A pirate, a ninja, and a zombie walk into a bar. Yeah, there's no good ending to that joke, especially when aliens, dinosaurs, gnomes, robots, and a few other friends are all on their way. Publisher AEG took a big risk in cramming all of those tropes into a single game, but the geeky melting pot that is "Smash Up" lives up to its billing. "The Shufflebuilding Game of Total Awesomeness" uses a new innovative mechanic (we'll explain "shufflebuilding" in a bit) that is indeed quite awesome.

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Grab a sword, rush into the dungeon, kill some monsters. It's a tried and true formula to be sure, but the Thunderstone series put its own spin on the genre when it arrived on the gaming scene back in 2009. It used a then-new game mechanic called deckbuilding, which had just been pioneered by Donald X. Vaccarino and his Dominion card game. Thunderstone was the first competitor off the block to also use this mechanic, attempting to best Dominion in its weakest area: the use of theme.

Thunderstone aimed to earn its keep by simply being cooler than Dominion. Would you rather kill monsters or play house in medieval times? It worked, and Thunderstone undeniably succeeded in making a name for itself. It cracked the BoardGameGeek.com Top 100, was nominated for an Origins Award, and spawned several expansion sets. However, as you may recall from last year's Thunderstone: Dragonspire review, the series never really took hold with my personal tastes.

Now, publisher AEG is back at it again with what is essentially a re-do of the Thunderstone base game in Thunderstone Advance: Towers of Ruin. Games deserve a second chance, so I sat down at the table with an open mind to see what changes and improvements had been made to the game. Will they be enough to convert me over to the legion of Thunderstone fans, or will I remain the grumpy gamer in the corner? Read on for the full review to find out.

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‘The Ascension of Iweko’ as illustrated by Mario Wibisono, is used above in just one of several versions of the 10,000th L5R card.

For the casual set, collectible card games (CCGs) are something they played in the late '90s and then faded off into the distance. There's no denying the CCG scene took a hit in popularity, but most gamers would be surprised to hear that these games are still thriving. And it's not just Magic: The Gathering. While that iconic game is enjoying a large resurgence, it is joined by another CCG that has been played since those earliest of days: Legend of the Five Rings. Read More...

Game publisher Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG) has issued a challenge to board and card game designers: we'll provide the theme, you bring the mechanics. AEG has been hard at work for over three years fleshing out their newest setting, Tempest, a fictional city-state that will provide a common world, cast of characters, and overarching plot line for an entire range of new games.

As a start, AEG plans to publish three Euro-style strategy games set in the Tempest world: Dominaire, Courtier, and Mercante. These three games respectively give players a Tempest-themed take on area control, set collection, and auctions, which are all tried-and-true mechanics for Euro strategy.

The first three Tempest games, from designers Jim Pinto, Philip duBarry, and Jeff Tidball, will be released during Germany's Essen Spiel gaming expo in October 2012.

But AEG doesn't want to stop there. They are looking for fresh ideas, and that's were you come in. Any potential game designer, experienced or not, has been welcomed to register for AEG's Tempest designer website, where the publisher will peel back the curtain on all of the characters and plotlines that can be incorporated into future Tempest games. After digesting the resources, designers have an open line of communication to pitch new game ideas directly to AEG.

If this sounds like your kind of challenge but you need a kick-start to your motivation, take a look at five areas where the Tempest setting might be a good fit for future game design:

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Pirates. Ninja. Robots. Zombies. Aliens. Dinosaurs. Wizards. Gnomes and other Tricksters. No, this is not the recipe for a Reddit fantasy game, this is the roster for Smash Up, an upcoming card game from AEG.

It's not just the multi-genre theme that makes Smash Up a noteworthy release, though. If you look at the box cover above, you'll see the tagline "the shufflebuilding game of total awesomeness!" But what the heck is shufflebuilding anyway?

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Last time around, we rounded up games #10-6 on our list of the top 10 board games of 2011. With the new year upon us, it's time to look at what other top-of-the-class titles from last year should be hitting your table in 2012. Hopefully you've got a reliable gaming partner, as the one most noticeable trend in this top 5 is that 2011 was a fantastic year for 2-player games.

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In a crowded market of deck-building card games, Nightfall has emerged as one of this year's biggest success stories. With "take that" gameplay cranked up to 11, this game is now the poster child for deck-building with heavy player interaction. But what would you expect when vampires, werewolves, and humans are thrown into a pressure-cooker environment? There's going to be some bloodshed.

Nightfall: Blood Country aims to add a new thematic wrinkle to the series with two new short stories by famed author Kenneth Hite, both of which take the Nightfall mythos to small-town Oklahoma. Yes, that Oklahoma. In prior sets, Nightfall's humans were represented by heavily-armed SWAT teams and special agents, but this is Blood Country. As you can see from the game's cover, some good ol' boys with shotguns will be entering the mix.

Just the Facts:

Players: 2-5
Playing Time: 45 minutes
Age: 12 to adult
Publisher: AEG
MSRP: $29.99
Release: October 2011

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Box art for the upcoming Nightfall: The Coldest War expansion set.
These vampires don't sparkle, they just wear furry hats.

Queue the Yakov Smirnoff jokes, because Nightfall is heading to Soviet Russia. Details are sparse at this point, but the set is confirmed to be a stand-alone expansion that adds at least a few new twists to the original game. So far, those include a brand new selection of six different starting minions, as well as new "moon phase" cards that will cause lasting changes to the game's rules. The wound cards will also be fully illustrated for the first time, although it is not clear whether these new wound cards will have any new in-game effects.

