This year, I only managed to make it up to Columbus for a day and a half, but it was filled with games (both old and new). As usual, I’ve taken a bunch of pictures and will share them here on the blog as I describe my day at the Columbus Convention Center at Origins 2012. I have also written up a short piece with the news from the convention that will be published on the Boardgamenews blog on BGG.com (hopefully sometime this weekend) – there will likely be a small bit of overlap between the two articles, but this one is more about what I did and saw while it’s mostly news from publishers on BGN.
As usual, the bulk of my day was spent wandering the Dealer Hall and the Board Room. Since I’m only up there for such a short time, I don’t spend a lot of time playing games, and I generally don’t make it to any of the ticketed events either.
I arrived in Columbus late Friday night – just in time to pick up my badge from the registration area. There wasn’t anyone in line at the time, but I figured that this was due to the fact that they were in the process of closing down the registration booths. The dealer hall had already closed for the day, so I wandered into the Board Room to look for some friends.
If you haven’t been to Origins before, the Board Room is a designated area that you can buy a ribbon for. The Board Room Ribbon grants you access to the area, allows you to check out any of the games from the Columbus Area Boardgamers Association (CABS) library, and play board games without needing any other tickets. The cost of the ribbon is $20 (thanks to Kevruth for the clarification) – which allows you access to all sorts of boardgames as well as getting you a free game (decided by random draw). Amongst the possible prizes this year were: Friday, Pantheon, Five Fingered Severance, Maori and about 10 other games. All in all, the game alone is probably worth the $20… As far as convention gaming goes, it’s probably the best deal around as the CABS library easily has over 1,000 games, and most of the new games at the fair are available.
This year, the CABbies had a nice display in the center of the library showing the newest donations from the exhibitors. It was a great way to see which of the new games were available for checkout at any given time.
As soon as I walked into the Board Room, I was surprised to see how many empty tables there were in the hall. I think this was a combination of two things: 1) overall attendance seemed lower and 2) the area designated for the Board Room seemed larger this year. However, the people that were there were all busy playing games and having a good time, and frankly, it was nice to not be completely cramped on the tables as there was space to spread out.
Some good friends quickly pulled me into a game of Sentinels of the Multiverse – a game that has been out for a few months but it was new to me. It is a fun cooperative game where the players take on the role of superheroes and work together to fight off the evil bad guy. The artwork is done in comic-book style, and the whole game oozes with this comic theme. The game itself is super easy to pick up as Tyler taught me the basics in about 3 minutes, and I definitely felt like I understood it within the first few rounds of play.
The game itself is nothing but cards – 578 of them – and there is text on almost all of them giving you special abilities and actions. It was a bit tough at first remembering what all of the different effects were on the cards, but as I became more familiar with the game, it was easier to keep track of everything. There’s a lot of variety in the box as there are multiple heroes (each with their own deck of cards) for the players to play as well as multiple villains (again each with their own deck) and locations to play through. Despite that, there is already one expansion available for the game giving you even more choices!
The first edition of the game looks nice, but is pretty bare boned. There is a small box (think 2p Kosmos box) which is crammed full with 578 cards and a ruleset. There honestly isn’t space for much more! However, as my friends were excited to note, there is a reprint coming soon which will have much higher quality components and a larger box. The cards will be made from thicker cardstock and there will also be some cardboard chits to use as HP markers. I had a chance to see and feel the new cards, and they will definitely be an improvement over the original set. I believe that the new set will be available by GenCon in August.
At their booth, the Greater Than Games guys were selling the first edition copies that they had left as well as some pretty cool t-shirts…
That pretty much was my entire first day at Origins… badge pickup and one game of Sentinels of the Multiverse. After that, it was time to head out for a quick dinner and then some sleep so I could get up early and make the most of my one full day in Columbus!
I got into the convention center early in the morning, and I was able to stop by the Rio Grande area and see what was going on. Unlike last year, the Rio Grande area was right in the middle of things – down on the ground floor between the doors of the Dealer Hall on one side and the board game playing area on the other.
This was my first stop of the day because I wanted to see the new online Dominion version which was being shown here at the fair. FunSockets are the company tasked with bringing this official version of the game to life, and I must say that I was duly impressed with the work so far. They had the servers up and running, and I was able to play a few games on iPads and laptops against other Origins conventioneers. The interface was clean and intuitive, and I am certainly looking forward to seeing it develop. The game is coded in HTML5 which should allow it to be truly a cross-platform application. I’m definitely excited to know that they are working on an implementation to allow play on small screens such as Android phones and the iPhone! Beta-testing is supposed to start in the near future.
