March 30, 2009

WoW TCG: Blood of Gladiators

Blood of Gladiators Booster Box [Amazon]
Blood of Gladiators Boosters [Amazon, Funagain]

Oh man, it's time to get back to some WoW TCG gaming goodness. The winter has been long -- last October we put more of our hard earned money toward the inaugural set of WoW Minis instead of the the new third WoW TCG cycle: Drums of War. We chose poorly (read why).

While we wait to see if the WoW Minis franchise can climb out of the crevasse it failed to hurdle in its initial release, we're going to go back to the WoW TCG for our mainstay World of Warcraft gaming experience.

Thankfully Blood of Gladiators looks pretty darn strong. The set centers around the World of Warcraft arena play. The allies in this installment come as standard run of the mill allies (with new keyword powers, see below), but they also appear in separate cards as their Arena alter egos. Just as WoW MMORPG players have their own PvP set of gear, the Arena Allies in Blood of Gladiators sport new Player versus Player themed abilities and attack powers lifted straight from WoW PvP Talent trees.

Additionally, the set includes new racial rules that should make your arena teams click nicely:

  • Inspiring Presence: If a hero or ally in your party would deal non combat damage, it deals that much damage +1 instead. This seems to be a Draenei racial ability, so don't expect your damage over time Horde Warlock, Priests or Mages to get any love. Sad for us, because we almost always roll Horde. Guess it's time to make a few more decks. [Read More]

  • Arcane Torrent: breathes a bit of life into those pompous Blood Elf allies: When this ally enters play, target opposing card in play loses and and cant' have powers this turn. Used well this could seriously run somebody's day. [Read More]

  • Hardiness: can be found on the new Orc allies in Blood of Gladiators. This ability says "if this ally would be dealt damage, prevent 1 of it." About as dry as a Vodka Martini. Those poor orcs need some more interesting stories. [Read More]

We have a complete index of all the feature articles including the new Faction spanning allies, and the new loot cards, in our Blood of the Gladiators Preview article. Check there for a full list of information about the set.


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.

ArrowContinue reading: "5 Tips for Empire Total War Beginners"

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

March 24, 2009

D&D; 4th Edition Power Cards


We've played quite a bit of D&D; 4th Edition since the game launched last year, and we've been big advocates for printing out your own series of power cards. It's easy to quickly glance to see what sort of super human move you can make at any given moment when your 'hand' of cards is splayed-out on the table before you. They also help you keep track of state, and provide quick rulebook lookups if you spent enough time lovingly crafting them.

While we've printed a few from the interwebs, and made our own little bootlegged index cards, the actual quality of these self-made productions leaves much to be desired. Sure, the fault lies with us since we're the ones who made them. And as the old saying goes, Time is Money, and we're happy to see that there's an official indoctrination of the cards coming from Wizards of the Coast are at a small target price. 100 cards for each Character class for under 10 bucks. Not too shabby.

The cards themselves are about the size of your normal TCG / CCG game (like WoW or Magic); sport a colored background that makes them easily sortable based on power type, like At Will, Encounter, Daily, etc; and contain all the rulebook rules for each of a class's powers. There also quite durable and should survive well to the accidental coffee spillage that we seem overly prone to.

The question really comes down to: do you think 10 bucks is worth the time spent drawing up cards, or time and materials it takes to print out paper sheets and cut 'em up into cards. For us the answer is certainly 'yes' especially since the results sport a higher quality than our crappy paper cutouts.

The only downside: the classes from the Players Handbook 2 have to wait until August before they get their respective Power Card releases. We're not quite sure who thought that was a good idea. Bah.

We'll check back in August when the Power Cards are released for all of the Players Handbook 2 class abilities.

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 18, 2009

Small World Board Game Previews


The upcoming Small World [Funagain] looks to be Civilization light, or Tempus heavy, and tasks players to lead their own civilization out of the caves and into the light of day. The problem is the age old limitation to budding societies: the world is just too small to support everyone.

Players are therefore tasked with bringing fire and social well being to their civilization of fantasy themed creatures, while beating everyone else's with a sharp nail stuck through a stick.

As we reported last month the publisher Days of Wonder has launched a website detailing the seemingly very approachable game. Recently they've posted a series of preview slide shows that show off the cool facets of the title:

  1. Small World - Overview
    A general what's what, and an introduction to the stylings of the game.

  2. Small World - Races and Special Powers
    Details the various different army types, and how they can very easily mixed and matched with a series of special powers. Quite cool actually, where combining troops, with their own innate abilities, with an over arching special ability can seriously alter the game and player's strategy on the fly.

  3. Small World - The Decline of Civilizations
    Introduces the idea that your civilization pulses through various races as you play. For instance, at some point you pulling the strings on a series of Elves, and found that their time is at an end. You can therefore put them in a "state of decline", limiting their contribution in your empire, but freeing you to adopt an entirely new race / special power combination. In this way the game seems to borrow from the ebb and flow empire building themes of History of the World.

  4. Small World - Playing the Game
    Steps through the turn order. Sure, great to know, but what we found particularlly interesting is that the game is slated to ship with a series of maps, each designed for a set number of players: 2, 3, 4, or 5. That's both fantastic, but also reeks of map expansions. In a good way.

For more information about Small World: checkout our previous coverage "Small World coming this May from Days of Wonder", or checkout the Small World Official Website.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

March 16, 2009

D&D; 4th Edition Player's Handbook 2

Almost the year after the D&D; 4th Edition release, the launch of the D&D; 4th Edition Players Handbook 2 [Amazon, Funagain] is upon us. This isn't a scheduled supplemental update, but a standalone release that fully extends upon the 4th edition content. The book contains 8 new classes, new races, and doubles the amount of abilities (800 more) available to players creating the characters from scratch.

