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Tag: Lord of the Rings

What’s Hot: Lord of the Rings LCG – The Hills Of Emyn Muil

Hills Of Emyn MuilLord of the Rings: The Card Game fans rejoice! The latest adventure pack, The Hills Of Emyn Muil, is here!

Having lost Gollum’s trail at the Carrock, then embarked on a mission of mercy to Rhosgobel, the heroes now come to the hills of Emyn Muil, where they have only one objective: to find Gollum.

The Hills of Emyn Muil is the fourth Adventure Pack in the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle of expansions for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game! The hunt for Gollum continues in this exciting expansion, which includes a Quest card and its related Encounters, as well as new Hero, Attachment, and Ally cards. This engaging Adventure Pack contains the first ever single-card quest, in which players must gather victory points by exploring a wide range of dangerous locations.

With 60 new cards for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, The Hills of Emyn Muil will augment existing decks while providing players with entirely new challenges for their heroes. Can you scour Emyn Muil and determine Gollum’s whereabouts before it’s too late?

What’s Hot: Lord of the Rings Conflict at the Carrock Adventure Pack

Conflict at the CarrockThe second of the Adventure Packs for The Lord of the Rings Card Game is here: Conflict at the Carrock!

You’ve joined in The Hunt for Gollum, and now the second Adventure Pack in the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle beckons. Hot on the trail of Gollum, the heroes venture down the banks of the Anduin, only to hear whispers of a new threat looming.

Conflict at the Carrock Adventure Pack contains 60 fixed cards from the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle, continuing the heroes’ quest to find and apprehend the creature Gollum. A new hero joins the quest, along with three copies of nine new player cards from all four spheres, a new deck of Encounter cards, and the Conflict at the Carrock Quest cards.

A variety of new player cards offer exciting deck-building options, featuring new and familiar faces. Frodo Baggins is beginning to feel restless in the Shire while the Beorning Beekeepers offer their assistance to anyone willing to help drive the troublesome Trolls away. A Long-beard Mapmaker discovers a hidden Dúnedain Warning that just might help the heroes avoid defeat.

Conflict at the Carrock focuses on the lumbering Trolls terrorizing the Beornings, and while facing them in combat is fearful enough, Sacked! cards will endanger your heroes at every turn. Muck Adders will snap at your heels while you try to navigate the difficult locations surrounding the Carrock.

This is not a stand-alone deck. A copy of The Lord of the Rings: The Core Set is required to play.

Keep a weather eye out for the next Adventure pack, coming soon: A Journey to Rhosgobel. Preorder now so you don’t miss out!

Guest Video Review: Lord of the Rings Card Game

Lord of the RingsI’m happy to announce that premiere boardgame video reviewer Drakkenstrike has kindly allowed us to re-post his excellent videos on the Games Paradise blog!

Drakkenstrike is well-known in the online boardgaming community for his finely crafted and comprehensive videos, taking you step-by-step through the most popular new boardgames as they hit the market. We’ll be featuring some of these fantastic reviews now and again on the blog. Enjoy, and thanks again to Drakkenstrike for his amazing work.

Let’s kick things off with a detailed look at The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game.

Stay tuned for more top-quality Drakkenstrike Reviews!

And to help you out with playing the game, I’ve made a free rules summary and reference sheet for you to download and print.

Upcoming Fantasy Flight Goodies!

There are some great new games in the pipeline from Fantasy Flight Games, well-known publisher of high quality, thematic, exciting games. For those of you who haven’t been keeping an eye peeled on their website, let’s check out some of the goodies!

Rune AgeRune Age
This is FFG’s entry into the most popular game genre of recent times—deck-building games. Set in their fantasy world of Terrinoth (also the setting for games such as Runewars, Descent, Dungeonquest and Runebound), Rune Age is for 2-4 players and, uniquely, driven by scenarios that set the parameters of each game. So a game can be competitive or cooperative. Players develop their decks of cards as the game progresses, playing one of the four factions first introduced in Runewars: the Daqan Lords, the Latari Elves, the savage Uthuk Y’llan, and Waiqar the Undying and his undead hordes. Each of these factions has its own unique strengths and weaknesses, and each offers a wealth of different deck-building options. Definitely one to look out for if you enjoy deck-building games like Dominion or 7 Wonders!

Elder SignElder Sign
Arkham Horror, the game of investigation, combat and terror set in the horrific worlds of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, is a Fantasy Flight success story and has spawned many expansions. Recently we saw a new spin on Arkham Horror which concentrated more on storytelling with the very atmospheric Mansions of Madness game. But fans of Lovecraftian mystery and horror can never get enough! FFG’s latest announcement is a dice game called Elder Sign, in which investigators desperately search a museum for Elder Signs to stave off the coming of an Old One and the destruction of the universe as we know it! This is looking like a clever mix of card game and dice game. As in Arkham Horror, there’s a selection of Ancient Ones to defeat, a Doom track that ticks inexorably down to their arrival, and the imminent threat of sanity-blasting horrors around every corner. The museum the adventurers explore is built up using Adventure cards, and different investigators have unique talents, strengths and weaknesses which you must strategically manage in order to defeat the game’s challenges. Best of all, you can enjoy all the fun and atmosphere of a Lovecraftian game in just one to two hours!

