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Origins – June 6

Darkrock Ventures

After the excitement of our first day at Origins, I had high hopes for day two, and I wasn’t disappointed. I started my day talking with Ian Stedman of Magic Meeple Games. He showed me a preview of Darkrock Ventures by Michael Eskue. Darkrock Ventures will be launching on Kickstarter on July 14th. I enjoyed our demo of Darkrock, and it may end up being the first Kickstarter I have supported in awhile.

Darkrock Ventures is a science fiction themed worker placement game. Players control a mining crew and are working to mine asteroids in space. Not only are the competing against the other players, but the Therion Marauders, the aliens who will attack. Players need to acquire the most credits to win the game. Players start out with two credits, three regular crew, and three cargo spaces.

At the start of the round, the leader rolls the two white power dice. Players now choose where to assign their crew members, one at a time. A player can assign more than one crew to a space where they already have crew.  This allows players to gain more resources or earn the benefit of the space twice.

The crew members may be placed to mine the minerals.  The three choices are iron (orange), cobalt (blue), and platinum (white).  Crew can also be placed on gear, upgrades, and bonuses. Some examples of the gear are precision imaging that lets you subtract 1 or add 1 to your die roll,  rough imaging that lets you subtract or add up to three to your roll, the vortex drill that let you flip a die over and use that result, or Rover  which lets you move your crew to an adjacent mining site.  Crew spaces let you recruit a crew or captain by paying for it, release crew to gain credits, or subcontract to gain credits.  A captain counts as two normal crew.   export let you sell your resources, cargo to unlock another cargo slot and leader lets you become the leader.

There are other spaces that also help your manipulate your dice or gain extra dice for a turn.  You can also become the leader or export (sell) your resources.  Their is also a Solar Array space where players try to earn solar energy.

After everyone has placed their crew, the black neutronium die is rolled and added to the other white dice.  The three dice are the community dice and used to obtain resources.

If a player has exported at least one resource the aliens have been altered to the mining activity and will now attack each round.  The leader reveals an Therian Marauder card. The card shows what spaces the aliens will attack. Players with crew on spaces attached by aliens have three options. They can activate shields by spending one neutronium to protect their crew, they may fell, remove the crew token from the board, or exchange where they spend any other resource besides neutronium. I didn’t find the aliens to be too disruptive, but Ian did hint that some Kickstarter rewards may offer some tougher aliens.

Now each player rolls their rig dice and tries to add and get the desired number.  It turned out to be more difficult than I first suspected, until I grew wise to using the gear and other spaces to manipulate my dice.  After that obtaining resources was a bit easier.  To obtain resources, a player must match one power die or the neutronium die and one of their own dice, to get an exact number needed (4, 8, or 12). If they don’t match, they don’t get the desired resource. Instead, they come back with some neutronium as a consolation.

As players gain resources, they may store these in their cargo hold. A player only starts out with three spaces, but may obtain more during the game. Players may also obtain more dice during the game. Once the reach a certain number of credits, they will unlock a new die.

The game ends once resources have been depleted. When three of the six resources on the asteroid have no minerals, the game end is triggered. The round is finished, and the player with the most credits wins the game. Games usually last 30-40 minutes.

I enjoyed playing Darkrock Ventures; the rules were intuitive, and I understood the mechanics quickly. That isn’t to say it isn’t challenging. There are a lot of decisions to make and time goes quickly. You need to play optimally to beat your opponents. I enjoyed the dice rolling, hoping to get the right number but being wise to what spaces will help me get the resources. Because you always came away at least one resource, it was never too disappointing. Besides the neutronium was the perfect thing to have in case of an alien attack.

Darkrock Ventures is a solid game. It has the feel of a well tested and proven game. The mix of euro game, dice rolling, and alien attacks will be sure to make this a hit. Darkrock Ventures will do well on Kickstarter, and I can’t wait for it to be published. Look for it on Kickstarter on July 14th!  Check out the Board Game Geek page here.

The Witchborn

After our discussion with Ian, we decided to make our way to Cory Kammar and get a demo of The Witchborn since we had not had a chance to get a demo in during our discussion Friday night.

Cory took us through the quick start rules and showed us how to measure and move our figures. He also showed us the PDF forms. These looked gorgeous and once he had gone over them with us, easy to use and understand. Like any miniatures game, you will need to learn the ins and outs of the conditions and meaning of the words. But even with very little miniatures experience it wasn’t overwhelming.

We ran through the first scenario from “The Chase.” In it there were two points of interest, one of which was the cargo that was dropped from the magical flying ship as it crashed. It was a race to find the cargo and get off of the map. As we played, we used the app to determine the result of the discovery and wounds. I liked the story the resulted from the app.  I could see my clansmen feel racing for the point of interest and when they cut off the nose of another character. I know my Eric opponent went way too easy on me and I ended up winning the scenario.  Thanks Eric, you didn’t need to do that.

