May 9, 2007

Rio Grande Games May 2007 Lineup: Notre Dame, Vikings, and Caylus Magna Carta Coming Soon

Notre Dame Will be Released May 2007The Publisher Rio Grande Games recently released their board game shipping plans for the month of May. Included on the list are some games that have tested very well at trade shows earlier this year as well as the English translation of some existing games that have done well in Germany.

Rio Grande Games has a long history of bringing fantastic Eurogames to the American market. We’re talking about classics like Carcassonne, Alhambra, Caylus, and the recently popular Thurn and Taxis. Now that the clock has struck May, we are on the eve of the release of some new - potentially modern classic – releases.

So shall we get down to it?

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May 7, 2007

Vasel Reviews "BattleLore Call To Arms" Expansion

BattleLoreCallToArms.jpgTom Vasel - the game reviewing machine with a heart of gold - got his hands on upcoming BattleLore [Funagain,Amazon] board game expansion set Call to Arms and ran it through its paces. This weekend he posted a great in depth review with details on the game, and his impressions of the new game mechanics and content.

Not to ruin the ending for you, but he freakin’ loved it.

Call to Arms is slated for a landmark release later this month (May 2007) and is the first expansion installment to the historic / fantasy BattleLore war board game that publisher Days of Wonder launched late last year. Included in the expansion are a few new terrain types and some new unit components which work off the game’s existing base. Also included are new Specialist cards that allow players to customize their armies - beefing particular units with better gear, stronger forces, or providing overarching strategy options such as free movement, enhanced reinforcement rules that allow a commander to field troops on the front line instead of marching them up from behind.

Also in this expansion is a new deployment mechanic that allows players to draft cards filled with various unit formations. Each player selects four cards from a series of decks, either completely randomly, or - if they’d rather a bit more control over their forces - players can select four cards randomly from two particular decks of their choice. Each card they pull specifies a group of forces that they can field, and the player selects to deploy their forces on the left flank, center, right flank, or in their reserves.

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May 4, 2007

Catan Xbox Live Impressions

'Catan' on Xbox LiveCatan officially launched on Wednesday. We didn't write a story then because we figured that our previous coverage from earlier this week already kept you on top of the news. Call us self-critical but we didn't want to sound like a loudspeaker bullhorn pumping out the consumer propaganda. At least not until we had a chance to wrap our hands around the game so we could give you our impressions, and let you know if it’s worth the 800 points on Xbox Live (~ $10.00 US).

The Good and the Bad
Catan Live is a great translation of the classic board game. Those who have played the Settlers of Catan enough to know the details of the game backwards and forwards will be very much satisfied with their play experience on Catan Live. However, those players who are unfamiliar with the Settlers of Catan board game might need to a bit of convincing to see where all the excitement is at.

This isn't really because Catan has any obvious shortcomings that shoot up a red flare of FAILURE. However as the first release of a board game on the Live service, this title might have a tough time luring a console gaming audience into the world of Catan – where most of the excitement comes from the outcome of a pair of dice - when many of the Xbox Livites thirst after explosions, chainsaw kills, gibs and car wrecks. Even worse, it's a bit confusing to determine exactly what's going in a game of Catan given the game's UI - the graphical presentation of card trades and gathered resources is done well, but it fades very quickly in order to keep the game moving at a good pace.

We think players new to board gaming like to learn by observation, keeping track of other players behave in certain situations, and that's pretty difficult to do for a beginner of Catan on Xbox Live. We could see how players new to Eurogames - who might be itching for any reason to dismiss the game - could get confused and lose interest almost immediately due the game's hasty presentation.

It took a while even for us to get used to what was going on. For instance, in a face to face game, there’s a part of each Settlers when people call out which resources they gathered after a dice roll. We’ve become used to this being a good thirty second production where excitedly demand their well-earned resource cards, etc. The audible and physical presence of the in-person Settlers makes each turn an event, and thus easy to remember ‘who got what?’ even from a few turns ago. But in the console Catan game, the whole resource awarding phase ends in about 3 seconds, and it takes a few games to realize that you’re not paying enough attention to a very important part of the game that almost seems to be brushed aside for the sake of efficiency.

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April 30, 2007

April '07 Roundup

Roundup2.jpgWow, this was a busy month. A solid set of game releases, and tis the season for the release schedule updates, new game announcements, etc. Fantasy Flight Games dropped their release schedule onto the table last week, but we're also pretty darn excited about the announcement of Axis & Allies Guadalcanal. That series just keeps on kicking.

