May 31, 2006

May '06 Roundup for

We hope you dodged the miserable rainstorms that drenched the Northeast for half of May.. but then again, that stretch of gray was a perfect opportunity to dust off the ole dining room table and enjoy same gaming before the summer officially hits. Not that summer '06 will slow us down. We had some great reviews in May, and we hope to continue the trend through June. Tomorrow we'll kick-off the new month with a review of "Interact toGo", and later we'll roll-up our sleeves for a critical look at the board games "Carcassonne: The Tower", "Ticket to Ride: Märklin", and "Wildwords". We'll also post our initial impressions of the Battlestar Galactica CCG, to ensure that this collectible card game lives up to its namesake.

Wow, June looks like it's going to be a busy month of gaming. Heh, not that we're complaining.

Board Games

Collectible Card Games

Gaming Culture

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

May 25, 2006

Battlestar Galactica CCG - Building Military and Political Decks

BattlestarGalactica.3.21.06a.jpgThe official Battlestar Galactica Collectable Card Game website hosts two more feature articles about deck construction for the upcoming BS:G CCG release. Winning the Political Way is a very detailed description of a deck built to win the Influence game by hitting the triumphant 20-Influence high water mark. The deck also makes use of the "Manipulate" mechanic to stymie an opponent's military capacity in combat (remember that the victim of combat loses Influence points, and you're Colonial flotsam when your influence reaches zero).

When the game ships (which is like, nowish) there will be only one other major way to defeat your opponent - through military force, and that's where Building a Military Deck picks up where 'the Political Way left-off. Here, author Brook Willeford designs a deck around Security cards (read military cards) including famous personnel like show favorites Adama, Apollo, Starbuck and lesser characters like Helo, Gopher, and Joey Joe-Joe Shabado Sr (who cleans up C-Deck on third shift).

It's a shame that Willeford didn't hyperlink the card names to their online card database, because the articles fire a barrage of card names at the reader without any details about what each card actually does. Still - even without the juicy details these articles serve as great examples of deck construction, and more importantly how BS:G will play in a game session.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

May 19, 2006

Review: Ultra Pro Deckbox

DeckBox.jpgA few of us got tired of lugging our Magic Decks around in ziplock bags. Sure, they're waterproof and they combat freezer-burn, but they're not conducive to collecting and they're certainly not at all stylish. Enter the Ultra Pro Deck Box - a nice, handheld, stackable, and anal retentive-friendly way to store and lug-around your favorite decks of cards. Deck Boxes come in all sorts of shades and sizes, and are available in most hobby stores. We got ours from the Ultra Pro website.

Some Deck Boxes come slathered with fantasy art designs, which we're not a huge fan of. Check that, our girlfriends and wives aren't huge fans of. And since these things hang around the apartment, it's best not push any buttons with the anti-fantasy females who know where the knives are. Thankfully Ultra Pro has the entirely low key and un pimped gunmetal gray, shiny blue, and clear plastic cases for our more 'distinguished' and spineless tastes.

For two bucks you can pick up the bottom shelf 'solid series'. These are the ones we have, and for two bucks they get the job done. The lid seals with a velcro strip, and a 60-card constructed deck with sideboard fit quite nicely within. The non transparent varieties come with a writable white stripe on the top of the box so you don't have to sort through each box looking for the right deck.

All nicey nice and all, but these things won't win any awards for craftsmanship though. The $2.05 variety are "Made of durable poly material" which is Mr Wizard talk for one very thick piece of plastic sheeting folded-in and over itself. It's not a very rigid body; certain panels bulge as the soft plastic stretches to reach the manufactured seams. These things came off an assembly plant, and it shows.

For $2.05 price tag, it's certainly a step-up from a zip lock bag, but not much of one.

2 stars out of 5 Our Rating System

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

May 4, 2006

Our Review Policy

Zoomed-in white looks gray.We have this crazy notion that most review sites skew their scores towards the positive. Essentially one or two stars out of five are almost unheard of.. and that's not fair. If 2.5 is average, smack in between 'great' and 'crap-awful', then how come just about everything in the world is a 3+? Not to get depressing - but last time we check ed the outside world it wasn't black and white but pretty grey.

So please don't shower us with hatemails when you see a low score for something you love. We'll just reply with a fruit basket containing a simple note with the link to this page saying "We told how it is." If you disagree with our points about what was good, what was bad, and why, well then.. that's different.

Without further adieu, our 5 star 'system':

  • 0 Stars : Fill your gas tank and grab a coffee (to go), because the only satisfaction you'll get from owning this product will occur the moment you abandon it on the side of a distant freeway.

