August 15, 2008

D&D; 4th Edition Gen Con Interview


Its been two months since the release of D&D; 4th edition, and we're still finding the new game both approachable, and very deep, and we're just using a few of the core source materials.

Now, on the eve of the gaming conference GenCon, the website Gamers with Jobs has a fantastic interview with a round table of D&D; 4th Edition designers. They talk about the state of the game releases thus far, the momentum they've provided the design team on where t take things short term, and the long term plan for D&D; 4th Edition releases and their impact on the gameplay and D&D; settings.

If you're a D&D; 4th edition fan then the interview is entirely worth your time, but here are a few key points that really stood out for us:

  1. @13:32: There will be a shift from releasing World Specific content - like Forgotten Realms - in a fleet of books as was done in the past. Instead, Wizards of the Coast will move to a model where a few core books are released and then supporting source material will continually be released in the D&D; Insider online materials (aka Dragon magazine). The goal is to open the key elements of each world in the books, and then fill in the rest in a manner that players can pick and chose their way to customizing their gameplay experience.

  2. @22:41: D&D; Insider pricing model: There will still be a restructuring of the service, where you could get packages of the materials instead of a one-price-brings all pricing model. This will bring the price down for materials, but from what it sounds - you will need to get the whole Enchilada if you want to use the GameTable, and that's a shame, unless you can get a group rate on the table that's not outrageously expensive from month to month.

  3. @29:17: A prelude of campaign releases to come, past this year's Forgotten Realms and next year's Eberron

  4. @30:22: 'The Role Spiel' A length address to a somewhat controversial design decision of 4th edition to limit the number of class powers. This decision was made to make the game approachable and not overwhelm creation choices, and to protect new players from making gimpy characters who aren't fun to play.

Very interesting stuff. Have a good weekend!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

August 11, 2008

"Game Night" Will Mage Hand Your Nethers


The novel entitled "Game Night" by Jonny Nexus [Amazon] is one of those top shelf 'now why didn't we think of that?' top shelf book selections that came out of nowhere. Well received by the RPG community, the book is fantasy adventure written as though the group of adventurers where being played by a band of RPG numskulls such as ourselves. How does the author pull this off? By making the characters controlled by a rowdy bunch of backstabbing and bumbling deities. Brilliant.

Here's the book's official description:

"The gods don't play dice with the universe... unless it's game night. A twelve-thousand-year quest is about to be completed, prophecies will be fulfilled, ancient riddles answered, legendary evils bested, and the nature of the universe revealed. All that's needed is a band of mighty heroes to do the completing. Unfortunately for the locals, some of the gods have taken a personal interest in the chronicle of these heroes' adventures. Now they are each guiding one of the characters towards the conclusion of their epic journey. That is, when they're not squabbling, backstabbing each other, blowing things up by accident, refusing to play by the rules, and turning the Allfather's creation into a mess of petty arguments, fantasy cliché, gratuitous combat and unnecessary dice rolls. If you thought your games group couldn't be any worse, Game Night shows just how bad things can get when a bunch of unruly deities decide they want to play. And may the heavens help us all. Jonny Nexus is editor of the acclaimed webzine Critical Miss and author of The Slayers' Guide to Games Masters"

We mentioned that the book is well received, and we're basing this off of some general comments within our social circle, and a review form RPG.Net which we found on Game Night's Amazon Page.

The book is compared to the Legendary novel Hitchiker's Guide from the Galaxy, a novel that help shape many of our quirky senses of humor, and a book that we hold in the highest of regards for inventiveness and quirkiness. From Steve Darlington's Review on

"Most humour books try to be novels-with-jokes, if you will. As such, aren't as funny as say, sketch comedies which are simply a series of great jokes run together. The last novel I read that was devoted to just being a string of comedy sketches was The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (taken of course, from a radio show that was a series of sketches run together). Hitchhikers was, as a result, the funniest novel I've ever read, and the only one that has ever made laugh out-loud. Until, that is, Game Night came along."
Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

August 1, 2008

Critical Gamers' July 2008 Gaming News Roundup

RoundUp.jpgAnother month of gaming down and five more to go. This month was pretty busy on the release front. The Settlers of Catan 4th Edition expanded with Catan: Traders & Barbarians, the new World of Warcraft Adventure Board Game was released, and the Merlin's Company Expansion finally ratcheted Shadows Over Camelot to eleven.

