done with another killer session of Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition [Amazon, Funagain] on Saturday. The game has us constantly on our toes, with so many dynamic and incredible rules -- not just the combat and technology stuff, but the social aspect of voting in new rules every turn during the Political Phase. The game keeps impressing us every time we play it.

And now Fantasy Flight Games has posted an update to their Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition Frequently Asked Questions (pdf). Already we've spotted a few things that we've done wrong in our four player games. There are tons of rules in here, including rulings on ambiguous action cards, political cards, and dynamic turn order based on laws and special abilities. Also, the FAQ update includes rules and Errata for the Shattered Empire [Amazon, Funagain] expansion released late last year.

So next time you go to war to slaughter entire civilizations, make sure you're doing it the right way. Enjoy!

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February 6, 2007

Now Shipping: "Catan Histories: Struggle for Rome"

Catan Histories: Struggle for RomePublisher Mayfair Games has shipped their latest installment to the Settlers of Catan line of titles. Catan Histories: Struggle for Rome [Amazon, Funagain] brings the setting of the series to the fall of the Roman Empire. Players act as leaders of barbaric tribes invading the Italian peninsula, moving south to sack various Roman cities on the board. As the players' barbarian forces become stronger in number and power they can chose to settle down and create settlements of their own, each living off the land through the dice rolling resource mechanics similar to other games in the Settlers franchise.

The game review god Tom Vassel from The Dice Tower has recently written an in depth review of the title, giving it a solid 8 out of 10. He writes:

"... the gameplay, while retaining some of the basics of Catan mechanics, has a completely different feel – quickly becoming a favorite of mine. With a de-emphasis on trading and a heightened sense of exploration and war – the theme certainly fits the mechanics." - Tom Vasel

We highly recommend that you check out his complete review of Struggle for Rome. It's great stuff as always. He suggests that although the title might not replace Settlers of Catan for your gateway game of choice, Struggle for Rome certainly makes a very nice next-step. For more official details of the game checkout our previous preview coverage of the game.

Catan Histories: Struggle for Rome is now available and shipping from Amazon and from Funagain Games.

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February 2, 2007

World of Warcraft TCG Molten Core Raid Preview Pt 1

World of Warcraft TCG: Molten Core

The WoW TCG Molten Core Raid Deck has been released, and is now available from Shopzilla and Funagain Games.

Upper Deck still has it's lips sealed about regarding the contest of the World of Warcraft TCG Molten Core Raid Deck set to ship sometime this Spring. As we, too, anxiously await along side you for official details of what will surly obsess over within a few months time, we thought it would be a good moment to share some of our expectations of the expansion.

Most of us here are World of Warcraft players, in some capacity or another. Some of us are casual players, others raiders, and even a few of us help organize raiding guilds up through the content in Naxxaramas (which also means we have no life).

Some of us have literally spent days gaming in the Molten Core, and we thought that we'd take this lull before the storm to tell you what to expect from the Molten Core Raid Deck come Spring. In this multipart series we'll run through the ten bosses that players tackle in a standard Molten Core run - and which Upper Deck has also hinted will exist in the the 2 decks that makeup of the Molten Core raid experience for the WoW TCG.

The Molten Core Overview
Anyone who's had high school Earth Science class knows that the most of the Earth is made up of molten rock, churning and bubbling in the depths thousands of miles below our feet. Its pretty scary to think that we're all floating on molten rock. But then imagine a series of angry Gods living down in it, and how PO'ed they must be not to have Central Air, and how scary that must be and you pretty much get the setting of the Molten Core.

Adventurers trek deeper and deeper into the cavernous earth to fight firey beasties with the ultimate goal of meeting the Fire God Ragnaros, servant of The Old Gods of World of Warcraft. But perhaps we're getting ahead of ourselves. First, you have to fight through his minions, each of which is looking to turn you into fiery poo. Starting with:

Ancient Core HoundAncient Core Hound: Before you even think of taking out one of Rag's captains, you have to fight through what we lovingly call "trash mobs". First on the list are these two headed beasties that stand three-men tall. He breaths fire, stuns opponents, and ignites anyone who touches him (like most things in the core). If your group isn't expecting this guy then he can seriously ruin your picnic.
Attacks: Bites, claws, knocks you on your tucus, then breathes fire on your sorry butt for some area of effect eyebrow singeing fun.
Passives: Every time you hit him, it burns. Oh it burns.
Weakness: Scooby Snacks, but since they don't exist: None.
ArrowContinue reading: "World of Warcraft TCG Molten Core Raid Preview Pt 1"

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February 1, 2007

January '07 Roundup

Roundup2.jpgOver all not a bad month, we'd say. Despite the fact that January traditionally stands in the cold shadow of the huge holiday season - when publishers push titles out of the production pipe just in time for shoppers, and then rest and sip a scotch for a few - this January '07 has had quite the collection of cool news of titles coming our way in the near future.

January has seen the wraps have come off Fantasy Flight Games' Tide of Iron, and publisher Days of Wonder didn't rest after its release of BattleLore and is now gearing up for Colosseum. Also we received word that a new Thurns & Taxis expansion is coming down the pipe for March '07.

And February doesn't looks so bad herself. We're getting two new Catan games: Catan Histories Struggle for Rome is due out any moment now, and the Xbox Live Service is slated to release their "Catan" title on a Wednesday near you. Plus, sometime in the next 28 days expect Upper Deck to pop the lid off the World of Warcraft TCG: Molten Core Raid Deck and WoW TCG Dark Portal Expansion.

Oh yes, very tasty! Very tasty indeed.

But let's not look to far into the future until we realize where we are now. Here's the stories that made January 2007 such a great month:

Board Games

Collectable Card Games

Gaming Culture

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