  • 1 Star : The potential of this product is obvious, but it falls short in almost every way. It'll end-up on the bottom of your game stack, sitting dusty and neglected.

  • 2 Stars : This product has a few good things going on, but the bad elements overshadow them. Only for people who are enthusiastic over the subject matter.

  • 3 Stars : A very strong product for the intended audience. A product that 'works' out of the box.

  • 4 Stars : This product is so good that it will interest almost everyone, even folks who normally wouldn't' give 'similar products' their extra umbrella in a rainstorm.

  • 5 Stars: : Lie, loot, cheat, .. sell some blood if you have to, just get this product. We'll still be playing it when we're 80.

The word "product" should be replaced with "game" in almost every case, but we do sometimes review gaming peripherals, so we thought we'd be product-generic to be on the safe side.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

May 1, 2006

April '06 Roundup for

Roundup2.jpgIf we were to sum up April in one word, it would be "CCGs". Sure, there was great information about the board game expansions A Storm of Swords (a game of thrones) and the Battles of the Third Age (war of the ring expansion), but the beef of the new-product news came from the CCGs. Magic the Gathering released information about the final Ravnica set "Dissension", and the Battlestar Galactica CCG website continued churning-out feature articles for the game's May tour.

Speaking of May releases, Critical Gamers is set to have quite the month. Tomorrow we'll have a special treat - an interview with Wildwords' creator Peter Roizen about his board game that kicks Scrabble up to eleven. May should also host some major releases including Warrior Nights, Battles of the Third Age, the Battlestar Galatica Collectible Card Game May Demo Tour, and of course the release of Ravnica: Dissension.

Hold on to your butts!

Board Games

Collectible Card Games

Gaming Culture

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

April 25, 2006

Dissension in Detail

Dissension.4.24.06.jpgWizards of the Coast has no reason to keep Dissension under wraps now that the Dissension prerelease weekend is over, and thankfully they realize this, too. Not only do they have an alphabetical list of cards and their abilities on a nice clean web page, but the Dissension cards have also been incorporated into Gatherer, the online database of all things Magic: The Gathering.

We're drooling over the Simic Guild (Blue/Green) - not becuase the glowing mound Experiment Kraj is quite the Simic badass, but becuase of the cool little things like this guy: Omnibian. A cute frog with a kiss of death.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

April 17, 2006

Battlestar Galactica CCG - New Article and Official Rules

BattleStar.2.28.06a.jpgSome great stuff coming out of the official Battlestar Galactica Collectable Card Game website.

First up is a new feature article "Challenging your Opponent in the Battlestar Galactica CCG". If you pay close attention to life then it might have hit you the blond reporter on BS:G is Xena Warrior Princess. If you're playing even closer attention then you might also realize that has absolutely nothing to do with anything. That's exactly why you've gotta keep on your toes -- Cylons are a tricky lot, and if you spend too much time sidestepping the closed fist flying at your face then you might overlook that Cylon basestar which warped in behind you. It just launched a nuke straight-up your tucus. Ouch.

Confused? Read "Challenging your Opponent in the Battlestar Galactica CCG"; it'll clear some things up for you.

We're also treated to another new BS:G CCG Oracle: Wizkids has released a digital version of Official Rules booklet (pdf) that will ship with the game. Sure it's drier than the standard feature article treatment, but hey - short of a game demo, you can't get a better grasp of how fun a game will be.

Oh baby, we're definitely getting close to launch.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

April 11, 2006

Ravnica: Dissension Revealed

Dissension.4.11.06.jpgMagic The Gathering's preeminent themed block "Ravnica: Ciity of Guilds" hit store shelves last October. It included four Guilds - each a themed set of cards representing a color pair from Magic's 5 element colorspace : red, white, blue, black, and green. The initial installment focused on the parings of the Red/White Boros guild (power through order), the Green/Black Golgari (growth through death), the Blue/Black Dimir (focused on deck trickery), and finally the Green/White Selesnya (growth and order).

Then Guildpact was released. Expanding on Ravnica's base collection of cards, Guildpact adds three more guilds to the mix that serve to create a far more aggressive form of Magic gameplay. The White/Black Orzhov gain both power and life through their own death, the Red/Green Gruul combine quick attacks with sudden giant growth, and the Blue/Red Izzet rain-down direct pain through the manipulation of non combative game mechanics.

Guildpact is still in full swing, but so is Wizard of the Coast's design team; the first news of the final Ravnica expansion "Dissension" is reaching the official Magic the Gathering website this week.

