November 9, 2007

Critical Gamers 2007 Holiday Gift Guide - Strategy Board Games

For more great gift ideas across all genres of games please see our
Holiday Gift Guide Index

It's true - the Holidays are coming - and in our ongoing series of 2007 Holiday Shoppers Guides we hope to arm you with the knowledge you'll need to buy that killer game for your friends or loved ones.

In part two of our Holiday Shopper Guides we look into gifts for the Strategy Gamer. These are the folks who grew up playing Chess, Stratego, and the classic Diplomacy, and are now ready for evolved games with better themes and potentially deeper gameplay.

Most of these games are for the more serious gamer who in their mid-teens and up. If you're looking for a title to fit the younger generation or pickup a mainstream game then you should checkout our 2007 Family Games Holiday Gift Guide, which lists some greats games that are more relaxed and interest a wide range of player types. For those of you looking for strategy war games:we ask you to wait until next week when we run down our list of the best war gaming gifts for this year.

But those who want some great standup strategy games then look no further. We've got quite a list here, including many award winners which should satisfy any strategy gamer when they tear off the wrapping paper come late December.

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October 10, 2007

Top 5 Halloween Games 2007

EvilPumpkin.10.31.06.jpgThe weather just turned all overcast and rainy up here in New England, and when darkness fell as the sun set at about 3:30 pm it suddenly struck us: Halloween is just a few weeks away. Something about the cold rainy weather of autumn complements the theme of fighting undead beasties, and that’s a-ok with us. Our game nights for the next few weeks just went into zombie / demony / vampire slaying-fest mode.

Here is our select top 5 games to throw down for the 2007 Halloween season. Some of our choices might surprise you, but hey toughen up -- it’s freakin’ Halloween ya pansy. Close your eyes and stick your hand in this bowl of eyeballs, or even better read on to see our selection for this year.

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October 2, 2007

WoW TCG Damage Dice Review

WoW TCG TreasureChestWe didn’t know what we should have expected from the WoW TCG Damage Dice [Amazon, Funagain], and Upper Deck accessory product that's a sideshow to the formidable WoW TCG. After all – it’s just a box, with dice in it. It’s a Box O’ Dice. Pure and simple. But to be honest, we thought it would be something at least a little bit cooler that it actually is.

The Good Points
It’s a handy little dice carrier that’s not too large and matches the artistic theme of the game, bringing some of the World of Warcraft cartoony art style alive on your table top. It really is a pretty slick looking treasure chest model... when viewed from afar*. The dice set contains both blue and red dice for assigning damage to your alliance or horde allies, and two 10-sided dice (one 1-10, the other 10-100) which work well in tandem to assign damage to your hero. In other words, the product does what it says it does without any major usability gripes.

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August 30, 2007

Our Top 5 Games for Labor Day Weekend '07

Narragansett Beach, Rhode Island

We’re about all packed and ready to head out to the beach house for Labor Day weekend, including our bag o’ games in tow. Yes life is tough. And hopefully you, too, will be take a nice relaxing weekend break.

Here is our selection of party games from gaming stack this year. Its a lighter set keeping in mind a we're trying to reminisce the lazy days of Summer with friends who aren't quite a group of heavy gamers:

  • Apples to Apples

    Can’t go wrong with this party game classic. Everyone and their mom like’s Apples to Apples after chilling on the beach – it’s light, funny, social, and easy to get into. This all adds up to an easy first selection from the the middle of the game stack.

  • Condottiere
    Before the boys withdraw to the withdrawing room for their late night poker tournament, this card game should be a great warm up for everyone. It lacks the chip gambling mechanics which makes it "nice" for those without the gambling fever, but there’s enough gameplay decisions and risks to make it attractive even for veteran poker fans. It walks that thin line so well.

  • Ticket to Ride Marklin
    When we're actually craving a game with a board, Ticket to Ride really delivers. This one supplants the classic Settlers of Catan, which has been played almost to detail. Marklin also remains our favorite of the Ticket to Ride series, even though the stock Ticket to Ride has been brought up to date with similar mechanics via the 1910 Expansion.

  • Celebrity
    We're not actually packing our favorite party game, 'cause there's nothing to pack! Celebrity is the perfect ice breaker for our friends who've just gathered again for the first time in a year. Funny, inventive, laid back; contains the greatest of things to get the weekend started.

Have a good weekend folks. See you on the other side when we enter the Fall season of games, and football season! Woot!

