January 15, 2009

Tannhäuser: Operation Novgorod Previews


For 30 years the alternate reality WWI forces of the Allies and the Reich have been slugging it out against one another in a bloody stalemate. As a last ditch effort to end WWI sometime in 1940 (!), the Reich dipped into the occult in a sinister and desperate attempt to doors into the demony unknown. The goal: secure indestructible forces to finally push the battle in their favor. Such is the tactical hit Wargame / RPG hybrid: Tannhäuser.

But now it's not just a two party system with Tannhäuser: Novgorod [Funagain]. Something has awoken the dormant Russians, and they're surging forth from the expansive steppes to take their own piece of the pie. At their backs are the old Slavic Gods, new mechanical killing machines, and the mad technology derived from Tesla's tinkerings.

Dubbed 'The Matriarchy', they're arriving en force with strong mentalist powers to ensure that only the frozen heads of their enemies will roll. Also in the expansion are new Legendary characters, who are more resilient than the standard lot of heroes and are unaffected by an enemy's special attack abilities activated with the roll of a 10.

We're excited. A game of Tannhäuser is the welcome-change tactical wargame, and it seems like the franchise is expanding nicely. But look for yourself: Fantasy Flight Games has begun publishing official preview articles on the Tannhäuser website. Here's what they have so far:

A look at some of the new features in Operation Novgorod

Tannhäuser: Novgorod is slated to ship in January 2009, and is available to preorder from Funagain Games and the official Fantasy Flight Games store.

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January 12, 2009

Combat Commander: Pacific A Tactical WWII Board Game

CCPacific.jpgThe third volume of the popular Combat Commander WWII tactical wargame franchise has rolled up on shelves. Like most wargame franchises the Combat Commander series first took on simulating the Western Campaign, with the original Combat Commander: Europe, and it's followup Combat Commander: Mediterranean. Now the game heads east for some pacific island Marine invasion fun with the standalone release Combat Commander: Pacific.

Now for those new to the franchise, know this: While the title isn't overly complex, it IS a chit wargame played on a hex map, and thus it has an old school wargame feeling, especially when compared to modern commercial flagship titles like Tide of Iron and Memoir '44.

However, the gameplay itself is pretty fast, and interestingly, driven by card draws. This unique gameplay has made it one of the most popular tactical wargaming franchises around. Combat does sometime consist of dice rolls to add some random elements to the game, but they only occur when specific cards are drawn and played. Players win objectives by marching their troops across the map, killing off enemy units, and securing key locations, with scoring rules differing for each scenario.

Now with Combat Commander: Pacific, three new factions hit the beach: The Imperial Forces of Japan, the United States Marine Corp forces of the Pacific Theater, and the Pacific Commonwealth troops of India, Australia and New Zealand. The standalone rules and pieces include elements like Banzai attacks, BARs and Thompson SMGs, Beach Landings, Caves, Scouts, and last ditch Bayonets charges.

Finally, the box includes 12 prebalanced scenarios, and all the rules and pieces you'll need to generate random scenarios under official guidelines.

The official Combat Commander: Pacific Website at GMT Games have posted the Official Combat Commander: Pacific Rulebook [pdf] if you'd like to check out the nitty gritty details. Here are the official game contents.

Combat Commander: Pacific includes:
  • Six back-printed 17˝ x 22˝ game maps (twelve maps total)
  • 352 large (⅝˝) die-cut counters
  • 280 small (½˝) die-cut counters
  • 220 cards
  • One 32-page Rulebook
  • One 32-page Playbook
  • One Track Display
  • Three 2-sided 8.5" x 11" nationality cards
  • Two single-sided 8.5" x 11" player aid cards

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January 9, 2009

Empire Total War Previews Produce Involuntary Drool

You may be thinking that 'Hey -Empire Total War is no board game.' You're right, and here's your cookie. But here's the thing - while some board games have computer adaptations where everything is a 1:1 translation from dice tossing, to moving pieces, etc, the Total War franchise is a board game evolution. It takes the heart of turn based strategy and flexes the muscles of your PC to breathe life into the game.

