June 6, 2007

Ran: The Board Game

Akira Kurosawa's RAN All you film buffs out there just perked up your ears, didn't you? Ever since our group experimented in college, with niche movies that is, we've noted that Ran was a classic. It had it all for a feudal war film: large of armies of spearmen, swordsmen, and early gunpowder units all sporting colorful distinguishing flags (probably made with toxic Red Dye #5), and also those Daimyo in slick armor shouting, gesturing with swords, and leading armies in into battles of massive sieges of Japanese fortresses - it was enough to blow the mind of we few curious college students just introducing themselves to the history of Feudal Japan.

To those of you who have no idea what we're talking about: check out this clip from the movie that we've entitled "Good Morning!". As soon as it sparks your curiosity then do yourself a favor and don't ruin the rest of the movie by watching the whole clip. Instead - shut it off and briskly walk - for the sake of a horrible pun - and rent Ran from you local video store. If the store has any class, then they'll have it in stock somewhere in the back. If their copy is in VHS then uh, rent it from somewhere else that has the DVD version. While audiophiles could claim that analog vinyl records have a "warmer sound" than CD pressings, only the legally blind videophiles argue the same of the visual qualities of old VHS tapes.

And when the lights close on the final scene and you find yourself craving more, then checkout this new war game release of Ran [Funagain] from GMT games to see if it fits your fancy. We have to be honest here, we don't know much about the game other than the product literature from the official website. We don't have a copy of the game in-house yet, nor have we played any of the other games from GMT's historic war game series, so we can only arm you with enough knowledge to to make your own call on whether or not this Feudal Japan game release of hexes and chits is worth your gaming time. But hey, at least your saw a Kurosawa Classic in the process.

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June 4, 2007

Tide of Iron Tactical WWII Board Game System Ships


Oh yes, very very nice. After a few delays Fantasy Fight Games has finally shipped the Big Box strategy WWII wargame system Tide of Iron [Amazon, Funagain]! It's a little late for Memorial Day, but just in time for D-Day, which - we suppose - is more fitting anyway.

Our copy arrived direct from Fantasy Flight over the weekend, but we've only just had enough time to oggle the pieces so far. But we're WWII nuts here, so we already have some serious designs on how to put this title through its paces. Until then, this user review remains our favorite overview of the game. Those of you looking for some more official notes should also checkout Tom Vasel's Review over at the The Dice Tower, who wears his gaming heart on his sleeve and does a beautiful job as he breaks down the game bit by bit.

Here's the official sitrep:

"Word War II was the greatest mobilization of fighting men and machines that the world has ever seen; tanks and soldiers combined into a veritable tide of iron that changed the world. Now the largest and deadliest conflict in history comes to your tabletop in Fantasy Flight's game of World War II squad-level tactics!

Tide of Iron feature hundreds of detailed plastic figures, including soldiers, tanks, and other combat vehicles. The game rules focus on realistically simulating squad-level combat, but are streamlined enough to appeal to casual board gamers. Tide of Iron features a modular game board on which up to 6 players (divided into 2 teams) can test their tactical prowess in dozens of scenarios.

Tide of Iron joins the ranks of Fantasy Flight's runaway hits Twilight Imperium, Descent, and World of Warcraft in the epic sized box. With a box two feet wide and over ten pounds you know its full of World War II action!"

The Tide of Iron system is now shipping from Amazon and Funagain Games, or can be ordered directly from Fantasy Flight Games.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

June 1, 2007

May '07 Roundup

Roundup2.jpgWow, anyone else notice the mad congo line of releases during this post Memorial Day Week? And with there being only four days, we didn't even get a chance to report that two more titles - Notre Dame and Age of Discovery - have both been released.

We also hear that Tide of Iron should be washing up on our doorsteps sometime in the next few days! And the WoW TCG Molten Core Raid Deck just arrived. Oh boy, what a sweet week for gaming.

So hopefully we'll have some good reviews for you in June, including a review of the WoW TCG expansion Through the Dark Portal, and the intergalactic space opera game of diplomacy and warfare in the upcoming Galactic Destiny board game from Golden Laurel.