After we had played, Cory took us through leveling up our characters. Even though I wouldn’t be playing with those characters again, I enjoyed the excitement of rolling my dice to see what I would get. My results were okay, and I could quickly see how important it was to gain experience and make hits and discoveries during the game. Even in our quick demo the rich storytelling of The Witchborn and how attached you will become to your clan members. The app added a lot to the gameplay. I should note that the app only available for IOS, but they are working on the Android app.

I like the fact that miniatures don’t come with the game. It keeps the cost down and you can use any minature you want. Using miniatures you already own is a great option. The Witchborn turned out to be our first purchase of the con. We were too busy Friday to buy anything, and I was really excited about this game. I have started to look at the quick start rules and think about the clan I want to build. Once we have played a bit, I’ll report back more.  In the meantime find out more here.

The Dealer Hall

We had only had time for a quick run through of the Dealer Hall on Friday. The hall was packed this year, and I know we had missed most of it. We also wanted to make our way around Hall D since it is becoming almost as crowded as the Dealer Hall these days.

I had thought the crowd was large on Friday, but Saturday is the busiest day. The ticket lines were long, and I was glad we didn’t have to wait for them. I noticed that there were a lot of families as well. It makes me feel good to see more families coming to Origins. I feel as more companies like Blue Orange and HABA attend they will encourage that trend to continue.

Gaming accessories were everywhere in the dealer hall, and a few notables stood out to me. Of course, Geek Chic tables are always a big draw. They make beautiful wooden gaming tables that reveal a felt gaming surface when you remove the top. I have loved these tables for many years, but can’t quite afford the investment.

Other wooden components included the beautiful work on Wormwood Gaming. They offer deck boxes, dice trays, dice vaults, and of course dice towers. Their quality is second to none. They offered a variety of wood choices and price ranges.

Hrothgar’s Hoard offered many wooden gaming accessories as well. We bought a really neat dice tray from him. I hadn’t seen one like it before and thought the small size was perfect. It is a hexagon shaped, double dice tray. The two trays fit together with magnets and allow you to store dice safely inside. It’s great for travel and small tables. Plus it’s two trays in one. I know it will get a lot of use during our gaming sessions. You can find out more about Hrothgar’s Hoard here.

The Origins Award winner for fan favorite gaming accessory was CritSuccess Dice Rings. Yes, dice rings. These spinner rings came in a variety of colors and values. They had D6 to D20 rings, as well as compass direction rings, rock paper scissor rings, hit location rings, an alphabet ring, and many more. They won the Origins Award for the counter clicker ring. All the rings were made out of steel and etched. They seemed to hold up as well, as they showed us a ring that they had worn for four years. The ring had only minor scratching. It deserved its reward.

We also tried a few demos of games. At Thames & Kosmos, I was most interested in taking a look at Dimension. Dimension is a puzzle game where you lay out six cards. These cards are the rules you must follow to stack your balls (the puzzle pieces). They may tell you have many of one color you must use, which colors can’t touch or be stacked on top, or even if you must have more of one color than another. Players must follow these rules to finish the puzzle before the timer runs out. I thought it would be easy, but remembering all the rules and racing the clock was trickier than I thought. This made it a lot of fun to play. The variety of rule cards adds to the re-playability.  Besides Dimension, Thames & Kosmos was also highlighting a few older game they now have available, through their company in the United States.  These tiles included Lost Cities, Kahuna, Dohdles!, and Ubongo.  All great titles, a few of which have been or are currently in my collection.

We next headed to Stronghold Games and Steven Buonocore. Steven was the first person to welcome us to Origins. This year his both was in front of the dealer hall. Steven is always so welcoming when we see him at conventions. I remember Stronghold’s first Origins back when he first published Survive! It has been a joy to see his company grow so that he could be one of the sponsor’s of Origins this year. This year, La Granja and Dark Moon were his newest additions. Dark Moon had sold out by the time we arrived Thursday, but there were a few copies of La Granja available. It was one of his older games, just back in stock that we wanted to demo.

Diamonds has intrigued me for quite some time but I am leery of trick taking games, they just don’t make a lot of sense to me. We played a demo with six players, and it was a lot of fun. I did horribly, as expected, but I understood the mechanisms. I liked that fact that if you lost a trick but played a different suite, you could take that suits action. We, of course, picked up a copy, and I look forward to playing this with my family who does enjoy trick-taking games.

At Jolly Roger, we took a look at another game currently on Kickstarter, 13 Days: The Cuban Missle Crisis. You can check out the Kickstarter here. 13 days is a mix of the popular board games Twilight Struggle and 1960: The Making of the President. The Cuban Missile Crisis is the theme of this two player, card-driven game. Fans of Twilight Struggle may appreciate the short, 45-minute playtime, with all the tough decisions, tense moments, and elegant design of 13 Days. I even just enjoyed looking through the cards showing the highlights of this fascinating period. Due to time, we didn’t get a demo in, but from those who did, the game comes highly recommended. It has already funded on Kickstarter, but you have to the third of July to join.

