March 30, 2007

World of Warcraft TCG: Through the Dark Portal

World of Warcraft TCG Through the Dark Portal ships in AprilFinally the concealing smock has been lifted from the World of Warcraft TCG: Through the Dark Portal expansion display table, and the juicy details from WoW TCG official website have started to flow. It’s been quite a long time coming, as the expansion has been not only highly anticipated, but the internals have been a closely guarded secret. Only now, months after the original Heroes of Azeroth release, can we finally focus our keen eyes on the new series of cards marching their way toward release this April.

The thing that has us a bit disheartened, though, is that this initial series of previews (links below) don't introduce any new gaming elements that significantly change the way we play the game. Instead it seems like the expansion provides more content based on the same systems from the initial release. In comparison, the Magic: The Gathering preview articles have always started-off with the introduction of 3-4 new keywords that seriously switch-up existing elements of the game. But with this round of WoW TCG class preview cards, we see a bit more of the gameplay elemets as before. Perhaps Upper Deck is trying to 'take it slow’ as to not alienate those players who are just starting out in the world of TCGs? Or maybe their holding onto their new ideas until after this weekend’s Sneak Preview Event. Either way we wouldn't mind seeing the game kicked up a notch, if not only a small one.

ArrowContinue reading: "World of Warcraft TCG: Through the Dark Portal"

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March 29, 2007

Now Shipping: "The Pillars of the Earth" Board Game

PillarsOfTheEarth.jpgIt looks like Mayfair Games has another hit on their hands with their latest cathedral building title The Pillars of the Earth [Funagain].

Pillars is based on the bestselling novel of the same name, in which author Ken Follett explores the life and art of three main characters as they strive to complete a 12th-century cathedral in the fictitious town of Kingsbridge, England. If you think this is some cross branding Caylus ripoff then think again, and please stop being so cynical. That's our job, and we're proud of it, so knock it off and read on because we're quite convinced otherwise.

The idea behind the novel, and likewise behind the game, immediately piqued our interest - being the history buffs that we are - but that doesn't mean the game is great, right? Well if you hate hype then perhaps the endorsement of the gaming guru himself Tom Vassel is good enough for you. The following comes a man who plays games for a living, and so plays gobs of different titles a year, and he has this to say about Pillars in his review:

"Few games blow me away with positive impressions as Pillars of the Earth did. Not only do I consider it one of the best games of 2007 – award worthy, even – but also it could easily become one of my favorite games." - Tom Vassel

If that's not a ringing endorsement of a game, then obliviously we don't know the English language from a whole in the grind.

ArrowContinue reading: "Now Shipping: "The Pillars of the Earth" Board Game"

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March 28, 2007

Tide of Iron Delayed 'Till May 2007

TideofIronRules.JPGNot a happy bit of news, but it's news all the same. Fantasy Flight Games has decided to delay the release of Tide of Iron [Funagain], a big box WWII war game set in the Western Europe that we've been drolling over for almost a year! According to the official website, Fantasy Flight had encountered some difficulties from the initial run of the game: the boards warped easily. And instead of the PR nightmare of releasing a shabby war game system, they've elected to retool the factory machines to produce boards of higher stock. A good bit of news there, if you're an optimist.

So now the release of the game is set for early May, 2007. Patton would scowl and squat a brick on this delinquency, but he'd also probably slap a Warped, Spineless Board, too. 'Lack of quality is a lack of good, morale fiber!' /George C. Scott.

So.. we'll just have to sit quietly and be content with our WWII at Games By Email for now.

In the meantime feel free to peruse our previous coverage of Tide of Iron from the last few months:

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March 27, 2007

Freeverse Launches Big Bang Board Games Beta

Big Bang Board GamesThe company Freeverse, who are responsible for numerous casual online and Play By Email games, has just launched their latest service: Big Bang Board Games. The software is only in Beta for now, but it’s free, and you can read more about joining it by checking out this post in the Freeverse Forums.

What’s so special about Big Bang Board Games? Glad you asked. The service integrates with iChat, iTunes, and iSight, which means you can easily play a game of chess to complement your normal everyday discussions with your friends. And because BBBG is a framework, look for more advanced titles to start making their way onto the service.

