Eurogames on Xbox Live

XBOX360.8.24.06.jpgWell here's an unexpected great bit of news. Microsoft is going to add the eurogames Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, and Alhambra to their successful XBox Live Arcade online service. Here's a bit from

Fittingly for a conference in Germany, the new games announced for Xbox Live Arcade had a European board-game heritage. Outpost Kaloki X is about to have some genre company on Xbox Live Arcade, as all three titles will call on strategic thinking from the players. The announced games include the civilization-building Settlers of Catan, the tile-based city-building game Carcassonne, and the Arabian-themed stock-market game Alhambra set to be available through the Xbox. - From "Catan tops new Live Arcade trio" on Gamespot

XBox live made a sleeper hit out of the unexpected title of Uno. People went crazy over that title, and continue to do so on a nightly basis. It looks like the Xbox Live team is trying to capitalize on the 'parlor game' genre by adapting some new, hotter titles to their online platform. It'd be interesting to see if the pace of the online Settlers of Catan could keep-up the real life form. Carcassonne will definitely be an interesting experiment as well, but seems more elegant and could be a smoother translation of the medium.

No word yet on when these online variants will be pushed up to the Live Service.

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August 16, 2006

Marvel Heroes GenCon Impressions in BoardGameGeek Forums

MarvelHeros.3.16.06.jpgWe're still on-watch for next installment of the Marvel Heroes preview articles in the Board Game Geek forums (see our posts covering parts 1 & 2, 3, and 4). Bad news: there's still no word on when part five is coming. Good news: we found a post with some interesting impressions about the game's showing at the GenCon gaming convention last week.

The post [link] steps through various details of a round of play, and offers some opinions of the title's game mechanics and content. We've enjoyed the official preview posts from Marvel Heroes designer Roberto Di Meglio, but it's also great to hear about the game from a source other than the horse's mouth.

Here's a snippet:

"I thought this game was excellent. The Demo table was always full and as soon as a game ended there already 4 or more players ready to start the next one. They surprised most of us with a game that is not just a tactical miniature combat game and they delivered an enjoyable experience. I can't wait for this game to come out." Post from User 'Ronaldo'

The entire article draws a pretty picture of the Marvel Heroes showing at Gen Con. A line up to a demonstration is always a good thing. Also, in the past we've heard that the game is meant to play fast with little downtime, and this hands-on impression confirms that it'll live up to those standards.

Here's hoping, anyway. The continuing reputation of Fantasy Flight's Big Box line of games is at stake, and we hope its reputation isn't tarnished by a ho-hum release of Marvel Heroes -- the recently announced Conan Big Box Game (which is being developed by the same group of designers) should get all the money and attention that franchise deserves. Not that we've heard anything bad about Marvel Heroes. We're simply paranoid.

Marvel Heroes is set to ship in September, which is only a month away!

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August 15, 2006

Board Games vs. Video Games. Fight!

Bugel.8.15.06.jpgThe Journal Gazette newspaper (out of Fort Wayne) has a posted an article [link] about the gaming industry's struggle to get out from beneath the shadow of its giant digital counterpart - Video Games.

It's a great read as it details the climate shift of the hobby gaming industry over the last few years. The older American industry giants have finally had their realization that traditional American board gaming is all but dead.

That article sets us walking down the road to sadville. It's partially because we've already heard that distant call of Taps playing its mournful remembrance of the conventional board gaming genre. You never really had to listen hard over the last few years to hear the giants like Parker Brothers and Mattel sound that familiar refrain. So long "Sorry!" Good bye "Life". Flip-over that big ole 'volcano hexagon in the sky', "Survive!" You were there for us, and entertained us in our childhood, but then you banked on repetitive success (these games are from the 1950's or older), and you failed to evolve. Your attempt to keep to attention of your audience was half hearted, uninspired, and ultimately it failed (and is that really the fault of Video Games?)

But in their wake sprouts green buds and new life in the form of smaller publishers. These more agile companies are breathing life into the board game market through the importation and the rebranding of successful German Eurogames. We're talking about your Rio Grande Games, Mayfair Games, etc, and they're paving the way for a new form of gaming in the United States. Their movement and impact on the gamescape is still small in the eyes of the flailing dinosaurs, and so these little-guys aren't much of a blip on the radar of this mainstream article. It's a shame, too, because they really do deserve some mass market press.