Blood Bowl Team ManagerBlood Bowl Team Manager
A lot of people thought this one was vapourware, since it was first announced way back early last year. It seems it’s undergone some heavy development and changed from a deck-building game into something completely different! 2-4 players guide their teams through a series of head-to-head highlights, adding Star Players, equipment upgrades, new staff and gathering new fans, all in a lead up to the decisive Blood Bowl trophy match! There are 6 teams to choose from: the Reikland Reavers (humans), the Grudgebearers (dwarves), the Athelorn Avengers (wood elves), the Skavenblight Scramblers (skaven), the Gouged Eye (orcs), and the Chaos All-Stars (chaos); and they all have their own style of play to explore. This is looking like a must-buy for Blood Bowl fans!

Gears of WarGears of War
Another game that’s been on the backburner at FFG for some time is Gears of War: The Board Game, based on the very successful video game that is now up to its second sequel. I’m a big fan of the old Doom boardgame and this looks like a step up from that—excellent miniatures, beautifully illustrated floorplans—however this one is fully cooperative (and, as a bonus, can be played solo), with players working together to face off against the horrific Locust alien hordes. Apparently the aliens are controlled by an innovative and adaptable ‘AI system’ that keeps the monsters reacting in distinctive ways that are appropriate to the situation. And you have limited ammo … There’s nothing like a good tactical combat game, and this one should raise the bar!

Pyramid of HorusThe Adventurers: The Pyramid of Horus
Fans of The Adventurers: The Temple of Chac will be excited to see another game in what possibly be a series exploring all the classic Indiana Jones-like locations. After exploring (and hopefully surviving) the ancient Mayan ruins of the Temple of Chac, we now move to Egypt to enter The Pyramid of Horus. It’s a new stand-alone boardgame that shares the basic mechanics of load level versus speed that defined the first game; but now a new set of adventurers will be encountering falling blocks, crocodiles—and of course, mummies! Great art, miniatures and fast-paced gameplay whould make this one a winner.

There are some other bits and pieces coming our way too: the new Talisman expansion Talisman: The Dragon; a revised edition of the card game based in Cadwallon, Arcana, an expansion for the excellent fantasy empire-building game Runewars called Banners of War, and of course the first new adventure packs for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game: The Hunt for Gollum, A Journey to Rhosgobel, and Conflict at the Carrock.

Whew! That’s a whole lot of great gaming! As always, keep an eye on this blog for news and reviews, and we’ll let you know when all of these fantastic new titles hit our shores and the shelves of Games Paradise, your favourite online game store.

Preorder The Lord of the Rings Card Game Now!

Lord of the Rings

Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is now available to pre-order for a special price!

Begin your adventure in Middle-earth soon!

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is a brand new cooperative card game from Fantasy Flight Games that puts 1-2 players (or up to four with two Core Sets!) in control of the most powerful characters and artifacts of Middle-earth. Select heroes, gather allies, acquire artifacts, and coordinate your efforts to overcome the obstacles drawn from the encounter deck, and you will complete the quest before you and claim victory!

The Core Set includes 216 cards that can be used to assemble a wide variety of decks right out of the box. Included are four perilous scenarios that, along with countless combinations of settings and enemies, offer near-limitless replayability.

Additionally, players can build a party from a set of 16 hero cards, and focus their decks on any combination of four distinct spheres of influence: Leadership, Lore, Spirit, and Tactics. Each sphere offer unique benefits to the party, so choose wisely. Select heroes, gather allies, acquire artifacts, and coordinate your efforts

Preorder now!

Lord of the RingsWhy not also pre-order the first three Adventure Packs while you’re there to be sure of enjoying this exciting new game to the fullest when it arrives at our warehouse? The first series is called the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle, and it begins with The Hunt for Gollum. The elusive creature known as Gollum is hiding somewhere in the Anduin Valley, and this pack sets the stage for the coming quests by tasking players with searching for Gollum and capturing him (the overall goal in Shadows of Mirkwood). For this first quest, players are tasked with uncovering the clues in the form of the Signs of Gollum Objective cards, which are shuffled into the Encounter deck. Featuring a new hero, new player cards for all four spheres of influence, and an assortment of new Encounter cards, The Hunt for Gollum begins your dangerous trek through the Shadows of Mirkwood!

The second pack, Conflict at the Carrock, sees players venturing down the banks of the Anduin hot on the trail of Gollum … only to hear whispers of a new threat looming. A new hero joins the quest, along with three copies of nine new player cards from all four spheres, a new deck of Encounter cards, and the Conflict at the Carrock Quest cards.

A variety of new player cards offer exciting deck-building options, featuring new and familiar faces. Frodo Baggins is beginning to feel restless in the Shire, and a Long-beard Mapmaker discovers a hidden Dunedain Warning that just might help the heroes avoid defeat. The lumbering Trolls terrorizing the Beornings, and while facing them in combat is fearful enough, Sacked! cards will endanger your heroes at every turn. And watch out for Muck Adders, that will snap at your heels while you try to navigate the difficult locations surrounding the Carrock.

