Posts Tagged ‘ Origins ’

Origins 2013: The Other Games

Concluding my three part look at Origins 2013, here are the games I tried that weren’t brand new. Even so, “new” is a relative term. I believe King of Tokyo and Puzzle Strike Shadows are the only ones that even existed at last year’s convention, and King of Tokyo was getting a big promotional push. (I also spent some time with a prototype game and playing a game I already knew. I don’t cover that stuff here, and also don’t go into the games I looked into but didn’t try.)

It’s amazing that I was able to fill my time with new games so efficiently that a debut from last Fall’s Essen festival now seems old. Just a few years ago, I remember spending most of my Origins time in the Board Room, because there  weren’t enough games around the rest of the convention to hold my attention. And even then, a lot of what I played in the Board Room was a couple years old. Board gaming has really taken off, as well as taken a starring role at Origins. Admittedly, this probably gives me a skewed view of the convention as a whole. Not everyone agrees with my claim that the convention is healthier than ever, and that’s probably because I don’t notice how categories like RPGs and miniatures are fading away. My posts about Origins are admittedly biased towards the subjects I care about. However, I can say that in a short time, board gaming has gone from being an unimportant sideline of Origins to the main point. I don’t know whether it will be enough to keep the show going if everything else dries up, but I definitely hope so. This is an incredible event if you’re a board gamer.

And now, onto my first impressions of games.

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Origins 2013: The New Games

To follow up on my general impressions of Origins 2013, here are the specifics about the games I played. I didn’t feel like I got a good handle on which games had “buzz” this year. Maybe it’s because I was running around from game to game so quickly, or maybe it’s because there were so many new, big releases that the board gamer buzz tied closely to what the community already knew to look for. Either way, I don’t think I can sort my games by buzz-level this year like I normally do. Instead, I’m splitting them up by how new they are. So many of them were brand new that if I just separate the Origins debuts from the ones that came out a few months ago, that divides my list pretty neatly in two. So today I’m going to cover the Origins debuts and upcoming games, and in a couple days I’ll look at the “older” titles.

I’m only looking at games’ US availability here. They almost all come out in Europe sooner, but I’m a US gamer, Origins is a US conference, and I think it’s fair to look at them that way. Also, as usual, I don’t want to give “formal” reviews for a game that I played once in a convention atmosphere. Instead of my usual letter grades, I’m using a 1-10 rating.

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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.

Origins 2012 Wrap-Up

Another Origins Game Fair has come and gone. For me, it will be remembered as the first one I didn’t get to attend completely. Due to various issues back home (over two hours away), I left, came back, and then left early again. I only got to spend two and a half days at the convention, instead of my usual four and a half. Really, though, that made me realize what a big deal this is for me. Like a holiday, I had to make it back for that partial Saturday, not due to considerations of whether it would be fun enough, but because I simply had to have a complete event. Origins punctuates my gaming year.

It’s too bad I was gone, because in some ways the times I was there were my best ever. It never once took me more than a few minutes to find a game to play. The crowds at the Board Room are open and friendly, the people in the Rio Grande room proactively suggest things to me, and even my trips through the Dealer Hall ended up with more demos than normal.

Maybe this is because Origins happened a month early this year. I don’t know whether the attendance was really as low as it seems – every time, people compare their memories of last year’s busy Saturday to this year’s quiet Thursday – but I’m sure it was down. It’s too bad, because this is the first time in my six years of attending that Origins didn’t have to share downtown Columbus with another large event. It was great not to have rush hour traffic at 2:00 AM for once.

However, I definitely noticed a lack of exciting new games. There are plenty of exciting Summer and Fall releases lined up, but apparently the earlier schedule made Origins miss out on them. I’m not sure whether to blame the convention organizers for shifting the schedule, or the game publishers for not planning around something that had a full year’s notice. Either way, though, the only game with real buzz was Mage Wars, an upcoming constructible deck game that had the largest promotional push I’ve ever seen at Origins. I saw several groups discovering Lords of Waterdeep for the first time (which I’d played a few weeks before), and several more talking about Sentinels of the Multiverse (which I never got around to trying), but most years I’d end up putting those two in the “light buzz” category. This year, I have to abandon my pattern of sorting games by the buzz-factor, because there just wasn’t any.

Seriously, on Saturday afternoon I asked several people flat out “What should I buy?” I was leaving early, I still had a few hundred dollars in my pockets that I’d expected to spend on great new games, and I wanted to find something cool. But after asking almost ten people I trust, with a wide variety of tastes, no one could suggest anything. It’s not that there aren’t good games out there, but there really wasn’t anything new and exciting.

Instead, the buzz mostly centered around special guests Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day. Origins has celebrity guests every year, but this is the first time I’ve heard people truly excited about them, and also the first time that it sounded like the guests stayed to enjoy the convention instead of just cashing their check. My Twitter feed was filled with people talking to and about them, and it sounds like they hung out to try lots of games and actually visit people. The celebrities aren’t why I go to Origins, but I think this is an encouraging sign. Next year, it will be back to its more popular late-June date, and the organizers now know a new trick.

So with all that said, it’s time to look at the new games I learned. They are ordered from the best to the worst, at least as well as I can do for first impressions of such a variety of games.

