January 9, 2009

Empire Total War Previews Produce Involuntary Drool

You may be thinking that 'Hey -Empire Total War is no board game.' You're right, and here's your cookie. But here's the thing - while some board games have computer adaptations where everything is a 1:1 translation from dice tossing, to moving pieces, etc, the Total War franchise is a board game evolution. It takes the heart of turn based strategy and flexes the muscles of your PC to breathe life into the game.

We've loved all of the Total War games so far, starting with the now antiquated Japanese Shogun Total War, and then on through history from Rome Total War to the Medieval Period, Now Empire Total War enters the age of muskets and sail, simulating the rule of the great Imperial Powers as they vie for control of Europe, the New World, and India.

Players will build national infrastructure to boost their economy through the production and trade of goods, build forts to protect their resources, increase the quality of living in cities, and most importantly build a military machine. Troops are placed under the control of Generals, who have their own Perks and Quirks be them amazing leaders, masters at night ambushes, or belligerent drunks that sap morale of your units in a fight.

Once enemy forces meet on the turn-based grand strategy map, the camera zooms in to the battlefield, where the units of your army match muskets and cannon fire with your opponent's in real time. You have full control of unit formations here, almost pushing them around like a grand block game. Direct musket volleys, play a game of chess in your tactical positioning of grenadiers (once you discover how to make them), and flank the enemy with a cavalry charge to push them off the map. Or you could chose to remain hands off and let the AI pull the strings if you fear that your dexterity will get in the way.

And for the first time the Total War franchise adds two exciting things: Naval Battles, and a Multiplayer Grand Campaign. Ho baby.

If any of this gets your blood pumping then check out the following official preview movies:

1: Naval Battles
2: Land Battles
3: The Grand Campaign
4: Road to Independence American Revolution Campaign

Empire Total War is slated to ship in March 2009 for the PC (ie: Windows). We'll keep you posted of any new juicy tidbits as we get closer to release.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

September 16, 2008

Ticket to Ride the Dice Game Expansion Details

TicketToRideDiceGame.jpgWe really weren't expecting this. After releasing both the Ticket to Ride the Card Game, which sometimes gives us a headache after repeat plays with all it's state memorization, and the worldwide release of Ticket to Ride Nordic Countries just a few months ago, publisher Days of Wonder is throwing another Ticket to Ride title at us: Ticket to Ride the Dice Game [Funagain].

We think we may have one more Ticket to Ride sideshow in us, but if another looms on the horizon shortly afterward, then we may raise the white flag and declare the franchise has fully run it's course.

Thankfully the Dice Game doesn't seem nearly as dry as the Ticket to Ride Card Game. Instead of reinventing the Ticket to Ride formula we've all grown to love with a card based solitare / gin abstraction, Ticket to Ride the Dice Game simply replaces the standard turn mechanic of each of the Ticket to Ride Board Games with a little random spice. Oh, and it's compatible with all Ticket to Ride board game releases (original, Europe, Marklin and Nordic), which is actually quite nice.

Here's the general gist of how it works: Players will toss 5 dice instead of drawing train cards. The players may spend his/her dice result to claim routes, claim route tokens (which you'll need to collect in order to 'afford' the longer routes), collect route cards, etc. Other wildcard dice will permit players to use the special option specific to each of the major releases, like build tunnels in Europe / Nordic, build stations, or move passengers, etc.

You can find the full details here, including a PDF of the Rulebook.

At first glance it may seem that the dice completely strip the critical suite of decisions a Ticket to Ride player would make: Should I draw another set of cards or play a route before that captain claims it for his own? And we're not quite sure we like the idea of completely removing the colorful train cards. Oh we like them so; collecting them is half the fun!

Here's the upside though: The randomness of trying to draw the right color of train card to complete your collection has been replaced with the randomness of rolling the correct series of dice to claim a route. Any route. Things could get pretty cutthroat.

We'll have a better understanding and our thoughts when the game releases in October. Here are the official details to tide you over until then:


"In this expansion, players still attempt to complete their Destination Tickets and claim routes and block each other on the map. But rather than draw and collect Train cards, they roll five custom Train dice each turn.

Depending on the outcome they can reroll some or all, then use the dice to claim routes on the board; grab Route Tokens for future use; or draw more Destination Tickets.