[Sadly, as it’s still in development, no screenshots of the Dominion game were allowed. They have already registered the website playdominion.com though where you can see some of the art and then sign up for a notification when the game goes online for real. ]
I spent a fair amount of time chatting with Trisha, the “community manager” for FunSockets, and I do think that they have a pretty good vision for how online play should work. Right now, their whole community is still in private beta, so I can’t really talk about their plan, but from what I’ve heard, I’m looking forward to being a part of it.
After that short meeting, it was time to hit the dealer hall. One of the sweet benefits of the press pass is that you are given access to the dealer hall during the setup hour, and it is a good chance to see the booths and take a few pictures without having to dodge all the people. Sometimes you can also get in a quick word or two with the folks at the booth, but oftentimes they are busy trying to get setup for the day themselves!
In my first pass around the hall, I noticed that it felt smaller than last year in terms of square footage. Many of the usual players were still there, but it significantly smaller areas. The most noticeable reduction was for the Geek Chic guys – you know, the guys who build the $7,000 gaming tables… Their entire booth this year was maybe 10′ x 10′, a far cry from their old display which had multiple tables on display.
For the record, I am still awaiting the promised “review copy” of their Sultan Table which was promised a few years ago but somehow has not yet arrived on my doorstep. I will again publicly call them out on their broken promise to provide the table in the Arena configuration in a nice cherry finish. I promise to review the table within 48 hours of delivery. <g>
The other big player who had a much reduced presence was AEG. They had a small area on the floor without cubicle walls. Admittedly, it did not look like they had any new games at Origins, so maybe they didn’t need all the space.
As I mentioned, AEG didn’t have anything new… and the big theme of the Origins dealer hall was that not many people had new stuff, and almost all of them told me that they had releases coming out at GenCon. I don’t know whether this is due to the earlier date on the calendar this year for Origins or if the publishers are simply focusing on GenCon for the new releases. However, Origins remains the better convention though for smaller publishers, as it is harder to get lost in the crowd at Origins — as the hall is probably only 25% the size of GenCon’s. Thus, most of the new stuff to be seen was from smaller companies.
Oh, Tanto Cuore was there too.
After this first pass of snapping pictures, the announcement that the doors were opening came over the loudspeaker. While there was definitely a good sized group at the door waiting to get it, it was not the flood of people that I’m used to seeing on Saturday morning at Origins. Overall, attendance in the dealer hall was down this year, I’d guess maybe at least 50% less than what it was last year. I have no idea what the overall numbers were for the fair as a whole, but I can definitely say that fewer people were looking through the booths. There were never crowds in the aisles, and amazingly enough, many stands had empty demo tables in the middle of Saturday afternoon! I can never remember a time when you could simply walk up to the Mayfair area and have your choice of multiple games to play on Saturday afternoon.
One of the surprises at the show for me was that Zvezda had a booth – they are a company based out of Russia, and they were at the show with a new game called Samurai Battles. This is a “historical boardgame” – though actually it’s TWO games! As you can see from the box, it’s a feudal Japanese themed game. The first game you’ll find in the box is a version of Commands and Colors designed by Richard Borg. The other game is a real-time war simulation called the Art of Tactic.
Both games use the same molded plastic pieces, though each has their own set of cards, rules and scenario booklets. Though the price of the game is hefty ($80), you do get two full games in the box and a huge number of plastic pieces to cut out and trim for play.
Other surprises to me were the Doctor Who card game – designed by Martin Wallace – coming out from Cubicle 7. They apparently are still awaiting an agreement on the license, so until then, all they could do was show an inkjet printed prototype (which of course I had to take a picture of). Like most everything else, a GenCon release is planned.
The other thing that snuck up on me was that ToyVault had two new games that are almost ready for release. The first is Starship Merchants, a pick-up-and-deliver game from Tom Lehmann and Joe Huber. The other was Apparatus, a game where you try to build steampunk-ish gadgets. The art on both of these looks pretty good, and I’m definitely interested in trying out both.
Some of the bigger companies were still there: Mayfair, Queen, FRED/Gryphon, Asmodee, Z-man/Filosofia
The other big area at the fair was the Game Salute area – this is the company that is trying to help self-published games get printed and distributed like the big boys. They probably had 10-12 tables set up, each filled with independent games. Many of the publishers were also pushing the idea of the Casual Game Revolution. This is a concept that is trying to help consumers find easy-to-learn, easy-to-play casual games. Their goal is to have a display in your FLGS filled with nothing but participating games. Thus, when you’re looking for a game for the family or non-gamers, you know exactly where to look. I think it’s a great idea, as long as people continue to go to FLGS to buy games!
Finally, a couple more shots from wandering the halls
That’s it for the pictures from this year! Don’t forget to check out the Boardgamenews feed on BGG.com for the news from the show as well
Until your next appointment,
The Gaming Doctor