Sunday, June 10, 2012

Origins 2012 Mega Recap

Last weekend I drove out to Origins Game Fair in Columbus, OH. It was my first time to Origins and will definitely not be my last. I met up with great friends, and made plenty of new ones. I played some unreleased board games, ate some ridiculous food...

And in between all of that, I had this photo taken.

Please ignore the massive water spot on my shirt.
If I could recap Origins with just one photo, that would be it. 

But if you want to read a LOT more about the event (including meeting Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton, game designers Loren Overby & Chevee Dodd, games like Sentinels of the Multiverse & Swinging Jivecat Voodoo Lounge, the whole Tentacle Bento controversy, and much more….) then click through the almighty jump!

After a 9+ hour drive, myself, my brother George and my brother-in-law Marty arrived in Columbus, OH. We had a few goals in mind, but the huge scope of the event dictated our daily activities. One of my goals was to meet Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton, as I'm a huge Geek & Sundry fan as well as everything they are currently doing to push board games to the masses. There is Tabletop, The Guild series of Munchkin, and much more going on right now, and it's great for the industry. 

Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton
Immediately upon entering the show (actually before you even pay admission) we stopped by their tables and got to talk for a few minutes and get some photos. A few nights before the show, we made up a some custom Pixel Lincoln cards with Felicia, Wil and Adrienne Wilkinson in pixel form. These were going to be used in Pixel Lincoln demos throughout the weekend.. just to have the spirit of the show in the games. I was able to give a copy to each of them, and they also signed my copies. Their excitement about Pixel Lincoln was an awesome way to kick off the weekend. Wil Wheaton was loving the weapons, especially the Sausage Link Whip. 

Crash Games
Once we finally made it into the hall we met up with Crash Games. Patrick, Michael and Ian are known for their huge early kickstarter success, Rise! I've chatted with them online many times, but meeting them in person was another highlight of the trip. We got to check out their Legend of the Lost Dutchman prototype (which was my only game purchase at Origins, and it was a Kickstarter pre-order!) and the fantastic final version of Rise! These guys were a lot of fun and are very passionate about their games.

If you squint you can see Crash Games in the back. My photos got better throughout the weekend.

DiceHateMe Games
Patrick directed me to the DiceHateMe / Clever Mojo Games booth and there I was able to catch up with all of the wonderful folks at DiceHateMe. I was able to play a game of the mega-sized version of their addicting app, Lucky Dice. It was part of a contest and I lost terribly, but I still highly recommend the app. It kills me to know that there is a top maximum score of 105 that is achievable with the right dice rolls and choices. I will shoot for that goal forever.

While at the DiceHateMe booth, I was able to play my first full game of Origins. It was Darrell Louder's Compounded, which I sadly missed out on at Unpub 2 and various events since. In the game, players must commit chemicals to various tiles on the board, trying to make chemical compounds. You also have to claim the compounds before someone else jumps on it, or before it catches fire. I had a blast playing this game, and can't wait to play it again. The design is very solid, and seeing the graphic design work that they've started on this, I can't wait to see how nice the final product looks.

The Unpub area was the place that I spent most of the weekend. Marked by a blue noodle, it was kind of a known, but unknown area to play some really awesome unpublished games with their designers. This was the hottest place in the convention, and outlasted everyone else with games going past 4AM. Unpub creator / Cartrunk Entertainment's John Moller is doing a huge service for designers with his events. Just having that many super-creative people in one area is something to be proud of.

The blue noodle.

Swinging Jivecat Voodoo Lounge
You know a game is great when you play it twice in a row. Swinging Jivecat Voodoo Lounge draws you in for many reasons. It has a great name and great components (martini glasses with hanging monkeys for scoring!) but it keeps you around for one reason... it's a great game. In the game, you create linked contacts within various voodoo lounges (which reminded a little me of your roads in Settlers of Catan), by completing temporary objectives you will gain skulls, which you will use almost as currency later. It seems like a lot, but it all clicks after a few rounds. We played this with David MacKenzie from CleverMojo Games, and I probably would have played all night until I won.

Pixel Lincoln
This was one of the two games that I brought with me to the convention. I already planned to launch the Kickstarter on June 5th, so I wanted to get in some last minute testing and also try to spread the word about the upcoming campaign. I managed to get a few sessions in and got some very valuable feedback from everyone who played. Luckily I brought stickers, paper, card sleeves and pens, and I could tweak things on the fly.

Sentinels of the Multiverse
Late Friday night, I was able to join in on a session of Sentinels of the Multiverse with designer Christopher Badell. I've been itching to play this fictional superhero card game (as opposed to real superheroes?) for a long time. It was a massive Kickstarter success and from the things I've heard about Greater Than Games, it has a huge future as well. We got to play with some unreleased cards, and there were even more in Christopher's heavily guarded card box. There is so much to this game that I just got a tiny taste of it, but it's a definite must buy for me.

