Origins 2013 Impressions

Origins Welcome

The 2013 Origins Game Fair finished today. Rather than my usual long article of impressions and game reviews, I’m going to break this up into two (still long) articles. Today I’ll talk about the convention as a whole, and later in the week about the games I played.

Personally, this was significant in that it was the first time in years that I voluntarily skipped any of Origins’ five days. Being a father now, this might be the new normal for me. It was strange to miss any of it, but it really did feel right being back home more. I still got to be a Origins for slightly more than half the time.

For the convention in general, this was an important year. Everyone was watching to see if they would spring back from a disastrous 2012, when the show was moved to May and attendance plummeted. Though the empty halls made it easy for me to find games, no one released anything new and people wondered if Origins had passed the point of no return. This year, after moving back closer to the normal date, it looked like everyone returned. Even better (from my point of view as an attendee), there were lots of new releases and big companies again. In fact, I’ve never had so many new exciting games to try out. I barely had time to get through my list of top-priority games to try, whereas normally I can spend half the convention browsing through older titles. I’m sure this was partly because I wasn’t around for as long, but even so the difference was notable.

Strangely, the one place that seemed to have lighter traffic was the Board Room. This is hub for serious board gamers, but there was a lot more space on the tables and less competition for the hot new games. As far as I can tell, everyone was still around, but just had more things to do in the other areas of the convention. In past years, I always said in no uncertain terms that the Board Room was the thing that made Origins worthwhile; This year, that room was far from essential. I still definitely got my price of admission out of it, and I played two of my three favorite games there, but I could have stayed busy and happy throughout the show even without it.

I don’t think that CABS (the Columbus Area Boardgaming Society, which runs the Board Room) is doing anything wrong. Rather, their philosophy has spread to the rest of Origins. When the Board Room started, it was almost rebellious to say that people should be able to sit around a gaming convention and play games. Rio Grande was the only company at the time running full, consistent demos without a fee or a cramped space. Now, that idea seems normal. The free Origins gaming library, while still nowhere near CABS’ standards, at least lets attendees borrow the award nominees for the year. The open gaming areas (free, but without access to the CABS library or hard-core gamer community) are bigger and much better populated. And every company of respectable size had space where they could teach their games to people for free. The paid events are still around, but free teaching areas from IELLO, Asmodee, and other companies even took over a good-sized chunk of the hall that used to be dedicated to for-fee events only.

Every year, people talk about how Origins is smaller than the year before. I don’t know if that’s actually true, but it’s at least been the perception. This year, it clearly grew. But that wasn’t just stabilizing after last year. With the size, the number of new releases, and the ease of finding good games to play and people to play with, I felt better about Origins than ever before. I don’t yet know what the official numbers were, but I can already say that from my perspective as a board gamer, the convention and community have never felt healthier.

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