The dawn of man, a new species that originated in the heart of Africa. How did we migrate across the world? What evolutions and discoveries separated us from our animal brothers? Was there a reason we were spared the horrors of extinction or was it just dumb luck? I don’t have the answers to any of these questions, but Origin gives you a chance to play out these scenarios over and over again to find out.
Right off the bat you’re going to be struck by how pretty a game Origin is. The board is colourful and bright, the art on the box and cards has a beautiful cartoonish quality. But the real gems are the Tribe Pawns. They are big chunky wooden people, that vary in size(strength), colour and height(speed).
The goal`of the game is to expand across the world, completing objectives, controlling straits, hunting vicious beasts and evolving your knowledge. Each turn you will either Evolve, Migrate or Swap.
The Evolution action allows for new pawns to be added to the board. The new pawn must be placed in an empty area, but it must be adjacent to an area containing a pawn. Now, here’s where the Evolution comes in; the pawn you place must have at least two characteristics the same as the adjacent pawn (size, speed or colour) and where they differ the new pawn must always be superior by one level. For example, beside a dark brown pawn with a strength and speed of 1 you can place a dark brown pawn with a strength of 1 and a speed of 2. The game will start with the shortest, weakest pawn of any colour in central Africa. Migration will spread out from there. When you claim a new territory, you mark it by placing a village of your colour in the area and the pawn you used to settle it on top of the village.
Migration allows a player to move their pawns and villages around the board. Pawns can move spaces equal to their speed, even through occupied territories. As pawns move the villages go with them.
Finally players can Swap on their turn, a nice way of saying wage war. To Swap the players move according to the same rules as a Migration, but end their turn in a territory controlled by a weaker pawn. The active player takes control of the territory and the displaced player finds refuge in the territory that the active player left.
Now it’s time for the rewards. Depending on the colour territory you end on, you will get a reward for your action. Yellow, Orange, Brown and Purple territories provide cards and innovations that can help you throughout the game and provide end game points. Green territories yield Hunting Tokens worth 4-8 points. Straights connect the continents on the board and if you’re able to control both sides you claim the straight token worth 3-5 points.
Game end is triggered when one of four elements is exhausted. If either the cards, innovations, pawns or villages have run out, then each player gets one more turn and then it’s time to see how your group of early history humans stacked up.
Despite it’s amazing art and components, I haven’t seen Origin in a lot of peoples’ collections. It may be that, despite its simple appearance there is a lot of complexity going on. It has the look and feel of a territory control game, but points come to you in a variety of ways. It’s less about the amount of space you own and more about finding the best combinations of action and reward to advance your own people. There are a lot of things to think about each turn and right move is not always obvious. Or it just may be an unappreciated gem. Time will tell if this game will last or go the way of the Dodo.