Our second day at Origins was full of interviews and demos. We were able to meet a lot of people to discuss their companies, new and upcoming games, gaming accessories, Kickstarters, and company history.
We started at the HABA booth and spoke with Lea Culliton, President of HABA USA. HABA USA is known for their children’s toys and games and is probably most famous for their wooden products. Last year was HABA’s first year at Origins and Lea said she had learned a lot, thus making her second Origins better than the first. HABA is one of the only children’s game companies, so it is a big draw for families that come to the Con. Lea was able to get a bigger booth and have gaming space at her booth. She even had an adorable children’s table so the kids could play at their level.
Lea and HABA were having a busy show and a busy year. Lea let us know that they had launched 19 new games at the Spring Toy Fair, and they showed another 14 new games at ASTRA Marketplace. She has had a hard time keeping some of the games in stock. Some of the newest games at the Con were Space Planets, Silly Shenanigans, Ugah Ugah, Sleepy Castles, Rox, Mix & Match Robbers, and more. Of course, the old favorites such as Animal Upon Animal and Dancing Eggs could be found at the booth.
Space Planets is a game for two to four players where you roll a die and hope to land on a planet. Players want to explore outer space and explore new planets, but they need to have enough fuel crystals to reach their goal. If you can land the die on a planet and you have enough fuel crystals, you can explore and take the planet. If you do not have enough crystals to explore the planet, you instead take the number of fuel crystals shown on the die. Some planets give a player specials such as extra fuel crystals, or they may be able to roll the die again. The person with the most explored planets at end of the game wins. The artwork and dexterity element will make this game appealing to a lot of families.
Ugah Ugah is another dice game, but without the dexterity element of Space Planets. The two stone age hunters, Bone Breaker and Mammoth Masher, are searching the wilderness for food, and the players are trying to help them search. At the start of their turn players roll the five dice and need to set aside any that show bones. The player rolls the dice and chooses a symbol to place in the middle; then they reroll the dice, pick another symbol or the same symbol, and continue doing so until all dice are set in the middle or bone dice are set aside. If the player rolls at least three spoils symbols, such as the ham bone, they may take the spoils card from the middle or another players. Bone Breaker or Mammoth Masher dice let the player move the figures. The player moves the figure and takes the path chip on which the figure ends. The game ends immediately after the turn on which the hunters meet up or pass each other. Players then add up their points from their spoils and path cards (minus the points from the smelly caterpillars) and the player with the most points wins the game.
This year HABA also started making family games for older children and adults. Their first game was Adventure Land, a strategy game by Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling. The second game has the distinction of being nominated for the prestigious Spiel des Jahres, the German board game of the year. It is a tile-laying game where players race to get their explores to temples to win points. They can also collect points from items on the paths they create. Lea was pleased that both games were doing so well and excited to work with such acclaimed designers. I wish all involved the best of luck.
Lea also told us that she has some exciting things happening at Gen Con, the next big board gaming convention of the summer. HABA’s lead designer at HABA Germany Games Division, Markus Nikisch,will be presenting several prototypes of upcoming family games. dddIt is a chance for HABA fans to play and learn about the design and development of HABA games. The prototypes should be released at Essen 2016.
Cryptozoic is known for publishing licensed board, card games, trading games as well as some Original Games. Fans of the DC Comics™ Deck-Building Game, The Big Bang Theory: The Party Game, or the Ghostbusters™:The Board Game or Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game will be familiar with Cryptozoic. Cryptozoic was in the Main Gaming Hall and they had a large demo area that was rarely empty.
Ryan was excited to tell us about all of his Origins releases and upcoming releases. They had a few products that were available in limited quantities and had sold out each day. One of the was the Rick and Morty Total Recall Card Game based upon one episode of the popular Adult Swin show Rick and Morty. It is a cooperative deductive game that plays in about 15-20 minutes. Players must figure out which of the characters are the real family members and who are masquerading alien parasites. It looked like hilarious fun, and it should be a big hit of fans of the show.
Anther Rick and Morty game that is coming soon is Mr. Meeseeks Box ‘o Fun: Game of Dice and Dares, based off another popular episode of the show. Players draw Request Cards and roll their dice to see if they can complete the request. If the player in unsuccessful they must press the button on the box and summon Mr. Meeseeks to help, who wants to help so he can no longer exist. But the trouble with Mr. Meeseeks is that if he can’t complete your request, other Meeseeks will be summoned and could become violent. The player who scores the required number of points from requests or dares wins the game.
Internal Affairs was another game available for pre-release at Origins. It is a team based deduction game for 2-8 players that will be widely available in July or August. The game taking place in Hong Kong where both the police and the Triad crime syndicate have traitors in their organization, and it’s hard to know who is loyal to whom. Players may even change their loyalty during the game. Until the very end of the game, you won’t know who is on your team, so players need to be on their toes the whole game.
