December 14, 2006

World of Warcraft TCG: Onyxia Week

Onyxia Smash!Caves are supposed to be dank, algae blanketed, stalactite-ridden, cavernous holes of the subterranean question mark - especially when they sit in a dead-end swamp. But with so many people running in n' out of Onyxia's Lair [Amazon,Toywiz] lately, the highly anticipated encounter seems a bit less foreboding. Instead we're in crunch mode.

As gamers we're elbow deep in determining the best way to tackle the Onyxia raid encounter from both sides of the fence. Entering the encounter as a group of WoW TCG players we're working hard to find the best combination of classes and abilities to meet Onyxia head-on. And while playing as Ony we're refining our play so that we realize the full potential of her abilities - so that she incinerates the players into neat lumps of ash as fast as she possibly can.

And what better resource on the matter is there but the words of the designers themselves?

That's right - there isn't. That's why Upper Deck has made this second week in December the official "Onyxia's Lair Week" on the World of Warcraft TCG website. And here are some of the good articles published this week that any WoW TCG aficionado should check out:

  • "Playing As Onyxia" starts things off with some hints on and tips how and when to play Onyxia's ability cards, and most importantly which of your opponents Ony should munch-on first. Sometimes it's not so obvious.
  • "Customizing Onyxia" is great for those groups who've already defeated Onyxia once, and are looking for a more challenging encounter the second time around. Remember: You can mix any number of cards from your first Onyxia Raid Deck into your second deck. Four Engulfing Flames should help to humble the inflated egos of your group.
  • "Treasure Pack Cards" goes through some of the fat loot you should expect to loot after downing Onyxia, and even better - how it should be used to bring her down even faster the next time around.
  • And going against the status quo is "Beating Onyxia" which offers help to those players who find the original deck too challenging (and for more hints check our Onyxia Raid Deck Review.
Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

December 13, 2006

Now Shipping: "Imperial"

Imperial from Rio Grande GamesIt might be a touchy subject given the world political climate these days, but it's still true: War makes people rich. And the new title Imperial [Amazon, Funagain] from Rio Grande Games makes a stunning game out of that one simple principal.

Thankfully all modern politics and ethics can be set aside for this one - Imperial depicts the European political theater a hundred years ago in the early 1900s, just as national tensions began to climb and pressure mounts for the outbreak of World War I. Players of the classic social backstabbing board game Diplomacy will be quite familiar with this period in history, but instead of acting as the diplomatic leaders of wartime nations, players act as rich wartime investors - buying and selling stock in countries throughout the war. Whoever controls the most stock of a particular country becomes the commander of both its military forces and its spending policies - at least until he's unseated.

The game has certain triggers which generate tax revenue for each particular country, and then other triggers which distributes that revenue to each player that's invested in it. So even if a player isn't in control of a country dominating the theater of war, they can still ride its coattails to successville.

Now although this game has war gaming elements, and a wartime theme, Imperial remains a business investment game at its heart. Combat is relatively simplistic - a simple formula of the mutual destruction of units. In a 3v2 situation, for instance, only one army remains alive. In our opinion this is a good thing, as it keeps the game rolling along smoothly.

Imperial also makes use of the ingenious rondel turn mechanic inherited from last year's popular release Antike [Funagain]. Residing on the board is a pie chart circle divided into eight equal slices, each section depicting one of the game's eight possible turn actions. At the start of a country's turn its marker sits on one of the sections, and the player can chose from any of the three options on the series of slices following the marker. For instance, a turn a player could either "move armies", "produce armies", or "collect tax revenues". The player can chose to take any of these actions for free, or he could spend money to jump beyond the free actions at a cost of one million dollars per space beyond the three. In this way individual countries move through production and movement phases at their own rate, and can string together a series of out-of-order actions by speeding through the rondel, but for a price.

We're babbling. We can feel it. It's only becuase we're really excited about this release. This one is right up our alley. Here's the official description:

Imperial - the back of the box

The Company Line: Europe in the age of imperialism. Internationally operating investors aim for the highest political influence in Europe. By giving credits they gain influence over the six imperial nations Great Britain, Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, Italy and France. These nations desperately need money to build up their economy and to buy troops and fleets. With their growing power in Europe, they collect more taxes and pay their rising interests to their investors. Because the six imperial nations are under changing influence of different investors, strategic alliances and conflicts arise between them. Sometimes this even leads to war!

The players represent internationally operating investors who stay in the background. The turns in the game are executed by the six imperial nations, not by the investors themselves, who only impose their financial influence on various nations. Only the investor who gets the best return on his investments, who gains influence over the most powerful imperial nations, and who can influence the European diplomacy to his benefit, will win the game.

Imperial is a challenging strategy game without any luck of cards or dice.