Meanwhile we've been playing quite a bit of the WoW TCG Through the Dark Portal Expansion. We're a bit iffy on the set as a stand alone thing, but the expansion shines-well as a complement to the original Heroes of Azeroth. We suppose that’s true of all TCG Expansion set releases, but a voice in the back of our collective heads (aka: Intern Ronnie) thought it was worth mentioning. In some ways the Expansion is a must-have if you want to keep your deck lean n' mean -- some of Azeroth's cards have become outdated by the 1:1 mapping of the card in the Dark Portal, which usually has the same amount of power but can be played for less cost. We're not quite sure how we feel about that.

We’ve also been throwing down some more Settlers of Catan: Struggle For Rome as we’ve realized the game definitely has some legs. It’s been a good month overall, but we’re anxiously awaiting some June / July releases including the BS:G RPG and Tide of Iron. They’re so close we can almost taste ‘em.

This month we’ll try to throw down a board of Galactic Destiny from Golden Laurel. Let the backstabbing begin! Also up this month we’ll break up Catan Live! to see how well a virtual board game can play on the Xbox Live service. Inquiring minds want to know. And we’ll continue to plug Through the Dark Portal, expansion to the WoW TCG, to see if we can find any obvious holes in the game’s second set release. It’s going to be a good one.

Game Releases

Board Games

Collectible Card Games

Gaming Culture

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"Catan Live" Wednesday May 2nd, 2007

'Catan' on Xbox LiveThose of you who keep on top of things - like today's date - should immediately realize that Wednesday May 2nd, 2007 is only two days away. And it's about time.

Only two days until the first major board game release hits XBox Live for the XBox 360 console. And with many more Euorgames and American board games on the way, this is only the beginning. Here are the official details as presented by Xbox Live's Major Nelson:

"Catan" for Xbox LIVE Arcade puts players in the role of colonists on a newly discovered island, where they vie for control of valuable territory and resources through strategy and trading. The game can be learned in just minutes, but will challenge players of all skill levels, even the experts!

Klaus Teuber, creator of the original Settlers of Catan board game, had this to say about the collaboration with Big Huge Games: "I had no doubts that Brian Reynolds would do a great job, and the first version of the game exceeded my highest expectations. The AI is so clever that I even lost several games in a row! Hands down, this game for the Xbox LIVE Arcade is an amazing achievement."

"Catan" will be available worldwide for 800 Microsoft Points and is rated E for Everyone."

More information can be found on the Catan Live Official Website. We'lll see you in-game on Wednesday night. Woot!

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April 27, 2007

Fantasy Flight Games 2007: Starcraft, Tide of Iron, Beowulf and WoW Expands

Starcraft BoxWoW being World of Warcraft, of course. Fantasy Flight Games has published their intended release schedule for the rest of 2007. Heading of the charts is a new Reiner Knizia release: Beowulf the Movie Board Game, which should hit stores around the same time as the major motion picture hits Hollywood Blvd in November.

Between now and then Fantasy Flight Games plans to shove a lot more down the release pipe. The World of Warcraft board game will be expanded with The Burning Crusade expansion, which extends the game into Outland, adding the new races of Draenei and Blood Elves, and the option of high speed flying mounts (of course). Those WoW players who find the original World of Warcraft board game to be rather.. large, will be able to sink the teeth into a new World of Warcraft Adventure Game. This time around the digested content should allow players to wrap a game in only an evening without fear of all-afternoon gaming hangovers. Sometimes our brains don't need that much exercise on the weekend.

But those gamers with a whole afternoon to burn will find all-new content in Fantasy Flight's latest Big Box Game centered around Blizzard's other Crafty franchise: Starcraft. Somewhere out in the vastness of space players will compete for control of a tactical battlefield, pushing their armies of Humans, Zerg, and Protoss to conquer resources, build forces and work down through tech trees. The gory details of this title are still a bit sparse, but with a gobs of pieces and a componentized/dynamic board we picture a more zoomed-in and strongly flavored verison of Twilight Imperium. Starcraft is currently scheduled for a late 2007 September release, and hopefully this will hold up; the game didn't quite make its original ship date of: last year, delayed for polish in true Blizzard fashion.

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April 25, 2007

Now Shipping: Arkadia

Hrmmm Where to put the brothel?Rio Grande Games has officially shipped their latest builder board game Arkadia, which is their English/International version of the well-received German board game Die Baumeister von Arkadia (The Master Builder of Arkadia) released in 2006.

Players of Arkadia[Funagain,Amazon] compete to become the most contributing builder of to-be castle city of Arkadia. Tthat pretty much describes every city building game, doesn’t it? Don't fret though, this isn't just another knock off. It's Arkadia scoring system is what separates it from the rest.

