June 16, 2008

Ticket to Ride Card Game Review

TicketToRideCardGame.jpgPublisher Days of Wonder has once again brought another solid release to the approachable gateway gaming franchise Ticket to Ride, with Ticket to Ride the Card Game [Amazon, Funagain]. Set within the traditional American rail frontier, this installment takes Ticket to Ride to a few new places while holding onto many good aspects of the successful line of board game predecessors.

But without the colorful & fun train pieces, and the classic scramble to claim routes on the board to lock your opponents out of cities, does the Ticket to Ride card game bring enough strong new experiences to the table to warrant your purchase?

The general answer is... Those of you new to the Ticket to Ride line of games should probably start with one of the board game varieties - we suggest Ticket to Ride Europe.

If you're already a fanatic of the Ticket to Ride line of games, then be forewarned: Ticket to Ride the Card Game leans heavily on the use of your memory. If you don't mind that then there's plenty of gaming to enjoy in this new, clean and fun installment.

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Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

June 13, 2008

Settlers of Catan Resource Analysis

Settlers of Catan Box Shot - 4th EditionA fantastic read for Settlers of Catan strateticians surfaced yesterday in one of the major Board Game Google Groups. An apt player has derived a list of the most important resources to focus your economy on to ensure your settlement has that extra kick to get it rolling and bring your game home. Players looking for a competitive edge over friends should definitely give it a once over.

We thought about trying to derive our own such list once, but we got distracted by a fancy doodle we drew, and then got wicked argumentative about whether Alpine cheese is superior to the few common English varieties. At the end of the day our list ended-up being a torn mustard stained contract of IOU a salami sandwich on french baguette, hold the swiss.

This new list is much better. It not only doesn't smell of vinegar, but it also sorts the resources in numerical importance from top to bottom with very convincing arguments to defend the order.

Those of you looking for a quick-fix should know this: Ore is better.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

June 9, 2008

300 the Board Game A Success?

300.jpgWho would have ever thought that the slick but yet somewhat shallow cinematic adaption of Frank Miller's take on the Battle of Thermopylae could have been made into a successful board game. After being burned by prerelease hype surrounding the closed door sessions of the the abysmal Lost the Board Game, we sure as heck didn't think expect 300 The Board Game [Ebay, Starlit Citadel] to take critical gamers by storm.

But here it is. 300 is a 2-4 player game, pitting the Spartan Army against hordes of Perisan troops, who seem most anxious to throw their life away. In a game of 7 solid turns of streamlined but interesting gameplay (around 20-30 minutes) the Spartan players jockey for position and line up attacks to slaughter troops for the greater Glory. The Persians do their part to push the Spartans back into their homeland, as they try to prevent the Spartan team of players from reaching their goal of 100 glory points.

Combat is quick and streamlined. Where the Spartan army abuts the Persian horde is where battles go down. Total army strengths of mixed units are summed up and then used as a quick look-up on a dice chart printed on the board. Dice are tossed and casualties are notched into belts faster than you can lob a spear at a 8' body waxed Persian demigod. The game runs quick and smooth, but there's plenty of chance for thoughtful tactics; players also have a hand of cards which mixes up gameplay considerably, sprucing the game up enough for multiple sessions in one sitting.

For more information checkout this fantastic 300 the Board Game Review in the BGG forums. Otherwise here are the more general official details for those who haven't the time:

"Will you win honour and prestige at the hot gates of Thermopylae? Or will you crush those arrogant Spartans? Take on the role of the Spartans or the Persian Empire in this board game based on the blockbuster movie 300.

In 300 the board game, you will recreate the famous battle of Thermopylae as shown in the blockbuster film 300. As the Spartans, you'll need to kill as many units of the Persian Empire as possible to gain 100 Glory points. As the Persian Empire, you'll need to either smash the Spartans entirely or delay them long enough for Ephialtes to come through the goat track (6 rounds).

Number of players: 2 - 4
Playing Time: 30 minutes
Ages: 10 and up"

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June 4, 2008

Lawsuit: The Board Game Review

Lawsuit.jpgLawsuit [Official Website, Amazon] is a board game for kids. No really! Designed to entice little kiddos ages 6-9, Lawsuit puts each player in the occupational role of a Lawyer, working their way through their own careers.

We have lots of friends who lawyer away in to the wee hours of the morning, and hands-down we love them all. But we know what you're thinking - 'cause we thought it to: in this day and age of stereotypical 'I'm gonna sue you butt off!' we expected Lawsuit to be a bit upsetting, awkwardly making vengeance and greed "fun!" for such a young age group.

When we cautiously lifted the lid and started playing we made note of only a few moral monkey wrenches. Best of all - there's never a point where one player sues another. Instead, it's a game of collecting legal fees from cartoonish cases, which you can use as moral talking points if you wanted to.

