June 14, 2006

Off His Gourd

DocBrownB.6.14.06.jpgHasbro is working on yet another Monopoly board game remake, this time focusing on that smoggy isle that never sleeps - Manhattan.

That's not the crazy bit.

Here it is:

According to Yahoo News Donald Trump, king of Manhattan, is shopping-around a new reality television series based on the new Monopoly remake. Yeah, you heard us right... and no, we have no idea how the show would work, either. He also has renowned TV documentarist R.J. Cutler involved in the production, too, which is probably the best of the news.

Why are we so bitter? Monopoly is an abstraction of reality, and to fold it back to reality again on a Produced TV set seems.. uh.. just a bit contrived. We also hate such Frankensteinian co-branding. And frankly, prime time TV doesn't need any more reality shows. Oh yeah, and it's our opinion that Trump's taste is tackier than a powder-blue tux at a viking funeral. Other than that -- it's a smashing idea.

Read more about this story on Yahoo News

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

June 6, 2006

Settlers of Catan Official Scenario Design Contest

CatanDesignContest.6.6.06.jpgMayfair Games has announced a Scenario Design Contest for their hit game Settlers of Catan. Those of you who've tweaked the Settlers' rules to compensate for any perceived holes in gameplay now have a chance to get their creations officially stamped by Mayfair Games' seal of approval, and also published in Games Quarterly Magazine. Not a bad deal.

Contest Details

Final Submission Date—October 31, 2006. We’ll announce the winner on April 30, 2007.

Grand Prize—The winning scenario will be published in Games Quarterly Magazine AND its designer will receive a copy of the special, limited, 10th Anniversary Catan 3D Collector’s Edition, plus a Catan Alumni khaki polo shirt.

1st Prizes (5)—These five scenarios may be published AND each winning designer will receive a Catan Alumni khaki
polo shirt.

2nd Prizes (10)—These ten scenarios may be published AND each winning designer will receive a printed University of Catan shirt.

3rd Prizes (50)—Each winning designer will receive a pin with the Mayfair Games Catan logo.

Some quick math says that come next April we'll all have 65 "good" Catan variants to toss around. That should keep you happy even if you don't win that swank Catan khaki Alumni Polo shirt.

The design contest is only for the original Settlers of Catan 4-player board game [Amazon, Funagain] in its purest form (with none of the expansions). For official entry rules visit the "First Ever Catan Scenario Design Contest" webpage at Mayfair games.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

Now Shipping: Axis & Allies Miniatures D-Day Boosters

AAM_DDayBooster.6.6.06.JPGAvalon Hill has released their latest installment to the Axis and Allies Miniatures tactical board game Axis & Allies D-Day. The new expansion adds 45 new units including: 25 Allied units, 16 Axis, new airplanes, heroes, and 4 new battlefield obstacles.

The Official Line: The assault on Fortress Europe begins with D-Day. Highlighting units and nations involved in Operation Overlord – including the debut of Canadian troops – D-Day features the introduction of battlefield obstacles: immobile, non nation-specific units like pillboxes and tank traps that add to the realism of game play. Fan requested favorites like the Supermarine Spitfire and Jagdtiger also roar into action.

The D-Day Booster Pack Contains:

  • 9 randomized, prepainted, durable plastic miniatures
  • Full-color game stat cards
  • Set Checklist
  • Rules not included.

You can grab the D-Day expansion miniatures in the form of booster packs, which are in stores now. Each booster includes 9 random models from the Rare, Uncommon and Common model distribution. The rares in D-Day are mainly new fighter planes, ground attack aircraft , and Allied armored vehicles. Axis mech forces lie mainly in the "Uncommon" rarity type, except for two rare variants of the Tiger tank.

AAM_DDayBooster.6.6.06b.JPGIf you're drooling for some multimedia then check-out the Axis & Allies Miniatures D-Day Gallery for individual images of every one of the fourty-five new units.