Finally, in A Journey to Rhosgobel, after facing a fearsome group of trolls, the heroes have pressed further into the Anduin Valley to continue their search for Gollum. However, when they stumble across a dying eagle wounded in a fight with goblins, they are compelled to offer their assistance. Since the Eagles play such an important role in the Shadows of Mirkwood Adventure Packs, players will want to retain the trust of their winged allies by saving one of their kin. In order to do so, they must bring the bird to Rhosgobel and seek out the wizard Radagast, who knows many secrets of the wild.

A Journey to Rhosgobel contains 60 fixed cards from the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle. In this exciting expansion, even more Eagles join the Tactics sphere, while Leadership players are given a Dunedain Quest that will inspire confidence in their cause. The heroes’ trek through Mirkwood leads them to Haldir of Lorien, whose unnatural agility will aid the party in their task. However, the sky grows dark with foul minions of the Shadow, and every step toward Rhosgobel causes the heroes’ avian ally more pain. There is no time to lose!

Each adventure pack contains 60 fixed cards from the Shadows of Mirkwood cycle.

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is a game of heroes, perilous journeys and adventure. Be the first to set off on the quest!

Card Games Come Alive …

Living Card Games

Many of you will be familiar with the Collectible Card Game (CCG) concept that was first unleashed on the world by the phenomenon called Magic: The Gathering. The idea was that you could buy a starter set, then buy ‘booster’ sets that included a random mixture of cards. As a result, an extra dimension of collecting—and hunting down and trading for cards depending on their rarity—was added to the gameplay.

Of course, despite the huge success of this idea and the fact that many enjoyed this collectible aspect, other people began to tire of not actually knowing the contents of the booster set they were buying. A solution arrived in the form of a new format created by Fantasy Flight Games—the Living Card Game (LCG). Now every booster set had the same number and type of cards, and you could expand your decks as much as you desired without worrying about the trading and rarity aspects of the game.

The LCG format has been a huge success, and Fantasy Flight moved their existing CGGs to this new format as well as creating more. Let’s have a look at Fantasy Flight LCGs, and check out an exciting new game on the horizon.

Call of CthulhuCall of Cthulhu LCG
The Call of Cthulhu LCG was FFG’s first duelling card game and is still going strong. Designed for two players, it draws on the rich and detailed background of the stories of master horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, pitting human and monster factions against each other in a game where you can not only lose your life, but your sanity! Agency detectives, Miskatonic University students and faculty, and the members of the mysterious Syndicate all join the fight against otherworldly beings including Cthulhu, Hastur, Yog-Sothoth, and Shub Niggurath. The cards feature some truly stunning artwork from a wide range of artists that really immerse you in the theme.

The place to start with this fantastic game is the Core Set, which includes a nicely-illustrated game board, rulebook, story markers, plastic Cthulhu domain markers, 10 Story cards, and 155 deck cards. The Call of Cthulhu LCG is fully playable out of the box, but when you get hooked you’ll want to start expanding the game with any number of booster Asylum Packs of fixed card supplements (these were once 2 copies each of 20 unique cards, but recently FFG has updated all of its booster packs for all these games to 3 copies each of 20 unique cards).

A Game of ThronesA Game of Thrones LCG
Another big success for FFG has been the A Game of Thrones LCG, which is based in the world of George R. R. Martin’s bestselling fantasy novel series, A Song of Ice and Fire. FFG has produced a lot of games based in the world of Westeros—the A Game of Thrones boardgame and the new BattleLore variant, Battles of Westeros.

A Game of Thrones LCG is an exercise in intrigue, diplomacy, and strategy. Players control one of the four major houses of Westeros, each with different strengths and weaknesses, and compete for power with military, intrigue and power challenges. The game is full of the strife and backstabbery that fans of the books have come to love. Additionally, each player has a Plot deck, which can trigger special, thematically driven effects that have repercussions for all players throughout the coming round and beyond.

Warhammer InvasionWarhammer Invasion LCG
The Warhammer Invasion LCG is the latest FFG card game, and it’s been hitting the table a lot on my gaming nights. This one draws from the incredibly detailed Warhammer world in which all of Games Workshop’s fantasy games are based. The Core Set features a rulebook, 4 Capital boards, numerous tokens, and 220 cards in 4 factions—the Dwarves, Empire, Chaos, and Orcs. Battle Packs add factions like the evil Dark Elves, the Elves, and the rat-like Skaven.

The goal in Warhammer Invasion is to set two of the three locations on your opponent’s Capital boards to burning, and you’ll have to cleverly allocate your resources to not only attack your opponent in strength, but defend your capital from your opponent’s attacks. Of course, as in all these games, there is plenty of opportunity to craft your own ‘killer’ deck by mixing cards of various factions—though in this case it must be made up of either those forces following Order (good) or those following Destruction (evil).

The Lord of the RingsThe Lord of the Rings LCG
The most exciting new development in the world of LCGs is the upcoming new game set in J. R. R. Tolkein’s Middle-earth: The Lord of the Rings LCG. The exciting new twist in this game is that it is a co-operative card game that allows 1-2 players (or up to 4 with 2 Core Sets) to select heroes, gather allies, acquire artifacts, and coordinate their efforts to face Middle-earth’s most dangerous adversaries. By building a party from a set of 12 hero cards, players can focus their decks on any combination of four ‘spheres of influence’: Leadership, Lore, Spirit, and Tactics. Then cooperate to overcome the obstacles drawn from the encounter deck, complete the quest, and claim victory!

