James Nathan: Short Origins Trip

My yearly convention calendar is ever-evolving, with BGG.CON a lock, and others coming and going. Origins and Gen Con are both a short drive for me, but aren’t sufficiently enticing to draw me up that I block out time for them.  If as the time approaches the stars align, then I may pop up for a day.  There was a syzygy for Saturday, so I went up with a friend and her stepdaughter – who casually play games (when I bring them over), but were 1-1 on having been to something like Origins before.  My roll was largely personal concierge and game sommelier.

They were up for anything –one of the joys of attending cons with folks less jaded and cynical than myself– including a departure time from Cincinnati of 2 hours earlier than they had suggested, and parking, well, here’s where I park for Origins.


There’s free street parking and an immediate highway entrance after it’s over. Also, it’s by this park where we saw an albino squirrel.


Similarly, I park here for Gen Con when I go.


The yellow arrow is my free street parking area.  The green arrow is for a small grocery store that has a food counter in it with some of the best tacos I’ve had.

Anyway, @OpinionatedCartographers break is over.  After arriving a little early so that we could casually orient to the Hall A and C situation and chat with some friends, we had a 10 AM appointment to try Hub’s upcoming Holding On: The Troubled Life of Billy Kerr.


Alan discussed this briefly on Monday in his UKGE recap, but roughly, it is a coop game where Mr. Kerr has had a heart attack on a flight from Australia to the British Isles, lost his memory, and you play a team of nurses and other aides trying to help him.

You provide both medical care to keep him alive, and palliative care which allows you to talk with him in a sense and obtain “fuzzy” and maybe “clear” memories.


Each turn is played in 3 shifts: a card is flipped representing the day shift, and the player currently representing the head nurse chooses which of the players and non-player assistants will tend to Mr. Kerr. The different pawns will have varying levels of stress (red discs) and “care tokens” (yellow discs) available.

After the day shift is over, a card is flipped for a second shift, and later a night shift.  You can “stress” workers by extending their shifts, or remove stress by sending them home.  Unused workers who spent the day in the break room will earn extra care tokens.  If the team spends too much effort recovering memories and not enough attending to Billy’s medical needs, the medical board will give you a warning, and I believe a second warning would have caused the players to lose.

There isn’t a blanket victory condition.  The game is structured through a scenario deck which provides some background on the current situation, any changes to setup, rules changes, and the current game’s objective.

I haven’t discussed the memories much, but both memory decks consist of 5 stages of Billy’s life (I, II, III, IIII, and IIIII), and event cards.  You must have the corresponding fuzzy memory to obtain the clear memory, and the fuzzy memories form a unique 6-column x 5-row grid by aligning tick marks along the edges. (We played the first scenario and the significance of the aligning is not yet known to me.)

I enjoyed the first scenario we played, but it was an intro scenario, and we didn’t experience much difficulty in meeting our objective (though Michael felt that ours was an aberration). If we had the opportunity to immediately play a second, I certainly would have. At present, I’m not tempted to buy it, but at a more casual convention where I had days of dawn to dusk gaming, I would be happy to explore it further.

On the way the Hub booth, I was, well, fairly shocked when I saw a copy of what I know as “Beppo Der Bock” on a table at the Academy Games booth.  I jokingly asked Gunther if they were reprinting it, and he said yes.  Even more shocked now, I was speechless as I continued to the Hub booth.


So after taking care of Mr. Kerr, I went back and Gunther said they are licensing the Huch! kids titles and reprinting some of them, including Beppo!

Beppo is essentially Candyland style movement (a color is chosen, move to the next space of that color), but with the color chosen by a sort of magnetic dexterity. A goat –Beppo– is placed on a magnet embedded in the board, and a metal ball is rolled down a chute.  The ball is violently pulled towards the magnet, and Beppo runs off in the corresponding direction.  Wherever his front hooves land is the color the player moves to.  You can knock players over, do trick shots, etc.  What you can’t do, is not have fun.


Up next was the game I was most looking forward to, Nyctophobia, coming out from Pandasaurus at Gen Con (though this is the Target-exclusive version).


The conceit here is that players-minus-one are lost in the woods looking for a McGuffin, while the remaining player is in pursuit of them, here, for instance, as a vampire. To represent the players inability to see in the woods at night, the players wear “blackout” glasses and must navigate the woods by feel.


As the players cannot see the board, the Vampire leads a player to their piece, and a player may move, feel adjacent to their piece, throw a rock, etc.  The Vampire has a hand of cards which limits their choices of how to move and feed on the other players.

I’m a fan of Das Magische Labyrinth and its hidden maze, and was hoping for a similar experience here.  Unfortunately, this felt too tactical for my tastes (as it didn’t seem plausible to mentally maintain a large enough map) and maybe could have used more development –as it was difficult to not accidentally feel things next to you, and the demo staff wasn’t playing with one component as players had been consistently knocking it over on accident.

