January 29, 2008

Settlers of Catan 4th Edition - Save $15


We know that you know about Settlers, but you can get the 4th edition for less than $33 bucks right now at Amazon. That will save you over $15 bucks in board game money for the month.

One of the most successful games of all time, Settlers of Catan is a trading and building game set in the mythical world of Catan. Players roll dice to determine which resources are generated each round and then must strategically trade those resources with other players to get what they need to build their settlements, cities, and roads. With multiple ways to gain victory points and a board that changes in every play, Settlers of Catan is a game that can be played hundreds of different ways. The base of a hugely successful franchise, with multiple engaging expansions, Settlers is the core game of many collections, and is a wonderful way to spend time with family and friends.

At The Settlers of Catan - New 4th Edition

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January 29, 2008

Dragon Lance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight Now in DVD Form

DragonsOfAutumnTwilight.jpgWe almost did a spit-take when we heard that the first book of the Dragon Lance Chronicles Dragons of Autumn Twilight [DVD, Book] was being made into a movie.  Next to the Lord of the Rings books the Dragon Lance Chronicles might have been the most fundamental book series of our youth, with great character development an epic plot with near-perfect pacing.  The final turn of the last page was one of those sad/happy moments like saying goodbye to a good friend.

When we learned that Kiefer Sutherland would play the role of grouchy throated Rastilin, we almost took a spit take the other direction.  We couldn't have found a better actor/character match if it fell out of the sky and landed in our bird bath.

But then - shortly after - we learned the movie is a cartoon.  We have to be honest, we're not huge fans of cartoons unless its Cowboy BeBop or full motion pictures from Hayao Miyazaki (Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away).  Now that the movie is out our initial speculation seems somewhat confirmed.

The Dragons of Autumn Twilight's animation barely impresses, its plot and dialog is a veritable Cliff's Notes of plot points and dialog from the book, and the pacing is like a child on ADD; rarely is there ever a moment for dramatic pause, instead the sounds and scenes are squished together into one long mess.  Each scene bleeds into the next, and no one moment seems to have have any true weight or consequence, despite the fact that it's based on one heck of a story.

A potentially good rental for the true Dragaon Lance Chronicles fan to relive their youth, or for the younger generation. This DVD is not a great vehicle to bring the Chronicles back to fantasy forefront for the 'oughts.  We recommend you instead reread the books, or watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy again for the 21st time.
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January 28, 2008

A Pillars of the Earth Expansion Witihin a Pillars of the Earth Expansion - It's Full of Stars

The Pillars of the Earth board game adaptation of Ken Follett's novel is one of our favorite games from last year. In fact, it might be our #1 game of 2007.

We've heard news of a 5-6 player Pillars of the Earth boxed expansion due out this year, which is great because you know - the more the merrier. But then on another front Spielbox Magazine's issue #6includes a 6-card expansion to the main game, which offers furhter depth and also works with the upcoming 5-6 player expansion.

But news has surfaced that the Spielbox expansion will be bundled within the 5-6 player expansion. Check your junk mail filters now; with both expansions together everything will be all tightly bound into one box, both enhancing and expanding our favorite cathedral builder Eurogame for better performance and deeper gameplay.

Information and images of the Spiebox Expansions' cards and rules can be found here on Board Game Geek. We'll keep you posted of when the official Pillars of the Earth boxed 5-6 player expansion hit shelves.

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January 25, 2008

Catan Dice Game Aims for May 2008 Release

Publisher Mayfair Games of Settlers of Catan fame is setting-out to lighten their venerable series for the gaming on the go, or for gamers with petite gaming tables. The Catan Dice Game is slated for a May 2008 release, and includes 6 resource-producing dice, a pad o’ town maps, and a set of instructions.

The game is meant for 1-6 players to toss about for up to 30 minutes.

The sad part is that’s all we know. As soon as we hear more from Mayfair we’ll fill you in with all the juicy details of this streamlined Catan title.