  • 1 gameboard
  • 48 armies in 6 colors
  • 48 fleets in 6 colors
  • 60 tax chips in 6 colors
  • 30 factories
  • 18 octagonal game pieces in 6 colors
  • 1 turn marker
  • 48 bond cards
  • 6 flags
  • 1 investor card
  • 1 blank card (replacement)
  • bank notes
  • 1 instruction booklet
  • 1 booklet: Historical Data on the Six Power

Imperial is now shipping from Funagain Games.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

December 11, 2006

Now Shipping "Marvel Heroes"

Marvel HeroesFor good or bad we've seen a resurgence of Super Heroes in American media over the last few years, including movies, lunch boxes, that great "Heroes" television series, etc. There have been some properties we wished weren't resurrected, but for most part there have been some really strong evolutions of traditional series. The X-Men movies probably began the new movement (starting strong but eventually turning into a over-production stage show near the end), while the Spiderman series and new Superman movies will keep it very much alive and kicking.

But the reemergence of morally strong men in tights hasn't been limited to the big screen. Lately we've even been taking breaks from board gaming by spending time at lunch with the Xbox, playing the new release Marvel Ultimate Alliance [Xbox,360,PS2]. That game is chalk full of super hero doom-bot kicking goodness, and it - more than anything - has made us hungry for even more high-quality super hero media.

And now Fantasy Flight Games adds a giant brick of fuel to the fire. The design team behind the incredible War of the Ring franchise has released their next epic Big Box Game title: Marvel Heroes [Amazon,Funagain].

In this latest epic title, each player controls a super hero team, and must investigate various "Headlines" scattered across a dynamic instance of New York City. Through their investigation the heroes will save citizens from falling elevators, fight low-level crime, unveil and uncover super villain plots, and defeat the villains in fisticuff combat.

MarvelHeros.3.16.06.jpgPlayers also control an archeneny super villain which is paired against another player's super hero team. In this way the player's involvement in the game continues even beyond his standard turn. We're a big fan of this game dynamic - because these massive games can become quite the snoozer when you finish your move and it's not going to be your for another 10 minutes or so.

Check out the game's official website to learn more about the title, including the game's rulebook [pdf] Here's the game's official synopsis:

In MARVEL HEROES, 2-4 players each take on the role of a popular super-team straight from the pages of Marvel comics, including such well-known heroes as Spider-Man, Wolverine, Captain America, and the Fantastic Four. Simultaneously, they take the role of an evil Mastermind, whether it's the Kingpin of Crime, Dr. Doom, the Red Skull, or the mutant terrorist Magneto. They will fight crime and progress their story as super heroes, and work to complete their villainous plans as Masterminds, all competing to be the most successful at both tasks.

The action unfolds in New York City, on an impressively detailed and accurate map depicting Manhattan Island as well as Brooklyn and Queens. Players will respond to dangerous and criminal events, represented by Headlines, that crop up across the city, sending members of their super hero team to rescue citizens, fight crime, and battle super villains. Meanwhile, the dastardly Masterminds work to their own purposes - and especially to defeat their Nemesis super-team!

Marvel Heroes is now available to order from Funagain Games and

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

December 8, 2006

World of Warcraft TCG Onyxia Raid Deck Review

Onyxia's Lair Raid DeckThe Onyxia's Lair Raid Deck [Amazon,ToyWiz] for the World of Warcraft Trading Card Came has shipped to stores, and most retailers have finally received enough copes to meet the preorder demand. We picked up our copy a few days ago, and we were like kids on Christmas morning. Immediately we tore into to our copy and ran the game through its paces.

The cards themselves are gorgeous - with some of the best artwork in the game to date. The deck comes in carrying-case that matches the same design as the World of Warcraft TCG Starter Decks [Amazon,ToyWiz]. The black dragon Onyxia is represented by an over sized Hero card, just as those that shipped with the starter decks, and her deck of cards is the same size as the normal WoW playing cards. But they sport a gold framing around them because they're special.

Now - if we were to sum up our experience in two concise words which lack any sort of elaborate details, then we'd have to say: "too easy".

Fortunately we're not dismissive jerks. We feel the game merits a far more detailed and constructive criticism than that, and we're more than willing to break-down our experience a bit more. Perhaps whatever you read here can make the Onyxia's experience a bit more challenging for yourselves than it was for us, and hopefully a bit more fun.

ArrowContinue reading: "World of Warcraft TCG Onyxia Raid Deck Review"

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

December 6, 2006

Carcassonne Expansion Ships in Games Quarterly Magazine

Winter 2006 CoverThe Winter 2006 issue of Games Quarterly Magazine [Funagain] has hit newsstands, and we're excited to say that with it ships a twelve tile expansion to the Eurogame classic Carcassonne [our review]. The expansion's tiles includes two new river tiles to extend Carcassone's Rivers expansion, and ten tiles that expand the base game.

