April 4, 2006

"Carcasonne: The Tower" Ships April 12th

carcassoneTower-4-3-06.jpg We love Carcassonne. The game is just absolutely fantastic, crazy amazing. We could break this thing out anywhere and still have fun with it; at the dentists', during an IRS audit, on-stage at a Gwar concert - anywhere. So we're drooling in anticipation over anything that might expand upon this trophy of golden gameplay goodness.

The release date for "The Tower" has shifted twice now, and we weren't sure if the latest prediction of "April" would hold water. But FunagainGames.com posts a true date: April 12th. Sweet crap, that's like next week.

The Company Line: In this Carcassonne expansion, players erect towers, employ followers to stand guard on the towers, and capture opponents’ followers, holding them in prison. Later, the players may arrange a prisoner exchange, to the advantage of the players involved. Also, a player may arrange to pay ransom for the return of an imprisoned follower. Fans of Carcassonne will enjoy the new tactical opportunities offered by this expansion.The expansion also includes a special tower for storing the landscape tiles, giving players a convenient way to draw tiles during the game.
CarcassonneTower-tile-4.03-06.jpg We'll definitely get this one in for review.

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Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

April 1, 2006

Memoir '44 - Pacific Theater Announced

Memoir44.3.31.06.jpg"The gaming company Days of Wonder have posted to their website the first information reagarding the fourth expansion to the Memoir '44 series of games, Memoir '44: The Pacific Theater.

The Company Line: From the jungles of Japanese-occupied Burma to the desolate slopes of long-forgotten atolls, discover this latest exciting expansion for Memoir '44! The Pacific Theatre expansion introduces new units (Chindits, Japanese Giretsu Special Forces, US Marines), new weapons (Mobile Artillery, Flame throwing Tanks), new terrains and features (rope bridges, aircraft carriers, warships, caves...) and new figures (Japanese Infantry, Ha-Go Light Tanks and 75mm AA Guns), and more...

Revive some of the most ferocious battles of WWII like Iwo Jima or Okinawa! Use new rules, like the Japanese "Banzai!" war cry or the Marines' "Gung Ho" rally cry to win the battle!

The Pacific Theater will include 8 historic scenarios out of the box, including the battles of: Wake Island, Guadalcanal, Guam, and Iwo Jima. The game will ship with new destroyers and aircraft carriers (please, how could you have a war in the Pacific without them?) And for you land lubbers- the new map tiles will add jungles, rice paddies, cave networks, field hospitals and HQ supply tents.

You can read more about The Pacific Theater at the official Memoir '44 website. If you're new to the whole Memoir '44 wargamming thang, then you might want to also check out the series of Gameplay Overview webpages. They're not as boring as they sound. =')

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

March 27, 2006

Spice up your Scrabble with Wildwords

WildWords.3.27.06.jpg Scrabble's random draw of tiles, well-designed board, and game play that shifts the context of the game after every turn makes it one of the most replayable games in history. But If you're anything like us then you've grown a bit tired of the same common Scrabble pitfalls. We hate festering through an entire game hoping to pickup that elusive 'U' tile to match the 'Q' we drew in the first round. That's just not fun, nor is getting a Z and all consonants. Frustrating indeed, and we've all been there too often. Yes, we know that "Qat", "Qintar" and "Qaid" are all valid Q-words, but they only get you so far, and Qat usually doesn't net very many points.

Enter Wildwords, a game that thwacks your frontal Scrabble lobe with the wooden stock of an elephant gun. No longer will you play with only the letters in the tray in front of you -- now the voices inside your head get their turn, too (and the leprechaun with the super nova eyes told us that's healthy.)

Wildwords adds Asterisk tiles and the new wild card squares to the Scrabble board. Both of these wildcard elements can represent either a single letter, or a series of letters. You don't have to declare what a word is when you play a wild card. However an opponent may challenge you immediately after the play, at which point you're forced to declare what the word is (or was, or will be if you've gotta be like that). If you can produce a legal word then your opponent loses their turn. They had it coming.