AEG's announcement sheds some light on the choice of setting:

Eastern Europe and the former Russian states are known as the birthplace of vampires, werewolves, and many fears that have been realized in Nightfall. Face those fears, and bring tactics used in generations past to fight the darkness.

More information on The Coldest War will be available in January, when AEG is scheduled to post the full rulebook and begin releasing card previews.

The Coldest War follows the original Nightfall, it's first stand-alone expansion Martial Law, and the recently-released small-box expansion Blood Country. Check back soon for a review of Blood Country here on MTV Geek.

Gen Con bills itself as "The Best Four Days in Gaming," but if you want to have your best possible four days, you've got to have a plan. In less than 24 hours, the doors of the Indiana Convention Center will open, and over 30,000 gamers will enter a massive exhibit hall that is jam packed with companies demoing prototypes and selling advance copies of unreleased games. There might just not be enough time to see it all, so to help guide your way, here are our picks of the hottest titles you should be checking out at GenCon 2011:

Battleship Galaxies: Hasbro is no stranger to the strategy game market, but their releases usually are published through their subsidiaries Wizards of the Coast or Avalon Hill. However, this is the first time that a core Hasbro game has been re-imagined for hobbyists. The classic game of Battleship has been turned into a spaceship war game, and it's good. Getting something right on the first try is a big achievement, and it makes this game worth checking out.

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These days, It seems that board game publishers are constantly annoncing their intentions to port titles over to the popular smartphone app stores. It's not every day that you see two big names such as Alderac Entertainment Group and Incinerator Studios come together, though.

Although sparse on details, the two companies have announced a partnership this morning that will culminate in the release of AEG's hit deckbuilding card game Nightfall as a universal iOS app. The announcement goes on to state that this will be the first but not the last of AEG titles to make the leap. One can only speculate, but it does not seem that digital versions of Thunderstone and Legend of the 5 Rings titles could be that far away.

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Guest post by Mark Calder

Thunderstone: Thornwood Siege is the 4th expansion in the fantasy adventure deckbuilding game designed by Mike Elliott and published by AEG. In this latest expansion, the Thunderstone lays in the Thornwood Forest which home to a brand new set of dangerous foes. These enemies not only defend the Thunderstone’s location but introduce new game mechanics wherein they attack the town, hindering you in your quest. Read on for the full review.

Just the Facts:

Players: 1-5
Playing Time: 45 minutes
Age: 12 to adult
Publisher: AEG
MSRP: $34.99
Release: June 2011

The Gameplay:

Thornwood Siege requires one of the previous two standalone Thunderstone releases for play and is therefore not playable by itself. This review will assume you have played some version of Thunderstone or its previous expansions and will concentrate on the new heroes, village cards, and monster cards available in this expansion. For more information on the basic mechanics of Thunderstone, see Matt Morgan’s review of the standalone Thunderstone: Dragonspire. Read More...

Only a few short months ago, gamers were introduced to Nightfall, a deck building card game that debuted to strong reception. The game was published by AEG, the established leaders in merging deck building with theme, but Nightfall brought more to the table by incorporating play mechanics that directly combated the most prominent criticism of deck-builders.

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Game publisher AEG is encouraging its fans to support their local gaming stores by offering up some free loot to those who stop by. Over the next few days, stores around the country should begin receiving the "Free Cool Stuff Box" loaded with promotional materials and a special surprise: one free pass to Gen Con.

Included in the box will be:

  • Nightfall promo card packs -  Lisaveta Florescu and Shadow Seven
  • Thunderstone promo Pack #2 - Guardian of Strength, Stormhold, and Dragon Humanoids
  • Legend of the 5 Rings: War of Honor - Ronin Tile Set

The Gen Con pass will be valid for all four days of the event, held in Indianapolis from August 4th to 7th. Only one pass will be included in each box, though, so stores are encouraged to come up with a creative way to award the pass to a customer, such as a tournament or raffle. Read More...

Are you tired of dry, abstract deck-building card games? Do you long for the chance to sink your teeth into a game with rich theme? Thunderstone may be the perfect choice for you, with its diverse cast of heroes, monsters, weapons, and items.

Nearly two years after the original Thunderstone and several expansions later, Thunderstone: Dragonspire has been released as the first fully stand-alone expansion in the series. The original has its fair share of flaws, so Dragonspire sets out to be a second chance at life for the game. But are the game mechanics strong enough to keep this title on the table? Read on for the full review:

Just the Facts:

Players: 2-5
Playing Time: 45 minutes
Age: 12 to adult
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG)
MSRP: $44.99
Release: February 2011

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Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG) has just announce War of Honor, a 2-4 player strategy card game set in the Legend of the Five Rings universe. The immediate appeal to this game is that it uses the same cards as the Legend of the Five Rings CCG, providing the elusive path for casual gamers to enjoy CCG-style gameplay without the imbalances inherent in collectible gaming.

Each of the four clans: Dragon, Lion, Phoenix, and Scorpion receive their own deck in this box, although players are free to bring their existing collections of L5R cards into the game.  If extended properly with these existing cards, War of Honor can even be played with greater that its advertised 4 player cap. Regardless of whether playing with the base or extended game, players will use their characters to pursue one of several victory conditions:

  • Military: Attack with your personalities and destroy the opponents' four provinces.
  • Honor: Through various means (politics, winning battles, duels, art), gain up to 40 points of honor.
  • Dishonor: Through various means, drag your opponent down to -20 honor and have him driven from the Empire like the honorless dog he is.
  • Enlightenment: Put all five of the elemental rings into play at the same time. Much harder than it sounds, but if you can complete this legendary victory condition, you are declared an elemental master and win.

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