The expansion's tiles are mainly comprised of some crazy road/city combinations, which are relatively rare in the original game. Traditionally the placement of an abutting road complicates the completion of a city project, and players use road tiles to essentially paint an opponent's city into a corner. The expansion's new tiles can be used to alleviate some of that pressure, and might be a life-saver for those who've fallen victim of such aggressive plays.

You can get a nice color photograph of the new tiles on the expansion's BoardGameGeek page.

The Winter Issue of GQM isn't just a Carcassonne expansion, though. Here's the full skinny:

The Company Line: A dozen or so of the top writers in the games industry have features in each issue of GQM. James Ernest applies his wit and humor to Dr. Game advice column. Kenneth Hite gives a wry and astute view of games that have become classics. David Niecikowski shows in detail games that have particular merit in education. GQM Publisher Mark Simmons, a 28 year veteran who has worked on every level of the industry, makes sure each issue is overflowing with interesting and entertaining features.

Games Quarterly #11 features an expansion for Carcassonne, Rio Grande Game’s most popular game. It's twelve brand new tiles for the basic game. Brand new, never before seen configurations available only with issue #11!

The Winter Issue (#11) of Games Quarterly Magazine is now available at FungainGames.

The Spring 2007 Issue (#12) will contain another Settlers of Catan [Amazon, Funagain] expansion (as did Fall 2006 Issue #9), and another Carcassonne expansion is slated for the Summer 2007 Issue (#13). We'll keep you posted on the details of those expansions as we get closer to their release.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

December 4, 2006

Now Shipping: "BattleLore"

BattleLore Cover The wait is over, Days of Wonder has finally shipped BattleLore [Amazon,Funagain] to retailers, and the much-anticipated war game system is now available in stores.

BattleLore is the latest incarnation of the acclaimed Commands and Colors tactical wargame system, which is designed to speed up gameplay - to keep things fun - while still accurately simulating a tactical engagement of down-and-dirty warfare. The system started with Battlecry [Funagain] (American Civil War) and evolved through the line of very strong titles including: Commands & Colors: Ancients [Funagain] (Rome vs Hannibal), and Memoir '44 [Amazon, Funagain] (World War II).

BattleLore sets the system in the Medieval period near the end of the Hundred Years War, and slowly introduces fantasy war gaming elements through the base set's 10 scenarios. On top of that the game ships with access to an online scenario editor, and Days of Wonder promises to host user-submitted scenarios so players can keep their copies of the game fresh with new content downloaded from the Interweb.

And starting next spring Days of Wonder will begin to ship small booster packs with new unit types, new rules, and new scenarios. These wont be expansions, but smaller installments of new content with a lower price point. Buy what you want, play what you want.. a very nice product distribution paradigm in our humble opinion.

Here's the official word:

The Company Line: The world of BattleLore meshes history and fantasy together -- putting players in command of a vast array of miniature troops on the battlefields of a Medieval Europe Uchronia at the outset of the Hundred Years War.

Powerful Lore Masters, such as Wizards, Clerics, Warriors and Rogues gathered in customizable War Councils; Mercenary bands chosen from among mythical races such as the Iron Dwarves of Northern England; and Monstrous Creatures all complement the dizzying array of possibilities and tough choices that will face players as they venture in the World of BattleLore.


  • over 210 highly detailed plastic miniatures
  • 1 Player's Guide
  • 1 Adventures Booklet
  • 1 double-sided battlemap
  • 46 Terrain and Landmark tiles
  • 60 Command cards
  • 60 Lore cards
  • 48 Summary cards
  • 2 War Council sheets
  • 24 Lore Master Tokens
  • 12 Battle dice
  • 1 Days of Wonder Online Access Number

BattleLore is now available to order from Amazon and Funagain Games. We'll keep you posted when the game hits Amazon's shelves.

Also checkout our other BattleLore coverage for more BattleLore gaming info:

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

December 1, 2006

November '06 Roundup

Roundup2.jpgIt's official - November is kaput, and now the chaotic Holiday Rush is in full swing. To ease you through the shopping mayhem we've posted our Holiday Gift Guide this month. We've also covered a lot of the holiday releases that deserve your utmost attention. For instance - all of Carcassonne and its expansions have been packaged into one nice giant box, the World of Warcraft board game has been expanded, and Axis and Allies received a nice new installment. Unfortunately the new Days of Wonder flagship title "BattleLore" hasn't arrived yet, but it's only days away from hitting retailers so the heart stopping prerelease anxiety is almost over.

In the meantime we've taken a short break to revisit some the best games of the year. We've been heads-down in the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game (and can't wait for the Onyxia's Lair Deck to finally arrive), and we've come up for a few gasps of air here and there by playing Ticket to Ride Marklin. We've also had a couple of great sessions with the recently released Blue Moon City - which has got to be one of the best four player games to come-out in the second half of 2006.

