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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Origins 2016

This year Claire and I attended Origins for the first time as press members.  Last year Origins had a unique attendance of 15,938 and with the vastly increasing popularity of tabletop games, I would anticipate it was a significant and successful increase for the convention at Columbus Ohio.  We had a chance to meet up with multiple venders, play some new games, and surprisingly run into some personal friends of ours from our hometown of Fishers Indiana!  Read on to learn about our awesome weekend!

As most people who know about the Origins Game Fair, it is a well known tabletop gaming convention located in Columbus Ohio.  With a growing attendance of well over 16,000 it is well-balanced, but also becoming an increasingly popular convention.  Since Claire and I are from Indianapolis, we know all too well about how bad parking is downtown in our city.  Not only is Indy’s parking difficult to find during large city events, but it’s very expensive at 20.00 a day for event parking.  When we arrived to Columbus we were delighted to find a parking garage only a couple of blocks away and priced at 8.00 a day!  Wow!  What a breath of fresh air!  Not only did we find a perfect location for a great price, but finding a parking spot was a breeze as well.  These are all things we are not used to and we saw this as a great start to our weekend.

We managed to get right in and find registration where they had a great barcode scan system that literally just printed our press badges off for us and we were all set.  This was much quicker than any other convention we have attended before.  With as convenient as it was, we heard from a few others that it was not all that great of a system.  Apparently at one point their computer system went down and this did end up causing a major clog in the lines which pushed people back for several on-going hours.  Eventually this was remedied, and it’s a good thing it happened before the weekend because the influx of attendee’s only continued throughout the remainder of the week and weekend.

Hey it’s our friends from Indianapolis, Evan and Corey!  We were very pleased they joined us for a day at Origins, and their company made our time all the more enjoyable.  During this weekend, Claire cosplayed as Velma Dinkley from Scooby Doo and received great praise from a number of fans.  This did not seem to let up either as she switched it up and later dressed as a soot sprite from My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away.  There were a lot of reserved tables, and it seemed that a lot of other locations throughout the convention center were difficult to find available spots that would be appropriate for gaming, so we located a great spot in a more quiet area on the floor to play Imhotep.

Imhotep is an Egyptian-themed, resource-management, push-your-luck, action-selection game that is currently a Spiel des Jahres nominee for 2016, and we hope it wins.  In this 2 - 4 player game, over the course of six rounds players move stones by boat to create five Egyptian monuments.  You procure new stones, load them on a boat of your choice, and then bring one of those boats to a monument or play an action card.  The other players are constantly working against you to prevent your building plans by carrying out their own initiative.  Only players with the amount of stones, along with impeccable timing, will prove to be Egypt’s best builder.  Resource-management games are always one of our favorite types of mechanics, and Imhotep has a great theme to go with it.  The artwork is good, and it the game does a great job of taking simple choices and making it more interesting and tricky.  Players are always plotting in this game, and 4 players really makes this game shine the best.  It has good length at 35 to 40 minutes of gameplay, the replay-ability is high and the overall design and execution of this game is just excellent!

One of the other games we played this weekend was Bear Valley.  In this game, you must be the first to survive a treacherous forest by escaping to the safety of the camp at the end of the valley.  In this 2 - 6 player card-placement and path-creation game players move along the Bear River and have to navigate the wilderness, avoiding bears and trying not to get lost.  You utilize different resources and found objects that you attain by luck of the draw that can help you in your wilderness journey.  Unfortunately, many of the path cards resulted in you winding back to the beginning of the game and having no real control over the outcome.  The movement mechanics and placement of the cards also lacked consistency and felt poorly implemented. The game components lacked creativity and were just plain pictures printed on cardboard which didn’t provide a lot of enjoyment.  It just felt really bland and more unclear about how these various objects were supposed to assist you during the game.  I suppose for some people it could work as a filler game if you like the setting, but unfortunately for us, we can’t recommend Bear Valley.

We also stopped by Calliope Games, creators of Tsuro and Roll For It and took in a quick session of Thieves!  In this 3-6 player bluffing game, players take on the role of a group of thieves on the run after a heist.  Thieves employs a simple Draw One/Play One mechanic.  The deck contains a variety of loot cards, plus getaway cars and police. You can pocket the loot you draw, or you can put it in front of an opponent to overload their supply.  Your goal is to acquire loot-but you must do so carefully, as too many police cards can trigger a raid and cause the leading player to lose their loot. Thieves! is a simple, quick card game with fun art and an affordable price point. 

