Another year, another Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio. Since Gen Con tends to be both my super busy show and the one with more duties for me as Press anyway, I swore to make this year at Origins more of a “hang out and play” kinda show. That said, the advantage of Gen Con for playing is that it’s easier to just send out a tweet saying “hey, I’m looking for something to play” and actually get a group together.
So, I didn’t get in as many plays as I was originally planning, but that’s OK, I still got to play in a few pretty awesome games. I managed to fit in some playtesting (both of my own stuff and other people’s stuff) and conduct a bit of business as well, so for me, it’s easy to call the show a success.
More important to all of your for sure are the games themselves. So here’s a rundown of my games played, purchased, and perused that stood out.
Star Trek: Expeditions
This is a game I had actually picked up the weekend before Origins at Free RPG Day, as they were offering a 25% off gaming supplies sale. I still haven’t gotten a chance to play it, but Knizia cooperative game (who made one of my favorites) in the Star Trek universe made it a no-brainer for me. There were stacks of copies of it at the front of the exhibit hall, and a seemingly continuous demo table in the board game room, meaning that there’s some serious promotion behind this game. Hopefully the game play stacks up to it.
Innovation: Echoes of the Past
Innovation is one of those love it or hate it games, and I really dig it. Like many card games, an expansion can breath new life into it. Innovation: Echoes of the Past comes in after a long playtesting cycle, and introduces several new (but not cumbersome) mechanics. Also, you can now invent Ice Cream.
Another from Asmadi Games, I was a playtester on this one (though it was pretty solid by the time I saw it), this is a pretty simple yet ingenious board game where you place different kinds of pieces onto a board that’s in a different configuration each time. A set of cards that are the same for each player determine what kind of piece you play each round, with smaller numbers having the greatest chance to grab points, and higher numbers having the highest potential score. Early copies were for sale at Origins, with the full version coming later in the year. If you’re a fan of games like Kingdoms, give it a look.
Magic the Gathering Commander Decks
Commander (formerly Elder Dragon Highlander) has been a format played by active MTG fans for a while now, but with WotC’s latest release of pre-made Commander decks (featuring enough cards to play, legends suitable for Commander play, and new cards designed for the format), casual players like myself can dive in. I picked up the Mirror Mastery (URG) deck, but not before some heavy searching of the exhibit hall. The decks sold quick, and apparently, retailers who had them for sale there began to mark up the prices after seeing the demand. You’ll be able to get these anywhere Magic is sold, if not now, soon enough.
Aquarius is a quick, very light card game from my friends over at Looney Labs. Now they’ve added dragon artwork by the always fantastic Larry Elmore and a few interesting twists on game play in order to create Seven Dragons, a game perfect for us D&D players who want to play a quick game before the DM shows up. If you want the scoop, check out the promotional video– you may even recognize a few of the stars.
I picked up the original at Gen Con last year, and have gotten some really good plays out of it. While Dominion is still my deck-building game of choice, Ascension flows a bit easier, includes some monster-killing, and feels more like a race between the players than many Dominion games’ solitaire feelings. The expansion was released at Origins, and while I didn’t pick it up at the time, there’s a good chance I’ll pick it up in the future after trying it out. Combining the expansion cards with a popular variant that introduces a second, speculative row seems like it could move it from being very tactical to adding a good layer of combo-strategy. Rob, whom won on the tie-breaker in our game (which lead to E inventing the rule “the player who looks up the tiebreaker rule wins”) has some interesting thoughts on it as well.
Will MCed this for us, and summed it up better than I could. If I had been able to find a copy for sale on the show floor I would have bought it based on strength of the one game we played. It was the game I always seek out at conventions: strong game, great GM, fun fellow players. I can’t ask for anything better than that. Later that evening I sent a message to Chatty DM that basically said: “you were right.”
Also very interesting for me: there’s almost no conceptual overlap between it and Gamma World, despite being nominally the same genre. I would happily play either, for totally different kinds of games.
Deadlands: Savage Worlds
Tracy from Troll in the Corner ran us in a one-shot of the classic Weird West setting. For the second Deadlands game in a row, I played the mad scientist – though this time, I was an obese 12 year old boy who had banished his parents through a strange doorway and had a ready supply of extradimensional goo. Plus, had the grown-ups listened to him, the zombie outlaw never would have come back from the dead.
I heard that a deluxe edition of Savage Worlds was released at the convention, something I’ve felt it’s needed for a while, which I’ll have to investigate.
Should the convention have been called 7 Origins? Anyway, I’ve been a fan of 7 Wonders since it was first released, having been at The Gathering when the prototype made a big debut, when multiple friends came up to me and told me I “had to play it” and it turns out that the mix of card drafting and fast-moving game play made it one of my favorites of the past year.
Seeing the game consistently in play somewhere, and hearing multiple people request it to try it out, solidified its worth as a great game, which was then followed by a well-deserved Spiel Des Jahres special prize win.
Rumored to have been at the show was the Leaders expansion, which I did get to try out in April, and was surprised to discover that it didn’t feel tacked on at all: it felt like a natural addition to the game, which is the best kind of expansion. I look forward to getting my hands on it as soon as possible- hopefully it won’t be as delayed in getting out there as the original.
Fiasco / Fiasco Companion
I heard plenty of tales of Fiasco games going on in the Games on Demand room, and the brand new Fiasco Companion appeared in print for the first time at the convention. We’re already fans here on Critical Hits (going as far as to make new playsets for it), but it looks like a year after I first picked up the book, it’s clear that Fiasco has some legs.
Scrying Eye Games Maps
Rounding out my Origins purchases (well, the games at least, Jeni’s Ice Cream was a frequent expense) were several maps from Scrying Eye Games. I picked up the two post-apocalyptic sets for Gamma World, and a set of fantasy ships suitable to attack the party’s Gamemastery map ship while sailing the Astral Sea.
Origins Awards Winners
And of course, no matter what you think of the awards or the nominees, it’s always worth checking out the Origins Awards winners to see what the folks at the convention chose as the best games of the year. This year, I think they made some damn fine decisions, in some really tough categories. Kudos to all of them.