Once again, June rolls around, and it is time for our annual trip to Columbus, Ohio and the Origins Game Fair. Every year we look forward to returning to this beautiful city and fantastic convention to play games, connect with friends and learn more about what is happening in the board gaming world. Origins Game Fair, organized by GAMA (Game Manufacturers Association), runs five days, Wednesday through Sunday. While we focused on Board and card games in the dealer halls, there is a convention center full of events, lectures, and award ceremonies to experience. Attendees can try their hand at Role Playing Games, LARPS, Miniatures Gaming, seminars, costume contests, family activities, tournaments and more.
Many of the longest lines we saw this year were at the tournament areas. Origins reported that they had over 5,500 events, with the tournaments accounting for many of those events. Many companies including Wiz Kids, IELLO, Fantasy Flight Games, Mayfair, Konami, Bushiroad, and Catalyst held world championships, national, and regional tournaments. Magic the Gathering and Upper Deck also held tournaments with generous cash prizes.
Origins gives gamers a chance to meet and game together, talk to their favorite publishers and designers, try out the newest and latest, and connect with new friends and old. For many this is the start of the summer convention season.
This year was the first time we were at the convention on a Thursday, and I had assumed that would mean there would be fewer people. After registration, I was surprised to learn that over 6,000 had registered on Wednesday which is technically the first day of the convention but is more about giving vendors and organizers time to set up and get ready for the convention as the main Exhibit Hall doesn’t open until Thursday. Because so many had registered, we had missed out on the coupon book. Only 4,000 had been printed. This was very disappointing because dealers only give discounts and promos with these coupons. Some of the volunteers told us they hoped to have more printed and to come back, but even after a few trips there were no coupon books. Other than this hiccup the registration process was quick and easy because we had pre-registered and were sent an e-mail with a scan code. We printed this out prior to our trip, scanned it upon arrival and our badges quickly printed out and we were sent on our way. This helped quicken up the registration process and get people through the lines and into gaming faster than ever. I highly recommend preregistering if possible, it will help you get through the paper work process faster so you can get to the fun.
Despite the disappointment of the coupon book, everything else seemed bigger and better this year. The event book was huge, and the Site Book was noticeably better quality than in years past. The main Exhibit Hall was sold out according to Origins. Here you can find most of the vendors booths as well as the Art Expo and Origins Award nominees. Hall D, or the Main Gaming Hall, was fuller than I have ever seen it. The Main Gaming Hall is also open after other areas of the convention close. In Hall D or the Main Gaming Hall vendors have a demo and retail space, tournaments such as HeroClix or Magic or were run, there is a Paint and Take section, and miniatures games have beautiful set-ups. Throughout the convention center other rooms are filled with role-playing games, family games, and even lectures.
Attendance numbers, according to Origins, were 52,561 which was higher than the last few previous years.
Thursday June 16, 2016
Walking through the convention center on early Thursday morning one could quickly tell something different was going on in the building. There were a lot of people carrying games and looking excited to be there, even early in the morning. The Main Gaming Hall was the place to be before 10:00. There was already a long line of people at some tournaments, and other booths were set up or being set up, and it was fun to be able to get right into gaming. We walked around checking out the games and dealers in the Main Gaming Hall. Many dealers had booths in both halls while some companies like AEG were exclusively in the Main Gaming Hall.
As with every Origins, we were amazed at how quickly time goes and it was soon time to get ready to go to the vendor hall. We were hoping to be one of the lucky 50 people to get a deluxe copy or Orleans. As soon as the door opened for the Main Exhibit Hall, there was a mad dash for the TMG booth and their two hot games Orleans Deluxe and Guilds of London. This was the first time I experienced this at Origins, but we were lucky enough to get a copy. As soon as we paid we got out of the way, so I have no idea how long the copies lasted. My guess is, from the crowd, that it wasn’t long and a few people probably left disappointed.
Thursday was our day to demo games and explore this year’s convention. We usually like to take a walk around the Exhibit Hall first to get an idea of where everyone is and what everyone has to offer.