Mad Science Foundation, another anticipated pre-release. It is a resource drafting game in which players are hoping to create mad (or is it misunderstood) scientist inventions. You might be collecting lasers and sharks after all. During a round one player controls the Crooked Directors, and they chose how to separate the commodities, and all piles may not be equal. Players then take turns selecting the pile they want, and Crooked Director selects last. Players need the resources and minions to complete their plans and save or is it steal the world?
Cryptozoic has a lot planned for future releases as well. Poker Assualt that comes with four custom poker decks that can be played as regular poker cards or as the custom game, Epic Spell Wars should see some more editions as well. They are also working on a miniatures board game of Mechs that looks exciting.
Finding a good way a organize and store board games has lead to a lot of creativity and even new business. About two years ago Greg Spense started making accessories and inserts for his games and was encouraged to set up a web store as many others asked to buy his designs. From this experience, he created the company The Broken Token. The Broken Token offers gaming accessories, storage solutions, box organizers, acrylic gaming pieces and more. Greg has seen a lot of growth with his company over the past two years. He now has about 24 employees, ten laser cutters, and is in his second building. He enjoys the growth and popularity of his company, but his is also determined not to grow too fast.
The Broken Token uses 1/8 inch Baltic Birch that is both durable and light weight. It can also easily to stain for someone who wishes to upgrade their kits. The products are cut using precise laser cutters which leave a darker edge. To me, this adds to the aesthetics of the wood. The Broken Token has storage solutions for many games including Machi Koro, Castle Panic, Imperial Settlers, Blood Rage, King of Tokyo, and Race for the Galaxy. If there is no solution for your favorite game, go to online poll and vote. They are adding more and more to their products all the time.
The Craftsmen Series offers gamers an opportunity to store their games in style. These solutions may be a higher in price than the inserts, but they are worth the price to many. This series offers a way for players to store all the expansions for their favorite games in one box. For Firefly Fans, the Big Dam Crate comes in two varieties, one you will need to assemble yourself or the upgraded, stained and beautiful Mighty Find Edition. Greg was surprised by the response and amount fans were willing to pay for the box and was happy that he could offer not only a storage solution but a way to organize and set up the game quickly and easily. Other titles available in the Craftsmen Series are Deepwater Game Storage for Lords of Waterdeep and Biohazard Containment Unit for Pandemic.
The Broken Token storage solutions offer not only a way to organize your game but a way to enhance the gameplay. They spend a lot of time playing the game to really understand the rules, what needs to be on the table during game play even before they start to design the storage solution. Once the process begins they spend a lot of type in the prototype phase, testing the design and making sure it is the best for their customers. You are not just getting storage for the game, but pieces that enhance the game play. For example, a place to keep tokens during the game, a stand that lets you draw and discard cards, and player bins that contain all the player pieces someone needs for the game.
This dedication and commitment to customer service can be seen in the Blood Rage solution. Greg said this was perhaps the most difficult game to design a storage solution for. He listened to his customers who wanted a way to store their painted minis and designed boxes that held all the minis so they would not touch and could be easily placed in and taken out of the box. It also holds all the game contents, expansions, and Kickstarter exclusives.
Greg wants his fans to enjoy the process of putting together their kits. He does this by being sure the make them as easy to put together as possible. Key pieces are made in a way so they can only fit a certain way. If something were to go wrong, customers could also contact the Broken Token for help or replacement pieces.
Betabotz is a unique game now on Kickstarter. There are both cooperative and competitive elements of the game, but in the end, there will be only one winner. During the first round of the game, players bid on robots. After the first round, they take these robots and bid on upgrades, take powerful code cards and try to accomplish each of the ten missions. A robot may be able to accomplish a mission alone, or they may need to team up with other players. Just when you think you have enough to accomplish the mission, another player may play a code card making it impossible. The missions are tiered and get harder each round.
If you can complete a mission, you gain more bitz or money. If you needed the help of another player, you will need to negotiate the reward. Smart negotiation, thoughtful bids, and wise use of code cards is required to win the game and make it to Robotopia. After the tenth mission, the player with the most gold components and code cards gets an additional bitz reward. The player with the most bitz wins the game.
The game was easy to learn and played fast with all the wheeling and dealing. Because of the simultaneous nature of the bids and mission, there is very little downtime and a lot of player interaction. The gameplay was solid and thoughtful. Fans of negotiation and bidding games will enjoy this game.
It was a lot of fun to play with Gar Au and learn about the passion and dedication he and his team are putting into this game. We were introduced the game’s artist Tina Bongorno, who was in attendance at the Con. Her illustrations are beautiful and make the game come to life. I had admired her artwork at Origins last year and was excited to find out she was the artist for BetaBotz.
