Open Seat Gaming: Origins 2019 Recap
We had a really fantastic time at this years Origins. This was Marti and Sarah's third Origins and we are starting to feel like old hats at conventions. What a change from the nerves and uncertainty we felt going into our very first Origins in 2017.
Marti: Did you know that there's a taco place right across from the convention center and they have delicious, cheap tacos. Fuzzy's Tacos was so freaking good. They were really friendly, they got people through their lines relatively quickly, and their breakfast tacos are to die for! Queso and tortilla chips, almost any sort of taco you could want.... oh man. I love tacos, and Fuzzy's was awesome.
Also, shout out to the Spaghetti Warehouse. We went there before getting on site on Wednesday because I found a Groupon and holy crap did they have great food or WHAT. Sarah and I were so full that we didn't eat until we got back to her cousin's house at around midnight. The service was great, the food was awesome, and their lunch menu is relatively affordable.
Sarah: Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream. What can I say about Jeni's Ice Cream that hasn't been said before. Their flavors are original and purely delicious. I love that you can get a flight of three flavors so you aren't limited to just one. Also it is outstanding that they have non-dairy based flavors for those out there who are vegans or have issues with lactose. My favorite flavors this year were: Cold Brew with Coconut Cream, Roasted Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam, and Brown Butter Almond Brittle.
Additional shout outs to both Jeni's and Mikey's Late Night Slice for, in honor of Pride, having purchases of certain items go towards the Nina West Foundation, which raises money for LGBTQ+ causes!!
Another favorite spot for tempting treats is Taste of Belgium. Their frites are fantastic fried potatoes that resemble steak fries but are better. The Waffles are amazingly fluffy inside but with a nice crunch on the outside. The Strawberries and Cream Waffle and their Waffles and Chicken are my favorites on their menu.
Marti: I have been on a bit of a mission in regards to gaming, and that's to try and play as many "tried and true" games that people often refer to in their reviews. One such game - was Power Grid. Patrick Hillier (Patrick and Eric in the Morning) so graciously taught us how to play - and I was shocked as to how much I actually enjoyed the game.
Another big surprise for me was Medium, soon to be published by Greater than Games. We tried it at the Punchboard Media meetup event on Friday, and holy cow was it a ton of fun! Danielle and Nathan (Storm Chaser Games) have quite the unique "psychic" game on their hands, and I think that it's going to be a huge hit for people who enjoy party games where you have to be on the same wavelength as your gaming friends.
Sarah: I have a 4 way tie for biggest surprise. First, on two separate days of the convention I saw one of my friends from high school that I had not seen in around 15 years. We were on academic team together, so seeing her at a nerdy gaming convention was not the surprising part. The luck of actually running into someone who I had lost touch with who used to live ten miles away but we saw each other in Ohio of all places was incredible. She also bought Marti and I coffee which was really sweet and unexpected.
My second surprise was the growth and success of the Punchboard Media Meet-up. I knew it would be a good meetup and that people would have fun gaming but, as the raffle ticket giver, I did not expect the room to fill up as much as it did. We had over 250+ people come in for the event overall. The meet up was fantastic and we remembered to take a picture of all the content creators who were present after the raffle!
Third, we were invited to play a Top Secret Prototype and said game included real-time elements. That we were invited to play was fantastic, and a small surprise in its own regard. When the developer said that it was a real time game I was afraid we weren't going to have a good time and become too stressed out. We have avoided the real time genre of board games for this reason; part of why we play board games is to relax and get away from the stress that life presents. But I was proven wrong and was pleasantly surprised that I wasn't stressed by the real time element (at least in this specific game) and I greatly enjoyed it overall.
Fourth was a pair of roll and write games that I wasn't expecting to be able to play at Origins. A couple of our friends had copies of Silver and Gold designed by Phil Walker-Harding and published overseas by Nurnberger-Speilkarten-Verlag (NSV). I had heard about this game but didn't know that anyone had it yet. This keen twist on the very popular random and write genre utilizes dry erase cards.