The rules for the Wildwords Scrabble variant are actually quite simple, and are perfectly described on the game's official web page. They even host a short video tutorial (streaming) and a sample game in case you're still skeptical. But how could you be?

Wildwords is available is on sale now on the game's official website. G*e it a go!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

March 26, 2006

"Axis & Allies Miniatures Contested Skies" Released

P51DMustang3.26.06.jpgThe collectible game Axis and Allies Miniatures expands this weekend with 45 new units in the new "Contested Skies" booster series. The main focus is on the main fighter and ground attack aircraft of WWII: The United States receives the P-51D Mustang (of course), the Soviet Air Force - the IL-10 Sturmovik, the Germans get both the JU 87G Stuka diver bomber and the Bf109E fighter, and the Japanese receive the Mitsubishi A6M Zero.

The expansion includes ground forces for each these factions, and more (!), including the lumbering French bathtub Char B1 tank, and various anti-aircraft guns and vehicles. The official website has a complete Gallery of the 45 miniatures which make-up the set, and also lists each piece's rarity (note: all aircraft are 'rare').

The Contested Skies expansion ships in the form of booster packs, which are on sale now.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

March 24, 2006

Ventures of Argent - Open Beta

Ventures of Argent is a fantasy adventure board game currently available for free (in beta form) from the game's official website. We know what you're thinking - free board games tend to lack polish, but you'd be smacked-wrong if you applied that generalization onto Ventures. This game may be in black and white but it's gorgeous - the documentation is chalk-full of great content like flavor text, detailed maps, and great illustrations. The tangibles are on par with (if not surpass) most budget games out there, and it could show some premier titles a thing or two, too.

Players of "Ventures" create a group of 5 characters (called.. uh.. "ventures") who travel as a party through the regions of the game's world map. The venture group is free to explore various locales including towns, forests, and dungeons as they level up for the big boss battle at the end of the game. Movement on the main map might incur a random combat encounter (decided by a factor of location and the roll of the dice at the end of the turn). The game has a simple yet flexible combat system, complete with positioning and targeting mechanics, a damage and healing system, and item rewards.

Ventures of Argent is currently in open beta and is available to download for free(!) from the game's official website. The download (a .zip archive) contains a collection of printable Adobe PDF documents including the game map, character sheets and documentation (there's also collection of unit markers that you can print, cut-out, and fold, but we'd recommend that you stick with figures or tokens from another game until you've decided pursue that arts and crafts project). You'll need WinZip and Adobe Acrobat to open and print these files.

The game is meant for a a group of 5 friends to huddle around a table and play, but also has a solo mode and a campaign mode if you want to add persistence to your characters.

Finally, just inferring from the layout of the game's website, Ventures might be only one game in a series of titles that take place in the detailed World of Argent. We'll see if dig up any information on anything else coming down the pipe from designer M.A. Snowden.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

March 23, 2006

Forbes Lists Top 10 Business Games

Money.3.23.06.JPGIt's understandable if that special businessman or women in your life is disinterested in playing anything other than the money swapping hotelfest that's Monopoly. It is a classic after all. But don't give up yet -- you might find salvation in Forbes' recently published list of top 10 Business themed games. We haven't played all of these games (So Sue Me!, I'm the Boss), but the titles that we're familiar with should liven up the tabletop of any fiscally responsible family.

Now - it's surprising that the classic Acquire didn't make the list, or get some sort of honorable mention at the very least. Maybe It's omission was due to the title being out of print for a while. Still -- it's very easy to snagg a used copy off ebay. Feel free to append it as the shadowy 11th entry to the shiny Forbes Top 10... consider it an exercisable stock option from us to you.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

March 22, 2006

Caylus is Back in Stock

Caylus.3.22.06.jpgThere has been a drought of Caylus ever since it stormed through stores on its initial release. Getting your hands on a copy has been a hit or miss endeavor, well, until now.

