September 18, 2006

"Lost The Game" is Back in Stock

Lost.Boardgame.8.23.06.jpgA few weeks ago we mentioned that the TV Show Lost had received a board game adaptation. Usually we're skeptical of TV / board game cross overs, but apparently "Lost the Game" [Amazon, Target] has gotten some good press. At that time it was really difficult to get a your hands on a copy of the title, but it seems that more trucks rolled out of the warehouses and dropped their Lost cargo in stores. You can find it at both Target and Amazon, both having it in stock.

Our copy has just arrived, and before we throw it down on the table we wanted to let you know that we found some user-submitted rules that configure the game the run with only Season 1 content. If you're catching up on Lost then you're probably still making your way through the Lost Season 2 DVD that just came out. These rules will strip all of the Season 2 content form the game, making it relatively spoiler free. We're not sure if the altered game is well-balanced, however, so use at your own risk!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

September 13, 2006

GQM Settlers of Catan Expansion - Last Chance!

GQM.9.13.06.jpgFunagian games has just restocked their shelves with the fall issue of Games Quarterly Magazine which contains the official Settlers of Catan [Funagain,Amazon] expansion: The Great Rivers of Catan. You can only get this expansion in GQM #10, so get it while the getting is good!

Holidays are coming, and this is a good four dollar expansion that could make a pretty sweet Christmas present for the die hard Cataniac who doesn't keep-up on these things as much as you do.

The Company Line: The Great River of Catan™ is a must for every player. It’s die cut with three new hexagonal board pieces exactly matching the game, ten new counters & special rules. Courtesy of designers Klaus and Guido Teuber and the great folks at Mayfair Games.

Gold! No word can inspire in quite the same way. Eager prospectors rush to the banks of the great river, pans in hand, hoping for a glimpse of the storied yellow powder! The gold rush in on in Catan. Can you profit from it? Find out with The Great River variant for The Settlers of Catan. A unique tile introduces the river to the island. Those who build along it’s banks stand to profit from the gold craze sweeping the land. But will it be enough to push you to victory?

We'd like to take this time to remind that you GQM issue #11 will contain a twelve tile expansion to one of our all time favorites: Carcassonne. Issue #11 is set to ship this November.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

September 11, 2006

Days of Wonder Announces "Battlelore"

BattleLore.9.11.06.jpgDays of Wonder, publisher of a boat load of great games such as Ticket to Ride, Shadows Over Camelot, and most importantly the highly successful Memoir '44 WWII tactical boardgame series, has announced a new tactical wargame for this fall. BattleLore is based on the historic military combat from the age of the Hundred Years War, but then skews down a path of alternate history which includes a bit of the fantastic. The game starts with a touch of fantasy elements (dwarven units) and then becomes heavily themed in a fantasy setting through a series of boxed and supplemental expansions. There are at least two expansions already slated for release, so the announcement of Battlelore is more like the unveiling of a new franchise than just a new board game title.

According to the designers, BattleLore was inspired by such greats as Warhammer, Chainmail and one of our favorite computer strategy game - Master of Magic (they really don't make games like that anymore). Funnily enough, Days of Wonder discovered an early version of BattleLore at a trade show, but then sat on it because they didn't have the experience to publish games of such complexity. But now that Memoir '44 is going strong, and now that they have semi complex games like Shadows of Camelot under their belt, they've finally been given the nod to put the finishing touches on BattleLore and get that puppy shipping.

Here's the word from the official Days of Wonder press release:

The Company Line: The world of BattleLore meshes history and fantasy together - putting players in command of a vast array of miniature troops on the battlefields of a Medieval Europe Uchronia at the outset of the Hundred Years War.

Drawing on the strengths of its own best-selling and critically acclaimed Memoir '44™, Days of Wonder's newest game takes the time-tested, card-driven mechanics to a whole new level and offers gamers and role-players a unique twist on epic fantasy. Game play takes place on a large-scale hex board filled with armies, legendary races and monstrous creatures that fight over varied terrain and landmarks to capture the enemy's banners in a series of unique Adventures.

