Origins Games Fair 2017 Recap

The crowds aren’t bad here. (Photo courtesy of Jacob Sigafoos, Official Origins Photographer)

Last year was my first at Origins Games Fair, located in Columbus, Ohio. For those in the know, in terms of the largest US conventions, Origins is a no-brainer. The size of the con means you can talk to any game designers/publishers you want, not have to worry about long lines to demo new games, and comfortably find a table in the board room to play anything you can find in the library with your friends. This year, Origins had a 10% increase in guests, hosting 58,958 people.
Origins has held a fun place in the hearts of myself and my friend group, so attending again this year was an obvious decision. I’ve just finished a full year of reviewing board games, so this year I planned on meeting various publishers for the first time. I’ll stop overview gabbing and get to the highlights of our trip.

Wednesday

As we did last year, we spent Wednesday evening catching up and visiting the grocery store to buy bread, lunch meat, and other food supplies. Plastic baggies galore and a big bag of ice, all of these things were packed into our Saturn Vue. We returned home to pack, chat, and play the excellent Win, Lose, or Banana.
It’s a quick card game that I prefer to use as an alternative to Rock, Paper, Scissors. Each player takes one card (win, lose, or banana). The winner reveals themselves and has to decide who has the lose card, and who has the banana. If they pick the banana, the win player and the banana player win, but if they choose the lose card, only the lose card holder will win. It’s an absurd game, and if you are too lazy to tear up paper and mark up your own copy, you can buy an official version from Asmadi Games.

Thursday

Rising at 5:30am, we finished packing food and prepared for the day. Tradition mandated a stop at McDonalds to purchase the coveted “breakfast of champions,” but instead we opted for Denny’s and coffee—a marvelous substitute. Thank you, Beaverdam, Ohio.
Arriving at our AirBnB, we unloaded our goods, created sandwiches using meat and cheese resources, and stared at stacks of Easy Mac, wishing microwaves and boiling water were more portable than they are.

Glux and game about pips and stuff.

Shortly after, we had picked up our badges and ribbons and began perusing the dealer’s hall. I met briefly with Ross from IDW Games and took a gander over new releases. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shadows of the Past and another TMNT title sat near the upcoming Planet of the Apes game. Apes, a Richard Launius title, will be a cooperative game that Ross assured me is basically finished. I’ve yet to play either TMNT title (might be a review in the future), or anything other than Machi Koro from IDW. I do have good faith in IDW’s tabletop implementations of games, considering Shadows of the Past has received a substantially warm welcome from other critics.
From here, we visited the gem of Origins: The Board Room. Here, one can rent any title from the Columbus Area Board Gaming Society (CABS) library (hundreds of titles) and find a table to play on. Last year, one of us didn’t have a ribbon, so it was much easier to find tables this time around.
One of our friends ran off to try their luck in a Star Realms tournament, and the rest of us sat down to two games of Glux from Queen Games. Glux is an abstract, area-control title where players pull dice chits from their bag and must move around the board, trying to establish higher pip numbers in various areas. At game end, the player with the most pips in an area gains points, with some awarded to second place as well. Everything is tallied and whoever gained the most points wins. It’s excellent, very mean, and pretty to look at. I really enjoyed this one, and it’s quite affordable.

“…they just dump you in a river or God knows where.”

From here, we demoed The Godfather: Corleone’s Empire, from Eric Lang and CMON Games. This one has a lot of hype and I’ve only played two full rounds of the game, so I can’t make a full judgment. I like the theme of the game, as players are using one of two different types of workers to both take actions in parts of the city, but also establish control in different areas. Simultaneously, players must bank their gained cash, but also need to use that cash to bid on more powerful allies and cards to assist them. I think the gameplay is there (unless you own Blood Rage), but the art feels pretty boring and overused on cards. In addition, players are given cards as resources, and that feels kind of lazy to me because I want tokens or something else to spend. I’m curious to see the re-playability for this one, as Blood Rage keeps variability through card drafting. I’m skeptical, but it’s definitely an excellent direction to go for a game with an IP.
Next, we played Not Alone from Stronghold Games. Derek has already reviewed this one, but it puts a cool spin on hidden movement and I dig it.

