June 27, 2007

Carcassonne on Xbox Live

Carcassonne for Xbox Live ArcadeMicrosoft today released the Xbox Live port of our favorite Eurogame: Carcassonne! The download is available through the Xbox Live Arcade Marketplace for 800 points (~ $10 ) and includes both the original Carcassonne game, and the popular 12-Tile Rivers expansion. The game sports single player support, online support for up to five players, and - for those family oriented gamers - hotseat support for four players on one machine.

The first Eurogame release of Catan Live has been quite a success, and we have high hopes for the Carcassonne treatment as well. We have a diffenret developer this time around in Sierra Online, but the change-up really doesn't concern us too much; Sierra has been responsible for a successfully string of online parlor games dating back to their Sierra Online service of the early 1990s.

But we are a bit disappointed to learn that the other Carcassonne expansions aren't included in this release. It would have been nice to mix up some multiplayer games with a mistmatch of the expansions. Yeah, sure that would have required Sierra to put more work into produce a larger set of art assets and the addition of some flexible AI code, but it would have paid off in spades with any Carcassonne lover.
Carcassonne Looks Pretty Sweet in Semi 3D
Also we're a bit concerned about the flow of gameplay in Carcassonne, too. Online matches might succumb to analysis paralysis, and become quite the snoozefest. Hopefully there's a mechanism for players to reach out across the virtual table and smack opponents out of their brain loop. We hope Sierra has figured out a dynamic warning/penalty system rather than the stock, overzealous and utilitarian turn time limit which usually makes the whole gaming experience so cold. Of course, that's probably what we'll get.

Anyway, we still have high hopes for Carcassonne Live. We'll check back in with our impressions once we have a few games under our belt. It's going to torturous work.

Read on for the official details.

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June 20, 2007

Gleemax Gaming Community Website Launches

Gleemax Knows ALL about gamingWizards of the Coast announced that their new gaming community hub website Gleemax launched last week. The site will serve as a social hub for for all gaming audiences to come together and post their own user articles, discussions, etc, And its not meant for just Wizard of the Coast games, but all games under the Sun - from Axis & Allies to Zombies!, and every RPG, board game, and CCG in between.

The shotgun aim for such a broad audience scares us a bit - we fear that the generic theme will breed generic content. Usually it's the case that new community sites require some sort of special focused catalyst before a large audience flocks in for meaningful discussions, and due to these concerns we decided to wait a week before we passed our initial judgment on the true potential of this new social gaming megasite.

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Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

June 18, 2007

Tannhäuser Preview Trailer Released

Tannhauser: Yes PleaseThis fantastic four minute trailer from Fantasy Flight Games just put us in the mood for some Tannhauser [Amazon, Funagain] action, but then again we’re always ready and willing for a well-themed strategy board game full of machine guns, demons, and ticking time bombs.

In case you missed our original story in February, Tannhauser is a strategy board game set 30 years into World War One where German occult agents race against the American commandos to open a door to hell and end the war once and for all. If your society can’t build an atomic bomb, then opening a portal to hell seems like the next best thing.

This preview trailer does a great job of presenting the game’s art style, and it excites s how well the title seems to instill the creepiness of the game’s setting and characters. The trailer switches into a gameplay preview about half way through, presenting various parts of the game,Tannhauser - HermonHietzinger including the ability for players to customize their characters and commandos with various pieces of equipment from flamethrowers to time bombs and machine guns. The movie wraps up with a presentation the new “Pathfinding” system which aims to uses subtle colors in the outlines of spaces on the board to depict line of sight in a seemingly streamlined way. No more accidentally knocking over half the board with rulers and pieces of string.

Taunnhauser originally shipped to a French audience in 2006, and it’s been so well-received that Fantasy Flight Games has decided to translate and deliver the game to the masses of English speaking gamers. Expect to be battling as the forces of good and evil in a Great War demonic throw down of the century when the English language version of Tannhauser [Amazon, Funagain] ships in time for Halloween this September.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

June 15, 2007

Star Wars Pocketmodel TCG

Han SoloWhen we were 25 years younger Star Wars was everything. We had our parents take us to see the movie time nad time again, watching giddily with excited eyes as Han and Luke swatted down pesky TIE Fighters from the Falcon's turrets. We slept in Star Wars sheets, ate from our Star Wars lunch box, and even sat in attention whenever R2 and 3P0 appeared on TV to help fight the war against big tobacco.

The best part of our lazy childhoodod of the early 80''s was on Saturdays, when we'd all convene at the basement of the mother who drew the shortest straw, and reenact the battles of the movie with Kenner Action Figures and giant vehicles. We could barely lift the Faclon and the AT-AT was out of control - and that's exactly what made it so freakin' cool.

Fast forward two and half decades, and the Star Wars the Pocketmodel TCG arrives on the scene. The title isn't shipping with a starter deck, but it comes in two offerings: Star Wars Pocketmodel TCG Boosters [Amazon,Funagain] , and Pocketmodel TCG Powerup Pack [Shopzilla,Funagain] which includes a preconstructed Imperial Star Destroyer.

