December 2, 2008

Battlestar Galactica Board Game is Frakking Awesome


This nugget of goodness comes just in time for the Holidays, and just to work yourself up in a frenzy for the show's final season in Winter 2009. Yes, the Battlestar Galactica Board Game [Amazon, Funagain] not only succeeds as a TV -> Board Game crossover, but it does so very, very convincingly.

Battlestar fills the under populated niche of cooperative board games, and has usurped the previous crowned champion Shadows of Camelot (another great game worth your time btw). In BStar each player fills the role of one of the major characters of the show, like Admiral Adama, Starbuck, or the Chief Engineer.. Chief. Through numerous random crises the characters must use their individual skills and traits, as well as smart player sense, to pull together and keep the Galactica (displayed beautifully on the game's board) humming along on its epic journey to the Kobolian promise land.

But life isn't so easy. Somewhere in your mists is another player (or two) controlling their character just as you, but fulfilling the role of a secret Cylon agent. Throughout the game they'll attempt to sabotage your journey while remaining your closest friend and buddy. Thanfkully Fantasy Flgiht has done some masterful work to keep the game's mechanics dynamic yet easy enough, and enjoyable, for players to play the antagonist's role in a fun and intense expereince.

For instance, each turn two cards are flipped over from a Good Event Deck, and a Bad Event deck. The bad deck could force a player to make a horrible ethical and strategic choice that will harm the Galactica or a fellow player in some pretty nasty ways. The dilemmas here are fantastic, but for now lets just simplify things - instead a horrendous decision let's simply thing with this very concrete and specific example: you and your friends are eating your morning tastey wheat and all of a sudden your compatriot Lee Adama does a spit take and bolts out the door. You look over and see that Cylon Base Star has set up camp off of starboard and you see that some nukes have begun trickling toward colonial convoy, and your face.

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November 27, 2008

Critical Gamers 2008 Holiday Gift Guide - Board Games, Strategy Games, and Card Games Galore

We know how important it is to find the right game for the right person - it's hard work. And so once again we've lovingly crafted individual guides chalk full of selections tailored for various specific of gaming styles and genres.

Rest assured that you'll find the right game for the right person for some unwrapping goodness come December. Your anchor is this page. Everything you'll need to shop for a gamer spirals out from here, linking to all of our selections for best-bet titles to gift wrap this holiday season.

And here they are:

Critical Gamers 2008 Holiday Shopping Guides:

If you haven't found exactly what you're looking for then please also check out our 2006 Holiday Gift Guide and our 2007 Holiday Gift Guide. They're both also chalk-full of great game ideas with staying power - we still play many of these games even years later!

Happy Holidays folks!

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Carcassonne Catapult Expansion Lobs One Over The Fence


We've always felt Carcassonne was fun. The only thing that needed spicing-up through expansions were new mechanics that kept the game fun while adding interesting depths to the already fantastically balanced strategy.

Unfortunately unless you're trying to make Caracassonne more approachable for kids, this expansion easily manages to ruin both of those things. Caracssonne: The Catapult [Amazon, Funagain] includes new Fair pieces to mix in with your stock landscape tiles. If a Fair is drawn the player gets to put his meeple on a relatively shodding tiddily winks launcher which tosses him in a tight arc. If any meeple breaks his fall on his way down, the that meeple is carted off board into to the local medieval infirmary. There are a few different modes, too, including one where you shoot chits at each other and score points on catches, or where your meeple replaces the flatted victim on the board.

That's it. It's a randomized aggressive potshot that's fun for the first few random launches, but then gets as tiring as watching Steve Wiebe try to get the kill screen in Circus Atari. Moreover, this expansion flies directly in the face of the interesting - yet light - strategy placement of Carcassonne & expansions that we hold in the highest of regards.

Let's hope this new direction is a short stint. Here's the official word:

It's fair time in Carcassonne. A‚Äątraveling salesman arrives and brings his newest invention: a wondrous catapult!

His demonstrations amaze the crowds and inspire the creative to find many uses for this new contraption. Of course, not every planned use is well thought out or successful...


  • 12 landscape tiles
  • 24 catapult tokens
  • 1 wooden catapult
  • 1 measuring board

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November 24, 2008

Critical Gamers 2008 Holiday Gift Guide - Party Games

For more great gift ideas across all genres of games please see our
Holiday Gift Guide Index.

Now while we love a board and some strategy in most of our games, they're not the right fit for a social evening. That's where party games come in - they tickle the exhibitionist side of everyone, and promote social elements of gaming in a far stronger light than the cerebral mind-game of positioning and placement. Most importantly, they make us laugh our buttocks off.

We're not going to lie to you; the releases in 2008 weren't very friendly to the party gamer. Sure, you could suck it up and buy the heavily commercialized PartiniTravolta.jpg, but it's just the rehashed/ reboiled essence of decade-old Cranium repackaged under a new publisher, and we simply can't suggest that to anyone.

