October 12, 2010

Dominion Prosperity Expansion Hits Shelves

DominionProsperity.jpgFrom what we've heard the Dominion Prosperity Expansion [Amazon, Funagain] is the best one yet. Conversely this is probably the final expansion for our collection of the Dominion card game ... unless the designers start adding laser beams or carnivorous unicorns. Why? Well there are just so many cards you can add to your collection before the entire collection becomes completely muddled, or when portions of your collection becomes untouched for months.

Heck, we don't even bother with the Seaside Expansion anymore. There are just too many different things in that expansion that create numerous moving parts that don't really jive with the other expansions.

But Prosperity is different. Instead of tacking on a crazy pirate theme, or an alchemy theme, Prosperity invigorates a subsystem that has always had a huge part of any game of Dominion: the economy. Prosperity focuses on the upper echelon of inhabitants in the medieval dominion. There's the normal rich philosophy of "more money is better" across the basic spectrum as expected. Like the new Platinum card that supersedes the top tier cash of Gold, and the new Colony victory point card that costs 11 bucks for 10 victory points. Crazy.

And you're not going to save up to buy these cards simply by stocking up on platinum. Nope, there are tons of event cards that snowball your economy. Like the garden or the pirate ship of old, there are cards like Trade Route that get more powerful as play goes on, specifically focused on boosting your own economy. But they're capped in interesting ways, either via increased price or by adding negative aspects like a Forced Trash action to certain cards.

Add to do that a slew of treasure cards that have special actions, special buy rules, or special values, and you get a high quality Dominion expansion that tickles your money bags.

For a full review of of the game checkout The Dice Tower's Dominion Prosperity Review. It includes a very brief review of the cards themselves, too.

Here are the official details:

Ah, money. There's nothing like the sound of coins clinking in your hands. You vastly prefer it to the sound of coins clinking in someone else's hands, or the sound of coins just sitting there in a pile that no-one can quite reach without getting up. Getting up, that's all behind you now. Life has been good to you. Just ten years ago, you were tilling your own fields in a simple straw hat. Today, your kingdom stretches from sea to sea, and your straw hat is the largest the world has ever known. You also have the world's smallest dog, and a life-size statue of yourself made out of baklava. Sure, money can't buy happiness, but it can buy envy, anger, and also this kind of blank feeling. You still have problems - troublesome neighbors that must be conquered. But this time, you'll conquer them in style.

This is the 4th addition to the game of Dominion. It adds 25 new Kingdom cards to Dominion, plus 2 new Basic cards that let players keep building up past Gold and Province. The central theme is wealth; there are treasures with abilities, cards that interact with treasures, and powerful expensive cards.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

October 8, 2010

Battle Map for the iPad Looks Killer

We've been lusting over the implications of the Philip's haplessly named Entertaible and Microsoft's Surface in regards to the future of home gaming for years now. An interactive display for conveying information and tracking character movements in strategy games, RPGs, the works, and downloadable modules for various titles. Oh man, the future is now! The problem: the software base (ie: the modules) isn't exactly churning off the assembly lines, and the hardware costs an exorbitant 10K just to get it in-house. Good luck with that.

How about we meet half way with Battle Map by Razeware - an iPad application that lets GMs, DMS, whoever, carve out maps with the touch of their fingers. Characters and protagonists can be added to the screen, complete with line of sight tools, and then tossed on a giant display like a flat screen TV for all the gamers to see. And the best part yet: The iPad can run in GM mode (who see's everything on the device) while the main TV display runs with a fog of war mode where players can see only what the GM Wants them to see.

Ho baby, sign us up.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

October 7, 2010

BGN Reviews Catan Histories: Settlers of America

Thumbnail image for CatanHistoriesSettlersOfAmerica.jpg
The latest Settlers incarnation is one of the Histories series. These games take the Settlers formula and apply it to a specific time period. Previous entries included Struggle for Rome which put players in charge of the 'barbarian hordes' who pillaged the cites of Ancient Rome throughout Gaul, and who eventually settled to make settlements of their own.

