Origins Game Fair 2017 was just last week, the first in the larger run of summer conventions for board games. This was my first, and it was really an exciting experience for me – last year was my first Gen Con and I was really pleasantly surprised with how Origins compared. Partly to do with the smaller area in which it’s situated and partly to do with the smaller attendee numbers, Origins really was a great time for me. It felt chilled out and easy to move around, there were lots of events and demos to drop in and out of, and the exhibition hall was a real dream to get around because of its size and layout. While there were aspects that were a little frustrating (gaming hall space going un-used or being double booked because nobody was sure if there were events, lack of water, and the like), I didn’t personally experience too much stress or hassle during the con.
The exhibition hall, as I mentioned, was great to navigate. It’s a great size for the amount of vendors and everyone’s got a decent amount of space for selling and demos. I had some specific appointments with publishers (the result of which you’ll read below), but it was so easy to wander around and approach folks to see what they have going on right now. I got to scope out Unearth from Brotherwise Games, the awesome looking Lost Expedition from Osprey Games as well as many cool releases from IDW including the gorgeous Seikatsu, a new path-creating Orphan Black game and another Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game (Showdown) which I need right now. As well as publishers, there were vendors galore like Canada’s own Lion Rampant distributors, and lots of other retailers and even a small author’s area and an artist’s alley – I got to see tabletop artist Nolan Nasser’s work in the flesh and let me tell you, it was gorgeous.
As well as demos, podcasting meetups, publisher-hosted events, the Unpub playtesting section and a lot of tournaments, there’s some non-game related stuff going on, too. The North Market was a gamer-magnet with their amazing fare, Pride weekend is the same weekend, I also got to attend the Nerd Night event which was held to benefit a local children’s hospital. Whatever you’re interested in, there’s likely to be something at Origins for you. I’ll certainly be back. But for now, let me leave you with some of the juicy game-related goodness I heard about while at the con. We’ll also have a lot of reviews coming up out of these, as well as a short interview with Rob Daviau about Restoration Games.
Indie Board and Cards/Action Phase: at the end of this month, Delve will be hitting shelves. A competitive tile-laying game like Carcassonne, Delve is set in a dungeon where players create and move through paths fighting and trying to complete areas for sweet, sweet loot. On top of this spatial dungeon fun, Delve has a little “choose your own adventure” feel to gameplay, with cards that come up throughout the game allowing you to choose an option to take, guiding your experience. Trickster will also be out soon, a 3-round trick taking game with some gorgeous art – and unique gameplay. With player #2 (the Trickster) setting the suit each round, there are some interesting opportunities in the round, and each named card has a special power that will manipulate play, as well. One that will take a bit longer to hit shelves as it’s just wrapped up on Kickstarter is Kokoro: Avenue of the Kodama. I’m a huge fan of Avenue, so it’s great to see this funded. Not only will there now be dry-erase boards instead of a pad of paper maps, and some neat “decree” cards that will offer changes to game setup or end of game scoring.
Iello: Iello’s most recent release, Arena of the Gods has some fantastic table presence! It certainly stood out on the demo tables in the exhibition hall. Step up to battle your opponents in the arena – which has a great variety of setups – and once the first person’s down, whoever is left with the most health wins. In addition to the wonderful 3D aspects of the arena, each player has a standee that can be modified with tokens that slot on to represent spell effects and the like. Also on show were recent releases Ninja Taisen and Mysterious Forest, in case you need a little intense 1v1 action or some fun co-operative adventuring (and oh man, the art in Forest! Just outstanding stuff.). Keep an eye out for games from two big designers coming out come Gen Con: Bunny Kingdom from Richard Garfield and Mountains of Madness from Rob Daviau.
Renegade Game Studios: It was hard to miss the Renegade Games booth, with the wonderful life-sized Shiba on one corner, celebrating the recent release of the adorable Shiba Inu House. The hot hot HOT item was Fox & the Forest through Foxtrot/Renegade which flew off shelves the first day – with good reason. This is a 2 player trick taking game with some very tough decisions to make as you play depending on some of the card powers – but the scoring structure is where this really popped out to me! You want to win tricks, of course but too many and you’ll end up scoring nothing – if you score just a few, or in the range of 7 – 9, you’ll get 6 points, and everything else in between is some fairly mediocre stuff. It’s a tough balance, let me tell you! Get your hands on a copy from July 19th in your FLGS. And coming in August are two wonderful spacey games – Flipships & Sentient. The former is a co-operative dexterity game (yeah, it’s as awesome as it sounds!) with a really cool Space Invaders feel to it – flick your ship discs from a launching spot to try and land on enemy ships (cards) to destroy them before they get you. And Sentient is a wonderful mathy little balance game of bots and majorities – over 3 rounds, build up your bots and manage your dice in order to score with investors each round to win with the most points at the end of the game. It’s a gorgeous game with candy-pastel sci-fi art and a great lightweight gameplay with lots of stuff going on. Renegade really have so much amazing stuff on their plate right now!
