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What’s Hot: Thunderstone Thornwood Siege Expansion

Thornwood SiegeThunderstone: Thornwood Siege is here, the exciting new expansion to Thunderstone, the fantasy deck-building game from Alderac Entertainment Group— and it’s been called the best expansion yet!

Deep in the heart of Thornwood Forest lies the Stone of Blight, one of the Thunderstones desperately needed for the salvation of the world.

With the forces of Doom ravaging the lands, time is growing short. When brought together, the Stones have enough power to cast him out of the world—but every stone must be captured if the heroes hope to succeed!

The heroes are now gathered in Wulfburg at the border of the forest, prepared to brave the dangers of the wood and seek out the Thunderstone, but there is a problem: not only is the Stone fiercely guarded by Doom’s minions, they are attacking the town. You must break the siege!

This expansion to Thunderstone introduces new monsters such as the Raiders and Siege Engines which bring the battle to you! These monsters can destroy cards in the village, kill heroes not yet hired, and even hurt you on turns when you are avoiding the dungeon! Will you survive to claim the Thunderstone?

The Thunderstone: Thornwood Siege Expansion features 7 new Heroes, 14 new Village cards, 5 new Monster groups, a new Thundersone, special tokens, rules, and card dividers. 317 cards in all!

Deck-Building Games

It’s incredible how many games rely on those simple pieces of cardboard—playing cards. After Magic The Gathering hit the world by storm, and hundreds of collectible card games (CCGs) followed in its wake, it seemed that there was nothing new in the world of card-based games—until, that is, deck-building games came along! This ingenious new concept takes many of the CCG concepts, but does away with the collectible idea, putting players on a more even playing field and forcing everyone to rely on their skill and ability, not just their ability to buy new cards.

The deck-building genre hit the games world with the release of Dominion by Donald X. Vaccarino and Hans im Glück in 2008. What is deck-building? Well, rather than have a number of cards in hand that you add to and play, the main strategy of the game is building an effective deck as you play. So rather than pre-building a deck, as you would in a collectible or living card game, the deck-building is an integral part of the game itself.

In Dominion, each player is the rulers of a small medieval kingdom, competing to hire minions, construct buildings, renovate his castle, and fill the coffers of his treasury. Each player starts with a small, identical hand of cards. A selection of cards—10 of the 25 available—is placed in the centre of the table, which players can buy using their cards. As you play, you attempt to build the most effective deck with which to buy precious victory cards.

Dominion certainly deserves the oft-used adjective ‘elegant’; it remains balanced despite the endless combinations and variety, since the cards are always available to all the players. It’s a perfect game for lovers of strategy, and collectible card gamers looking for something new and fresh without the common problems of that genre—like killer combos and decks.

Dominion was an instant hit, and went on to win the Spiel Des Jahres in 2009. Of course, in the tradition of all successful strategy card games, it wasn’t long before the expansions started coming. The first was Dominion: Intrigue (2009), a stand-alone expansion which added rules for up to eight players at two tables or a single game of six players when combined with the base game—not to mention 500 new cards of course!

The same year saw the release of Dominion: Seaside, an expansion that required either the base game or Intrigue. Another 300 cards, plus some new items such as coins, emargo tokens, and game mats. This year—2010—we have already seen Dominion: Alchemy, which adds 150 cards including the special Potion treasures; and Dominion: Prosperity, with 300 cards and some significant changes to the way the game plays.

With the success of Dominion, games with similar mechanics, or mechanics inspired by the game, came along to satisfy the hardcore card gamers. For example, Thunderstone (2009), is a deck building game with a deeper and more immersive fantasy dungeon-crawling theme. Rather than just buying victory points, they are won by fighting monsters, and since they have special abilities, some say the game play is more flexible. You can also play it solo!

Thunderstone: Wrath of the Elements (2010) is the first expansion for Thunderstone, adding traps and new hero and monster types—along with lots more cards of course. The next expansion will be called Thunderstone: Doomgate Legion and should be out soon.

