September 10, 2007

Tannhäuser Launch Links

Tannhauser: Yes PleaseFinally, the English translation of the French tactical wargame Tannhäuser [Amazon, Funagain] has been released by Fantasy Flight Games, and we're pretty darn excited.

The game takes place in an alternate history of W.W.I. in 1949. Yes World War I is still raging strong even after decades of costly and bloody battles, and deep inside Central Europe the forces of the Reich stumble upon an ancient Relic. As it churns out this glowing shard-thing is the key to opening the door to Hell and all the evil powers within. Bummer. Why isn't there ever a key to Heaven?

Tannhauser sounds right up our alley. Let's see: the game takes place during the 1940's as the Germans and Allies fight over war torn Europe: Check. The game has heroes with special skills like demolitions and heavy weapons, all of which you can customize: Check & Check. It scales from 2 to 10 players for all sorts of game night turn-outs: Check. Oh, and there's a gate to hell, and experimental weapons tied to the alternate reality history of World War One and the demony unknown: yeah, that's a big old check and a half.

But this isn't the end-all game of the century; there have been some critiques of the game floating around prior to release. Though the game offers some depth in character design, the combat gameplay itself is pretty light and simplified for a tactical war game. Also, some people feel as though the components are bit too dark to read, and that the game is weighted in the German Sides' favor. In all though, the game seems to be "fun" given these considerations and quirks.

Check it out for yourself. Here are some links to fill you in on all things Tannhauser for the game's launch:

  • Tannhäuser Preview Trailer [link]: A great 4 minute preview movie produced by Fantasy Flight Games. Covers the setting of the game and some of the title's gameplay elements, including the new "Pathfinding" system that allows for line of sight calculations at a glance.

  • The Rulebook [link]: What better way to get to know the game than to download a pdf version of the game's rulebook from the official website?

  • A Biting User Review [link]:
    We're not going to lie to you: the game has received mixed feedback. Here's a review that's critical of the game's components and the Pathfinding System. It also calls the rulebook "confusing" - a big pet peeve of our own - and the combat game mechanics a bit simplified.

  • A Praising User Review [link]:
    A review posted on BoardGameGeek which breaks down the game's elements including the gameplay, the Pathfinder system, the gaming modes, and the title's components.

So judge for yourself, and we'll attempt to get a review copy of the game so we can offer our own opinions as well. We'll also keep you posted about the other upcoming Tannhauser products including a new Russian setting and some new expansion characters scheduled for release in December.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

September 4, 2007

August '07 Roundup: Starcraft, D&D; 4th ED, and Fires of Outland

Roundup2.jpgSome big news went down this month. Things kicked off strong when the next installment in the A&A; franchise - Axis and Allies Guadalcanal - began to take shape. Next, Margaret Weiss Productions awoke from their slumber an kicked off the covers for their upcoming retail release of the Battlestar Galactica RPG, and it's looking like it could be a solid title later this month. Then Fantasy Flight Games released a treatment on the upcoming Starcraft board game, which followed shortly after with fantastic news that the Fourth Edition of D&D; will be released in Spring 2008. Holey Moley, talk about a tasty stew of news for some huge upcoming games!

This month also saw some great releases, the biggest two were Age of Empires III - which has some great community praise who are already whispering of a new classic - and the third edition to the WoW TCG: Fires of Outland. The Condottiere 3rd Edition card game of waring city states was also released, and we cannot stress enough that this little game truly shines for groups of 3-5 players.

Here’s the rest of the gaming news from August, from head to toe:

Board Games and Party Games

Collectible Card Games


Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

August 30, 2007

Our Top 5 Games for Labor Day Weekend '07

Narragansett Beach, Rhode Island

We’re about all packed and ready to head out to the beach house for Labor Day weekend, including our bag o’ games in tow. Yes life is tough. And hopefully you, too, will be take a nice relaxing weekend break.

Here is our selection of party games from gaming stack this year. Its a lighter set keeping in mind a we're trying to reminisce the lazy days of Summer with friends who aren't quite a group of heavy gamers:

  • Apples to Apples

    Can’t go wrong with this party game classic. Everyone and their mom like’s Apples to Apples after chilling on the beach – it’s light, funny, social, and easy to get into. This all adds up to an easy first selection from the the middle of the game stack.

  • Condottiere
    Before the boys withdraw to the withdrawing room for their late night poker tournament, this card game should be a great warm up for everyone. It lacks the chip gambling mechanics which makes it "nice" for those without the gambling fever, but there’s enough gameplay decisions and risks to make it attractive even for veteran poker fans. It walks that thin line so well.

  • Ticket to Ride Marklin
    When we're actually craving a game with a board, Ticket to Ride really delivers. This one supplants the classic Settlers of Catan, which has been played almost to detail. Marklin also remains our favorite of the Ticket to Ride series, even though the stock Ticket to Ride has been brought up to date with similar mechanics via the 1910 Expansion.

