April 22, 2009

Grandpa Checks Out D&D; 4th Edition

In a multiple generation bridging exercise we decided to present the D&D; 4th Edition Player's Handbook to one of our grandparents last weekend. After he leafed through it for a while, we asked him what his thoughts were.

Apparently it doesn't hold a candle to a more classical read.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

April 9, 2009

Battles Magazine - A New Wargame Mag Emerges


Alright Grognards, listen up. A new independent Wargame Magazine just made its presence on the net, and it's available for order before its official launch at the end of April. Battles Magazine is slated to deliver 124 color pages of wargame news, reviews, scenarios and interviews about three times a year.

Battles Magazine is a collaboration of war gamers seemingly from England and France who banded together to create a publication that ships worldwide. We should mention the cost of the issues are listed in Euros. If you order the first issue before April 20th then you can nab it for 20 Euros, instead of the standard 26 Euro cover price It's a bit of a hit on the wallet, but given the amount of the content in each, and the quality we see in the previews, it makes us feel it's gonna be worth the price of admission.

The premier release also includes a wargame "Striking the Anvil" about the liberation of southern France in 1944, complete with map, chits and rules. A Striking the Anvil plugin for Vassal is also slated for release, so you know these guys mean business. Additionally, the next 2 issues - slated for release in September and December - will also include a new games, too, including Rome v Gauls, and the Vietnam War battle of Hue.

Looks like great stuff. We wish the folks there the best of luck with their new enterprise.


Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

April 6, 2009

New York Times' Masters of the (Tabletop) Universe


That old rag The New York Times - perhaps you've heard of it - has a nice piece called "Masters of the (Tabletop) Universe" about a crew of gamers in Long Island. There's nothing especially abnormal about the group, like they don't have angry ticks flying out of their nose, and they're not able to juggle Linda Ronstadt albums lite ablaze with nail polish (as far as we know), but that's the point.

The article tracks one gaming group to serve as an example of all the gaming groups who meet monthly across the country in their respective communities. I's about the draw of the group, who joins them, and what games they play.

Here's a snippet:

"The tone of play was cordial. Players prefer to win, but they can afford to lose. "We don't play to become Olympic gamers," Mr. Palermo said. "We play for fun."

Members adopt distinct strategic personalities. Those like Bill Herbst tend to hammer at people's minds. Someone will make a play and he might say, "Gee, I wouldn't do that." He is viewed by others as a disarming back-stabber at the game board, adept at applying the knife just when it will hurt the most."

What group would be intriguing without at least one backstabber?

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

March 26, 2009

5 Tips for Empire Total War Beginners

TotalWarRedVBlue.jpgEmpire Total War has been out for a few weeks now. It's topping the sales charts so we know that a lot of people are enjoying this title as much as we are. That's a good thing, because the grand strategy Total War franchise has been quite overlooked over the years if you ask us.

With its success comes gobs of new players. Since the game sticks you in the middle of of 18th Century Europe complete with empires ready to explode across national boarders, and the colonization of the new world at your finger tips, we thought we'd give you some quick tips to increase your early game survivability a ton:

1: Start Small, Start Landlocked
The world is a busy place when you start, and it may feel like the game has strapped lampchops onto your arms and legs and slowly lowered you into a pool of sharks when you first startup a campaign. You've got to learn a lot,and fast: Who are your friends? Wheres my money coming from? What buildings should I upgrade? Do I have any religious enemies? Which borders do I have to protect? Who should I attack without gaining the ire from an allied super power? I have colonies in India AND America?! Sweet crap, how do I keep track of all this stuff?

Well thankfully you can make things a bit easier on yourself by picking a 'easy' nation during the campaign selection screen. If you're feeling lost then definitely don't pick England, France or Spain; they have enough going on in any one turn that would make a dolphin seasick. We recommend selecting the Ottomans, Prussians, Russians, Austrians or Swedish. Most of these nations are either land locked, have their back to the wall, or generally are in a strong position at the beginning of the game. Prussia starts with only 2 territories at first so we'll also offer this little nugget of goodness: Sweden is a goldmine, so head north and you'll have gobs of money coming in, AND you'll have an easy to guard flank.