Now, we to be a bit critical here: the rules and the game system aren't quite as deep as we would have hoped for in a Star Wars strategic space battle offering, and the models are a 'tad small. But that isn't giong to stop us from designing our own large mass battles of Rebel fleets on hit and run raids against Star Destroyers, or pulling Crazy Wookies to spin around our YT-1300 and line up a run between the gun arcs on a Corellian Corvette. wARRnung!

Punch it.

Here are the official details:

Star Wars Pocket TCG is shipping to stores

"The Star Wars PocketModel TCG combines the best features of classic TCGs with those of constructible strategy games (CSGs), a category that WizKids pioneered for kids. This TCG innovation allows players to use characters and action scenes from the movies on their cards to help control their fleets of PocketModel ships as they attempt to destroy each other's objectives. This exciting, easy-to-learn game derives its content from all six Star Wars movies, making it possible for fans of all generations to enjoy battling for control of the galaxy!

Following in the tradition of WizKids' successful Pirates CSG, no Starter is required for game play.

The Power Up Pack includes a pre-constructed Imperial Star Destroyer (not available in the booster pack). The card distribution includes 3 other ships not available in the booster packs."

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June 11, 2007

"Epic BattleLore" Expansion Released

Epic BattleLoreDays of Wonder has released a boxed version of Epic BattleLore [Amazon,Funagain], an expansion alters the game to allow for more than the standard 1 v 1 battles of the original BattleLore board game system. Now, with these rules, players convert their sets to create large-scale battles of 3v3.

You may recall that rules to the Epic: BattleLore were published a while back on the official Days of Wonder website, so wary readers may be wondering why you'd want to shell-out 15 bucks for it. The hitch is this: To work the multplayer magic of Epic BattleLore you'll need to shove two game boards together before you can DDT your "friends" in some 3v3 wargaming mayhem. But some of us don't pull in the big bucks, and throwing down $150 MSRP for 2 sets of BattleLore seems like steep way to expand the game into multiplayer goodnes.

This boxed expansion solves that problem - it includes everything you need to get going with on BattleLore set, including the required second board! What's that? Someone isn't trying to milk consumers of their money? How thoughtful.

Here's the official word:

"This expansion gives you the opportunity to conduct battles on a grand scale, by combining the back side of two game boards to form a single, unified, giant battlefield.

This supplement also gives you a chance to adventure in the company of friends (up to 3 to a side), making it the format of choice to introduce new players to the game."

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

June 6, 2007

Ran: The Board Game

Akira Kurosawa's RAN All you film buffs out there just perked up your ears, didn't you? Ever since our group experimented in college, with niche movies that is, we've noted that Ran was a classic. It had it all for a feudal war film: large of armies of spearmen, swordsmen, and early gunpowder units all sporting colorful distinguishing flags (probably made with toxic Red Dye #5), and also those Daimyo in slick armor shouting, gesturing with swords, and leading armies in into battles of massive sieges of Japanese fortresses - it was enough to blow the mind of we few curious college students just introducing themselves to the history of Feudal Japan.

To those of you who have no idea what we're talking about: check out this clip from the movie that we've entitled "Good Morning!". As soon as it sparks your curiosity then do yourself a favor and don't ruin the rest of the movie by watching the whole clip. Instead - shut it off and briskly walk - for the sake of a horrible pun - and rent Ran from you local video store. If the store has any class, then they'll have it in stock somewhere in the back. If their copy is in VHS then uh, rent it from somewhere else that has the DVD version. While audiophiles could claim that analog vinyl records have a "warmer sound" than CD pressings, only the legally blind videophiles argue the same of the visual qualities of old VHS tapes.

And when the lights close on the final scene and you find yourself craving more, then checkout this new war game release of Ran [Funagain] from GMT games to see if it fits your fancy. We have to be honest here, we don't know much about the game other than the product literature from the official website. We don't have a copy of the game in-house yet, nor have we played any of the other games from GMT's historic war game series, so we can only arm you with enough knowledge to to make your own call on whether or not this Feudal Japan game release of hexes and chits is worth your gaming time. But hey, at least your saw a Kurosawa Classic in the process.

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June 4, 2007

Tide of Iron Tactical WWII Board Game System Ships


Oh yes, very very nice. After a few delays Fantasy Fight Games has finally shipped the Big Box strategy WWII wargame system Tide of Iron [Amazon, Funagain]! It's a little late for Memorial Day, but just in time for D-Day, which - we suppose - is more fitting anyway.

Our copy arrived direct from Fantasy Flight over the weekend, but we've only just had enough time to oggle the pieces so far. But we're WWII nuts here, so we already have some serious designs on how to put this title through its paces. Until then, this user review remains our favorite overview of the game. Those of you looking for some more official notes should also checkout Tom Vasel's Review over at the The Dice Tower, who wears his gaming heart on his sleeve and does a beautiful job as he breaks down the game bit by bit.

