May 19, 2006

Review: Ultra Pro Deckbox

DeckBox.jpgA few of us got tired of lugging our Magic Decks around in ziplock bags. Sure, they're waterproof and they combat freezer-burn, but they're not conducive to collecting and they're certainly not at all stylish. Enter the Ultra Pro Deck Box - a nice, handheld, stackable, and anal retentive-friendly way to store and lug-around your favorite decks of cards. Deck Boxes come in all sorts of shades and sizes, and are available in most hobby stores. We got ours from the Ultra Pro website.

Some Deck Boxes come slathered with fantasy art designs, which we're not a huge fan of. Check that, our girlfriends and wives aren't huge fans of. And since these things hang around the apartment, it's best not push any buttons with the anti-fantasy females who know where the knives are. Thankfully Ultra Pro has the entirely low key and un pimped gunmetal gray, shiny blue, and clear plastic cases for our more 'distinguished' and spineless tastes.

For two bucks you can pick up the bottom shelf 'solid series'. These are the ones we have, and for two bucks they get the job done. The lid seals with a velcro strip, and a 60-card constructed deck with sideboard fit quite nicely within. The non transparent varieties come with a writable white stripe on the top of the box so you don't have to sort through each box looking for the right deck.

All nicey nice and all, but these things won't win any awards for craftsmanship though. The $2.05 variety are "Made of durable poly material" which is Mr Wizard talk for one very thick piece of plastic sheeting folded-in and over itself. It's not a very rigid body; certain panels bulge as the soft plastic stretches to reach the manufactured seams. These things came off an assembly plant, and it shows.

For $2.05 price tag, it's certainly a step-up from a zip lock bag, but not much of one.

2 stars out of 5 Our Rating System

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

May 12, 2006

Review: G8 Game Timer

Not On Your LifeSometimes a particular game gets out of control and the session takes hours upon hours to complete -- far more time than your willing to spend. Some other drabber games become exciting when you place a limit on the time spent deliberating between moves, and some party games have a mandatory timer as part of the rules, but every one's got those old-fangled analog watches.

These are all great reasons to own a game timer.

Unfortunately, the G8 Game Timer is NOT the game timer for you. There are so many things that we dislike about this thing.

First off -- every press of the G8 button shrieks the most awful ear-piercing bLRUPP! This...thing could easily be used to chase Bats out of your house, or maybe submerged under the ocean's surface to communicate with dolphins (if they don't attack on you sight, first).

Setting up the device's timer modes always requires nine setup steps. Nine! Check this out (lifted from the directions):

  • Mode1 Select the number of players. *BLURP! BLee-blurp!*
  • Mode 2 Set a maximum time for each player to complete all their turns (Required) *blurp ble-ble-ble-blurp!*
  • Mode 3 Customize the time set in Mode 2 for each player if a handicap is desired *bLERT!*
  • Mode 4 Set the maximum time allowed for each player to complete a turn *blERT! bloop bloop BLERT!*
  • Mode 5 Customize turn times set in Mode 4 for each player. 0 defaults to Mode 3 time. *Bleep! breaks out abacus. shift-shift... carry the Mode 3.. and..! Blurp bleet!*
  • Mode 6 If desired, set a time in which all players must complete the entire game *Bloopt!*
  • Mode 7 Press PAUSE to seelct a light and / or sound warning that activates briefly each second during the warning period (upt to 9 seconds) at the end of turn or a game. L = Light on; S = Sound On. In Mode 0, press PAUSE then '+' to set volume. *Whaa? takes a nap*
  • Mode 8 Press '+' to select a memory A or B & [clock button] to save your settings or a game in progress. Press 'PAUSE' to see each player's stored time. Press 'Ying-Yang' (no joke) key to transfer the selected memory date to game memory to start the game *Hucks G8 Game Timer Across the Room

I guess we'll never know what Mode 9 does.