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August 27, 2007

Dune Board Game Remake - Pretty Please?

Just about everyone Critical Gamer has read Dune – sometimes more than once - and all of us have marked it down as one of the top ten sci fi novels period. Hands down. Pencils down. Baron Vladimir Harkonnen is down. If you like science fiction and you haven’t picked it up, then do so now.

For those who are already fans of Dune, you will want to perk your ears up. Last week at GenCon publisher Fantasy Flight Games noted that they were working on a remake of the classic board game Dune. The original Dune is also heralded as one of the better games from gaming history, and closely tied to the setting from Frank Herbert’s masterpiece novel. As a testament to its greatness and longevity, the game - originally published in 1979 - still holds rank #44 on Board Game Geek, and can be found passing through gaming hands via Ebay for upwards of $150-$200.

There is one problem, however. The rights to the Dune board game are locked-up by franchise owner Kim Herbert. And currently she’s not offering it up for sale, to anyone. Not even Kyle MacLachlan.

Due to this passive stonewalling, Fantasy Flight Games has decided to circumvent the Dune tie-ins. Instead they’re going to take the Dune gameplay and vaccum seal their Twilight Imperium universe around it. Hrm, we love T.I. and all, but this just isn’t going to cut it. We want the spice fields of Dune, and we want them now.

If you’re with us - then there is a glimmer of hope. An online petition has been formed in hopes that Fantasy Flight Games and Kim Herbert might at least talk about the idea of a Dune board game remake. After all, as of now, it seems like they haven’t even spoken to each other.

And that’s a pretty darn big shame.

Via BoardGameNews

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July 27, 2007

Three-Dragon Ante - How to Spice Up Your RPG Encounters

Three Dragon AnteEver been part of the lamest and uninspired RPG encounters? You know, the ones where you have when matching wits with an NPC, which pretty much consists of acting stupid in front of your friends, threatening a ghost sitting in the vacant chair next to you, and then rolling a die to see if your melodramatic performance actually won you the intimidation check? You roll a 2. Exciting!

Well we're about to show you a great way to spice up the monotony of social-skill and wit dice checks. Three Dragon Ante [Funagain, Official] first started as an in-game card game which DMs could throw down on the mahogany, waxed dining room table table in order to give some grit and atmosphere to the room. Players can use it as an in-character card game to kill some time in a local tavern, or use it as a tool, customizing the deck so the player has to game the encounters through a quick hand. This - of course - goes to great lengths to keep the spice in the air throughout some otherwise trivial, boring, and anticlimactic encounters.

Here's the official word on Three-Dragon Ante from Wizards of the Coast

"The high-stakes game of chance preferred by D&D; characters of all classes and levels!

Three-Dragon Ante is a fast-paced noncollectable card game based on the tavern games played by characters within the D&D; game world. Three-Dragon Ante can be played as a standalone card game when there isn't enough time for a full-fledged D&D; adventure, or it can be played as part of a roleplaying campaign-where a character's abilities can give him or her a unique winning edge.

For 2-6 players. Great for dedicated D&D; gamers or anyone interested in a cool, fast, fantasy-based game of chance."

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July 16, 2007

A Flak Magazine Special: Social Gaming Reinvigorated

Flak GamesFlak Magazine has posted a series of articles describing their thoughts and views on what they describe as a Renaissance in "analog" game which has quietly occurred in the shadow of mass media video and computer games. Their articles are all very well written, and quite inspiring to we who are looking-on from the inside-out - waiting and cheering as board games, Eurogames, card games, and party games become increasingly popular among the other types of gamers who enjoy the warm glow of TV and VGs.

Not that there's anything wrong with either of those mediums - we've got a mighty impressive collection of consoles and HD TVs in our group that it's almost embarrassing. But it's great to hear other sites approaching gaming from the other direction, with talk about how The Settlers of Catan has become the new Monopoly amongst articles of God of War 2. Other installments in the series include looks at Lost Cities, Puerto Rico, and our personal favorite party game of them all: Celebrity.

This entire special-look at analog gaming culminates with a great How-To Guide for starting your own game group, including details on the few key elements that could make or break the fun factor of the evening. If you're really looking to start up your own group for some face-face fun with friends, then you should definitely make sure the results of your own organizing work doesn't become a boring chore of mediocre or enforced gaming for your attendees.

