August 25, 2006

World of Warcraft TCG Session Video


Want to get started playing the WoW TCG? Then pick up a Starter Deck and a few booster packs. Also check-out Our Review.

We realize that it was only two weeks ago when we covered a lot of the World of Warcraft TCG for our first TCG It's Friday installment, but we were sucked back in with some cool news that we couldn't just sit on. To be honest, it wasn't hard to go back - we haven't been this excited about a release since Belichick put Brady in for the playoffs and set Bledsoe out to footballer's pasture (sorry Buffalo - the fact that he didn't then take an early retirement was his own doing).

The video (which comes from includes about 20 minutes of footage from Gen Con last week. The reporter plays as a Warrior against Upper Deck Entertainment Product Manager David Hewitt, who pulls the strings of a fire tossing Mage. The coverage includes an entire game played from start to finish with open hands, and also contains a few thoughts from David Hewitt about the Onyxia raid deck. The video is free to download, doesn't require any registration or other bueracratic / marketing nonesense, and .. what the heck are you waiting for?

Here are some notes we took while watching the game session so that you can join in the fun even if your computer doesn't have any speakers, or if you're running on a Apple II GS and can't watch those new fangled moving pictures.

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August 24, 2006

"Lost The Game"

Lost.Boardgame.8.23.06.jpgIn all honesty we were a bit hesitant about posting this. Before you also roll your eyes at what seems ( or could ) be a cumbersome media tie-in, we'd like to let you know that initial reports of the game point the opposite direction, and with a bit of conviction to boot. Don't get us wrong - this probably isn't a game that will sit atop the serious gamer's board game collection as an instant classic, but if you're a fan of the show (and so long as the writers minimize the soap operatic plot lines, then who isn't a fan?) then this game could certainly entertain. Especially when compared against other crappy tie-ins, like "Survivor: The Game" which entertains only by filming yourself throwing the thing against a wall, and watching the explosion of pieces in slow motion reverse. And even then, it's still a bit of a one trick pony.

Unlike other crappy tie-ins, "Lost The Game" [Amazon,Target] was designed from the ground up (what a concept)! This is not some rehashed version of "Monopoly" or "The Game of Life" that the ABC marketing department slapped a sticker on. This was a game built specifically with Lost in mind, and then tinkered with in refining cycles of repeated gametests.

But enough with the monkey on our backs. Let's get to the game itself. The island that plays a role of a shadowy character in the Lost TV show is represented in the game by a series of randomly drawn hexagonal tiles. The board can take any shape and will vary in content in each game session. We're a huge fan of random game boards because they're a spice of replayablity, and the mechanic perfectly fits the "where the heck are we ?" theme of the show.

Players of the game then explore the island and use cards to exploit and recruit characters. The card play is inspired by the collectable card game Magic: The Gathering , but we're not yet sure quite how that theme translates to Lost The Game.

Characters under your control fight for dominance of the island in direct conflict with other palyer's characters (this somewhat breaks the relatively passive behavior of the characters in the TV show, but for gaming purposes we can deal with it). We're sure that there will be some characters who prefer more a more subtile approach to getting what they want., before resorting to fisticuffs.

A lot of the game's public details stem from a pair of articles at The general game page loosely describes the components of the game, and even better, there's an interview with designer Keith Tralins that soothed our fears that this is simply a mass market media crapfest.

As a fan of designer games like Settlers of Catan, Tralins hopes that Lost: The Game will introduce more people to that style. "Lost took a niche genre and blew it up to mainstream. That's a goal I have with this game. There's a whole realm of board games -- the German games -- with social interaction and intellectual challenge. This is a chance to expose those mechanics and those pleasures to a whole new audience. - From "Lost: The Game - Interview with the Designer" on

Board Game Geek also has a thread where a player has posted his experiences during a play session with the game. The site hosts a picture of the game box and its pieces, here.

Those hex pieces look pretty sweet. Reminds us of Survive meets Settlers of Catan.

