Runewars finally getting an expansion

Fantasy Flight’s Runewars came out at the beginning of 2010 and although I liked the game- I’d go so far as to call it the last good big-box game the firm has released- there were some wonky bits and some questionable patches in its fairly cluttered, kitchen sink-ish design. I also took umbrage to being asked to pay $100 retail for a giant box that was more than half empty. It was a $60-$70 game made to look like a $100 one with silly 3D mountains. It really speaks to designer Corey Koniesckza’s talent that there were some genuinely brilliant parts that shone through some sharp negatives, and it’s undoubtedly a very cool game. And it’s needed an expansion from day one.

Today, rather than announcing more Living Card Game expansions, expansions for games that already have a bunch of expansions, or expansions for expansions to games that already have expansions (I’m not making that up, BTW), they’re announcing an expansion for Runewars, Banners of War. It sounds like it adds some interesting things and might fix some things with FFG’s “buffet” style pick-and-choose expansion model, but it also doesn’t add factions for a fifth or sixth player, which would have have been my #1 addition. No price is listed, but I’m thinking that it looks like a $59.95er, meaning that a full Runewars set now will set you back $160. Ouch.

Press below.

War continues to ravage the continent of Terrinoth. The free cities change hands and tyrants bleed the land dry with a death toll that has not been seen since the great wars of ages past. Each nation knows it cannot slow the passage of time, or the armies of their enemies without help. Therefore, each nation has made pacts of allegiance with entities who, until now, have remained passive. The once dormant Great Wyrms flap their long dead wings on blackened skies, while the ancients of the forest march forward against battalions of Novice Wizards who can finally practice their arts in the open, under political jurisdiction. They will be needed if the Sisters of Blood, who now march out from their mysterious Convent of Blood are to be defeated.

Fantasy Flight Games is thrilled to announce the upcoming release of Banners of War, an expansion for Runewars! With over 50 new figures and hundreds of new cards and tokens, Banners of War builds on the strategy and diplomacy of the war for the dragon runes.

New forces, new heroes, new strategies

In Banners of War, players take fate into their own hands by adding new units to their armies, conscripting heroes to lead them, employing new tactics against their foes, and seeking out a legendary Lost City that promises untold treasure to the ruler who takes control of it. The way shall not be easy, however. It will take keen leadership and tactics to best the rival armies. They too are raising their banners to prepare the march, ready to meet your legions head on.

Mighty Rocs and ambitious Novice Wizards join the ranks of the Daqan Lords, while the Latari have formed a pact with ancient forest spirits, enlisting the aid of the mighty Leonx…and even the trees themselves. Meanwhile, the Uthuk sink ever deeper into corruption; covens of blood witches call upon ancient evils, including demons of gluttony with an insatiable appetite for suffering. And the lands of the Great Betrayer bear witness to further sacrilege: the Vampires of Bilehall have allied themselves with Waiqar, and the massive Great Wyrms, long-dead relics of the Dragon Wars, are rising again!

Learn more at our Banners of War website and keep checking back for previews in the coming weeks. In the fourth quarter of 2011, tip the scales in your favor!

Child of Eden and Shadows of the Damned. DAMN!

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I was browsing joystiq today and noticed some NPD figures that caught my eye.

Nintendo keeps making money off of old games, as Zelda moved 280,000 units in June. As much as people rail about all of the weak 3DS games and how Nintendo is just recycling old material — the check don’t change.

Now look at Ubi’s Child of Eden and EA’s Shadows of the Damned which COMBINED to sell less than 60,000 units.

And you wonder why this industry is so sequel oriented? That’s brutal. And I think in EA’s case that they knew it. There was next to no press surrounding SoD before launch. Nothing at E3. No hype at all except for those big boner trailers.

Battlefield 3 Officially Steamless?

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When Battlefield 3 drops it’s looking more and more like you won’t be able to buy it via Steam, according to a report posted at Develop.

Financial research firm Baird recently held a meeting with Gamestop’s management, and in its subsequent report says: “The upcoming EA title Battlefield 3 will be sold as a download through GameStop, but not through Steam.” Baird has since told Develop that it had heard the claim directly from Gamestop executives. EA and Valve have been approached for comment.

