June 28, 2007

Handoff! Football Card & Dice Game Enters Beta

Handoff! Enters BetaAttention football fans: training Camp is now in full swing, which means we simply have to manage the crucible of a few hot summer months before the autumnal battles of football echo in living rooms across America. Hard hits, coffee table throw downs, spicy wings and erratic heartbeats will follow. Consult your physician now.

Independent Gamers, Inc is preparing themselves, honing their upcoming Football Card & Dice Game - "Handoff!" - and is looking for a few good beta testers to give feedback on the title's gameplay. Interested parties should visit the Founder's Blog (the official website should launch soon) to learn how to apply for your own Official Handoff! Beta Tester Kit. The kit includes a mini version of the game, and a feedback form so your active participation can make the game go the distance.

We're working to get our own copy of the game in-house to run it through its paces. Keep your eyes peeled for more football gaming goodness coming your way soon.

Go on three. Ready -- break!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

June 27, 2007

Carcassonne on Xbox Live

Carcassonne for Xbox Live ArcadeMicrosoft today released the Xbox Live port of our favorite Eurogame: Carcassonne! The download is available through the Xbox Live Arcade Marketplace for 800 points (~ $10 ) and includes both the original Carcassonne game, and the popular 12-Tile Rivers expansion. The game sports single player support, online support for up to five players, and - for those family oriented gamers - hotseat support for four players on one machine.

The first Eurogame release of Catan Live has been quite a success, and we have high hopes for the Carcassonne treatment as well. We have a diffenret developer this time around in Sierra Online, but the change-up really doesn't concern us too much; Sierra has been responsible for a successfully string of online parlor games dating back to their Sierra Online service of the early 1990s.

But we are a bit disappointed to learn that the other Carcassonne expansions aren't included in this release. It would have been nice to mix up some multiplayer games with a mistmatch of the expansions. Yeah, sure that would have required Sierra to put more work into produce a larger set of art assets and the addition of some flexible AI code, but it would have paid off in spades with any Carcassonne lover.
Carcassonne Looks Pretty Sweet in Semi 3D
Also we're a bit concerned about the flow of gameplay in Carcassonne, too. Online matches might succumb to analysis paralysis, and become quite the snoozefest. Hopefully there's a mechanism for players to reach out across the virtual table and smack opponents out of their brain loop. We hope Sierra has figured out a dynamic warning/penalty system rather than the stock, overzealous and utilitarian turn time limit which usually makes the whole gaming experience so cold. Of course, that's probably what we'll get.

Anyway, we still have high hopes for Carcassonne Live. We'll check back in with our impressions once we have a few games under our belt. It's going to torturous work.

Read on for the official details.

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Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

June 20, 2007

Gleemax Gaming Community Website Launches

Gleemax Knows ALL about gamingWizards of the Coast announced that their new gaming community hub website Gleemax launched last week. The site will serve as a social hub for for all gaming audiences to come together and post their own user articles, discussions, etc, And its not meant for just Wizard of the Coast games, but all games under the Sun - from Axis & Allies to Zombies!, and every RPG, board game, and CCG in between.

The shotgun aim for such a broad audience scares us a bit - we fear that the generic theme will breed generic content. Usually it's the case that new community sites require some sort of special focused catalyst before a large audience flocks in for meaningful discussions, and due to these concerns we decided to wait a week before we passed our initial judgment on the true potential of this new social gaming megasite.

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Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

June 13, 2007

WoW TCG Molten Core Raid Deck Hands On Part 1

Molten Core Raid begins on May 30thAfter a week of prep work and rules research, a pesky bachelor or two, and some inevitable schedule juggling, we finally sat down last night to put the World of Warcraft TCG Molten Core Raid Deck [Amazon,Shopzilla] through its paces.

We were eager to see how Upper Deck handled this second raid deck installment -- we had some problems with the Onyxia deck which seemed far too easy for five of our finely tuned veteran solo decks. This time around we decided to switch things up by adding a few alternate characters to the mix . Our classic Fire Mage was benched for an alternate Frost Mage (which seemed more appropriate for running the fiery chasms of the Molten Core, anyway), and our main rogue was swapped out for a Holy Paladin with the in hopes of adding that extra healing oomph that we’d need to survive the upcoming marathon of ten major boss battles.