North Star Games: The big excitement for Origins out of North Star was the announcement of Vegas Wits & Wagers! This was being shown off on a snazzy casino-style table, and the mat itself is nicely styled with elements of roulette and poker to evoke the feel of Vegas in this new style of W&W play. They will be demo-ing at Gen Con as well, and it will hit Kickstarter on August 19th! I also got to take a look at the nearing-release Evolution app – and it is looking fantastic. The art is even more gorgeous than the game itself, the flexibility of digital letting cards have fancier borders and the like – not to mention the lovely waterhole, and sweet animations for animals evolving and eating! Launching on Kickstarter August 9th, it will be available for iOS, Android and Steam – with online multiplayer at launch! I’m looking forward to this, and hoping that features like pass & play, campaign play and expansions would follow after launch.
Bezier Games: Every time I stopped by the Bezier booth during Origins, I saw an enthusiastic group of people giving Werewords a whirl – there’s been a lot of discussion regarding Werewords and another 20 questions-ish game, Insider recently – having seen them both in action now, they definitely both have merit and I’d be excited to bring both to the table in any circumstance. I am looking forward to giving Werewords a try and hopefully getting to be one of the werewolves to try and really mess with folks! Some more in-depth play was going on nearby with upcoming releases – the first I checked out was Whistle Stop (out at Gen Con), which looks to be a delightful lightweight pick up & deliver train game. It’s got a variable board set up to start with, and players collectively build the map west as they travel, competing for coal, stocks, points and victory. The ability to a number of actions based on the coal you have looks really interesting to me, rather than a focus on stocks – and I have to say, the art’s delightful. It’s not often you get to see such colourful art on a route making board, but more important are those delicious little pastel trains! Finally, I got to watch on as a group played through Palace of Mad King Ludwig (out at Essen) – I’d thought it was an expansion for one of my favourites, Castles of Mad King Ludwig, but it’s actually a stand-alone game. It definitely looks like my jam, however – players are building up a palace together by Carcassonne-style tile-laying, but doing so in a way that will hopefully benefit each of them alone, as you aim for your own (hidden and publicly tracked) goals and point generation. Tile laying, hidden goals, gorgeous rich colours that have this stand out from Castles – it’s all great in my books! Essen seems really far away, y’all.
Stronghold: Stronghold had a lot of goodness packed into their booth – somehow they managed to fit demo tables for all their releases on top of having space to sell a great number of current titles! Terraforming Mars was obviously fired up on those tables and on sale too (sadly, no expansion in time for Origins!) and current releases Get the Cheese (from well-known small game maverick Hisashi Hayashi), Frogriders and Fields of Green were getting some great attention. The latter caught my eye – I’m not familiar at all with Among the Stars, which is what it’s based on, but it sounds terrific. Slightly enhanced from AtS, it’s really the card drafting and tableau building that drew me to it – I’ll see if I can try it all out sometime and get my farming on. Coming up in the next little while are a number of great North American releases of games from Euro publishers – spooky Alien-esque one vs many Not Alone in June, Cottage Garden August 9th, and the hit cycling game Flamme Rouge at Gen Con. Stronghold are hard at work getting all these ready for the NA market, but that’s not all. The new Geoff Engelstein design, Pit Crew will be out mid-July – rather than a straight up racing game, this is a game played over 3 rounds (laps) real-time, as players (team vs team!) act quickly to get their drivers out onto the track quicker than others. It’s awesome to see a perspective from the Pit Crew rather than racers! Look for a review from the DWP crew soon.
Steve Jackson Games: If you know of Steve Jackson Games, you likely know of them because of Munchkin in one form or another. So yes, I did get a look at some – no update on the CCG I’d heard about at BGGcon last year, but I saw the great Deluxe Munchkin Shakespeare! Originally supposed to be a small set of cards inspired by some silly brainstorming on a JoCo Cruise, it ended up being Kickstarted into a bigger set with a board and some stretch goals. I have to say, there’s some top notch Shakes-jokes going on in this set. Beyond Munchkin, though SJG have got a heck of a lot going on! They’ve released Ghosts Love Candy after it had some troubles on Kickstarter by another company – light and adorably illustrated card playing game in which you try to not bust while playing in order to scare kids and steal their candy. Similarly beautiful and card-based is Muertoons, which should be out at Gen Con. It’s got a gorgeous cartoony Day of the Dead style (and is illustrated by Mexican-American creator Eric Gonzalez who created the kids show this is themed for) and has simple play with leading cards, and using character powers to try and play out all your cards before your friends. And wrapping up this spooky trio is Zombie Dice: Horde Edition – a box with the base and all expansions so far for Zombie Dice, plus a nice dice bag and score pad – if you’ve tried this horror luck pushing game before with friends, this will be out in the summer for you to grab. The most exciting thing I think that came out of my chat with SJG was the news that they’re bringing Alexander Pfister’s Port Royal out for the North American market! This is such cool news, as this is a great light push your luck game. This will be the base game, with only a change being made to some box art and the art on the ship cards (flags rather than solid colours), and you’ll be able to pick it up at Gen Con. Do it! Tell ‘em I sent you.