Not Alone, the game about being not alone.

That evening, we visited the eccentric North Market. I had some tacos, and others had Vietnamese pho. Of course, we were still hungry and bought accursed $1 pizzas from a nearby Kroger.
I won’t say too much on what we played that evening (since my review will be publishing soon), but we played a game of Escape from Colditz. This is Osprey Games’ reprint of the classic, and I tried my hand as the German security officers. I attained victory, but one player just barely missed the most amazing escape of their lives.

Friday

The next day was a mash of meeting publishers and trying out various titles I’ve heard much about, but haven’t played personally.
Junk Art has jumped to the top of my wishlist. In this absurd game of stacking, players choose one of many different cities, each of which has its own rules. Some involve flipping a card and immediately locating the depicted piece, stacking it onto your bizarre structure. Some games allow you to take your time, slowly and strategically placing your pieces. Junk Art ships with a more expensive wooden pieces edition, but will have a more affordable plastic edition printing soon. This is probably hyperbole, but I can’t imagine a perfect world without a copy of Junk Art on every gamer’s shelf. Seriously. It’s so fun. I played maybe four or five games. Okay, I’ll stop now. I’m gleeking.

Seriously, Junk Art was more fun than I could have imagined.

A brief stop at CGE had me playing a short game of Codenames: Duet. Duet is the 3rd or 4th edition of Codenames where two players work together to achieve victory before time runs out. I’m recalling rules from one play, so bear with me, but it seems that each player has a separate grid of correct and incorrect answers on the 5×5 grid before them. As one player gives clues, the other player will knock out the assassins, or incorrect spots on the other player’s grid. This means when one player is stuck on connecting a few words, the other player could unintentionally make it easier for them. It seems to strike a good chord of balance, and I look forward to playing this one in the future.
I met up briefly with Greater than Games/Dice Hate Me Games, publisher of my all-time favorite worker placement game, Brewcrafters. Here, I played a game of Lazer Ryderz. This is everything weird about the 80s, crammed into an old-looking VHS display box. In Tron-like fashion, players race to collect giant gems of wonder. Everything is holographic, and yes, you will imagine soundtracks from both Daft Punk and Stranger Things blasting in your brains as you play. I believe we’ll be reviewing this one in the future, but I’ll let you know we had a lot of

I’m a chargin’ my lazer!

ridiculous fun with this one. Players move around the table sort of like they do in the X-Wing: Miniatures Game, so I can see this one being a great precursor to getting into both X-Wing, and miniatures games alike, weirdly enough.
We also played Academy Games’ Mare Nostrum: Empires. I’ve looked forward to trying this one out for a while now, and we got to play on the extra-large play mat. I see myself buying this one eventually. Players control one of six ancient civilizations and must choose to build into trade, military, or buildings expansions. Over the course of the game, players can trade in assorted goods for more units, or even to hire ancient heroes or wonders. I avoided dice combat, and instead focused on engine building my way to victory. Unfortunately, I was faced with the choice of deciding on one of two players to win the game, even though I’d achieved victory in the same turn. Besides that, I enjoyed the game and the building of your civilization. The game features a trading mechanic, and players are always deciding turn order for various parts of the game. Lots of cool stuff, and lots of denying other players the glory they desire.

Excellent game. I would love to play Mare Nostrum again.

Origins was my first game of Terraforming Mars. Of course, the board room had around 5-6 games of Terraforming Mars running at the time, and that’s probably a low estimate. I’ll admit, I’m a hard sell for hyped games, and we spent a lot of time reviewing the rules and consulting nearby veterans (yes, three adjacent tables were also playing the same game). In this one, you got it, you terraform Mars for colonization, raising the temperature and oxygen level. I messed up early, but the game glorifies engine-building with many opportunities to score points and increase your cash flow. It’s an excellent game with gaudy graphic design, but cool components. I look forward to playing this one again.
That evening, our buddy Mike arrived, and we smashed more $1 pizzas and played a 5-player game of Scythe, with me trying out the Togawa faction from the Invaders From Afar expansion. I hadn’t played Scythe since the beginning of 2017, but returning to it feels so good. My faction lays nasty traps and has an early advantage to get into the factory faster than other players. I spent a lot of the game sacrificing my popularity to make up for the longer amount of time it took me to create extra workers. My factory ability allowed me to upgrade or recruit at the cost of losing popularity, which was nice, but hurtful. With a slew of new players, I think the game went well, but I’d like to teach Scythe to two new people at once. A lot of game is going on, and getting comfortable with it can be difficult.