The Core Set will include 226 cards and 3 quests, and monthly Adventure Packs will introduce new quests, heroes, allies, attachments, events, and encounters.

As you can see, the Living Card Game format is most definitely alive and well, and provides the perfect framework for very casual players happy with the occasional game all the way up to competitive ‘hardcore’ gamers who want to collect every card available for a game and meticulously craft game-winning decks.

Friday’s Gaming News Update

Friday again already? Let’s have a look at what’s been happening in the world of gaming this week!

New Releases from Games Paradise
The new revamped version of the Tom Wham classic Kings and Things by Z-Man Games is out. Originally published back in 1986 by Games Workshop, this a fun game of waring fantasy kingdoms.

Star Wars fans won’t want to miss out on the 3D illusion of the Star Wars Lenticular Chess Set.

A new supplement for the Warhammer 40,000 roleplaying game system Rogue Trader is out—Edge of the Abyss. This new book features in-depth descriptions of several important locations in the Expanse, including some never-before-revealed worlds. Plus you’ll find background information, statistics, and ships for the most powerful alien races and organizations of the Expanse, not to mention adventure ideas, location guides, and much more.

News From the World of Gaming
Games Workshop have released an updated errata for Warhammer 40,000.

Michael Barnes has an extremely positive review of the new Space Hulk: Death Angel card game.

Matt Drake reviews Guardians of Graxia.

Dale Yu reviews the upcoming Isla Dorada.

Check out this great gaming blog – Fire Broadside!

Some fantastic fan-made extras for Arkham Horror The Grudunza Horror: Part 1: The GOOs, Part 2: Karma and Part 3: Unsung Heroes.

I couldn’t resist showing you this fantastic dwarf and Santa miniature from Scibor Miniatures in time for Xmas.

Fantasy Flight keeps the good stuff coming with new articles:

A bit more information on Dust Tactics and the kits, toys and comics of the non-gaming Dust Models range.

At last, more information about the eagerly-awaited Lord of the Rings: The Card Game.

A new supplement announced for Deathwatch, the Warhammer 40,000 roleplaying game for space marines – Rites of Battle.

Another single miniature release announced for TannhäuserOksana.

A new expansion for the excellent Cosmic Encounter game announced – Cosmic Conflict. 20 new aliens, components for a new black player, and a new Hazard deck to shake things up.

Get some gaming in this weekend!

Upcoming Games

I keep several boardgaming-related websites in my bookmarks list so I can keep an eye on the next batch of games that are in development or on their way. The big North American gaming convention GenCon has recently come and gone in Indianapolis, so a lot of new games saw their debut at the show. Here’s a quick look at some of the new games that should be out this year or early next year.

Fantasy Flight Games is, as you’ve no doubt guessed by now, my favourite publisher, and they have a stack of new goodies in the pipeline for release this year (hopefully). The two surprise announcements recently were Dust Tactics and Cadwallon: City of Thieves. These  were originally to be published by Dust Games, but that company suddenly found themselves short on the resources required, so have done a deal with FFG to hand over the games. Dust Tactics is a tactical miniatures boardgame set in an alternative 1940s world created by the comic book artist Paolo Parente. It’s been in the works for a surprisingly long time; originally it was to be released by Rackham Entertainment, who then went on to release AT-43 instead. Dust Tactics is quite a spectacular-looking product, featuring over thirty detailed, individually-sculpted miniatures (including four huge tank/walker figures). The initial game consists of eight scenarios fought on a set of cardboard terrain tiles (with some model terrain), but later there will be a set of rules released for fighting battles on a tabletop, like a normal miniatures game.

The miniatures in the game come primed in a flat colour which you can paint, if you desire, but there is also a Collector’s Edition set on the way, with all the miniatures fully painted to an incredibly high standard. The Collector’s Edition will be pricey, but for the non-painters, I’m sure it will be worth it.

There are already plans for several expansion sets to the core game of course; introducing such things as artillery robots, strange creatures, new heroes, aircraft, and even an alien race, the Vrills. It’s all shaping up to be an amazing system, and it will be interesting to see the reaction to the core set and watch the future of this game.

The other game to arrive at FFG from Dust Games is Cadwallon: City of Thieves. This fast-paced boardgame of thievery and skulduggery is set in the Rackham fantasy city of Cadwallon, the subject of a short lived roleplaying/combat game. It’s a perfect addition to the FFG stable, with gorgeous art and miniatures dripping with character. You lead a gang of thieves sneaking about a district of Cadwallon, grabbing loot and avoiding the militiamen hot on your tail. Individual scenarios bring variety to the game play. Again, the miniatures are not pre-painted, but you’ll be able to buy a separate set of painted miniatures if you so choose.

Another exciting game from FFG in the works is a Space Hulk-themed cooperative card game set in the Games Workshop Warhammer 40,000 universe, called Space Hulk Death Angel: The Card Game. This will accommodate anywhere from 1-6 players, and sees you taking Blood Angel Terminator combat teams into the twisting labyrinthine corridors of an abandoned space hulk, to join combat with the horrific alien Genestealers. The game is playable in under and hour and comes in a small ‘Silver Line’ box. This looks like a great choice if you feel like a quick, theme-rich game experience.