Anyway, there's another reason that we're sad. In fact, it stems from the author's slap in the face of these afore mentioned 'new board game publishers.' The article uses the upcoming Wizards of the Coast collectable miniatures game "Dreamblade" as an example of the older industry gaint's 'new take' on board gaming.. o_0 The last time we checked, "Dreamblade" wasn't a genre inventing game, nor a revolutionary board game, but a large-market parlay of past success. It could even be described as simply one progressive step in the overaching evolution of WotC's line of collectable card games.

Despite this, if the article were simply renamed "Traditional Board Game Publishers Reinvent Themselves to get Attention in a Tech World", then it's a pretty darn interesting read... despite its long-winded title.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

August 14, 2006

International Gamer Awards 2006 Finalists Announced

Every year the IGA Committee selects the best of the best board games from that year, including the genres of Multiplayer Strategy Board Games, Two Player Strategy Board Games, and Historical Simulations (read: Wargames). Past winners include Ticket to Ride Europe (2006), War of the Ring, Puerto Rico, and Memoir '44, which are all really top notch games. In other words, the folks in the IGA Committees don't make poor decisions, at least not when it comes to gaming.

So whats up for an award in 2006? Glad you asked! Here are the nominees for the Multiplayer and 2-Player Categories (if you're a wargammer, then you should check out the Official Nominee List which includes Historical Simulation category, too). Our favorite titles on the lists are described in detail

==Multiplayer Games==

Antike.8.14.06.jpgANTIKE [FunagainGames]

  • Designer: Mac Gerdts
  • Publisher: Rio Grande Games
  • Antike is a challenging strategy game about evolution and competition among ancient civilizations. Ancient nations create cities, build temples, sail the seas, and discover new principles of science and technology. Their legions and galleys open new settlements and defend their people against attacks from their enemies. Two scenarios can be chosen as the game board is two-sided. Players choose from Greeks, Romans, and Germanic tribes and Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Persians, Arabs, Egyptians, and Babylonians.

ArrowContinue reading: "International Gamer Awards 2006 Finalists Announced"

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August 10, 2006

Conan Boardgame in 2007

Conan.8.10.06.jpgParadox Entertainment has announced that their working on a new 'Big Box' strategy board game: "Age of Conan". We could sum up the game a bit ourselves, but it turns out this snippet from the official press release does quite a good job for us:

Tentatively titled Age of Conan – The Strategy Board Game, the game is planned to be released in late 2007. In Age of Conan, two or more players will lead the nations of the "Hyborian Era," the fantasy world created by Robert E. Howard as a background for the stories of Conan. Employing weapons, wealth or magic, each player will strive to achieve hegemony over the others.

"We're very excited about this deal with Paradox Entertainment. As we've done in our previous projects based on famous stories and characters, like War of the Ring and Marvel Heroes, we will take much care bringing to the game the characters, the places and events featured in the Conan stories. We want to create an exciting game faithful to the great tales created by Robert E. Howard," says Roberto Di Meglio, CEO of Nexus Editrice.

"We are thrilled to see a boardgame based in Hyboria. Robert E. Howard created a world filled with adventure and a board game is a great way of discovering it first-hand. Nexus has a formidable reputation of developing visually stunning games in established universes, and we trust our character in their hands", says Fredrik Malmberg, Head of Licensing and Creative Affairs at Paradox Entertainment.

Paradox is responsible for the highly successful War of the Ring strategy board game, and also just recently put the finishing touches on the upcoming Marvel Heroes boardgame for publisher Fantasy Flight Games (in production now).

We all remember the Conan movies from our childhood which put Arnold on the Map ( "Hercules in New York" doesn't count), but the gritty fantasy world of Conan was created by author Robert E. Howard more than eighty years ago. Since then there have been millions of books sold, movies, posters, lunchboxes, the works. If Paradox can do for the world of Conan what they did for LOTR gaming with the War of the Ring, then this game is going to be huge.

We should also note that the game's title "Age of Conan" shares its name with a Massively Online Role Playing Game slated for a 2007 release. Conincidence? Porbably not, but we hope that the two aren;t closely tied. The cross-branding or translation of a board game to a video game (and vice versa) still gives us the heebee-geebees, despite some recent successes. Call us untrusting.