Another game we were able to demo was Sentinels of the Multiverse which is a cooperative, hand-management, action-point-allowance card game with a comic book flavor.  Each player takes on the role as one of ten heroes, against one of four villains, and the battle takes place in one of four different dynamic environments.  Each player, after selecting one of the heroes, plays a deck of 40 cards against the villain and environment decks, which "play themselves", requiring the players to put the top card of the appropriate deck into play on the villain and environment turns.  On each player's turn, they may play a card from their hand, use a power printed on one of their cards in play, and draw a card from their deck.  Each round starts with the villain turn, continues clockwise around the table, then concludes with the environment turn.  Every villain has various advantages, such as starting with certain cards in play, as specified by the villain character card.  Play continues until the heroes reduce the villain to 0 or fewer HP, or until the villain defeats the heroes, either via a win condition or by reducing all the heroes to 0 or fewer HP.  I liked this game a little more than Claire did, but I can see where she was coming from.  We had a long discussion about this one, and while the theme and artwork was sound, it seemed a little convoluted, which felt like it threw off the game a little and made it more tedious.  I'm not sure if we would get this game or not, but I know that I really enjoyed demoing it and if I had the chance to play it again at one of our gaming groups, I would most likely do so.  

Seeing a corgi in a cape, Claire was very eager to try Overlords of Infamy, a highly successful Kickstarter game taking pre-orders at the convention. In Overlords of Infamy, you take on the role of a super villain with dastardly goals ranging from decaffeinating everything or slowing down the internet, to blowing up the moon.  You acquire land to grow your kingdom and then and exploit it for resources that you trade in to level-up your infamy. Unfortunately, your misdeeds have consequences and the World Tension track continues to progress, leading to a Global Event that can be either helpful or catastrophic.  There is also an Adventuring Hero that roves across the map, attempting to put a stop to your plans.  But they are not the only one you need to worry about, as your fellow Overlords can spy on you and commit various acts of espionage, depending on their level of infamy.  Overlords of Infamy has fun characters such as Waffles the Evil Corgi and the Dead Pirate Robhearts, and a liberal dose of humor sprinkled throughout.  Sometimes this was good, but other times it felt like the attempt at comedy detracted from the mechanics of the game.  Unfortunately for a game with such an eye towards fun, there was very minimal player interaction and it was easy to get a bit bored between turns. There was also many things that needed to be tracked that were not thoroughly implemented into the game play, so they were easy to forget.  Overall Overlords of Infamy was a flawed, but fun area control/worker placement game.

All in all we are very pleased with how well this convention has gone.  There were instances that were most likely out of the hands of the convention personnel, but we know they do care about making sure their guests have a positive experience and our experience was an enjoyable one.  The food options while expensive at the convention center, were much more reasonably priced at the North Market off of 59 Spruce St. with a plethora of fresh food options inside.  The hotels in the area were much easier to get into and the options were fairly widespread.  This convention was not focused on cosplay, which is absolutely fine.  Claire did mention from time to time that she felt a little out of place, but with the massive amount of people that flocked to her this weekend wanting pictures of her and with her, it seemed to me that this convention would benefit from some more cosplay events and or competitions.  That could just be coming from some Indy attendees that have 6 different conventions in their town that heavily revolve around cosplay though.  Origins is more about the games and that is the primary reason we made the trip out.  Our experience with Origins will definitely bring us back next year and we know it will continue to vastly grow in the coming years.

Overall Meeple Ratings:
Imhotep: 8/10


Bear Valley: 4/10


Thieves: 6/10


Sentinels of the Multiverse: 7/10


Overlords of Infamy: 6.5/10


Have any thoughts or questions?  Leave a comment below.

2 comments:

  1. I've never heard of Origins, but it looks really cool! I was at PopCon when this was going on, but it looks like Origins is more focused on tabletop games. Great post!

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    1. Absolutely! We went to PopCon last year, but this year the dates completely overlapped the same weekend, so between the two we chose to go with Origins since it primarily focuses on tabletop gaming. You'll get your bigger cosplay fix at PopCon for sure, but if the dates aren't overlapping next year, you should consider Origins. It's worth the drive to Columbus Ohio.

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