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January 24, 2008

5 Ways to Make WoW TCG's Magtheridon's Lair Challenging

MagtheridonsLairWe’ve been hearing a lot about how Maghteridon's Lair is a push-over for players who’ve horded WoW TCG cards since the game’s release in 2006. We’ve played through the raid twice now, and though Magtheridon is a heckuva jerk if he’s allowed to live too long, he does seem to have some very obvious weaknesses early-on. Achilles heals even, especially if he can't attack.

Now we're generally amazed that Upper Deck didn’t release a series of alternative rules to scale the difficulty of raid to match the various play levels. After all, the WoW TCG – and World of Warcraft in general – is all about mass appeal and bringing many different types of gamers together. But here we see one Raid Deck which can only be cusotomzied by buying another deck, and even then it does the same stuff it did before – just potentially better.

But what if there are some fundamental weakness to the deck itself? For instance, a group of mages could just sit back and frostbolt poor Mag every turn, until he’s a block of ice with four legs. Not very scary, and Mag can’t do shizzy about it even with combined decks from 2 Decks.

Below you’ll find our house rules suggestions, listed in ascending difficulty. We like to play with some or all these rules, depending on how many people are raiding Mag and their deck level:

  1. No Infinite Combos - A raid boss shouldn’t die when he still has 80 life left, period.
  2. Channeler Allies Have a Permantent Attack Value - That is, instead of reading "+X to attack while attacking" it should read "+X to attack where X is 1 plus the number of Warlocks that have left your party.” Killing these guys off with allies just became a bit more difficult. Not only that, but maybe – just maybe – they’ll live long enough to actually use their abilities on turn three.
  3. Magtheridon May Not be Forced to Discard From His Hand - The poor flesh eating sap already draws one-fifth to one-half as much as the players . His hand should be sacred.
  4. Magtheridon cannot be prevented from attacking - A lousy ice bolt shouldn’t slow down a 3 story tall demonic quadruped. Players can – however -force him to tap or continue to protect against him.
  5. Abyssal Allies have the keyword "Protector." - These guys cost two blood each and Magtheridon only gets really deadly when he's got a lot of blood. This ssmes like a pretty fair trade off.

We’re also toying with a raid night where Maghteridon teams up with Onyxia against a group of 4-5 raiders for a monster battle royal. But maybe that’s just crazy talk.

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January 23, 2008

Culdcept Saga Interview Reveals All in 20 Minutes

In his latest podcast Gaming Steve sits down with Nobu Taguchi, localization produce for Culdcept Saga from Namco Bandai Games.

Due out in early February, Culdcept Saga merges a TCG oozing with Japanese culture with a board game, then squeezes into disc-form to be eaten by your Xbox 360.

It sounds like just our thing. The game sports a single player campaign mode, and online play, where players can unlock cards in either mode. With nearly 500 cards there are going to be a lot of collecting going on, including a betting feature where players may ante a number of cards in both offline and online bouts.

Culdcept forgoes the booster model to level the playing field, and that’s cool with us; 500 cards is a lot for a single game release, seeing as that’s nearly two sets of or normal TCG / CCG releases.

The interview picks up 43:00 minutes into episode 68 of the Gaming Steve Podcast. Don’t miss it, and be sure we’ll keep you posted of news and reviews of other Culdcept Saga as we near release. More information can be found on the Culdcept Saga Wikipedia page.

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January 21, 2008

Tide of Iron Days of the Fox Preview Blitz

Fantasy Flight games continues to churn out the preview coverage of the upcoming Tide of Iron expansion Days of the Fox. Due out sometime this month (January 2008 in case you haven't replaced your desk calendar yet) the expansion brings the tactical WWII board game system to the front lines of the Africa Campaign.

As we already learned in history class, and in the expansions' first preview article, you should expect lots o' vehicles in Africa. Tanks and trucks were largely responsible for moving troops and attacking through the flat North African desert wastes, and many of the Days of the Fox scenarios feature large-scale tank and vehicle battles.