More information about Axis and Allies Miniatures game [Funagain], and its D-Day Booster Expansion [Funagain], can be found at Avalon Hill's official A&A; Miniatures website.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

May 31, 2006

May '06 Roundup for CriticalGamers.com

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

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May 30, 2006

Carcassonne in Carcassonne

CarcassonneSquared1.jpgTwo of us (and our better halves) just got back from a fantastic trip to France. We planned our trip over the course of a few months, and for a good-while we toyed over exactly where to go in Frogland. When we heard good things about the Southwestern region we started to take a closer look, and holy crap! Smack dab in the middle of Southwestern France lies a 'little' town called Carcassonne. Call us ignorant Americans, but we didn't know there there's a real town (still) with the game's namesake.

The place is gorgeous. The town's original inner and outer walls are still very much intact, and the 53 towers guarding the city were restored to their full height about a hundred years ago. We walked the mile-long route around the exterior three times in our two-day stay, and the jaunt remained a fascinating tour of medieval architecture each and every time.

The inside of the city is comprised entirely of old stone buildings, too, but it's scarred by the wall to wall tourist shops, and semi-good restaurants that have taken-up residence within -- which isn't quite the blast of the past that the facade is. Also, we've heard that tourist season hits the place hard, but thankfully early-May is a great time to visit if you want to dodge the sunscreened-nose masses.

Of course we simply had to break into the Infinite by playing Carcassonne in Carcassonne. We found an empty outdoor bar (again, off season == no tourists ) and setup shop for a few hours, enjoying a few rounds of one of the best games of all time while sipping some of the local drinks (the guys drank Leffe). It sounds dorky, but damn it was fun. On one side of us sat the actual old wall of Carcassonne's exterior defenses, while the city's Cathedral loomed over us on the other. You can't beat that for scenery.

CarcassonneSquared2.jpgHere are two unsolicited travel recommendations in case you ever end up in Carcassonne:

1: Only travel to Carcassonne in the off-season. The gorgeous cityscape wouldn't be nearly as enjoyable if it was flooded with swarms of stumbling tourists.

2: We highly recommend L'Echappee Bell Chambres d'Hotes as the B&B; of choice. Great rates, good rooms, and one of the most delicious breakfasts we had on our romp through France. The Croissant is the ultimate gauge of a French breakfast, and this B&B; doesn't disappoint.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

May 23, 2006

Han Solo and Greedo Bookends (Preorder)

HanSoloBookeneds.5.22.06.JPG These puppies look pretty sweet. Han Solo sits lounging, staring-down the barrel of a blaster, calmly picking paint in an attempt at misdirection. Across the table from Han sits a constipated Greedo, cocky yet nervous, sweating, wearing tired pants from 1972.

The ends ship this October, 2006, MSRPed at 125 bucks. USA Comics has the set available for preorder for 99 dollars , that's... 20% off! Sounds like a good deal to us.

Here's the Company Line: Looking at the exterior of the Mos Eisley Cantina, few would suspect the bizarre and dangerous array of aliens seeking shade, business and refreshment within. These collectible bookends let you get to decide who shot first, Han Solo or Greedo.

Designed in 7" scale - Measures: 6" x 10"

Considering the unedited original-FX trilogy will be released on DVD this September (before the bookends), there will be no question. Solo shot first.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

May 15, 2006

Hold'em Drink Holder - Keep Your Table Liquid-Free

Holdem.4.15.06.jpgDrinking and gaming goes together like drinking and drinking. It just wouldn't be the same without the drinking. So anything that facilitates the libation process is a-okay with us.. especially if it removes the potential hazards of a frothy brew sweeping across the Sudetenland like a Bavarian tidal wave. If this hasn't happened to you yet, then it just means the potential is mounting for something even more sinister and catastrophic. Yes, Fate will soon close her scissors around that string she's been eyeing, and a tall brewski will tumble earthward onto Army Group B. You've been warned.

Think of the children!

clips to your table, safely relegating drinks below the turbulent tabletop surface. Plus, it's adjustable which means it can hold just about any drink container. How could this not be a good thing?

Hold'em is available online from the official website for 15 bucks a pop, or cheaper if you buy a complete set in bulk.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

May 12, 2006

Review: G8 Game Timer

Not On Your LifeSometimes a particular game gets out of control and the session takes hours upon hours to complete -- far more time than your willing to spend. Some other drabber games become exciting when you place a limit on the time spent deliberating between moves, and some party games have a mandatory timer as part of the rules, but every one's got those old-fangled analog watches.