Of course we haven't read anything that suggests these two games are even remotely related. It's probably just a over cautious thought by our part, especially considering the board game is all about warring factions and strategy, not living a second life as a bunch of half naked men in loin cloths as in the video game. Perhaps now you can see why we're scared of any cross pollination.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

August 9, 2006

Now Shipping: "Blue Moon City"

BlueMoonCityCover.8.9.06.jpgFantasy Flight Games has just released the board game "Blue Moon City" [Amazon,Funagain], a sequel to the non-collect able 2-player card game "Blue Moon" [Amazon,Funagain]. The original title was a 2004 Nominee for the International Gamers Awards Best 2-Player Game, though it eventually lost out the highly popular Memoir '44.

For "Blue Moon City ", game designer Reiner Knizia (LOTR: The Confrontation, Tigris & Euphrates, Merchants of Amsterdam) once again visits the fantasy world of Blue Moon, but this time drops the direct Head-to-Head cardplay of the original for a more more constructive Eurogame-styled city builder. Here's the official line:

The Dark Age is over. The royal heirs, who caused the conflict and the destruction of Blue Moon City, have fled, and their corrupt advisors have been banished to faraway lands. The bitter division between the peoples of Blue Moon is beginning to heal.

Blue Moon City lies in ruin, but the people have vowed to restore the city to its former magnificence. The three elemental dragons have returned to help in the renaissance of Blue Moon City. They reward good leadership with shards of the Holy Crystal from the destroyed obelisk in the center of the city.

Blue Moon City -- the board game for 2 to 4 players -- picks up where the 2-player card game ended: with the reconstruction of the destroyed city of Blue Moon. Players vie to impress the dragons, collect crystals, and ultimately gain the leadership of Blue Moon City and win the game. Blue Moon City’s modular board is formed from 21 large building tiles, which show building plans on one side and the buildings in their reconstructed glory on the other. The game also includes wooden player figures, 80 cards depicting the 8 races of Blue Moon, and, as in the card game, 3 large molded plastic dragons.


Fantasy Flight Games has also published the Official Rules for Blue Moon City on their website. Its definitely worth checking out if you're into the city building genre, or are looking for a non combative yet competitive and moderately complex game. The title has a simple building contribution mechanic for the new players to learn, and its complex reward system creates potential for some serious strategic elements to present themselves after a few sessions..

Blue Moon City is now shipping from and the Funagain Games online store.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

August 7, 2006

Checking In with Warhammer Mark of Chaos

MarkOfChaos.8.7.06.jpgA while back we posted some highlights of two Warhammer games coming out for the PC. Warhammer Online is still quite a ways off (probably not until Holiday season 2007), but the Real Time Strategy title Warhammer: Mark of Chaos is slated for a release this September. Black Hole Entertainment recently started a media blitz to publicize the upcoming launch, and we thought we'd keep you posted with a few of the better interviews that we've seen published across the interweb.

First up is a two part interview from "Computer and Video Games". Part one kicks things off with lead Designer Chris Wren about the developer's philosophy on bringing the Warhammer tabletop slug fest over to this Mark of Chaos PC version.

Chris Wren: "We decided to hire an author from Games Workshop's Black Library to craft our story and to give life to our characters and responses within the game, the story has turned out great and the responses you get from units still makes me laugh each time I hear them." From the CVG Interview

The second part continues with Chris Wren, but focuses on the game mechanics such as the terrain's effects on combat, resource production and army customizations. The game sounds complicated and deep, and so they've decided to cull a lot of the other Computer RTS mechanics in order to make way for some cooler warfare / Warhammer moments. Players can utilize roads to quickly transport artillery across the battlefield, buildings can be captured and garrisoned, and farms must be protected to ensure that their resources continue to flow into your army's supply pool.

Gamespot also has a great preview article that covers tons of info about the game without being at all redundant. The story includes information about the game's Champions, their customization, etc, and other gameplay mechanics such as morale, aggro (in an RTS?!), and the shared mana pool. Plus, what would Warhammer be without a lot of gore?

As the battle progresses, the remnants of the mayhem you've caused will remain on the battlefield, making it possible to trace your route via a grim trail of blood and corpses--such details will remain where they are for the duration of the game, rather than disappearing. The team is also working on detachable limbs, which should add to the sense of slaughter. And fun. From the Gamespot Preview

Sweet.. reminiscent of Myth.