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Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

March 20, 2009

One Last Battlestar Galactica Hurah


Tonight is the end of the best show ever aired on the Sci Fi Channel (considering the flotsam that constitutes the rest of that station's lineup, that may actually not quite do the show justice.) We celebrated this week with another go around with the Battlestar Galactica Board Game [Amazon, Funagain], and man, that game only gets better with repeat plays.

We had a pretty interesting experience this time around: one of the skinjob cylons remained hidden amongst the four remaining humans until just the very end. He kept the humans guessing, paranoid and caused infighting through the entire game. He even did a few things to help out the fleet as to obscure his true identity and motives, including once springing one of the humans from the dreaded Brig.

But it all backfired. The humans ended up winning the game. A series of crisis cards and some risky premature jumps kept the turn count low and sprinted the fleet to victory. Sure, it was a close nail-biter, with the population reading a dismal 2 by the end of the show.. err.. game session, but for the first time in our group the Humans prevailed.

So it got us wondering: when exactly is a good time for the hidden cylon player to reveal himself. Does infighting and paranoia keep the humans in a quagmire, or is it advantageous to reveal and go for a dual cylon attack?

After some rambling half-drunken discussion at our favorite bar we came up with the conclusion: it depends. It depends on the level of paranoi, the state of the game, including the number of cylon ships, etc. Or if there are enough other players in the brig that you can keep them there and create havock on the Battlestar with wreckless abandon, like say by purposefully jumping the Battlestar early to kill off some population, or to use the communications room to move civilian ships toward the encroaching cylon raiders instead of away from them.

After all, it might be ok to 'reveal' yourself as a cylon via such treachorous acts even if you don't use the Reveal action to do so. It'll take an entire human turn to stick you in the brig, and perhaps you can cause some applied mayheym in ways that you reveal ability could only dream of.

So we did some poking around the Battlestar Forums to see what other thoughts, and we found this great thread: Battlestar Galactica: To reveal or not reveal?.

It's chalk full of great scenarios where the best thing to do is perhaps not the most intuitive decision.

Enjoy the read, and enjoy the series finale. We'll see you on the other side.

For more information about the Battlestar Galactica board game, checkout out our other stories:

  1. Battlestar Galactica Board Game is Frakking Awesome
  2. 5 Helpful Tips for the Battlestar Galactica Board Game
  3. 5 Tips for Cylons in the Battlestar Galactic Board Game

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

March 11, 2009

Battle Forge Enters Open Beta

BattleForge.jpgAlright computer gamers listen up: the Massively Multiplayer Online Real Time Strategy Collectible Card Game - or MMORTSCCG for 'short' - Battle Forge has launched an open beta test. That means you can play the game, put it through its paces, and consider your interest without having to pay a dime.

Battle Forge is much like Saga, another MMORTSRPG if you recall, in that your given control of monsters slugging it out over a map in real time. Click on forces to tell them who to attack, and what positions to capture and defend is all part of the standard RTS genre. Add on top of that the CCG elements your card collection, which allow you customize your forces with powerful monsters, spells, etc.

That's a lot goign on, so here's our acronym primer:

  • MMO aspects: Play with or against friends, persistent collection of cards, online communities.
  • RTS aspects: Real time battles controlled with the mouse, like the recent Warhammer 40K Dawn of War 2
  • CCG: Collect virtual cards that allow you to create monsters and cast spells around the battlefield, and bust some heads

Unlike last year's Saga, this year's Battle Forge is backed by one of the largest publishers in the computer game business: Electronic Arts. They have their own global megacorp / lowest common denominator drawbacks, but their size also means this game should have lasting staying power. The original release will contain around 200 monster and spell cards. Beyond that EA has gobs of developer and art resources they can easily devote to releasing new sets of cards quite frequently, and we hope they shall.