In the game, you are searching for symbols on treasure map cards that are worth points or give you bonus x's. You complete map cards, that are worth a variable amount of points, by marking in the patterns that come up in the deck of cards that feature different polyomino shapes on them. Whoever has the most points at the end wins. Silver and Gold is a quick, fascinating, and intelligent game.
I knew that Stronghold and Indie Game Studios were bringing Brikks designed by Wolfgang Warsch published overseas by Schmidt Spiele to the United States, I just didn't realize it would be available at Origins.
In Brikks, you are playing a roll and write version of the game Tetris using a six-sided die for the color of the brikk you are placing and a four sided die for the way the brikk is facing. Once you have your brikk you place it on your console/grid paper as if it were falling downwards like in Tetris. The amount of lines that you clear determines your points at the end of the game. As a fan of the original Tetris video game of the 1980s, I wasn't sure how this would translate to pen and paper, but this game is very satisfying and not as easy as it may appear. These two random and write games were fantastic!
Marti: Oceans from North Star Games has been on our radar all year, and we've been super excited to try it out. Bruce graciously set up a time for us to demo the game with him - and it was absolutely stellar. Sarah and I had just played Evolution: Climate the week before, and while it still has some of the roots of Evolution, it definitely has some different pieces that make it a totally different animal (haha) than what you see in the original game. There's a lot more strategy, quite a bit more "take that" (if you play that way), and the art is similar but (stunningly) different. This was just a prototype, and it looked pretty fantastic. So, I can't wait to get our copy to the table when it comes to print!
Sarah: Letter Jam is a cooperative, word game designed by Ondra Skoupy being published later this year by Czech Games Edition (CGE). We had an amazingly well done demo by the Paul Grogan of the Gaming Rules! YouTube channel. His style of demoing games at conventions is fantastic. If something doesn't influence your decision making earlier on in the game play, then it doesn't need to be brought up at the beginning and this method gets everyone playing the game and having fun quicker, which is always a plus in my book. We will be writing a Demo Duo preview in the coming days about this game. Suffice it to say Letter Jam produced lots of fun and puzzling moments.
Another demo that stood out to me was Honga designed by Gunter Burkhardt and published by HABA. HABA is known for their games being accessible to young children and having high quality components. Honga was a surprise because of the depth of overall strategy and the unique method of action selection using circular action cards that have a certain number of hands denoting how many times you will be able to utilize that particular action space.
The other striking element was how they incorporated Honga, the saber-tooth tiger, into the game by making sure that players know that the risk of ignoring Honga is that your food will be stolen. The balancing act of keeping Honga happy and getting things done while managing your resources has more to it than you may expect from a HABA game. But don't be fooled, this game has teeth.
Our stop at the Floodgate Games booth was also awesome because we got a great demo of 3 Laws of Robotics, a deduction game with a social element designed by Ben Kanelos. We also got a run through of the upcoming modular expansion for Sagrada - The Great Facades: Passion. This expansion adds more objectives and rare glass dice, which act as wild color dice. So stoked for this expansion!
Best Pre 2019/ New to us Game:
Marti: As I was fussing around and trying to make sure things were going the way they should at the Punchboard meetup, Brian from Cloak and Meeple grabs me and says "You're playing a game, k?" and I'm like "okay." And he introduced me and a couple of lovely people that I can't recall the names of to Dragonstone Mine. Apparently, this was made by some bored kids in a garage, and it turned into a pretty neat game. It's set collection, but you have to collect the "stones" on your little wooden pegs as you "mine" them (pull them out of a bag). It's a fun little game, and I need to find it because it's too cute.
Sarah: Another tie:
Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar, designed by Simone Luciani and Daniele Tascini, published by CGE was fabulous. All of the praise we have heard about this game is well deserved. The unique element of having connected gears that move throughout the game, thus moving the workers placed on them is ingenious. Using time to your advantage to get better actions is a key part of the game. We will be looking to add this exceptionally thinky game to our collection.