We've loved all of the Total War games so far, starting with the now antiquated Japanese Shogun Total War, and then on through history from Rome Total War to the Medieval Period, Now Empire Total War enters the age of muskets and sail, simulating the rule of the great Imperial Powers as they vie for control of Europe, the New World, and India.

Players will build national infrastructure to boost their economy through the production and trade of goods, build forts to protect their resources, increase the quality of living in cities, and most importantly build a military machine. Troops are placed under the control of Generals, who have their own Perks and Quirks be them amazing leaders, masters at night ambushes, or belligerent drunks that sap morale of your units in a fight.

Once enemy forces meet on the turn-based grand strategy map, the camera zooms in to the battlefield, where the units of your army match muskets and cannon fire with your opponent's in real time. You have full control of unit formations here, almost pushing them around like a grand block game. Direct musket volleys, play a game of chess in your tactical positioning of grenadiers (once you discover how to make them), and flank the enemy with a cavalry charge to push them off the map. Or you could chose to remain hands off and let the AI pull the strings if you fear that your dexterity will get in the way.

And for the first time the Total War franchise adds two exciting things: Naval Battles, and a Multiplayer Grand Campaign. Ho baby.

If any of this gets your blood pumping then check out the following official preview movies:

1: Naval Battles
2: Land Battles
3: The Grand Campaign
4: Road to Independence American Revolution Campaign

Empire Total War is slated to ship in March 2009 for the PC (ie: Windows). We'll keep you posted of any new juicy tidbits as we get closer to release.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

January 7, 2009

Steam: Reinvisioned Age of Steam comes March 2009

SteamBoxCover.jpgMartin Wallace - the original designer behind the railroad empire titles Age of Steam (2002) and the board game adaptation of the Railroad Tycoon (2005) - has been hard at work on a two year renovation of the Age of Steam franchise. Simply named Steam [Funagain], the title will include revamped rules, new pieces, and components compatible to the slew of original Age of Steam expansions.

The game will also ship with two different rule sets. The 'basic' rules are designed for groups looking for a quick (45-60min) railroad builder, while the 'Standard' rules are for more advanced sessions, and include auctions, tighter money management, and infrastructure costs.

More details about the rework can be found in an Alex Yeager (Mayfair Games) Steam Production Diary on BGG where he discusses some design decisions they made in the redevelopment, and answers questions and concerns of Age of Steam fans.

Here are the details from Funagain Games:

"Take charge of a railway company. Build track and deliver goods to make your railway the best.
Includes maps of New York and Germany's Ruhr Valley. The game's components are compatible with previous editions
  • Players: 3 - 6
  • Time: 90 - 120 minutes
  • Ages: 10 and up

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January 1, 2009

Critical Gamers' December 2008 Gaming Roundup

RoundUp.jpgHappy New Year!

Ok, now exhale. It's ok -- the slew of holiday parties is over, so relax and let the drumstick hangover set in. Don't fight it! There you go. Nope, that wasn't a kick and you're not pregnant, that's just grandma's pecan pie repeating on you. Ok, inhale again.. but slowly.

Thankfully there were tons of games that released in December to ease the burden of these next few digestive winter months. Battlestar Galactica hit table tops in Decmeber, just a month before the final season airs, the cult hit Talisman received a substantial facelift, and with the release of Chicago Express we finally saw the emergence of Eurogame that's once again worth your time. Plus, the WWII tactical slugest "Tide of Iron" expanded once again, and that's always a good thing.

Looking forward to January, we'll be keeping our eye out for more details on the upcoming Age of Conan board game, and keep an eye peeled on what's next for World of Warcraft Minis, have a review of that franchise as well, and start looking toward the significant Empire Total War PC release.

Stay frosty till then.

