Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Origins Game Fair Pt. I



A couple weeks ago the wife and I attended one of our favorite events of the year, Origins Game Fair!  This was our first year attending since the kiddo was born, which was a new experience to say the least.  While all our plans were tentative at best, we still managed to have a lot of fun.

We started out by picking up our badges - Origins moved to new system this year, where you printed out your confirmation email and scanned it at a kiosk, which then printed your badge & event tickets.  There was much raging on the Intarwebz about this new system, but for us (and pretty much everyone else I talked to in person) it worked fine.  The only glitch was that the locations of the events didn't print on your tickets, but taking five minutes to leaf through the event catalog and jotting the locations down on my tickets solved that problem.

We made our way to the Board Room, which is our group's usual base of operations during Origins - for a flat $20 fee, you can enter the Board Room anytime and check out any of the Columbus Area Boardgaming Society's 800+ games.  Since playing in an ticketed board game usually costs $2 - $4, it's really a great value.  The other motivation is that there's enough tables that our group usually just sets up camp there on Thursday, and comes and goes as needed - there's always a couple people hanging around to watch everyone's stuff, get a quick game in, or just sit and relax for a bit.

While waiting to check out a game, a couple members of our group struck up a conversation with another attendee who offered to teach them a game - it turned out to be IceTowers, a game that uses Icehouse pieces from Looney Labs:


(Icehouse pieces are abstract game pieces that can be used to play dozens of different games - there's even an entire book to give you ideas).  This game was a lot of fun, and I chatted with our new friend about Looney Labs in general - the wife & I used to spend a great deal of our time at Origins in Looney Labs "Big Experiment" (a room dedicated to nothing but Looney Labs' games), but apparently the company had some sort of falling out with Origins several years ago, and no longer maintains an official presence at the con.  Bummer.

After playing for a while, I decided to wander around and see what the convention center setup was like this year.  One of my first stops was the official convention merchandise booth - every year, I'm tempted to buy a hoodie and a messenger bag or backpack, but I never talk myself into, or if I do, they're sold out by the time I go to get it.  This year I resolved to budget for them ahead of time, and to pick them up ASAP.  I found the booth and asked - no bags this year, and no sweatshirts in my size.  Sad panda.

I wandered through the vendor hall and came across the Offworld Designs booth, who had done the official show merch in the past (although I believe Origins now does everything in house).  I talked with the employees there and after rummaging around for a bit they found one of the bags I wanted!  Hooray!


After heading back to the Board Room, I ran into some friends - one of them had purchased Boss Monster earlier that day, so we gave it a playthrough:


This was a fun game with a unique take: instead of being a hero and trying to get loot, you're an end boss of a video game level, and you're building a level to attract certain heroes to their doom.  The art is all very inspired by 8-bit Nintendo games (the box even looks like a cartridge, and the expansions are packaged in boxes that look like Game Boy cartridges).  Overall a fun, light game, even though I died in the second round.

I headed back over to our group's base camp and found them playing Pandemic: Contagion:


This is a version of the popular Pandemic family of games that uses a dice-based mechanic.  I watched them play for a while, and it looked like fun - it seemed similar in feel to the other Pandemic games.

Day II

The next day, I had a RPG bright & early - Baker Street by Fearlight Games:


Baker Street, as you might have guessed, it role-playing set in the world of Sherlock Holmes.  Our GM was Bryce Whitacre, who is actually the author of the game (and also GM'ed our amazing Masters of the Universe game last year).  This was a nice change of pace from your standard fantasy or sci-fi RPG - all the material is officially licensed from the Conan Doyle estate, and Bryce obviously has a lot of love for the material (as evidenced by the fact that he GM'ed the game while wearing a houndstooth overcoat, deerstalker cap, and carrying a pipe).  The book looked great and our group was a lot of fun.  I wasn't crazy about the mechanics, but it was a nice change of pace.  

I headed back to the Board Room and was looking to grab a quick game before my next event - someone in our group grabbed Diner by Dice Hate Me Games from the library:


While reading the instructions for the game, it mentioned that the game doesn't have turns.  No turns? to say I was skeptical was an understatement.  Turns out, this was a surprise hit.  It's one of those "hard-to-explain, easy-to-play" -type games, and our group had a lot of fun with it.  It would be easy to grasp for slightly older kids, but still fun for adults, and only takes ten or fifteen minutes to play - for ten bucks, I'd highly recommend it.

My next event was Building With Hirst Art Blocks - I had taken a similar class before at GenCon,  but I think it was $20 - this one was only $2, so I decided to give it a shot.  I figured it'd be a lecture about Hirst Arts blocks, then maybe you'd get to build a tiny accent piece of terrain or a deployment marker or something.  Turns out, it was building full size kits - there was some kind of mix up with Origins, and the only option they gave the instructor was to offer the class for the price printed in the catalog, or to cancel all the classes.  He decided to offer the class, but mentioned that donations of generic tokens would be gladly accepted.

We were offered our choice of several pre-sorted kits - I went with a cavern with pillars:


(Here's the instructor's completed set as an example):



This class was really great, and the instructor offered a lot of tips while we worked.  Needless to say, after class I ran downstairs and bought a handful of generic tokens to throw in his tip jar.

Next: Part 2!

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