Powerful Lore Masters, such as Wizards, Clerics, Warriors and Rogues gathered in customizable War Councils; Mercenary bands chosen from among mythical races such as the Iron Dwarves of Northern England; and Monstrous Creatures all complement the dizzying array of possibilities and tough choices that will face players as they venture in the World of BattleLore.

Building on years of experience producing the industry's most appealing board games, Days of Wonder raises the bar several notches higher with this new release. BattleLore's over two hundred miniatures use a new patent-pending, Banner Bearer™ mechanic to provide both a visually stunning new look to a players' armies and to display all the unit-specific information that was traditionally compiled in unwieldy army booklets, reference sheets, or hard-to-read wheelbases.

"Not just another game, or the latest game system fad, BattleLore is a foundation game for us - something we first envisioned long before we even started the company and that hearkens back to the days we first discovered Chainmail™", said Days of Wonder CEO, Eric Hautemont. "As a project, BattleLore has been years in the making, yet what we are delivering this fall only lays the groundwork for the future. The coming years will hold many surprises for both resellers and game enthusiasts worldwide."

BattleLore includes: over 210 highly detailed plastic miniatures, including 58 banner bearers; an extensive Player's Guide, with separate Adventures Booklet; a double-sided battlemap; 46 Terrain and Landmark tiles; 60 Command cards; 60 Lore cards; 48 Summary cards; 2 War Council sheets; 24 Lore Master Tokens; 12 Battle dice; and a Days of Wonder Online Access Number, giving players free access to the BattleLore Online Adventures Editor. BattleLore is for 2 players (or 2 teams), ages 10 and up and takes approximately 60 minutes to play.-From Official Battlelore Press Release

If the game follows the same format as Memoir '44 , then expect boxed terrain packs at least once a year. This could be something huge, potentially bringing in the fans of Memoir '44 and the fans of fantasy war gaming under the same umbrella. That's a large audience.

As a preview of BattleLore, Days of Wonder has opened a blog where designers will post news and previews.

Battlelore is set to ship in late November. We'll keep you posted of any cool preview developments as we get closer to release.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

September 5, 2006

Now Shipping: "Wings of War: Recon Patrol Deck"

ReconPatrol.9.6.06.jpg"Wings of War:Recon Patrol Deck" [Funagain] from Fantasy Flight Games expands the standalone title "Wings of War: Famous Aces", a hybrid of board game and card game set in the frontier of WWI air combat. We haven't covered Wings of War [Funagain] yet, so if you're scratching your head right now then it's probably not lice (... probably). To solve that problem of the unknown, let's dive into some of the original Wings of War game play before covering the What's New in the Patrol Deck expansion.

The Company Line on Wings of War: Wings of War is a game series which merges card and board game mechanics to recreate aerial combat. The first series of Wings of War games focus on the "knights of the air" age, World War I, portraying the abilities of the fighting planes of this period. Each Wings of War set is a complete game for 2 to 4 players, which may be combined with additional sets, or with other copies of the same set, to play larger games. For that purpose, 23 planes with different colors are included in each box. Each plane comes with accurate historical documentation. Wings of War uses an innovative card-based movement mechanic. By selecting from his maneuver deck, each player can plot out the loops, rolls, and twists that his dogfighting plane will undertake. Each plane has a specific maneuver deck with its own unique options, so you'll fly differently from game to game. Outwit and outmaneuver your opponent, and you will reap the rewards!

In Wings of War players control planes of various classes. Some are more maneuverable, some faster, others can soak up the damage. During each round players play 3 maneuver cards from their deck. Some maneuvers may have their planes fly straight, others can have them pulling off loops, barrel rolls, stalls, etc. After each maneuver in the round the players will push their plane cards into position across the table, then check to see if their opponent is in range in one of their plane's firing arcs. If so, then the target player draws a damage card and applies physical damage, or they adhere to the special damage rules on the card such as gun jams, explosions, etc. The game is all about outwitting your opponent through feints and maneuvers, while predicting your opponent's actions in your attempts to line-up another shot.