These are all great reasons to own a game timer.

Unfortunately, the G8 Game Timer is NOT the game timer for you. There are so many things that we dislike about this thing.

First off -- every press of the G8 button shrieks the most awful ear-piercing bLRUPP! This...thing could easily be used to chase Bats out of your house, or maybe submerged under the ocean's surface to communicate with dolphins (if they don't attack on you sight, first).

Setting up the device's timer modes always requires nine setup steps. Nine! Check this out (lifted from the directions):

  • Mode1 Select the number of players. *BLURP! BLee-blurp!*
  • Mode 2 Set a maximum time for each player to complete all their turns (Required) *blurp ble-ble-ble-blurp!*
  • Mode 3 Customize the time set in Mode 2 for each player if a handicap is desired *bLERT!*
  • Mode 4 Set the maximum time allowed for each player to complete a turn *blERT! bloop bloop BLERT!*
  • Mode 5 Customize turn times set in Mode 4 for each player. 0 defaults to Mode 3 time. *Bleep! breaks out abacus. shift-shift... carry the Mode 3.. and..! Blurp bleet!*
  • Mode 6 If desired, set a time in which all players must complete the entire game *Bloopt!*
  • Mode 7 Press PAUSE to seelct a light and / or sound warning that activates briefly each second during the warning period (upt to 9 seconds) at the end of turn or a game. L = Light on; S = Sound On. In Mode 0, press PAUSE then '+' to set volume. *Whaa? takes a nap*
  • Mode 8 Press '+' to select a memory A or B & [clock button] to save your settings or a game in progress. Press 'PAUSE' to see each player's stored time. Press 'Ying-Yang' (no joke) key to transfer the selected memory date to game memory to start the game *Hucks G8 Game Timer Across the Room

I guess we'll never know what Mode 9 does.

This timer is only for Rainman and friends. We have computer programmers in our group who are fairly level-headed and smart people, but they loathe this thing.

Bottom line: Only buy the G8 Game Timer as a birthday present for that gamer-friend of yours who you've secretly hated all these years.

1 star out of 5 Our Rating System

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

May 1, 2006

Q&A; Session with Wildwords Creator Peter Roizen

The Wildwords Board.  It's busy!Back in March we previewed "Wildwords", a standalone board game which turns Scrabble's gameplay on its head. The title's main focus is the addition of wild tiles and wildcard board spaces which give a strong creative boost to the somewhat formulaic side of Scrabble. We saw some great things in Wildwords so we invited designer Peter Roizen to a 'virtual sitdown' of 10 questions about his game.

What better way to learn about a title than from the designer's mouth? Exactly.

Critical Gamers: You seem to be a man of crafty words. Would you summarize how Wildwords improves upon Scrabble's gameplay in 10 words or less?

Peter Roizen: WildWords adds more words, choices, strategy, gamesmanship, tension, and fun.

Critical Gamers: The game's asterisk tiles have an obvious impact on a player's ability to play unique words, but the wildcards also introduce a bluff word-challenge gameplay mechanic with point penalty and rewards. Could you briefly describe the system, and how the system improves upon the gameplay?

Peter Roizen: With a wild tile capable of representing a letter or a sequence of letters, it can be difficult to spot whether your opponent has played a legitimate word or not. Players don't divulge their words unless they are challenged. And a false challenge is penalized, so players don't challenge haphazardly. You have to consider not just the play, but the current score, the value of the play, and the opportunities in opens for your own next play.

My brother once played "QUA*IST" which I challenged. I thought he was pulling my leg with "QUASIPHYSICIST" or a similar construction. It was a brilliant play--"QUARTERFINALIST." Not every play will be that obscure, but you are forced to deal with some uncertainty and anxiety in every game. It creates the sort of tension you find in poker. The asterisks are like cards in the hole. And, you don't have to show them if you are not called.

If you discuss a game after it is over, you will often find the thinking or words behind various plays was not what you thought. For example, a stronger player may find a word for a weaker player's bluff and thus not launch a challenge which would have been successful.