So for this year's guide we revisit our favorite Party Games. These titles still top our table even after numerous repeat plays, some over the span of years, and that's saying something. So as much as this is a Holiday Shoppers List, also consider these choices our Best of Party Games Eva' list, too.

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November 23, 2008

Critical Gamers 2008 Holiday Gift Guide - Wargame Board Games

For more great gift ideas across all genres of games please see our
Holiday Gift Guide Index.

In our third volume of our 2008 Holiday Gift Guides we present three substantial wargaming releases that hit store shelves this fall. Not only are these AAA titles, but they spread three levels of complexity and they're so new that not many folks have gotten their grubby mits on them yet.

Let us also say this: 2008 was a great year for revisiting Wargames from our past. Patton.jpgThere are numerous titles that were long lost and forgotten, including two of our selections this year. But now they've not only been reprinted, but in many cases the baseline of the game has deconstructed, revised and rebuilt. While this is often dangerous and sometimes the end product is mired in filth, the titles released in 2008 have been bright shining stars and very successful.

Enough talk, here are our selections for Best Wargming gifts for the 2008 Holidays:

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November 22, 2008

Critical Gamers 2008 Holiday Gift Guide - Strategy Board Games

For more great gift ideas across all genres of games please see our
Holiday Gift Guide Index.

In part two of our Holiday Shopper Guides we look into gifts for the Strategy Gamer. These are the folks who grew up playing Chess, Stratego, and the classic Diplomacy, and are now ready for evolved games with better themes and potentially deeper gameplay.

Most of these games are for the more serious gamer who in their mid-teens and up. If you're looking for a title to fit the younger generation or pickup a mainstream game then you should checkout our 2008 Family Games Holiday Gift Guide, which lists some greats games that are more relaxed and interest a wide range of player types. For Rodin.jpgthose of you looking for strategy war games: we ask you to checkout our War Game Holiday Gift Guide for 2008 which runs down our list of the best war gaming gifts for this year.

But those who want some great stand up strategy games then look no further. We've got quite a list here, including many critically acclaimed award winners that'll satisfy any strategy gamer when they tear off the wrapping paper come late December.

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November 20, 2008

Critical Gamers 2008 Holiday Gift Guide - Family Games

For more great gift ideas across all genres of games please see our
Holiday Gift Guide Index.

We once again kick off our annual series of Board Game Holiday Shopper guides with probably the most difficult of gaming archetypes: The Family Gamer. Our goal was to compile a list of fun games that span the disparate interest levels of younger players, teens, and adults where challenge and creativity is more interesting than following the rules.

Here's our most important criteria for the choosing games for our Holiday Board Games Guide for Families:

  1. Games that are interesting for adults, too. Even though we recommend these games to families, we still want play any and all of these games because they're fun for us despite the fact that we're in our 30's.
  2. Games that are simple to learn - but yet interesting and offer a quite a few levels of depth. They have to be rewarding for everyone who comes to the table.CatanMap.jpg
  3. Games that keep everyone involved from the first turn to the last, unlike the traditional family games from our past - like Monopoly.
  4. The games come to a conclusion in about an hour so they're easy to budget time for, and you won't feel that board game hangover as you burn the midnight oil.

There's no surprise that this list jives with many characteristics of Eurogames which came out of Germany in the 1990's - since they were designed for exactly this type of gaming. Also, these games listed here would be great for non families, too, like any social board game group looking to get together a few times a month to play games and just hang out.

And here's our list of Family Games for the 2007 Holiday Season without any further ado:

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Axis & Allies Anniversary Board Game Hits Shelves


The first major board game release to kick off the 2008 holiday shopping season is here, and it just hit the table like the triumphant bang of an airlifted crate of a frozen K Rations plummeting through a Bastogne church rooftop on Christmas morning.

This year the publisher turned 50, and decided to roll out remakes of their most popular titles. The goal of the Axis and Allies team was to make the Axis & Allies Avalon Hill 50th Anniversary edition [Amazon, Funagain] bigger in every way... and the publisher has succeeded at doing just that. We've check and we've noted that this giant installment is at least 5 hogs' heads bigger than the A&A; 2004 Revised Edition. That's 5 hogs' heads of larger boards, more territories, new factions, new refined rules choice-pulled from the latest A&A; releases, and 600 pieces of wargaming goodness all under one box cover.

The board is now 2 feet x 4 feet - the biggest yet in an A&A; game. It's also gorgeous; instead of the drab and flat-shaded territories of editions past, the board now sports full-colored topographical terrain, faded in just the right way as be interesting but not at all distracting. And now the Cruiser unit has bee introduced to the global A&A; cast of military units - A&A; aficionados will note this has been pulled from the recent and highly successful Axis & Allies Guadalcanal Edition. Finally, the expansionist nation of Italy has joined the the Axis nations, and China now has it's own turn under USA control.