  • Celebrity
    We're not actually packing our favorite party game, 'cause there's nothing to pack! Celebrity is the perfect ice breaker for our friends who've just gathered again for the first time in a year. Funny, inventive, laid back; contains the greatest of things to get the weekend started.

Have a good weekend folks. See you on the other side when we enter the Fall season of games, and football season! Woot!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

August 27, 2007

Dune Board Game Remake - Pretty Please?

Just about everyone Critical Gamer has read Dune – sometimes more than once - and all of us have marked it down as one of the top ten sci fi novels period. Hands down. Pencils down. Baron Vladimir Harkonnen is down. If you like science fiction and you haven’t picked it up, then do so now.

For those who are already fans of Dune, you will want to perk your ears up. Last week at GenCon publisher Fantasy Flight Games noted that they were working on a remake of the classic board game Dune. The original Dune is also heralded as one of the better games from gaming history, and closely tied to the setting from Frank Herbert’s masterpiece novel. As a testament to its greatness and longevity, the game - originally published in 1979 - still holds rank #44 on Board Game Geek, and can be found passing through gaming hands via Ebay for upwards of $150-$200.

There is one problem, however. The rights to the Dune board game are locked-up by franchise owner Kim Herbert. And currently she’s not offering it up for sale, to anyone. Not even Kyle MacLachlan.

Due to this passive stonewalling, Fantasy Flight Games has decided to circumvent the Dune tie-ins. Instead they’re going to take the Dune gameplay and vaccum seal their Twilight Imperium universe around it. Hrm, we love T.I. and all, but this just isn’t going to cut it. We want the spice fields of Dune, and we want them now.

If you’re with us - then there is a glimmer of hope. An online petition has been formed in hopes that Fantasy Flight Games and Kim Herbert might at least talk about the idea of a Dune board game remake. After all, as of now, it seems like they haven’t even spoken to each other.

And that’s a pretty darn big shame.

Via BoardGameNews

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

August 17, 2007

Condottiere 3rd Edition War Cardgame Released

Condottiere [Amazon, Funagain] is a title that successfully strips the randomness off the boring classic War card game - adding gobs of flavor, strategy, card gaming elements, and a meta-map of the warring city states of Renaissance Italy. It other words: it makes War fun.

And though we know this sounds stupid, we're going to say it anyway: we seriously love meta maps. Like a kid drooling over an oversized lollipop, we stare at meta maps with widened eyes. All that territory to conquer and dynamically provide narrative to battles. It’s great, great stuff.

There are some card game elements that keep you on your toes, too, such as cards that suddenly weaken certain types of forces with adverse weather affects, or morale boosters which double the strength of other card types. With these tools you can show weak for numerous rounds, only to show strong at the end of the battle. Choosing when to play these cards in a round, and mastering the art of coaxing your opponent into over extending themselves in one battle, only to kick their butt in another, is all part of the game. This game is indeed, pretty deep.

ArrowContinue reading: "Condottiere 3rd Edition War Cardgame Released"

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

August 13, 2007

Starcraft The Board Game Official Details Released

Starcraft The Board Game

Fantasy Flight Games has launched the official Starcraft The Board Game website for its upcoming adpation of the world renouned Blizzard Real Time Strategy Game of the same name. The website includes a great overall preview article about the game, and also a link to a PDF file of the official rules [link].

Starcraft looks be another mammoth release from Fantasy Flight Games, with gobs of pieces, a dynamic game board, and some complex / deep rules. There’s plenty to game here.

Players take on the roll of either Human space marines, the brooding alien scourge of the Zerg, or the zealous alien race of the Protoss, who attempt to "cleanse" with fire anything the Zerg has touched. The game has support for up to six players and should take around three hours to complete a session. Yes, three hours - like we said, mammoth - but what else should we expect from another Fantasy Flight Game's big box release?

Those strategy game folks who are familiar with the other FFG epic board game Twilight Imperium ( and if you’re not then do yourself the favor) will be quite at home with a lot of the core style of play. Starcraft will ship with a modular board where individual star systems – containing resource piles of crystals and gas - are placed on the table in a player-draft system during setup. Each adjacent system is then linked by a nice space lane piece which locks the board into place. Players then expand across the “galaxy” to mine resources and accumulate victory command points as they build bases to cement control of their core systems. The first player to 15 command points wins. Easy Peasy.

And of course the vast array of Starcraft military equipment and tech trees means that conflicts will certainly erupt as players move out in all directions to control these systems for themselves. In a move that might slow the game, but increase gameplay, Fantasy Flight has done away with dice combat for this title. Instead players assign combat cards to each unit to augment its base combat effectiveness. Some combat cards simply modify the unit’s combat strength, while others give the unit in edge in specific matchups – such as increasing the damage the unit does to air units. Knowing where and when to play these cards could definitely add some extra depth and oomph to Fantasy Flight’s normally dice-heavy combat.

