February 25, 2009

Tide of Iron Designer Series Volume One

TideOfIronDesignerSeriesV1.jpgWe're pretty big fans of the WWII tactical board game Tide of Iron. In fact the only glaring flaw is that we don't have enough time to devote to the well-designed scenarios that ship with the game and its expansions (sessions take about 3-5 hours).

If you're gang busters about your war games, then you know this series is alive and kicking with some great expansions, like Days of the Fox and the new Normandy Expansion both of which added new units, pieces and rules to the mix. The fact that Fantasy Flight continues to deliver with well produced materials speaks volumes to the longevity of the system. Now Fantasy Flight has also shown the series some more love with a new hardcover supplement of well-designed and balanced scenarios.

The Tide of Iron Designer Series [Amazon, Funagain] is cheaper than your normal expansion, and has scenarios for the base game, Days of the Fox, and Normandy.

Astute gamers may note that the Designer Series came out sometime around the new year. We didn't speak of it because there were gobs of incredible titles coming out at the time . But now, after the dust from the holiday shelling has settled, it's time to emerge from our bunker for some more Tide of Iron goodness.

Here are the official details:

Compiled by distinguished conflict historian Dana Lombardy (Streets of Stralingrad), the Tide of Iron: Designer Series is a hard cover collection of twenty scenarios crafted by today's most famous wargame designers. Using the mechanics of the Tide of Iron base game, these design masters have crafted the first volume in one of the most exciting collections of wargaming history. The Tide of Iron: Designer Series is an incredible addition to the Tide of Iron base game, offering a whole new level of depth and historical context for players to enjoy. - Scenarios vary from short, fast-play skirmishes to massive tactical battles. - Historical backgrounds and anecdotes for each scenario written by the scenario designer. - Several scenarios incorporate the North Africa Days of the Fox Expansion. - One epic scenario which requires two copies of Tide of Iron for a massive, multiplayer experience.
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February 24, 2009

Empire Total War Demo Debuts on Steam

EmpireTotalWarRedCoats.jpgLong time readers know that we're avid fans of Creative Assembly's Total War Franchise for the PC. Well in just over a week's time, the new installment Empire Total War [Amazon] hits shelves, and we'll be knee deep in marathon sessions of Imperial Age warfare - both on tactical and strategic levels - from the very moment the game is released.

Those thirsting for some of the tactical action right right must no longer wait: the Empire Total War Demo is now available on the Steam download service. It includes two battles: the American Revolution Battle of Brandywine Creek, and the naval Battle of Lagos.

The naval battles is a new feature for the Total War games, and though it depicts an English fleet against a mass of French vessels, the demo's scenario still lacks certain acoutremonts to bring the system to life. We would like to hear more atmosphere to bring us into the battle: sailer calls, marine gunfire, and the crack of opening sails, but perhaps we'll have to just wait for someone to mod the game a bit after launch. The naval warfare also lacked some strategic depth at first -- at least until we figured out the whole broadside mechanism. Toy a bit with the round cannon buttons in the lower right and you'll soon be on your way to kicking some scurvy butt. Unfortunately you can't roll as the French in the demo.

The demo's land combat scenario is everything a Total War game is and more. The engine really has come a far way since Medieival II Total War, and that's saying something 'cause that game is still gorgeous.

Soon we'll have our hands on the full version and constructing our Austrian empire from the ground up. The game is slated for release next week (March 3rd), and if you can't wait and you're hankering for more Empire Total War coverage then checkout these quick battle walkthroughs from some of the game's AI Programmers:

1:Empire: Total War Superior Tactics Walkthrough
2: Empire: Total War Superior Tactics Walkthrough Part II HD

They're a bit over produced and has too many quick-cuts for its own good, but it has great examples of what makes Total War battles so great: the scale of the fights is unparalleled.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

February 18, 2009

Funagain Games' February Board Game Sale

One of our favorite online board game stores Funagain Games is running a February Board Game Sale with 30 different titles discounted up to 90% off MSRP. Tough times demand tough talk.

While there's some flotsam in there - all clearance sales have that problem - there are also some worthwhile titles to pick up for cheap. Conquest of the Empire is well renowned wargame and has been discounted 40% to 25 bucks, and the Puerto Rico PC Game (73%) is a measly 5 bucks.

Merchants of Amsterdam, while some older, is still a sold title and is 62% off, and Oasis (66%) is a pretty solid title, too.


Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

February 13, 2009

Tannhäuser: Operation Novgorod

TannhauserOperationNovgorod.jpgThe well previewed expansion to Tannhäuser, the alternate reality strategy game of WWI Nazis, Zombies, and American Paratroopers, has hit shelves. Tannhäuser: Operation Novgorod [Amazon, Funagain] adds a series of interesting new missions, characters, and weapons to the game. Oh, and now the Russians are getting involved, with their own chilly Slavic Gods at their backs, they have a selection of new abilities including mind number psionics that should add some interesting things to the game. Here are the official details:

"A new faction has risen to challenge the balance of power in the Great War. The forces of the Russian Matriarchy command advanced technology and ancient theology as they emerge from their torpor to purify the world. By using the technology of President Edisons one-time pupil Nikola Tesla, they have devised a way to bring ancient Slavic divinities to a semblance of mechanical life. The power they have harnessed threatens to tip the balance of the war forever. -- Featuring a new faction, new heroes, robotic minions, and an all-new character type, Operation Novgorod is a completely new way to play Tannhäuser."

For more information about Operation Novgorod, checkout our previous story Tannhäuser: Operation Novgorod Previews. The expansion is now available from both Amazon and Funagain Games.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

February 9, 2009

World of Warcraft Minis Review

WoWMiniDeluxStarter.jpgWe don't have a long standing relationship with miniature games. In fact, our only experience was with Warhammer, and that was only a few of us who put the World of Warcraft Minis through its paces. Already hooked on World of Warcraft, and WoW TCG, we immediately liked what we saw through the drum-up to release, from the few official preview articles, and the hands-on prerelease demo that we participated in while at the Penny Arcade Expo. The question still remained, though: Will WoW Minis hold up to repeat play, and as a secondary question, will it supplant our interest in the WoW TCG?

After toying with the premier release of WoW Minis over the last few months, we have our answer.

ArrowContinue reading: "World of Warcraft Minis Review"

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

February 4, 2009

Cosmic Encounter Revised (2008)

CosmicEncounter.JPGThe original Cosmic Encounter was a classic romp of negotiation and quick, simple galactic warfare the took half skill, half luck, half negotiation, and very little math to win - and that's why we liked it. The game was quick, had few pieces, and was one of those all around classic 1980's games that held up over numerous repeat plays, and never panned out the same way twice.

There have been numerous revisions of the game over the years, as the title jumped from publisher to publisher, but each one fell short in one fashion or another compared against the background of its original predecessor. It became common for fans to mix the rule and pieces of various iterations to create their own Frankensteinian hybrid that's fit enough to live up to the title.

CosmicEncounterHate.jpgThis time around it's Fantasy Flight's turn, and everything is top notch in true FFG fashion. Cosmic Encounter 2008 [Amazon, Funagain] remains a card game at heart, where players spend cards form their hand to win over an opponent's star systems in a battle royal each turn. The diplomacy edge comes from players petitioning their friends to join in the fight, either helping to conquer new territory for their mutual benefit, or to come into the defnese of a player so that another competitor doesn't get too big of an edge in the overaall game. Cosmic Encounter ends when a player controls enough systems. Easy Peasey.

The game throws curve balls with the selection of 50 alien races, which give certain players specific powers. The powers span the range of replacing destroyed ships, limiting the number of strength cards a player can contribute to a battle, or even changing the end game rules. The Masochist - for instance - wins if all his ships are destroyed. Crazy. Expansions will certain be on the way with even more crazy powers to cause controlled chaos tot he game.

If you're looking to learn more, then we highly recommend a pair of video reviews from board game review czar (in the good way) Tom Vasel from The Dice Tower. They're aptly named: Cosmic Encounter for Newcommers and Cosmic Encounter for Veterans, Both videos well worth your time if you're looking to be sure you want to relive some of your best childhood gaming memories. Hey - we know sometimes things don't pan out so well when they're revisited 20 years later (OMG, actually 30 years! We're old). Thankfully the latest Cosmic Encounter pans out wonderfully.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

January 28, 2009

Small World coming this May from Days of Wonder

These days we have two favorite modern American Board Game Publishers vying for control of our gaming attention. On one hand we have Fantasy Flight Games, who make some top notch stuff like Battlestar Galactica (which we promise we won't mention again for at least a week), Tide of Iron, and Twilight Imperium . The problem is that as a whole FFG games have levels of complexities that hit the points of complication, and so epic that they're very tough to squeeze into a weeknight gaming session.