BBChess.jpgAnd that’s probably the biggest draw for us: the potential. Most people have a piece of software on their machines that’s a gateway to communicating with friends, and now comes a framework that we’ve wanted for years. BBBG is something that fits into the normal communication tools and allows you to play a few games of Chess, with people in your social circle without a huge front end. And who knows, soon we might be able to play a Risk variant , or maybe eventually stuff like Carcassonne, Axis and Allies, or Twilight Imperium ..? Heh, a game that complex is wishful thinking, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.

Here’s to the future!

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March 23, 2007

Now Shipping: "Fire & Axe"

Fire & AxePublisher Asmodee has just shipped their English edition to the 2004 hit Viking Fury, a game which has been received very well over seas. But before you put on your pointy hat and, uh, sharpen (?) your hammer, know this: Fire & Axe [Amazon,Funagain] is less about the burning and pillaging of Medieval abbeys, French coastal villages, and West London cafes, but and more about founding the most powerful Viking civilization to every rule your table top.

But that doesn't mean you don't get to bust a few heads along the way. The game starts all nicey nice, sipping sheeps head cocktails in Scandinavia, but then players race and claw to found new Viking colonies across the North Atlantic, sack towns, and toss an axe at an opponent or two. The game stresses strategy, but it's not a wargame. There are some social aspects of the gameplay, to, so best find at least three to tackle this one (and works with up to five).

Here's the official word:

I'll have your SPAM, I love it!

"Trade, raid and settle the world of Middle Ages Europe. Sail the seas to the end of the world. Fight bravely under the Raven's banner and bravely enter Valhalla! Make the civilized world tremble and priests fervently pray "Lord, save us from the fury of the Northmen".

Fire & Axe gives players a chance to take on the role of Vikings traveling between 750 and 1020. Each journey begins in Scandinavia, where crewmen and goods are loaded and the runes cast. During the journey, you will trade with the locals, raid them for treasure or try to establish settlements. If you can, you may try to accomplish sagas which will be repeated by the skalds.

The speed at which you will gain riches and notoriety will determine how great a mark your Viking will have left on Middle Ages Europe.

The Map in all its Glory

One caveat about the game: The map on the game board is absolutely stunning. Like a piece of art, it's also cloth, and if that upsets you then pray that you don't drive a blue Toyota pickup truck -- because we think that Viking just ralphed some daube de boeuf in the back of it. Yeah, he's 'Mr Tough Guy', smashing heads and tossing kegs 'till he eats the rich foreign food. Oh.. ugh.. yuck. Wait... hold his beard back.

Fire & Axe [Amazon,Funagain] is now shipping from Amazon and Funagain Games.

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March 21, 2007

Four New Kids Titles from Blue Orange Games

Froggy BoogieWe love war games, we love strategy games, adventure games, party games (especially those that involve beer), and maybe an R rated movie or two. And though we cover Family Games, most titles have a complex set of rules requiring players to reach the wise old age of 8. Doogie Howser and Mitch Taylor, excluded.

But as our group continues to squirt out the little hooligans we're becoming a bit more sensitive to the fact that our board game coverage is leaving our titles for young kids. Of course we assume the little geniuses aren't reading our site, but parents are. And in a time of war, political scandals, and football's off-season roster movements, won't someone please think of the children!?

And this of course leads into four new kids titles that shipped this week from publisher Blue Orange Games. We don't have to tell you game-players that board games teach social respect, sharing, turn taking, planning, and math skills. Plus they're colorful, and fun to boot. Some even taste good.. better than paste and construction paper sandwiches, and spicy thumbtack surprise.

Here are four of their latest:


Bendomino Jr. [Amazon,Funagain]

Easy to learn, Bendominoes play just like regular dominoes. Watch a new pattern being created each time you play as pieces will curve and twirl around the table. The curved pieces can also block your opponents if they don't have the bendomino that fits. Bendominoes' original design creates a fun and twisting game that is entertaining for the entire family!

ArrowContinue reading: "Four New Kids Titles from Blue Orange Games"

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March 20, 2007

Now Shipping: "Axis & Allies Naval Minatures: War at Sea"

Axis & Allies Naval Miniatures: War at SeaWWII History Buffs listen up. It's 1940, the sea lanes aren't safe, and Eleanor Roosevelt just smashed a champagne bottle across your ugly bow. Abide the no wake signs, then hit the open ocean - it's time to take your battleship for a 28 knot tour and kick some butt.