A Fake Artist Goes to New York designed by Jun Sasaki, published by Oink Games is a great twist on the social deduction and party game genre. One player picks a category and a word within that category. Then they write the word on all but one of the tiles they are handing back to their fellow players. On the tile without the word they draw an X. The person who receives the X is the fake artist who must try to not be caught. The teams paper goes twice around the group and everyone must draw one continuous line to add to the picture in a way that will help draw the word or to not be caught by everyone else. After two rounds everyone votes on who the fake artist is. If they are not caught the fake artist wins, if they are caught they can still try to guess the word. If the fake artist is wrong about the word the other artists win.
Honorable Mentions: Magic Dance and The Magnificent Race.
Magic Dance designed by Bjorne Holle, published by Ravensburger is a roll and move memory game about getting your witches to return to their correct area. Sounds simple enough, but you cannot see which witches are yours because everyone's colors are under the witch hats. This game was a lot of goofy fun.
The Magnificent Race designed by Bill Cooke, published by Parker Bros is a wacky goofy game reminiscent of a couple of classic comedic racing films of the mid 1960s. The best feature of this game is the roulette wheel in the middle that moves everyone's marble around really fast as we try to outrace Dastardly Dan (the lone purple marble) and our competitors to the winners divot. If your marble gets there first you move six spaces up the peg board to the finish line. First to the pegboard finish line wins. The amount of marbles you actually have going in the roulette spinner can increase as the game moves on, but doesn't necessarily increase your odds of winning. Super goofy game that Patrick Hillier brought to the Punchboard Media meet up.
Games, not previously mentioned, to keep an eye out for:
Planet designed by Urtis Sulinskas from publisher Blue Orange games
The Refuge: Terror from the Deep designed by Floyd Lu and John Brieger from publisher B & B Games Studio
Quirky Circuits designed by Nikki Valens from publisher Plaid Hat Games
Tuki designed by Grezgorz Rejchtman from publisher Next Move Games
Bubble Tea designed by Aza Chen from publisher Renegade Game Studios
The Tavern of Tiefen Thal designed by Wolfgang Warsch to be published in North America by NorthStar Games
The Quacks of Quedlinburg: the Herb Witches designed by Wolfgang Warsch to be published in North America by NorthStar Games
Upcoming Kickstarters to watch for:
Calico designed by Kevin Russ, to be published by FlatOut Games
Isle of Cats designed by Frank West, to be published by City of Games
LOTS designed by Zach Connelly, to be published by Royal N. Games
XO designed by Matt Jacobs
One of the best things about Origins every year is getting to see, game, and hangout with our friends across the board game community. Because of the length of Origins it can at least seem easier to see, game, and hangout with friends. But convention time flies for certain, if we didn't get to hangout very much or get a game in hopefully we will at the next convention we cross paths at.
The fact that Origins overlaps with Columbus Pride is very awesome to us and the people at Origins made an admirable effort in terms of inclusivity. At every registration station they had gaymer and ally ribbons available for everyone to pick up if they wanted. Also they sold a lovely collectible pin which was a rainbow colored 20 sided die saying Origins 2019 which part of the profits went towards the Kaleidoscope Youth Center. The Kaleidoscope Youth Center has been supporting LGBTQ+ youth for 25 years in Ohio.
Origins also had more Open Gaming areas this year than in the past. Another awesome improvement that GAMA made this year was having big postings of the Conventions policies available at both sides of the convention hall as well as signage stating that Cosplay is not consent. These strides in improving the environment of the Origins Game Fair overall have been noticed and appreciated. There are bound to be some rotten apples at any large gathering of people but the staff at Origins tried their best to head them off at the pass, which is great!
Overall, Origins was an awesome time, and we can't wait to go back again next year. Will we see you there?
Sarah and Marti