I hope the team has a successful Kickstarter and if you want to find out more or even pledge please visit their page here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/967398182/betabotz?ref=discovery.
Rock Manor Games – Brass Empire
From a game currently on Kickstarter to one that was part of a successful Kickstarter, we turn to Brass Empire. Brass Empire is a deck building game that is set apart from other deck builders because of its mechanisms. Each player starts with a different cooperate faction with unique cards. You don’t start with these cards and must buy them throughout the game. Each company has a different feel and play style and gives each player a starting strategy based on that company. Another unique aspect of Brass Empire are the two rows of cards. The top row is the labor market, and it is where you will find employees. These work for your company and generate resources. The bottom row has all the permanent structures and steam-powered contraptions; these help defend the company.
Mike told us that he developed the game because of he and his wife’s love of deck builders. As they played, they found they desired more player interaction, as it is missing from most deck builders. He designed Brass Empire to not be multi-player solitaire. Players can attack other players to stop their units and buildings from gathering resources or attacking. Players need to pay attention to what other players strategy may be so they can counter it. The gameplay was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed having a different corporation and strategy from everyone else. The artwork is beautiful, and the steampunk theme is subtle.
We really enjoyed the demo of Brass Empire, and we hope to pick this game up soon. It is available for pre-0der now on the Rock Manor Games website and should be released by Gen Con. https://www.rockmanorgames.com/portfolio/brassempire/
The Networks, designed by Gil Hova, is another Kickstarter success in which players are TV Network executives vying for the most viewers. Players start with three terrible shows, a low rate star, and a horrible ad. They must build up their station to get the most viewers before the end of the 5th season. Players must develop more popular shows, attract legendary stars, and pick the best ads. This it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Shows want to air at certain times and won’t attract as many viewers when not at the right time slot. Stars are picky and want to work on certain genres of shows. Ads, like shows, want to air at certain times. Players must balance the needs and conditions of all three to get the most viewership. Players must also remember that the shows will age after the first season, and lose viewership and players may cancel and send a show to re-runs. Luckily you can still get viewers from reruns.
The Networks is full of humor, fun, and strategy and plays with 1-5 players. It was available in limited quantities at Origins and Gil noted that it will need a second print run, but it may be a bit before that happens. Judging from the packed booth for demoing, the many copies in the hands of attendees, and all the positive feedback I heard, we think the game was a hit.
At last year’s Origns, we had learned about the miniatures game The Withcborn from Cory Kammer. If you want to learn more about check out my Origins overview from 2015. This year we wanted to catch up with Cory and see what was new. Cory let us know that the new 2.0 rules are available and address many of the concerns and questions players had over the last year. One of the main changes to the game is how you create your war clan. A player now starts with 125 points, not 100 points and they must spend at least 35+ points on equipment. This way they can be sure their warriors have a better chance of survival. You can go to the Witchborn Channel on YouTube to learn all about the rules changes.
More adventures have also be released including Asylum and Dragon Moon. Cory described Dragon Moon as a starter adventure that is less dark, and more humorous than the previous adventures. The fourth adventure, The Wailing Citadel, will be coming out sometime this summer. This particular adventure is for more advanced players.
Sometime after Gen Con Cory plans on having a Kickstarter that will include miniatures for the game and more adventures.
Breaking Games is newer and a bit different from other board game companies. According to Breaking Games, they are unique because “we promote the game and the designer above the company because they are the stars.” Breaking Games encourages their game designers to attend conventions and events to demo and explain their game. We were able to meet the designer of The Game of 49, Mark Corsey. He taught us the game and shared his joy of demoing the game at Origins. In The Game of 49, players start with $49 dollars to bid on spaces on a grid of 49 numbers. Numbers are drawn randomly and auctioned one at a time. The highest bidder can place their chip on the number. During the game, a Wild /Payoff card gives player seven dollars for each chip. The player who wins the bid also has a choice of where they want to place the chip. Players want to claim four numbers in a row, in any direction to win the game. Mark told us a story of a young girl who brought her mother to play the game; the girl was able to win, but the mother was happy when her daughter had to do some math when they auctioned Wild / Payoff card. Don’t be surprised to see The Game of 49 in your local Target as well.
Peter Vaughn, the “Game Development Tycoon,” of Breaking games showed us 4 the Birds by Steve Ewoldt. 4 the birds is similar to the Game of 49 in that you are trying to get four of your birds in a connected row, or four in a square. On your turn your roll two dice that indicate coordinates on the board. Players then choose on which of the possible two spots to place their bird. For example, if you roll a 3 and a 4 you can place your bird on either 34 or 43. Players may also play action cards that allow them to move their birds, re-roll or even move the crows and hawks. Crows block spaces, while hawks scare all birds away form the surrounding spaces. For a light dice-rolling game there is a lot of strategy and decision making, and the birds are adorable.