Here's our complete list of all the interesting news bits that occurred in the gaming holiday release rush of November. Enjoy!

Board Games

Collectable Card Games

Gaming Culture

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

November 30, 2006

BattleLore Ships to Retailers, and Tom Vasel Reviews It

BattleLore Stacked Five Boxes HighIt's official. According to a post on November 29th, 2006 - which is yesterday - Days of Wonder has boxed and stacked their Holiday baby on flat bed trucks, and BattleLore is en route to distributors across North America and Europe (we assume there's a boat or a jet involved somewhere, too). If you've already preordered BattleLore [Funagain] then you can expect the war game to be unpacked on your dining room table by the end of next week. Probably even earlier.

We've heard that BattleLore might be so well-received by the gaming community that this single release will have a noticeable impact on the direction of the board gaming market for the next few years. We'll soon see if that's all prerelease-hype, or if we really are on the verge of a title that enormous and ground breaking. BattleLore Cover

Thankfully Tom Vasel - the game reviewing machine - has already some left clues pointing to the potential success of the new wargaming system. He's posted a very, very positive - and very interesting - review of BattleLore on Boardgame News. Definitely worth your time if you or your friends are thirsting for a new war game experience.

BattleLore is said to officially ship on Monday, and it's available to preorder from Funagain Games.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

November 29, 2006

The Settler of Catan's Long Lost Brothers

SettlersOfCatan.11.29.06.jpgHere's one for all of you Settler's of Catan [Amazon, Funagain] fans - 'Nick' from Mayfair Games (publisher of famous The Settlers of Catan) has posted a great article on entitled "The Origins of Catan". The article describes Settlers' designer Klaus Teuber's grand idea to create a massive game with three very different elements of gameplay: the exploration of the unknown, the establishment of settlements on the frontier, and then the feuding of those settlements over various resources in that new land.

But that design was too big to fit into just one box, and what we now know as The Settlers of Catan is actually one game in a spiritual trilogy - the middle game, actually.

Entdecker"The Origins of Catan" describes the other two products that Klaus Teuber later released. "Entdecker" (1996) [Amazon, Funagain] (which is German for "Discoverer") is the exploration portion of the franchise, and a prequel to The Settlers of Catan (1995). Players of Entdecker set out in to explore an uncharted sea (blank board) by flipping over randomly-drawn tiles to reveal an uncharted map of new islands. Once discovered, the players race amongst each other to settle the strongest colony in the new island chain.

DomaineAnd finally "Domaine" (2003) [Amazon, Funagain] caps the epic design. Here players elbow at each other over the control of various portions of land, placing walls and deploying knights to protect their domain, and selling resources produced from the mines they control to become the most powerful and richest player.

The article at goes into more detail about how these games eventually came into being, but the best news for the Settler's fan is that these are widely available today. So if you've loved Settlers after all these years, and you're looking for Settler's 2 - then you've been fooled! The game's sequels are already out!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

November 28, 2006

"Medieival 2: Total War" - Released

Medieval 2: Total WarTruth be had, Medieval 2: Total War [Amazon] came-out over a week ago, but we wanted to hold off on the falling balloons and showers of confetti until we were sure this game was worth your while. And it is. It so is.

If ever you've been interested in the Medieval period of history, or if you've ever played or been interested in a game that simulates the forging of medieval kingdoms through warfare, then this is a pc game you.

Like the other games of the Total War franchise (Shogun, Medieval, and Rome) Medieval 2 is a game with two main contexts. Players of the single player campaign pick a medieval kingdom from history, and are provided a strategic map of provincial Europe 1100 AD. Here players manage the board game-like elements city production of M2TW. maintenance by setting tax rates, constructing social projects, training spies, priests, merchants, and assassins, and sending them on missions into foreign territory. As your feudal nation builds momentum, armies will march from your castles to bring those 'uncivilized' fringe provinces under the fold of your kingdom. Eventually entire nations will butt heads in total war - medieval style.

That's when the game shifts context and zooms into a close view of the battleground. Here players control troop formations of spearmen, swordsmen, archers and knights in real time. Units charge into battle and engage each other in ruthless man-to-main slicing and dicing. The fights reward tactical prowess - where morale is damaged by flanking maneuvers, flaming arrows and - of course - diseased cows tossed over city walls by catapults and trebeuchets.

Plus the game looks great to boot. Click on these screenshots to the right to see a zoomed-in version.

Hack and SlashWe have to warn you that this isn't your kid's real time strategy game. This game simulates the medieval times, and although it never sacrifices gameplay to be true to history's more driest moment. Still this is not a game of over-the-top bells and whistles - explosions and gratuitous gore for the sake of gore are nowhere to be found. The attraction is in the gameplay, and as board gamers we definitely admire how successfully Medieval 2: Total War brings it all together.

Medieval II: Total War is shipping now from

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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