This preview article on the official website goes into some more of the juicy details, and includes quite a few other great elements coming down the pipe when Starcraft finally ships to retailers. Currently, we’re looking at a potential 2007 release date, and Starcraft is looking pretty darn impressive thus far.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

August 6, 2007

Age of Empires III: The Board Game

Age of Empires III Cover

The board game adaptation to the Ensemble Studios' Real Time Strategy computer game "Age of Empires III" has been released. In Age of Empires III: The Age of Discovery [Amazon, Funagain] players take on the role of 15th century colonialists laying claim to the resources and lands of the New World. By assigning colonists and a few specialists - including merchants and soldiers - to various colonizing tasks each colonial power vies against one another to open up new territory in the Americas, wresting control of the territories from the native inhabitants.

Once conquered the new territories return goods and riches back the players' home capital city which - in a neat mechanic - can the be built-up and evolved to help their colonial power score more victory points, send more colonists to the new world, and beef up colonial defenses against rival powers (other players).

The game is more about smart moves in the allocation of resources than it is a war game of conquering territory with troops. The battles between players serve an important role in the game, but there are no dice and a quick resolution. Also, most of the fighting against the natives is glossed over. Colonies win new territories with a large mass of colonists (probably carrying the plague) and not with muskets, horsemen and big cannons.

ArrowContinue reading: "Age of Empires III: The Board Game"

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

August 2, 2007

Axis & Allies: Guadalcanal - The Fog Lifts

Axis and Allies GuadalcanalAxis and sends updated news about the next installment in the Axis & Allies line of games: the Japanese vs USA Naval and Marine battles of Guadalcanal. It looks like many things are going to follow the evolution of mechanics from the Battle of the Bulge, including the dice box, supply tokens, and the random hit assignment mechanic (however it appears the later has been changed a bit). The game will also incorporate what looks to be air strips –with some wonder if they’ll be dynamically built - and the allocation of reinforcements at the cost of Victory Points.

Axis and Allies .org has all the info up until now, including a CG rendering of both the prototype board and pieces, and a breakdown of the game’s rules and general thoughts from the knowledgeable A&A; critics in the Axis and forums.

Axis & Allies Guadalcanal is slated to ship in November 2007.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

July 31, 2007

Battlelore Battalion & Skirmishers Specialist Pack Expansions

BattleLore Goblin SkirmishersThe BattleLore Fantasy Wargame System from Days of Wonder has just grown with two new small boxed releases within the Specialist Pack series of expansions.

The Goblin Skirmishers [Amazon, Funagain] pack includes eight new Spear Bearers to upright horses and eight Goblin Slingers for some ranged stone throwing from behind your spear wall. But the heart of the expansion is the Goblin Bandleader conduction three Goblin Drummers who play savage beats to drum their compatriots into a fearless killing frenzy.

BattleLore Dwarven BattalionOn the other side of the fence is the Dwarven Battalion [Amazon, Funagain]. Similar to their goblinoid counterparts, the dwarves are also centered around a spearmen, ranged axe throwers, and musical theme. But instead of emboldening friendly forces with music the Dwarven players strike fear into the hearts of their enemies through haunting bagpipe song.

Both of these Specialist packs come with two new adventures, each. Definitely a nice little way to spice up some of your Battlelore gaming with a new injection of content at a somewhat low price point ($26 MSRP), though it would have been nice – and somewhat reasonable - to get both sets for around that price.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

July 25, 2007

The Fishermen of Catan

Fishing the old fashioned way.The masses of gamers into The Settlers of Catan can now pickup the The Fishermen of Catan [Amazon, Funagain] expansion from game store shelves everywhere. This title was originally released in English as an insert inside Games Quarterly Magazine. And judging from the fact that GQM has gone out of business (rest in peace), we're guessing some of you might have missed their chance to get your hands around one of the lesser known expansions to the original Settlers. Well now's your chance, 'cause Mayfair games is has published and shipping The Fishermen of Catan expansion in its own boxed version!

Fish are generated from new Fishing Ground tiles, which replace a few of the empty sea spaces in the board setup phase. Players can spend their collected fish to toy around with some of the original title's game mechanics. Players can spend fish to bait the robber back into the desert, or spend them to steal a random resource card from a player, or... wait, what?? Buy roads? Weird - fishy roads must stink of the summer days on the island.

And of course the most powerful options require more fish! Here are the official details:

"For generations, the people of Catan have lived in an island paradise, surrounded by the peaceful sea. They have long known of the benefits of the sea: maritime trade has been crucial to their expansion since the beginning. But recently they have discovered that the sea holds other bounty, ready to be gathered and used in the never-ending quest for expansion and trade."

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