Saturday

We should probably have an annual game of Scythe, because it’s just that good.

Our last day of Origins came upon us and I spent the day deciding I needed to finally buy Power Grid. I also stumbled upon a $15 copy of Concordia’s expansion Britannia/Germania, and finally I purchased a copy of Bohnanza: The Duel, a two player version of my least favorite card game. Why did I buy it? Because my wife loves Bohnanza. We’ve played once at this point, and I actually really like it. I love excellent two player games, and I think this will be one of our longtime favorites.
While we’re on the topic of Rio Grande Games, I’ll jump ahead of myself to the end of the day, where we played one of my favorite games: Concordia. Concordia is a pseudo deck-building game that uses cards for actions and also for points. Cards let you do a myriad of abilities, but might give points for establishing many cities in different regions, being able to produce different resources, or maybe building many colonists. The game rewards players for planning ahead, but no one can excel in every area. The constant need to buy cards is thwarted by needing money and resources to instead build more cities. Of course, to expand, one needs more colonists to do so well. It’s an excellent game and I look forward to playing on new maps.

First game of Terraforming Mars. Oh, what a fun one.

I finally got a chance to play Cottage Garden, another Stronghold Games title. This just happens to be one of the prettiest, most lovely games I’ve laid eyes on. It’s intentionally picture book-esque. It seems like a souped up Patchwork where players are planting beautiful arrangements of flowers near garden cloches and flower pots. A wheelbarrow directs players to the next available arrangement, and a wide variety of kitties are available to help fill empty spots on your board. Seriously, I felt like teleporting home to the cozy warmth of our little kitty Jasper. I think my wife would fall for this one, being an avid green thumb enthusiast and kitten owner.
We also visited the Rio Grande Games room and played Oktoberfest. This one puts players in charge of choosing beers to feature at various beer tents in Germany’s famous Oktoberfest. The game feels and plays like a push-your-luck game, mixed with stock allocation. I’ve recently played Paris Connection, where players must choose to enhance stocks of some train companies, while taking stock in certain companies, trying to guess the value of those companies. Oktoberfest is similar, where players maintaining the most “stock” of these beers will get the most

Betz won a free game, courtesy of CABS.

points. We played some rules incorrectly, and I’ve never started a game so miserably. I wasn’t particularly fond of this one, but I’d love to try it again at some point. I like the theme, and stock games are a genre I want to explore.
On our way out, we briefly visited Capstone Games. Capstone is known for heavier titles, like Arkwright, and one of my favorite games, Three Kingdoms Redux. They launched Lignum at Origins, a game about logging trees and the logistics behind it. Capstone will also be reprinting an older title called The Climbers. I played a short demo. Players jump from block to block, depending on their player color, and can switch up other blocks to make it more difficult for their opponents. It’s played with three-dimensional blocks, and players can use ladders to climb higher. The objective is to be higher than all of your opponents, so it kind of has a Santorini thing going on. This was only a prototype, but I look forward to seeing a more finished product at GenCon.

Closing

After a quick Uber pickup for a friend and some Jenny’s Ice Cream, we grabbed burgers at Barley’s across the street and returned home.
Origins was excellent this year. It really is a great time to spend with friends on the road, eating great food, and playing great games.
I look forward to next year!
If you came to Origins this year, tell us what you enjoyed the most about the convention this year in the comments below.

Chris Hecox

Chris enjoys the simple things in life, like teaching his wife the newest review game, looking up Ketogenic recipes, and playing 10 hour long indie games on Steam. If he's not thinking about the oil drum components from Manhattan Project: Energy Empire, playing Player Unknown: Battlegrounds with his college buddies, or dwelling on the release of Daredevil Season Three, he's probably shooting or editing video, because that's what he does for a living.

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