It seems that there is one game at Origins that catches our eye, a game that we weren’t expecting but decide to buy. This games are sometimes a hit and sometimes forgettable.  This year we were drawn to Albion’s Legacy, a cooperative tile placement and exploration game with a King Author theme. It was a successful Kickstarter from Lynnvander Productions. Players take on the role of one of the characters from the King Author Legend, including King Author, Sir Lancelot, or the Lady of the Lake. Players are exploring to collect relics, artifacts, and weapons while surviving attacks. The beautiful artwork, theme, tiles and exploration of the game drew us in; the big box was a bit of a turn-off. The box was designed to be able to hold all of the expansions, a nice idea, but it still left the question of storage. Luckily it’s the same size a the Ticket to Ride 10th Anniversary edition, so they are on the self together. We didn’t demo the game there but were invited to play a demo that night on the Geek Chic tables their lounge after the dealer hall closed.

We also made our way back to HABA to buy a few games. I wanted to pick up a few gifts for my nieces and nephews and Rhino Hero for my classroom. It was a hard decision; I wanted to buy them all. But I picked up Loco Lingo Fastgrasp for the educational value and Good Night Stable after its rave review from Lea. Rhino Hero has seen a lot of play this last week of school in my classroom. Both my middle and high school kids loved it, so I’m glad I picked it up at Origins. I regret not picking up First Orchard with its beautiful pieces and fun theme.

We made sure to stop by Academy Games for an important pick-up at the convention. For both 1775: Rebellion and Freedom: The Underground Railroad, Academy had partnered with Rosen Classroom to write lesson plan books. These books show teachers how to have a play-based approach to teaching. The lessons show a teacher how to integrate primary resources, essential questions, vocabulary and gameplay to create a rich learning experience. I was impressed with the layout, ideas, and ease of use of the books. Many times I buy resource books for my classroom, but I rarely use them. I have wanted to incorporate games into my classroom, but it isn’t easy. These two books will help me bring 1775 and Freedom into my classroom.

Our next demo was at Eagle Gryphon games with Ralph Anderson. We had to demo is Hall D, since they were not demoing any games in the Dealer Hall.  We wanted to try out Baseball Highlights 2045. There has been a lot of praise for the game and we were really interested. Ralph was a great, he told us about the development of the game and about Mike Fitzgerald, the designer. I enjoyed our demo of Baseball Highlights 2045; the game was a blast and quick to play. The idea of the game is that baseball as we know it has changed. The game is sped up and shortened to six innings, players can now have bionic arms, and robots have been included for more offensive play.

This isn’t a baseball simulation game since there are no outs or innings. Players compete in a series a mini-games to determine the winner. Between each mini-game players can recruit free agents to build their team. During the mini-game players use cards with offensive and defensive actions to either advance runners or get out an opponents player. We like the fast play of the game and the idea of being able to play mini-games that build into a series. The team-building element of the free agent cards was a great addition as you try to create the winning line-up. The mash-up of historical players names, like Micky Maris, amused me and will please a baseball fan.

It was a little different for each player having their own field, but after playing it made sense. But the game didn’t seem like it was thematically baseball, but more that the baseball theme came later. This isn’t a criticism, just an observation. The expansions such as the coaches and hitters should add some more flavor to the game. Ralph also told us that more teams will be coming out shortly. I was pleased to hear my beloved Pirates will soon make an appearance. You favorite team will probably be represented as well. Maybe they can make a card of my hometown hero, pitcher Christy Mathewson.

Our last stop in the Dealer Hall, right before closing was Calliope Games. Every year Calliope has a large version of a favorite game. This year Roll for It! was highlighted, and people seemed to enjoy playing. We demoed Double Double Dominoes. The game is a mash up between dominoes and scrabble and an innovative way to play dominoes. It isn’t a new game, but it is the first time I have seen it. I think the familiar mash-up of favorite games makes it an inviting game for newcomers and classic board game fans.

The Dice Tower Live Show

After a nice dinner and a chance to watch American Pharoah win the triple crown, we headed to The Dice Tower Live Show. The Dice Tower is a favorite podcast we have listened to since about 2009; this was our first chance to see then in action. We has met Tom Vassel, Eric Summerer, and Jason Levine earlier in the day to ask about the show. We sat with a really nice couple and chatted before the show began about our experience with the show. We were also surprised to learn it was their first time at Origins. The show started with some interviews of Dice Tower Contributors and other podcasters in the Dice Tower Network. It was a lot of fun to see people in person whom I had heard on a podcast or seen in a video. After the interviews, they went to part two were they played the match game. At least one of the panel including Jason Levine, Zee Garcia, Mary Prasad, Steven Buonocore, Steve Avery, and Steve needed to match the contestants answer for them to win a prize. The answers ranged form which publisher excites you the most (Stronghold of course) to if you were a die, what die would you be? No contestant really went away empty handed as they good nauturaedly let them choose a prize even if they didn’t match. The show and our night ended with audience questions. We had a lot of fun at the show and laughed a lot. I hope next year they do the same thing. Saturday at Origins was packed full and an absolute blast. We weren’t sure about attending Sunday’s Origins, but after discussion realized there was still more we wanted to see. So it was off to our hosts home for a good nights rest and the prospect of one more day or Origins.

All pictures were taken by my wonderful husband Mike.  Thanks you all for sharing your wonderful pictures!

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