So what better time to introduce the mighty Anti Tank gun to the Tide of Iron system. The allies get the British QF 6-Pounder - not a shabby weapon, but no match for the German Flak 36 88mm. This anti aircraft gun turned horizontal could shoot through a high school and still explode a bus load of nuns parked at a red light on their way to Bingo night. And perhaps the best thing about both of these babies: they can be captured. Storm a gun position with a bunch of brave souls and turn that bad boy around on flanked enemy tank position and you got yourself a party. Read all about them in Anti-Tank Guns in Days of the Fox on Fantasy Flight Games' Tide of Iron website.

The previews continue with Desert, Decks, and Allied Cooperation in Days of the Fox and its look at the new expandable desert-themed boards. And in a nice shift to the somewhat unbalanced command point cards of the original release, some of the Days of the Fox scenarios have the German and Allied players sharing operation decks. Sweet parity.

Tide of Iron Days of the Fox is slated for release this month, and is now available to preorder from Funagain Games.

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January 19, 2008

BattleLore Scottish Wars Marches out of the Highlands

Days of Wonder released their latest expansion pack to their BattleLore Medieval / Fantasy themed wargame system. Now despite there being a bloodcrazed (and probably intoxicated) cow-riding dwarf on the cover of the box, Scottish Wars [Amazon, Funagain] includes mainly historic battles featuring the Scots and their fight against the English during the Medieval Period.

The dwarf figures represent the Scots here, but also serve to fill out the ranks of other fantasy-themed expansions to the BattleLore main set - like the Dwarven Battalion expansion.

We're not quite sure the Scots appreciate being constantly compared the dwarves - we think it stems from a Warcraft II & Shrek-applied relationship from the 1990's and the turn of the century, but that's grown a bit tired over the years. None of us have ever been to Scotland, but we've seen pictures with quarters and pencils used as scale and Scotts simply ain't that short. Call this a superficial complaint, but seriously the Scottish must be on the brink of furious revolt against their oppressors and their slightly-insulting stereotype.

But as usual - we digress. For further details check-out this very detailed BattleLore Scottish Wars post in the BGG forums. It includes extensive information on the expansion's scenarios and the unit details which isn't included in the product literature. The box just ain't that big, kinda like a red bearded Scotsman.

Here's the company line:

"The Scottish Wars expansion takes BattleLore players straight to historical highland battles, but with a new twist -- Dwarven armies. The Scottish Wars feature 42 new figures including: 6 Iron Dwarves Cattle Riders, 8 Iron Dwarves Clan Chiefs, 12 Mounted Knights, and 16 Iron Dwarves Spear Bearers; plus a rules booklet with 5 new adventures -- Stirling Bridge, Falkirk, Bannockburn, Dupplin Moor and Neville's Cross."
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January 17, 2008

C-Jump Board Game Mixes Skiing and Computer Programming. Seriously.

Wow. A majority of we Critical Gamers are either computer programmers or in quality assurance. For so long our family and loved ones looked at our computer screens with skeptical reverence, wondering if they'd ever be able to understand what we did. And on our side of the fence we have trouble describing exactly what we do.

You'd think that we'd be excited about any sort of programming-awareness in the normal world. But sometimes peanut butter and chocolate don't mix.

With C-Jump there's a chance to play through the logic puzzles that our rap our noggin's against a tree each day, with the hope of players learning some of the fundamental thought processes of programming. Our initial reaction - though - is that C-Jump goes too far, tipping the scales way too far towards dork. A board game about porgramming, really?? Color us skeptical.

Programming isn't a game. It's a dangerous job that we take very seriously. Thousands of orphans could die, or worse - lose their souls - with a misplaced semi-colon, bracket or dereferenced pointer, and we can't hardly celebrate a game that trivializes our work with simple if-then-else statements, loops and Sorry! pieces.

The title seems like one of the many bad-idea games that came out of the 1960's and 70's, soon to be relegated to the bottom of a gaming pile, filed atop Chicago's Great Blizzard.

Learn more at c-jump.com.

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January 15, 2008

Top 10 Games of 2007 - The Dice Tower Lays it Down

Tom Vasel and Sam Healey of The Dice Tower put their top 10 games of 2007 to paper. Then they go above and beyond with focused lists of games in particular genres and award special achievements to those board game titles that went beyond the call of duty in the last year.