Axis & Allies Miniatures just shipped "War at Sea", and now you can recreate some classic naval battles from WWII history. The set includes 64 painted ship types, including: destroyers, cruisers, battleships, and the newest king of the taskforce: aircraft carriers and their supporting cast of fighters and attack planes. All of the major WWII naval powerhouses are represented here, and even the Italians are given some love for their action in the Mediterranean. If that's not thorough then we don't know what is!

ArrowContinue reading: "Now Shipping: "Axis & Allies Naval Minatures: War at Sea""

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March 16, 2007

Now Shipping: "Cineplexity"

Cineplexity from Out of the Box PublishingFrom the publisher of Apples to Apples (one of our favorite party games in a box) comes Cinepelxity [Amazon, Funagain]: the new creative title that will test your ability to make quips of general movie knowledge. This isn't a trivia game, but a word matching game, and so the you don't need to crack open a movie history book and study it for hours to compete. Instead you just need to shout out the first solution that comes to mind.

A solution to what? Well that's easy -- Name a Detective Movie set in Los Angeles! If you blurt out LA Confidential, or Chinatown, or Columbo: Columbo Goes to College, then you'd get a point (and potentially labeled as having no life). Quick! Name a Romance staring Arnold Schwarzenegger. You could shout.. errm.. Predator, or uh.. Total Recall..?

Maybe we should let the Out of the Box Publishing marketing describe the gameplay for this one.

The Company Line: Cineplexity brings movie fans together for delightful movie madness! Each round, players race to name a movie that includes elements from two Cineplexity Cards. Be the first to come up with a title and you win a point. With over 500 cards you’ll have hundreds of hours of fresh movie fun!

Cineplexity is now available from both Amazon and Funagain Games.

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March 15, 2007

Alan R Moon's Four Years at Avalon Hill

Avalon Hill.JPGAlan R. Moon, the designer of some classic board game titles like the Ticket to Ride series, and the WWII strategy game Midway, has dropped off a bit of a historical treat in the Board Game Geek forums.

We've all had our slow starts, working for less money that we'd like to, sacrificing financial security for a more fulfilling work day. And although we don't want to throw words into Alan's mouth, it seems like he was paid peanuts at AH. The major driving force in his early days was his love of the genre.

And to ensure that he won't forget those good glory days from 20 years ago, he's created a list of the titles he helped shape during his stay at Avalon Hill. His narrative spans from the early weeding-out of classic titles from unsolicited fan submissions he found in a forgotten AH storage closet, to play testing other Avalon Hill titles in development. Like the classic Civilization, for instance, which has had a massive impact on the gaming community for decades.

Altogether Alan R. Moon has thrown together a great catalog of gaming history.

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March 13, 2007

BattleLore Epic Adventure Rules Released

BattleLore:  A Fantasy Combat SystemIf your group of friends is a ravenous bunch of BattleLore [Amazon,Funagain] hooligans, then you have some good days ahead of you. Days of Wonder has released the rules to BattleLore Epic Battles, where up to six players can combine their BattleLore sets to form a gigundo map and compete in battles of massive scale.

With football season over we've already set aside a Sunday afternoon to have a battle royal, with the losers buying beers, and wings, and nachos *drool* And as always, underage drinking is a no no -- kids should sip Juicy Juicy margaritas, no salt.

Here's the official word:

The Company Line: "The Epic BattleLore expansion offers experienced players the opportunity to conduct battles on a grand scale by combining multiple board maps into a single, over-sized battlefield.

Epic Adventures' larger format allows up to six players to join in and experience the fun of mass combat on a grand scale.

All you will need to play is this downloadable game supplement, a second board map and a few coins or markers (to serve as additional Lore tokens).

To download Epic BattleLore rules, you need to be a registered player of BattleLore."

If you're looking through your gamer stack and finding BattleLore missing, then you're in for a treat. Check out our previous coverage of the fantasy/historic wargame system by clicking here.

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March 12, 2007

Critical Gamer's Weekly Digest

A Letter From the EditorAttention K-Mart Shoppers!