Lead Magic Designer Mark Rosewater's feature article "Seeds of Destruction" introduces the design team working on Dissension and summarizes the various philosophies of the three new guilds. The demonic Black/Red 'Rakdos' gain physical power to damage their opponent through death and sacrifice. The White/Blue 'Azorius' guild created the laws of the fictional Ravnica world, and so their goal is to win through the manipulation of game rules. And the Green/Blue 'Simic' are backyard chemists who evolve and augment living organic substances, to create powerful creatures which grow powerful over time. The new game rules Hellbent (Rakdos), Forecast (Azorius), and Graft (Simic) have only been announced in name thus far, but it doesn't take much imagination to guess how they might play-out given the three guild's philosophies. Finally, the article unveils one of Dissension's new rare cards, the Experiment Kraj which has gotta leaves quite the stank in Simic's cafeteria.

The other article of interest is Rei Nakazawa's "Dissension in the Ranks". This article treats us with descriptions of the guilds' various mindsets, and also introduces the Rakdos the Defiler. Granted, the Rakdos art is a bit of a Peter Jacksion Balrog ripoff, but damn he's sexy in that 7/6 flying trample "I'll swallow your children and crap-out round torment pies" sort of way.

Wizards of the Coast will host a Dissension Worldwide Prerelease event on April 22nd and 23rd. Dissension officially launches this May. Will keep you apprised of more interesting news as it's published over the next month.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

April 7, 2006

BS:G CCG - Two New Official Feature Articles

BSG.4.7.06.jpg Wow, they really keep cranking out the feature stories at official Battlestar Galactica card game website. We have two new preview articles, including some pretty darn nice card previews.

"They Look and Feel Human" focuses on the Cylons and how they can be used to effect your opponent, how you can use them to boost your own influence, shoot at toasters, sleep with deck chiefs, pilots, etc.

From "They Look and Feel Human": The risk-reward ratio for including Cylon cards in your deck is dramatic. Most players will include a few Cylon cards, but some will build a deck around the Cylon base star and fill their decks with nonhuman cards. The Cylons keep things interesting. You’re never quite sure what effect they’re going to have on the game.

BSG.NO6.4.07.06.jpgThe latest article "Home Is Where You Park Your Vipers" runs-over the game's Starbase mechanics. The starbase anchors your deck, incorporating your starting influence, maximum hand size, and your resiliency to Cylon attack. Influence, as you recall, is similar to a health mechanic; when it hits twenty you've become the next FDR and win, but if it reaches zero you'll yourself at washout bar, pulling back drinks with Michael "Brownie" Brown.
From "Home Is Where You Park Your Vipers": Whether you’re a Cylon infiltrator, a politician making a grab for power, or a member of the military just out to protect the fleet, your base will undoubtedly be the first thing you choose when building a deck, because without putting careful thought into which base you use, you’re going to be at a significant disadvantage. Besides, it would be mighty embarrassing if you didn’t have somewhere to park your viper after a grueling day flying CAP.

We're surprised at the variety of base cards that will be available at launch. We got a vibe from the previous feature articles that the Cyclons were going to be released a future expansion. We were also half-expecting a single base-card for each of the Adama and President Roslyn starter decks. But now we know that the first release will have at least 7 base cards, including 2 different Battlestars and a Cyclon Basestar. Variety is the spice of life, and looks like a pure Cylon deck is a completely viable option.


All your Basestar are belong to us.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

April 5, 2006

Magic TG: Guildpact Draft Strategies Part Two

GuildpactDraftStrategies.4.5.06.jpgWizards of the Coast (WoC) posted a great article a few weeks ago about eight player draft strategies for certain Guildpact Guilds and cards. Actually, it's more of a take-home exercise than a strategy guide, custom tailored for folks like us who are constantly in search of more Guildpact know-how.

Why should you care? Well the original questions remained mere questions, until now. The polls are in, and WoC Magic expert Noah Weil wrote up a great article of reactions and analysis. He seems like such a friendly guy - he didn't freak-out over his disagreements with public opinion.

Speaking of nice guys, we'd just like to say that if you never bothered to take the original survey but decided to skip straight-to the answers anyway, then we 're going to go ahead and call you "a lazy bum". Sure, it lacks tact, but we are critical. Don't come crying to momma when you decide to draft a "Pillory of the Sleepless" to deal with large creatures instead of a "Douse in Gloom", and a common "Absolver Thrull" bites you in the tucus. Yikes, did that just come out of our mouths?

We joke because we love... but seriously, you're a lazy bum. Hey, are those beers?

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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