Those aren't swear words, they're wildcards.Critical Gamers: Where did your idea for Wildwords come from? (Was it a gradual evolution from years of Scrabble play, or did you sit down to the design Wildwords from scratch?)

Peter Roizen: I come from a competitive extended family that hosts a family championship every year. Scrabble was the natural choice for the game to play. Anyone can learn it quickly.

One year, some of the participants prepared for the championship by memorizing the odd short words in the Official Scrabble Dictionary. I am not into memorizing lists and do not see it as a useful brain excercise. Needless to say, the memorizers had an overwhelming advantage against the non-memorizers and finished highest in the rankings.

I finished poorly for the first time and felt the Scrabble gameplay that year was no measure of a real vocabulary or clever strategy. The games even seemed somewhat dull. I set out to change the game to eliminate the usefulness of memorization and add excitement.

Critical Gamers: Does Wildwords level the playing field between Scrabble's Experts and its casual players?

Peter Roizen: Most definitely. I went to a Scrabble club some months ago and played two top Scrabble players in WildWords. These guys would have killed me in Scrabble, but I won both games by over 200 points. Mind you, playing WildWords well takes a decent vocabulary and game experience.

Scrabble skills can sometimes be a handicap. A Scrabble player with a J will be looking to place it effectively in conjunction with bonus squares as a part of a short word. Maybe "JO" which is in the OSD. A WildWords player will also be considering placing it upside down on a Turn-To-Wild square, so as to make a seven tile bonus play of a word no "J" in it. As for a play with a "J" in it, I have played "JUXTAPOSITIONAL" and "JURISPRUDENCE" once each. Scrabble players are not used to thinking about those sorts of words.

Critical Gamers: What's the optimal number of players for a match?

Peter Roizen: As in Scrabble, there are defensive and offensive considerations. You cannot take complete responsibility for the outcome if the competition is not one on one. Serious, competitive WildWords, like Scrabble, would have to played with just two players at a time.

That doesn't eliminate the fun of playing with three or four players. With four players, you could play two teams of two to have a sound competitive format that isn't subject to one person intentionally or unintentionally throwing the game to another player.

KH*N!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Critical Gamers: We noticed that you removed a few of the more numerous letters from Scrabble in order to make room for the wildcard tiles. How did you determine the right balance for the new letter distribution?

Peter Roizen: The distribution of tiles in WildWords is actually based on the frequency of the letters used in words acccording to the Oxford English Dictionary. I believe the distribution in Scrabble was based on the distribution of letters in a typesetters kit. Because of the wild tiles and Turn-To-Wild squares, the distribution is a less important factor than it is in Scrabble. You can actually play WildWords quite reasonably in a number of Roman languages.

Critical Gamers: Does it insult you when we repeatedly compare Wildwords to Scrabble?

Peter Roizen: No more than GM would feel insulted by taking the idea of four wheels and a motor from Ford. I borrowed the basic Scrabble format and scoring system which I think is great. I changed the tiles, the board, and the rules to open up gameplay to your full vocabulary, and other skills and pleasures.

Critical Gamers: Do you have any other games in the works?

Peter Roizen: None. I never set out to invent a game or enter the game business. If I had, my game probably would have felt contrived, even crummy. I invented the game for my own purposes. Friends and family that played it on prototypes simply felt it was too good to keep to ourselves, so I published it.

Critical Gamers: Where can someone get their hands on a copy of Wildwords?

Peter Roizen: It's almost impossible to find in a store. I don't have a major distributor. The best source is my web site. There are some good discounts for two or three copies that still leave me with enough to produce more games. I think it makes a good gift.

Critical Gamers: Is there anything else you'd like to tell our readers?

Peter Roizen: I have probably played WildWords over 500 times at this point. The game has turned out to be much better than I could have anticipated. There is always something to think about. There is something to learn every time you play it. My dream is to one day watch two brilliant players duke it out for a world title. Even as a spectator, trying to guess the words or what might be a bluff is amusing.

Critical Gamers: Thank you Peter for taking the time to sit down with us.

"Wildwords" is available for purchase at the game's official website. There is also a downloadable version for those who want to play on a computermatrix over the etherweb with their friends.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

April '06 Roundup for CriticalGamers.com

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

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