We want to keep you up to date on the best gaming news and views from around the world. And to that end, we've been hard at work in the back room creating tools that'll make your reading experience more enjoyable and even easier than ever.

Our solution is the Critical Gamers Newsletter: a weekly email digest of the posts on Critical Gamers signed, sealed, and delivered directly to your email inbox every Monday morning. That way, you can keep up with every bit of gaming news you might have missed during your busy work week.

We promise not to bombard you with email or sell your name to evil marketers. We just want another way to communicate with you - our reader. So checkout the right sidebar and enter your email in the Mailing List section to join our weekly digest, simply click here.

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March 9, 2007

Now Shipping: "Settlers: The Fishermen of Catan Expansion"

Games Quarterly Magazine #12Gamers looking to update their ole Catan board with some new pieces won't find the latest and greatest sitting on a shelf at their local gaming store. Instead they might want to check the magazine rack. Games Quarterly Magazine has once again sandwiched an expansion to a classic board game between its front and back covers, this time adding Fish as a resource in the Settlers of Catan economy.

Fish are generated from new Fishing ground tiles, which replace a few of the empty sea spaces in the board setup phase. Players can spend their collected fish to toy around with some of the original title's game mechanics. Players can spend fish to push the robber back into the desert, or steal a random resource card from a player, or... wait, what?? Buy roads? (weird.) And of course the most powerful options require more fish!

The expansion has been out for a while - but in Europe - and this is one of the first fully english printings that you'll find on the market.

You can find out more about the Fishermen of Catan expansion at the game's page here at Board Game Geek. Games Quarterly Magazine #12 [Funagain] is available to order from Funagain Games.

Also on the front of Catan news: The Great River of Catan [Funagain] expansion that shipped in Games Quarterly Magazine last year is now available in a standalone version. If you missed it then check it out at Funagain Games.

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March 8, 2007

Tide of Iron Initial Thoughts on the DT Podcast

TideofIronRules.JPGThe latest episode of The Dice Tower podcast has the initial impressions of hosts Tom Vasel and Same Healey first session with the WWII wargame Tide of Iron [Funagain] from Fantasy Flight Games. And in the world of gaming we hold the opinions of Tom and Sam in the highest regard ( especially for people we've never met. )

So how did ToI pan out for 'em? They found their first session of to be very entertaining, with a detailed and streamlined gameplay, and a lot of potential for replayability given the dynamic board, customized units and varying scenarios. The one true complaint seems to stem from the swappable unit bases where you can make squads of four with various different unit figures. The material of the miniatures is a little weak, so it's a bit stressful to push down hard on these things.

The review starts at 45:40 in the podcast, but we don't endorse skipping the whole thing. There's tons of gaming goodness in these podcasts. Here are the complete show notes for Episode #90: Tide of Iron:

"In this episode, we give our top ten games for a church gaming group; and continue our contest for 24/7 and Incan Gold. We have a discussion about whether or not free review copies sway the opinion of the reviewer, with input from Moritz, Greg Schloesser, Sam and myself. Mary reviews Crokinole and gives us the news, and we finish out the show with a preview and session report of the brand new Tide of Iron!"

See, just one day after our news on Kill the Hippies we counterbalance it with Church Group games. Well...isn't that special?

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March 7, 2007

"Kill the Hippies" Announced and Arrives For Review

Kill the Hippies: A Satirical Card Game from Golden LaurelThere's only one reason why we can't say we're huge fans of Golden Laurel's releases, and that's because we haven't played one yet. Unfortunately the upcoming space strategy and political epic Galactic Destiny has been delayed due to production issues, so we haven't been able to sink our teeth into that juicy morsel. And even though "Kill the Hippies" has only been just-announced, we're lucky enough to get a preview copy here at CG, and we'll soon know exactly what Golden Laurel Entertainment's labs are capable of cooking up.

First thing to note is that the game's literature is firmly smacked with the disclaimers "ironic", "satirical", etc, so as to not offend half the planet. In a country of extremes, including an uncanny ability to take things extremely seriously, "Kill the Hippies" is smothered with slightly offensive material. But to anyone with half a sense of humor, this party game has plenty of flavor to make you smile and, potentially, laugh out loud.