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Origins Recap: 2010

Here are my notes from the 2010 Origins. I’m now all caught up on these recaps, since I posted 2011’s immediately after it finished last year.

This was the year that I finally stopped talking about games I already knew, and also talked more about themes of the convention. It definitely reads a lot better than the earlier years’ wrap-ups.

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Origins Recap: 2009

Continuing my catch-up of old Origins recaps, here is 2009’s. This was my third time at the show, and the first one where I started to run into people I knew regularly. Also, I noted afterwards that finding games felt very different. In other years, I discovered a lot of new exciting games that I hadn’t heard of before. In 2009, I mainly knew about the games already. This was probably just because I was paying more attention to game news, rather than a big shift in the industry.

As with the 2008 recap, I tried to sort the games in order from best to worst, even though a lot of them are difficult to compare directly.  And it can be hard to decide for sure what I thought after one play (especially when I learn halfway through that we were taught wrong…)  But this is roughly in order.

Warning: I try to make most of my game reviews fairly accessible to people new to the hobby. But this is from an email I sent to serious gaming friends, and I was just getting experienced enough with board games to compare everything to each other. So this summary assumes that you are familiar with the other popular games that were out there in 2009.

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Origins Recap: 2008

Last year, I posted a long Origins write-up to my blog. I had actually written these for my friends for a few years before then. I thought it would be interesting to post those for historical comparison. Here is the first of my old reports, with minor editing to make references to friends and current events clearer.

2008 was a significant year for my game-playing hobby. I left Origins most excited about games like Metropolys that found clever new approaches to the classic Euro approach: Just one or two mechanics for people to use in a roundabout way to earn points, and ending in 45 minutes. Little did I know that Agricola was currently blowing up in Europe and would be in the US later that year. Between that and Galaxy Trucker, another game that was long and component-rich for my tastes at the time, I’d finish 2008 with a very different attitude about gaming than I’d had in the middle of the year. (Also, I tried out a prototype of Dominion here. I thought it was clever, of course, but I had no idea how big a deal that game would be.)

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Origins 2011 Wrap-Up

I just got back from five days at Origins, the annual gaming convention in Columbus. I had a great time as always. While the convention encompasses non-computer gaming of all sorts (minis, CCGs, role playing, and so on), I always go for the board games. Specifically, I go to check out new games I haven’t played before. Here is my report of the convention from that point of view.

(Sorry, I didn’t have a camera with me. I’m still relatively new to blogging, and I didn’t think to bring one until it was too late. I’ll remember next year!)

I think that three main themes dominated the convention this year:

  1. Pretty much everyone I talked to, from friends to vendors to people on Twitter, agreed that the convention was slower this year than last year. Whether that meant fewer new good games, fewer attendees, or less money spent, everyone says it’s going downhill. I agreed that it felt a lot slower, but I’m not so sure now that I look back. I remember people complaining about how there were not enough good games last year, but I still found a lot of good ones then. I thought I had a lot of downtime this year, but looking back at 2010’s notes, I played approximately the same number of games (32 last year, 31 this year). I’m not going to bother calculating the total time they took, but it does seem that I just forgot about the downtime I had last year. Admittedly, I did learn fewer new games this year (19 instead of 24), but I blame that on my own unpreparedness. I’ve been getting ready for a wedding instead of researching the games I needed to find, and I arguably shouldn’t have taken five days for this at all. (On Sunday, I discovered several games I wanted to play, but I didn’t have time for all of them. Had I known about them ahead of time, those numbers would be closer.) So while there were a few worrisome signs of cutbacks, I think that this meme grew mainly out of human nature. We’re always comparing the present to the best parts of the past.
  2. Pure Eurogames are falling out of style. Last year, the big theme I noticed were that Euro- and American elements were finally being mixed together. My theory was that Eurogames were established enough that the American designers could draw on them successfully, and that Eurogamers were now thoroughly used to the basic mechanics of their games and ready for something new. This year, that has accelerated. There were a few good Euros out there, but they weren’t the ones with buzz. The dice games, dexterity games, and battle games were what everyone wanted to talk about this year. That makes sense, as the tastemakers in the Euro scene have always been eager for the next big thing. Five years ago, every new twist on area control and resource production was interesting to us. Three years ago, Agricola was ground-breaking. Today, all those things are familiar and dull. But making a balanced, replayable space battle based on flicking tokens around the board? That’s new.This ties in to my earlier point. The general consensus always seems to be that there aren’t enough good new games, but I still can’t keep up with them. The only problem is that as we get more familiar with the options, it’s harder to make everything seem new. Given that reality, I’m amazed by how much innovation I’m still seeing.
  3. Dominion is still a big deal, and now the deck-building knock-offs have arrived in force. Thunderstone is now established as a major game, and Nightfall, Ascension, and Resident Evil are jockeying for their position next. The retailers were giving these the sort of major promotional support usually associated with collectable card games, so they must expect huge results from this genre.I’m already on record complaining that all the new games have missed the elements that made Dominion great, without finding anything worthwhile to add. Overall, I found this new crop to be just as disappointing, but there are some glimmers of hope. Most importantly, though, I could still see a lot more games of Dominion being played than every other deck-builder combined. That game still has the fanbase it deserves.

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