For more information check out this Battle Forge Trailer, or head on over to their website to download the PC client. You could also checkout yesterday's press release announcing the public beta, or you could just read the juicy parts we've lifted:

... BattleForge combines strategy, fantasy, trading cards and magical spells in a dynamic online environment. The game gives players use of virtual trading cards to build the perfect army and lay waste to their foes. Combining the strategic, real-time gameplay of classics such as Command &ConquerTM; with a fully enabled, online collectible community, BattleForge is a breath of fresh air in the strategy genre. With an all-new style of play that is more accessible for casual gamers, BattleForge still offers the depth of gameplay that more sophisticated RTS players seek. The collectable cards are the tools of war -- each representing a spell, building or unit that is conjured directly onto the battlefield.

BattleForge features single-player and cooperative scenarios, as well as Player vs. Player (PvP) ranked and unranked duels. With co-op play, guilds, chat rooms, and a robust marketplace featuring direct trade, an auction hall, and in-game mail, BattleForge is the first RTS to combine the social and community aspects of an MMO with an exciting RTS. Let the battles begin!

Battle Forge ships March 24th, which is only two weeks away. We assume that the beta will probably end a few days before that, so iIf you're looking to try before you buy, then act quick! Oh, and also submit reports about any bugs you find, 'cause that's really supposed to be doing in a Beta Test. *cough*

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

March 4, 2009

Empire Total War Brings 18th Century Warfare to Your PC

The day has finally come. The next historically set Real Time meets Turn Based Strategy game in to the Total War series is finally out. Empire Total War is now available from Amazon and Steam, and we're quite busy conquering central Europe as the Austrians or storming the American beaches in the Revolutionary War to offer much of a comment.

Know this though: The game is huge -- brimming with historical detail and with three connected campaign maps (North America, Europe and India) it's easily the biggest Total War game yet. We're even willing to overlook some of the early AI glitches that cause computer controlled opponents to sometimes get hung up on rock walls amidst the chaos of battle, 'cause sometimes they over compensate on our green buttocks with ambushing tactics from grassy gnolls that take our artillery unawares. The way we see it, their wall hugging problems definitely compensate for our early gross incompetence. We'll consider it a gift from Creative Assembly meant as a window to practice our 18th century military maneuvers for a few weeks before really taking the game seriously.

We'll have more news and reviews about Empire Total War as the sheer grand immensity of this living board game is realized over the next few weeks. Till then, we'll leave you with this shot to the stomach: only the boring predictable pedestrian historians pick England as their first faction. Well, those scalawags and the people who are actually English. No offense intended to them.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

February 24, 2009

Empire Total War Demo Debuts on Steam

EmpireTotalWarRedCoats.jpgLong time readers know that we're avid fans of Creative Assembly's Total War Franchise for the PC. Well in just over a week's time, the new installment Empire Total War [Amazon] hits shelves, and we'll be knee deep in marathon sessions of Imperial Age warfare - both on tactical and strategic levels - from the very moment the game is released.

Those thirsting for some of the tactical action right right must no longer wait: the Empire Total War Demo is now available on the Steam download service. It includes two battles: the American Revolution Battle of Brandywine Creek, and the naval Battle of Lagos.

The naval battles is a new feature for the Total War games, and though it depicts an English fleet against a mass of French vessels, the demo's scenario still lacks certain acoutremonts to bring the system to life. We would like to hear more atmosphere to bring us into the battle: sailer calls, marine gunfire, and the crack of opening sails, but perhaps we'll have to just wait for someone to mod the game a bit after launch. The naval warfare also lacked some strategic depth at first -- at least until we figured out the whole broadside mechanism. Toy a bit with the round cannon buttons in the lower right and you'll soon be on your way to kicking some scurvy butt. Unfortunately you can't roll as the French in the demo.

The demo's land combat scenario is everything a Total War game is and more. The engine really has come a far way since Medieival II Total War, and that's saying something 'cause that game is still gorgeous.