The other lists include Best Children's Game, Strangest Game, Gateway Games, and the most disappointing games of 2007.

Their top games include many titles that we've covered here over the last year, including: Age of Empires III, Zooloretto, Colosseum, Tide of Iron, and Fire and Axe. Don't ever tell us that we're steering you the wrong way.

Though in their eyes we do have to eat a little crow: Starcraft the Board Game from Fantasy Flight Games did make one of the Most Disappointing Games of 2007 list. They can't all be winners, right?

View the complete article here at the Dice Tower.

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Hamburgum - A Great Family Friendly Strategy Eurogame for the Winter

Don't let the funny burger-esque name or the happy-go-lucky German cover art fool you - this game has staying power.

Hamburgum [Funagain] builds a Eurogame cathedral & city builder around the Rondel turn order system, made famous by the war-themed strategy titles of Antike and Imperial.

It goes a little something like this: On your turn you have to chose of one of three free actions before your turn marker. Picking an action progresses you around the Rondel circle to that spot, thus opening up three different actions for your next turn, and making the action you just chose the furthest from being picked again.
And so you go, marching your pawn around a circle as you plan your moves and scheme your way through the game.

The game bridges many sets of players; Hamburgum has no dice - with the Rondel system a player's turn is in their own hands - which means that strategy gamers will be able to plot their moves and react to situations keeping their destiny in their own hands. But there are few rules, and the theme is light, so the game works well in those more relaxing Eurogame settings where strategy and social entertainment shake hands without diluting themselves individually.

ArrowContinue reading: "Hamburgum - A Great Family Friendly Strategy Eurogame for the Winter"

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January 14, 2008

TCGPlayer.com Names SAGA Online Most Anticipated Collectable Game 2008

The tcgplayer.com readership were asked which upcoming TCG they're looking forward to the most. They're response: Saga, an upcoming persistent-world Real Time Strategy Game with Trading Card elements.

Slated for release sometime this year, this upcoming fantasy PC game tasks players to build armies, conquer new lands and build up kingdoms. Mixing in elements of other online management games such as resource collection, trading, city management, and alliances, the massive battles going on left and right in this hybrid of a game could be quite promising. There are very few online RTS games out there, and the idea of making it a collectable game to boot really tickles our fancy.

But not so fast. Just like the Saga graphic (above) things aren't all bright n' sunny. Delays and a somewhat dated graphics engine leave us a bit skeptical. We admit it's hard to assert this point too strongly though, since the 2D static Travian is one of our favorite games to play right now. It's all in the gameplay (almost), so we'll just zip-it on the graphics engine until we get our hands on it and start smashing stuff.

ArrowContinue reading: "TCGPlayer.com Names SAGA Online Most Anticipated Collectable Game 2008"

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January 11, 2008

Rome is in Dire Straits - Commands & Colors Ancients Expands Twice

Even the bloodthirsty Romans yearned for peaceful times. It wasn't all about conquest - sometimes Rome itself was the prize.

The award winning and amazing Commands and Colors Ancients line of wargames just got a whole lot larger today with two new expansions. Each brings new battles to the Roman Empire, and like the Commands and Colors Ancients base set, are aimed for two players to slug it out in about an hour mano e mano.

The C&C; system forms the backbone of other wargame hits such as the fantasy wargame BattleLore and the WWII hit Memoir '44, both top of the line systems which seem to be more popular on the commercial front. Critically speaking though, the Command & Colors mechanics breathes life into the Roman era just as much, if not more, in the Ancients series.

Now Ancients is a block game - meaning the formations of units are represented by colored blocks with stickers on them which you push around to form battle lines instead of figurines. This may sound second-class but in reality it goes far to immerse historically-minded players into the ancient battles of Rome. Walls of troops and flanking maneuvers are far more visually obvious, and also physically gratifying as troops move around in formations across the map. The whole thing feels as though you're observing and planning the battle from an overlooking hilltop.