But is this all entirely fluff? Is this just a heartless, careless production meant to consume your hard earned dollar while putting the play balance of the game in jeopardy?

Seemingly no. A great PHB 2 Preview at Gnome Stew has emerged from a GM who seems to have better credentials alone than our entire amassed RPG experience. It's actually quite gushing, a little meandering, but a fantastic summary of what you can expect between the covers.

So what does it say about the PHB 2 that with eight new classes, there's zero new overlap? Bingo: the eight new classes weren't just phoned in -- they're fully realized classes in their own right, not just variations on old themes.

The preview goes on to say how well flavored the abilities, and how the classes extend upon the positional combat mechanics, each in their own interesting way. Best of all, according to the preview, there's "zero power creep." Awesome. We'd hate to have our well earned character levels become obsolete.

Here are the D&D; 4th Edition Players Handbook 2 official details:

Player's Handbook 2 expands the range of options available to D&D; players with new classes, races, powers and other material. This book builds on the array of classes and races presented in the first Player's Handbook, adding both old favorites and new, never-before-seen options to the game. The book adds a new power source for 4th Edition D&D;: classes using the new primal power source include the barbarian and the druid.

The D&D; 4th Edition Players Handbook 2 is now available from Amazon and Funagain Games.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

March 13, 2009

Hab & Gut Board Game Preview on BGN

Hub&Gut.jpgHere's another upcoming German board game import that very well could be a family friendly it. Hab & Gut [Funagain] is all about predicting the rise and fall of stocks on the open market. Each stock is effected by playing cards from player "hands" of randomly dealt cards, with positive and negative numbers adjusting the stock prices. Players can buy low if they can predict a stock may rise, and dump it if the feel another player might send it into the gutter.

We quoted 'hand' because each player doesn't actually have their own personal hand o cards. Instead, picture yourself at a table with cards placed in a scrabble-like rack to either side of you. You can see both sets of cards, but your neighbor to the left shares the left rack with you, and your neighbor to your right shares the right rack. In this way players hands are split in two, each half shared with one other player.

Now there are only a certain number of cards in the game, so a big part of your play is reading your cards, and reading a player's actions to figure out what they might be up to. In this way you can try to spot upcoming trends on how stocks will perform, and get out before you get bamboozled, or get in on a stock deal before another player, or you, sends it skyrocketing.

There are a couple of other cool mechanics to the game, too. We highly recommend you check out the Hab & Gut preview on It's chalk full of high quality detailed experiences, including how well it balances depending on the number of players involved.

Hab & Gut is slated for release sometime this year -- exactly when isn't yet known. Here are the game's official details:

"Rich is good. Rich and well respected is better according to the thinking of the industrial barons in the game Hab & Gut by Carlo A. Rossi. For 3 to 5 players ages 10 and up, the game is not just about raking in the money, the players must also excel at charity. Because whoever spends too little of his hard-earned wealth is eliminated from the game, regardless of how much money he may have earned."

We'll let you know more about Hab & Gut - which might be the best name ever - once more information about its scheduled release becomes available. Have a good weekend!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

March 12, 2009

Age of Conan Board Game Ships to Stores


By Crom the day is finally here! The next Fantasy Flight strategy wargame epic Age of Conan [Amazon,Funagain] has begun shipping from stores.

We've been witting about Age of Conan for a while, so we won't talk your ear off about the game's details again. If you'd like to know more about the title then please checkout last week's Age of Conan Previews. Also here are the game's official details:

Thief, barbarian, pirate, king. Robert E. Howard's tales of the exploits and adventures of Conan have inspired generations. The Age of Conan strategy board game allows players to each control one of the four major kingdoms of Hyboria. Command armies, wield dark sorcery, or weave cunning intrigue - all are needed in order to conquer your enemies and make your kingdom the most powerful in the world. Yet, even the most powerful of rulers ignores one man at his great peril. Only one kingdom will harness the volatile alliance of the mightiest hero of all - Conan the Cimmerian!

Age of Conan is a strategy board game for 2-4 players, ages 12+, playable in 90+ minutes. Age of Conan includes:

  • 1 Rulebook
  • 1 Game Board
  • 2 Punchboards of cardboard counters and tokens
  • 7 Fate Dice
  • 6 Contest Dice
  • 168 Plastic figures in 4 sets
  • 1 Conan Figure
  • 1 Conan Destination Marker
  • 165 Playing Cards.

Age of Conan is now available from Amazon and Funagain Games.

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 9, 2009

MindStrat Puzzles Fit in the Palm of Your Hand

If the recently announced Rubik 360 piqued your interested, and you're looking for something new to toy with, then Mindstrat might just be up your alley. The puzzles are encased in sturdy plastic spheres and use gravity to move the internal pieces into position. Seemingly less about dexterity than the 360, these puzzles look like fast, unique versions on Rubiks cubes that fit in the palm of your hand.

The end goal differs a bit per puzzle (there are 4 in all) but generally involves matching like-colored pieces together in traditional missed-matched puzzle style.

Honestly, based solely on videos, the MindStrat look well-made compared to the complicated jiggily plasticy racket of Rubik's 360, which is giving us a few prelease hebbie jeebies with all its rattling plastic bits.

You can learn more about the puzzles on the MindStrat Official Website.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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