Still - those of you with the same cautious knee-jerk reaction that we had might not find much here; as a children's game Lawsuit doesn't have many original virtues. Most of the game is centered around counting spaces and exercising math skills associated with counting money. These mechanics are stock from just about any children's game for ages 6-9. So if you're uncomfortable with the litigation theme for your youngins then you may want to look elsewhere.

But if you're looking to introduce the occupation of Lawyers ('cause, like, maybe you are one?) to your little ones, then Lawsuit just might be the game for you. No really.

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Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

June 2, 2008

Pillars of the Earth Board Game Expands to 5-6 Players

PillarsOfTheEarthExpansion.jpgIt's been a long time coming. The Pillars of the Earth - a board game adaption to the best-selling historical fiction novel - was one of our favorite titles of last year. Instead of being just washed up adaptation of a novel and just another cathedral builder, it introduced new turn mechanics, interesting resource gathering and construction mechanics, and it's simplly put: a blast to play.

But there was one drawback - it only supported 4 players, and since we usually have 5+ players at our table, The Pillars of the Earth was regrettably pushed to the bottom of our gaming stack. But thankfully, not anymore.

The new The Pillars of the Earth Expansion Set [Amazon, Funagain] ups the player count to a potential 6 while also adding more characters from the Ken Follett masterwork to the workers and event cards. In fact, 30 more cards are added The evil William Hamleigh now makes an appearance, and new mechanics and a hefty board expansion provides hooks for a player to take on the new role of tax collector, or to send architects to France for inspiration in cathedral design, or even help out the king and church by joining the Crusades.

The goal remains the same - be the most influential resource gatherer, builder, artist, or even merchant through out the lifespan of the construction of Kingsbridge Catheral, by whatever means possible. The original title was a blast in the exercise of player adaptability in a turbulent turn structure, and now with even more options on the table, Pillars of the Earth should shine even brighter than ever before.

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Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

May 30, 2008

Board Game Sale - Spring Cleaning at Funagain.com

jackson20-11-20-05a.jpgOne of our favorite board game online super stores is having a spring clearance sale to make room for the new line of 2008 board game. Over 120 items are on sale, or discounted in board game bundles.

Sure some of these titles are forgettable B-Sides, but there's also some mainstream high quality deals to be had. Things like WoW Maghteridon Raid decks, Dreamblade and Magic the Gathering boosters, Axis & Allies titles, and Cranium expansions! Not too shabby!

Here's the official word from Funagain:

It's time to clean out the warehouse! Funagain is having a massive sale, with almost 250 games getting their prices lowered! Act fast because some of these games are extremely limited. If you place a game into your shopping cart and don't see the sale price listed we're sorry, but that item has already sold out at its sale price. Browse the entire sale list by clicking this link.

While you're saving money, don't forget to check out the other great deals we have going on right now:

We still have a few left of our amazing Axis & Allies Pacific and Conquest of the Empire $50 bundle available (regular Funagain price of $83.90)! Just place those 2 games in your cart and use the promo code AAP&CONQUEST.;

You can also get our Italy Package for only $50! This package consists of Siena, Il Principe, and Oltre Mare... together they have a regular Funagain price of $99.85 but can be yours for just $50 if you put all three in your cart by clicking this link.

Finally, check out the rest of our promotions.

Enjoy your shopping and have a good weekend everybody!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

May 23, 2008

Diplomacy Board Game Resources

Diplomacy50thAnniversary.jpgA few weeks ago GamesByEmail released Politics - a clone of the classic board game Diplomacy [Amazon, Funagain] - and we've been plugging away at it ever since. Tears have been shed, fists have slammed tables, and vengeance has been made for past transgressions. Ever turn is a chess match of lies and military maneuvers. We absolutely love this game.

When we first picked-up up Diplomacy on this 49th anniversary of its original release, we were a bit rusty. It had been a few years since we last played Diplomacy via email (and we gotta say we love the easy of use of the GamesByEmail browser based game), so some of us needed a bit of a refresher on the rules before we could start sliding knives into each others kidneys.

We're sure that at some point you and your friends might need some Diplomatic refreshers, too. So here's a collection of links that will help clarify the rules in your backstabbing noggin. We've also included links to other resources and tools that could help you and your friends with your strategic collaboration, and - of course - well timed subterfuge.

Official Information
The Rules of Diplomacy are trade marked, so you can only get them at the source!

  • Official Diplomacy Website [link]
  • Official Diplomacy Rules [pdf]
  • Quick Teaching Guide [pdf]

Game Clients
People have been playing Diplomacy through email for years But if you're ready to ditch the 1970's listserv technology, then checkout these two great ways to play the game on your computer:

  • GamesByEmail [link] Launched just recently, the GamesByEmail clone of Diplomacy called Politics is the one stop Diplomacy playing shop. The game lets players submit orders through a web browser, and also communicate with private chat rooms all built in-to the game. There's even a Auto Judge that you can use as a tool to test out your moves for a turn.
  • Realpolitik [link]: Before Politics hit the scene we had very good results with using the downloadable client Realpolitik. It comes in both Mac and Windows varieties, and it lets players play with their orders to prototype moves. Once set, a player's moves can be exported and emailed to a judge, who can use the client to import orders, resolve a turn, and send an updated Realpolitik file back to the players - then the whole process starts anew. A very easy clean and easy to use client and tool.


