April 19, 2007

The Pillars of the Earth Board Game


The Pillars of the Earth board game is a title based on the bestselling novel by author Ken Follett, which explores the life and art of three main characters as they strive to complete a 12th-century cathedral in the fictitious town of Kingsbridge, England. Like the characters of the novel, the players act as master artisans who compete to be the most influential on the cathedral's final construction.

The Pillars of the Earth [Amazon, Funagain] has been released to critical praise by many game reviewers, and after the first quarter of the year it's a strong contender for many people's Game of the Year 2007.

Most gamers have noted that the gameplay and theme borrows heavily from the modern classic board game Caylus. The more hardcore gamers still prefer Caylus for its deeper - and slower - gameplay, but they do admit that The Pillars of the Earth has extracted some of the best elements from it's spiritual predecessor, and that it does indeed lend itself better to both lighter gaming groups and family style play.

Most gamers have noted that the gameplay and theme borrows heavily from the modern classic board game Caylus. The more hardcore gamers still prefer Caylus for its deeper - and slower - gameplay, but they do admit that The Pillars of the Earth has extracted some of the best elements from its spiritual predecessor, and this abstraction lends itself better to both lighter gaming groups and family style play.

Currently the title’s BGG rating rests at a very solid 7.7 after 700+ votes, which is a solid score for such a critical group of players.

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April 17, 2007

The Wargamer Interviews Tide of Iron Designer John Goodenough

TideofIronRules.JPGTake a knee Tide of Iron fans. Wargamer.com has posted a great interview with Tide of Iron [Funagain] designer John Goodenough about the upcoming WWII board game slated for release this May.

The interview’s topics include details of future expansions (first up is a North Africa Campaign), John’s compare & contrast summary of Tide of Iron versus the Days of Wonder hit Memoir ’44, and the evolution of ToI’s Command System.

Not being huge fans of hex-based wargames, or games that give you too much to chew on between turns, we were happy to run across this soothing statement:

”I believe most wargames do not appeal to the average gamer simply because they seem too complicated. Their rules tend to be very long and detailed with special conditions to maintain historical accuracy. With Tide of Iron, we tried to strike a balance between incorporating historic details and streamlining the system so that the game does not get bogged down with the rules. Players will still feel the historic references without being overwhelmed by them.”           ~ John Goodenough, Fantasy Flight Games

Good stuff.

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April 16, 2007

Designer Games from Zontik

Zontik's Rubik's CubeFace it: the gaming world is full of manufactured plastic bits and cheap cardboard spewed from giant factory lines. We understand why it must be, and we’re OK with it. Bbut sometimes we want to wrap your hand around something that smacks of quality. Zontik is a company that aims to fill that niche.

Everything that comes from Zontik is hand-made, and custom crafted based on your designs. Frames are constructed of solid wood, stained, and then wrapped in Dauphin calf leather. Call us suckers, but we're pretty that anything with word "Dauphin" in it means it's 110% classy. Put on your smoking jacket and get ready for some very civilized gaming.

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April 15, 2007

Carcassonne Live Preview on TeamXbox

Carcassonne All Digital-likeSweet digitty. While we've anxiously awaited the release of Catan Live for XBox 360 online service, we've totally forgotten that Carcassonne is also getting an online treatment as well. We would feel more ashamed that we've neglected one of our favorite Eurogames from the list of new board game titles for Xbox Live, but the details of the upcoming Carcassonne Live release have been kept so hush-hush that it simply slipped off our radar.

But now we have some pretty detailed screenshots of the release scheduled for this June. It's colorful, but to be honest: we feel that there's a bit too much eye trickery going on here. The 3D cites make our eyes go all googly like we were just hit on the head from behind with a case of scotch.

Hopefully the game's visuals will be a bit easier to understand once we play it in person. Speaking of playing the game in person, where the heck is our "March" release of Settlers of Catan? Sheesh

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April 11, 2007

"Thurn and Taxis: Power and Glory" Expansion Released

Power and Glory: The first expansion to the smash hit Thurn & TaxisIt’s the 15th century. Your pigs are fat, the crop is just about ripe for the harvest, and Oktoberfest is only a month away. Life is good.

It strikes you sometime between gargling your AM ale and chomping down your lard toast: cousin Martijn should come down for the harvest and join-in on the Barvarian bierfest celebration! But uh, the German postal system doesn’t quite reach across the country, let alone extend all the way up to Holland. How the heck are you going to reach cousin Martijn to tell him to get his skinny butt down to Bavaria, post-haste! Freaking 15th Century red tape. Time to change it!