Commands & Colors Ancients: Rome vs The Barbarians [Funagain] kicks things off with 20 new scenarios focusing on Rome and the early Gallic invasion, the Servile War slave uprisings (I'm Spartacus!), and Caesar's conquest of Gaul.

Commands & Colors Ancients: The Roman Civil Wars [Funagain] is the next expansion and includes the bloody Roman on Roman action steming from power shifts within the Republic. Here's a snippet from the official game details:

"The Roman Civil Wars features familiar units with new capabilities. The Roman legions have evolved into the deadly fighting units of legend. In terms of Commands and Colors performance, the medium infantry units (representing less experienced legions) and heavy infantry units (representing the veteran legions) will now be able to move two hexes without engaging in close combat, or still move one hex and have close combat (as well as throwing their pilum -- a capability acquired in Expansion #2: Rome and the Barbarians). You will be able to fight battles with medium and heavy infantry as you have never fought them before!"

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January 10, 2008

WoW TCG Magtheridon's Lair Deck Is Out!

MagtheridonsLairAlright WoW TCG players, it's time to determine how bad-ass your heroes really are -- Upper Deck has finally shipped the third in a line of Cooperative Raid Decks for the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game. Magtheridon's Lair [Amazon, Funagian] brings one of the first raid encounters of the Outland to the the TCG, where players team up to take down the Pit Lord Magtheridon in his very own prison.

We're pretty psyched about this one.

Now killing a 'man' sleeping in his own jail cell doesn't sound very noble, even if the man is a 3 story half dragon pit fiend. But in the scheme of things it's for the greater good; in the WoW mythos Magtheridon's Blood is being used to create an army of Fel Orcs to serve Illidan, the grandmaster jerkhole demon who's become the capital evil burden of Outland. The death of Magtheridon means Illidan won't have his army to act as a shield, and thus be severely weakened and open to attack. If we were to take wild stabs in the dark - then tackling Illidan in the Black Temple will be the next Raid Deck release in the Outland series.

The floating undead citadel of Naxxramas is rumored to be the next Azeroth-based WoW TCG Raid Deck release (following the line of Onyxia and Molten Core).

MagtheridonLairFieryPits.jpgBut enough back story, we gotta start playing. Like the other Raid Decks Magtheridon comes with his own set of Loot Cards to act as a gold foiled reward for defeating the raid. Now Upper Deck hasn't yet finished previewing the cards - they're usually pretty lethargic about prerelease news and details- but you can check-out the complete list of rewards thus far at WoWTCGDB.com, which has always been on top of the latest card details as they're released.

We're quite giddy over this one. Here are the brief Official Raid Deck details:

Play as the powerful pit lord Magtheridon and his minions, and defend your citadel from the foolhardy heroes who crave your treasure! Or, form a raiding party with your friends and try to defeat the deckmaster's ultra-powerful Magtheridon deck! Each Raid Deck expansion set requires players to build their raiding parties using cards from the World of Warcraft TCG.

We'll have our thoughts on the Magtheridon's Lair raid deck as soon as we've put it through its paces. For those of you who dive-in before that: Good Luck!. This is one helluva raid in World of Warcraft, and you're going to have been pretty darn smart in your strategies if you're going to tackle this beasties before he goes bezerk.

For more information on the World of Warcraft TCG Raid Decks checkout our previous coverage of Onyxia's Lair and the Molten Core.

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January 8, 2008

Cursor*10 - Play with Yourself

Play the game here.

We could tell you what Cursor*10 is, but that would be ruining the surprise. What we can say is that Cursor*10 is a classy piece of Flash gaming who's underlying 'thing' is almost as witty as the 2007 hit Portal. And the graphics are old school - no glitz.

A noble garage-game with a form-follows-function style. We like that.

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January 7, 2008

Mayfair Clarifies Settlers of Catan 4th Ed. Compatibility Issues


Mayfair Games, the publishers behind the deservingly oh-so-popular Settlers of Catan [Amazon, Funagain] line of Eurogames, has posted a Frequently Asked Question page. Currently the FAQ hosts only one interesting question/answer topic: the compatibility of the 4th Edition of Settlers of Catan, the 4th edition expansions, and their 3rd Edition counterparts.

