I feel that I am blessed to be so close to some of the major gaming conventions – the proximity allows me to get away, even if only for a few hours, to check out the sights and sounds of the newest games. Normally, I try to get one or two days free to see the show, but this summer has proven to be spectacularly busy with some unexpected kids’ soccer success (which keeps us in season still!) as well as a planned move to a new house later this summer. The result of all this is that I pretty much have no extra time to take off work, so I ended up having to squeeze in Origins in about half a day.
I know that in years past, I had claimed that it felt like Origins was dying… but when taking last year’s show in combination with this year, I must say that things are turning around for the better. The dealer and sponsor halls were filled with more booths, and there was a sense of excitement about the event which may have been missing in previous years.
There were a number of new releases to be found at the show, and there were more than a few companies which were making their Origins debut this year in Columbus, and that’s another good sign of positive growth. For me, most notable was Chip Theory Games, which has finally decided on a physical presence at convention. This was kind of a feeler event for them to see how the cons go – but they also plan to be at GenCon to herald the release of their new expansion for Too Many Bones – Undertow. This game will be a 1-2 player standalone version of the game that ALSO will integrate with the base set. It is meant to be both an expansion for existing players as well as a lower cost introductory version for new players. I can’t wait to try the expansion… but I was swayed enough by the demo I got to get a copy of the base version to play as well!
The logistics of the event are still smooth as ever. There were well marked signs all over the convention center, and while there were lines; all of them appeared to be moving quickly. I was able to get to Columbus a bit early, and picked up my press pass around 9:15AM, and was in the dealer hall by 9:20.
This year, the dealer hall is in Exhibit Hall B, flanked on each side by a Sponsor Room (in Halls A and C). The dealer hall is open from 10am until 6pm, while each Sponsor Room has extended hours – I think from 9am until 11pm. During the day, this allows for a nice distribution of selling/demo stands and playing areas, though there were some reports that it was a bit less awesome at night as gamers had to take a 3 minute walk through the main concourse to switch between the two different sponsor areas. More than a number of folks ntoed that they would have preferred a larger single sponsor area to keep everything in one place at night.
After a quick meeting at 9:30, I started to wander the dealer hall. It’s a nice time to take a peek around at things prior to the opening bell as many of my friends actually have a spare moment to chat. Once the doors open to the public, it’s usually so frenetic that it’s hard to get in more than a pleasantry or two before they have to go and work the booth…
By the time I made it back to the stand around 10:30, it was completely encased in a line of buyers for the new games, and I heard that Coimbra was out by about 11AM. Not sure if more copies were going to be available later in the weekend, but this strategy seemed to work well for the company last year when they were able to get the first copies of Century: Spice City out to gamers at Origins last year.
Right around the corner was the Floodgate area. I think I caught them a bit early in setup, because it would be a bit generous to call it a booth. At the time, there were two folding tables in the space, at least covered with product!
I was excited to hear that they are planning on a 5/6p expansion for Sagrada, and they also have plans to release a new game from Daryl Andrews (the same designer as Sagrada) called Bosk. It is described as: “During the spring in Bosk, players take turns carefully planting trees of various sizes to gain influence in the grove that will determine the points that are scored in summer. When autumn comes, the trees’ leaves fall in the rotating direction of the wind to cover the ground. Points are scored in the winter for the player with the most leaves in each region in the grove.” Can’t wait to try this, and it might make for an awesome themed game night with Photosynthesis and Arboretum?
I got a short demo of Bigfoot vs Yeti from the nice folks at Shoot Again games. I was a big fan of their pinball themed game last year, and it’s always nice to see what some of the smaller companies have to offer…
This card game has you fighting against other cryptozoologists to try to be the first to prove the existence of Bigfoot or the Yeti. I didn’t get a chance to play it, but I hope to give it a try soon.
Onitama is getting a reboot from Arcane Wonders. I thought the minis looked nice in this version. Sadly, there is almost zero chance that a two-player only, perfect information game gets any play in my house, so this picture is the closest I got to the game.
