August 15, 2008

D&D; 4th Edition Gen Con Interview


Its been two months since the release of D&D; 4th edition, and we're still finding the new game both approachable, and very deep, and we're just using a few of the core source materials.

Now, on the eve of the gaming conference GenCon, the website Gamers with Jobs has a fantastic interview with a round table of D&D; 4th Edition designers. They talk about the state of the game releases thus far, the momentum they've provided the design team on where t take things short term, and the long term plan for D&D; 4th Edition releases and their impact on the gameplay and D&D; settings.

If you're a D&D; 4th edition fan then the interview is entirely worth your time, but here are a few key points that really stood out for us:

  1. @13:32: There will be a shift from releasing World Specific content - like Forgotten Realms - in a fleet of books as was done in the past. Instead, Wizards of the Coast will move to a model where a few core books are released and then supporting source material will continually be released in the D&D; Insider online materials (aka Dragon magazine). The goal is to open the key elements of each world in the books, and then fill in the rest in a manner that players can pick and chose their way to customizing their gameplay experience.

  2. @22:41: D&D; Insider pricing model: There will still be a restructuring of the service, where you could get packages of the materials instead of a one-price-brings all pricing model. This will bring the price down for materials, but from what it sounds - you will need to get the whole Enchilada if you want to use the GameTable, and that's a shame, unless you can get a group rate on the table that's not outrageously expensive from month to month.

  3. @29:17: A prelude of campaign releases to come, past this year's Forgotten Realms and next year's Eberron

  4. @30:22: 'The Role Spiel' A length address to a somewhat controversial design decision of 4th edition to limit the number of class powers. This decision was made to make the game approachable and not overwhelm creation choices, and to protect new players from making gimpy characters who aren't fun to play.

Very interesting stuff. Have a good weekend!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

August 11, 2008

"Game Night" Will Mage Hand Your Nethers


The novel entitled "Game Night" by Jonny Nexus [Amazon] is one of those top shelf 'now why didn't we think of that?' top shelf book selections that came out of nowhere. Well received by the RPG community, the book is fantasy adventure written as though the group of adventurers where being played by a band of RPG numskulls such as ourselves. How does the author pull this off? By making the characters controlled by a rowdy bunch of backstabbing and bumbling deities. Brilliant.

Here's the book's official description:

"The gods don't play dice with the universe... unless it's game night. A twelve-thousand-year quest is about to be completed, prophecies will be fulfilled, ancient riddles answered, legendary evils bested, and the nature of the universe revealed. All that's needed is a band of mighty heroes to do the completing. Unfortunately for the locals, some of the gods have taken a personal interest in the chronicle of these heroes' adventures. Now they are each guiding one of the characters towards the conclusion of their epic journey. That is, when they're not squabbling, backstabbing each other, blowing things up by accident, refusing to play by the rules, and turning the Allfather's creation into a mess of petty arguments, fantasy cliché, gratuitous combat and unnecessary dice rolls. If you thought your games group couldn't be any worse, Game Night shows just how bad things can get when a bunch of unruly deities decide they want to play. And may the heavens help us all. Jonny Nexus is editor of the acclaimed webzine Critical Miss and author of The Slayers' Guide to Games Masters"

We mentioned that the book is well received, and we're basing this off of some general comments within our social circle, and a review form RPG.Net which we found on Game Night's Amazon Page.

The book is compared to the Legendary novel Hitchiker's Guide from the Galaxy, a novel that help shape many of our quirky senses of humor, and a book that we hold in the highest of regards for inventiveness and quirkiness. From Steve Darlington's Review on

"Most humour books try to be novels-with-jokes, if you will. As such, aren't as funny as say, sketch comedies which are simply a series of great jokes run together. The last novel I read that was devoted to just being a string of comedy sketches was The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (taken of course, from a radio show that was a series of sketches run together). Hitchhikers was, as a result, the funniest novel I've ever read, and the only one that has ever made laugh out-loud. Until, that is, Game Night came along."
Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

August 1, 2008

Critical Gamers' July 2008 Gaming News Roundup

RoundUp.jpgAnother month of gaming down and five more to go. This month was pretty busy on the release front. The Settlers of Catan 4th Edition expanded with Catan: Traders & Barbarians, the new World of Warcraft Adventure Board Game was released, and the Merlin's Company Expansion finally ratcheted Shadows Over Camelot to eleven.