Players get colored Wax Seals for completing projects in the town’s construction, with the number of seals awarded dependent on the number of workers a player has placed around a constructed building. The seals can be exchanged for gold, but the amount of gold that a player gets depends on the current state of the construction of the castle. The multi layer foundation of the castle expands after every successful construction, with each piece added to the castle’s foundation has a color corresponding to the colors of the Wax Seals awarded for construction. If a player wants to exchange his/her seals for cold hard cash, then they look straight down on the castle’s foundation, count the visible colors that match their seals, and multiply it by the number of seals they wish to exchange.

Sounds complicated, but it’s really not. If you have 5 red seals, and there are 3 red castle pieces visible while looking down on the multilevel castle foundation, then you get 15 gold. The player with the most gold at the end wins the game. Easy Peasy.

There are other gaming elements to Arkadia, too, including card draws and a worker placement mechanic which reminds us of a less dynamic flavor of Aqua Roma. OK, maybe the familiarity is a stretch even while tightly squinting, but there’s more going on in a game of Arkadia than just cashing in Wax Seals for gold.

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April 24, 2007

Where is BattleLore Heading?

BattleLore:  A Fantasy Combat SystemIt seems that the BattleLore board game system designers at Days of Wonder have recently come under a bit of fire about the game’s seemingly shallow and stagnant setting since its release six months ago, and the lack of PR communication about where the BattleLore system is headed. People have also been stamping their feet, comparing the BattleLore [Funagain,Amazon] system to the very robust and installed Warhammer Franchise which has more than enough content to go around.

The designers have responded with a post “The Long View” on the BattleLore official blog. In it they cite numerous projects they’re working which should flesh out a lot of the core system, with the goal of installing a larger source base before branching the system with some mondo-sized expansions. They also list the releases slated for release this year, which includes: the soon to be released Call To Arms expansion; a print version of Epic BattleLore, which provides rules for players to combine multiple sets of BattleLore to form huge multiplayer battles; and the mid summer release of the Specialist Packs which will introduce new units to the game. The designers also note that the online scenario editor is up and running, which should serve as an outlet for those who want to work their creative side.

Also upcoming are newly announced Hero characters. Currently the details are somewhat lacking, but it seems like the designers will use Heroes as a tool to add a stronger narrative to each of the battles.

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April 22, 2007

Talisman Board Game Bound for XBox Live

Last week the gaming sites Joystiq and IGN both reported that the classic board game Talisman is now part of the long list of upcoming board games for XBox live. This is some pretty big news, not only because the list has quickly grown from a sprinkling of games to hefty list of six board game titles, but because Talisman is easily in a different class of complexity. Most of the other games coming down the pipe fall into the Eurogame genre of titles, which have streamlined mechanics and relatively simple visual presentations. However, a port of Talisman to a set top box doesn't seem as straight forward as others, and it will be interesting to see how well publisher Capcom can bring this game to the console platform.

Something that should help with the complexity is that gamers might be able to save the game on the XBox live servers, and take their turns offline whenever they're ready. Or perhaps we've misunderstood what IGN means by "taking the game offline". If this refers to hotseat play than that's a pretty big letdown. On the bright side: at least the cat won't be able to eat the pieces.

Currently Talisman for Xbox Live is scheduled for a Winter release, which will coincide with the release of the 4th Edition of the board game title. You can read more information on both Joystiq and IGN, and as always we'll keep you posted of any more details as the emerge.

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April 20, 2007

Axis & Allies Guadalcanal Announced

U.S. Marines rest in the field on Guadalcanal, circa August-December 1942Some very cool news comes our way via a scooping post by BoardGameNews. Larry Harris is continuing his legacy of Axis and Allies work with Avalon Hill, with a new battle-level installment to the franchise ( a series that started with D-Day in 2005, and continued with the Battle of the Bulge in 2006). This time around the element of water is added to the mix, as players now have to balance their resources and equipment across the seas of the Solomon Island chain as they slug it out in the battle of Guadalcanal.

The gritty details of the game are still up in air. At this point he most detailed information can be found on the Axis & Allies 2007 release schedule page of the Avalon Hill website.

"A sweeping conflict in the South Pacific where naval might leads to air superiority. Axis and Allies: Guadacanal challenges you to control sea zones and island groups while managing troop and supply transport and directing land, sea, and air forces in one of the decisive campaigns of the Second World War's Pacific Theater.
  • Created by Larry Harris, designer of the Axis and Allies board game.
  • Incorporates crucial elements that were key factors in the historical campaign, such as air strip construction, troop and supply transport, and furious land, sea, and air battles.
  • Introduces the Cruiser unit as well as mechanics for land, sea and air combat in the South Pacific using a randomized casualties system.
  • Provides fans with the historical counterpoint to the World War II experience offered by Axis and Allies: Battle of the Bulge.
  • Available September 2007"

We'll keep you posted as any more news about the title comes our way.

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