Soon we'll have our hands on the full version and constructing our Austrian empire from the ground up. The game is slated for release next week (March 3rd), and if you can't wait and you're hankering for more Empire Total War coverage then checkout these quick battle walkthroughs from some of the game's AI Programmers:

1:Empire: Total War Superior Tactics Walkthrough
2: Empire: Total War Superior Tactics Walkthrough Part II HD

They're a bit over produced and has too many quick-cuts for its own good, but it has great examples of what makes Total War battles so great: the scale of the fights is unparalleled.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

February 20, 2009

RP Tools Save Our D&D; Group From Implosion

D&DDice.jpgWe have a problem. An alarming number of the D&D; 4th Edition fans in our group are moving away. It's that time in our lives where people start families, flee imminent natural disasters or rising seas and giant earthquakes, and move somewhere thats a heckuvalot cheaper than Boston.

When our first player moved away two years ago, we planned to lean on the then 'upcoming' D&D; Insider tools from Wizards of the Coast to keep us connected and playing through the Internets, but Wizards has really flopped like a fish out of water after a year and a half of seemingly broken promises.. and just when needed them the most, too. First the tools were going to be free with a D&D; Source Book purchase. Then it turned out there would be a monthly fee steeper than our World of Warcraft subscription -- not cool. Then we hear that Macs won't be supported. Then we heard the crickets churp and a wolf cry in the distance when D&D; 4th Edition was released nearly a year ago. Still, nothing.

USASatNight.jpgAs the proposals from WoTC bittered, the players in our group kept moving away. Some could still commute, but it was nearly an hour. Others left the state altogether. We tried to keep things going by setting up our Frankensteinian system with web cams that point at the map, and with Skype and a sweet-ass microphone a friend had from a failing podcast. For while it was novel to have giant heads on laptops sitting along side real people at the table, but after some time the system proved a) prone to glitches, and b) dorkier than we'd ever care to admit to anyone but you.

In between these dysfunctional sessions, we scoured the web for online tools similar to the original promises of D&D; Insider in the hopes we could switch the a virtual gametable. For months our searches came up short as we found numerous highly cryptic pieces of software with a substandard community base, that required a lot of work to import art assets, and just generally looked like an upturned baseball cap full of poo.

RP Tools Becomes Our Saving Grace
Then one of us discovered RP Tools sometime around the new year. We poked it with a stick for a while 'cause we were used to disappointment, but and after the first session we were giddy with dorkish delight. It not only worked well, it actually made the game more enjoyable beyond our wildest imaginations. The RP Tools system has a lot of things going for it, and now that we have it setup, we're not sure we're going to want to play D&D; the old fashioned way anymore.

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Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

February 17, 2009

Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War 2 is Upon Us

DawnOfWar2SpaceMarine.JPGThe second iteration of the incredible PC adaptation of the Warhammer 40K franchise hits shelves tomorrow, and we're wicked excited. That's not New England sarcasm, either. Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War 2 [Amazon] is another title in a long lineage of Real Time Strategy releases by Relic Entertainment, a company who has produce hit after hit in the RTS gaming world. They made the amazing Dawn of War, that introduced some crazy terrain deformation, and limb tearing robots, our beloved Company of Heroes WWII real time tactical strategy game, and their classic flagship Homeworld.

Warhammer 40K Dawn of War 2 is destined to be another classic RTS, despite the fact that it's a game about tactics. Base building in this game is deemphasized. Instead your customization comes in how you outfit and upgrade your handful of squads under your control. And when the guns start firing, and the body parts start flying, the game doesn't enter into a tug of war of economies, but instead rests on the ability for you to tactfully command your forces on the front line. Skirmishes erupt with some of the most vivid animations in a strategy game to date. See for yourself:

In the singleplayer campaign, players following their customized squad of Space Marines from map to map as they take on the forces of the Orks, the Eldar, and the vicious instectoid Tyranids. In a slick feature somewhat new to the RTS genre, your friend can team up with you to play through the entire campaign cooperatively. Or, if you'd rather, fight against your friends online in skirmish battles where you can control any of the other factions. We're pretty excited to implale and dismember some Orks with the sword like limbs of cluster of Tyranids ourselves.

We'll see you planetside.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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