Two more fantasy-themed deck building games are Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer (2010) and Heroes of Graxia (2010), which each bring their unique take on the genre.

Arcana (2009) is a fantasy-themed card game using a drafting mechanic, using characters from Rackham’s fantasy city of Cadwallon (recently featured in the Dust Games/FFG boardgame Cadwallon: City of Thieves). A couple of other deck-building games to keep an eye out for are Arctic Scavengers and Eminent Domain.

If you haven’t tried the deck-building genre yet, there’s lot to choose from, so let the cards be shuffled and the games begin!

What’s Hot: Thunderstone Wrath of Elements Expansion

Wrath of the Elements also features an attractive and durable card box large enough to hold both Wrath of the Elements and classic Thunderstone, and is even more compact and easy to transport! The box also comes with all new labelled card-type dividers for both the new cards and classic Thunderstone cards. Jason Engle returns again with more amazing art as well.

Video Review: Thunderstone

Thunderstone Review

* Over 500 Cards.
* The deeper you venture into the dungeon, the harder it is for you to fight.
* The “Light” concept is pretty good.
* You build your deck as the game progresses.
* You can use XP points to level up your heroes.
* Defeated monsters give you gold, xp, and some give you bonuses as well.

Monopoly: Talkin’ bout a Revolution

A classic game’s anniversary is something to look forward to, because it usually means a new, improved edition is waiting in the wings. To celebrate Scrabble‘s recent diamond anniversary, a slick, portable version hit the shelves and Scrabble fans have never looked back. Monopoly’s 75th anniversary this year will also be a date to remember. Monopoly: Revolution Edition has already been unveiled by Hasbro and it’s a complete contemporary update targeting Gens Y and Z.

Monopoly Anniversary: Revolution Edition and more

There are a whole range of Monopoly variations already on the market. We even have our very own 25th Anniversary edition of Australian Here & Now Monopoly. Or how about an Anti-Monopoly Edition or the popular Dog Lovers Monopoly? There’s also a whole host of re-branded editions to choose from, such as Garfield Monopoly, GI Joe Monopoly, Elvis Monopoly, Muppets Monopoly, Las Vegas Monopoly, Beatles Monopoly and the nostalgic Retro Monopoly, to name just a few.

Hasbro mantra – Innovate or detonate

So is there really a strong demand for another version? For me, the answer is yes, yes, yes, and many other die-hard fans will agree. Monopoly is a classic game, which means it has what it takes to never go out of style. This latest edition however cleverly targets the savvy youth market in an attempt to prise them from their computer and video game screens. Hasbro has put the digital age mantra – innovate or detonate – into practice.

Pass GO and get – 2 million dollars!

Monopoly: Revolution Edition has not only been updated, but reshaped. As the name implies, the board is now round instead of square. This is either a stroke of genius or just a novelty factor. Players now wheel and deal using debit cards and an ATM instead of cash. An electronic banker oversees the game from a centralised pod, making cheating impossible. To catch up with 75 years of inflation, you now get $2,000,000.00 for passing GO instead of $200.00! Sound effects and music clips by performers like Beyonce, Rihanna and Elton John (“Elton who?” Gen Y might ask), are also brave attempts to connect with younger players.

Generations Y and Z

Time will tell if everyone is thrilled with this latest anniversary edition, but its development reflects the reality of the age that Gen Y and future generations will live in – for better or worse. In an increasingly cashless society with more leisure time and greater spending power, Monopoly: Revolution Edition may yet capture the imaginations of a wider, younger audience.

Ghouls, zombies and vampires! What’s the appeal?

Vampires! Once the mere mention of this word would evoke fear and loathing and send shivers down a normal person’s spine. But now, due to their recent sexy makeover in Hollywood’s Twilight series of films, there’s been a massive resurgence of interest in all things ghoulish and supernatural.