MarkOfChaos2.8.7.06.jpgThe game mechanics seem to be shaping up nicely, and the game sounds great on paper, but we've had some recent concerns over footage that we found on Gamespot's media page. The still shots show armor shining in the ambient light bloom haze, and the game's terrain engine is extraordinarily detailed, but the live action movies show some jerkiness and stuttering in the unit animations. We're feeling a lumpy feeling of inevitable disappointment in the back of our throats -- if the developers can't run the game smoothly for demo reels, then how will the game perform for fans with lesser machines?

So far THAT alone has made us a bit weary of this title, despite all the good preview press. We know how the computer gaming mags love to over-hype elements, and gloss over shortfalls and engine issues pre-release. But come now, we shouldn't see these "imperfections" like these at such a late date in the game's development cycle. Maybe the developers will clean up the title before release, but maybe not...

We'll find out for sure in only a month's time. Blackhole Entertainment will ship "Warhammer: Mark of Chaos" for Windows-based PCs in September

Also See:

We know that this site isn't about computer games (a little defensive here), but Mark of Chaos is a port of one of the most popular table top wargaming franchises in history. How could we not cover it?

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August 2, 2006

Now Shipping: "Tempus"

Tempus.8.2.06.jpgCafe Games is now shipping Tempus [Funagain], a new civilization building game deep in strategy but simple enough for the whole family to enjoy.

Normally we react to to Civ games with an immediate cringe, as most of their rules are dynamic (to give room for modifier hooks used to represent technological advancement), and therefore inherently complicated. We also don't get much joy over tracking civil population, or adding a series of weapon modifiers to an attack roll, or offsetting them with negative morale, or keeping a supply chain intact while marching armies from one side of the Mediterranean to the other. *deep breath*. You get the idea.

Tempus aims to be a Civ game with depth, but that depth comes in the tough turn decisions instead of stacks of units and upgrade counters twenty chits high. The title is said to take only ten minutes to learn and a little over an hour to play. Players chose from only five options in a turn, including attack, breed, build cities, use idea cards, etc. The five options may seem like an oversimplification, but they can be use as building blocks for some great strategic moves. Here's the official line:

At the dawn of time, Stone Age civilizations are scattered across the land, each one struggling for survival. However, the spark of civilization has been ignited and cannot be extinguished. Ideas and inventions are spreading like wildfire across the continent and your people are taking their first steps towards building a modern society. Lead your civilization through conflicts as they strive to master world-altering advancements such as writing, road building, seafaring and more, always working towards the final goal of flight.

In Tempus, every decision is challenging, as your culture clashes with your opponents' while time marches inexorably on. Building cities, expanding population and wars with other empires are ever-present challenges. Each era of history presents you with new innovations, which beg to be mastered.

Success in Tempus is defined by the player who can build the greatest civilization. If your civilization also manages to conquer the skies you will likely dominate the world, and win the game.

Tempus is now available for purchase and is shipping from Funagain Games.

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August 1, 2006

Hands On: War of the Ring Battle For Rohan

BattlesThirdAge.3.2.06.gifA soggy thunderstorm swept through New England this weekend, and we thought it would be the perfect time to crack open War of the Ring's [Amazon, Funagain] new expansion The Battles of the Third Age [Funagain]to give it a go. We met at six in the evening to setup the Battle for Rohan (one of 3 new scenarios in the Expansion), and got to playing. Before long we were elbows deep in one of the most engrossing war game experiences we've ever had, and nobody in our group noticed (or cared) when the clock stuck ten, then 11, 12, and 1 am.

Now that the dust has settled from our wargaming marathon, we've collected our thoughts on the game experience. Read on for our criticisms and accolades over the expansion's revised combat system, the new pieces and boards, and how succesfully they all mesh together into the new War of the Ring gameplay experience.

ArrowContinue reading: "Hands On: War of the Ring Battle For Rohan"

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July 31, 2006

July '06 Roundup

Roundup2.jpgJuly flashed before our eyes. Pretty soon we'll be admist the dog days of August, lazily sitting and watching the twilight of Summer go by. It's sad really. But at least it's almost time for Football!

Thankfully we're far from bored. We had two great family board game releases this month with "Rum and Pirates", and the Spiel des Jahres Award winning "Thurns and Taxis". The World of Warcraft TCG prerelease media is finally starting to ramp up. And, we've been busy slugging it out in the War of the Ring expansion "Battles of the Third Age". We'll have more of that tomorrow (but here's a preview: we like what we see).

Board Games

Party Games

Collectable Card Games

Gaming Culture

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