This year Catan is heading to the new world with Settlers of America: Trails to Rails [Amazon, Funagain]. Players are tasked with settling the USA from East to West during the industrial age, founding towns that collect resources and the like. The goal, is to develop your economy through your network of towns and to finally ship goods inland on your own rail networks. Dubbed the Catan Train Game by many, Settlers of America is one of those nice hybrid titles that takes the best from both settlement and economic genres.

And now Board Game News has a review. It does a great job of breaking down the game from stem to stern and talks about its pitfalls (some darn long games) as well as its shining points. Here's an excerpt:

"While it has many similarities and familiar mechanisms to its ancestors, Settlers of America has enough new twists and concepts to give it a fresh feel. Players must be adept at balancing all of the different aspects, and there are important timing considerations. The ability to bounce back and forth between the different actions - building, trading, moving - allows players wide creative latitude and provides ample opportunity for clever play. All of these are big plusses and would appear to make this new version one of the best in the series."

Check out the full review here.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

October 4, 2010

Small World Expands Again, and for Free!

SmallWorldNecromancerIsland.jpgVery, very interesting. Days of Wonder has announced an expansion for release this fall for the award winning Small World. Necromancer Island is a scenario expansion for 3 to 6 players with one player playing the role of the Necromancer who spawns units from siphoning off the souls of the other player's fallen units. If he's able to place all of his ghosts before the end of the game -- he wins! Opponents, in the meantime, are playing their own game of Small World, squaring off normally as they would otherwise. However, as they fight over the island against other opponents, the group as a whole must work together to keep the Necromancer's ghost population from becoming overwhelming.

A nice intriguing little expansion. Most noteworthy, though, is that Small World Necromancer will be FREE in game stores this fall. We'll keep you posted regarding when the boxes start appearing on shelves. Until then checkout the Days of Wonder Blog for all the details.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

October 1, 2010

Mansions of Madness: Horror Mystery Board Game in a Box

MansionsOfMadness.JPGOh man, yet another game on the horizon that we're absolutely shaking to get our hands on. Reading about Mansions of Madness gives us flashbacks to the incredible experience that is the Buffy the Vampire board game, a superb title (before we encounter Eurogames) regardless if you liked or disliked the TV series. Players in that title and in Mansions will have to cooperate to scour the board for tools to defeat the player controlled the antagonist. Unlike Buffy, though, the antagonist's plans aren't at all obvious.

And that's what makes Mansions of Madness so intriguing. There are various scenarios, but even in those scenarios the four protagonist players wont' know what the 1 antagonist player is doing behind the scenes to win the game. The antagonist is given options of a branching story, each with different end goals that he attempts to attain. He must then scatter the board with clues to his motives. The 'good guy' players must then discover the various clues, piece them together, and stop the evil master plan.

Seriously, could it get any better than this? Yes, it can. The game is set in H.P. Lovecraft's Akrham Massachusetts the horror suspense universe. The game is also designed by Corey Konieczka who carved out the Battlestar Galactica Board Game and the recent Space Hulk: Death Angel Card Game.

This title has so many things going for it: good setting, a great publisher, great mechanics and an outstanding designer. For more preview information check out the game's announcement, and the preview article "The Origins of Evil". Here are the game's official details:

"Horrific monsters and spectral presences lurk in manors, crypts, schools, monasteries, and derelict buildings near Arkham, Massachusetts. Some spin dark conspiracies while others wait for hapless victims to devour or drive insane. It's up to a handful of brave investigators to explore these cursed places and uncover the truth about the living nightmares within.

Designed by Corey Konieczka, Mansions of Madness is a macabre game of horror, insanity, and mystery for two to five players. Each game takes place within a pre-designed story that provides players with a unique map and several combinations of plot threads. These threads affect the monsters that investigators may encounter, the clues they need to find, and which climactic story ending they will ultimately experience. One player takes on the role of the keeper, controlling the monsters and other malicious powers within the story. The other players take on the role of investigators, searching for answers while struggling to survive with their minds intact.

Do you dare enter the Mansions of Madness?"

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

September 23, 2010

FFG Announces The Hobbit Board Game

TheHobbit.JPGFantasy Flight Games has placed another Middle Earth board game installment in the hands of Reiner Knizia, famed designer who also produced the original Lord of the Rings cooperative board game way back in 2000.