Caylus is an acclaimed city builder from Rio Grande Games, and a fad amongst those who thirst for complexity. The rules are thick, the gameplay is long (a couple of hours usually) and so Caylus isn't something you should pick up if you're just getting back into gaming. It's also a bad choice if you're bringing an outsider to the table for a quick game of 'something'. For that we'd recommend Carcasonne or Settlers of Catan.

However, if you've been the gaming scene for a while and like gobs of options at each turn, or the ability to effect the outcome of the game from multiple fronts, then Caylus is a great pickup. The game scales-well from 2 players to 5, and plays very differently depending on how many people are involved. Most importantly, is that it's been received fantastically well by almost everyone that's gotten their grubby hands on it. Heck, take as testament that Rio Grande was forced to run a second printing of the game less than a year after Caylus' initial release.

You might want to pounce-now and grab a copy before it disappears again. It's at FunagainGames.com for the cheap (10 bucks off MSRP).


The Company Line: 1289. To strengthen the borders of the Kingdom of France, King Philip the Fair decided to have a new castle built. For the time being, Caylus is but a humble village, but soon, workers and craftsmen will be flocking by the cartload, attracted by the great prospects. Around the building site, a city is slowly rising up…

The players embody master builders. By building the King’s castle and developing the city around it, they earn prestige points and gain the King’s favor. When the castle is finished, the player who has earned the most prestige wins the game.


Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

March 21, 2006

Refurbished Games from JRC Collectibles

Midway.3.21.06.jpgWe just unwrapped a copy of Midway! (1964) that we purchased anonymously from JRC Collectibles' eBay store, and we're floored how lovingly refurbished this copy is. JRC told us that they took the choicest bits from multiple copies of the same board game. These lesser versions sacrificed themselves to create this final polished collection of pieces, boards, rules-- the works. They even gave us the original paper pads that game with the game over 40 years ago.

You can almost feel the post World War / mid Cold War American propaganda particles jump off the paper and onto your skin. This has that old board-game smell that all the pre-Regan titles have. It was only 40 bucks, and that friend's - is insane.

We found JRC while searching for some recent out of print titles. What we found was 8 pages of vintage board games from the hay day of our youth (and even further back in time). If you're looking for something from your childhood, or something to add your "History of Board Games" collection, then definitely check out their online auction store.

Note: JRC isn't paying us, at all. We're just happy with the product the sent us. :')

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

March 17, 2006

Spotlight Fantasy Flight Games' 2006, Part 2: Board Games


We had a good look yesterday at Fantasy Flight's lineup of 'Big Box' games. Their titles for 2006 seem downright solid, and we'll be knee-deep in war gaming goodness for most of the second half of this year. But the Big Box games are a bit of a side cart to our standard gaming menu - because they take an entire afternoon to play, and afternoon on weekends are precious.

Thankfully their standard lineup is looking strong as well. First up is the redesign of Warrior Knights, a game of diplomatic positioning and territorial conquest as you vie for control of an empty medieval throne.

The Company Line: In Warrior Knights, each player takes on the role of a Baron vying for control of the Kingdom. Each Baron commands four faithful Nobles who lead his armies into battle. Each Baron seeks to capture cities in order to gain Influence, which is used to measure his claim to the throne. Barons may also seek to gain advantage by increasing their income, gathering Votes to use at the Assembly, or by amassing Faith, which can be used to gain a measure of control over chance events. Only through cunning strategy and careful diplomacy can a Baron hope to attain victory.
Warrior Knights supports 2-6 players, and ships this May.

MarvelHeros.3.16.06.jpgThen, shortly afterwards in July, Fantasy Flight will release 'Marvel Heroes: The Board Game'. We're not Comic Book gurus here (by the slightest), but we're still exited about this one because it's designers also created The War of the Ring; a game for which we have the utmost reverence. Each player in Marvel will control one of the Marvel Superhero teams, and also a Supervillan Mastermind to keep the other player's teams in-check. Board games that let you play two sides cuts into the downtime of normal turn taking -- that's a definitely a good thing. And if War of the Ring is any proof of design talent (which it so very much is) then we'll be enjoying this one immensely.