Meanwhile we're still ga-ga over the release of D&D; 4th Edition last month. The first module was longer than we expected, which is good in many ways but we're lagging a bit behind on our progress through the second module Thunderspire Labyrinth. The third one is just around the corner, too -- the whole thing seems like more D&D; content than we ever imagined, and if they keep on publishing top notch materials liek these, then D&D; 4th edition should have some staying power in our group.

That's the bright side of the issue, now here's the dark: with the Closing of Gleemax, it seems as though Wizards of the Coast's digital department has fallen on hard times, and now the D&D; Insider tools may be in jeopardy, too.

In other dark news we're still awaiting the release of Ticket to Ride Europe for Xbox Live Arcade, that was slated to ship on Wednesday. That's last Wednesday. Here's hoping it comes out sometime this month... though we probably shouldn't cross our fingers.

What We're Playing

Board Games

Card Games

Collectable Card Games

Gaming Culture

Gaming News

Party Games



World of Warcraft TCG

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

July 31, 2008

Gleemax to Close Shop. Yikes.

Gleemax.jpgWow, that was pretty unexpected. Months after the Wizards of the Coast gaming gateway site Gleemax finally set up shop and began to publish games for online play, Wizards of the Coast has decided to shut its doors to refocus its development team elsewhere. has the story:

"In a post on the Gleemax gamer social networking site, Wizards of the Coast Vice President of Digital Gaming Randy Buehler announced July 28 that the company has decided to discontinue the Gleemax site in order to focus on other digital projects, including Magic: The Gathering Online and Dungeons & Dragons Insider."

Randy Buehler follows up with some comments that their online gaming platform for future board game titles may continue to move on, but for now the community will move back to the Wizards of the Coast forums.

We were pretty unhappy with the original Gleemax when it first launched, but over the last year the community has grown considerably. Finally in just the last quarter of the year or so they began rolling out online adaptations of board games, including a new beta of Axis and Allies. It lacked some features, sure - like saving the game for one - but it seemed as though Gleemax was finally maturing and getting its sea legs.

The new result of the gaming development team focusing on D&D; Insider is a double edged sword. The D&D; Insider tools seem to have stagnated from when they were first revealed last October, and surely they need a larger team to arrive and clean house and reinvigorate the effort.

The problem? Rumors are that D&D; Insider and its tools and online play won't come free the purchase of the D&D; source materials as first described, but instead cost 15 bucks a month. Each, so for a group of 5 Players + 1 DM ( as the modules are designed for ) that equates to 90 bucks a month. That's crazy-talk right there, and chances are we'll never shell out that boat load of cashed that we'll need to enjoy the fruits of the Gleemax team's efforts put to 'good use.'


Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

July 22, 2008

D&D; 4th Edition Thunderspire Labyrinth Module #2 Hits Shelves

ThunderspireLab.jpgIf you're anything like us then your D&D; 4th Edition characters are wadding out of a knee deep of goblin bodies and they're looking for more blood. Thankfully Wizards of the Coast has just released Thunderspire Labyrinth [Amazon, Funagain] a followup adventure to last month's amazing high quality release of the Keep on the Shadowfell adventure..

Much like its predecessor the new Thunderspire Labyrinth module has been weighted so that a 5-player group - starting the adventure at 4th Level - should find the level of difficulty perfectly balanced. Those players who've skipped the first module can still give this one a shot, as the story is also very much compartmentalized. However, while it's not a direct continuation of Keep on the Shadowfell, Thunderspire Labyrinth's introduction offers a few hooks to tie-in the two stories into a larger campaign. The module also contains plotlines that will make an appearance in the upcoming module Pyramid of Shadows which should cap the loosely bound trilogy sometime in August.

Here are the official module details from Wizards of the Coast:

"Beneath Thunderspire Mountain lies a sprawling network of mazes, tombs, and caverns collectively known as the Labyrinth. In recent years, this vast labyrinth has become a living dungeon where trade between the surface and subterranean worlds is possible. However, beyond the well-lit halls where prospectors, merchants, and traders convene lies a darker world where adventurers battle monsters and fiendish beings perform secret rituals for their dark masters....