Meanwhile we're still ga-ga over the release of D&D; 4th Edition last month. The first module was longer than we expected, which is good in many ways but we're lagging a bit behind on our progress through the second module Thunderspire Labyrinth. The third one is just around the corner, too -- the whole thing seems like more D&D; content than we ever imagined, and if they keep on publishing top notch materials liek these, then D&D; 4th edition should have some staying power in our group.

That's the bright side of the issue, now here's the dark: with the Closing of Gleemax, it seems as though Wizards of the Coast's digital department has fallen on hard times, and now the D&D; Insider tools may be in jeopardy, too.

In other dark news we're still awaiting the release of Ticket to Ride Europe for Xbox Live Arcade, that was slated to ship on Wednesday. That's last Wednesday. Here's hoping it comes out sometime this month... though we probably shouldn't cross our fingers.

What We're Playing

Board Games

Card Games

Collectable Card Games

Gaming Culture

Gaming News

Party Games



World of Warcraft TCG

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

July 31, 2008

Gleemax to Close Shop. Yikes.

Gleemax.jpgWow, that was pretty unexpected. Months after the Wizards of the Coast gaming gateway site Gleemax finally set up shop and began to publish games for online play, Wizards of the Coast has decided to shut its doors to refocus its development team elsewhere. has the story:

"In a post on the Gleemax gamer social networking site, Wizards of the Coast Vice President of Digital Gaming Randy Buehler announced July 28 that the company has decided to discontinue the Gleemax site in order to focus on other digital projects, including Magic: The Gathering Online and Dungeons & Dragons Insider."

Randy Buehler follows up with some comments that their online gaming platform for future board game titles may continue to move on, but for now the community will move back to the Wizards of the Coast forums.

We were pretty unhappy with the original Gleemax when it first launched, but over the last year the community has grown considerably. Finally in just the last quarter of the year or so they began rolling out online adaptations of board games, including a new beta of Axis and Allies. It lacked some features, sure - like saving the game for one - but it seemed as though Gleemax was finally maturing and getting its sea legs.

The new result of the gaming development team focusing on D&D; Insider is a double edged sword. The D&D; Insider tools seem to have stagnated from when they were first revealed last October, and surely they need a larger team to arrive and clean house and reinvigorate the effort.

The problem? Rumors are that D&D; Insider and its tools and online play won't come free the purchase of the D&D; source materials as first described, but instead cost 15 bucks a month. Each, so for a group of 5 Players + 1 DM ( as the modules are designed for ) that equates to 90 bucks a month. That's crazy-talk right there, and chances are we'll never shell out that boat load of cashed that we'll need to enjoy the fruits of the Gleemax team's efforts put to 'good use.'


Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

July 1, 2008

Vikings Played Board Games in Death. No Seriously.


A pair of scientists have been hard at work excavating a Viking Boat Grave in Sweden over the past few months, and look what they found!

"The excavation uncovered 23 very rare amber gaming pieces, which illustrates the lifestyle of the family buried there, as well as their pagan beliefs in relation to the afterlife.
They also tell us that playing board-games, a popular pastime among the Viking warrior elite, was something the dead were believed to do, perhaps on their way to the afterlife, he added."

We're not quite sure how the boat grave survived its viking funeral, or how 23 rare artifacts survived the blaze, either, but this evidence substantiates something we've known all along: We love Vikings. Not only did they drink like nobody's business, but they threw down a good board game often enough to want to play Twigiht Imperium on the other side. Right on.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

June 23, 2008

D&D; 4th Edition: 5 Tips for a Good First Session

DD4thEditionPlayersHandbook.jpgThe 4th Edition of the Dungeon and Dragons rules has hit the shelves. We've noticed that the core rules have been backordered in quite a few places, but a second run should hit stores presently.