This timer is only for Rainman and friends. We have computer programmers in our group who are fairly level-headed and smart people, but they loathe this thing.

Bottom line: Only buy the G8 Game Timer as a birthday present for that gamer-friend of yours who you've secretly hated all these years.

1 star out of 5 Our Rating System

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

May 4, 2006

Our Review Policy

Zoomed-in white looks gray.We have this crazy notion that most review sites skew their scores towards the positive. Essentially one or two stars out of five are almost unheard of.. and that's not fair. If 2.5 is average, smack in between 'great' and 'crap-awful', then how come just about everything in the world is a 3+? Not to get depressing - but last time we check ed the outside world it wasn't black and white but pretty grey.

So please don't shower us with hatemails when you see a low score for something you love. We'll just reply with a fruit basket containing a simple note with the link to this page saying "We told how it is." If you disagree with our points about what was good, what was bad, and why, well then.. that's different.

Without further adieu, our 5 star 'system':

  • 0 Stars : Fill your gas tank and grab a coffee (to go), because the only satisfaction you'll get from owning this product will occur the moment you abandon it on the side of a distant freeway.

  • 1 Star : The potential of this product is obvious, but it falls short in almost every way. It'll end-up on the bottom of your game stack, sitting dusty and neglected.

  • 2 Stars : This product has a few good things going on, but the bad elements overshadow them. Only for people who are enthusiastic over the subject matter.

  • 3 Stars : A very strong product for the intended audience. A product that 'works' out of the box.

  • 4 Stars : This product is so good that it will interest almost everyone, even folks who normally wouldn't' give 'similar products' their extra umbrella in a rainstorm.

  • 5 Stars: : Lie, loot, cheat, .. sell some blood if you have to, just get this product. We'll still be playing it when we're 80.

The word "product" should be replaced with "game" in almost every case, but we do sometimes review gaming peripherals, so we thought we'd be product-generic to be on the safe side.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

February 22, 2006

Urban Dead: 243,575 dead and rising.

urbandead.gif Urban Dead is a free massively multiplayer online web-based game set in the fictional (duh) post-apocalyptic zombie infested city of Malton. The struggle of humans versus zombies has been going strong for almost three quarters of a year now, and on any given day there nearly 50,000 players shooting, biting and infesting their way through hospitals, malls, police departments, libraries, mansions... you get the idea.

Urban Dead isn't something that you devote multiple hours of your day to. This is slow game played over months of your time. Each day the system grants you only 50 action points to spend as you see fit - either killing, searching for ammo, or running away from the zombie hordes. A day's turn usually last about 5-10minutes of real time.

Players drive both the Human and Zombie sides of the conflict, and are given an option to join either during character creation. When a Human dies, he's forced to join the zombie horde. However, dead characters arn't trapped in zombie form forever (thankfully). Players who work for the NecroTech Corporation can rummage through the post apocalyptic refuse to find revivification syringes. This are consumable items that bring other zombie-characters back to world of the living.

Each side's gameplay is considerably different. The Humans can operate guns, barricade buildings, speak to each other, and run relatively freely through the streets. Zombies spend more action points to lurch around from point-to-point, and can't use weapons.. which is a bit of a downer. On the upside a zombie's bite can infect humans, who'll bleed to death unless they find medical attention. And when a zombie dies, he can get right back up.. a hauntingly nonhuman 'skill '

The game's graphics are fairly nonexistent (A simple clickable map is used for navigation), but that's okay. This one is all about the fight of Zombies versus Humans, and the social dynamics that evolve out of that conflict!