WingsAtWar.9.6.06.jpgWings of War has three base sets: "Wings of War: Famous Aces" is the first title in the series; also "Wings of War: Watch Your Back" and "Wings of War: Burning Drachens" are both boxed stand alone games that can be used as addons to the original. Each title adds more planes and more scenarios.

That brings us today. Wings of War: Recon Patrol is an expansion (not a stand alone game) that adds to the card sets for any of the three boxed additions of the game. Here's the official info.

The Company Line on Wings of War: Recon Patrol: Wings of War: Recon Patrol includes the popular D maneuver deck, as well as the new K deck, for two-seater aircraft. It includes a variety of airplanes, from the Sopwith Triplane of Naval 1, planes from Richthofen's "Flying Circus," and even a Turkish Breguet Br.14 B2. Recon Patrol is a suitable addition to any of the three Wings of War base games.

Wings of War: Recon Patrol [Funagain] is shipping from stores now. The game will also break into the WWII era in October with "Wings of War: Dawn of War."

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

September 1, 2006

August '06 Roundup

Roundup2.jpgGenCon has come and gone. Although the conference has cemented foundation in RPGs, we were still lucky enough to catch some great glimpses of both the Marvel Heroes boardgame, and gameplay footage of the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game. Also, Tempus shipped in August, which has turned out to be a strong strategic and fun title for a midsummer release. We'll probably be playing it well into the fall.

But of all the gaming news that came out in August, we're most excited about something which some will find small and inconsequential - the pending release of three Eurogames for Xbox Live. There have been other computer game ports of popular board game titles in the past (Days of Wonder has quite a lineup themselves), but never has there been such as an exciting distribution market as Xbox live. That service is teaming with video gamers who are hungry and willing to drop a little bit of electronic cash for a bit of a quieter and more social gaming experience. In a world where social networks are growing faster than grandpa's big toenail, a more cerebral interaction point might be just what XBox live community is looking for.

We can't wait to watch Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne make their splash in that network, which will hopefully resonate into our genre with an influx of new gamers making their way toward a face-to-face style of gaming.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. We'll keep the eye on the ball for September as: Settlers receives an expansion, the World of Warcraft TCG ramps up to release, and we try to get our hands on Lost The Game before the new season starts. Until then, this is what we were Critical about in August 2006:

Board Games & Party Games

Collectable Card Games

Gaming Culture

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

August 31, 2006

Hands On: Tempus

Tempus.8.2.06.jpgPeople have likened Tempus [Funagain] to a simplified version of a civilization style game - namely, the game Advanced Civilization. We like to think the game falls in line with this other analogy: Tempus is to Civilization, as stuffed French toast (at I-Hop) is to a traditional French breakfast.

Tempus wraps a sugary crepe around the complexities of a social evolution and conquest game like Civilization, and pours a gobs of syrup on top so that anyone will give it a try. In fact, Tempus simplifies so much into a sweet gooey essence that a lot of the inspired flavor is lost. Although the soul of the game is still anchored in the dynamics of growing societies, almost nothing in the gameplay or in the pieces sells the feeling of social evolution. Don't get us wrong - the game definitely satisfies, but there's very little to instill a feeling that you're leading a society out of caves, through feudalism, into the age of exploration and finally the modern era.

Tempus does have some mechanics of technological progression, but only in the sense that the entire world's technology level is slowly evolving as a whole. Each turn begins with the world technology meter going up one 'age' (writing then farming, etc), which increases the power of each of the payer's actions (increased movement distance, increased number of actions players can make, increased population growth, etc). Players can gain a technological advantage over their competitors, but for only one turn at a time. At the end of the turn everyone catches up with each other, and the playing field is once again leveled.

That brief technological edge is determined at the start of each turn. The game has a linear technology track, and each spot on that track is tied to a resource type on the game board. Those players who start the turn with the most units occupying that resource type will gain a technological boost - for one turn their level of technology is actually the next level on the progression track. Depending on the technology age, this could give them a short boost to hand size, unit stacking limit, movement distances, etc. At the end of the turn the track is normalized (everyone is the same technology level again), the next technology resource type is checked, and a new technology advantage is given.