Sticking with card games, there are two more on the way from FFG: The Lord of the Rings Card Game and The Blood Bowl Team Manager Card Game. There’s very little information yet about the latter but it’s certainly exciting news for Blood Bowl fans, and I certainly count myself a member of that group! Apparently it will be a frenzied game of deck-building for 2-4 players, and you can choose from Human, Dwarf, Wood Elf, Orc, Skaven, or Chaos factions and play through an entire season. The LotR Card Game will be another of FFG’s very successful Living Card Games, so they’ll be a long series of expansion card packs after the 216-card core set. 1-2 players (or more if you buy a couple of core sets) cooperate to select heroes, gather allies, acquire artifacts and complete quests in the land of Middle-Earth. Players can shape their decks to create their favourite combination of spheres of influence: leadership, lore, spirit and tactics. It looks like they’ll be lots of spectacular artwork and a huge amount of variety in this game, and hopefully it will be a must for any gamer who’s a fan of Tolkein’s world.

But wait! There’s more. The long-awaited return of the Games Workshop classic, Dungeonquest, is imminent. Anyone who played this cut-throat game back in the 80s knows that it’s tough work surviving that dungeon—but that’s all the fun. FFG have re-themed the game to set it in their world of Terrinoth (and cleverly cross-marketed the new characters by supplying components for them for Descent, Runebound and Runewars). Dungeonquest is a fast and fun game of dungeon exploration for 1-4 players.

Keep an eye peeled for some other FFG games on the horizon as well: Bruno Faidutti’s magnum opus, Isla Dorada, two army expansions for Battles of Westeros, various expansions for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and the Warhammer 40,000 roleplaying games, a quick card game called Dragonheart, Kevin Wilson’s new game, Civilization: The Board Game (inspired by Sid Meier’s video games), a new small-box version of the classic Lord of the Rings Board Game by Reiner Knizia, the new Tide of Iron expansion Fury of the Bear, and a new expansion for Talisman called The Sacred Pool. Not to mention the usual regular Living Card Game releases.

Well, there are other game companies in the world apart from FFG I admit, and another company with a hectic release schedule for 2010 is Z-Man Games. The company is known for releasing an eclectic mix of titles of all different styles and themes. Check out this list of titles: Earth Reborn, Parade, Burrows, The King Commands!, Power Struggle, Magical Athlete, Malta!, Prolix, Kings & Things, Mines of Zavandor, Trollhalla, Inca Empire, Pocket Battles: Orc vs Elves, and De Vulgari Eloquentia. Whew!

There’s certainly been some buzz about the new game from Christophe Boelinger, the creator of Dungeon Twister. It’s called Earth Reborn and it’s a post-apocalyptic scenario-based tactical combat game. It’s also one of the first forays by Z-Man Games into the world of plastic miniatures, and the ones that come with the game are looking mighty impressive. Parade is a quick 30 minute curious card game by Naoki Homma for 2-6 players. Hansa Teutonica is a tense game of route manipulation and economics by Andreas Steding for 2-5 players; players are merchants jostling for position and standing in the Hanseatic League. Power Struggle is a game about becoming the top-dog in a corporate empire by reaching milestones in investing, corruption, influence and position. In Burrows, you’ll find yourself trying to keep a group of fussy Gophers well-housed, using tiles to build a twisted network of burrows. Bottle Imp is a trick taking card game by Gunter Cornett. And of course, don’t forget the car-racing mayhem of Road Kill Rally; the new game by the creator of Duel in the Dark, Duel of the Giants, a tank-battle game; pirate fun with Merchants & Marauders; and a real-time strategy computer game-inspired game called The Ares Project. Zev from Z-Man must be run off his feet!

As for other publishers, there’s a new game coming from Asmodee and Antoine Bauza (Ghost Stories, Mystery Express) called 7 Wonders, a a civilization-building card game. Wizards of the Coast are releasing a Dungeons & Dragons board game called Castle Ravenloft that looks to be a classic dungeoncrawler with a simplified set of D&D 4th Edition mechanics. And Flying Frog Productions, makers of Last Night on Earth and A Touch of Evil, continue their series of crazy, fun games with photographic art with their new one, Invasion from Outer Space: The Martian Game, which pits alien invaders against circus freaks in a Tim Burtonesque carnival.

Well, if that lot doesn’t keep gamers happy I don’t know what will! There’s obviously no shortage whatsoever of great games on the way—all we need do now is somehow find the time to play as many as possible …

by Universal Head

For more information about the games mentioned in this article, visit the publisher sites or BoardgameGeek ( There is a Dust Tactics site at Z-Man Games can be previewed at You can also find rules summaries and reference sheets for many games at Headless Hollow (

Universal Head (, has been designing for clients across the globe for more than twenty years, and playing games for much longer than that. He’s responsible for the graphic design of several boardgames, notably ‘Tales of the Arabian Nights’ by Z-Man Games, and once spent an entire year recreating the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in 3D for a computer game. In between he’s designed just about every form of visual communication: corporate identities, websites, packaging, brochures, even postage stamps. He also created the game websites and His blog site is an obsessive repository of professionally designed rules summaries and reference sheets for popular boardgames.

Books and Boardgaming

If you enjoy boardgaming the chances are you enjoy a good read as well, and books have certainly been a rich source of inspiration for boardgames over the years. Here’s a quick look at some of the myriad games based on well-known books. if you enjoyed the book, now play the game—or vice versa!