MCFireLord.jpgWe put Critical Gamer Russ – our WoW expert - in charge of pulling the strings of the Molten Core Bosses. Last night for two hours our flock of Heroes danced around and smacked Russ in the face as we downed the raid’s first five bosses. In the following article he recounts the night’s battle from the eyes of the antagonist, and comments on the Molten Core Raid Deck’s success and failures of adapting the 40-man online raid into a card game for the WoW TCG.

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Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

June 7, 2007

Randy Gallegos: Dreaming in Black and White

DreamingIng in Black and WhiteAcclaimed artist Randy Gallegos has compiled and bound a selection of his art fantastic creations commissioned for the World of Warcraft TCG, Magic the Gathering, and D&D; source materials for your viewing pleasure. The first book of his collection The Art of Gallegos: Dreaming in Black and White is slated to ship in July, and even dons Randy Gallegos signature!

Here are the juicy details:

"Daydream Graphics is pleased to announce the publication of The Art of Gallegos: Dreaming in Black and White, a 64-page perfect-bound softcover book featuring over 100 drawings and sketches from Magic: the Gathering, World of Warcraft, Dungeons & Dragons, and many other venues, even including artwork appearing in this summer's MtG Tenth Edition and recent WoW sets Dark Portal and Molten Core.

This is the first collection of Randy Gallegos' artwork, and retails for $19.95, signed by the artist. For a limited time, orders placed prior to the book's release on 7/26 will have the option of including an original sketch inside.

More information can be found at the artist's website: http://gallegosart.com"

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

May 4, 2007

Catan Xbox Live Impressions

'Catan' on Xbox LiveCatan officially launched on Wednesday. We didn't write a story then because we figured that our previous coverage from earlier this week already kept you on top of the news. Call us self-critical but we didn't want to sound like a loudspeaker bullhorn pumping out the consumer propaganda. At least not until we had a chance to wrap our hands around the game so we could give you our impressions, and let you know if it’s worth the 800 points on Xbox Live (~ $10.00 US).

The Good and the Bad
Catan Live is a great translation of the classic board game. Those who have played the Settlers of Catan enough to know the details of the game backwards and forwards will be very much satisfied with their play experience on Catan Live. However, those players who are unfamiliar with the Settlers of Catan board game might need to a bit of convincing to see where all the excitement is at.

This isn't really because Catan has any obvious shortcomings that shoot up a red flare of FAILURE. However as the first release of a board game on the Live service, this title might have a tough time luring a console gaming audience into the world of Catan – where most of the excitement comes from the outcome of a pair of dice - when many of the Xbox Livites thirst after explosions, chainsaw kills, gibs and car wrecks. Even worse, it's a bit confusing to determine exactly what's going in a game of Catan given the game's UI - the graphical presentation of card trades and gathered resources is done well, but it fades very quickly in order to keep the game moving at a good pace.

We think players new to board gaming like to learn by observation, keeping track of other players behave in certain situations, and that's pretty difficult to do for a beginner of Catan on Xbox Live. We could see how players new to Eurogames - who might be itching for any reason to dismiss the game - could get confused and lose interest almost immediately due the game's hasty presentation.

It took a while even for us to get used to what was going on. For instance, in a face to face game, there’s a part of each Settlers when people call out which resources they gathered after a dice roll. We’ve become used to this being a good thirty second production where excitedly demand their well-earned resource cards, etc. The audible and physical presence of the in-person Settlers makes each turn an event, and thus easy to remember ‘who got what?’ even from a few turns ago. But in the console Catan game, the whole resource awarding phase ends in about 3 seconds, and it takes a few games to realize that you’re not paying enough attention to a very important part of the game that almost seems to be brushed aside for the sake of efficiency.

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Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

May 3, 2007

How to Keep Your GQM Subscription Alive

GamesQuarterly.7.28.06.jpgA month ago we were sad to report that Games Quarterly Magazine is no more. The bad news is that this is still the case. The good news is that current subscribers won’t be left hanging in the breeze.

The gaming mag Knucklebones has worked a deal to keep GQM alive just long enough to fulfill the magazine’s current subscriptions. But subscribers can’t sit back and their comfy chair and expect Mr Belveder to put on your breakfast table with the Times, a glass of OJ and half a fresh grapefruit. No, you’ll have to be proactive about it.