For board maps that feature Tunnel routes, such as Ticket to Ride Europe, 3 Tunnel dice are also included.

This expansion requires trains, Destination Tickets and a board map from any of the Ticket to Ride series.

The Dice Game Expansion is multi-lingual with rules in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Finnish, Danish, Swedish and Norwegian."

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

August 6, 2008

Ticket to Ride Europe for Xbox Live

TicketToRideEurope.jpgTicket to Ride Europe [Amazon, Funagain] hit Xbox Live this morning, a week later than we expected but it's here none the less. And it's awesome.

We've been digging the original Ticket to Ride Xbox Live Arcade game, which we feel is the best Eurogame on Xbox Live hands down. This new downloadable Ticket to Ride Europe pack is equally as enjoyable. It's not just a new map, but a new set of rules including tunnels, ferry routes, and a new placeable station mechanic that lets you utilize an opponent's constructed routes as your own.

We played a few rounds already, and after having played the expansive map of the USA in the original Ticket to Ride Arcade game quite a bit, the 'new' Europe map feels cramped, a bit claustrophobic, and risky (due to the tunnel routes), but all in a very well balanced manner. It is a Days of Wonder game after all.

Our only small complaint is with the icons used to convey the number of stations you have left to place. They appear overlayed on your player portrait, in small lightly outlined boxes rendered the same color as your player color. This isn't so bad on online play, where a player's gamertag image is used as their portrait, as gamertags are all sorts of different colors. However the AI players have themed portraits based on their color, red for instance. And small red station icons overlayed on small red portrait just makes them incredible hard to see.

But if that's our main beef then you know the game is rock solid otherwise. Enough talking, time to play more!

For more information about Ticket to Ride Europe for Xbox Live, please see our story "Ticket to Ride: Europe Comes to Xbox Live". You can grab Ticket to Ride Europe for Xbox Live by selecting Downloadable Content from the main Ticket to Ride menu, which of course means you'll need the original Ticket to Ride Xbox Live game to play.

Trust us - it's worth it.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

July 25, 2008

Ticket to Ride: Europe Comes to Xbox Live

TicketToRideEurope.jpgThat was fast. Hot on the heals of release of Ticket to Ride: Xbox Live, which launched just a month ago, the release of Ticket to Ride Europe has been announced, and it's just a week away. On next Wednesday, July 30th, Ticket to Ride: Europe [Amazon, Funagain] will hit the Xbox Live Arcade Marketplace for 600 Microsoft points, and be available as add on content to the original Ticket to Ride Xbox Live. Wednesday can't come soon enough.

Ticke to Ride Europe is the second installment in the series, which moves the map 3,000 miles eastwards and is set in the European age of rail in the early 20th century. Like the original, players compete against one other to gain the most victory points, gained from playing sets of colored cards to complete individual train routes, and by stringing these routes together to complete pan European destinations drawn randomly from a deck. However, there are a few new mechanics that mix up the game, for the better.

For one, the destinations are drawn from one of two decks: either short routes, or long routes, or you could draw from both. This balances out the route mechanics so you're not tragically stuck trying to connect Seattle to New York with only 10 cars left in the late game.

Also new to the series are Train Stations which you can place on the board use an opponent's train route to help complete one of your destinations. These pieces come at a cost: You must discard cards, lose a turn, and dock yourself 4 victory points, so use them wisely.

TicketToRideEuropeBoard.jpgFinally Ticket to Ride Europe includes two new routes types: Ferries and Tunnels. The Ferry routes hug the coast of the Mediterranean, and connect England to France and Holland, and Scandinavia to mainland Europe. Unlike standard routes, Ferry Routes require at least 1-2 of locomotive wildcards to complete, in addition to standard train cards.

The Tunnel routes plow through the Alps, and offer some random risk to their completion: the player who wishes to complete a tunnel first plays the cost of the route, say 3 Blue Train cards. He/she then flips the top 3 cards off the top of the train deck, and must pay an additional card for each Blue card that's revealed. This can be nasty for ill prepared, or those players who are scrambling to complete a tunnel route before their competition beats them to the punch. Some Ticket to Ride aficionados dislike this mechanics, but we think they spice up the game, and we love 'em.