Finally Blue Moon City, a board adapatation of a card game with the same name, was also just announced. We've gotta be perfectly honest - we've never played the Blue Moon City card game, so we're not quite sure of the background story of this title. What we do know, though, is that this one is a substantial builder gamer with a dynamic board :

From Fantasy Flight Games' 3/16 'Rant' from Greg: Players vie to impress the dragons, collect crystals, and ultimately gain leadership of Blue Moon City. The game's modular board is formed from 21 large building tiles, which show building plans on one side and reconstructed buildings on the other. The game also features wooden player figures, 80 cards, and three large plastic dragons.
No word on a release date for Blue Moon City yet, but initial signs point to June.

Fantasy Flight will also release expansions for a boat load of their current board games titles We've already covered the 'War of the Ring: Battles of the Third Age' expansion quite a bit. But there's like, 15 more. They're cranking out titles like a circus monkey on crack.

AGameOfThrones.3.16.06.jpgA Game of Thrones is getting its second board game expansion. 'A Storm of Swords' will include expand upon the 6 person main game with new leader cards, house cards and tactics cards for every house in the game including House Martell (which was added by the prior expansion 'A Clash of Kings' ). 'A Storm of Swords' also includes a separate 4 player game with completely new components and victory conditions. Best of all - this thing has already shipped to the printer, so we're talking a June release!

Arkham Horror will be expanded by the "Dunwich Horror" expansion, which includes a completely separate companion game in the same box. Twlight Imperium is set for an expansion in November that includes 4 new races, and "Descent: Journeys in the Dark" gets two (count them, two!) expansions. The Well of Darkness is due-out in June and includes thirty more plastic miniatures, six new heroes, new monsters and new quests. The second unnamed expansion is set for December, and will include iverarching campaign rules(!). Nice.

The World of Warcraft board game will also expand twice this year. "Shattered Kingdom" will contain gobs of new cards (hundreds), including new class powers, a new item deck full of trinkets and artifacts, and a new quest deck. Then a full-sized expansion is slated for November, which we ass-u-me will include content from the new Burning Crusade World of Warcraft computer game expansion.

LOTR.3.16.06.jpgFinally The Lord of the Rings board game (not to be confused with War of the Ring) will receive another expansion. "Battlegrounds" provides battlefields for the boards in the original game. The positioning of units on the new battlegrounds will effect the main game.. but we're not quite yet sure how. Fantasy Flight should fully release the information gates on this title in April.

Oh man. this is one helluva strong lineup for 2006. We can't wait to get our hands on .. well just about all of 'em. We'll have more information about each title as it gets closer to release.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

March 14, 2006

Rocketville Released

Rocketville.3.14.06.jpg"Rocketville Launched" seemed far too obvious.
Avalon Hill's new 1950's futuristic political campaign game hit North American stores this weekend. Players race against one another to lay claim over various political regions in the city of Rocketville on their way to becoming Mayor. The game has a thick (and quite enjoyable) slab of 1950's futuristic styling, from the astro board to the VTOL rocket ship player-markers. It's as though a 1950's cafeteria in NASA's headquarters puked all over this title (you know, in a good way). Here's the CL:

The Company Line: Congratulations, citizen! Your application to enter the race for the office of mayor of Rocketville has been approved. Please report immediately to the Central Launchpad ... your campaign is about to begin.
In this fast-paced game of luck and strategy, you and other candidates travel via rocket from district to district campaigning for votes -- making promises, garnering endorsements, and recruiting robotic assistance -- in a mad dash t win the hearts, minds, and CPUs of your fellow sentient beings.
Avalon Hill posted three preview articles over the past few weeks leading up to release. They do a great job detailing the game components and gameplay, and when spliced together one after another you'd swear this was an extended game overview that shipped in the box. You should definitely give them a once-over if this game interests you:

1: Rocketville: Welcome Aboard Citizen!
2: Rocketville: How to Win Friends and Influence Voters
3: Rocketville: Now in 32 Flavors

Rocketville is available today from the online game store Funagain Games at 7 bucks off the MSRP.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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