I’m thinking we are going to start to see more stories like this in the coming months.

Here Comes UPlay…

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Like dominoes at a retirement village…it’s UbiSoft’s turn. And by “U” they mean you — just you, damn it.

Uplay Passport to Offer Access to Online Features and Exclusive Content

Today, Ubisoft revealed Uplay Passport, a new program designed to provide players with access to bonus content, exclusive offers, and online multiplayer play. Uplay Passport is an adjunct to Uplay, an in-game service that offers gamers extra value, including a bevy of rewards and community features, just for playing Ubisoft games. The Uplay Passport program will begin in the coming months and will be included in many of Ubisoft’s core games.

In each new copy of a Uplay Passport-enhanced game will be a one-time use registration code that, when redeemed, provides access to Uplay Passport content and features. The code can be found on the insert card inside the game box. Gamers can identify Uplay Passport-enhanced games by looking for the logo on the back of the box.

Customers who’ve acquired a pre-owned game can purchase a new Uplay Passport online for $9.99 and automatically unlock the game’s online content and features. Starting with the upcoming DRIVER San Francisco release, games featuring the new Uplay Passport will offer gamers exclusive bonus content plus access to online features.

Don't Shoot the Food – Simple Makes Better Edition

No High Scores

I know that I’ve already touched on Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon, but I’m sorry, I’m just enjoying this game too damn much to not mention it again. Don’t worry, I’m not going to serve up another bug-filled recipe, but I did want to talk about what it is that I love so much about EDF and how it ties into my take on cooking. I’m talking about simplicity.

EDF: Insect Armageddon is a very pure game. It’s all about killing bugs and robots. That’s it. There’s no character development, no moral choices no foot races or long periods of exposition. There are bugs and robots and you. They try and kill you and you try and kill them. Hopefully you succeed. Even the combat is pure. There’s no hoarding of ammo as ammo is unlimited. There’s no agonizing over whether you should ditch your current weapon for something else because there is nothing else. You have what you brought to the field with you and if you chose wrong, well, you’ll get a chance to reequip soon enough. While in battle, everything boils down to threat assessment, moving, shooting and reloading. That’s it. So many games these days try to do so much, and usually stumbling along the way, that it’s nice to see something that decided to focus on one thing, and pull it off. The 500 foot tall robots don’t hurt either…

Similarly, I find that when it comes to cooking, I prefer the simpler meals. I’m not talking a slab of meat and some boiled potatoes. I like to get a little fancier than that, but between my need to get dinner on the table in a reasonable amount of time and the fact that I’m pretty much a hack in the kitchen, simpler is better.

Years ago, I found this recipe in the AJC for a Mexican Pot Roast that called for meat, salsa and summer squash. It’s not very fancy, and I’m sure the foodies would balk at using a jar of salsa in the dish, but it’s easy to make, and it tastes pretty dang good. Plus, being that it’s summer here in North America, hopefully your garden is producing more zucchini and yellow squash than mine is. This recipe is a good use for them.

For all you vegetarians, I’m sorry, but I have no idea how to get around the giant hunk of meat at the center. From what I’ve read, you can go the seitan route instead of beef with good results. If you do that, reduce the simmering time to about an hour and you should be fine. On an unrelated note, I apologize to anyone of Mexican descent for the recipe’s title. I don’t name ‘em, I just cook ‘em.

Mexican (not really) Pot Roast
1. 1 Tbl canola oil.
2. 2 tsp chili powder
3. 3 – 3.5 lb boneless beef chuck roast
4. 1/2 tsp salt
5. 1/4 tsp pepper
6. 1 cup thick and chunky salsa
7. 3/4 cup water
8. 2 medium sized zucchini
9. 2 medium sized yellow squash

Cooking Steps
1. Halve the squash and zucchini and cut into 1 inch pieces.
2. Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium heat.
3. Press the chili powder evenly into the meat.
4. Brown the meat evenly in the dutch oven, removing the drippings when done.
5. Season the roast with the salt and pepper.
6. Return the meat to the dutch oven and add the salsa and water. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer.
7. Cover and simmer for 2 3/4 hours.
8. Add the vegetable pieces and simmer for another 15 minutes.

