The Cardboard Hoard: Origins Recap - Friday; Or Role-playing, Rum Drinking, Playtesting, and Netrunning
Coming into the board gaming hobby as an avid RPG player that could no longer make time for lengthy campaign style games due to real life adult responsibilities, I always jump at the chance to set aside a few hours at a convention to play a one-shot role playing game. One of my favorite things about larger conventions is the amount of different options available, and the ability to learn and play new RPGs I wouldn’t otherwise get to experience. In this case, we met up with our GM Ian, one of the writers of Quick Ass Game System, or QAGS, a system that models “the rules of fiction, not the physics and statistics of reality.” It’s the perfect one-shot convention system, because it is rules-light and imagination heavy. Also, it allows for zany campaigns, such as the campaign we played, titled ‘Candyland Has Fallen.’ Here’s the blurb:
Sweetness and light couldn't save them. Rainbows and cute cat videos were powerless. Now the ultimate evil-mancer rules in Candyland. Unless.... Well, when the good can't help, it's time to turn to the naughty and wicked. Suicide Squad meets Yellow Submarine meets Babes in Toyland in this desperate gamble to save Candyland from Utter Destruction.
In our game, which started at 9:00 am, I decided to play Gloppy, the amorphous creature from the Molasses Swamp, and was joined by comical versions of Wile E. Coyote, Ursula, and Baloo. We were soon off reclaiming Candyland from a vegetarian usurper that was plowing the kingdom’s saccharine landscape and replacing it with fields of green produce. My recounting the adventure would make little sense, but rest assured it was a fun, and quite funny, experience, and one I highly recommend to anyone attending a convention that offers role playing events.
Our game wrapped up just after noon, and headed to the main gaming hall and met up with Craig, who had promised to teach me Star Wars: Imperial Assault. I had purchased a ticket to an Imperial Assault game that was taking place later that day, but I hadn’t realize when I bought it that it was a six hour campaign game covering the entire Bespin Gambit. While I wanted to try Imperial Assault, I wasn’t sure about that lengthy commitment, so Craig teaching me a single mission was a perfect substitute. I played as the wookie Gaarkhan, and we stormed into the Imperial base only to find multiple copies of IG-88. We came close to defeating him, but fell a few hit points shy as time ran down on our last turn. All in all, I really enjoyed the game, which was lighter than I had expected, and would consider getting it if the released the app so it wouldn’t need to be played one-vs-many.
We then switched gears with the same four players and played Barenpark, the light, bear-themed polyomino tile-laying game. This was my only purchase of the convention, so I’m sure it’s not surprising to read that I absolutely loved it. Of course, it didn’t hurt that I won with 101 points, building the best Bjornepark ever.
When that wrapped up, it was time to go to the Grass Skirt Tiki Bar for Kimberly’s birthday party with too many cool people to even mention. It was really nice to take a bit of a break from playing games and chat with people, and get to know them a bit better, without worrying if it was my turn or what my next move should be. The Grass Skirt’s food and drink menu was also top notch, I had a BBQ pork belly quesadilla that was really good, and washed it down with a house specialty drink, the Rum & Happiness, which was served to me in a ceramic frog mug.
Despite Patrick Hillier’s best attempts to get us lost on the drive back to the convention center, we made it back in good time and sat down for a five-player game of Cyclades. I had only played Cyclades at two-players before, which I do not recommend at all, so it was nice to appreciate the game as the experience it was intended as. This being one of Patrick’s favorite games, he wiped the floor with me, edging out his son Allen for the win.
My plan was then to head over to Bar on Two to meet up with Tony Miller and some other designer friends, but I happened past Tiffany Caires teaching a game of Race to El Dorado to Dan Newman, Kimberly Revia, and Matt Roy, and was invited to join as the fourth player. Knowing the game wasn’t available in the U.S., and this was probably the best chance I had to play the Spiel de Jahres nominee, I sat down. While the game played smoothly enough, and was over in about a half hour, it seemed too basic for any of us to really engage with it, and I would say it was a miss for the table based on that one play.
I then made it over to Bar on Two and hopped into a game of Wordsy with Chris Rowlands and two others. Wordsy actually worked great as a bar game, because after each round ended, other people that weren't even playing chimed in with all the words they had found and made it an even more social experience.
When that wrapped up, Tony was ready to show me and Carla his prototype Stock-o Trucks, which hadn’t had many playtests with only two players. After playing the game, which I really enjoyed, I suspect it may actually play best at two, because there is less chaos and more control of the trucks and the market.
Afterwards, I ran into Aaron Wilson, who I knew was playtesting his design Sovereign Skies, and we headed over to the Unpub room to get a game going, as Bar on Two was too crowded at this point. While setting Sovereign Skies up, Aaron mentioned that he hoping for a fourth player, and we spied TC Petty III all alone at a nearby table. I had never met TC in person before, only knowing him from his colorful and grandiose Twitter persona @PuppyShogun, but I asked him if he was interested and he happily agreed to join us.
Now, I’ll talk more about the Unpub room in my recap of Saturday, but let me just say that it was my favorite place to hang out at Origins, and designers, even established published ones, jumping at the chance to help other designers was one of the reasons why.
Sovereign Skies was a really smooth and polished Euro that played in about an hour, and probably only needs minor tweaks before being ready for publishing. TC gave Aaron some great feedback, and of course noted that the game was broken because TC didn’t win. I griped about one of the symbol’s iconography and two of the colors being too close to one another, for lack of any other critical feedback to give.
At this point, I wandered back to the ever-shrinking open gaming area in the main hall and found Ken Grazier, who had a copy of the not-yet-released Rhino Hero: Super Battle, which I assume he must have stolen from the HABA booth. But that was totally cool with me, because I got to try it. It was easily one of the highlights of the convention for me, as it was off-the-charts, laugh-out-loud fun, despite me rolling absolutely terribly and coming in last place.
I ended another night back at the Red Roof Inn lobby after convention hours, playing another expandable card game with Craig, although this time we played the classic LCG Android: Netrunner. I once tried to learn this out of the box, and came closer to setting it on fire than making any positive progress, but with the help of Craig and Matt Halstad, I finished my first game as the Runner with a respectable 7-6 loss. I am still at a loss for why that game has as much unique terminology as it does, but I suppose the answer lies in the game’s desire to be as thematic as possible.
On another pre-dawn walk back to my hotel, I realized I only had one more day at Origins, and still had a long list of things I wanted to see and do. Surely I could manage one more day with almost no sleep in order to play all the games, right?