  • Diplomacy World's Video Tutorials [link]: [ A perfect refresher to older players, and a good primer for new players, these videos hosted on YouTube make a great first start for detailing the rules. Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4
  • Diplomacy Tutorial & Sample Game [link]: For those of you who who'd rather read that watch, we suggested this very detailed tutorial for those who'd rather read than watch. Sure, reading hard and might take longer, but ,ore is covered than in the other two Tutorials listed here.
  • Ry4an.org's Tutorial Slideshow [link]: Batting cleanup is this nice little tutorial. It's a great refresher and brings-hom all the rule's you've just learned.


  • Our Favorite Map (color) [link]: Clean lines, clear text, this is our absolutely favorite Diplomacy map for planning our grand campaign. Hosted by The Diplomacy Pouch.
  • A Two Toned Map [link] Lacks Province Names but great for printing.
  • Crockford Diplomacy Map [link]: A fantastic map that cleanly shows the neighbors of each territory in a block format. Great for when you're tired of looking at squiggly lines, and trying to figure-out which coastal zones neighbor particular territories.

Diplomacy Sites
We've gone through and pulled links to numerous resources from these sites. We tried to pick the cream of the crop, but if you're left unsatisified then beging your search for more information here!

  • The Diplomatic Pouch [link]
  • Diplomacy World [link]
  • Diplomacy's Wikipedia Page [link]

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

May 15, 2008

Settlers of Catan Game Cards - Melt those Wrinkles Away

SettlersOfCatanCards.jpgEven if you're one of those obsessive washers, hands are oily, greasy, dirty mittens of bacterial jucinesses by nature. Everything they touch tarnishes and melts, including such luxuries as gold, diamonds, silverware, puppy dogs and kittens.. and your games, too.

If the cards in your Settlers of Catan set are sittin' pretty, then move along - there's nothing for you here. But if you look at your Settlers box o' cards and they seem cold, toothless and grey, and you don't want to fully upgrade to the full Settlers of Catan 4th Edition set, then Mayfair might have a compromise right up your alley.

For a fraction of the cost of the full game, you can upgrade / replace your warn or lost set Settlers of Catan cards [Amazon, Funagain] , including both resource and development cards, without the nuisance of writing the manufacturer directly and hoping there's someone with a pulse on the other end.. Plus, you get the full blow 4th Edition quality of materials and artwork to boot. Not bad for under 10 bucks.

Why is this such a big deal? Well when Mayfair brought out the 4th Edition of Catan, many folks might have found the upgrade cost prohibitive. Now you can get half the upgrade for a fraction of the price!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

May 13, 2008

Axis & Allies Guadalcanal - Do You Know What You're Doing?

AxisAndAlliesGuadalCanal.jpgAxis and Allies Guadalcanal [Amazon, Funagain] - the latest installment to the venerable line of WWII strategy board games by Larry Harris of Avalon Hill - has been on store shelves nearly half a year. We're sure you've put the game through the paces yourselves, grabbing islands and securing airbases in the name of the Japanese Empire or the United States Navy and Marines.

We assume you've already read the preview articles detailing all aspects of the game, but do you really have a winning strategy in tact? Are you sure your approaching the conflict with all of the game's mechanics of economy and military force in mind?

Over the last few weeks Avalon Hiil (now owned by Wizards of the Coast) has been posting some interesting Strategy Guides covering all aspects of the war. They're lengthy, in depth, and could go far in helping you beat your 'friend' who thinks he's the second coming of Isoroku Yamamoto. Definitely worth the time of any Axis and Allies fan:

  1. Part 1: Game Mechanics [link]
  2. Part 2: Making the Most of Units [link]
  3. Part 3: Building a Winning Strategy [link]
Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

May 7, 2008

"Cooperation and Engagement: What Can Board Games Teach Us?"

Matt Leacock, creator of the homebrew cooperative board game Pandemic [Amazon, Funagain, Ebay], recently gave a talk describing his experiences and lessons learned from his exploration of game design. It's a must-watch for aspiring game designers; his talk is chalkful of info, and he offers some smart warnings on how to avoid certain design process pitfalls.

Pandemic has players cooperate to cure the world of 4 epidemic diseases plaguing the world. Diseases left untreated spread across the map, and everyone loses if things get too out of control. The title has inspired gobs of users created content, most of which can be found on Pandemic's Board Game Geek page.

Pandemic is currently in short order, but you can pick up some pretty cheap copies on Ebay.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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