Tempus.Session.8.31.06.jpgThe resources required for the progression of society varied greatly in human history, and this is well reflected in Tempus and is an important mechanic of the game. Moving your society into place to adapt and take advantage of the various resources and technological boons will take careful consideration. And even with plans in place, the progression of your civilization never seems the least bit inevitable - an opponent may win the tech race one turn, launching his units over land and sea faster than you can move your tribe, and they might beat you to the resources that you had planned to conquer three turns in the future.

One last thing we'd like to go over is the game cards. Each card has special text that can be played at any time your turn. The cards are mainly boosters to the normal actions a player can take. For example, if a player chooses to Have Babies as one of their turn actions, then the Medicine card can be played to increase the number of units placed. The cards also have a colored background matching the various resources on the board. In this way the cards can also be used to boost the resources accumulated for the technology race, OR to increase the combat strength of your unit when fighting on a space that contains that resource. The multipurpose cards can be very confusing at first, as there are times when you it's confusing if you have to match resource types with the card and the target or not. However, once the state of confusion is broken, the multipurpose aspect becomes a huge strength of the game. Should you use cards to boost the power of a particular action this turn thus increasing your civilization's infrastructure, or do horde them to increase your resources for a technological edge? Or do you save them for stronger defense, or to push an attack into enemy territory?

To us, weighing these decisions is the essence of the civilization game genre. Is Tempus [Funagain] worth it after all of the historical theme and complexity has been stripped bear? So far, we strongly nod yes. Unlike its predecessors, a game of Tempus can easily be wrapped up in an hour to an hour of a half (instead of three to twelve hours), and there's a lot of strength in that. And thanks to Tempus' random board layout, no two games will play the same.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

August 30, 2006

Coming Soon: "Catan Event Cards"

CatanEventCards.8.29.06.jpgIf you're looking to add a little extra oomph to your Settlers of Catan [Funagain,Amazon] gaming experience, then you'll find a cheap way to do so this fall. Introducing Catan Event Cards [Amazon,Funagain] - the deck adds a new system for determining the resource production of Catan tiles, while also introducing random events for extra oomph and flavor to the straight-forward Settlers turns.

The Company Line: Drop the dice and spice up your Settler's of Catan or Cities and Knights games with this new set of cards. The Catan Event Cards feature thirty-six cards that act as a deck of dice, replacing the need for dice in your Catan game. Special events are triggered by these cards each time they are turned over, adding an exciting new element to your Catan play. Also included are 6 scorekeeping cards, the rules card, and a reshuffle card.

Now, we realize that the company's product description is a rather vague on the "Special events" front, here they are broken down a bit further:

  • Calm Seas: Whomever has the greatest number of sea ports receives a resource card of their choosing.
  • Conflict: Whoever has the largest army strong arms a resource card from each opponent.
  • Earthquake: Every player must damage one of their road segments. That road will be out of commissions until the the owner pays one brick card and one lumber card to repair the damage.
  • Epidemic: For one turn Cities (which normally produce two resources from each adjoining hex) only produce one resource per hex.
  • Good Neighbors: All players choose a resource card from their hand and pass it to their neighbor to their left.
  • Neighborly Assistance: The person who is currently in the lead gives each other player one resource card each.
  • Plentiful Year: Each player draws a resource card of their choice.
  • Robber Flees: The robber retreats back to his desert tile.
  • Tournament: The player with the largest army draws a resource card of his choice.
  • Trade Advantage: The player who currently controls the longest road 'taxes' a resource card from a player of his/her choice.

There are two other card types: one where no special action occurs on the turn (which is the most common draw); and as noted in the company line, one card that triggers a premature reshuffle of the exhausted cards back into the deck. The reshuffling recycles the rare numbers back into the mix in an attempt to conceal the fact that that rare dice numbers (12, 2, etc) cannot be drawn more than once in the 36-card system.