Frank Herbert’s Dune is a classic of science-fiction writing, and a series that has gone on and on (though, to this reader, the first three—Dune, Dune Messiah, and Children of Dune—are the original and best). A game of the book was released in by Avalon Hill in 1979, and it is universally recognised as being an excellent game that captures the flavour of the books incredibly well, with a lot of player interaction. You’ll represent various factions trying to control the planet of Dune and its spice trade using negotiation and bluffing, all while dealing with sandstorms, the mammoth sandworms, and the military forces of the other players. Some gamers have gone to amazing lengths to create their own versions of this much-loved game—one even created his own custom-made table inlaid with rare woods! The good news is—for those of us with far less time and money on their hands—Fantasy Flight Games is in the process of re-releasing Dune in a brand new version. The bad news is that it will no longer be based on the Dune books, but on a different licence—Warhammer 40,000 perhaps?

I’ve mentioned the epic wargame War of the Ring several times before, and there are no prizes for guessing which famous series of books this game is based on—yes, J. R. R. Tolkein’s timeless Lord of the Rings trilogy.WotR is an exceptional gaming experience in its own right, but the way it captures the feel of the novels, and builds upon their epic quality by also focussing on the epic battles of the Third Age, is extraordinary. There are several games based on the trilogy, but WotR is the most impressive in my opinion. Also don’t forget to try the other fantastic wargame by the same authors, Age of Conan, which is based on the series of swords-and-sorcery classics by Robert E. Howard (and other writers such as L. Sprague de Camp). It doesn’t quite capture the adventuring spirit of the Conan stories, but it is an excellent wargame in its own right.

Arkham Horror (2005) has also been mentioned many times in my previous articles. This game draws on the inventions of H.P. Lovecraft and later writers who created fiction using his unique Cthulhu mythos. The Mayfair game Witch of Salem (2008) also draws heavily on the Cthulhu mythos, this time from Wolfgang Hohlbein’s book series, and it features some stunning artwork. They are both very different games, and while re-creating the unique atmosphere of Lovecraft’s books is a challenge that will probably never be met—you’d probably have to go insane first!—there’s plenty here to keep cosmic horror fans happy.

Fantasy Flight Games has certainly got a lot of mileage out of its licence of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series of fantasy novels. I discussed the new Battles of Westeros in my last article, but don’t forget the Game of Thrones LCG (2008), and the A Game of Thrones (2003) boardgame. The Living Card Game has been expanding for some time now and at last count there were 32 expansion packs and more on the way! The boardgame has two expansions, A Clash of Kings (2004) and A Storm of Swords (2006). In the game, each players is one of the great Houses of Westeros and attempts to control the land with a mixture of resource management, diplomacy and cunning—and of course wielding armies and unique characters from the books. I have yet to play A Game of Thrones, but I hear it captures the flavour of the books extremely well.

Another game I haven’t played myself, 1960: The Making of the President (Z-Man, 2007) is based on The Making of the President, 1960, by Theodore White and published in 1961, which won the 1962 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction. This two player, card-driven game explores the 1960 American presidential race beween John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon, and is played on an electoral map of the USA. You’ll have to deal with a wide range of political and social issues of the time in your race for the White House.

The Pillars of the Earth (Kosmos, 2006) is based on the best-selling 1989 novel by Ken Follett, about the building of a cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge, England. The game was awarded the 2007 Deutscher Spiele Preis, the Spanish ‘Game of the Year 2007’ and the Norwegian ‘Best Family Game of 2007’ and the GAMES Magazine Game of the Year 2007. A new stand-alone game, World Without End, was published two years later and is based on the book’s sequel. In classic Eurogame style, these games involve lots of resource management, production, buying and selling, and victory points!

Kosmos have published an entire line of literature-based games, among them Reiner Knizia’s co-operative Lord of the Rings game (2003); Around the World in 80 Days (2005) and Journey to the Center of the Earth(2008) based on the Jules Verne classics; Beowulf: The Legend (2006, and later published by Fantasy Flight); The Golden Compass (2008), based on Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy; and The Swarm(2009, published by Z-Man in English) and based on the novel by Frank Schätzing.

Ravensburger published a game in 2008 based on Umberto Eco’s wonderful story of murder and deduction in a medievalmonastery, The Name of the Rose. The Days of Wonder game Mystery of the Abbey (1996) could also be said to have drawn heavily for its inspiration on this novel, involving as it does the deductive search for a murderer among the monks of an abbey.

There are some old fantasy and science-fiction classics that are certainly ripe for re-publishing in a more modern form, amongthem Starship Troopers (Avalon Hill, 1976) based on the classic Robert A. Heinlein story; and Dragonriders of Pern (Mayfair, 1983), from Anne McCaffrey’s series of fantasy/sci-fi novels.