"Lost The Game" [Amazon,Target] is for sale at, and is currently shipping.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

Eurogames on Xbox Live

XBOX360.8.24.06.jpgWell here's an unexpected great bit of news. Microsoft is going to add the eurogames Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, and Alhambra to their successful XBox Live Arcade online service. Here's a bit from

Fittingly for a conference in Germany, the new games announced for Xbox Live Arcade had a European board-game heritage. Outpost Kaloki X is about to have some genre company on Xbox Live Arcade, as all three titles will call on strategic thinking from the players. The announced games include the civilization-building Settlers of Catan, the tile-based city-building game Carcassonne, and the Arabian-themed stock-market game Alhambra set to be available through the Xbox. - From "Catan tops new Live Arcade trio" on Gamespot

XBox live made a sleeper hit out of the unexpected title of Uno. People went crazy over that title, and continue to do so on a nightly basis. It looks like the Xbox Live team is trying to capitalize on the 'parlor game' genre by adapting some new, hotter titles to their online platform. It'd be interesting to see if the pace of the online Settlers of Catan could keep-up the real life form. Carcassonne will definitely be an interesting experiment as well, but seems more elegant and could be a smoother translation of the medium.

No word yet on when these online variants will be pushed up to the Live Service.

Related Links:

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August 23, 2006

Max Brooks' "World War Z"

WorldWarZ.8.23.06.jpgIt might not be true that all gamers love zombies, but it's definitely true that we do. In fact, we love zombies so much that we wrote this zombie haiku:

           Shuffling Masses
Reach out for human sweetbread
           An axe to the face

Masaoka Shiki would be so proud.

A few years ago we ran across the "Zombie Survival Guide" by Max Brooks [Amazon]; a must-read for any Zombie enthusiast. If you've ever sat in bed staring at the ceiling on a sleepless night wondering how you'd react to a zombiepocolypse, second guessing every move in a cold sweat, then this book is definitely for you. We had already planned our exit strategy for when Boston's inner circle fell into a pit of Zombie hell, but we had some things wrong. Max set us straight, and made us laugh about our stupid mistakes.

We just heard news that Max Brooks has parlayed his success with the ZSG into a full blown novel "World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War" [Amazon]. The book sounds like a War of Worlds sort of fictitious documentary, but dissimilar in that the story takes place ten years after the invasion. And uh, this time it's zombies (of course) not Martians.

"Ten years after the human victory over the world wide Zombie epidemic, referred to as World War Z, Max Brooks scours the world collecting the stories and experiences of those who have survived the conflict that almost eradicated humanity." ... Max Brooks’s previous book, The Zombie Survival Guide, formed the core of the world’s civilian survival manuals during the Zombie War. Mr. Brooks subsequently spent years traveling to every part of the globe in order to conduct the face-to-face interviews that have been incorporated into this present publication.

Sounds juicy. We've also learned that a script for a movie adaptation has already been shopped around Hollywood. IMDB has news that the script found a home in June of this year.

"After a bidding war between Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio's production companies (Plan B and Appian Way respectively) for the film rights to Max Brooks' unreleased book, Paramount came out the winner and Plan B will be producing the movie." -From 'World War Z" on IMDB

So it looks like the movie is going to be a Brad Pitt production, scheduled for a 2008 release.

"World War Z" (the book) is due out September 12th, and is now available for preorder from Amazon.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

August 21, 2006

World of Warcraft TCG Official Rules


Want to get started playing the WoW TCG? Then pick up a Starter Deck and a few booster packs. Also check-out Our Review.

The producers of the World of Warcraft TCG website have posted a link to the game's official 48-page rulebook. The rules are very simple to understand, precise, and go into the details of the seven card types that we had covered a week ago. The rulebook also contains new content including a clear description of the game's turn order and multiplayer rules, and includes detailed descriptions of the keywords for the WoW TCG Series-One cards.

We thought we'd include the keywords and definitions here since they're all very much tied into the flavor and presentation of the game. Some of the keywords are your standard TCG notions of Instant abilities and Unique cards, so we've pruned those snoozers out.

A special note about the rules of the "Protector" keyword - in combat it's usually the the attacking player who choses both the attacking and defending hero and ally. The "Protector" ability breaks that rule.

