Origins Game Fair is one of my favourite convention experiences. There’s fantastic food within walking distance of the convention centre, it’s the same time as Columbus Pride, and it’s far fewer people than Gen Con which is great for my crowd-hating self. I really enjoyed the convention again this year, unsurprisingly, and it was for all those reasons and more. Con-wise, it was excellent to see they’d added more open gaming spaces (finally!) so it was easier to sit and play what you’d bought. I was also impressed with the improvement in the registration/ticket pickup process, and was happy to see the Tabletop Gaymers Gaymer/Ally ribbons on each of the registration desks – plus, the harassment policies of the convention were refined from previous years, and prominently displayed on large free-standing banner structures throughout the hallway of the convention centre – absolutely outstanding. More of that please, conventions!
One thing I want to point out is, in addition to the great quiet room space Origins provides every year, this year there was a great sensory play room for families that was run by our friends at Path of Play (we’ve been long-time supporters!). Thanks to the support of local FLGS Board Game Bliss as well as a number of publishers and an arcade, the Path of Play crew encouraged neurodiverse gamers to come in – especially with kids and families – to game in their space.
On a personal note, my con was lovely due to seeing more of Columbus than normal (a visit to COSI and a lovely wander around neighbourhood streets) and all the fantastic people – on the “pre-con” day I spent my afternoon gaming with some of the wonderful folks in the Board Game Broads group (co-created by our local pal Pam Walls) which was time very well spent. I also popped into the Punchboard Media Network’s meetup that was thriving with folks – and thanks to the raffle, walked away with a copy of Glüx! In addition, getting to see all of the hard working people bustling around in their booths doing demos and talking to me about games was a highlight. So, let me share some of what they spent their time telling me about!
Some of the cool stuff that debuted at Origins!
While Gen Con is the BIG release period for North America, there were a good number of titles that released at Origins 2019. The Pandasaurus games booth was bright and busy (especially after the Origins Awards win for The Mind!) and two titled debuted there – Dead Man’s Cabal and Arraial. You might have heard of the latter, released at Essen last year – now there’s North American access for this colourful tetromino game. Renegade Games were definitely a hub of energy with all of their titles and demos going on – Origins marked the release of Lanterns Dice (you can read my thoughts here) and the game with some Extreme Table Presence (™), Bubble Tea. Shake the heck out of that little tea maker and roll dice to create combos of ingredients – real time! I mean, I got stressed just watching the demo but heck, that game is cute.
Con releases aren’t all for the big guns, though! 25th Century Games had the deluxe version of their card game Space Explorers front and centre at their booth and I love the aesthetic of it 100%. I was lucky that a friend picked it up, and we tried it one evening after dinner – a really cool card-based engine builder that might tickle the fancy of some folks looking for a little more out of something like Splendor. Daily Magic Games were making the most of their little booth showing off not-as-new titles like Sailing Toward Osiris and Songbirds, but it was Chocolatiers that caught my eye. Tiles, gorgeous art, quick gameplay? Yes, please! Again, I benefited from a friend’s impulse purchase and sat down to try this in one of the open gaming spaces and had a great time. A little set collection mixed with tile placement, and you had me! And it looks good enough to eat… maybe this could be the next project for Sugar High Score!
Most fun game demos!
While it’s not always possible to try every game, I certainly got my fair share of demos in at the exhibition hall! A lovely Canadian contingent and I sat down to the introductory scenario of Detective: City of Angels, a sort of one-versus-many crime game but also the many are against each other, too! It’s a brilliant system and I love the story and theming; we had a great time, and I know that it’s getting out to backers now. Later this year there will be another KS with some extra cases, in the event you wanna get your LA Noire on. At the Renegade Games booth, I got a run-down on the real-time solo adventure game Proving Grounds and it definitely piqued my interest – the system looks great, and I have hopes for the story aspect (it’s out in retail this month!). While Matagot released Dungeon Academy in Europe, the OP are bringing it out here in North America. Ross gave me the run-down, and it’s a delightful mix of game elements that makes it feel a little bit like a roll & write Looney Quest. It’s so damn fun, and will hopefully be out at Gen Con. On my last morning at Origins, I swung by the Asmodee demo crew to finally get my hands on Megacity: Oceania from Hub Games. Even from this little taste, I know this one’s going to intrigue people – a little bit of dexterity and planning flavour this world re-building game, and it looks so great on the table. I’m betting there’ll be a great deal of buzz around this one at Gen Con.
