The Cardboard Hoard: Origins Recap - Saturday; Or Running Purely on Caffeine and Fumes
I had a list of goals and plans before I came to Origins, and I did manage to check most of them off, in addition to getting to do tons of unplanned fun stuff. But by Saturday, running on little sleep for four straight nights, I was exhausted and scatter brained, and missed my ticketed event to learn to play Watson and Holmes that morning. However, I did start the day with a delicious sausage and eggs breakfast at The Guild House, my hotel’s fancy farm-to-table restaurant, and got to see a bit of the Pride Parade on my way over to the convention center.
Since I was scheduled to play Watson and Holmes for two hours, I didn’t have any other plans for a while, and I wandered aimlessly around the exhibition hall, until I found the Plan B booth, and got to demo Junk Art against Emerson Matsuuchi, who was likely free only because all the copies of his Century: Spice Road had already sold out. Far more practiced at the stacking game, he bested me and another playing the Montreal version of the game.
After some more meandering about, I headed back to the Unpub room. First, let me again say that this was my favorite place to hang out at the convention. Every time I went in, there were awesome people hanging out and showing off fun games. Kudos to Renegade Games to sponsoring the room, they are really doing right by the board game community with that move.
On this particular occasion, I saw Chris Kirkman, who was showing off a prototype of Ben Rosset’s latest brewing game, Home Brewers, which Dice Hate Me will be seeking funding for on Kickstarter. I sat down and played a game with Chris, Darrell Louder, and Aaron Wilson, and we all had a good time with it. This game played in about an hour, and was much lighter than Brew Crafters. It also featured dice action selection as its main mechanism, not worker placement.
When that game ended in a Kirkman victory (of course he won, he knew how to play already!), I sat down with Darrell Louder to play his latest version of his roll-and-write, Compounded: Lab Notes. I had played an earlier version solo that I’d print-and-played, but this version had some added elements for multi-player.
While the game still needed some significant tweaking and balancing, I could see it was headed in an interesting direction. And I absolutely love the chemical compound writing aspect of the roll-and-write, as it is so unique to other games in the genre.
I then met up with Jamie Maltman, who had made the trip down from Toronto, and we wanted to make sure we got in a game together before the convention ended. He had brought Railroad Revolution with him at my request, and we sat down for a three-player learning game with Joshua Acosta. I diversified my strategy too much, and wound up finishing in last place, which is strikingly similar to my experience -- and the end result -- of my play of Russian Railroads. I still enjoyed my play, as I love lighter-to-medium weight Euros that don’t overstay their welcome at the table, and, more importantly, I enjoyed their company.
One of the remaining things on my to-do list was to play Ex Libris, an upcoming game by Adam McIver that Renegade Game Studios is releasing later this year, that I knew he would have on hand at Origins. So I tweeted him, and he said to find him in the Unpub room (Did I mention I loved this room?). So I popped back over there and found a group had just started a game without me. Adam told me he’d run another game after, and to come back in an hour.
So back to the main gaming hall I went, where I found Patrick, Allen, and Craig starting up a game of Century: Spice Road, which I jumped in on. Craig, who also doesn’t like Splendor or Concordia, disliked Spice Road intensely, which made me glad the game only lasts 30 minutes. There must be something deep-seeded about trading goods that just turns Craig off. Maybe if it was Star Wars smuggling themed he would like it better, who knows.
Returning to the Unpub room with Brian and Will of Cloak and Meeple, we were joined by Ryan LaFlamme of the Cardboard Republic and sat down for a four-player game of Ex Libris, taught to us by Adam. The game was fairly straightforward -- you are looking to build a library, in alphabetical order, with the best collection of certain types of books, while avoiding banned books, and keeping the shelves balanced. This is accomplished both through card play and a worker placement mechanism, with each player having a special character meeple that allows them a rule-breaking ability. Though my Trash Golem, with its ability to steal discarded books, put up an admirable fight, I finished in second place to Ryan.
While I’ve mentioned earlier that Rhino Hero: Super Battle was the most fun I had at the convention, and Barenpark was my favorite game of the convention, I have to give Barenpark the caveat of best published game, and say that Ex Libris was hands down the best game I played at Origins, and I am extremely impatient for it to be released so I can get my own copy. I have absolutely no doubt that Ex Libris will be a gangbuster hit for Renegade and Adam McIver.
Speaking of Renegade, my last play of the convention was Sentient, one of their new titles. I had tried to demo Sentient on Thursday, but they unable to show it due to a manufacturing error that wasn’t corrected until Friday. But Matt Halstad had bought a copy and I got to play it with his wife Kelly, Dan Licata, and Zach Connelly. The game was good, especially if you don’t mind math in games, which I don’t. But I didn’t like it as much as I like J. Alex Kevern’s earlier title, Gold West, which is totally not fair for me to compare it to, as that is one of my favorite games. It does have a similar area control aspect to his game World’s Fair 1893, but the set collecting has been replaced with the mathy card placement. It’s definitely worth playing, but I have a feeling it will be a divisive game -- with some loving it and others not caring for it at all.
I thought I might meet up with Craig afterward, and teach him Near and Far, or play some more late night LCGs, but he and his son Tyler were spent, and heading out themselves, so I said my farewells and grabbed a late night bite at a nearby bar -- which was still hopping with Pride revelers -- and made my way back to pack for my early morning flight home. Absolutely exhausted, but still elated by the entire experience, I turned in for one last night of insufficient sleep.
As for my friend and hotel roommate Zach, I didn’t get to see him as much or play as many games with him as I thought I would, considering we shared a room. But this is only because he got a lot of interest in his latest design, Lots, and had a number of pitch meetings with publishers over the course of the convention. So totally understandable, and the best kind of problem to have for any game designer.
To sum it all up, Origins was a blast. I met literally dozens of people I’d only previously interacted with online, and got to catch up with many others I hadn’t seen since conventions in years past. While Origins wasn’t perfect, with the nearby construction being an obnoxious obstacle, and the lack of open gaming tables, and lack of clarity on which tables were open gaming tables, being a frustration on the busier days, I can’t complain overall. It was easy to get my badge, I was never stampeded or felt claustrophobic, the one game I wanted to purchase didn’t sell out, people were always fairly easy to find, and the food options were really good whenever I could pull myself away from playing games. If and when I can make it work logistically, I definitely plan to attend Origins again in the future.