Our first demo of the day was at the Stronghold Booth. I was interested in trying out Animals on Board. In Animals on Board, you are trying to collect groups of 1 to 3 or more animals. At the end of the game, you will lose any animals you only have a pair of (Noah takes them!). During a players turn they must either split a group of animals in the center common area into two groups or pay for and take a group of animals from the same center group into their own hand. It was a very cute family game, and I enjoyed the collection and splitting mechanics, but I don’t think it would be great with two players. We also demoed Bear Valley, a game where players are exploring a river valley and trying to survive moving from their base camp to the end goal. You do this by choosing one of the paths adjacent to the card you are on followed by drawing a card and placing it in the aforementioned spot. There is a push your luck element that comes if you continue to draw cards as all cards have a certain number of exits on them and if this equals number the current time of day (equal to the number of cards already drawn) you are lost and can’t move at all. Later in the day, a bear may also come out and eat you so be careful! Bear Valley was another fun game that is worth a look. Stronghold Games also had Piratoons, Stellar Conflict, Village and its two expansions: Village Port and Village Inn as well as the stand alone game My Village.
After some time in the Vendor Hall we went to the Main Gaming Hall to demo some games, starting with AEG. We played Valley of the Kings because the designer, Tom Cleaver, asked us to come over for a demo. Valley of the Kings is a deck building game that is also a deck Destruction Game. You are buying cards to build up your deck, but to score any points for those cards, you must entomb them and take them out of your deck. Because as Tom said, “You can take it with you in Ancient Egypt.” It was a unique twist on familiar deck builders and an excellent opportunity to learn it from the designer. We also wanted to try to demo Mystic Vale the card building game, but the tables were full and to play you needed to pay a generic ticket. As far as I know, AEG was the only company requiring tickets to demo games, and I was not for this idea at all. I do understand wanting to be sure to get a demo of a hot game, but I am hesitant to pay for a demo when I can go to another booth and play for free.
Battlefront Miniatures/ Gale Force Nine, LLC
At Battlefront Miniatures/Gale Force Nine, LLC, we demoed the game Tanks: Panther Vs. Sherman. Tanks is small scale as you are usually only playing with one or two tanks, and you are trying to destroy your opponents tanks to win. It plays in about half an hour. Three tanks come with the game and there are lots of tank cards for other tank types allowing players to use their own miniatures or buy extras from the Battlefront. The game also includes upgrade cards that can be added to the tanks as well, making the game incredibly flexible. It was easy to learn, and I enjoyed playing, even though my husband thoroughly destroyed my Panther. Anyone who has miniature tanks, Flames of War tanks or an interest in tank battles should look into Tanks. Those who love miniatures games will enjoy how easy it is to play the game. If you aren’t sure about miniatures games, the rules for this game are straightforward and easy to remember.
Cool Mini or Not
While in the Main Gaming Hall we went to the Cool Mini or Not booth. Cool Mini had a booth in both halls, but the demo area was in the Main Gaming Hall. Both booths were large, but their demo area was one of the largest at the show, and they had many many games out to demo. Their tables were usually full whenever we walked by the booth. We checked out the new Krosmaster 2.0 and Krosmaster Quest. We have a plethora of Krosmaster minis and were excited about Krosmaster Quest. After hearing a brief overview, it didn’t look like it would work well with two so it was a pass for us. The game sounds fantastic, though, and anyone who plays Krosmaster with over two players should check it out.
We sat down for a group demo of Zombicide: Black Plague, which for anyone who knows us may sound weird because we not fans of zombie games. But the medieval black plague theme and impressive components made us want to try the game. The demo had already started when we sat down, but the demonstrator was helpful and gave a brief overview while the others took their turns so by the time it came to our turn we knew how to play.
It was a lot of fun to play even with a large group we didn’t know. I kept finding crossbows for some reason when I searched, but working together we were able to overcome the zombie horde and find our way out to win the game. The simple game play, fun mechanics and humor of the game sold it for us, and we picked it up at the con. The benefit of buying games from Cool Mini or Not at a con is that you get a chance to obtain limited edition promos. We were able to pick up some promo heroes that look a bit like some Monty Python knights and a few heroes for my favorite Cool Mini or Not game, Arcadia Quest.