Letter Tycoon is another game we have been looking at for a long time, but it wasn’t always easy to obtain. In Letter Tycoon, players form words using letters from their seven card hand and the three cards that are part of the community pool. Using the word they just formed, players score money and stock rewards. They can also buy a one letter “patent” in the word they made, these patents earn players money from the bank whenever someone uses the letter later in the game. Less common letters give the player special abilities. At the end of the game, players score their money, stock, and letter patents to see who has the most money to win the game.
Breaking Games also had some lighthearted games such as Poop in a Bag. Poop is a card game all about potty humor and similar to UNO. Players are trying to be the first to run out of cards, and they take turns pooping while trying not to clog the toilet. You can buy an edition of the game that comes in a brown bag labeled Poop. They put the shipping label right on the bag and send it to someone’s doorstep!
Timing is everything and it seems timing was right for Naturalist Games and their latest Kickstarter. The Kickstarter for Lairs started during the Con and the game is close to it funding goal with about 24 days left. Lairs is a two to five player in which players take on the role of powerful creatures building their home in the mountain. The creatures each have a history and unique abilities. Building lairs toward the center of the mountain is the first part of the game. There are four different types of building tiles. The lairs are built from cards in hand, but players must be careful because those same cards are needed for the second half of the game. The first creature to reach the center of the mountain claims one of the Legacies (powerful artifacts, ancient sorceries, or riches). The Legacy grants the player new powers and control of the mountain, and makes them the enemy of all the other players. The other players now band together against the one who has claimed the legacy using spells, tricks and treasures to defeat the other player. The Legacy player has their special ability and encounters they can use to defend their lair. Each layer has one of three types of encounters the other players must overcome. The last encounter depends on the Legacy and the game will come down to one last battle to decide the winner and fate of the mountain.
Lairs is the primary focus of Naturalist Games this summer so fans will have their attention. There are also some planned stretch goals such as laser etched wooden pieces and Kickstarter exclusive content. They have previous Kickstarter experience including their game Release! and a few others. They know how to make their backers feel confident in the product and plan on being responsive to their backers with updates, answers to comments and responding to feedback. Pat wanted to let his supporters know that they appreciate them and thank them for backing, sharing and supporting Naturalist Games and the Lairs Kickstarter.
Besides Lairs, Game election and Costume Party are two current products Naturalist Games has available. Costume Party is a bluffing memory game in which players want to score points for their silly costume. Each costume is unique in how it scores or takes away points. An expansion of additional costumes is planned for early next year. Game Election is less of a game and more of a way to make the choosing of the next game into to more competitive activity. An expansion that doubles the player count is expected for next year.
Trekking the National Parks is beautiful, and the components are fantastic. The simple rule set, but deeper strategy makes it a great family level game that can be played with both experienced gamers and new gamers alike. It has been getting a lot of praise for the production and gameplay and it’s on the top of our list to play.
Though our time was short at Origins this year, it was packed full, and we had a great time. I am thankful to all the designers and publishers who took the time to speak with us. I hope that Origins was a success for everyone. The Vendor Hall was packed full of old favorites and new ones to discover. Remember not to walk by that small booth, because there might be a great game there. We did miss a few that that were missing like Chessex Dice and Geek Chic. Still, there were plenty of gaming accessories to peruse. Wrymwood Gaming were present with this beautiful and exotic wooden dice towers, trays, and deck boxes. There were other insert companies like the Broken Token offering ingenious storage solutions. And other dice companies such as Gamescience Dice.
The Main Gaming Hall offered after hours gameplay and retail space and is growing each year. It was great to be able to visit the Main Gaming Hall before the Vendor Hall opened and after it closed. The hours fly by at Origins so that extra time is very useful when you want to get that last demo in before deciding if you want to buy a game or not.
If you tire of demoing or shopping, there are plenty of tournaments and events to keep you busy. Origins University lets you listen to authors, artists, and game designers. The Sunday family pass, admits two adults and four individuals under 18 and is a great way for family to experience and enjoy the show together. Families may also want to try out the family room with its many family games and even electronic games available for play.
The city of Columbus is a great settting for the Con. Venturing out of the convention center, the people are kind, helpful, and supportive of the convention. Spend some time getting to know the city and visiting the near by restaurants, shops, and parks. Origins is a busy, but relaxed convention that is as exciting for new gamers as the veterans. Every year we attend we enjoy ourselves, and every year brings something new. We just unpacked but I’m already looking forward to Origins 2017.