Gaming purest might scream bloody murder over the lack of true randomness - the card system follows the number distribution a bit too closely, and provides no chaos along the dice result distribution curve. Did we just dork out a little too much? - No! It's only after a reshuffle that a rare number will appear again. For instance, if the "12 card" has been drawn early in a game - then the players are certain that a tile with a 12 marker won't produce resources again for a very, very long time, at least until after a reshuffle (30 turns or so), and then who knows how long after that. When Settler's is played with dice, however, there is always a chance that 12 will appear on any roll, so long term forecasting will always be a game of odds.

Those who enjoy the spice of random event card will probably love this expansion. Those who love the chaos and the chance of dice might also want to pick it up anyway, if only to roll the dice for turn-production and then use the cards as a random event scheme. After all, what jerk said you couldn't use both?

Catan Event Cards [Funagain] is set to ship in October.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

August 29, 2006

Twilight Struggle Wins IGA's Best Historical Simulation 2006

TwilightStruggle.8.14.06.jpgA few weeks ago we reported on the International Gamers Awards list of nominees for 2006, including the 2-player game, multiplayer strategy game, and historical simulation categories. Twilight Struggle (2005) [Funagain], the acclaimed title that simulates the forty-five year dance of Soviet and American influence around the globe, was nominated twice, once in the Two Player game category, and once in the Historic Simulations game category.

Today the IGA committee has announced the winner for the Historical Simulation Category, and Twilight Struggle brings home the bacon. Here's the official press release.


The International Gamers Awards committee is extremely proud to announce the recipient for the 2006 IGA in the Historical Simulations category:

The award goes to Twilight Struggle by designers Jason Matthews and Ananda Gupta and publisher GMT Games. Using a card-driven mechanism that recreates the most critical events of the US-Soviet Cold War, Twilight Struggle pits two players in a struggle to exert influence throughout the world in a bid to make their philosophy dominant. Each player must watch closely as the battle for ideology is raged, the Space Race is launched and advanced, and the DefCon track (Defense Condition) monitors the globe's stability. A beautifully-balanced game with multiple strategic levels, Twilight Struggle gets better with each play as further depth is revealed.

The International Gamers Awards were founded in 1999 for the express purpose of recognizing outstanding games, their designers, and the companies which publish them. The awards have gained widespread acclaim and have helped bring these outstanding games to the public's attention.

The individuals who serve on our General Strategy and Historical Simulation committees are extremely qualified, knowledgeable and respected within the gaming hobby. Each and everyone have extensive experience in the playing, reviewing and critiquing of games.

You can learn more about the International Gamers Awards by visiting our website at:

Unfortunately it seems that publisher GMT Games didn't expect all of this great press for their title - the game is pretty darn hard to get a hold of these days. Thankfully there's another printing of the game scheduled to hit storeshelves this October. We'll keep you posted on it's release, or if this date slides either way.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

August 28, 2006

Xbox Live Eurogame Screenshots

Last week we reported that the Xbox Live service was going to launch three Eurogames for your Xbox 360 gaming pleasure: Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne and Alhambra. At the time we had no media to share with you of the upcoming releases, but some images have been leaked to the net (thanks to Ozymandias) and without further ado, here they are! (click the images to enlarge them.)

Settlers of Catan [Amazon,Funagain]
"The Catan series is one of the best-selling and most widely played game lines ever developed. Over 11 million Catan games have been sold since the brand’s debut in 1995. Millions of people will testify that it is one of the greatest games ever! Then try one, or even combine, its many expansions. Some let you explore new aspects of the game. Others let you add more players.


The “Game of the Year” in Germany, the U.S, and a host of other countries, The Settlers of Catan is a classic, stand-alone game for 3-4 players. You journey to the unsettled wilds of the grand new world known as Catan. It’s an exciting frontier, one rich in opportunity. No place could be more perfect for casual adventure. Compete with your opponents to discover and settle the choicest lands and seaports. Gather resources, trade with friends and foes, and build roads and settlements—all in a quest to be master of Catan.

Catan is a little different every time you visit. You’ll always find it a land full of intrigue and surprise. Careful trade and clever building are your keys to success. Plenty of fast-paced player interaction is guaranteed. Win or lose, adventure always awaits in Catan!" From

Carcassonne [Amazon,Funagain]
The southern French city of Carcassonne was founded on an important trade route between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. Because of its strategic location, the city was often conquered and has known many rulers. As a result of this varied history, the city is famous for its unique mixture of Roman and Medieval fortifications.

