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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Origins 2017

Well, we're finally back after taking a little break from the blog.  Our schedules have become more complicated in the last several months and other priorities in our lives have taken precedence.  After driving a few hours through many cornfields, and then followed by a few more hours of cornfields, we arrived at Origins once again in Columbus Ohio to celebrate the 5 best days of board gaming. This is our second convention of the 2017 season and this is when things start to pick up before continuing on to the massive convention that is GenCon. As always, GAMA has delivered and improved upon a few things this year and just like last year, the convention went exceptionally well! From June 14th through the 18th, The Greater Columbus Convention Center welcomed thousands of guests from all over to bask in the strategic, fun, and family focused environment of tabletop gaming that Origins has to offer. The theme this year was dragons so we anticipated large groups playing D&D.  Come with us once again as we venture fourth within the walls of the Columbus Convention Center for one of the best board gaming conventions there is.   

Claire and I were very fortunate this year to meet up with family and bring them with us to Origins.  They are fortunate to have such a great convention right in their back yard, and we were very fortunate to stay with them while in Columbus.  It's just as enjoyable when you can introduce and play new games with people that are new to the board gaming hobby.  The power of tabletop gaming doesn't just create a more sociable environment for gamers, but it provides a strong bond for families to share with one another.  We enjoyed bringing them to their first board gaming convention and we hope when we return again next year, that they will be right by our sides.

Anytime we stumble upon any newer two player games we love to report about it.  Granted Holmes is not a new game.  It was released in 2015, but it's a new game to us that is essential for this blog.  Holmes is a card-drafting, set collection and worker-placement card game where you have 7 days of investigation (7 turns) to utilize character extracts from the books of Arthur Conan Doyle that will appear in London.  During each players turn, you will take 3 actions utilizing the allotted tokens at your disposal allowing multiple moves from one character card to another, understanding that each player cannot have two tokens on the same character per round.  The end goal of Holmes is to gain evidence from your cards and reaping the benefits for more clues equalling more points to each player.  The effects of the cards stem from gaining and then spending investigation markers, which act as your currency for purchasing more clue cards.  Whoever has the most points from their set collection of cards by the end of the week, is the winner.  The game is beautifully illustrated and fulfills the satisfaction of light-weight, strategic gameplay in under 30 minutes.  Holmes is a perfect filler game for game nights or just a quick round with another friend. 

While on the topic of two-player games, another one that we haven't played before was Onitama, an abstract, grid-movement, strategy game from 2014.  In this game, players will place their statues on a 5x5 grid according to two open cards that they draw and place in front of them.  There are a total of 5 cards that are drawn from the deck of cards for the duration of the game.  These are the only cards that will be used in the game.  Each player takes two open cards and places them in front of their play area, leaving a fifth card face up to the side of the board.  On the active players turn, he or she will choose one of their cards for movement, and then make that move according to the chosen card, and then replace it with the fifth card that is laying to the side.  The other player performs the exact same actions and this process repeats until the players either take the other players main pawn or move one of their pawns to the other players main pawns' square.  Once this is performed, that player wins the game.  This game is designed to be very straight forward and very fast.  Most games that Claire and I played against each other were over in 10 minutes.  The box specifies that it plays between 10 to 30 minutes but I don't know how this game could take up to 30 minutes.  Both of us play abstract games quite well, and Onitama ended up being a game that I was especially good at.  The combinatorial movement makes the game very interesting since all of the cards rotate very quickly between each player, elevating a procedural type of strategic gameplay.  I love the quality of the game components, but the game actually played too fast for us.  If we owned this game, we would roll it out and play a few rounds in only 10 to 15 minutes and I don't believe it has a lot of replay ability.  This isn't to say it's not a good game, it is a very good little game, it's just not one that we could easily see making it into our collection.

