The Cardboard Hoard: Origins Recap - Wednesday; Or What Do You Mean There is No Pikachu’s Butt?
Early this year, I looked at the calendar and realized I could swing one big convention involving air travel. I’d previously gone to GenCon, but never to Origins. BGG is always out for me due to the time of year. With this being the 50th anniversary of GenCon, I felt it was the perfect opportunity to skip the added insanity of fighting over hotel blocks and for events, and go to a sizable, but somewhat smaller convention where I’d likely be able to play more games and feel less crowded.
So how was my first experience at Origins, and my first trip to Ohio in general? Overall, very positive, but not without a few blemishes. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself, let’s start at the beginning.
I woke up on Wednesday before 5:00 am in New York to make a 7:30 am flight to Columbus, and despite hitting traffic driving to the airport before 6:00 am, made the flight with my friend Zach without incident. Good news, the flight is only a little over an hour from wheels up to wheels down. Bad news is that means they put us in a tiny miniature plane that I barely fit in. But I digress. The convention center is just over ten minutes from the airport, and public transportation was plentiful.
So we arrived at our hotel, Le Meridien, dropped off some bags, and walked the two blocks to the convention center see what was going on just after 10:00 am on the first day of the convention. This is when I discovered the construction that closed the sidewalk for two blocks, causing us to constantly dodge traffic to get to the convention center. Undeterred by this unwelcome surprise, I was then pleasantly surprised to be able to pick up my badge having to wait less than five minutes -- much less than I waited at GenCon, and less than I heard people waited in years past at Origins.
We then tried to enter the convention hall, only to discover it wasn’t open yet. All the halls were still being set up, and most of the people present were just milling around the hallways. I did get to meet Brian and Will from Cloak and Meeple, which I mention because meeting random online friends was not something that happened nearly as easily or frequently when I was at GenCon. With the hall closed, we decided to head over to the North Market, as we hadn’t yet eaten, and had heard good things about the selection there.
We found a really good BBQ joint, and on our way to the seating area upstairs, ran into designer Daryl Andrews, who was showing off a game he was pitching. (This is foreshadowing, and will be revisited later.) While eating, we made plans to meet up with Dan Dineen, who was showing off an offline battle arena” expandable card game called Radiant, in the main gaming hall, which was now open.
Zach and I played a two-player game of Radiant with Dan teaching us, and I really enjoyed it. It meshed elements of Summoner Wars, Pixel Tactics, and Marvel Vs., but the end product felt unique and cohesive, and stood on its own. With its streamlined gameplay and beautiful artwork, I bet it will succeed on Kickstarter next year.
After Radiant, we wandered over to the Czech Games room, found Paul Grogan and the entire cast of To Die For Games hard at work demoing CGE games, and sat down and demoed Codenames Duet. Mandy, “The Board Gaming Pinup Girl,” showed us how to play, and we got pretty far before losing, through no fault of Mandy’s. Anyone that likes Codenames is going to like this one. It can definitely be played with more than two, broken into two teams, and everyone is always be involved, as there is no waiting for the other team to solve clues. It also comes with new word cards that are compatible with Codenames.
Wandering back into the main gaming hall, we stumbled onto Patrick Hillier, and some of my Granite Game Summit friends, Kimberly, Matt, MJ, and Ben, and we all sat down for a seven-player game of Bohnanza. I had never played, but see the appeal of the game, as it played that high player count very well, and fairly quickly. #cultoftheold for the win.
My next stop was my first ticketed event of the convention, a Learn-to-Play game of Shadowfist taught by Tim Fowler, who runs events for his favorite Hong Kong Kung Fu action movie-inspired collectible card game. As an old Magic the Gathering player, and infrequent Doomtown: Reloaded player, I have a deep-seated love for these kind of card games. And let me say that this game is a blast, and I’m sorry it doesn’t have a bigger and more active community. One of my biggest regrets was not getting to play it again before I left. The best part, though, is that I can still play, because Tim gave me the copy of Shadowfist we played with, just for coming out and playing it with him.
Sometime around this point, I realized that Pikachu, and his butt, were not at Origins this year, which was stressful, as that was where I planned to meet up with many Internet friends. One of those people was Tony “Bearded Rogue” Miller, so I direct messaged him to see where he was. And this is how I found out about the Unpub room, which became one of my favorite spots to hang out at Origins.
I met Tony there, and got to play his unpublished push-your-luck game Fire in the Library along with Aaron, Carla and Nick, and it played smoothly and quickly. Even with four players, it only took 15 minutes. I can’t believe that game will stay unpublished for long.
I had made plans ahead of time to play Xia: Legends of a Drift System on Wednesday night with Ken Grazier of Geek-Craft. So I met up with him, Brian, and David at 8pm in the main gaming hall again. Ken taught us Xia, although he didn’t play so the game would go quicker. It was a fun, albeit random, space exploration romp over about three hours, much more of an experience to have vs. a strategy game to be mastered, as too much relied on dice rolls, card draws, and tile flips. That said, plenty of fun was had by all, especially Brian, who trounced me and David.
Then Ken showed me his newest acquisition which he’d just picked up, a beautiful Crokinole board, and proceeded to school me in the deceptively simple, but equally difficult art of disk flicking.
At this point, I met up with Craig and Tyler Marks from the Botch Games podcast and Matt and Kelly Halstad of the League of Nonsensical Gamers and sat down for another game of Bohnanza. Specifically Wurfel Bohnanza, a con favorite I’d heard a lot about over the years that I’d never tried. I made it halfway into the game before quitting. There were too many distractions with people showing up and wanting to chat, talk about their day, their plans, future plans, etc., to stay constantly engaged in Wurfel, which is what the game requires.
With midnight fast approaching, and the main gaming hall closing for the night, I headed back to the lobby of the Red Roof Inn with Craig, Tyler and Matt, and played some Star Wars: Destiny. While I beat Craig with a Baze Malbus and Chirrut Îmwe deck, he was experimenting with a mill deck that just wasn’t working, so I won’t take too much pleasure in gloating about my victory.
At this point, around one am, the exhaustion of the early start, flight, and long day had overcome the excitement of being at my first Origins, and I walked back to my hotel. A final bit of good news was that at this hour, the construction having closed the sidewalk didn’t matter at all.