I’ve just gotten back from my first Origins and it has definitely been my favorite convention that I’ve ever been to. Let’s get into why!
For those who don’t know, Origins is held in Columbus, Ohio and this year was scheduled June 14th – 18th. That’s a whopping 5 days, if you attend them all, which is what I did! It’s a long con, but there’s tons to do and I definitely didn’t have enough time to play all of the games that I wanted to.
I did a bunch of wandering around on Wednesday and eventually made it to the Unpub section! This is an area where game designers are playtesting games that are haven’t been published yet, but are still quite good!
The first game of the convention was Sector 3D-6 by Chris Rowlands. This game is a Roll and Write game based in space. In the game, you’re looking for planets (doubles rolled) and while you’re doing that, you don’t want to crash your ship by running into a path you’ve made previously. It’s essentially space snake dictated by dice with added special powers, if you choose to invest in them. It’s played simultaneously, so it goes fast. If you doubles are rolled, you’ve found a planet! That is, you’ve found one if you can fit it into the space where you’re at. The size of the planet and score of it are dictated by the value of the doubles. The type of planet found is based on the color of the dice. You could have found an Ice planet, but another player could have found a Volcanic one. Even though everyone is playing with the same dice, chances are you’re making different choices on planet types, ship direction, and extra powers. This is definitely a unique roll and write!
The next game was 18TexMex by Tony Miller and John Prather. This is a stock game with taco trucks and dual cards. The cards are the really interesting part of the game, where you get to choose to use half the card, but then your opponent gets to use the other half, so you have to choose wisely! You get dealt a hand of cards at the beginning of the game; these are all the cards you’ll get, so you could theoretically plan all of your moves at the beginning. Depending on the number of players, there’s a variable number of scoring rounds. During these rounds, you score points based on the values of the stocks you currently own. This is a more chaotic stocks game, but one that is definitely worth a play!
The afternoon was spent playtesting my current design Stellar Leap. During the convention, I signed up to playtest in the Unpub room everyday, so I was able to iterate rather fast on player feedback and made more progress in a week than I’ve made in the last month or so! Having so many game designers willing to playtest was an amazing experience that I’ve never had before. The improvements I was able to make to Stellar Leap made Origins worthwhile based on that alone!
Thursday Night was Nerd Night, which means games and fun all night! It’s also great as you could donate to the local children’s hospital. During Nerd Night, I was able to experience my first Feld, La Isla. I haven’t played a forest animal collecting game that I didn’t like and La Isla didn’t change that. It’s a game where you’re an explorer trying to capture rare animals, increase the point value of your chosen animal, and create your engine. I love games where cards can be used in a variety of ways, depending on where you use them and this had that, plus exploration! I really liked the fact that each card you get has three different uses; one gets you a resource, one a power of some sort, and then you get to increase the value of one animal by one. Do you focus on getting the resource you want, while not caring about what animal is worth the most points or try to get the best engine and get whatever resource is left? Every turn has interesting decisions, while you also have to make sure to pay attention to your opponents, so they don’t take the animal you’re after.
I’m definitely not a person that can stay up until the late hours of the night, so the next game was a fast one: Fidelitas by Green Couch Games. In this card game, you have a hand of citizens that need to go to different areas of the castle to try to fulfill your hidden win conditions. You have two hidden win conditions at a time and get a new one after you’ve fulfilled yours. Do you try to fulfill your condition or foil whatever your opponent is doing? Opportunities that made you think you were doing both at the same time made this one especially fun!
Friday was spent back in Unpub, playing space games! Astroventure by Cork Board Games was all about launching rockets, exploring planets, and fulfilling contracts. There’s five different actions you can take on your turn and once everyone decides, actions are revealed. If you managed to select an action no one else did, you get a bonus which either allowed you to do the action twice or to get a discount on the action. It had enough just enough player interaction to satisfy my needs and it was great whenever I could get the action bonus. Unique player advantages and hidden bonus points made trying to anticipate other player’s actions difficult, but all the more satisfying.
I think my favorite game of Origins was Sovereign Skies! It’s a really neat area control rondel game where everyone is playing with a unique rondel. Turns were fast, as you can take only two actions per turn. Having majority isn’t always the best option in the game, since the Resistance cards (-2 Victory) were given to those with majority. You never know when the Resistance was going to strike, which added to the excitement. This is definitely a game I’d like to try again, as there’s each rondel plays differently and each game has cities in different places. One rondel might be great in one game, but not so much in the next.
North Market is one of the best places to eat while at Origins! It’s only about a block away and has a ton of restaurants, including Indian, Vietnamese, Italian, sushi, hot chicken, and ice cream! Basically, something for almost everyone and pretty fast.
On Thursday, I got to enjoy the amazing food of Melt. It’s a bit of a walk, but definitely worth the it! They make the grilled cheese of your dreams and mine was mushroom, avocado, and muenster. So good!
There’s also a food court at the convention! It gets rather packed at times as expected, but it’s has a number of choices, including Subway, Indian, and a really great gyro restaurant.
Publisher/Designer Speed Dating
One of the most memorable events I participated in was publisher designer speed dating. I hadn’t signed up initially, but there was a lack of publishers participating and I was open to trying out something new. At speed dating, designers had their tables with prototypes set up and publishers moved in sequential order through them every 5 minutes. 5 minutes seems like a long time, but it definitely isn’t! Especially if the designer has more than one game, which quite a few designers had. I ended up leaving early, as it’s very intense, especially for an introvert like me. Every designer is very passionate about their games and want to tell you about them, even if the time has been called. If I participate in speed dating again, I would definitely try to get the sell sheets in advance, so I could read through them and know the games, instead of having so little time to think and respond to the pitches.
I hardly spent any money during this convention, which was kind of awesome. I was convinced to buy Merchants of Araby and Villages of Valeria at the Daily Magic Games booth, both of which look amazing! I played a demo of Merchants of Araby and it’s a game of negotiation, engine building, and camels, with a really nice magnetic board. I have the other two Valeria games, so I practically had to get the third one, right? I also managed to get a bunch of promo cards for the Valeria games, which was nice!
General Origins Tips:
- If you see someone you know, stop and say hi! If you see a content creator that creates great content, make sure to mention that, too. Not only will it make their day, but you might acquire some freebies along the way!
- Bring a water bottle or other beverage with you. You can buy drinks for $3 and that really adds up after 5 days.
- Update your social networking accounts, especially twitter, to show that you’ll be at the convention and update your picture so people can identify you. One of the best feelings I had was being recognized! In addition to updating, you can also post where you’re going to be at different times during the day. It worked out really well for me and I was able to meet with a bunch of great people because they knew what I looked like and where to find me.
Game Designer Tips:
- Sign up for the Unpub room before the convention starts! I was lucky enough that there were a few slots open, but I could have had a few more slots if I had signed up ahead of time.
- Make sure to have your games on you at all times. You never know when someone will want to play and you have to be ready for that.
- Be willing to playtest other designers games! You’ll see so many different mechanics in such a short period of time.
- Take all of the notes! By the end of the convention, I couldn’t remember the people I had played games with on Thursday, so I definitely would not have remembered any playtest feedback if I hadn’t written it down.
One major aspect of Origins that I can’t stress enough is the people. The people that attend Origins are amazing! So many people are willing to play your game, play games with you, and invite you to their plans. If you’re open to adventure, you’ll have one! I purposely didn’t plan things so that I could start walking, find someone I knew, and end up playing a game or having dinner in a new restaurant, meeting a bunch of great people along the way.
Hope to see you at Origins, 2018!