Unless you're an early board game adopter who's way ahead of the curve then chances are you have the the 3rd Edition of Settlers, or the new 4th Edition released just before Christmas. Here's what Mayfair has said about using 3rd Edition expansions with your 4th Edition base set, or 4th Edition Expansions with your 3rd Edition base set:

Q: Can I use my 3rd edition pieces with the 4th edition sets?

A: As has been stated, the tiles are the same size between the two editions, so anything designed to work with 3rd edition tiles should continue to work with 4th edition sets. However, because the new set comes with a frame for the new board (replacing the water tiles), you will be unable to play Catan: Seafarers using 4th Edition base and 3rd Edition Seafarers (4th edition Seafarers includes only the water tiles necessary to add with the frame pieces included).

The resource cards have the same backs as 3rd Edition, but the development cards have changed backs. This means that you cannot mix the cards from 3rd Edition 5-6 Player Extensions and 4th Edition base sets (and vice versa).

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January 4, 2008

Tide of Iron: Days of the Fox Digs In with Vehicle Details

This first month of the new year also brings an expansion to one of our favorite approachable War Game Systems from Fantasy Flight Games. Released last year Tide of Iron shipped with configurable boards, 10 scenarios and customizable squads all set in the Western Front of WWII. This year the system expands with Tide of Iron: Days Of the Fox [Funagain] which crosses the Med into the North African campaign, whose land combat - as armchair historians know - was dominated by some massive armor battles.

And in true-form of high quality prerelease coverage, Fantasy Flight Games has posted this detailed article detailing the vehicles slated to ship with the expansion and their historical presence in that campaign:

  • Bedford OY Transport Truck
  • Bren Gun Carrier
  • Matilda
  • Crusader
  • Panzer III
  • Panther

The Panther actually didn't make it into North Africa, but has been included in this set for use in future expansions.

This comes hot on the heals of our recent addiction to Company of Heroes Opposing Fronts, a fantastic squad level expansion to Real Time Strategy game (required) for the PC. If you're interested in the RTS genre, or WWII games, then we highly recommend you picking it up, and the original Company of Heroes. Every night our multiplayer battles replay in vivid detail, floating above our heads like explosive sugar plums and mushroom clouds.

But in the world of the Board Game, Tide of Iron Days of the Fox is slated for a January release, and is available to preorder from Funagain Games.

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January 2, 2008

Grapple This!


Hats off to this gentleman who has dared to dream that little dream, and who is more diehard than we. For you, we right a Haiku: *ahem*

Flex My Strong Dice Arm
Grimace in Pain I Bite Down
Long Sleeves in Summer

Via Hipster Please!

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Gamer Zero Sits Down with D&D; 4th Ed Forgotten Realms' Lead Desginer

Part 1 (above)
Part 2

2008 is the year of the Dragon (yes, the upcoming new year is really the Year of the Rat, but shut your gob). D&D; is slated for a face lift this Spring, and then coming down the pipe in August will be the new Forgotten Realms source materials.

FR has been our setting of choice since we fell in love with D&D; and it's Gold Box games for the C-64, which made us oh so happy. You see our D&D; players of the group grew up in slight seclusion in all stretches of seculded New England: in the Vermont foothills, down Maine, and generally in older person neighborhoods of southern Rhode Island. There just weren't many players lounging-around and rolling dice in basements nearby - well there were a few meetups around but almost everyone there smelled like old Cheeto's n'clothes that needed an exorcism before they could be burned. After we got bored rolling our AD&D; characters in teams of two and then just poking them with a stick, these Computer RPGs became our main stay until the mid 1990s.

But we digress. Our Calendars flipped to 2008 yesterday and almost immediately we decided to make D&D; 4th Edition our new passion for the new year. Here we see a two part interview about the upcoming Forgotten Realm make over, which shifts the time period to the new setting where the D&D; magic mechanics make more sense.

We'll keep you posted as Wizards of the Coast releases more juicy details as we approach the Spring release.,

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