As far as demos go, I got to try a couple of as-yet unreleased games, in full. The first was Sovereign Skies from Deepwater Games (it will be coming back to Kickstarter later this year). I was really impressed with this one, a mix of rondel movement and resource management – a fabulous mid-weight space-themed Euro. We played a 3p game through after learning in 45 minutes! As all of the Deepwater Games titles tend to, it looks gorgeous as well. Keep your eyes peeled for info on that later in the year. My other full game was the upcoming 2nd edition of Prêt-à-porter from Portal Games – I was lucky enough to give this one a run-through with Mandi from To Die For Games out of Ottawa! While the rules still need a once-over, the game itself was fantastic! I’d not played the original, but was very surprised by what a solid mid-weight Euro this one is – and the new art from Kwanchai Moriya really pops. They’ll be launching this on Kickstarter next month once rules and the like have been given a thorough going-over, I recommend seeking it out.
I can’t wait for this stuff!
As I jetted around the exhibition halls, there were things that I didn’t (sadly) have time to demo, but got to hear about from some lovely folks at publisher booths. I swung by North Star Games and there were a lot of folks enjoying Oceans, and I was very excited to see the upcoming localizations of the Quacks of Quedlinburg: Herb Witches expansion as well as The Tavern in Tiefen Thal! Gimme that good Wolfgang Warsch stuff, friends. Keep an eye out for the Quacks expansion at Gen Con and Tavern later this year. (Plus there’s a very snazzy version of Vegas Wits & Wagers heading to Target for those of you south of the border.) Speaking of expansions, the folks at Board and Dice showed me the Gen Con release Teotihuacan: Late Preclassic Period. This expansion for Teotihuacan: City of Gods adds a whole lot of extra goodness to the game – 5 modules that offer a lot of variability to what exists in the game already, as well as some asymmetric player powers and more. This is going to be a must-have for fans of the base game. After trying Smartphone at BGGcon last year I’ve been pining for it – Arcane Wonders had some demos going, and they’ll be the North American distributor once Kosmodrome Kickstarts the game this year. That is a definite can not wait for me!
Thames and Kosmos are not only keeping on keeping on with their excellent series of escape room games, Exit (oh yes I go the new 2-parter!) but have a great range of stuff coming out. Imhotep: The Duel is a great metamorphosis of the original game into a similar, yet distinct 2 player game. And speaking of Phil Walker-Harding, he’s got a couple of story/adventure games coming out at Essen – the Adventure Games series; it looks like some Exit with a dash of choose-your-own-adventure, so I’m keen to get those on my table! Two titles that will be making their debut at Gen Con (and in retail directly after) are Roll For Adventure and Tribes. The former is a dice-rolling co-operative fantasy adventure that looks snappy and fun and the latter is a light civ-builder which certainly sounds like my jam; I love civilization games, but not the hours it takes to play!
Must-haves for me once Gen Con rolls around are a couple of card-based games. The first is Cartographers from Thunderworks Games (which I raved about here) – it’s a fresh feeling for the flip-n-write game genre and everyone I demoed it with or played with was thrilled by it! The next is 5211 from Next Move Games, debuting their small box series. At BGGcon last year, a friend introduced me to a small card game from Japon Brand called 5 Colors. It’s a wonderful set collecting/hand management game where you’re hoping to play cards out in order to get just enough of a type of card collectively around the table in order to score, but not so many that everyone busts. Great little dash of press your luck there. Plus the Chris Quilliams art treatment is a fresh burst of creative colour that is an improvement on the someone 70s vibe of the original.
Time for one last card game. Coming out at Essen, hopefully, so I have to calm my excitement a little, is Masters of Renaissance – aka Lorenzo il Magnifico The Card Game. Simone Luciano gave me the run-down at the Cranio Creations booth and it really sounds like a great translation of the game. It will play 2 – 4 players in approximately 45-60 minutes, and still have that resource and card management feel to it. I especially appreciate the little resource selection device that has you bumping along a row of marbles and determining what you’ll get. Really fabulous to see this one after hearing the buzz.
Holy Bananas, Origins! Calm down!
There was so much more going on, friends. Iello have so many titles – not only are they bringing all of the Scorpion Masque titles to a larger market, but their new kids imprint, Loki, is awesome – SOS Dino was ridiculously cute. The OP are out of control with excellent stuff coming up – seriously though: a Die Hard Game, an IT co-operative game, a Toy Story deck building campaign and all the Talisman goodness. Restoration Games were showing off Unmatched and that’s gonna blow people’s minds (Bruce Lee was just announced as a playable character!). Era from Eggertspiele looks amazing, and I love what Matt Leacock has done with the natural progression of the “_Blank_ Through The Ages” series. And so much more. There might not have been the oppressive crowds of other cons, but there was plenty to enjoy.
Of course, we’ll still have some Origins-related stuff coming up, so don’t think I’m stopping here! We’re getting busy playing, so soon you’ll be seeing articles on Dust in the Wings, Proving Grounds, Century: New World, World Shapers, Arraial, Rolled West, Legendary Forests and more. Keep your eyes peeled! And again, thank you to every single wonderful gamer that made Origins what it was for this year. See you next time.