September 12, 2007

Murdero Review

We don’t usually review many card games so we weren’t quite sure what to expect when the title Murdero [Official, Amazon UK] - a murder mystery themed game from D'Avekki Studios – showed up on our doorstep in its bright white box. Our immediate concern was that we’d all be wearing funny hats, drinking scotch, and pointing Deringers at each other across the table. And then the night would end with us talking with old-timey accents as we accused the woman with the purple boa of the premeditated murder of her rich, drunken, and estranged twin brother / husband.

But then we cracked it open and played a few rounds and lo and behold! Murdero is actually a really entertaining card game, and there’s absolutely no roleplay nor feather boas required. Sorry Russell... sorta. Checkout this brief preview movie from the game's designers, then read-on for our impressions.

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August 17, 2007

Condottiere 3rd Edition War Cardgame Released

Condottiere [Amazon, Funagain] is a title that successfully strips the randomness off the boring classic War card game - adding gobs of flavor, strategy, card gaming elements, and a meta-map of the warring city states of Renaissance Italy. It other words: it makes War fun.

And though we know this sounds stupid, we're going to say it anyway: we seriously love meta maps. Like a kid drooling over an oversized lollipop, we stare at meta maps with widened eyes. All that territory to conquer and dynamically provide narrative to battles. It’s great, great stuff.

There are some card game elements that keep you on your toes, too, such as cards that suddenly weaken certain types of forces with adverse weather affects, or morale boosters which double the strength of other card types. With these tools you can show weak for numerous rounds, only to show strong at the end of the battle. Choosing when to play these cards in a round, and mastering the art of coaxing your opponent into over extending themselves in one battle, only to kick their butt in another, is all part of the game. This game is indeed, pretty deep.

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April 18, 2007

Bang! Now Available at Amazon

Bang.jpgThe popular card game Bang! [Amazon] published by Mayfair games has finally been pushed up to Players are assigned roles in a Western gunslinger theme: Sheriff, Outlaw, Deputy, and Renegade. Each role is kept secret and has a unique victory condition. For instance, the Sheriff has to kill all of the Outlaws, the Renegade has to be the last to survive.

It’s a regular Good, Bad and the Ugly.. with a Deputy side-kick thrown in for good measure.

From the back of the box:

"The Outlaws hunt the Sheriff. The Sheriff hunts the Outlaws. The Renegade plots secretly, ready to take one side or the other. Bullets fly. Who among the gunmen is a Deputy, ready to sacrifice himself for the Sheriff? And who is a merciless Outlaw, willing to kill him? If you want to find out, just draw (your cards)!"

Bang! has been out for a few years now, so it's a bit late to Amazon's stage. If the Amazon reviews don't fill your engine, then checkout Bang's page at BGG. It's chalk-full of useful information and user critiques.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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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March 7, 2007

"Kill the Hippies" Announced and Arrives For Review

Kill the Hippies: A Satirical Card Game from Golden LaurelThere's only one reason why we can't say we're huge fans of Golden Laurel's releases, and that's because we haven't played one yet. Unfortunately the upcoming space strategy and political epic Galactic Destiny has been delayed due to production issues, so we haven't been able to sink our teeth into that juicy morsel. And even though "Kill the Hippies" has only been just-announced, we're lucky enough to get a preview copy here at CG, and we'll soon know exactly what Golden Laurel Entertainment's labs are capable of cooking up.

First thing to note is that the game's literature is firmly smacked with the disclaimers "ironic", "satirical", etc, so as to not offend half the planet. In a country of extremes, including an uncanny ability to take things extremely seriously, "Kill the Hippies" is smothered with slightly offensive material. But to anyone with half a sense of humor, this party game has plenty of flavor to make you smile and, potentially, laugh out loud.

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August 4, 2006

Xeko Trading Card Game

Xeko.8.4.06.JPGWe were surfing when we ran into Xeko, a trading card game for kids with a 'learn about the environment' theme. The first set is centered around the rare animals and unique ecosystem of the inbred cousin of Africa, Madagascar. The game reminds us of those National Geographic animal cards that were around when we were younger. In that series, each card detailed an animal (usually from Africa) including its habitat, behavior, and a purty color photo.

Xeko is like that, but makes a game out it, where players fight to create the strongest ecosystem. Man, this would have been fantastic when we were younger.

Here are the details:

Based on the Legend of Xeko and conservation hotspots, Xeko ignites imaginations and sends the next generation of heroes on an adventure to save the world.

The Xeko game features remarkable plant and animal species from Earth's biodiversity hotspots first identified by Norman Myers and recognized by Conservation International. Currently numbered at 34, the hotspots contain 75 percent of the planet's most threatened mammals, birds and amphibians while covering just 2.3 percent of the Earth's surface. An estimated 50 percent of all vascular plants and 42 percent of land vertebrates exist only in these hotspots.