And to that end Jones Publishing asked us to forward the details on how readers can keep their subscription going. And how could we not post something with such great noble purpose?

So read on if you’re looking to keep your magazine subscription going.

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Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

April 30, 2007

April '07 Roundup

Roundup2.jpgWow, this was a busy month. A solid set of game releases, and tis the season for the release schedule updates, new game announcements, etc. Fantasy Flight Games dropped their release schedule onto the table last week, but we're also pretty darn excited about the announcement of Axis & Allies Guadalcanal. That series just keeps on kicking.

Meanwhile we've been playing quite a bit of the WoW TCG Through the Dark Portal Expansion. We're a bit iffy on the set as a stand alone thing, but the expansion shines-well as a complement to the original Heroes of Azeroth. We suppose that’s true of all TCG Expansion set releases, but a voice in the back of our collective heads (aka: Intern Ronnie) thought it was worth mentioning. In some ways the Expansion is a must-have if you want to keep your deck lean n' mean -- some of Azeroth's cards have become outdated by the 1:1 mapping of the card in the Dark Portal, which usually has the same amount of power but can be played for less cost. We're not quite sure how we feel about that.

We’ve also been throwing down some more Settlers of Catan: Struggle For Rome as we’ve realized the game definitely has some legs. It’s been a good month overall, but we’re anxiously awaiting some June / July releases including the BS:G RPG and Tide of Iron. They’re so close we can almost taste ‘em.

This month we’ll try to throw down a board of Galactic Destiny from Golden Laurel. Let the backstabbing begin! Also up this month we’ll break up Catan Live! to see how well a virtual board game can play on the Xbox Live service. Inquiring minds want to know. And we’ll continue to plug Through the Dark Portal, expansion to the WoW TCG, to see if we can find any obvious holes in the game’s second set release. It’s going to be a good one.

Game Releases

Board Games

Collectible Card Games

Gaming Culture

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

"Catan Live" Wednesday May 2nd, 2007

'Catan' on Xbox LiveThose of you who keep on top of things - like today's date - should immediately realize that Wednesday May 2nd, 2007 is only two days away. And it's about time.

Only two days until the first major board game release hits XBox Live for the XBox 360 console. And with many more Euorgames and American board games on the way, this is only the beginning. Here are the official details as presented by Xbox Live's Major Nelson:

"Catan" for Xbox LIVE Arcade puts players in the role of colonists on a newly discovered island, where they vie for control of valuable territory and resources through strategy and trading. The game can be learned in just minutes, but will challenge players of all skill levels, even the experts!

Klaus Teuber, creator of the original Settlers of Catan board game, had this to say about the collaboration with Big Huge Games: "I had no doubts that Brian Reynolds would do a great job, and the first version of the game exceeded my highest expectations. The AI is so clever that I even lost several games in a row! Hands down, this game for the Xbox LIVE Arcade is an amazing achievement."

"Catan" will be available worldwide for 800 Microsoft Points and is rated E for Everyone."

More information can be found on the Catan Live Official Website. We'lll see you in-game on Wednesday night. Woot!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

April 26, 2007

George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" RPG Announced

A Game of Thrones, Book 1 in A Song of Ice and FireThe publisher Green Ronin has announced its plans to produce a Role Play Game around the A Song of Ice and Fire, the fantasy setting made famous my George R.R. Martin series of novels of the same name. We personally don't have much hands-on experience with Green Ronin, but we haven't quite found any bad press about the RPGs either.

Yes, it's true, we're more board gamers than RPG players. For some reason we feel that we've always played RPGs incorrectly. Maybe the years of structured board gaming has squelched our improvisational skills. But to be fair, fighting a goblin one v one with both he and your hero missing 15 rounds in a row.. just doesn't lend itself to the creation of an exciting narrative. At about round 4 you give up describing how totally inept both characters are, and reach for your beer and a keno ticket instead.

But that doesn't mean we can't see a potential successful franchise when it comes and punches in the face. Based on the most popular thread running through Green Ronin's forums, the veteran RPGs company is starting things from scratch, designing RPG systems custom tailored to the A Song of Ice and Fire theme. Considering the source material it's based on, we hope for the best.

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Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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