That's where Days of Wonder comes in. Their games are top notch, too, and while they remain deep in the gameplay department, they're often much easier to setup and play in the evening. The Ticket to Ride franchise, for instance, remains one our favorite releases ever. And when Days of Wonder announces something new, we sit up and listen.

Small World looks to be Civilization Light, or Tempus Heavy, where players lead their own civilization out of the caves and into the light of day. The problem is,t he world is just too small to support every tribe. Thefore each must lead their social and technical expansion at the expense of other's resources, and lives (aka: war).

There's a great video sneak peak of the game on the official Days of Wonder Small World website. The full blown Prelease Release can also be read here, but we've included the juicy bits below:

"Designed by Philippe Keyaerts as a fantasy follow-up to his award-winning Vinci, Small World is inhabited by a zany cast of characters such as dwarves, wizards, amazons, giants, orcs and even humans; who use their troops to occupy territory and conquer adjacent lands in order to push the other races off the face of the earth. Picking the right combination from the 14 different fantasy races and 20 unique special powers, players rush to expand their empires - often at the expense of weaker neighbors. Yet they must also know when to push their own over-extended civilization into decline and ride a new one to victory.

"Small World marks the return of the 'classic' Days of Wonder big-box game," said Eric Hautemont, Days of Wonder CEO. "The theme is playful and fun; the rules are simple enough to learn for any family member; but the gameplay can get as cutthroat as anyone might wish. Players will take delight in discovering the best combinations of races and special powers and devising ever more devious new ways to play them; they will also have fun trying to time the decline of their own civilizations just right!"

Small World is currently slated to hit gaming stores in May 2009, and is now available for predorder from Fuangain Games.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

January 23, 2009

5 Tips for Cylons in the Battlestar Galactic Board Game

CylonModel5.jpgYesterday we posted 5 Helpful Tips for the Battlestar Galactica Board Game [Amazon, Funagain], which hopefully will help the Human Faction players outlast the Cylon onslaught. But what if you're caught on the other side of the lines, embedded in the Human Fleet as a sleeper agent for the Cylons?

Knowing what to do and when can be tricky for cylon skinjobs. You don't want to be too heavy handed or lest you risk exposing yourself as a double agent, and you certainly don't want to be too laid back or those sweaty humans might make it all the way to Kobol. Balance is key.

Keeping that in mind, here are our 5 Tips for Cylon players who find themsevles on the other side of the fence in the Battlestar Galactica board game we love so much.

1: You're a Traitor, so Give Yourself a Hand
Since you'll have to discard your hand down to three, don't expose yourself until you have three high-value cards that you can take with you into the Cylon fleet. Once you're there you'll be starving for cards and it'll be nice to have some killer tools to mess-up the best laid plans of mice and men. Mostly just the men.

ThreeSixEight.jpg2: Know the Cylon Cards
Go through the entire You Are a Cylon deck before you sit down and start playing. Each card has its own set of specific rules on how you can inflict the most damage upon the Galactica and her mates, so get those things down pat.

Here's the trick: while the "You are a Cylon" cards are chalk full of text, the "You are Not a Cylon" cards, have very little. So if you appear to be reading a lot from the card dealt to you in the loyalty phase, then people will peg you as a toaster. Don't let this happen.

3: Timing is Everything
If an opportunity presents itself to cause maximum chaos at a critical time, then it's worth exposing yourself right then and there. Just pull the trigger, and don't look back. You may not get a better chance to cripple the fleet.

4: Be Nice, But Spread Mistrust
While you will surely be mistrusted, you can go far to create pockets of new mistrust elsewhere, too. Try to setup circumstances where your ship mates would put blame on someone else, while you passively do nothing. You may get lucky and get your target thrown into the brig, too, where they're nigh useless. Don't be too heavy handed though. Dabble, don't gush mistrust.

Conversely, if you're Cylon or Human, its in your best interest to play the good guy at least for a while. You have to build trust in order to backstab properly. But just like spreading the mistrust, don't lay it on too thick. Especially if you're a bad actor.