Some recommendations:

  • Join a clan to make the game a more social and immersing experience. Clans use message boards to coordinate attacks, defenses, quick raids, etc, - which is an especially useful tool for the zombie hordes (Z's have very limited verbal skills). You can find a list of existing clans here. Clicking on any of the clan names brings you to their homepage.
  • Start as either a scout or a fireman. The scout lets you run between buildings without going outside. This means safer travels since you can circumvent locked doors which can lock you outside in the cold. The Fireman kit is a great first choice for the more aggressive folks. He starts with a fire axe; the best non-ammunition weapon around. Shotguns require to you find shells, pistols require clips, but a fire axe is always ready to hack away few more Zombie limbs.
  • Play with friends - this game could get old quick if you're not watching someone else's back, coordinating with other people, etc.
  • Don't rest for the night in Hospitals, Malls, or Police Stations. These are prime targets for zombie attacks.

Good luck. Try not to get any red on you.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

February 20, 2006

Review: "Carcassonne"

Carcassonne1-2-20-06.jpgWe're suckers for randomly placed boards.. especially if the gameplay includes the hands-on design of an entire cityscape from scratch.

Carcassonne is an elegant game with plenty of room for creativity. It's easy on the eyes, has so few rules, and so few pieces.

And we'd probably eat it if it came with a pouch o' frosting.

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Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

February 6, 2006

Paranoia Mandatory Cardgame

Paranoia.2.8.06.jpgWe just finished a power session of Paranoia and we thought we'd get some thoughts down while still riding-out that aggressive high. Paranoia is a simple card game set in the quirky future-world conglomeration of B-Side Sci Fi Horror; it's a future-time where civil liberties and common sense simply don't exist, and where an all-knowing machine assigns your group missions to complete for the 'betterment of society'. During these missions your goal is to appease the machine by completing missions detailed on a randomly drawn card, but you can also win points by identifying (or more like set-up) your friends as traitors to the all-seeing social machine. The computer will then kill-off your friends and reward your policing ways with a higher security level (read: more health and more traitor resiliency).

The game sounds complex, but it's very lighthearted and the cards have some hilarious flavor text. This is a game best played with a large collection (5+) of your angst-filled friends who've no qualms about selling you down the river. Now, everything about this game isn't Roses - This game could get old after 10 or so sessions when the quirky flavor text loses it's cutting humor. But if you play this game at a fast pace, and play it with folks who you've compiled notebook of vendettas against, then a night of Paranoia will be simply bleed-time away.

Of course, drinks don't hurt either.

Paranoia is definitely worth the money for a group likes to work-out stress in a deconstructive way. For us, it's a no-brainer -- officer Friendly told us to stop leaving those flaming bags of poo on Mrs Frosts' front porch, so we need something else to do. Err.. Not that those bags contained our feces, Friend Computer. We were simply trying to get rid of them in the most hygenic way possible.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

February 1, 2006

Pass The Pigs

Pass the Pigs has been a favorite pastime of ours for years. Once a week we head to the bar to take-in one of the local bands. We show up on the early-side to grab good seats, and then break out da pigs to kill time. This is a great game for playing on-the-go while waiting for something (anything) to start - a concert, fireworks, or to entertain yourself on a long flight, train ride, etc.

The game is simple; toss a pair of pigs across the table and score points depending on how they land. Is a pig pulling a razorback? 5 points. Is he leaning a Jowler? 15 points. Continue to toss and score points until you call out a "Bank!" (Cardsharks anyone?), at which time you lock-in your score. Then pass the pair of pigs on to your friend. But don't get too greedy - if you Pig Out (one pig dot-side up , the other dot-side down) then you lose all the points you've accumulated since the last Banking. The first person to 100 points wins.

Yes - we realize we could play this same game with a simple set of dice, but where's the fun in that? Half of the game is tossing these little rubber pigs to see how they land, the other half comes from your ability to play against your friends' karmic potential.

Serious strategy gamers need not apply - Pass the Pigs is simple, social and fun.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

January 6, 2006

Review: "Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation"

LOTR: The Confrontation distills the epic struggle for Middle Earth into a thirty minute game of deception and wits. Best described as a flavored variant of Stratego, the game is celebrated in many circles and has one of the largest franchises in human history driving it forward, but how well does it hold-up to the scrutiny of Critical Gamers' all seeing eye?

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Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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