Preserving our planet's biodiversity is Xeko Mission: Critical.

Every Xeko player is an eco-hero. Every game purchase helps fund conservation efforts in the field.

The Xeko motto: Have fun, do good!

Xeko's official website has more information, including a demo of the game. Also, here's a KidsWorld review of the game here, and it looks like a store called Queen Anne Books sells the game online.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

May 8, 2006

"Havoc: The 100 Years War" Expansion Ships

Havoc.4.18.06.jpgA few weeks ago we posted our hands-on of Havoc: The Hundred Years war. Overall we were impressed with the title. It's pretty solid and we'll certainly play it numerous times again for a full-on review.

Now, we were just on wasiting-away a Sunday afternoon checking-out what's new, and we stumpled upon news that the Havoc Expansion just shipped! Oh my! Where did that come from?

The Company Line: his is the first expansion for Havoc: the Hundred Years War. It includes a new type of character card, which is shuffled into the regular card deck and changes the game in interesting ways when one of them is drawn. For example, the John of Gaunt card, when drawn, joins the game as a player and starts a battle called The Chevauchées (a group of plundering raids.)

This expansion includes the premium cards that were given out at the game's release in Essen Germany in 2005, and at the first BoardameGeek Conference in Dallas, Texas. In addition to these, a new card not seen before has been added, as well as two extra Dogs of War which can be added to the game or used as blanks for players that want to try out character ideas of their own. The poly bag that comes with the expansion can also be used to store the tokens that come with the original game.

Sounds tasty. We'll make sure to devote some time to the expansion when we review Havoc next month. Until then, you can checkout the expansion yourself -- it's sold exclusively at (as is the original).

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

April 21, 2006

Hands on Havoc

Havoc.4.18.06.jpgWe haven't played enough Havoc: The Hundred Years War to write a full-on review, but we just finished up a session and we thought that we'd share some nuggets of thoughtfully goodness with you.

Invariably a critic's first reaction to Havoc is to classify the game as a Poker variant. This generalization shouldn't scare Families away, however. Havoc includes absolutely no betting, there aren't any chips, there's no stake in losing what you've already won. Greed is not a part of the game -- Folks with morals still 'need apply'.

The game has been skinned with a fairly heavy theme of the Hundred Years War. Historically this conflict was more a series of battles than an all-out rampage, and so each round of the game focuses on a particular battle that took place during that that war. The battles are represented by cards that list a variable number of victory points for those who place first, second and third. The rest can go walk. There are 8 battles in all, and so 8 hands of Havoc make a full game.

Each player starts with a hand of cards drawn from a shuffled deck. The cards have numbers and suits like a set of Hoyle, but because the game can involve 7 players and last 8 rounds, there are more suits than a regular deck of cards. In fact, the the card numbers climb well into the upper teens. There isn't a limit to the number of cards a player can have in his or her hand.

The game begins in the deck-construction phase, where each player has an option to spend their turn drawing two cards, or - if their content on the cards they have - they can chose to "Cry Havoc!" and set the next battle into motion. The player who 'Havoced!' must select two cards from their hand and place them onto the table face-up. Then, each player in turn has a moment to judge the strength of their opponent(s) (based on the 2 face-up cards). If a player chooses to join the battle then they, too, must take 2 cards from their hand and place them face-up on the table. The battle officially beings once everyone has either decided to field a force or sit back, relax, and let the other meatheads slug it out.

Havoc.4.20.06.jpgParticipating players then take turns placing more and more cards onto the table (face-down) to fill out their 'army'. Players may place up to, and including, 6 cards from their hand. Then everyone flips their cards in unison, and the hands are evaluated with near-poker rules (because there are more suits and more numbers, there can be some crazy unpokeresque card combinations). To the victor goes the largest number of victory points, with second and third place often (but not always) winning a consolation prize.

Here's where the game gets interesting. There are a few battles that have a boat-load of victory points, following which the "vultures" who sat-out the last battle can immediately (or soon after) "Cry Havoc!" again to swoop in and win the smaller scrappier battles. The idea is to strike while the opposition is weak.

Havoc starts to shine as a meta-game emerges above the already zany rounds of poker. Apt players must chose when to field troops, to what strength, and learn to weigh the potential spoils against the potential costs. The cost includes the potential loss of a good hand without winning the round (of course), but also the chance that they might remain weak through the next few rounds, as well.

We're definitely looking forward to more rounds of Havoc to see how new strategies emerge. Yep, it's one of those titles which evolves through group dynamics, and seriously - how can you help but love those kinds of games. Expect a full-review once we've played a few more rounds.

Havoc: The Hundred Years War is available exclusively from the online game store.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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