Surprisingly, I ran into a copy of Dinosaur Island. I had thought that the game was currently OOP, but when I got to the Pandasaurus booth – what did I see but a decent sized stack of games there! Apparently, there were a few cases which had been misplaced in a warehouse somewhere (possibly in China) – but they were found just in time to make it to the show…
Pandasaurus also has the rights to The Mind (as they have done other games from NSV in the past), and this was the other headliner to their booth. I did get another copy of the game to try it again – with an open mind – just to see if I missed something on my previous plays. My recent interview with Wolfgang Warsch made me want to try it again…
And, just to be like all the other cool kids, I kept my copy of the game in my pocket – just so I could ask random passers-by if they wanted to try the game. Sadly, I got no takers. And both Stephanie H. and Jessica D. proved to me that they each carried a copy of their person at all times!
One of the games in the back of the hall that was getting a constant stream of demos was Echinda Shuffle from Wattsalpoag games. This is a title that I have been following over the years due to the adorable prototype echidnas… Here is the production version (and the designer in his trademark ugly shirt)
In the game, players move the twelve echidnas from leaf to leaf, picking up bugs in their color from their pick-up leaf, and moving them to the three matching-colored stumps. But the forest floor is a traffic jam of echidnas that have to be moved out of the way before you can get there. The first player to deliver all three bugs wins.
Catan still made an appearance at the show, but the area was much smaller than usual…
CGE had both a booth in the dealer hall as well as a play area in the main concourse. They didn’t have any new games at the show, but they did have the XXL version of Codenames – which is really the same game but with bigger bits…
Apparently demand has been quite high for this enlarged version, and the company has already ordered reprints! While normally I’m all for keeping games as small as possible, I can definitely see where having larger cards (and therefore larger fonts) can be an advantage in a game where everyone needs to be able to read the words on the cards!
Though Ted wasn’t there – Bezier Games made the trip. The Whistle Stop expansion was being advertised, but I didn’t get a chance to try it…
While outside, I also managed to find the new swanky Bezier truck which is being used to transport everything around the country to the various conventions. It’s pretty hard to miss, and I must say, the truck artwork rocks.
One of the other booths which had a constant line was the Van Ryder booth. Their big release at the show were the “choose your own adventure” series of books – this has recently funded on Kickstarter, and individual copies were available for purchase at the show.
In a bit of foreshadowing, one of our writers (James Nathan) has been furiously reading and re-reading and re-reading the books to get through the set of five new releases. I suspect that he’ll be writing about it in the near future on this blog…
Not sure what this means, but I thought it was interesting to report… Around 10:30, I noticed that there was a shrink wrapped game sitting on top of a garbage can… It was unclear whether someone had just left it there or what.
Just before leaving at 3pm, the game was still there… Maybe someone can triangulate the location of this garbage can based on the stands in the background and see if the game is still there!
I did do a short stint of volunteering at the BGG stand (though I had forgotten my BGG jersey, so most people just looked at me like “who the h*ll are you?!”) – and while I was there, I did get a try of the new solo game in the BGG Micro series.
The game was finished just in time for the show, and it looks to be quite a challenging solo affair.
From the website: “The Draugr, reanimated dead imbued with magical powers, have come to the region of Trøndelag seeking to corrupt the town of Stjørdal. Only you, a lone revenant hunter, can protect the town and slay they who walk again. Armed with limited supply of holy water and iron spikes you enter the town square and prepare for the coming onslaught.
The Draugr is a solitaire game playing in about 20 minutes. To Win: You must slay 4 of the 6 Draugr. If at anytime during Phase 1 all 7 Townspeople, or more than 7 of the cards (a combination of Townspeople and Locations) are corrupted you lose.”
While you’re at the stand voting for the Geekbuzz, be sure to look at this new game; supplies may not make it through the end of the show – so do it soon!
The last game I looked at – literally on the way out the door – was the re-skin of the classic Knizia game High Society. The new version is being done by Osprey Games, a company which is making continual strides into the Euro-game market.
Before I leave, I should try to post my obligatory selfies with the gaming celebrities that I had a chance to chat with.
And finally, the obligatory loot pic
I’m honestly not sure when I’m going to have enough time to play the new games given the hectic schedule… (and the fact I’m packing every night right now!) – but at some point, the games will hit the table, and I’m sure you’ll read about it here soon enough.
Here is the start of my burgeoning game box collection in the garage. As of this morning, I’m at 130 cubic feet and counting of game boxes!
We’ll see if I get a chance to get back on Sunday to explore some more – but in case I don’t – i wanted to get this posted while it was fresh in my memory. If you’re anywhere around the Columbus Ohio area, head down to the Convention Center and check it out for yourself!
Until your next appointment,
The Gaming Doctor