ArrowContinue reading: ""Kill the Hippies" Announced and Arrives For Review"

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March 6, 2007

Puerto Rico to Join Xbox Live Eurogames, But at a Cost

SMASHThere were rumors going around late last week that the acclaimed board game Puerto Rico was going to join Catan, Carcassonne, and Alhambra in the new line of Eurogames titles on Xbox Live.

We've made it pretty clear that we're a huge fan of playing these social board games on the Xbox Live service. Our group keeps losing players to distant parts of America with cheaper real estate, warmer weather, and fewer taxes. These Xbox Live titles will be a great way for us to continue playing some of our Eurogame favorites in a clean, easy to setup environment. And with voice chat, we might add.

But The addition of Puerto Rico to the Xbox Live roster has a very unfortunate side effect -- Xbox Live has snatched up exclusive rights for the online version of Puerto Rico. Key word there: exclusive. The rug has been pulled-out from beneath the feet of those fine folks who played Puerto Rico on other online web services, like

There's a huge potential audience of players in Xbox live who haven't been introduced to Eurogames, and the horizon for Eurogames on consumer electronics is looking bright. But do video gaming mega corps really need to snatch up exclusive rights to these titles? We're pretty sure the and the Xbox Live gang aren't eating at the same diner, so why can't both groups have their 'Rico and play it, too?

So now we're back to being less enthusiastic about Xbox Live Eurogames. In one hand is an exciting newborn puppy, cute and innocent, full of potential, but we're using the other hand to feed it the freshly killed corpses of established Eurogame communities.

This is the sort of stuff that keeps us up at night.

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March 5, 2007

Now Shipping "Grænaland"

Greenland: Bring a Parka!Catan is a cold and lonely place, isn't it? Maybe you should try something with warmer weather. Something.. Greener, where waterfalls provide fresh, running water, where the deer and the antelope play, and where the fish are pleased to jump out of the water and straight into your boat! Yes, everything is happier on Greenland.

Settlers of Catan fans listen up! Publisher Czech Board Games has just released the viking saga Greenland [Funagain], a colonization title that builds on the groundwork of the classic Settlers of Catan game style.

However, instead of villages producing resources, the tiles do. Players then divy up the resources using a simple voting mechanic: every town on the tile gets a vote, and every player with a wandering viking hero on the title gets a vote. A diplomatic sharing of resources could work out in the long term, or a raiding viking could throw the whole uneasy balance into a chaotic pillagefest.

Check out the rules posted at BGG here [pdf]. And, as always, here's the official word:

The Company Line: In 982, a Viking jarl called Erik the Red sailed from the western coast of Iceland and discovered a new land. He named it Graenaland, a green land. Four years later the first colonists arrived to Greanaland and founded settlements that lasted more than four centuries. Take the role of one of the jarls leading their clans to the new home. You have to settle the coast and to agree with your neighbors on how to distribute the spare resources the land is giving away. As Eric wants no fights amongst Vikings, any conflicts are solving by voting. You could improve your position in order to gain more votes; however, you can also try to be righteous and to keep good relations with all your neighbors. Cooperating with them, you can fertilize and improve the land easier than when struggling for influence; just keep your position strong enough for the case something goes wrong.

Greenland (or Grænaland, if you prefer) is now shipping and available at Funagain Games.

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March 2, 2007

Colosseum Rules Released

Colosseum from Days of WonderWe've covered Colosseum before, and the game looks fantastic. Not only does the subject matter have our undivided attention, but with Days of Wonder as the publisher we already know that the pieces and board are going to be of the highest quality. And now that we've read over the rules (which can be found here) we're even more excited.

In Colosseum players will construct and upgrade Arenas in an attempt to host the largest and most successful spectacle. After five turns whoever has the largest turnout of attendees for a given spectacle is the winner.

But this isn't just a game of economic expansion. Every turn players buy events from a pool of cards drawn randomly from the deck, performers who enact the production are then purchased via a player auction system. Senators roam the streets looking for something to tickle their fancy in their otherwise rich, mundane, shallow lives, and players trade away gladiators for gold. It seems that each game will vary significantly between every play, whether it comes from dynamic player interactions or random event draws. Good stuff.

Colosseum is set to ship in April 2007 and is available to preorder from Funagain Games.

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