Very interesting indeed. First Risk is reimagined, and now its natural next step in wargaming evolution leaks from the 20th century and lands smack dab into the 21st. What a fantastic year for gaming.

For more information checkout Axis&;'s coverage of the details, or the official Axis and Allies Anniversary Edition website.

Or, even easier, here are the official details:

Axis & Allies celebrates 50 years of Avalon Hill games with this Anniversary Edition of the classic World War II strategy board game. Designed by Larry Harris, A&A; Anniversary Edition will utilize the standard D6 combat system found in Axis & Allies Revised, Europe, & Pacific. Italy will debut as the third Axis nation, China will be operated by the US player, and cruiser class ships will join the naval line-up for the first time. The largest board ever produced for an A&A; game, along with deluxe components will ensure this is the granddaddy of all Axis & Allies board games. Deploy your forces and prepare for battle!

Axis & Allies: Anniversary Edition details:

  • Designed by Larry Harris, creator of Axis & Allies
  • Italy introduced as the third Axis nation
  • Two set-up options: Spring 1941 and Spring 1942
  • Cruiser class ships join the naval unit line-up
  • China included as US controlled ally
  • New sculpts for Italy, China, and others
  • Game board measures ~ 24" x 46"
  • Over 600 game pieces
  • 48 page rulebook


The Axis & Allies Anniversary Edition is now shipping from Amazon and Funagain Games.

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November 18, 2008

Tide of Iron Map Pack Announced for Spring 2009

TideofIronBox.jpgHow odd. Just this Saturday we were slugging it out over the custom Tide or Iron scenario "Blitz" - which we highly recommend for its balanced tank battle slugfest - and now today the ever-vigilant Board Game News has word that Fantasy Flight Games will shortly announce a new Tide of Iron expansion slated for release next March. This new expansion comes hot on the heals of the recent Desert Fox expansion from earlier this year, and the upcoming Tide of Iron: Designer Series [Amazon, Funagain] slated for release in December.

The expansion is the first of what will probably be a series: a Tide of Iron Map Pack. It'll incorporate 'more colorful' replacement pieces for the the set of customizable boards. This will not only replace the base set of boards for standard play - which were quite alright already - but also expands upon the tile set so you can really create some wonderful sprawling battles.

Here's their word:

" Tide of Iron puts players in thick of WWII. The Tide of Iron Map Upgrade Pack lets players update their original map boards with brand new artwork and enhanced colors. Players can also use these with their existing Tide of Iron boards to create epic level battles.

Also included is the cardboard from the base game with upgraded obstacles such as tank traps, bunkers, and hills, giving players much more flexibility when creating custom scenarios and recreating famous battles."

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November 17, 2008

Le Havre Board Game - A Destined Classic

LeHavre.jpgIt seems Lookout Games has another hit on their hands just in time for the fall.

The board game La Havre [Funagain] follows the same theme of its award winning cousin Agricola [Amazon, Funagain], but instead of pulling the strings on an small agricultural farm players serve as tycoons working their strategic magic in the major port city of Normandy, France.

Players will purchase goods, push them through their own processing plants & ships, or pay to use another player's, and attempt to sell their goods for cold hard francs. Players are then evaluated and ranked on their shipping, manufacturing and cash assets at the end of the game, and with random draws and setup there are quite few different avenues and styles to play to get you to the top.

The game is very dynamic, plays fast, is elbow deep in the strategy, and yet pretty darn easy to pickup considering the amount of content. And though it's recommended for 12 & UP, it'd probably work best in the family environment if you have kids in the early-teens at least. Otherwise, this is AAA title for adult gamers and gaming groups.

If you want to read more about the game then we highly recommend this fantastic BGG User Review. You can also read the rules [pdf], and finally here are Le Havre's official details:

"About the Game

Le Havre is a French city, containing France's second largest harbour (after Marseilles). The city is notable not only for its size but also for its unusual name. The Dutch word "Havre", meaning "Harbour", was adopted into French in the 12th century, but these days it is considered archaic and "le port" is used instead.

The principle of the game is simple. A player's turn consists of two parts: First, distribute newly supplied goods onto the Offer spaces; then take an action. As an action, players may choose either to take all goods of one type from an Offer space or to use one of the available buildings. Building actions allow players to upgrade goods, sell them or use them to build their own buildings and ships. Buildings are both an investment opportunity and a revenue stream, as players must pay an entry fee to use buildings that they do not own. Ships, on the other hand, are primarily used to provide the food that is needed to feed the workers.

After every seven turns, the round ends: a Harvest increases players' grain and cattle reserves, and players must feed their workers.After a fixed number of rounds, each player may carry out one final action, and then the game ends. Players add the value of their buildings and ships to their cash reserves. The player who has amassed the largest fortune is the winner." - Le Havre's Official Rules

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