Holder of Secrets - Loren Overby / Atomic City Games
During one of my only tips through the main exhibit hall, I wandered into Loren Overby's space. I recognized a few of the games that he had on display as The Game Crafter games and introduced myself. I've played one of his games previously, and it was great. So naturally we all jumped right into one of his games, Holder of Secrets. It's a quick card game where everyone plays as a secret agent trying to stop incidents from happening around the world. As incidents arise, you will commit to one of them. Then there is a round of knowledge-sharing where you have to play a card that is lower than the cards drawn from the deck. This happens until you stop and take all of the cards, or you bust and get nothing. Players then try to guess which fake passport your spy is using to stop this incident. If they guess correctly, they will win the incident. There is a ton of bluffing in the game, and it goes really well with the theme. It's available now on The Game Crafter, and definitely one I will be picking up.

Tentacle Bento
Soda Pop Miniatures, creators of the supercute chibi adventure game Super Dungeon Explore, were on hand with their super controversial card game Tentacle Bento. It was recently massively successful on Kickstarter, and then removed because of complaints. The game is a matching game about schoolgirls being snatched up by tentacles, which sounds much worse in text than it looks in the game. There is a very light anime style to the artwork that is pretty naughty, but at the same time, seems pretty fitting to the culture. Already being removed from Kickstarter, Soda Pop Miniatures moved the campaign to their own site and it's already passed it's Kickstarter amount and is currently at $44,000. 

When I walked up to the booth I jokingly told Soda Pop's John Cadice that I was totally offended. His response: "Already? It's still early!" We talked a little bit about the controversy, and how this compares to first person shooter games that are horrible things in reality, but they've made it into our mainstream markets. Whether you are offended or not, the game is doing very well. Within about 10 seconds of hitting the booth, my brother in law was already signing up for a pre-order.

Chevee Dodd - Scallywags
While waiting to start up a game in the Unpub area, I started to chat with Chevee Dodd. His shiny copy of Scallywags stood out among the unpublished prototypes, so I asked him about it. It turns out Scallywags was picked up by Gamewright and Chevee just received his first copy of it. The game comes out this summer, and has the usual high quality Gamewright polish. I chatted with Chevee about the history of Scallywags and the long road to getting published by Gamewright, and the biggest thing I learned from that conversation was that patience and persistence pays off. He only wanted Gamewright to publish this game and now a few years later, it's about to happen. For the full history of the game, there is an excellent article up at Hyperbole Games.

Chevee also won the award for best business cards at the show.

Sandwich City
I originally was only going to bring my game Sandwich City to Origins. Then Pixel Lincoln became a priority, but I still brought a few copies of Sandwich City just in case. I was glad to have brought it because I got to meet up with Mr. and Mrs. Games and Grub (Eric Leath) and play through a session. It was a lot of fun, more relaxing for me than any other game because I've played it so many times before, and in the end I traded a copy of the game to Eric for a sweet Abraham Lincoln Rubber Duckie. There's a full recap of this game session over at the wonderful Games And Grub site.

T.C. Petty and DiceHateMe's VivaJava is one of my favorite games that I've played all year. I played it first at Unpub 2 in January, instantly backed it when it was launched on Kickstarter, and I've been patiently waiting since. The highly interactive game about brewing coffee beans is due for an August release, but the near-final version of the game was on display at Origins. We played a late night game with T.C. and various industry insiders and it felt even better than the prototype. August cannot come soon enough. 

Hot Dogs?
I couldn't talk about the trip without mentioning Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace. Eric form Games and Grub sent out a very helpful list of restaurants in the area just before the show and this one stuck out immediately. If you are a gourmet hot dog fan, and ever in the Columbus, OH area, it's so worth it. Just look at the picture. The place was really cool too, with all kinds of crazy celebrity paintings on the wall, including a massive Hall & Oates centerpiece.

Overall, I had a wonderful time. The people and games were amazing, and I'm already looking forward to next year.

More photos:

Amazing pixel art by Ken Grazier @ 


  1. I still want Super Dungeon Explore! Want to paint it!

    1. I want it too, but I want you to paint mine for me.

  2. Great Great article! Awesome job with the Day/Wheaton coverage. Very cool getting them to sign the PL cards too! Gyroplay and I will make sure there is no way we miss you at Gen-Con.

    Oh and where is your hand in that Felicia Day sly dog you! :P


    1. Thanks! We'll definitely find each other at Gen Con.

      And my hand is quite the optical illusion. Totally on my side.

  3. Awesome recap Jason! Best I've read so far.