Origins Games Fair 2013
Origins is a gaming convention in Columbus, Ohio traditionally held in June. It’s one of the longest held gaming conventions in the United States, having started in 1975. It’s ran by a group called Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA), a non-profit dedicated to non-electronic gaming located in the same city. This year I got to attend […]
Origins is a gaming convention in Columbus, Ohio traditionally held in June. It’s one of the longest held gaming conventions in the United States, having started in 1975. It’s ran by a group called Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA), a non-profit dedicated to non-electronic gaming located in the same city. This year I got to attend the convention thanks to The Nerdy Bomb, and what follows are my impressions of the venerable event.
The downtown Columbus area is a wonderful location for large events such as this, with the convention center being connected to the Hyatt and in prime location for parking and walking. I had no problems at all parking and finding the convention, which is always a nice bonus. I dislike going to an event like this or a concert and walking in irritated because of confusing parking. The lines were huge in the center, but luckily I had preregistered and so got to skip all of that.
The first part of the convention you’re likely to go into is of course the exhibition hall. It was quite large, with a huge amount of vendors. The front of the hall seemed to be dedicated to actual company representatives from Rio Grande, Catalyst Games, Mayfair, and other gaming companies. Further back you go to regular vendors who were often selling the same merchandise for a little cheaper. There was also an artist’s lane with various people from board game and video game companies. At the head of this lane was the king of old school Dungeons and Dragons art: Larry Elmore, most known for his work on the art for Dragonlance. He had a large line and I didn’t get to speak with him, though I was glad that relic from the golden days of my hobby demanded such popularity even now.
The exhibition hall was where all of the free demos were going on. They had the more popular games on display, but what I was more interested were the indie type games. There was a small section for Looney Labs games, a wonderful company that make wistful card games. These games include Fluxx, Chrononauts, Aquarius, and other proprietary offshoots of the Fluxx brand. If you’ve not played Fluxx, I recommend it. It’s a game that starts with one or two rules but gets more complicated as cards are played.
One game that caught my eye was Pirates vs. Dinosaurs, by Richard Launius, the designer of the popular Arkham Horror game by Fantasy Flight. This game is published by Jolly Roger Games, a smaller company that is known for games such as Scream Machine, Victory & Honor, Swashbuckler, and the recent Founding Fathers. The game was funded via Kickstarter, which interests me a great deal. The official game description is thus:
Designed by Richard Launius (creater of Arkham Horror), Pirates vs. Dinosaurs was originally conceived by a six year old boy. In the game, players land their pirate ships on a lost island, looking for lost pirate treasure hidden on the island, except no one mentioned that the island still has dinosaurs! Players have to race against one another to find the treasure while fighting off cannibals, dinosaurs, and the rumored ghosts of dead pirates who guard the treasure…
The game seemed fun and fanciful. You have to equip your crew and explore the island, but rival players with their own crews could play dinosaur cards on you to thwart your search for treasure.
Another game that interested me was one called Castle Dice, by Luke Peterschmidt. It’s another Kickstarter funded game, and this one is about worker placement (in a similar vein as Agricola). It is, of course, dice based, and in it you build castles and draft dice while placing workers to get various tasks done. It seemed light (whereas Agricola is very heavy), so seems a good alternative Euro for those that like those sorts of games.
I came across a huge game of Star Trek: Attack Wing, being played with oversized dice, ships, and maps. The (not so) miniature ships were being pushed along the floor map by excited players, and it looked like a lot of fun but I couldn’t stay and watch. I spotted it as I was on my way to what was the main event of the con for me, which was the Dungeons and Dragons playtest.
Wizards of the Coast is playtesting their new edition of DnD consistently, and are running an open playtest as well as demos for cons such as this. The demo I got to play in was actually a DnD Next version of the old 1970’s module, Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. Older gamers may remember this adventure with great frustration. I will detail my experiences in the demo in a separate and more detailed article.
I will give a quick shout out to the people that worked the Scrying Eye Games booth. They were very friendly and helpful. They sell game tiles which can be used as maps for role playing games or miniature games, and when I asked if they had anything for a Serenity campaign I am currently running (of which I will write about at a later date!), they showed me some very well made products perfect for it. The women who checked me out also designs dice bags and I picked one up that I am in love with. All in all they seemed a good sort and if you need roleplaying materials I suggest looking them up on Facebook.
There were a variety of events to get involved in, and in fact you could pick up a huge catalog book to see which ones there were. Almost all of the events outside of the exhibition hall had a cost involved, however, and if you think you’d come to Origins and not spend any money beyond the badge you’d be either sorely mistaken or bored.
This leads me to some small criticisms of the popular con. Obviously it’s very established, so there is little I can say to stain its grandeur, but I had a couple of niggles. One is, as mentioned, that it has a lot of costs tied into it, beyond ticket price. They actually had a token system set up, where you could pay two dollars per token and use these to get into events on other floors. I do wish a bit more came with the basic badge, which costs twenty for one day of the con, than access to the sell booths and whatever demos these booths wanted to set up. It seemed like unless you spent something extra, you would find yourself without things for at least a part of the day. Maybe this isn’t true for those who look deeply to find things to do, but it was my personal experience.
Another small criticism was the lack of personalities. The one celebrity I knew that was there was Kevin Sorbo, and I didn’t have much interest in seeing him. I wish some big name game designers were there, or if they were there were more advertised. It would have been nice to see Monte Cook or Mike Mearls on the guest list, though GenCon has always seemed to attract more of this sort than Origins.
I can’t complain too much, as I had a fantastic time and got to see a lot of games. My wallet is in hiding after the experience, but I digress.
Will I try to go back next year? Absolutely! I believe the con is probably more enjoyable if you go for the full weekend and can thus schedule yourself for more of the outside events. But, even with a day pass you get access to a lot of vendors (many of whom sold at a discount) and a variety of demos for games large and small. It does my heart good to see the amount of independent publishers throwing their hat into the ring, especially when they use Kickstarter. It reminds me that this hobby is far from old fashioned. In fact, it’s seems to continue to grow in unexpected and awesome directions. Origins highlights that, and I am glad to have been a small part of that.
If you missed it this season, worry not! GenCon is just around the corner…