Of course, early out-of-copyright classics are a goldmine for game designers—and not only because no intellectual property rights need be obtained and paid for! Games Workshop’s Fury of Dracula (1987), and its Fantasy Flight Games re-vamp (pun intended) in 2006 are of course drawn from the Bram Stoker book we all know and love, Dracula, first published in 1897. The game is one of my all-time favourites and positively drips with the atmosphere of the novel. Tales of the Arabian Nights (2009), recently completely redesigned by Z-Man Games (with graphic design by yours truly), recreates the world of One Thousand and One Nights and the timeless stories of Scheherazade. The first English language edition of this collection of Middle Eastern and South Asian stories and folk tales (including the tales of Aladdin and his lamp, Ali Baba and the forty thieves, and the seven yoyages of Sinbad), was published in 1706 as The Arabian Nights’ EntertainmentTales of the Arabian Nights is a game of pure fun where players create their own story; strategy gamers beware, this is a game for those who like a good laugh and a lot of fun and are happy to let control of the game run away from them!

Days of Wonders’ Shadows Over Camelot (2005) is a beautifully produced co-operative game inspired by Arthurian legends, most notably those written down by Sir Thomas Malory in Le Morte d’Arthur, first published in 1485. It could be said that this game kicked of the current craze for co-operative games; it’s an enjoyable game that is great for families, and the lurking possibility of one of the players being a traitor definitely spices things up a bit!

Of course this article just touches on the huge array of games available that seek to re-create the many places available to us between the covers of a book (or the electronic pages of an iPad, if you’re that way inclined). Whether immersing yourself in a familiar world, or changing the course of events, or creating your own stories, games offer an extra level of interactivity that a book cannot—yet another reason why gaming is such an absorbing and interesting pastime!

by Universal Head

For more information about the games mentioned in this article, visit the publisher sites or BoardgameGeek ( You can also find rules summaries and reference sheets for many of these games at Headless Hollow (

Universal Head (, has been designing for clients across the globe for more than twenty years, and playing games for much longer than that. He’s responsible for the graphic design of several boardgames, notably ‘Tales of the Arabian Nights’ by Z-Man Games, and once spent an entire year recreating the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in 3D for a computer game. In between he’s designed just about every form of visual communication: corporate identities, websites, packaging, brochures, even postage stamps. He also created the game websites His blog site is an obsessive repository of professionally designed rules summaries and reference sheets for popular boardgames.

Cooperative Games

The past few years has seen a flood of cooperative games hit the market—games in which the players cooperate to beat the game, not each other. They’re a perfect choice if you want a game that avoids direct conflict between the players, or just if you want something a bit different than the usual player versus player game. Of course this sub-genre has variations of its own, so clever inventions like ‘traitor’ players have been introduced to spice things up a bit and bring back the conflict—so much so that this kind of game can actually end up being more competitive than a normal game!

Lord of the Rings by Reiner Knizia (2000) was probably the most influential of the early cooperative boardgames. While the concept had appeared before in games such as Scotland Yard and the first editions of Fury of Dracula and Arkham Horror, LoTR really took it to the next level by making the game itself the opponent. Check out my earlier article Gaming in Middle-Earth for more information on this classic game and its expansions.

Shadows Over Camelot by Days of Wonder really got the ball rolling for the cooperative genre. It’s a stunning-looking game, with beautiful art, nicely sculpted plastic miniatures and multiple boards. The new idea that really set this game apart was the introduction of the idea of a ‘traitor’. One of the players, secretly determined at the start of the game, actually plays against the others without their knowledge, and wins if the game wins. Negative events are always happening due the forced drawing and playing of ‘black cards’, and the players must cooperate to meet the various game challenges (by playing combinations of white cards)—all the while not knowing who among them is secretly trying to foil their plans!

FFG took this concept even further with Battlestar Galactica and its Pegasus expansion. One or more players could be ‘traitors’ (Cylons in this case), and things get even more insidious during a mid-game ‘Sleeper Phase’, when one of the ‘good guys’ may suddenly discover they are in fact working on the side of the Cylons and must change allegiance mid-stream! This is where the definition of ‘cooperative’ gets really interesting, because the accusations of skulduggery fly thick and fast, and you can send a suspected Cylon to the brig—or even, in the expansion, blow them out an airlock! For fans of the TV series buying this game is a no-brainer, but anyone who likes a clever game of cooperation and sneakiness should check it out.

One of the big hits of this particular genre—and the game with one of the most original themes of the last few years—is Z-Man Games’ Pandemic (2008) and its sequel Pandemic: On the Brink (2009). Each player has a special ability, and are working together in an attempt to halt the spread of a number of virulent diseases across the globe. There’s a lot to cover in a limited time as the pandemic spreads—travelling across the world, building research stations, finding cures, and of course getting the right cards to cure those plagues. The expansion brings further challenges to the game, along with some essential plastic petri dishes in which to store your components!

One of the issues with cooperative games is that if you play them enough, it can get easier to ‘beat the game’. Not so with Ghost Stories by Asmodee (2008). This notoriously difficult game is hard to beat out of the box, but there are various levels of difficulty for experienced players—right up to the aptly named ‘Hell’ level. This very attractive game is set in a village in a medieval fantasy Japan, and players desperately cooperate to destroy and dispel the ghosts and horrors that are the minions of the evil Wu-Feng. There’s more to enjoy in the expansion, White Moon, where players also have to rescue villagers from the ghosts. Don’t let them get killed, or you may suffer the family’s curse!

