Prose on Cons: Origins 2022
By Valerie Matthews
Hey! It’s been a decade since I reported on a game convention! I decided to attend the first day (Thursday) of Origins and here are my thoughts on the convention and a few games.
First, the convention itself. The friend I attended with and I both forgot that there was a vaccine requirement and did some last minute scrambling to grab our vaccine records and masks. For me, it was a pleasant realization—I was glad for the requirements—but we’ve reached a point (at least here in Columbus) that many people might show up without reading the fine print and be caught off guard because it’s been a while since they have thought about a mask or showing vaccination records. They did a fine job of keeping registration lines moving and at 8:30am on opening day, it took us less than 15 minutes to show our records, get a wristband indicating we had shown proof of vaccination, get our pre-registration badges, and be off and running. All day I only saw one person with no mask (a convention center employee, not an attendee) and only ONE person with the mask below his nose!!!! What a very pleasant surprise.
The exhibit halls (A, B, C, and D) were *all* opened up as one mega-large room with no walls between them. The dealer area had a knee-high barrier sectioning it off and there were signs and row numbers all over to help you find locations, but it was all in the same room. This likely helped with air flow and it didn’t create as much noise pollution as I would have expected.
I spent most of my day in the dealer room and I demoed a few games. Here are just a few impressions from my one day at Origins!
Games I played:
Under Falling Skies, CGE (2020)
This was one of my favorites of the show. Since it was released in 2020, many of you may have seen it already, but since I left the “cult of the new” 10-ish years ago, this one (and all the others I mention in this report) was very much new-to-me. This was a nice solo game that was easy to learn, provided a nice puzzle with good tension, and had lots of additional levels to build the game complexity. It reminded me of Space Invaders (the old-school arcade game) in board-game form.
Magic Mountain, Amigo (2021)
This 2022 Kinderspiel des Jahres nominee initially reminded me of the Selecta Spiel game, Monte Rolla. (Disclaimer—I am old school with only old school gaming references!) But where Monte Rolla is essentially Chutes & Ladders with marbles and decision making, Magic Mountain is Plinko (again, with a bit of strategy). The figures could have been cuter (more cartoony and less realistic?), but the game play was fun. It is cooperative and would play the same with 1 person or a bunch of kids taking turns dropping the marbles.
Enigma Beyond Code, CrowD Games (2020)
I’m not sure about replay value, but I enjoyed my one round of this light deduction game. I thought it was interesting that players could lie about the information they uncovered, and players could accuse others of lying, but the cost of getting caught or making a false accusation was just steep enough to make you think twice.
Décorum, Floodgate Games (2022)
I think this cooperative deduction game has potential, but I’m not sure. We played with only 2 players and I think the puzzle was too easy to solve. I think four players would make it far more interesting. Essentially, you are roommates trying to get along, but you have different needs. Perhaps I want all of the rooms to be painted red (which you are okay with), but you need to have lamps in every room. The scenarios are built so that our needs don’t conflict, but the game subtitle (“a game of passive aggressive cohabitation”) comes from the rule that I can’t *tell* you I don’t like that you just painted the walls blue. I can just repaint them red and hope you get the point! Again, with just two players (and admittedly, on the beginner scenario) it was a bit too easy—but I would play it again, for sure.
Kokopelli (by Stefan Feld), Queen Games (2021)
I am a Stefan Feld fan, owning and loving In the Year of the Dragon, Luna, and others. This felt new and different—a solid hit that I will happily play again. I didn’t buy it because I mostly play 2-player games at home and I don’t think that would be its sweet spot, but my friend bought it and I can’t wait for him to bring it to game night! You are collecting sets, but you can also play on some of the sets from the players next to you. The different cards have different powers—which you can take advantage of if you are working on that set in *your* play area. In fact, you might help your neighbor finish a set both for the points *and* to take away a powerful benefit they were enjoying. The game comes with enough different cards that you might see different combinations of powers “winning the game” on your next play. Hmmm…. I’m starting to regret not picking this up.
Games that I watched, got a brief explanation, or had a quick demo:
Amygdala (by Kramer & Kiesling), Game Brewer (2023)
So, as a biopsychologist, I repeated the mantra in my head over and over, “it’s just a theme…. It’s just a theme… It’s just a theme.” Knowledge about neuroscience, brain psychology, emotions, or memory will just get in the way here. Besides, it’s really pretty and it’s designed by long-time favorites, Kramer & Kiesling (love, love, looooove Tikal!). I only had a brief description and the display was a prototype, so I am hesitant to make any judgements. I wouldn’t pre-order it based on my first impressions, but I would happily give it a go if it shows up on my game table. I think the most interesting mechanism is the limited number of items you can hold (in your “memory”). This includes $$ or items you are collecting for points. Here’s the catch, if you use that 10-coin (which only takes up one space) to pay for an item that costs 3, your 7 change (one 5-coin and two 1-coins) now takes up three spaces!!!! Aaack!
The Finest Fish, Last Night Games (2022)
Oh my gosh it was sooooooo cute!!!!!! This game, currently available on Kickstarter, was my favorite eye candy of the show. The game, as explained to me, seemed to be a simple set collection game with points for matching patterns in the scales to goal cards. The fish were beautiful and the unique patterns made by the scales as you play are gorgeous. I don’t do kickstarters and I don’t know how much replay value it has, but this is the kind of game I’d be tempted to leave set up for show between game sessions.
Marrakesh (by Stefan Feld), Queen Games (2022)
I arrived just as this game was wrapping up, so I just barely got a picture. Unfortunately, that means all I can say about the game is “oooh, pretty! Look at all the bits!” Queen was setting up each of the City games at scheduled times during the show—so get a schedule from the booth if you want to see these in action.
Games that I looked for, but didn’t find at the show:
Ferret Out, R&R games (2022)
Ferrets! I mean, I have done animal behavior research with domestic ferrets and fieldwork with the North American Black-footed ferret, so of course I wanted to see this. And Dale’s description in the Origins preview sounded like a light, fun party game. But sadly, R&R didn’t have a booth in the dealer room and they didn’t have this game set up on Thursday at their demo table. Boooo.
Well, that’s all, folks! Just simple first impressions—don’t even know if they are helpful—but it was kind of fun to write another Prose on Cons blog post (something I did regularly back in the 00’s and 10’s for Boardgame News and Opinionated Gamers).
I’ve missed y’all!!!
Valerie Matthews (f.k.a Valerie Staton or Valerie Putman, cause…. Whatever)