The board and components have a similar vibe as The Lord of the Rings, actually -- a game which has scored high marks in many circles. To us, though the game is a bit boring and has some really straightforward and mundane gameplay. Our tastes rest are a few notches higher on the complexity scale, we fear. Thankfully it seems that The Hobbit might layer on some more interested dynamics to spice up the gameplay. Players ditch the cooperative elements and will take on the roles of the various dwarfs who escort Bilbo on his trip to the Lonely Mountain. Players will manage skills in multiple disciplines, sort of training up on multiple fronts to defeat various types of adventures that transpire during the journey.

Details are still sparse, but our interest is somewhat piqued. Here's an interesting bit lifted from the game's official announcement.

"Designed by Reiner Knizia, The Hobbit is a game of strategic bidding and chance. Taking on the roles of the stoic dwarves, players need to guide Bilbo Baggins from the Shire to the Lonely Mountain and end the game with the most treasure. During their journey they will fight goblins, battle wargs, escape the Mirkwood elves, and eventually reach Laketown. Players must plan their journey wisely, bidding for their turn sequence to move Bilbo Baggins further along the game path.

In order to face the challenges that await them, players can increase their stats by using their numbered Dwarf Cards to bid for upgrades. Player stats include Cunning, Strength, and Initiative, and each of these can be raised whenever the active player moves Bilbo onto an appropriate space along the path. But be wary, there are also spaces on the path that will reduce your stats. Bid wisely!"

We'll keep you posted of any interesting new information as it's released.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

September 21, 2010

Civilization 5 is Out, Productivity Nosedives

Civilization5.jpgOh sweet day of days Civilization 5 [Amazon] is out. Sure the line of Civilization games by Sid Meier aren't technically board games but the franchise lineage is everything a board game on PC should be, and more. Strategic depth, tactical combat, developing technology, disparate cultures, military and diplomacy engines, dynamic terrain environments, fog of war, random events, space races, atom bombs and green energy *gasp*... Civilization incorporates every cool facet of growing an empire from stone age to space age and animates it on your computermatrix.

And now a new Fifth Installment is here. Upgrades from the amazing 4th edition include a new graphics engine with varying tilesets based on different continents, a hex based map, combat with new tactical depth (no more unit stacking), new elements in the mechanics of culture and ethics, new AI and more intriguing options when it comes to diplomacy, city states, new tech trees.... oh man. The list goes on and on.

And you know whats even better? It's 5:00 which means it's officially quitting time. The night will be filled with Just-On-More-Turn-itis, and a pot of coffee is already brewing. See you tomorrow (maybe).

Here's a great Civilization 5 Video Review by GameTrailers. And, as always, here are the game's official details:

Sid Meier's Civilization® V is the fifth offering in the multi-award winning Civilization strategy game series featuring the famous "just one more turn" addictive gameplay that has made it one of the greatest game series of all time. Become Ruler of the World by establishing and leading a civilization from the dawn of man into the space age: Wage war, conduct diplomacy, discover new technologies, go head-to-head with some of history's greatest leaders and build the most powerful empire the world has ever known.
  • Successful diplomacy will depend on players carefully managing relationships with other leaders, trading items and land, plying them with gold, and deciding if they are friend or foe
  • Expanded visuals and immersive audio invite would-be kings to take up the reigns of power and forge a mighty empire. Civilization V offers a limitless variety of vast, realistic and diverse landscapes for players
  • An intuitive interface eases both new players and Civ veterans into the game. Guided by a set of trusted advisors who will explain game functionality and provide counsel for significant decisions
  • The addition of ranged bombardment allows players to fire weapons from behind the front lines, challenging players to develop clever new strategies to guarantee victory on the battlefield
  • Write your own epic story each time you play. Choose one of eighteen historical civilizations to lead from the stone-age to the space age on your quest to build the world's most powerful empire

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

September 20, 2010

BGN Reviews Space Hulk: Death Angel Card Game

SpaceHulkDeathAngel.jpgSpace Hulk is a Warhammer 40k game with a far reaching dire-straits in space theme. It's all about you and your buddies staying alive in a ghost relic, working via squad coordination, focusing on overlapping lines of fire and moving into and out of offensive and defensive positions. Meanwhile genestealers are coming out of the wood work. Vile, wrathful aliens that pop their heads out of air ducts, lockers, door hatches and toilet bowls, each and brainlessly charging their way toward you to rip your squad apart.