  • Bear Form: Some Druid abilities give your hero bear form. While in bear form, your hero has protector. When you play a non-Feral ability or strike with a weapon, you must destroy any ability cards in play that give your hero bear form.
  • Elusive: An elusive hero or ally can’t be attacked. However, it can still attack as usual. It can also be targeted by abilities as usual.
  • Ferocity: An ally with ferocity can attack on the same turn that it joins a party. However, even an ally with ferocity can’t use activated powers unless it has been in your party since the start of your turn. An ally with ferocity can still use regular payment powers that don’t require an activation.
  • Long-Range: Some weapons give your hero long-range. While a hero with long-range is attacking, defenders deal no combat damage to it.
  • Protector: A hero or ally with protector can defend in place of a proposed defender in combat.
  • Stealth: Some Rogue abilities give your hero stealth. While a stealthed hero is attacking, opposing heroes and allies can’t protect. As soon as your hero deals damage, you lose stealth and must destroy any card that gives you stealth.
  • Totem: A Totem is a special kind of Shaman ongoing ability. A Totem has a health value in its lower right corner. Totems can be attacked in combat or targeted by anything that would normally target an ally.
  • Unlimited: When a card has the “unlimited” keyword, you can put any number of them into your deck. For example, you could have 60 Orgrimmar Grunts cards in your deck instead of the normal maximum of 4.

Links to the online versions of the World of Warcraft TCG rulebook can be found here. We'd also like to make special note about the art of the "Battle of Darrowshire" , a Quest card detailed on the WoW TCG website this last week. The arrows to the neck is a perfect import from the undead models of the MMORPG, and that background is the coolest subtle, yet terrifying, background we've seen of a Trading Card in a long while. Totally fits the game's October release, too.

Can't wait!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

August 16, 2006

Marvel Heroes GenCon Impressions in BoardGameGeek Forums

MarvelHeros.3.16.06.jpgWe're still on-watch for next installment of the Marvel Heroes preview articles in the Board Game Geek forums (see our posts covering parts 1 & 2, 3, and 4). Bad news: there's still no word on when part five is coming. Good news: we found a post with some interesting impressions about the game's showing at the GenCon gaming convention last week.

The post [link] steps through various details of a round of play, and offers some opinions of the title's game mechanics and content. We've enjoyed the official preview posts from Marvel Heroes designer Roberto Di Meglio, but it's also great to hear about the game from a source other than the horse's mouth.

Here's a snippet:

"I thought this game was excellent. The Demo table was always full and as soon as a game ended there already 4 or more players ready to start the next one. They surprised most of us with a game that is not just a tactical miniature combat game and they delivered an enjoyable experience. I can't wait for this game to come out." Post from User 'Ronaldo'

The entire article draws a pretty picture of the Marvel Heroes showing at Gen Con. A line up to a demonstration is always a good thing. Also, in the past we've heard that the game is meant to play fast with little downtime, and this hands-on impression confirms that it'll live up to those standards.

Here's hoping, anyway. The continuing reputation of Fantasy Flight's Big Box line of games is at stake, and we hope its reputation isn't tarnished by a ho-hum release of Marvel Heroes -- the recently announced Conan Big Box Game (which is being developed by the same group of designers) should get all the money and attention that franchise deserves. Not that we've heard anything bad about Marvel Heroes. We're simply paranoid.

Marvel Heroes is set to ship in September, which is only a month away!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

August 15, 2006

Board Games vs. Video Games. Fight!

Bugel.8.15.06.jpgThe Journal Gazette newspaper (out of Fort Wayne) has a posted an article [link] about the gaming industry's struggle to get out from beneath the shadow of its giant digital counterpart - Video Games.

It's a great read as it details the climate shift of the hobby gaming industry over the last few years. The older American industry giants have finally had their realization that traditional American board gaming is all but dead.

That article sets us walking down the road to sadville. It's partially because we've already heard that distant call of Taps playing its mournful remembrance of the conventional board gaming genre. You never really had to listen hard over the last few years to hear the giants like Parker Brothers and Mattel sound that familiar refrain. So long "Sorry!" Good bye "Life". Flip-over that big ole 'volcano hexagon in the sky', "Survive!" You were there for us, and entertained us in our childhood, but then you banked on repetitive success (these games are from the 1950's or older), and you failed to evolve. Your attempt to keep to attention of your audience was half hearted, uninspired, and ultimately it failed (and is that really the fault of Video Games?)

