Just having returned from the beautiful city of Columbus, here are a few rambling musings of the experience in regards to the overall atmosphere, and some specifics on games within my personal interest.
Having been an attendee at Origins for twenty-plus years, and five as a vendor, "it appears that the circle is now complete". From the major hoopla of the day of the grognards, to Role Playing Game mania, to Collectible Card Game bandwagons, to the Euro-invasian and small fry innovators, attendance and success has been very cyclical. In my opinion, the previous few years have been in a slowly declining spiral in enthusiasm. Recently it was a seemingly more sterile, factory worker presence, with the regular vendors and attendees just going through the motions. This year, the fun and excitement seemed prevalent even though the attendance of vendors and attendees appeared to be moderate.
In general, registration was as painless and efficient as it could be—I heard no complaints. On the upside, the percentage of women, children and minorities was the greatest that I have ever seen. A very good sign! Although the game auction was very impromptu, it was well received and went very well. (For the past few years the Origins game auctions have been dismal but this new crew seems to have its act together.) The exhibitor's area was ample and user friendly, with more booths having space for players to test their wares before purchase. This year there was a nice balance of different types of game companies, gaming accouterments, t-shirts, etc., along with tons of open gaming space.
Here are my memorable Origins highlights:
Jay of Rio Grande was surprised and perturbed at the snafu of the English version of Industria still being in German. He promises to do his utmost to have it corrected as soon as possible. They kindly accepted the return of my purchased copy when I found out, as I'll wait until it's done right. I did buy Roma, and the revamped Torres.
Nexus Ops from Avalon Hill was getting some good play, and it was on my buy list. However, upon seeing it, its components are beautiful, but much smaller and chintzier than I imagined. And its play left me uninspired as nothing new, so it became a no sale. Anachronism was a hit for me for being well made, fun, educational, and fast—fifteen minutes to play, including instruction! I bought several character sets from the existing Mongols, Chinese, Japanese, Greek, Roman, Britons, Egyptian, and Norse. TriKing is planning regular new Anachronism releases, with the next expansions being French, Scottish, German, and the Americas. They are very pricey for what you get, but for me they're worth it. What looked to be two major busts at the con were the Teen Titan CCG from BanDai, and a figurative and literal clunker from Wizards of the Coast called Clout—a fantasy Disk Wars clone, but you actually toss the fantasy "poker" chips at your opponents chips, with proximity causing an engagement (ugh). I went to Fantasy Flight to grab the Citadels expansion and the promo Wizard tile for Kingdoms. With a shrug, they said they had neither ("Waddaya mean you didn't bring them?"), but did snatch up the Maelstrom expansion. Eagle Games had the new Conquest of the Empire and a pretest copy of Railroad Tycoon. I have my original Conquest of the Empire, and Railroad Tycoon is very similar to Age of Steam, so I held out. But both are amazing looking new entries.
Two Collectible Card Games I became enamored with are Horus Heresy and Myths and Legends (finally released in English). They both lean toward hand management more than others and are diceless. The art and quality for both are awesome and the play is different enough to not be reruns of other systems. Horus Heresy is based upon Warhammer 40,000, and Myths and Legends derives from mythology from around the world.
On the miniatures scene, I encountered three incredible systems, and another that is a miniatures game without miniatures! The most impressive is Nin-Gonost by Adiken. It is the usual fantasy based system, but the starter kit comes with 25 special dice, 14 detailed miniatures, beautiful data cards which correspond to each type of character, modular magnetic dungeon tiles and walls, paints and brushes, instructions including scenarios, all enclosed in a wooden attach‚ case! Talk about instant startup, and for $150US! The color coded dice system for everything during play is very unique, user friendly, and fun. The rules also offer several layers of difficulty. A truly awesome effort.
Confrontation from the French company Rackham and WarMachine from Privateer Press are both elegant systems that I recommend—I have never seen such incredible figures! I particularly like the quality of the matching character reference cards for Confrontation. Ragnarok is its forthcoming expansion.
If you're looking to get into miniatures with no fuss or muss, and little time or cash invested, Battleground: Fantasy Warfare, by Your Move Games, is the place to go. Each legion of miniatures is represented by a nice computer rendered card with an overhead view of your troops. Movement is by card lengths or widths, and combat is dice driven. A very fine introduction and linking game to many genres for only fifteen bucks! Numerous expansions are planned to increase the fun and carnage. A great deal.
The Atlas expansion to Gloom was not available yet, but from Cheapass I picked up their One False Step Home expansion to further the Moon trek race home. I rounded out my purchases with Chennault's First Fight from Against the Odds #12 (having a nice chat with designer Paul Rohrbaugh), another trade excursion in Blindluck's Caravans of Ahldarahd, and two funfests from 3am Games called Robot Rampage and Monkey Arena. Cafe Games had a playtest copy of Martin Wallace's Tempus which looks like a winner.
Over the four evenings, our foursome filled the sleepless hours also playing The Hellgame, Railroad Dynasty, Pimp: The Backhanding, Monsters Menace America, Age of Steam (Scandinavia), and I'm sure others that have fled my brain cells.
My only real disappointment of the convention was the lack of any HeroScape items from the Hasbro compendium. Zip; zilch! Still, all in all another fine time was had by all, and as a bonus I made more money than I spent, which is always good. Future Origins also look very promising since reservations for next year, for where I was staying, was filled before this year's con was even over!
- Ray Smith