Claire is constantly asking the question "why aren't there more animal themed games!?!" so when we saw a banner with "Rabbit Island" on it, we had to stop.  The premise is simple, you explore the island, build up your camps and villages and score victory points.  Each player starts with a small stack of map tiles and places 2 on their turn.  They then move their Rabbit meeple and resolve the effect of the tile they are on.  These effects vary depending on tile type, but are often to pay the building cost and build a camp or obtain carrots.  Building a camp means you will place your building token on the tile, thus gaining control of it. However, other players who land on a tile with a camp can pay to upgrade the building and take back ownership. Gaining carrots is beneficial because they are the main currency of the game and many actions cost carrots to play.  Once each player is down to one map tile, the exploration phase of the game is over and you enter the build phase.  You use Movement cards rather than placing tiles, but you are still following paths/tunnels and seeking to upgrade your buildings.  This phase also introduces Action cards, which can provide both benefits to the active player (additional movement, building for free, extra carrots) and damage to their team mates (moving other players meeples, increasing carrot costs for opponents, etc.). Play continues over 20 "years" that are tracked on the included score pad and when you reach year 20 play ceases and the game is score. The modular board provides great replay ability and the beautifully detailed art really draws you in.  At first the games seems pretty straight forward but soon you see there are strategies to where and when you play your building tokens. Grouping your buildings provides harvest groups, which help make you stronger and tunnels help you move around the board in different ways. Overall a very enjoyable game with a unique theme and interesting mechanics!  Like other Kickstarter games we've reviewed, we will not be providing a meeple score for Rabbit Island as this was not their final product.  However, it ended up successfully reaching its goal so we were very happy to learn about this not long ago!  We look forward to seeing the end consumer product releasing as we may consider purchasing this one later on.  

CGE continues with it's releases of the well known Codenames series, but we had a chance to play one of their latest games that debuted at Origins this year known as, That's A Question! Carrying on with the animal theme, Claire noticed the squirrel meeples on That's A Question! by CGE games and had, well, questions.  It is a quick, ice-breaker style game where you try to figure out the other players.  Each player gets a small hand of hexagonal cards, 2 voting tiles and an acorn tile. Each hexagon has 3 questions on it, categorized as What would you choose?/Which would you miss most?/What is worst?  The question asker chooses a person to question and takes their acorn.  They then take 2 of the question hexes from their hand and ask their question.  For example, Which would you miss most, Pretty Flowers or Flush Toilets?  The questionee then votes (face down) which they would prefer, but the other players also vote on which answer they think will have been selected.  1 point is scored by the questionee regardless of what they pick, 1 point is scored by the other players who guessed correctly and 1 point is scored by the questioner for every other player who guessed incorrectly.  The number of rounds depends on player count, but it generally lasts about 30 minutes and whomever has the most points at that time wins.  That's A Question! is a fun little party game that keeps players engaged throughout.  The potential for new combinations makes replayablity pretty solid as well.  The version we played was a prototype so there may still be some changes before it makes it's official debut at GenCon, but we found this to be a quick, enjoyable little filler game and would recommend checking it out.  

GAMA continues to deliver every single year and it shows with the growing numbers. Unique badges rose nearly 10 percent, from 15,480 in 2016 to 17,001 in 2017.  Turnstile attendance increased just over 12 percent, with a count of 52,561 in 2016 to 58,958 in 2017 showing an upsurge in attendees returning to the show each day.  Origins 2017 featured over 7,000 events, a 24 percent increase in events from 2016.  The show offered major tournament play, with the return of the WizKids World Championships, national tournaments for IELLO, Catan Studios, Konami, and the Catalysts Battletech Open.  The Greater Columbus Convention Center had also completed it's new food court project which attracted a lot of attendees.  This was an exponential increase to their facility from last year!  Origins continues to see growth while maintaining it’s relaxed, family-friendly vibe.  Every year, the show expands its range in entertainment, offering events varying from fandoms to award ceremonies.  It’s a convention that is welcoming, personable, and takes pride in its inclusivity.

Everything this year was also a lot better with family by our side!  We were very happy they accompanied us this year to their first board gaming convention, and we envy them for having such an incredible convention held in Columbus Ohio.  As we temporarily bid farewell to Origins until next year, we now prepare for it's bigger brother, and our last stop for Con season in our back yard here in Indianapolis at Gen Con #50.  Thank you GAMA for all of your efforts in bringing a solid tabletop gaming experience to thousands of gamers every year!  See you in 2018!

Overall Meeple Ratings:
Holmes: Sherlock & Mycroft 7/10

Onitama: 6.5/10

That's A Question!: 6.5/10

Have any thoughts or questions?  Leave a comment below.

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