Thursday, June 20, 2013

Origins 2013 Convention Recap!

This past weekend was Origins 2013, the medium sized festival of tabletop games in Columbus, Ohio. At around 10,000 guests over 4 days (mostly repeats, I would assume), it's definitely larger than your standard local gaming convention, and at the same time it's no Gen Con. But Origins holds a special place in my heart as a game designer and gamer, and I believe that feeling is shared across the board. Being mid-sized, it's the convention that everyone will travel to, but not so insane that you can't actually spend time with those people. It's more of a "play" convention for me than a "work" convention.

This year I attended for 2 full days and played a handful of games, observed a bunch of others, saw some nice prototypes, and met some old and new friends.

Chris Zinsli (Cardboard Edison) & Patrick Nickell (Crash Games) play the Shakespearean microgame, Council of Verona.

Click through the jump for the full recap... with Kevin Sorbo! (kind of)

Council of Verona

If there was a game that dominated my Origins experience it would be the microgame Council of Verona by Crash Games and designed by Michael Eskue. How could 13 cards have such an impact? It's hard to say, but it's easy to see that the game is very well-crafted and packs a lot of punch in it's tiny footprint. 

Council of Verona is a micro bluffing game set in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet universe, where players are secretly trying to influence and meet various conditions. The big condition is whether Romeo and Juliet end up together (together meaning they are in the same row of cards at the end of the game - either the Council row or the Exile row), with additional conditions being whether the Montagues or Capulets hold the majority within a specific row.

With so many options allowing the player to manipulate the two rows, as well as secret bluffing tokens allowing players to gain points (tokens are played face down hiding either 5, 3, or 0 points), the game is very repayable. I played it at least a dozen times over the weekend, much more than any other game at the show.

Council of Verona is currently on Kickstarter and well worth the $12 entry fee.

NanoBot Battle Arena

VivaJava designer TC Petty suggested that I should check out NanoBot Battle Arena, an abstract game displayed with tiles, but normally played with miniatures. I was intrigued and quickly jumped into a 10 minute session. The demo uses tiles, which feels right for this game, but the full version uses lots of solid color miniatures, bringing in a whole new audience that wouldn't even turn their head for an abstract game. I'm torn on which I would prefer for this game, as I love the simplicity and portability of the tiles. But at the same time, the miniatures look pretty amazing. If there was ever a miniatures game that I would jump into, it's this one, simply because of the gameplay. We're not rolling dice to battle, pulling out rulers to move, and the miniatures don't even need to be painted. This is right up my alley.

The gameplay is simple. Choose a character type. On your turn you will place a miniature / tile and play a card. Cards provide abilities such as grow (add more minis/tiles) blink (move minis/tiles) etc. Each card also has a level of 1,2, and 3, showing how many times you can do the ability, or how many players it effects. Perhaps my favorite part of the game is that these card types each have a color, and that color is associated with a NanoBot type. So I would choose the yellow one for the amazing blink ability. The replayability value for me jumps up as I could try out a different character type each time for a slightly different approach / experience.

I played a full 7 player game with the designer, Benjamin in the Geek Chic room, and it was a lot of fun. With 7 players and 6 turns to wait through you do lose a lot of control while the other players romp on you, but I know there is a new card type that will balance that out. I also expect that with 7 players and generally only play games that large with 3-4. Turns are very quick though so waiting through a full round isn't more than a few short moments.

NanoBot Battle Arena is currently on Kickstarter and it's so hard to resist going in for the $130 plunge.

Stones of Fate

This was the last game I played at Origins. It was late Saturday night and I had a real early flight home, but it seemed very interesting. I saw the cards online and remembered a few things about them. 1) they had REALLY nice tarot style art. Almost too nice. And 2) the icons on the edges of the cards were unique. Not exactly in design, but in the placement. And it turns out that the placement of those icons is the key to the game.

In the game, you will line the cards up in a grid and place your stones in the spaced between the cards. When you flip a card it activates the scoring, and players score based of the placement of the icons on the card and the placement of their stones surrounding that card. Some cards give points for the player with the majority in one or more areas, but some refuse points based on other areas. It's very strategic in deciding where to place and when to flip. Definitely a good light to medium weight game and good for a lighter game group or family gaming (which is totally my style). It's on the abstract side, but the art is very high quality. It definitely stands out. 

You can find Stones of Fate on Kickstarter now. With just a few days left, Cosmic Wombat Games can use your help to push them up to and over the edge.

And the rest!

I played a few other games (King of Tokyo - I tried my hardest to win that darn Penguin but lost by one point with 10 dice that weren't on my side. Eric Leath's Gyre - a twisty asymmetrical connect four-ish gear game that I won once and now need to master. And a few of my own - Maximum Throwdown, Pixel Lincoln and Lines of Fire all of which received very positive feedback), ate some great food (Dirty Franks are some of the best hot dogs I've ever eaten and Jeni's is by far the best ice cream I've eaten) and I met a lot of great friends, some for the first time.

Overall Origins 2013 was a great time. While I didn't come home with a picture of myself and Felicia Day (and a massive stain on my shirt) like last year, I had a blast and came home with a whole bunch of MegaMan TCG decks that cost me about $14. Win/win?

My mostly free / cheap Origins haul.

Pixel Lincoln is finally heading to Kickstarter backers. 

Mega-sized Star Trek Attack Wing by Wizkids.


The Great Heartland Hauling Co designer Jason Kotarski plays some serious Pirates.

Pixel Lincoln in the Board Room.

Giant Foam Dice. So cool.

Michael Coe of Gamelyn Games gives away his giant Meeples.

Maximum Throwdown!

Maximum Throwdown on a Geek Chic table!

Jeni's Ice Cream at the airport. Wish these were everywhere.

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