But in their wake sprouts green buds and new life in the form of smaller publishers. These more agile companies are breathing life into the board game market through the importation and the rebranding of successful German Eurogames. We're talking about your Rio Grande Games, Mayfair Games, etc, and they're paving the way for a new form of gaming in the United States. Their movement and impact on the gamescape is still small in the eyes of the flailing dinosaurs, and so these little-guys aren't much of a blip on the radar of this mainstream article. It's a shame, too, because they really do deserve some mass market press.

Anyway, there's another reason that we're sad. In fact, it stems from the author's slap in the face of these afore mentioned 'new board game publishers.' The article uses the upcoming Wizards of the Coast collectable miniatures game "Dreamblade" as an example of the older industry gaint's 'new take' on board gaming.. o_0 The last time we checked, "Dreamblade" wasn't a genre inventing game, nor a revolutionary board game, but a large-market parlay of past success. It could even be described as simply one progressive step in the overaching evolution of WotC's line of collectable card games.

Despite this, if the article were simply renamed "Traditional Board Game Publishers Reinvent Themselves to get Attention in a Tech World", then it's a pretty darn interesting read... despite its long-winded title.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

August 14, 2006

International Gamer Awards 2006 Finalists Announced

Every year the IGA Committee selects the best of the best board games from that year, including the genres of Multiplayer Strategy Board Games, Two Player Strategy Board Games, and Historical Simulations (read: Wargames). Past winners include Ticket to Ride Europe (2006), War of the Ring, Puerto Rico, and Memoir '44, which are all really top notch games. In other words, the folks in the IGA Committees don't make poor decisions, at least not when it comes to gaming.

So whats up for an award in 2006? Glad you asked! Here are the nominees for the Multiplayer and 2-Player Categories (if you're a wargammer, then you should check out the Official Nominee List which includes Historical Simulation category, too). Our favorite titles on the lists are described in detail

==Multiplayer Games==

Antike.8.14.06.jpgANTIKE [FunagainGames]

  • Designer: Mac Gerdts
  • Publisher: Rio Grande Games
  • Antike is a challenging strategy game about evolution and competition among ancient civilizations. Ancient nations create cities, build temples, sail the seas, and discover new principles of science and technology. Their legions and galleys open new settlements and defend their people against attacks from their enemies. Two scenarios can be chosen as the game board is two-sided. Players choose from Greeks, Romans, and Germanic tribes and Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Persians, Arabs, Egyptians, and Babylonians.

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August 11, 2006

TCG It's Friday: World of Warcraft Card Types

Warchief Thrall

Want to get started playing the WoW TCG? Then pick up a Starter Deck and a few booster packs. Also check-out Our Review.

In our first installment of 'TCG Friday' we thought it would be wise to catchup with the World of Warcraft TCG (one of the biggest releases slated for this fall) by reviewing the official websites previews the game's card types. We've already reported on the two official WoW TCG articles which previewed the Hero and Ability cards. Since then the WoW website has continued to turn out the previews, publishing six articles for each of the remaining five card types ( do the math, something doesn't add up...). Together these previews give us a great glimpse at how this game system will ultimately end up.

So uh, if you don't mind, let's start glimpsing.

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A Letter From the Editor - Trading Card Game Fridays

LetterFromEditor.8.11.06.jpgWe had a meeting early this week decussing the potential for a regular installment article for Friday afternoons. A few theme ideas went around the table, with the most popular being an article on Trading / Collectable Card Games.

We're not really a website that focuses too much on the genre, but we realize that there are cool things coming down the pipe during the second half of this year. We thought that one TCG day out of five was probably a good ratio. So from here till Christmas expect our Friday stories to revolve around all things cool in TCGs.

If you have any requests or suggestions for TCG articles, or if you want to give us heads-up on news or rare TCG games that you're following, etc, please let us know!


David DB
Editor at

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