H2 Thunderspire Labyrinth is a 96-page D&D; adventure designed for heroic-tier characters of levels 4-6. It can be played as a standalone adventure or as the second part of a three-part series. This product includes an adventure booklet for the Dungeon Master, a campaign guide with player handouts, and a full-color poster map, all contained in a handy folder.

H2 Thunderspire Labyrinth is the second adventure in a three-part series that began with H1 Keep on the Shadowfell and concludes with H3 Pyramid of Shadows. It can also be played as a stand-alone adventure."

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

June 23, 2008

D&D; 4th Edition: 5 Tips for a Good First Session

DD4thEditionPlayersHandbook.jpgThe 4th Edition of the Dungeon and Dragons rules has hit the shelves. We've noticed that the core rules have been backordered in quite a few places, but a second run should hit stores presently.

We though it'd be too obvious to include obtaining a Player's Hand Book as part Top 5 tips, so we won't waste the breathe or the page space. Crap, we just did. Well, we won't include them as part of the enumeration anyway, but know this: those groups looking to streamline character creation and familiarizing yourself with the rules shouldn't use you DM's copy as a crutch. Every player should pick one up; it's for the best.

Having said that, read-on for our Top 5 Tips to make your first few sessions go off swimmingly/

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Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

June 11, 2008

D&D; 4TH Edition: Where are the Miniatures, Wizards of the Coast?

DMG4ed.jpgA major shift of the new D&D; 4th Edition is its strong emphasis on positional combat. Melee class push mobs from square, sweep based on position, and get and give buffs depend on their proximity to both monsters and fellow party members. This new level of tactical play adds a requirement of gridded terrain maps on the table and figures to represent bodies on the field.

This shift in combat mechanics has gotten some prerelease flak recently, but we're actually pretty big fans of it. There's nothing like coordinating attacks through smart positional tactics - fighting side by side and working combos to beat back the beasties from dimension X.

Here's the thing though - both the Players Handbook and introductory adventure Keep on the Shadowfell have suggest that players should represent their characters no the tactical map by buying into a second D&D; franchise, also run by Wizards of the Coast: the D&D; Tradable Miniatures Game. In practice this solution stinks, largely due the nature of collecting pieces in a Tradable or Collectible miniatures or card game. It also slightly stinks of the cross pollination of two WoTC cousin franchises for the purposes of greed (?), but if the coupling were more streamlined then this secondary beef could have been completely overlooked.

ArrowContinue reading: "D&D; 4TH Edition: Where are the Miniatures, Wizards of the Coast?"

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

June 6, 2008

D&D; 4th Edition Source Books: Players Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide and Monster Manual

PHB4ed.jpgThe biggest title release of the summer is now in stores, and unlike recent installments, the 4th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons hits RPG shelves with a fist chalk-full of source books. That means there are nearly 1000 pages of D&D; 4th Edition source material available today.

Fans of D&D; can pick up all three source books in one bundle, at a severely discounted rate (nearly 50%) with the Dungeons and Dragons Core Rulebook Gift Set [Amazon]. With this one bundle of books, you'll have access to everything a Dungeon Master or a D&D; collector would need.

Here are details of each of the source books. Those of you not interested in every becoming a DM may want to pick them up one piece at a time, as required, starting with the Players Handbook:

PHB4ed.jpgD&D; 4th Edition Player's Handbook [Amazon]

Everything you need to get started. This book contains all the rules required to create characters and the foundation of the game rules. Also included are a set of character abilities, their spells, feats, and weapons and equipment.

This book is the heart of any D&D; release, and at 320 pages - it's the main body, too.

DMG4ed.jpgDungeon Master's Guide [Amazon]

You'll need a Dungeon Master in order to play D&D; of course, but if you're new to D&D; you might not even need a Dungeon Master's Guide (DMG). We highly recommend working through the Keep on the Shadowfell to get your feet wet. Afterwards, you migh twant to pick up a copy of the DMG, which should help you create new adventures, settings, monsters, and encounters for your D&D; jam sessions. The DMG also includes some of the more particular rules for those rare/advanced encounters.