Our first interview of Origins was with Osprey Games and Christian Waters. Osprey may be better known as a publisher of historical fact books, but in the last few years that have expanded into board games bringing with them their book publishing experience which is shown in the design of their boxes and the beautiful artwork. As a history teacher I appreciate the research and artwork that goes into these books.
One of their games is Frostgrave, a miniatures rule set that allows players to use any miniatures they may have. It is also a miniatures game suitable for new players. It is set in the frozen ruins of an ancient city where powerful wizards battle side by side with mercenaries and war clans. Christian let us know about the upcoming and recent releases for Frostgrave. Into the Breeding Pits is a paperback with a setting that takes players into the catacombs, sewers, and dungeons under the city. Tales of the Frozen City is a collection of eleven short stories from Frostgrave. Fans of Frostgrave have a lot of things to keep them happy and playing. We even saw some beautiful set-ups for Frostgrave in the miniatures section of Hall D.
Christian also walked us through the games he had available at the convention. Odin’s Ravens is a classic two player race game that many had wanted to have republished in the past. When a Kickstarter project about a year ago failed to deliver, Osprey stepped in and fulfilled the Kickstarter orders, which they didn’t have to do at all. Now this classic game has been updated with beautiful artwork. Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space is a hidden role game where the humans are trying to escape from their damaged spaceship while human-eating aliens are trying to catch them. It is described as a tense but exciting game to play. The simple design is very appealing, and I saw a lot of people drawn in by the art alone. Another two player game we discussed was The Ravens of Thri Sahashri, a game in which one player is Ren, who has lost her memory, and the other a detective trying to repair it. Both players work together through the game with a twist; no talking is allowed. The heaviest game we discussed was They Come Unseen. It is a hidden movement game where one player controls submarines while the other controls a surface fleet trying to destroy the submarines. It is not a light game and was designed by a retired Royal Navy Officer and Submarine Commander.
Underbite Games – Super Dungeon Tactics
Our second interview was not for a board game company at all. Instead, it was for an upcoming video game Super Dungeon Tactics. The name may help you to make sense of why a video game was demoed at a board game convention. Super Dungeon Tactics is a video game implementation of the board game Super Dungeon Explore. Fans of Super Dungeon Explore will instantly recognize the game. The graphics are true to the look and feel of the board game, and the 3-D world adds depth and beauty to the world of Crystalia.
Underbite Games has been working developing this tactical turn-based combat game that keeps the fun of the board game while enhancing it with a more vivid world. Cory Heald and Brian Lenz spent a lot of time going though the demo and telling us about the game.
Super Dungeon Tactics will be available on Steam for PC, Mac, and Linux. It can be played using either a controller or mouse and keyboard. Super Dungeon Tactics has a linear campaign with about 30 levels and plenty of side quests. Each hero in a guild brings in unique abilities to the dice, and these change as you equip your heroes with different armor and spells. The equipment and abilities of the heroes change the structure of the dice as well. The dice are assigned to characters to heal, add defense, enhance combat, or allow for special moves. Gameplay is turn based, and a hero may move and attack or attack and then move on their turn. Monsters will attack the hero with the most aggro or the first hero they can reach (it depends on the enemy’s AI). The players die roll can also trigger monster abilities.
I found the gameplay fun and intuitive, and I think it could be pretty addicting to build up your heroes and fight the dark forces. The game should be out sometime in Q3 with a price point of $19.99, which is pretty hard to beat. The game will appeal to fans of the board game and anyone who enjoys turn based combat games.
Lost Battalion Games
After the Exhibit Hall closed we were able back to go to Main Gaming Hall, which was stays open until 8:00pm. We stopped by to see our friends Jeff and Debbie at Lost Battalion Games. Lost Battalion is one of my favorite companies because of the kindness and passion of the owners.
Jeff took the time to have us demo the upcoming Hell on Wheels expansion for both Sergeants Miniatures Game and Sergeants D-Day. These expansions add vehicle models to the game, which are all sold separately allowing players to use their own tank miniatures or to purchase miniatures specifically for the game. The expansions include a vehicle panel, markers for ammunition and damage, equipment and mission cards, and scenarios.