And at some point in June we plan to sleep, too.

Game Releases

Board Games

Collectible Card Games

Gaming Culture

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May 30, 2007

Colosseum Released

Colosseum from Days of WonderHot on the heels of yesterday’s release of Age of Empires III comes another family friendly (probably more so) strategy game lifted out of history. Days of Wonder has officially released Colosseum [Amazon, Funagain], and it’s now available in stores.

In Colosseum players compete against one another to construct and upgrade Roman Arenas in an attempt to host the largest and most successful show. What sort of show depends on a public draft each turn where players walk bid on gladiators, animals to eat them, and actors – each of varying skill. Each turn players are awarded for attracting attendees to their Colosseum, then by parlaying their returns to grow their stadium. The game ends on the fifth turn where players try to put on the best show that their money can buy. Following the closing ceremonies the game’s winner is crowned.

You read-up on Colosseum by reading our previous preview articles (below). Our Colosseum Reviews page also has a collection of 3rd party reviews that we think serve to paint a good overall picture of the title.

Our Colosseum Previews Articles:

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May 29, 2007

Age of Empires III Released

Age Of Empires III: Age of DiscoveryWhen Eagle Games closed its doors last year there were concerns that this aesthetically gorgeous game wouldn't ever see the light of day (back then we didn’t know anything about the rules, so AoE3 was pure eye candy at that point). But then Tropical Games picked up the slack, and here we are, nearly a year later, staring at the release version of Age of Empires 3: The Age of Discovery [Amazon,Funagain]

The game centers around the colonization of the Americas, where players build colonial infrastructure and send specialists into new terrain to claim land and resources in their country’s name. The buildings help supply the players with new explorers, workers, etc, with players scoring points based on the territorial control of their colonists at three different points in the game. The game doesn’t simulate any wars that eventually erupted out of historic conflicts of interest, but that doesn’t mean that players can’t angrily their shake fists at one other, or smack opponents across the face with a prized New England Cod (cod not included).

If you’re looking to do some more research about the game before you buy, then checkout this good user review at BGG which is at last somewhat critical of the game. Maybe not critical enough, but hey – the game scored very well in numerous play tests so maybe a ton of critiques aren’t necessary.

Continue on for a nice shot of the gorgeous board (click-it to expand), and the official company information about the title:

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May 22, 2007

"Warrior Knights: Crown and Glory" Released

Warrior Knights: Crown And GloryThe first expansion to the 2006 revised edition of Warrior Knights from Fantasy Flight Games has shipped. Entitled “Crown and Glory [Funagain] the expansion is somewhat modular in that it contains three ways to change the play of the game. The major beef of the expansion extends many of the existing mechanics, but the box ships with new optional twists to the end-game which can be mixed and matched with each other as players see fit. We’re especially interested in the optional hidden-goal gameplay elements which drive players to indirectly compete to fulfill secret victory conditions.

For more information about the expansion please check out story from last week: “Warrior Knights: Crown and Glory Rules Posted”, which should fill you in on all the nity gritty details. Here’s the official line:

The Original Warrior Knights

In the war-torn land of Warrior Knights, the conflict is far from over. The new Crown and Glory expansion provides contenders to the throne with a multitude of new options, additions, and variants. In the Crown and Glory expansion, a player can actually become King and attempt to prove that he has what it takes to retain the crown! The Crown of Glory expansion also includes Mission cards, which provide players with new paths to victory.
The Crown and Glory expansion features over 200 new cards including:
  • New actions that provide mobility and versatility
  • Garrisons that help defend your cities
  • Town levies that support your armies
  • New specialized mercenaries
  • A larger Fate deck allowing for bigger battles and new combat and Fate results
  • New rules for mercenary Nobles, a new resource, and much more
The Crown and Glory expansion provides Barons with indispensable new resources and options for consolidating their hold over the realm of Warrior Knights.

