One of the biggest draws of any big game convention is the exhibit hall, and Origins is no exception. This year saw a return to using the entirety of the exhibit hall for booths (even though as always there are some strange presences: recruiters for the Department of Immigration and Naturalization jumps out, as well as the large booth for a Carrom organization). There’s always plenty for gamers to spend their hard earned cash on, and this year saw a number of new releases, as well as some hidden gems recommended to me by other show-goers that may have been around previously.
I also recorded a few short blurbs at some of the booths to give you a little more of the experience of being there.
No gaming convention would be complete without its dice sellers. The Crystal Caste booth was the most prominent upon entering the hall, but GameScience had a significantly expanded presence (with laptops playing Colonel Zocchi’s dice video and volunteers hand-inking dice), and both Chessex and Koplow had their usual offerings.
Z-Man had two games nominated for the Origins Award for best board game (Agricola and Pandemic, with Pandemic ultimately winning the category) and had plenty of copies of both for sale. However, the big deal for me was picking up Tales of the Arabian Nights, since I knew there was a limited number of copies. The stack above is what was there shortly after opening, and they were completely sold out by Saturday. I’m glad I picked up my copy when I did, but I sure didn’t like lugging around that heavy box for my first pass around the hall!
It was a great show for Dominion… Dominion: Intrigue, the first expansion, came out to great acclaim at Origins. Then it won the Origins Award for best card game (up against stiff competition). Then right after the show, it won Spiel Des Jahres! There was also a different booth in the hall with the above sign, which I thought was a very smart move.
I profiled this new game company earlier, and was happy to see them have a better located booth this year. I also complimented them on having some of the most photogenic displays of their boardgames that I’ve seen. I picked three of their (many) games to profile that I thought the Critical Hits readers would be interested in, and got Anthony Gallela, their VP (and former executive director of GAMA), to explain them in a few minute spiels.
Are You The Traitor?
Looney Labs debuted a brand new game at Origins: Are You The Traitor?, a Werewolf-style party game with a Lord of the Rings-style theme. I’ve been excited for this one to come out for a while (disclaimer: I worked heavily as a playtester on it) and so was really happy to finally see it in print and in the hands of eager players. It’s not the game for everyone: like many psychologically based games, it doesn’t always click what the “moves” are when you first play, but to someone like me who loves that genre (and the theme), it hits all my gaming tastes right away. My favorite Looney Labs game, now available to all.
One other note about Looney Labs: this Origins held the 20th Annual International Icehouse tournament. Congrats to my roommate Jacob for winning it all (again), and for the Looneys for putting on such a prestigious event.
North Star Games
Sticking in the “party games made by Marylanders” for a moment, North Star Games had their hits Say Anything (which won the Origins Award for best Children’s, Family, or Party Game) and Wits & Wagers being demoed almost constantly. They also released a Wits & Wagers expansion with new trivia cards, as well as 4 promo trivia cards made by boardgaming folks. Of course, they also featured the giant Select-O-Matic 5000 prize wheel, which must have been the creation of some kind of genius…
Things I Want And Can’t Afford
OK, not an actual company, but two booths that stood out in that area at Origins. First, the Dwarven Forge booth (which I would probably own more of if they stocked any in their booth) featuring its always amazing 3D dungeon terrain, and the Sultan gaming tables, specialized wooden tables customized for gaming. Dwarven Forge sets cost a few hundred a pop, whereas each Sultan table floated in the thousands. Once this blogging thing makes me fabulously rich, I’ll be sure to pick some up… or maybe the companies will give me review copies? Pretty please?
Dark Platypus Studio
I’ve seen one of Dark Platypus‘s products in previous years: the Bendy Dungeon Walls, which are pretty neat and easy way to add some 3D to your game. This year, they had a number of other products, including magnetic condition flags (which improve on the Alea magnets both for being obvious what they mean and not causing magnetic craziness) and a magnetically receptive battlemap. Geek’s Dream Girl has already talked about these a bit, but I also recorded a short bit with the owner to have him explain the different products.
- Dark Platypus Studio (MP3)
Hellas RPG and Maid RPG
I missed what the collective booth was called (edit: it was the Khepera Publishing booth, which also included Ninja Burger and Vox), but this was a collection of smaller RPG publishers sharing booth space and explaining each other’s games. Maid I recognized because of certain bloggers, but Hellas I had never heard of, being described to us as “300 in Space” and using a really great sounding Fate mechanic that allows you to do awesome things… but when you run out, your fate has come to pass. After checking it out, we were told by Monte Cook that it was one of the coolest things he had seen at the show, so I had to go back and record an explanation of the game. Not that I needed the urging: Hellas is an amazingly put together product, which marries great production values (especially for a small company) with a unique setting and very interesting sounding mechanics.
- Hellas (MP3)
Game Publisher’s Association
Across the aisle from the previous booth, but together in spirit, was the Game Publisher’s Association. They sell a number of small press games (RPGs, board games, and otherwise). I checked them out to pick up some of the Asmadi Games I was missing (including the brilliant Win, Lose, or Banana) but noticed they also covered some old favorites like Battlestations.
Wealth of Nations
At the Origins awards, I got an @ reply from someone else there, and it turned out to be Jennifer Norris from Tablestar Games. She invited me to come by the next day and check out the Origins Award-nominated board game Wealth of Nations, and so I did! I recorded her explanation of the game, and hope to be able to give a full review after I play it.
- Wealth Of Nations (MP3)
Just as an example, you can buy more than just games at Origins. I’m pretty sure this steampunk apparel booth was new, and definitely a welcome change from all the corset vendors (I also noticed no Utilkilt booth this year). I was strongly tempted to buy one of the hats with goggles, though I’m always worried about buying hats to fit my big head.
Last year, I bought a lot of Cthulhu paraphernalia at the combined SJ Games/Atlas Games/FFG/Cthulhu stuff booth. This year, I picked up the little guy above for Geek’s Dream Girl who was fawning over it all weekend, as well as a new Miskatonic University sticker for my new laptop. I love all the stuff they sell that just pretends like Miskatonic University is a real college. I’ve been wearing the hat from them since last year, and gotten asked on more than one occasion “Where is Miskatonic?” (The answer is either: A. in a book, or B. in Massachusetts).
We close with something that was actually OUTSIDE of the exhibit hall, in the walkway. A row of pods was connected along the wall, each one bringing you into the cockpit of your very own Battletech mech (or a video game simulation thereof). I didn’t get a chance to try it, but a friend who did said that while the graphics were worse than a home computer, it was still a lot of fun and not all that expensive for just a session or two. I’m hoping to give it a try myself at GenCon, and face off against Bartoneus… he won’t be able to use his headshot-rolling dice for this!