We though it'd be too obvious to include obtaining a Player's Hand Book as part Top 5 tips, so we won't waste the breathe or the page space. Crap, we just did. Well, we won't include them as part of the enumeration anyway, but know this: those groups looking to streamline character creation and familiarizing yourself with the rules shouldn't use you DM's copy as a crutch. Every player should pick one up; it's for the best.

Having said that, read-on for our Top 5 Tips to make your first few sessions go off swimmingly/

ArrowContinue reading: "D&D; 4th Edition: 5 Tips for a Good First Session"

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

June 13, 2008

Settlers of Catan Resource Analysis

Settlers of Catan Box Shot - 4th EditionA fantastic read for Settlers of Catan strateticians surfaced yesterday in one of the major Board Game Google Groups. An apt player has derived a list of the most important resources to focus your economy on to ensure your settlement has that extra kick to get it rolling and bring your game home. Players looking for a competitive edge over friends should definitely give it a once over.

We thought about trying to derive our own such list once, but we got distracted by a fancy doodle we drew, and then got wicked argumentative about whether Alpine cheese is superior to the few common English varieties. At the end of the day our list ended-up being a torn mustard stained contract of IOU a salami sandwich on french baguette, hold the swiss.

This new list is much better. It not only doesn't smell of vinegar, but it also sorts the resources in numerical importance from top to bottom with very convincing arguments to defend the order.

Those of you looking for a quick-fix should know this: Ore is better.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

June 12, 2008

Pop Quiz: Would You Survive a Zombie Apocolypse?


Answering the quiz honestly, one of our top scores was 80%. Most of us are considerably lower, with a 59% average. How would you do if the zombies started munching brains in your neighborhood?

The quiz is one of a large suite of quizzes hosted by a dating / social website called OnePlusYou, with which we have no affiliation, which serve as icebreakers for meeting new folks. Other quizzes are "How Long Could You Survive in the Vacuum of Space?" and "Would You Make a Good Human Shield?" -- two icebreakers that should top any well-polished first date question list.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

June 11, 2008

D&D; 4TH Edition: Where are the Miniatures, Wizards of the Coast?

DMG4ed.jpgA major shift of the new D&D; 4th Edition is its strong emphasis on positional combat. Melee class push mobs from square, sweep based on position, and get and give buffs depend on their proximity to both monsters and fellow party members. This new level of tactical play adds a requirement of gridded terrain maps on the table and figures to represent bodies on the field.

This shift in combat mechanics has gotten some prerelease flak recently, but we're actually pretty big fans of it. There's nothing like coordinating attacks through smart positional tactics - fighting side by side and working combos to beat back the beasties from dimension X.

Here's the thing though - both the Players Handbook and introductory adventure Keep on the Shadowfell have suggest that players should represent their characters no the tactical map by buying into a second D&D; franchise, also run by Wizards of the Coast: the D&D; Tradable Miniatures Game. In practice this solution stinks, largely due the nature of collecting pieces in a Tradable or Collectible miniatures or card game. It also slightly stinks of the cross pollination of two WoTC cousin franchises for the purposes of greed (?), but if the coupling were more streamlined then this secondary beef could have been completely overlooked.

ArrowContinue reading: "D&D; 4TH Edition: Where are the Miniatures, Wizards of the Coast?"

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

May 7, 2008

"Cooperation and Engagement: What Can Board Games Teach Us?"

Matt Leacock, creator of the homebrew cooperative board game Pandemic [Amazon, Funagain, Ebay], recently gave a talk describing his experiences and lessons learned from his exploration of game design. It's a must-watch for aspiring game designers; his talk is chalkful of info, and he offers some smart warnings on how to avoid certain design process pitfalls.

Pandemic has players cooperate to cure the world of 4 epidemic diseases plaguing the world. Diseases left untreated spread across the map, and everyone loses if things get too out of control. The title has inspired gobs of users created content, most of which can be found on Pandemic's Board Game Geek page.

Pandemic is currently in short order, but you can pick up some pretty cheap copies on Ebay.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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