The award-winning Space Alert (2008) takes the cooperative genre and adds some unique twists—not the least being an audio CD with a series of 10 minute recordings of the spaceship’s computer announcing the threats that face the players. While this is playing, players have to coordinate their desperate efforts to meet these threats—interceptors, monsters, intruders, asteroids and malfunctions. The game is fast, chaotic and absolutely furious, and it’s a refreshing change to play a game that puts you under a tough time restriction.

The original Fury of Dracula by Games Workshop (1987) shared many of the mechanics of the earlier Scotland Yard (1982). In Fury, most of the players cooperate with each other to chase the other player—the Prince of Darkness himself—across Victorian Europe, battling his minions and dealing with his nefarious trickery along the way. The Dracula player makes his moves in secret—originally behind a screen, but in the FFG remake (2006), with the use of cards—and the game system really encourages this player to get in character. It’s one of my favourite games and an absolute classic—highly recommended.

Arkham Horror (1987) also got the FFG ‘reimagining’ treatment in 2005. This continually expanding game system—seven expansions and counting!—pits players as adventuring characters in 1920s Arkham (and some of the towns nearby), discovering and fighting the horrific creatures of H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos. If you fail to shut down enough extra-dimensional gates, there’s always the chance you might manage to beat the Great Old One in pitched combat at the end of the game (actually, there’s not much chance at all)! There’s more information about this game in my earlier article, Gaming With Cthulhu. Keep an eye out for the latest expansion, The Lurker on the Threshold, which will be hitting the Games Paradise pages late July, early August 2010.

While we’re on the subject of Cthulhu, check out Witch of Salem (Mayfair Games, 2008) for a more ‘Euro’ take on the cooperative genre. It’s not as detailed and random as Arkham, but it’s arguably even more tough.

The recently-released Forbidden Island (Cocktail Games) has been dubbed ‘Pandemic for kids’—but this just means that it’s a cooperative game that’s fun and easy to learn! This lovely game—which comes in a full colour tin by the way—has players working together trying to discover four treasures from a sinking island, made up of nicely illustrated tiles. There’s a bit of a Myst (remember that computer game?) aesthetic to this great little game. It can be a tough challenge getting all those treasures, getting to the helipad, and getting off the island before it floods around you!

Talking about flooding, if the idea of being gnomes trapped in a flooding submarine with fires breaking out around you appeals—and of course it does—you can’t go past FFG’s Red November. This is a lot of game packed in a small box. Not only do you have to deal with fires and floods, but the pressure is increasing as the subs sinks to the ocean floor, the nuclear reactor is going to blow, and here’s a giant Kraken out there somewhere in the murky depths … Luckily, there’s a few bottles of good Russian vodka about the ship, and gnomes are notoriously good at making hasty repairs.

A small and easy to carry card game, Saboteur has players as dwarven miners digging for treasure—only once again, there’s a traitor in their midst … the saboteur! Whether you’re a miner or saboteur is only revealed once the round is over—if the miners reach the gold through a path of cards, they get it, otherwise the saboteur gets it. The player with the most gold at the end wins. Of course, there are all kinds of sneaky ways for the saboteur to foil the dwarf plans.

Staying on the small game theme, check out last year’s The Isle of Doctor Necreaux (2009) by Alderac Entertainment Group. This great little card game has a pulp sci-fi theme; players raid the island trying to save captured scientists from a diabolical doctor. The faster you travel through the doctor’s island complex, the more cards you’ll face—traps, monsters, events and items. You’ll have to work together to defeat the Venusian Teknophage or the Formless Terror, and you might even make it with the scientists to the escape shuttle …

inally, for an excellent spin on the ‘traitor’ idea, check out Cutthroat Caverns (2007) by Smirk & Dagger Games. This very clever card game starts out like a normal dungeondelving expedition—and then gets nasty! Your characters will have to cooperate to play cards dealing hits on whatever beastie you happen to be attacking—but only the player who lands the killing blow gets to walk away with the ‘prestige value’ of that particular encounter. This can lead to some hilarious last minute backstabbing, tripping up and sneakiness on the part of the players, and it makes for a hilarious game, especially with the right group. Several expansions keep the creatures with their individual special abilities rolling in, not to mention extra concepts like relics and treasure. There’s even a more role-playing-like expansion that explores adventure-based play. The concept is perfectly summed up by the game’s tagline: “Without teamwork, you will never survive. Without betrayal, you’ll never win.”

And in fact that pretty much sums up the whole idea of cooperative gaming. In most cases, players have to work together to beat the game—but there’s often a sneaky player or two who has his or her own secret agenda, and who plots the demise of the other players. Who do you trust? Let’s face it, even when you’re cooperating, we all need a bit of conflict—otherwise it wouldn’t be a game would it?

For more information about the games mentioned in this article, visit the publisher sites or BoardgameGeek ( You can also find rules summaries and reference sheets for many of these games at Headless Hollow (

by Universal Head

Universal Head (, has been designing graphics from the most corporate to the most creative for more than twenty years. He’s responsible for the graphic design of several boardgames, most notably ‘Tales of the Arabian Nights’ by Z-Man Games, and once spent a year recreating the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in 3D for the computer game ‘The Omega Stone’. In between he’s designed everything from large corporate identities and websites, to packaging, to interactive educational modules. His personal site is an obsessive repository of professionally designed rules summaries and reference sheets for popular boardgames.