Origins 2013

 June 12th to the 16th 2013
Saturday – Day One
Origins Game Fair is Columbus Ohio is full of excitement, anticipation and fun.  For me, the dealer hall is the main attraction but there are many other things to do and see at the show.  There are LARPS, CCGs, Role-playing Games, Miniatures Games, the Board Room (filled with games to play), the Origins Costume contest, the Origins Awards, kid’s rooms, and new this year an Electronic Game Room.
Last year’s dates made it difficult for many people to attend, which lead to a smaller crowd and fewer sales for the vendors.  Compared to last year, this year’s event seemed better attended both by vendors and attendees.  I also liked that there were more artists in the dealer hall this year.  Some of the notable artists were: Larry Elmore, Sarah Wilkinson, and Nigel Shade. Some of the vendors were: Stronghold Games, Queen Games, iello, Steve Jackson Games, Academy Games, Eagle Games, Stoneblade Entertainment, Rio Grande, Mayfair and many more.
We stared out this year’s Origins at Academy games with a demo of the recent Kickstarter success 1775.  The people at Academy Games were incredible and took us through this light war / area control game.  I tend to enjoy these types of games when they are card driven and include dice, so my husband thought this might be a hit with me.  I guess he was correct because before the end of the demo I was looking around for a copy to buy.
1775 is a two to four player game with British Regulars and Canadian Loyalists versus the Continental Army and Colonial Militia.  Play is asymmetrical, as the dice and cards given to each player offer different strengths and weaknesses.  After a few turns, and a better understanding of the rules, play moved quickly and the game eventually ended in a tie.  The rulebook states this means the French Canadians make the whole area their colony.  I loved the negotiation and discussions that occurred between the players.  The game’s artwork is also beautiful.  Look for a full review from me on this game later this summer!
 Next stop was Catalyst Game Labs to check out Leviathans miniatures game.  The miniature airships are certainly eye catching.  We were given a quick rules review and turn example and it looked promising.  Miniatures games are always intriguing to me but they can also be off-putting with their complicated rules.  Leviathans offers different rules sets for new and advanced players.  The rules would take a bit to learn but after a few plays you would know them well and could move on to more advanced play.  I unfortunately didn’t get our demonstrator’s name but he was extremely enthusiastic about Leviathans and got me more excited about the game.
 After a few demonstrations we took a tour of the entire dealer hall.  From my perspective there seemed to be more people in the hall than last year, and they must have been buying games because a few vendors were already sold out of some specific games.  I wasn’t able to pick up the Escape expansions I was looking to purchase.  I did get the new Seasons expansion and the iello version Innovations: Echoes.  I was surprised by this purchase because I didn’t know iello had gotten license to sell Echoes of the Past in the US.  Innovation is a game I enjoy and, though I don’t mind the artwork of the Asmadi games version, this artwork is amazing and I look forward to playing the “pretty” version.  We also played a Demo game of Castellan from Steve Jackson Games.  Then came time for one of my favorite things to do at Origins, and that is to stop by Chessex Dice and pick up some of their absolutely beautiful dice to add to our games.  It is an easy way to make your games look a little better.  We picked up extra player dice for Defenders of the Realm, a nice D20 for Formula D, and other games.
Time seemed to go incredibly fast and after a late lunch and one more trip through some of the dealer hall, we were able to get a demo of Mage Wars.  Even though they have been at the last few Origins we haven’t had a chance to play.  We almost didn’t get a chance this year, but Ray D’Arcy and some other volunteers took time while running a tournament to set up a game and run us through the rules.  This was another game I feared would be overwhelming to learn but with their help and suggestions we were soon casting creatures and spells and trying to be the best Mage.  I ended up losing but had a great time getting there.  A big thanks to the amazing volunteers who took their own time to show us this great game.  Since the dealer hall had closed at this point I couldn’t pick up the game but it is certainly now on my buy list.
Not quite ready to head out we stopped by to see the giant Catan sets at Mayfair and the miniature displays and went to see the Board Room.  Day one passed quickly but I was looking forward to my first Sunday of the con.