Board Games

Card Games

Cheap Deals & Sales

Collectable Card Games

Gaming Culture

Gaming News

Party Games


World of Warcraft TCG

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

December 27, 2008

Board Game Sale 70% off at Amazon - Settlers of Catan

Settlers of Catan Box Shot - 4th EditionIf you're one of those wise learned folks waiting until after the Holidays to pounce on a good deal, or in case you need a last minute game for New Years Eve, then you're in luck.

Amazon is running a Up To 70% Off Sale on Select Board Games through the end of the year. There are a few choice selections in the mix including the high caliber 4th Edition of Settlers of Catan at over 50% off - which remains one of the best gateway games of all time - and the TV centric DVD Trivia Game Scene It? Movie Edition 2 would be slick little ninja pickup for your New Years Eve Party at 50% off.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

December 26, 2008

Chicago Express

ChicagoExpress.jpgWe've been covering some of the larger board game releases from Fantasy Flight Games in the modern Ameircan style, well here's one from the Eurogame arm of modern gaming. Chicago Express [Funagain] takes stock holding and profit elements from Imperial and mashes them with a Railroad Tycoon theme, and then deep fries them with the social elements of Diplomacy to make a very engaging rail road builder that's simple to learn, fast to play, and becomes deeper upon iterative plays. Plus it's great with sprinkled sugar.

Players fulfill the role of investors during the early years of the American rail expansion. The setting pits multiple companies as they race to connect the East Coast of the United States to the then effectively 'western American capital' city of Chicago. Each company's rail line have various traits - some have a straight path to Chicago but incur higher risks and may be cut off by other competing rail lines, while other companies have to construct a longer route but are a safer bet to see their way through to Chicago if given enough time.

Players don't control just one company, but buy shares in various companies. Then, each player takes a turn that acts in the name of a specific company. So if a player has invested money into the blue rail line, then they may want to spend their turn furthering their interest with the blue company, for instance.

But putting all your eggs in one basket is a sure fire way to dig yoruself into a whole. Other players could swoop in and buy shares of the blue conpany just before it reaches chicgo, or perhaps control another company's route to cut-off and force the blue line to take a much longer and costly path.

In this way it's a great idea to diversify and then react as the play ensues. And because you're both cooperating with common stock holders given your investments in a set of companies, but are also in direct competition to win the game against the other players, meta games containing numerous layers of Subterfuge a misdirection also develop. This keeps the replayability very high.

While Chicago Express may not be as approachable as Settlers of Catan, or Ticket to Ride, or Carcassonne, it definitely is on our shortlist as one of our favorite Eurogames to come along quite a while. The short playtime (under and hour), the scalability of the title up to 6 players, and the replayability make Chicago Express a great title to add to your game stack.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

December 21, 2008

Tide of Iron Normandy Campaign Expansion


Oh boy oh boy, our favorite WWII gaming franchise just expanded again and our Hoilday Wishlist just got a bit longer. Tide of Iron is one of those board games where epic battles ensue over the tabletop. The bases that ship with the game allow for configurable squads, the decks include for custom abilities to be used in the ensuing firefight, and the rules balance the German versus American tank and infantry forces nigh perfectly. Epic, close battles are the norm, and fights usually go down to a few clutch moments or ingenious decisions.

Now enter The Tide of Iron Normandy Campaign Expansion [Amazon, Funagain], the second expansion in the Tide of Iron franchise ( last year's Days of the Fox brought the fight to the northern stretches of North Africa). This time FFG is doing something different with their expansion design philospohy. Instead of adding a separate tile set to the mix, Normandy has been designed to bring even more depth to the original tileset of Western Europe. The game ships with more board titles, more terrain pieces ,a nd more scenarios appropriate to that setting.

The expansion also includes numerous new mechanics which produce some added depth to an already engrossing tactical wargame game. Portions of the map will now alter state throughout the fight of the game: artillery will leave craters which can be used as cover for a surge of infantry, tanks can plow through hedgerows to open a new approach for infantry, and buildings can be destroyed, killing the occupants inside while producing rubble for cover in the explosive aftermath.