Once done, you can slice the meat or shred it. I usually shred it and use it in tacos or for burrito filling. Aside from needing a few hours to cook, it’s a pretty simple, straightforward meal and the leftovers freeze well should you want to do the taco thing down the line.

Next week the column will be on hiatus as I travel to Chicago for my sister’s wedding. You’ll have to eat without me, but on the plus side, you won’t have to hear about bugs any more.

Still hungry? Check out the Don’t Shoot the Food archive.

Aliens: Infestation to Bring Portable Chest Bursting

No High Scores

The ESRB is at it again, taking away all of the fun from struggling games journalists looking to hit it big with an exclusive reveal. No longer simply a ratings board, the ESRB has turned into an oracle of the future. The future, I tell you! The next title to have its coming out party ruined is Sega’s Aliens: Infestation. It’s a sidescroller made by the fine people at WayForward, they of A Boy and His Blob and Contra 4 fame. The game will be out for the DS, which just goes to show you there’s life in the old console yet. The game will also have partial nudity, which, as we all know, is integral to any Aliens game.

Seen at CVG.

Karnaxis in Review

When my friend Frank Branham showed me this game, I thought “WTF is a Karnaxis?” And then I saw the ugly graphic design and kind of wrote it off. But buzz was good, particularly after Frank trotted it out at an Atlanta gaming event, so I thought I’d give it the ol’ Cracked LCD treatment. I’m glad I did, because I love a good business game and Karnaxis is a good business game- but you’re a regular, fresh-out-of-high school person it, not a business, burgomeister, slave trader, oregano merchant or whatever. So yeah, it is a little like Life. It’s definitely influenced by Eurogames, but it’s a sort of anti-Eurogame, celebrating the ambition and wealth of the individual rather than positing the player in a servile role, working for the glory or fortune of an authority figure or for the betterment of a community or social collective.

But it is definitely a graphic design trainwreck. A lot of tabletop games are. Review is at Gameshark, as usual.

Angry Birds are Expensive Birds

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Another Eurogamer story today as the company you love to hate yet still play its well, game–Rovio sees its value as higher than what EA paid to swallow up PopCap.

“Of course like any business if the price is right, ha!” he exclaimed. “But we’ve set the bar pretty high from early on, because we really think we have a lot of opportunities with our Angry Birds IP and there’s a lot of creativity at the studio beyond Angry Birds. It was never a strategy here to quickly cash in on anybody who comes waving a wad of cash our way. But the valuation from our point of view is somewhere, I dunno, maybe north of PopCap.”

I don’t have a thing against these guys. I own Angry Birds like nearly all of you. I can’t fathom how Rovio is worth more than PopCap but what do I know? But when I read quotes like this:

But there are subtle variations on offer like Angry Birds Seasons and Angry Birds Rio. “There’s a lot of different stuff going on,” enthused Heijari, “we have a lot of different stuff in the pipeline. We already have quite a big reach with this one title. We want to now leverage that reach and bring more social experiences, more delightful games to an already established audience,” he said. “Not to say milk the Angry Birds titles as long as they can go, but really create sustainable characters and sustainable property and build a really massive brand out of Angry Birds.”

I have to wonder just how this is all going to end.

Can From Dust get the God Game its Mojo Back?

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If you read this here blog you know From Dust is a game I am looking forward to playing a great deal. It looked cool at E3 and I love a good god game. So Eurogamer posted a preview/interview for the game today and I read this:

More famous for his 2D side-scrollers, Chahi admits that he studied a few genre classics at the start of development to help him on his way; Peter Molyneux’s 2001 effort Black & White in particular.

“I’m a big fan of those games. I remember replaying Black & White to see how the camera was handled. We asked ourselves a lot of questions – did we need a totally free-roaming camera like in B&W, or customised points of view like in Pikmin, for example.”

I am still looking forward to playing From Dust despite that quote.

Read the full piece at Eurogamer.

New Rage Video — The Arsenal

It’s been a battle between Rage and Deus Ex for the most gameplay trailers of late, but today Rage gains some ground by showing a 4-minute video about weapons.

There’s shooting. With shotguns. And something taken out of Krull.