Here's the official sitrep:

"Word War II was the greatest mobilization of fighting men and machines that the world has ever seen; tanks and soldiers combined into a veritable tide of iron that changed the world. Now the largest and deadliest conflict in history comes to your tabletop in Fantasy Flight's game of World War II squad-level tactics!

Tide of Iron feature hundreds of detailed plastic figures, including soldiers, tanks, and other combat vehicles. The game rules focus on realistically simulating squad-level combat, but are streamlined enough to appeal to casual board gamers. Tide of Iron features a modular game board on which up to 6 players (divided into 2 teams) can test their tactical prowess in dozens of scenarios.

Tide of Iron joins the ranks of Fantasy Flight's runaway hits Twilight Imperium, Descent, and World of Warcraft in the epic sized box. With a box two feet wide and over ten pounds you know its full of World War II action!"

The Tide of Iron system is now shipping from Amazon and Funagain Games, or can be ordered directly from Fantasy Flight Games.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

June 1, 2007

May '07 Roundup

Roundup2.jpgWow, anyone else notice the mad congo line of releases during this post Memorial Day Week? And with there being only four days, we didn't even get a chance to report that two more titles - Notre Dame and Age of Discovery - have both been released.

We also hear that Tide of Iron should be washing up on our doorsteps sometime in the next few days! And the WoW TCG Molten Core Raid Deck just arrived. Oh boy, what a sweet week for gaming.

So hopefully we'll have some good reviews for you in June, including a review of the WoW TCG expansion Through the Dark Portal, and the intergalactic space opera game of diplomacy and warfare in the upcoming Galactic Destiny board game from Golden Laurel.

And at some point in June we plan to sleep, too.

Game Releases

Board Games

Collectible Card Games

Gaming Culture

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

May 30, 2007

WoW TCG Molten Core Raid Deck Released

Molten Core Raid begins on May 30thThe day is finally here. The second Raid Deck for the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game is shipping from stores, and you could be taking on the Molten Core [Shopzilla, Funagain] with your friends as early as this weekend. And although the Official MC Website still remains somewhat dormant, the feature articles page of the Official WoW TCG site continues to churn out articles particular to this new raid experience.

And we're finally getting some fantastic details about the mechanics of the card game as well. It seems that not all raid decks (Onxyia, Molten Core.. Black Temple?) will be the same. Most of the mechanics of the single raid boss style of the Onyxia Raid Deck are thrown out the window. Instead players of Molten Core can chose to take on an abbreviated raid experience, by downing the first boss Lucifron, three random bosses chosen from random, and then the final boss battle with the Fire Lord Ragnaros. Alternatively, those with a passion for sagas can chose to play the long-game, downing each of the raid's 10 different bosses in order.

RagnarosSmash.jpgHere's a piece from the article:

"The first thing you’ll notice when you crack open your shiny new Molten Core Raid Deck is that there’s a ton of stuff inside. There are three different decks, ten oversize hero cards for the Bosses, a pile of two-sided ally tokens, seven rune cards, and a ten-card treasure pack." -From "Molten Core Walkthrough - Part 1"

There's more great info, too, including a catalog of the different decks and the number of cards in each. Most of the Molten Core bosses share a Main Deck and a Minion deck, but then the game switches a new deck in once Ragnoros has been summoned for your beating pleasure.

FirelordWe're really glad to see that all of the ten MC raid bosses made it into this raid deck - we would have hated if they abbreviated the various characters of the Molten Core cast. Plus, it somewhat validates all of the time and energy we spent in February on our Molten Core Boss Previews [part 1, 2 & 3].

We're also quite happy to see that the game mechanics are flexible and that the experience scales so that those with light equipment can have some fun in an hour, and those to with the uber equipment can try a full clear of the raid with their heroes on a rainy afternoon. Although the various TCG heroes of our collective bunch were in top shape before Onyxia was released, we're not quite sure we're up to a full clear yet. We now have something to grow into, tune for, spend time on, and something that'll be certainly be immensely gratifying once we accomplish it as a team. And really, isn't the essence of World of Warcraft raiding right there?

After the Onyxia Raid Deck [review] we were a bit concerned with the balancing of future raid deck releases. But now we're giddy once again. Expect a full review once we've cured Ragnaros' burning itch.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

Colosseum Released

Colosseum from Days of WonderHot on the heels of yesterday’s release of Age of Empires III comes another family friendly (probably more so) strategy game lifted out of history. Days of Wonder has officially released Colosseum [Amazon, Funagain], and it’s now available in stores.

In Colosseum players compete against one another to construct and upgrade Roman Arenas in an attempt to host the largest and most successful show. What sort of show depends on a public draft each turn where players walk bid on gladiators, animals to eat them, and actors – each of varying skill. Each turn players are awarded for attracting attendees to their Colosseum, then by parlaying their returns to grow their stadium. The game ends on the fifth turn where players try to put on the best show that their money can buy. Following the closing ceremonies the game’s winner is crowned.

You read-up on Colosseum by reading our previous preview articles (below). Our Colosseum Reviews page also has a collection of 3rd party reviews that we think serve to paint a good overall picture of the title.

Our Colosseum Previews Articles:

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