MM4ed.jpgMonster Manual [Amazon]

This Monster Manual is this official Encyclopedia of Beasties and bad guy, and the perfect desk reference for adding new and popular creatures to your D&D; adventures. This book gives you nearly 300 pages of the stats, abilities, and tactics of your stock D&D; monsters, including: Dragons, Golems Vampires and Zombies. It also provides detailed back stories of where creatures should fit into the D&D; world and settings, which will help you weave a tight-knit line to make the plot, setting and encounters of your adventure all work together to tell a great story.

Have a good weekend!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

May 27, 2008

D&D; 4th Edition Launches with Keep On the Shadowfell

KeepOnTheShadowFell.jpgThe 4th Edition of D&D; has officially launched, and it's with a bang. Keep on the Shadowfell [Amazon] is a standalone adventure designed to get your feet wet with the new D&D; 4th Edition Rules. It doesn't require any of the source books (due out in a little over a week) so you can get your D&D; game-on 'early'.

The module has been very well received in the D&D; Community forums where it's lauded an entertaining and well-written romp. So if you fear marketing prerelease crap, don't fret -- Keep on the Shadowfell is a fantastic introduction to the new edition of D&D;, and it should should thoroughly entertain your D&D; group as they fight their way close to level 4.

Anything that isn't abundantly clear in the the module is clarified in the updated Keep on the Shadowfell FAQ, or in the Keep on the Shadowfell thread in the official forms.

Next week the D&D; 4th Edition Players Handbook, Dungeon Masters Guide and Monster Manual all ship next week. Yes all of them ship at once, unlike previously reported, and you can even get them in a bundled slipcase for a sweet little discount. This is going to be one heck of a summer.

ArrowContinue reading: "D&D; 4th Edition Launches with Keep On the Shadowfell"

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

April 28, 2008

D&D; 4th Edition: 40 Days and Counting

Phane4thEdition.jpgIt's 40 days till the D&D; 4th Edition Worldwide Gameday on June 7th, 2008. That's just 1.3 months, or just over 5.5 weeks, or 6 Battlestar Galactica episodes away. It's very, very soon.

To celebrate this significant countdown milestone before the momentous occasion, Wizards of the Coast has started to post 4th Edition feature preview articles at an accelerated rate. They used to trickle in amongst the D&D; Miniatures stories, and D&D; 3.5 content. But lately that's changed.

Things kick off with a CNET preview of the upcoming source materials, including the Players Handbook, Dungeon Master Guide, and the Monster Manual. Following which are a series of excerpts of the Player's Handbook source material and rules. The individual articles are below, each one is chalk full of great content from class statistics, monster backstories, and rules mechanics.

The only thing that has us skeptical at this point are the D&D; Insider tools. Sure it includes everything you'll need to design your adventures and play within a clean virtual environment, but they don't expect all of us to either a) have our own laptop, or b) all huddle around one laptop, do they? That's just crazy talk.

There's always the old fashioned way, we suppose.

Here are the official 4th Edition Exceprts:


  1. Devil [link]: A close look at those red hot pointy eared beasties from the Nine Hells of the Astral Sea, which sounds quite similar to the sights, sounds and emotions of the 2 hour line at the Teacup Ride at Disney World.
  2. Tiers of Play [link]: This article takes excerpts from both the Dungeon Master Guide and the Player's Handbook to detail the standard tiers your adventures will achieve throughout gameplay: the Heoroic, Paragon Tier, and Epic Tier
  3. The Phane [link]: Living weapons created during an ancient cosmic war, these guys manipulate time to install chaos among mortals.
  4. Customizing Monsters [link]: A primer and example on how a DM can tailor a monster's stats to fit all your encounter needs
  5. The Warlord [link]: An indepth look at the new Warlord Class, who's commanding presence buffs nearby allies.
  6. Paragon Paths [link]: Details on the new take on customizing characters beyond the normal class specializations ( aka: old school prestige classes)
  7. Powers [link]: Everything you need to know on how to read and resolve the new Power rules, including charms, stance powers, illusions, and healing.
  8. Angels [link]: And finally a complementary article to the details on devils, this article looks at the Angels creature type, including example 'monster' stats and backstories.

Every time we read new info about D&D; 4th edition it just keeps sounding better. The Early June launch day is only a short time away but it's going to be a killer wait. We'll let you know as soon as the Players Handbook ships to stores!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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