And that's exactly whats going on in Space Hulk Death Angel [Amazon]. It's up to you and your friends to control a group of space marines on your table. Cards are placed to spawn new genestealers, to face your troops, and to lay down lines of fire or support your squaddies as they deal the hurt themselves. It's all about coordinating with each other to stay alive and deal some damage.

And Board Game News has a great review of the game. It combs through the game mechanics, citing some inconsistently difficult random elements that may ruin the fun of the game if drawn. It also does well to talk about the level of cooperation. Certain mechanics are in place to prevent one player from becoming the "Alpha Gamer", directing everyone to do this or that. We've noticed this to be true in previous cooperative board games like Pandemic, and we're glad to see someone's thinking of a way to solve these problems.

One of the best reviews we've read in a while. Nice job Mr Thrower.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

September 14, 2010

The Dice Tower Holds a Torch to DungeonQuest

Tom Vasel really leans into this Fantasy Flight Games' remake of the classic DungeonQuest, citing numerous problems. His qualms include the potential to die on any given turn - like turn two for instance - leaving the player to sort Doritos in ascending order based on the number of black specks on each. Other beefs include wasting your turns on exploring completely empty rooms, an overly complex combat system with very little payoff, and an unrequited turn limit despite the fact that you're almost always going to die. Well your character is anyway.

You know, it's 2010 people. When games are remade you have to question why the designers don't fold in some of the more recently developed and prized elements of the gaming genre. Like, you know, accommodating every player until the end of the game or streamlining combat mechanics instead of complicating them. You could still have the old school DungeonQuest feel with these important things. It's a bummer that they were left on the wayside.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

September 13, 2010

Constantinopolis Board Game Hits Shelves

Constantinopolis.JPGFantasy Flight Games released Constantinopolis [Amazon, Funagain] to the uber gamer masses who attended GenCon a few short weeks ago, and now it's shipping from stores for the rest of us.

The game centers around the ancient trading city as players coordinate the purchase of production buildings and then selling the goods they produce for cash money or fame, and then parlaying their money into bigger and better production buildings. Think of the best elements of the title Pillars of the Earth mixed with production, trading and theme of the award winning Le Havre and you have a basic fundamental of whats going on.

The city itself is dynamic, and the set of buildings that are available for purchase scales with the number of players at the table. Buildings are gone once they've been purchased by a player so the state of the board shifts and develops based upon player interaction. Special delivery requests can be fulfilled from a deck of cards similar to route cards in Ticket to Ride, so the demanded goods - and therefore the types of buildings that players use - might shift a bit between plays.

Finally, there's also a tech tree of sorts for building purchases. Each building belongs to a class, A,B, C, or D, and a player cannot purchase a building of more powerful class until he owns a building of the previous class (All players start with class A buildings). It's not all about who has the most money, but who has built out the strongest infrastructure.

Simple, streamlined, easy to learn and great on repeat plays, Consantinopolis is our dark horse for economic game of the year. For more information check-out this excellent video preview of the game, or visit the game's official website at Fantasy Flight Games. Here's the product information:

Can you become the most famous trader in Constantinopolis? Effectively build up your trade district to produce goods, generate money, and earn fame points to ensure that your name stands above the rest!

Constantinopolis is a board game of economy and trade for 2-5 players. With light rules and a moderate play time of 1-2 hours, Constantinopolis is the perfect game for aspiring 7th century merchants.

Constantinopolis features a colorful game board and five detailed player sheets to immerse you in the intriguing world of Byzantine trade. With over 125 tiles and tokens, as well as more than 150 cards and 125 wooden pieces, Constantinopolis is an engaging and accessible entry into the world of European-style board games." - Fantasy Flight Games

Constantinopolis is now shipping from Amazon and Funagain Games.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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