The players develop the area around Carcassonne by placing land tiles. Each turn the area becomes larger as the players expand and add roads, fields, cities, and cloisters. The players may also deploy their followers as thieves, farmers, knights, and monks to control and score points for the roads, farms, cities, and cloisters. As the players have only a few followers, the wise player will plan his moves carefully and deploy followers when and where he can earn the most points.

Carcassonne is a simple, clever tile laying game that brings new challenges with every turn.

Alhambra [Amazon,Funagain]
In Granada, one of the most impressive building projects of the Middle Ages has begun: the construction of Alhambra. A palace, fortress, and a small city -- all-in-one -- Alhambra is made up of the world's most beautiful gardens, pavilions, chambers and towers.

The most prominent builders in all of Europe and Arabia want to demonstrate their skills. Employ the most talented teams of builders to construct your Alhambra. Hire stonemasons from the north and gardeners from the south, who all want a fair wage and insist on being paid with their native currency. With their help, towers can be constructed, gardens designed, pavilions and mezzanines erected, and manors and royal chambers built. Compete against your opponents to build the greatest and most impressive Alhambra.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

August 24, 2006

"Lost The Game"

Lost.Boardgame.8.23.06.jpgIn all honesty we were a bit hesitant about posting this. Before you also roll your eyes at what seems ( or could ) be a cumbersome media tie-in, we'd like to let you know that initial reports of the game point the opposite direction, and with a bit of conviction to boot. Don't get us wrong - this probably isn't a game that will sit atop the serious gamer's board game collection as an instant classic, but if you're a fan of the show (and so long as the writers minimize the soap operatic plot lines, then who isn't a fan?) then this game could certainly entertain. Especially when compared against other crappy tie-ins, like "Survivor: The Game" which entertains only by filming yourself throwing the thing against a wall, and watching the explosion of pieces in slow motion reverse. And even then, it's still a bit of a one trick pony.

Unlike other crappy tie-ins, "Lost The Game" [Amazon,Target] was designed from the ground up (what a concept)! This is not some rehashed version of "Monopoly" or "The Game of Life" that the ABC marketing department slapped a sticker on. This was a game built specifically with Lost in mind, and then tinkered with in refining cycles of repeated gametests.

But enough with the monkey on our backs. Let's get to the game itself. The island that plays a role of a shadowy character in the Lost TV show is represented in the game by a series of randomly drawn hexagonal tiles. The board can take any shape and will vary in content in each game session. We're a huge fan of random game boards because they're a spice of replayablity, and the mechanic perfectly fits the "where the heck are we ?" theme of the show.

Players of the game then explore the island and use cards to exploit and recruit characters. The card play is inspired by the collectable card game Magic: The Gathering , but we're not yet sure quite how that theme translates to Lost The Game.

Characters under your control fight for dominance of the island in direct conflict with other palyer's characters (this somewhat breaks the relatively passive behavior of the characters in the TV show, but for gaming purposes we can deal with it). We're sure that there will be some characters who prefer more a more subtile approach to getting what they want., before resorting to fisticuffs.

A lot of the game's public details stem from a pair of articles at The general game page loosely describes the components of the game, and even better, there's an interview with designer Keith Tralins that soothed our fears that this is simply a mass market media crapfest.

As a fan of designer games like Settlers of Catan, Tralins hopes that Lost: The Game will introduce more people to that style. "Lost took a niche genre and blew it up to mainstream. That's a goal I have with this game. There's a whole realm of board games -- the German games -- with social interaction and intellectual challenge. This is a chance to expose those mechanics and those pleasures to a whole new audience. - From "Lost: The Game - Interview with the Designer" on

Board Game Geek also has a thread where a player has posted his experiences during a play session with the game. The site hosts a picture of the game box and its pieces, here.

Those hex pieces look pretty sweet. Reminds us of Survive meets Settlers of Catan.

"Lost The Game" [Amazon,Target] is for sale at, and is currently shipping.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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