We'll let you know when Ticket to Ride Europe finally hits the Marketplace. Sometimes these releases are delayed at the last minute, but we hope that doesn't happen in this case. Hopefully we'll see some of you online!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

July 16, 2008

Scene It? Box Office Smash! Announced

The massive Electronic Entertainment Expo is going down in LA this week. Huge announcements have come out of the show focusing on a stack of big budget first person shooters, real time strategy and survival horror games.

And during the first keynote of the show Microsoft (read XBox360 ) announced a new edition of to their Scene It? line: Scene It? Box Office Smash! [Amazon]. The fact that a second Scene It? title has somehow bubbled to the top of the show's opening presentation exemplifies how much Microsoft continues to flex it's muscle trying to get a foothold in the board game and party game genre. Obvious note: that's the genre of games we cover here.

This marketing movie (above) shows a slew of smiling out of work actors going about their fake daily business until accidentally charmed by Scene It? at their local Best Buy / Circuit City A/V department. Even grandma gets into the formulaic action. Its a bit too much but at least there's quite a bit of game coverage between the fake laughter.

SceneItControllers.pg.jpgThankfully Scene It? Box Office Smash! should be a natural extension of its Xbox 360 predecessor Scene It? [Amazon]. Expect more questions, new clips, and leveraging those customized buzz-in controllers that came with the original title.

No news on when the game should ship, but we'll definitely keep you posted.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

July 14, 2008

Game Table Online becomes Free Gaming Service

10DaysInAfrica.jpgGame Table Online has been alive and kicking for a while, but as an online subscription service only. Today Game Table Online has opened its doors to everyone for free. All you have to do is register and you'll have access to their suite of their online board games.

Their collection includes the classics such as Chess, Checkers, Backgammon, the works, but also includes some Eurogames to boot. The site hosts an online adaptation of the award winning Tigris & Euphrates, 10 Days in Africa, New England, and the 1965 classic Nuclear War. They also has some card games like Condottiere, a modern - and importantly, fun - adaptation of the classic War card game we grew up on.

All you need to do to start playing with your friends is to register your email address, and you're in. Enjoy!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

April 23, 2008

Lost Cities Board Game on Xbox Live

LostCitiesCover2.jpgLost Cities [Amazon, Funagain] is one of the best 2 player games around, and now you can enjoy it with friends and strangers alike through those newfanged electronic devices.. The Xbox live microphone and the optional camera staves-off the socially sterile game play normally associated with online board games, and the ability to play at home any time means you can enjoy some Lost Cities from the comfort of your own couch butt grove. Pants are optional without the camera, but they're highly recommend. Think of the children.

Even better, this Xbox Live version lets you play in mano e mono e mano (that's 3-player games)..we're not quite sure how well it works, but pants are still for the best. (edit: it's not 3-player, but some weird wording for 3 other players in a 2v2 match.)

Here's the Company Line:

"Risk it all on the expeditions of a lifetime in the award-winning card game Lost Cities™ as it comes to life on Xbox LIVE® Arcade. Draw from a pool of cards to amass the most points, play your cards wisely, take chances with your money, and create the best strategy to outwit your opponent on the road to victory.

  • True to the original: All of the fun and strategy of the original card game has been faithfully translated for the console audience.
  • Easy to learn: Jump into a game and start devising strategies within minutes.
  • Exotic locales: Manage prosperous expeditions through the lost cities of the frozen Himalayas to the sandy deserts of Egypt, and even the Brazilian rain forest.
  • Online play: Play with up to three of your friends over Xbox LIVE.

You can read more about the game at the official Live Arcade website, and you can purchase Lost Cities from the Xbox Live Marketplaces through your Xbox360. The game sells for 800 Microsoft points, and with oil at 117 bucks a barrel that equates to 10 dollars American, or one 5 lbs sack of green coffee beans. Enjoy!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

April 7, 2008

GamesByEmail clones classic Diplomacy with "Politics"


The gaming site GamesByEmail has been running browser based games for years. They first hooked us with their Risk clone Gambit, which made us huge fans of the site. We hadn't had a Risk stomp like that in while. Then we were totally addicted to WWII, and played nearly 70 rounds of Axis & Allies games. Yes 70. We became A&A; crack addicts almost overnight.