The Twilight Effect

Fantasy stories and games have always been popular. They have a timeless, escapist appeal. The nineties TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer normalised vampire killing as a past-time, but these poor vampires were always cast as the bad guys. Now that the Twilight effect has taken off – zombies, ghosts, werewolves and even your run-of-the-mill ghoul – are suddenly so much more appealing! But whether cast as good guys or bad, these creatures play an important part in our shared cultural mythology.

Satisfy your ghoulish cravings

And don’t you just love being scared out of your wits?  Isn’t it exciting to believe that there’s another more mysterious and dangerous shadow reality, just waiting to be discovered and explored? The problem with the movie or TV experience is that it only lasts a couple of hours at most, leaving us unsatisfied and hungry for more. This is where a great game trumps a movie or TV show every time. Playing fantasy games can satisfy our ghoulish cravings for weeks, months and even years!

There are many games to choose from that fulfil our yearnings for blood, human flesh and unlimited power! From Dark Heresy to Dungeons and Dragons – fantasy games earn a respectable slice of gaming revenue each year. A great macabre RPG is Vampire: Prince of the City, which uses blood as one of the currencies used on an ultimate quest to become the new Prince of all the Kindred.

The Zombie Game is coming – hold on to your brain!

And if you love zombies as much as I do, then you’ll love playing either a hero or zombie in the hugely successful Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game, which sold out on release and is into its second printing. Hold onto your brain while you can because this is a must-play game for all zombie horror fans. Let’s face it. Zombie lovers are truly spoilt for choice. There’s the whole Zombie!!! series of games to choose from, and the recently released All Things Zombie: The Board Game, which is an intense strategy RPG well worth getting your hands on.

There are so many supernaturally themed games to choose from, there’s no end to exploring this genre. Just be warned ! All vampires do not look like Twilight’s Robert Pattinson.

What’s Your Style?

What’s your learning style?

We can all recall the anticipation. The exhilaration. The crinkle of cellophane. The frenzied unwrapping and the heart-stopping lifting of the lid. A new board game lies before us. We inhale its heady aroma, savour its newness and look forward to our very first game play with mounting excitement. But if you are totally unfamiliar with a new board game, there’s one unavoidable obstacle determined to stifle your fun and delay your ultimate gaming pleasure. The instruction manual.

How can we successfully learn the rules of a new game, without ruining the spontaneous fun of playing our brand new board game? Most people fall into different learning styles that can help or hinder their enjoyment of the game. It can often make or break your opinion of the game as well – especially if the rules are overly complex and detailed.

Which learning style are you?

I’ve outlined the six most common game learning styles. Which one are you?

  • The Plunger. These players just dive in and start playing and never read the instruction manual, instead learning by error and instinct.
  • The Stepper. These players follow the instructions step by step while playing, with the manual handy at all times.
  • The Plodder. These players read the instructions cover to cover first to learn all the rules by rote and become a walking, talking instruction manual.
  • The Dipper. These players are impatient and start playing immediately, but still dip in and out of the instruction manual as they play.
  • The Observer. These players invite friends over who are already familiar with the game and watch them play to learn their tricks and tactics.
  • The Desperado. These players refuse to look at the manual and only sneak a peek only when desperate. This group may also stoop to cheating.

Do any of these categories sound like you or someone you know? Or is your style something else entirely? Maybe you‘re a bit of both? I’m a die-hard dipper, but of course I also learn from more experienced friends.

Everybody gets there eventually, but there are some learning styles that work better for some than others. Everyone is different, which also means it can be frustrating playing a new game with someone whose learning style is different to yours.  Just imagine a Plunger and a Stepper trying to learn a new game together!

Whatever your style, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. It’s a foolproof way to learn, so just go for it. Exploring a new game is a great experience and once you’ve mastered the rules, there’s no looking back.

What’s your style?