The Warrior Knights Crown and Glory Expanson is now shipping from Funagain Games.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

May 21, 2007

Colosseum Reviews

Colosseum from Days of WonderThe foundation that has been laid for the of the upcoming release of Colosseum [Amazon, Funagain] from Days of Wonder is a bit shaky. When the game was first announced back in January there was quite a bit of praise going on for the game’s components, gameplay, and generally the potential of this family oriented game. Plus, the game’s announcement was riding alongside the news that one of office’s favorite water cooler shows, Rome on HBO, was canceled. We suddenly found a gap on our ancient Roman interest, and Colosseum seemingly arrived just in time with swinging gladiators, artist performances, regal nobles, and dynamic amphitheater fun. There’s nothing quite like a extended bleacher section of bloodthirsty fans cheering on a gladiatorial battle of ravenous lions chewin' on men with sharp swords.

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May 17, 2007

A Fantastic "Tide of Iron" User Review on BGG


Tide of Iron [Funagain] - the WWII big box war game from Fantasy Flight Games - is slated for release any time now. In fact, a lucky consumer from down under got his hands on a copy yesterday and put the game's first scenario through it's paces with a few friends.

The resulting review is fantastic - it reads like WWII battle screenplay. Suppressing fire, motor teams, machine gun nests, elite troops and a rumblin' infantry killin' Panzer IV beast of tank blowing the crap out of battlefield already filled with craters, chaos and mayhem. After reading this article the World War II buffs at the Critical Gamers offices are walking around with a grin larger than the Magniot Line. We can't wait to get our hands on it and put it through our own crucible of criticism.

But everything about Tide of Iron isn't a glossy finish that smells like purty roses. It seems that the potential strength in the game's dynamic components - a built in mechanic that allows players to create their own infantry squads by sliding individual units into bases of four - might have bitten off more than it could chew. The pieces themselves seem too fragile to repeatedly snap into the base, and them pull them out again, so there are some definite concerns about the longevity of the game. This seems especially relative and disconcerting given that Tide of Iron is supposed to ship with an online scenario editor. New user content doesn't add to re playability if all your troops are all missing their legs.

Still, we can help but feel very enthusiastic about this one. We'll keep you posted on when the game official ships in the states. Should be any day now.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

May 15, 2007

Warrior Knights: Crown and Glory Rules Posted

Warrior Knights: Crown And Glory
Fantasy Flight Games has published the rules to the upcoming Crown and Glory [Funagain] release, which will expand the revised edition of Warrior Knights released last year. The rules are in PDF form (what else?) and are available to download from the FFG website here [pdf].

The boxed expansion includes three different ways to alter the game, each is optional and can be mixed and matched with other two. The main expansion is called the "For the Glory" variant. It includes new Agenda cards, Event cards, Action Cards, well, new cards to supplement pretty much all of the existing decks in the game. Also included is a new technological Advancement deck with cards that provide your faction bonuses to movement, combat, etc. The Fate deck is also completely replaced, and is expanded to 48 cards which should do a nice job at mixing up the game’s battles.

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May 14, 2007

"BattleLore: Call to Arms" Expansion Released

BattleLoreCallToArms.jpgPublisher Days of Wonder has pushed out the first of what will be many expansions to their fantasy wargame system BattleLore. In this substantial release, Call to Arms [Amazon,Funagain] attempts to redefine the way players deploy their armies on the board through a formation-card drafting system. The system is optional of course, but the goal is to increase replayability as players can deploy a random, unique, and balanced army in very little setup time. Does it work? Reviewer Tom Vasel thinks so - he has given the expansion 5 stars out of a potential 5. That's full marks for those folks who just found they're bad at ratios.

The expansion also includes new terrain tiles, new units, and a set of new scenarios, too. For more information about Call to Arms, check-out our BattleLore coverage from last week. It's got all the good stuff. You can also check the official rules published here [pdf].

Those of you waiting for more BattleLore goodness should be well-satiated. Plus, even more mini expansions are coming down the pipe even as we speak. Good times.

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