@OpinionatedEaters break. I’m just as much a North Market sycophant as the next Origins attendee, though also acknowledge that it has a counterpart in most large cities. In dawn-to-dusk conventions, there’s more time for meals, but for me, Origins is a 10AM-6PM convention, and so with gaming time at a premium, I appreciate the market more here than I might at other shows.

With the Pride parade attendees also looking for lunch on Saturday, it was a crowded situation.  The sandwich place in the corner by the bakery had a fairly short line, and many things on the menu that included the words Challah or Mustard, so I gave them my lunch money.  While I waited on my sandwich, I ordered (and ate) this cherry-berry-pie-bar from the adjacent bakery.  It was tasty.


In an act of foreshadowing, I also had ice cream after lunch – as you never know if dinner’s dessert plans will become fouled up.  Eat two desserts with lunch is what I’m saying.  Coffee w/ cream and sugar & darkest chocolate.


Trick taking games are always on my list to try, and when we returned to the halls, I had a chance to play Pikoko.


I’ll try to save most of my perspicacity for a full review of this title later, but I just loved it (though I’d be remiss to admit that it did give me a certain feeling that it might be one of those games that only Joe or I seem to relish.)

Pikoko follows most standard trick taking rules: one suit is trump; must follow suit; high card in trump suit wins, otherwise high card in led suit.

Yet the wrinkles abound. You can’t see your own cards, but can see everyone else’s. You don’t play your own cards – you choose what card the player to your left will play. You largely don’t care how many or how few tricks you personally win – at the beginning of the game, there is a bidding process whereby you predict how many tricks each hand of cards will win, and wager for extra points, or losing a point, on one you feel strongly about.  The points that you-the-player earn are based on the accuracy of your predictions.


The peacock stands are fairly impractical as the cards do not come out easily, and whenever I acquire this (they were sold out before I got there), I will certainly replace them with card racks.  Outside of that, I hope that others I play with enjoy this as much as I do, because I found the card play choices very interesting.

We then found our way back to Kris Gould’s Echidna Shuffle, which I last played 4 years ago with the giant prototype version at BGG.CON. I was glad to find that I still enjoy it just as much now as I did then.


Roughly, you are trying to have your color bugs catch a ride on the back of a passing echidna, and jump off on a stump of your color. Anyone can move any echidna(s) on their turn, and the board is essentially 5 round-a-bouts where another player can easily cause you to take a turn which will set you off on an unintended excursion.  It’s a real one-way traffic jam out there.

The Kosmos booth had some of the more active staff that I encountered – actively asking folks to step in and play their titles.  I have a history of dexterity game affliction, and tried Drop It somewhat out of a ludoligical literacy obligation, and somewhat out of not wanting to tell the staff no.


The rules are fairly predictable – your piece will score points based on how high it reaches or if it covers certain objectives, but not score any points if it touches something of its color or shape. For its genre, I prefer Ab in die Tonne (Cwali).

Last game on the way out was Funkelschatz, this year’s Kinderspiel winner.


Each turn, the active player will lift the top blue ring. Prior to this, the other players, in clockwise order, will draft one of the cardboard tokens representing the 5 colors of gems, with the active player choosing last.  Once the ring is removed, you may take any of the gems on the board matching the color you took, and place them behind your screen.  Pass the start player marker and repeat.


It’s pretty fun for that being what it is!  With dramatic moments, it’s fairly dense, as lifting those rings and seeing what falls on the board (and doesn’t fall in those un-retrievable holes) is exciting!

Dinner @OpinionatedEaters. I first ate at Melt 7 years ago in Cleveland and had multiple live changing meals.  The con + parade restaurant overflow seemed to be in even more effect during dinner than during lunch, but the Melt walk was far enough that we were able to sit right away – though somewhat inexplicably we didn’t receive our food for quite some time.  I ordered this Cuban sandwich and a side of tomato soup and both were scrumptious.


Unfortunately, those dinner crowds meant the Jeni’s line was too long for a second stop after dinner, so I was glad I had second dessert during lunch.

It was an interesting trip, as I like to use cons to catch up with con and Twitter friends, yet I almost entirely failed to do any of that, save for stopping to chat with Evan about Your Town and dropping off Jaffa cakes to Paul and seeing how he was holding up.  I did, however, catch up with several locals that at one time or another I have gamed with weekly, but haven’t seen in a bit- despite living in the same town. And that was nice.


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4 Responses to James Nathan: Short Origins Trip

  1. Paul Grogan says:

    Great to see you. And thanks for the Jaffa cakes that I brought home to share here :)

    • xitoliv says:

      You’re welcome! I’m looking forward to listening to your UKGE episode of Gaming Rules! later today.

      • Dale Yu says:

        Man, I was so busy in my one day that I didn’t even see Paul. Next time! (Or maybe GenCon). I didn’t realize it was so hard to get Jaffa Cakes…

  2. Jacob Lee says:

    That sandwich looks awesome. I can’t believe how hungry that pic made me.

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