If you're scratching your head wondering what in the heck we're talking about, then let us fill you in. Thurn and Taxis was released last year to a welcoming audience of players ready to compete in to create the most comprehensive postal delivery network in 15th Century Germany. People who like Ticket to Ride have found Thurn and Taxis to be a great take of the route-connecting genre of games, with more family friendly elements and a particular de-emphasis of direct competition in gameplay.

Thurn and Taxis: Power and Glory [Funagain] expands the original game, replacing the board with a new series of postal routes that stretch into the northern reaches of Germany and into Holland. Also included is a new optional horse mechanic which changes the way some of the longer routes are won.

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April 5, 2007

Games for the Classroom

Damn StraightIt's raining right now. And though the average age of our group rounds out at about 30, we can't help but flashback to 20 years ago to our dreadful indoor recess. It was always a drag to have to spend your one daily break sitting around the same desks you spent the other 7.5 hours of the day sitting around. Melting crayons on the radiator can only provide so much entertainment. Eventually, you run out of crayons.

So if you happen to be a teacher, or a parent who likes to keep your kids occupied with games which teach history, or vocabulary, or mathematics, then you checkout the article posted on BoardGameNews by fellow gamer Giles Pritchard, entitled "Teacher’s Corner: An Overview of Modern Games and How to Use Them in School."

In it you'll find recommendations for every age group of kids from eight plus, through high school. Giles has even been nice-enough to file games into categories sorted by subject matter, too.

The history buffs in our group scowled at the fact that the post doesn't include a list devoted to their favorite subject. We tried to tell them that most kids taking history classes have grown beyond the age where they get outdoor recess, and thus rain doesn't dampen their spirits quite so often. But then they put a bayonet to our necks.

So for those history teachers looking to *ack* fill their bookshelves with some historical gaming then check out *noof..* easy... check out the BGG gaming lists: "History of Western Civilization", "Games in the History Classroom", and "European History: The (semi?) Educational Game(s)".

Okay, we did it - now put that thing away. Didn't your parents give you guys love and attention? Someone needs a hug.. woah, sorry! Backing off. Sheesh.

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April 4, 2007

Now Shipping: "Scene It?: 007 Collector's Edition"

SceneIt007.jpgScene-It, the makers of the best-selling video trivia franchise, has hooked up with Q-Labs to bring you the 007 Collector's Edition [Amazon,Funagain] - a trivia game that plays on any common household TV and DVD Player. Think that you're a bigger bond fan than you're father, well now you can prove it.

And it's all here: from Gemini capsule eating rockets, to laser table death traps, to the casino-based ballistic defense simulation with pain amplifying joysticks. Classic.

And if you ever find yourself in a pinch, loosing the game to your kids (who were born in the Timothy Dalton era), then just activate the disc's self destruct mechanism. Simply whistle three times and say "Roger Moore" with a scotch laden slur, and grab some cover. Smashing, yes.

Here's are the officials:

The Only True Bond

The Company Line: A must for the true Bond aficionado, this Collector's Edition of Scene It? is loaded with new trivia questions, puzzlers, and clips, including images from Casino Royale. This game will even give seasoned Bond fans a run for their money.

  • Collectible Tin
  • 1 DVD
  • Certificate of Authenticity
  • Flextime Game Board
  • Party Play200 Trivia Cards (25% more Trivia Cards)
  • 30 Q Cards
  • 4 Reference Cards
  • 1 Six-Sided Die
  • 1 Eight-Sided Die
  • Set of Game Rules

007 Collector's Edition [Amazon,Funagain] is now shipping from Amazon and Funagain Games.

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April 3, 2007

Condottiere 3rd Edition Website Launches

CondottiereIn our humblest of opinions, the game of Poker requires money to be fun. Without stakes, and the ebb and flow of pots, what element of Poker acts as the glue that lends a story to the night's series of hands? Absolutely nothing, that's what. Plus, in the world of modern family games, you wouldn't want to take a step backwards and play a gambling game with your kids, would you?

There have been a few card games over the years that have tried to create a meaningful setting around the Poker style of play. These games usually remove the morally confusing elements of betting in the process, which makes them family safe. We're talking about Collectible Card GAmes, either. We're talking about cards games that involve the standard circle of friends, gabbing some beers (or soda with the kids), sitting down, and bluffing your way to victory. Havoc: The Hundred Years War immediately comes to mind, as that seems to be the most recent popular title to meld together Poker with modern gaming elements.