Sunday – Day Two
Sunday started out quieter but there still seemed to be a good crowd.  I’m sure this is normal for a Sunday, but this was my first time visiting Origins on a Sunday.  I was expecting a smaller crowd but thought that a few dads may have been given a present of a day at Origins as a Father’s Day present.  Of course since there were no day passes available on Sunday a few may not have come just for Sunday.
We spent most of the day in the dealer hall talking with the dealers and playing demos.  We first headed to Zvezda to check out some of their new games.   We were interested in “Armada Invincible,” a new ship combat game using the Art of Tactics system found in many of Zvezda’s games.   The game is due out sometime in September or October and only a prototype was available.
The ships are amazing and will look even better when modelers get their hands on them and start detailing them.  Those familiar with The Art of Tactics system will be able to pick up on most of the rules quickly.  My husband and I have been looking forward to a good Tall Ship combat game and now there are two that look promising, this and Sails of Glory.  We will have to keep our eyes on both to see which one will be our choice.
While at Zvezda we also checked out some other upcoming games:  The Battle for Oil and the new Disney licensed games for Cars and Planes.  The Battle for Oil is a ‘what if’ game, where the US and Russia enter a hot war in the Middle East over oil.  Players will be fighting with infantry, tanks, and even helicopters.
Their children’s game for Cars was a racing game with a modular board.  Of course you can buy more models of characters not found in the base game.  The Planes game looks a lot like a Wings of Glory game for kids.  Instead of fighting players will be racing stunt planes through cones.  Of course there will be lots of extra characters you can purchase for this one, as well.  All of these games look amazing and should be coming soon.
After Zvezda we headed over to AEG to check out Guild Hall.  I have heard a lot of praise said about this game and wanted to try before we bought it.  We were given a quick demonstration and decided to pass for now since the demonstrator said that while it works with two players, it’s definitely better with more.
Because they were so nice to us yesterday, we decided to go back and talk to Academy Games some more.  I wanted to hear about their upcoming game Bloody Crossroads: Gettysburg and their upcoming Underground Railroad game.
We talked with Uwe Eickert, his wife, and his son.  They took a lot of time to explain many of their upcoming games with us. It is very evident how much love and how much pride they put into their games and company.  They also put a lot of time and effort into their research, development, and artwork.  This shows in the products we saw at their booth.
Gettysburg is tentatively scheduled to come out next year and it sounds like it is going to be a great game. The map for the game looks suitable for framing.  The game will focus on the three days of the battle but may also offer some ‘what if’ scenarios that have been debated throughout history.  So now we can finally find out what would have happened if Lee had listened to Longstreet.  He also talked about some other possible games with the Gettysburg theme with similar mechanisms to 1812 and 1775.
They were also very excited about Freedom: The Underground Railroad.  It is a cooperative game where players are working to bring runaway slaves to freedom in Canada.  Players must both raise money for the Abolitionist Cause and move runaway slaves to Canada.  One to four players can work together to bring an end to slavery.  Events can both hurt and help players as they work from a time period that spans from early 1800’s to the Civil War.  Players will definitely need to work together to win this game.  I absolutely love the theme.  Look for this one coming to Kickstarter soon.
I always look forward to visiting Jolly Roger Games and we talked to Jim Dietz about his current Kickstarter Kremlin.  He was very excited about this “labor of love.”  He talked about how he would be offering a few rules sets to please all the fans of Kremlin that want both the classic rules and those who would like an updated rule set.  He was also excited about the new artwork modeled after 1930 Soviet propaganda style.  The price point for Kremlin is great and there is still time to join the campaign!
He also talked about another game in the works called Antebellum.  This isn’t the most common theme for games so it’s another great choice for Jolly Roger.   He described the game as having different boards as you travel through the period, and what happened on one board will have an effect on the other.  It will be one I keep my eye on, but it seems like this may be a few years before it is out.
While talking we also stumbled upon a fact about Jolly Roger that I had not noticed before; product numbers for their games are more significant than they may first appear.  The number relates to the game’s time period such as the number for Founding Fathers corresponding to the Constitution.