Cooperation is the name of the game

Cooperation is the name of the game

Life is better shared. We’ve all heard this wise saying before, but are there some concrete ways we can make this maxim a reality? Nothing sums up this heart-felt sentiment more than when we make the effort to socialise with friends. I don’t mean just sitting around passively talking about mundane stuff like work , or aimlessly passing time on Facebook, but truly connecting through actively sharing experiences that give us a buzz and leave us on a high.

Schedule regular gaming nights

It sounds too easy to be true, but scheduling a regular gaming get together on a weekly basis with like minded friends brings rich rewards, and not just in monopoly money. Many board games can be the perfect backdrop for entertaining at home, and the more the merrier: four people or more joining in the action raises the fun level through the roof.

Which games are better shared?

I’ve found that cooperative style strategy games are best for bonding with your friends. Avoid hard-core competitive dog-eat-dog style games that can test the strongest friendships. Choose games that can be played within around 90-120 minutes, so you can make a night of it and still have plenty of time for the other stuff – like beer, pizza and gossip!

Caring and sharing games

Some great examples of caring and sharing games are the eurogames Agricola and The Settlers of Catan. Agricola is a turn based game ideally suited to couples, even though it can also be played solo. Role playing a farmer and spouse partnership can really hone friends’ cooperative skills.

The Settlers of Catan also depends on players being supportive of each other rather than combative.  As a recent immigrant to the island of Catan, you work cooperatively with other players through trade. You can expand your island colony by utilising surrounding resources wisely – but only with a little help from your friends of course.

Electronic vs Board games

Electronic vs Board games

To some they’ve been a boon to humanity, to others – a curse. But love them or loathe them, electronic games are part of the fabric of our lives. To die-hard gamers, they’ll never replace the nostalgia of good old fashioned boards and dice. After all, if it ain’t broke why fix it? Do we really want all that electronic gadgetry to overpower our minds and senses? Traditional games can give us the space for our imaginations to conjure up all the sounds, smells and excitement of the sea in games like Battleship, or the hustle and bustle of the city in Monopoly.

Assault and batteries

To some, electronic games dull our brains over the long term, replacing the gaps once filled by our imaginations with explosive sound effects and flashing lights, as experienced in Battleship’s Electronic edition. But this game is not all bells and whistles. It also keeps score automatically so there’s no room for error, which can easily happen when adding up with pen and paper. You can also vary your skill levels and play progressively as well. There’s even a hand held version, so you can play anywhere, anytime – so long as your batteries hold out.

For hard core gamers, electronics are not an option. Warhammer players for example, get totally immersed in games like 40,000 – Assault On Black Reach, enjoying the tactility and hands on experience which no amount of electronic wizardry could ever replace.

Electronic fans

Electronic games have legions of devoted fans too, who love their versatility. Many games let you play against virtual opponents, such as Colour Screen Uno, the handheld e-version of Uno. Flashier, bolder and in brilliant colour, it takes game play to a new high with more randomness, craziness and speed that will keep you revved until the very end. Another huge advantage of electronic games is their portability. Yahtze’s Pocket Pogo can travel with you anywhere, and you can even redeem a code to play games online. This is territory that your traditional board and card games just can’t compete with, but some gamers just love it that way, finding electronic games too depersonalising.

The best of both worlds

Although there are two schools of thought and many gamers hold very firm opinions on the topic, most play the middle ground with both types of games happily co-existing in their homes. And if you love a particular game, chances are you’ll also want to own an electronic version if it exists.  I think that board games tend to act more like social glue, bonding people together, than electronic games, which encourage more solo gaming. But maybe there’s a time and a place for both types of games in our lives.

Claustophobia

Humanity is about to start its invasion of Hell, demonic forces battle against human settlers. Who will win this infernal war?
This game is for two players, one plays the demons and the other the human Westerners. The two camps are found in the middle of labyrinthine sewers. The board is built during the course of the game.
Claustrophobia is scenario based, resulting in a high replay value, especially as each camp is played differently…

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