5: A Resource Wasted is a Resource Gained
If you're in a position of power then try to bleed as many resources as you can. Risk raptors to get goods that your fleet already has an abundance of. Feign despair and send Vipers into horribly dire situations where they're protecting civilian ships but they're completely outnumbered and will certainly die. Use a Nuke because you think "it's time", when you bloodly well know it isn't time yet.

Happy Hunting.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

January 22, 2009

5 Helpful Tips for the Battlestar Galactica Board Game

We love the Battlestar Galactica Board Game [Amazon, Funagain]. We've admitted it before, and now it's currently slugging it out with a few other titles for our favorite game of 2008. We just finished a heated session last night, and while it's still fresh in our memories we thought we'd share some of the lessons we've learned so far. Here are 5 tips for the Human players, but we've also carved out some Tips for Cylon Players, too. Enjoy!

1: Easy Does It
Beginner players tend to overcompensate on the crisis cards, dealing in what they think is 'their share' to ensure the group passes the crisis and moves onto better days. But when you win the crisis 23-6 about five times in a row, then you're just bleeding away valuable cards. Cool it. Save it for when a cylon throws you in a brig.

2: He's not a jerk, He's a Cylon OK, maybe He's Both.
The entire game is filled with sarcastic one liners of "sure thing, cylon" but when someone decides to throw you - an innocent human - in the brig, things get serious. You could be saving the fleet with your cards and actions left and right, and suddenly you're on trial for being a traitor. Chances are, the person calling the vote is a sleeper cylon himself, and he may have friends or humans who question your loyalty. Therefore always carry a nice balance of cards to ward off an arrest, or to spring yourself out when things get tough.

3: The Quorum is a Rabble
Sure the Quorum may get you out of a pinch of resource depleation or expose a Cylon - but only only to you, and that's not proof of anything. In fact, even if you tell people someone is a cylon 'because you know'', the rest of the group might not believe you and think that you're a sleeper cylon falsely accusing other people. Plus the cards seem to repeat themselves a lot. If you already have a few in your hands, then chances are that getting more won't pull you out of desperate times. Instead, avoid this Hail Mary Pass, and use a targeted action to ensure you're actually in a stronger position than you were when your turn started.

4: Save Those Nukes
When a Cylon finally reveals himself, be ready for some hurt. A well timed super crisis and crisis card could land your FTL in sleep mode in a system with multiple base stars, raiders and heavy raiders baring down on you, and more civilian ships than you care to protect. Plus, with the Cylon no longer masquerading as a Human, you'll be shorthanded to deal with it all at once. Even if things are looking slightly dismal before the second loyalty phase, let the Galactica soak up some hits - its easier to repair the galactica than to replace lost civilian resources.

5: Politics are All Talk
Politicians generally hang out on Colonial One managing resources, and stay away from Galactica herself. That means they're not going to be of much use destroying
Cylon ships, repairing locations, and fixing busted Vipers. We'd recommend only one full fledged politician in a 5 player game, and instead make sure you have a support player filling out your ranks.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

January 18, 2009

Zontik Games' High End Game Store Relaunches

ZontikGamesChess.jpgWe live in the city - Boston actually - and though we aren't scraping the bottom of the corporate food chain, we're not exactly living in luxurious folds of space either. Many of our apartments are small, and have no storage so we must remain very utilitarian with the space we have.

But if we did live in the suburbs, or maybe in a region of the country that wasn't built on a 19th century landfill, and that actually didn't have basements that flooded when it slightly mists outside, then things would be a lot different. Our living room would sport two nice leather backed chairs and a chess board table with room for scotch on both sides. We're talking about the type of high quality set that abuts an old wooden globe , where the back wall would be stacked with well-bound books we've never read, and where Gentlemen retreat to carve up the world via games and politics.

Zontik Games makes these kinds of things. High-end gaming products of your favorite titles, like high quality chess sets, poker sets, or crafted wood versions of Scrabble, and the best looking Pentanque (Boule) set this side the Bay of Biscay.

We've mentioned Zontik a few years ago, and we're visiting writing again because they just relaunched their website, and they have even more high end gaming products. They also now offer a service called Custom Deluxe. where "people customize games by picking their own materials and designs," including "leathers, rare materials, precious stones, or any other thing a customer's heart desires." We're thinking a set of dice crafted from a handful Tunguska meteorites would add a tasteful edge to our gaming.

Their relaunch is worth checking out. Don't let the sticker shock scare you -- you get what you pay for.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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