Fantasy Flight has also added optional gaming elements to use in the new scenarios contained within the Normandy Expansion, or use to outfit the older scenarios. A weather deck can be activated through random mechanics to create certain restrictions on movement and attack types (and will include hot weather cards to fit inside the framework of the Days of the Fox expansion, too.) Also new commander and leadership decks can be added to the game to tie historical figures and their strategtic and logistic perks to the forces of each side. So not only will you be deciding upon the composition of your army at the squad level, but you and your enemy will be able to customize your respective forces from the top down as well, if you chose to do so.

The added depth and the flexibility of having the ability to mix and max most of these elements is great stuff. This franchise only seems to get better with age.

Here are the official details for Tide of Iron Normandy:

"By the summer of 1944, almost every nation in Europe had fallen under Nazi occupation. To stop Hitler's invading forces and to free those countries under his control, Allied forces drew up plans for an assault, code-named Operation Overlord. In the early morning of June 6th, American soldiers landed in two separate areas of the 60-mile coastline of Normandy, France. The D-Day invasion had begun!

Featuring new tanks, troops, and terrain, the Normandy expansion builds upon and enriches the Tide of Iron base game by allowing players to recreate Allied beach landings against fortified German defenses."

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

December 16, 2008

Are You Sure Your Dice Are Random?

Part 1
Part 2

Who knew that our dice have been so inadequate after all these years? We sure as heck didn't. Not until we came across this video on youtube a couple of weeks ago, anyway.

Turns out that no only have our dice been made of crappy material, rock tumbled into near obliteration, and sloppily pushed through quality control, but they aren't even random. Bastages!

If you've already clicked the movie then you'll notice that the GameScience owner knows way more about dice than we've ever though was humanly possible. He's in love with his job, and speaks with conviction, but we couldn't just take his word for it before posting up the flick. We wanted to test the goods ourselves.

So we picked up a GameScience Dice Set on Amazon.

Wow. You can totally tell that these things are the real deal. They stop on a dime, feel sweet, are perfectly random, and look gorgeous We've never even thought much about dice before, and now we're fanatical about these things.

We took them for test drive in our Wow Minis session the other night, and we cringed when we had to dip into the dice that came with the game's base set. They're such crappy crap in comparison to the Game Science ones. People were pawing for the GameScience dice hand over fist, and refused the older dice whenever possible. Get those things away. Unclean!

If you're only into Eurogames and playing Six Sided Dice Games then the GameSicence Dice probably aren't worth your time. But if you're into to RPGs or Mini Games like we are, then GameScience dice have absolutely no equal, and are simply the best upgrade around.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

December 14, 2008

Talisman Revised 4th Edition is Out!


Many of us remember saturday afternoons of childhood hunkered around an epic game of Talisman. It was one of those games that grabbed you by the noggin and smacked your head against the table.. in a good sort of way. Well this week Fantasy Flight Games has sipped a new Talisman Revised 4th Edition [Amazon, Funagain], and if ever you've been interested in this franchise, then this edition of the title is very much worth your while.

A Fantasy Flight revision usually means high quality stock, high quality pieces, new rules, and ongoing support in an online community. But aside from the granted staples, this Revised Edition sports new decisions on how to improve upon Talisman's mechanics to take the franchise to the next level.

For one, the designers wanted to keep the player count high (2-6) but decrease the time ti takes to play (under 2 hours). Considering we rarely have entire afternoons to lose ourselves in a marathon sessions of old school Talisman, this seems like a good thing to us.

They've also introduced new rules that help characters from dying so bloody often; the premier example being the new Fate mechanic. Each character has a pool of fate, each token giving them the ability to reroll one die result when it's needed most dire. But fate is rare, and once it's used the character will have to venture out of their way to get more, like spending a turn at a temple to pray for Fate instead of life, for instance.

Additionally there was a careful look at the major features surrounding the character factions, and they were rebalanced to make playing Evil characters a more viable option.
In a similar fashion, the game's locations have gotten a mechanical face lift to ensure there's always something to do for your character, no matter how remote the location he finds himself in the world.

ArrowContinue reading: "Talisman Revised 4th Edition is Out!"

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