We've had innumerable killer 80's flashbacks on GBE without all the mess of a) having a real flash back, and b) setting up and playing the original board games. We love those original titles, but they're a cursed turbulent sea of precarious pieces which sometimes make us just wanna SMASH stuff when the dice, or elbows, or falling scarfs hit the stacks of chips and pieces like a giant deus ex machina doomsday device.

Thankfully GamesByEmail exists completely within a browser friendly environment. No downloads, no connecting emails, or running Unix listservs to auto judge gaming sessions. And over the last year the GamesByEmail labs have been working on their latest title Politics, this time brining a clone of the social backstabbing granddaddy of strategy war boardgames Diplomacy to the virtual table. And though it was just released, it's looking pretty darn sweet.

Players can either sign up to the existing games that pit strangers against strangers, or create their own amongst their group of friends. The game works entirely in a browser, which completely rocks. Not only is the map functional and colorful (and colored like a classic map from StrangeMaps), but you don't have to worry about emailing turn orders, or having an anxious panic attack while trying to formatting them properly for an auto judge. Gaming session also sport private chat options for you luring in enemies with a man hug, and then showing them just how good your letter opener is at shivving backs.

The games themselves has configurable turn length keep things timely, and includes an auto judge for detecting collisions and determining bounce back rules. It's a complete Internet based point and click Diplomacy package that runs on any machine!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

January 25, 2008

Catan Dice Game Aims for May 2008 Release

Publisher Mayfair Games of Settlers of Catan fame is setting-out to lighten their venerable series for the gaming on the go, or for gamers with petite gaming tables. The Catan Dice Game is slated for a May 2008 release, and includes 6 resource-producing dice, a pad o’ town maps, and a set of instructions.

The game is meant for 1-6 players to toss about for up to 30 minutes.

The sad part is that’s all we know. As soon as we hear more from Mayfair we’ll fill you in with all the juicy details of this streamlined Catan title.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

January 24, 2008

5 Ways to Make WoW TCG's Magtheridon's Lair Challenging

MagtheridonsLairWe’ve been hearing a lot about how Maghteridon's Lair is a push-over for players who’ve horded WoW TCG cards since the game’s release in 2006. We’ve played through the raid twice now, and though Magtheridon is a heckuva jerk if he’s allowed to live too long, he does seem to have some very obvious weaknesses early-on. Achilles heals even, especially if he can't attack.

Now we're generally amazed that Upper Deck didn’t release a series of alternative rules to scale the difficulty of raid to match the various play levels. After all, the WoW TCG – and World of Warcraft in general – is all about mass appeal and bringing many different types of gamers together. But here we see one Raid Deck which can only be cusotomzied by buying another deck, and even then it does the same stuff it did before – just potentially better.

But what if there are some fundamental weakness to the deck itself? For instance, a group of mages could just sit back and frostbolt poor Mag every turn, until he’s a block of ice with four legs. Not very scary, and Mag can’t do shizzy about it even with combined decks from 2 Decks.

Below you’ll find our house rules suggestions, listed in ascending difficulty. We like to play with some or all these rules, depending on how many people are raiding Mag and their deck level:

  1. No Infinite Combos - A raid boss shouldn’t die when he still has 80 life left, period.
  2. Channeler Allies Have a Permantent Attack Value - That is, instead of reading "+X to attack while attacking" it should read "+X to attack where X is 1 plus the number of Warlocks that have left your party.” Killing these guys off with allies just became a bit more difficult. Not only that, but maybe – just maybe – they’ll live long enough to actually use their abilities on turn three.
  3. Magtheridon May Not be Forced to Discard From His Hand - The poor flesh eating sap already draws one-fifth to one-half as much as the players . His hand should be sacred.
  4. Magtheridon cannot be prevented from attacking - A lousy ice bolt shouldn’t slow down a 3 story tall demonic quadruped. Players can – however -force him to tap or continue to protect against him.
  5. Abyssal Allies have the keyword "Protector." - These guys cost two blood each and Magtheridon only gets really deadly when he's got a lot of blood. This ssmes like a pretty fair trade off.

We’re also toying with a raid night where Maghteridon teams up with Onyxia against a group of 4-5 raiders for a monster battle royal. But maybe that’s just crazy talk.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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