But around the same time that Havoc was released, there was a similar title called Condottiere [Funagain], which was a winner of the 1994 Concours International de Créateurs de Jeux de Société (that's French for "good") award, thing. And now publisher Fantasy Flight Games has picked up the rights to print the 3rd edition, and they've just launched their official website showcasing their latest face lift of the game.

The Condottiere series is centered around the warfare of the various city states in Renaissance Italy. The term Condottiere stems from the mercenary army commanders of the time period, employed by the various city states to act as their hand in the field of battle. The new edition sports new art work, and new game elements and card types, but we’re not yet sure of any of the specifics. Still - even if the changes are minor tweaks those who are new to the game will find plenty of good stuff to be had (if it’s new to you!).

Condottiere1a.JPGPlayers of Condottierre will immediately find similarities to Havoc: The Hundred Years War, but under closer inspection tthey’ll find even more things different. In Havoc players partake on a series of pokeresque rounds of play. Each round represents one battle, and players aim to take a series of battles of to collect the most victory points in order to win the entire war. Condottiere swaps out the victory point structure for a meta map depicting the regions of Italy as they existed during the Renaissance. Whoever wins a round takes a territory, but also becomes the Condottiere who chooses the next region to fight over. The winner is the player who can connect 3 territories in a row.

We know this sounds stupid, but: we seriously like meta maps. Like a kid drooling over an oversized lollipop, we stare at meta maps with widened eyes. And the great thing about this one, it's in game where you wouldn't expect it to otherwise appear. What else brings meaning to a series of poker hands? How about a territorial map with Italian city states carved into it waiting to be conquered?. Heck yeah. That'll do.

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April 1, 2007

March '07 Roundup

Roundup2.jpgMarch was a month of ups and downs. More ups then downs, really, when you consider how many new releases there were. Things kicked off with the Catan-like , and was followed by the party game Cineplexity from the makers of Apples to Apples. Then Mayfair finished off the month with their cathedral builder Pillars of the Earth, which is more approachable than similar themed Caylus, but yet delivers a game with enough depth to keep things interesting in the long run.

But then Tide of Iron was delayed, and some unrelated news broke that Microsoft's Xbox Live service is snatching up the exclusive rights to make popular board game titles. On one hand we love the idea of a new market for board game players, but on the other hand they're destroying numerous communities in the name of 'progress'. It's like tearing down forests to build schools for little children. The whole thing leaves a bad taste in our mouth in "Puerto Rico to Join Xbox Live Eurogames, But at a Cost".

But Spring has sprung and not everything is dreary and gray. The World of Warcraft Trading Card Game expansion: Through the Dark Portal ships this month. So does Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Agmar - which is something that we haven't talked about much, but we'll be sure to clue you in on our thoughts regarding the latest and greatest MMORPG from Turbine. And of course we'll keep you up to date with the latest in board game news throughout the month of April!

Speaking of which, don't forget to sign up for our weekly digest. Coffee on Monday morning is a heckofalot better when there's a slew of gaming news waiting for your in your mailbox!

Game Releases

Board Game News

Collectable Card Games

Gaming Culture

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March 29, 2007

Now Shipping: "The Pillars of the Earth" Board Game

PillarsOfTheEarth.jpgIt looks like Mayfair Games has another hit on their hands with their latest cathedral building title The Pillars of the Earth [Funagain].

Pillars is based on the bestselling novel of the same name, in which author Ken Follett explores the life and art of three main characters as they strive to complete a 12th-century cathedral in the fictitious town of Kingsbridge, England. If you think this is some cross branding Caylus ripoff then think again, and please stop being so cynical. That's our job, and we're proud of it, so knock it off and read on because we're quite convinced otherwise.

The idea behind the novel, and likewise behind the game, immediately piqued our interest - being the history buffs that we are - but that doesn't mean the game is great, right? Well if you hate hype then perhaps the endorsement of the gaming guru himself Tom Vassel is good enough for you. The following comes a man who plays games for a living, and so plays gobs of different titles a year, and he has this to say about Pillars in his review:

"Few games blow me away with positive impressions as Pillars of the Earth did. Not only do I consider it one of the best games of 2007 – award worthy, even – but also it could easily become one of my favorite games." - Tom Vassel

If that's not a ringing endorsement of a game, then obliviously we don't know the English language from a whole in the grind.

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