I am a sucker for tile laying games and wanted to check out Voluspa from Stronghold Games.  Steven Buonocore from Stronghold is also a great person to talk to at Cons.  I don’t know how he has so much energy.  We were able to get a demo with Dan Patriss of the Geek All-Stars.  He was amazing and a blast to play with.  It was great getting to know him and playing a fun game with him.
Voluspa is named for the oldest poem of Nordic Mythology.  The 12 different tiles in the game were different creatures and characters from Nordic mythology, such as Odin and Loki.  The characters and creatures allow players to block, capture, and intimidate the other tiles to score points.  Players gain points when they place a higher power tile next to lower power ones.  For example, placing a Thor worth seven next to a dragon worth five would give the player two points, one for each tile.
The game was easy to learn and play, but offered a lot of meaningful decisions, especially at the end of the game.  The entire game was back and forth and came out close in the end.  Dan was a lot of fun to play with, but since it was sold out we didn’t pick up a copy of the game.
Stronghold Games also had a great promotion going on when you had a demo.  They gave you a ribbon for each demo and after five demos (one was not in the Dealer hall) they gave you a percentage off of one of their games.  This would have been great if I had been there more days so I never made it past one demo, put I did get a nice ribbon.
 After the disappointment of not being able to pick up Voluspa we went to visit Catalyst Game Labs.    Yet again I was pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm and willingness to spend time to show us and discuss their games.  When John Rogers found out that I was a teacher he was even more excited to talk to me about how I use games in my classroom.
He showed me Struggle for Power.  I  wasn’t familiar with it, and it may make a perfect addition when I discuss European history in my 7th grade Geography class.   We, of course, ended up picking up Leviathans as well. This may not be the easiest game for me to pick up but it just looks so amazing.
We hadn’t forgotten about Mage Wars and picked up the core set and a few expansions from Arcane Wonders.  They helped us pick out the best set for us and were happy to spend even more time telling us all about what each set came with, how different mages worked best for different types of players and so forth.  We were also able to get some very nice promo cards for the game that will work well with the mages we will most likely play with.  I am very excited about this game and can’t wait to get it to the table.  I also have a great feeling about future of Mage Wars.
By this time the end of con was quickly coming and we had fallen into a common trap of Cons… we didn’t eat lunch.  So by now we were very hungry and headed to a great late lunch at Ted’s, a nearby restaurant specializing in buffalo burgers and some Jeni’s ice cream for dessert at the North Market.
Though Origins was over, there was still more gaming for both of us.  We were lucky enough to meet with Rob Dougherty of Ascension and Magic fame.  He showed us his upcoming two player deck building game, Star Realms.  I will be doing s separate post for this later on, but I think this is going to be a very popular game.
It is a space combat game with direct player conflict, something I haven’t seen in the deck building games we play.  It is its own unique game but you can see the Magic, Ascension, and CCG influence showing.  There are four unique factions with unique abilities that encourage players to buy cards of the same faction in order to trigger some of those abilities.  I had a blast playing it and am very excited about it coming to Kickstarter soon.  Rob said it should be around $15 dollars and come in a small, portable package.  The artwork for the game so far is gorgeous.  I love that one faction, called the Blob, uses bioengineering and has a ship that looks like a humpback whale.
I have been going to Origins for a few years now, and every year I leave with a good feeling about the board gaming industry and especially the people.  From the Origins staff and volunteers, to the companies and game designers, everyone is excited about games and are open and willing to talk with people about the company and their games, answer questions, and lend a helping hand.
I am also amazed at what I didn’t get to do at the con.  There is so much more from the boardroom, to the special guests, RPGs, and other events I feel like I have just began to scratch the surface.   Of course all of this is what keeps me coming back each year.  I am already looking forward to next year!
A special thanks goes out to my husband for taking all the wonderful pictures for me and being ready and even ahead of me whenever I wanted a picture.
Other Picture Credits:  Coen Velden (Coenst),Brian Mayer (bmayer)
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Steve "Megatron"

Co-Creator @GeekCastRadio | Creator @AlteredGeek | Voice Actor | Podcaster, Husband | Father | Web/Graphic Design | A/V Editor | Geek of Games, Tech, Film, TV.

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