And don't think that this is a fluff piece, either. These guys seriously know what they're talking about. Check it out:

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July 11, 2007

Scene It? Comes to the Xbox 360

The DVD Trivial Game Microsoft continues the trend of brining the world of Social Gaming to the Xbox 360 with a 360 version of the DVD trivia “Scene It?” [Amazon, Funagain], which was announced during last night’s Electronic Entertainment Expo Press Conference in Los Angeles, California.

It looks like the Xbox board game adaptations aren’t just limited to Xbox Live anymore, as Scene It? will ship in an off the shelf boxed version. Included in every package are four of these colorful remotes which you see here. Sure, they’re not made of rugged space-age durable plastic, but you get four in the same box as the game, and at the same price as a standard 360 title. For such lack of cost the visual quality seems A-OK for now-- maybe we’ll change our minds when we get our hands on them.

Step 2 is trying to find a place to hide them while we’re not playing trivial with the family. Talk about some ugly living room clutter.

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July 4, 2007

Gleemax Lands RoboRally, and Expands

Gleemax Knows ALL about gamingGleemax has just announced that it will be bringing an online version of the board game RoboRally to their Everything Gaming community website. As far as we understand it, this will mark the first game release in what founder Randy Buehler hopes to be a long line of online games and resources for the everyday gamer.

A mock-up of how RoboRally will look and feel has been posted by Randy here. Yes, it seems very bare bones - for now, but there's definitely potentia here especially considering that they just started working on the title a few days ago.

Speaking of which - as we reported a few weeks ago, the recently launched Gleemax website is still very much in its infancy. Currently the site has a small nucleus of readers and viewers, but soon it will expand with tools and focused content for specific games and the respective gamers who enjoy them.

First up is a suite of tools centered around a new customizable front end. The goal - provide users the power to make their own visual formatted look and feel of the website, with the functionality and tools that will feed them the latest news from the various online social scenes taking place in sections across the site. Users will be to sit back and have the website bubble-up content to their front page whenever they log in, allowing to be on top of the latest and greatest in Eurogames, Axis and Allies board game variants, World of Warcraft TCG, tiddly winks, whatever their gaming heart desires. It's as if users will be able to poke Gleemax's brain with their own tongue depressor - probing lobes and quadrants until he starts spewing focused gaming knowledge tailored by your own designs.

BrainSugreonToolsHere's the official word from Randy Buehler's Gleemax Blog:

" All of these various pieces of custom functionality will be done as widgets so you can pick and choose which ones you care about and put your pages together using just the ones you want. We've currently spec'ed out something like 37 different things that we think would be cool and our vendor has already started working through that list. The way I think about this, though, we'll never be done adding new features and tools to the site. We'll keep reacting to what you guys want and what you do with the site. This is because we've decided to build this community with you, as opposed to delivering a finished system that you might or might not like. This means that we'll deliver extremely basic functionality at first, and then, with your feedback, we'll evolve from there. We're counting on the fact that you'll want to be in this conversation with us and help us define this space as your space. "

We have to admit that the launch of Gleemax didn't impress us all that much, but this latest blog post is pretty darn inspiring (read the full thing here). Randy and Gleemax look to mean business, and in ways that will be great for gamers who aim to maintain an online presence.

And last time we checked the mirror, that audience includes us.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

July 2, 2007

June '07 Round Up

Roundup2.jpgAs far as the short months go, June was pretty good. The WWII strategy game Tide of Iron shipped in early June just after D-Day. Some great preview news from Tannhauser followed shortly after when the game’s official trailer went live – and we gotta say: it excites the dark twisted side of us so. There’s just something about 1920’s future-tech and battling creepy demons with submachine guns that gets our blood pumping.

And of course the WoW TCG Molten Core Raid Deck lead our headlines with our hands on impressions, reviews, and news galore. This WoW TCG franchise continues to impress us while it slowly evolves over time, and we have high hopes for the next few releases this fall.

In the meantime we’re poking a stick at Carcassonne on Xbox Live – so far we think it’s great but sometimes the user community isn't always at home to match random game against. And one more mighty-large negative checklist on our ratings clipboard: where are the expansion packs? The standard title lacks gameplay diversity - even with the Rivers expansion - and this might kill the longevity and popularity of the title even before other expansion packs come out. Maybe they’ll keep it fresh with some quickly released downloadable content, but we’re not holding our breath.

Here’s the other board game news from June:

Board Games

Collectible Card Games

Gaming Culture

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