Tag Archive: “Origins Game Fair”

ORIGINS GAME FAIR, June 14-18 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center

by David C. Obenour & Kris Poland

Welcome back, proud nerds and gaming geeks! We’re returning with more coverage of the 2017 Origins Game Fair. Last time we covered 16 of our favorite offerings from the exhibitors hall. This time we have 16 more games that piqued our interest. Origins may be where gaming begins, but it certainly doesn’t end there! Check back later in the summer for our thoughts on the largest gaming convention in North America as Ghettoblaster takes you to Gen Con 2017.

 

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Rabbit Island (Infinite Heart Games)

Dave: As an enthused Watership Down reader from childhood, Rabbit Island immediately jumped out at me (get it? “Jumped”? Rabbits? …anyone?). Rabbit Island doesn’t delve into the harsh realities of nature and humanity like Richard Adams’ book though, you’re just hopping around Rabbit Island, exploring, collecting carrots and building dens. Sure, some other rascally rabbit might come along and thwart your hard work, but you can always go back to finish it later. Currently in it’s Kickstarter, this was a fun, tile-laying, 4X’er.

Kris: Our first game, and Dave has already succumbed to bad wordplay. If you’re into the cute and cuddly side of rabbits more than teeth-gnashing and bloodletting, the G-rated competition of Rabbit Island might be just the thing for you. Modular tiles keeps things fresh with multiple replays, and action cards keep things from getting too predictable during a single game.

 

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Armageddon (Queen Games)

Dave: Sold to me as a mix between The Walking Dead and Mad Max those are two pretty amazing franchises to live up to! In Armageddon players build up a post-apocalyptic community of soldiers, engineers and scavengers. This motley crew will go out and claim you more land, help build up infrastructure and most awesomely, construct amazing wasteland dune war buggies! Getting a quick explanation between their ticketed demos for the games, it sounds like the one thing that may prove a problem for some is a lack of balancing mechanisms. Apparently Armageddon isn’t a welcoming place.

Kris: Who knew a nuclear hellscape would be so inhospitable? Pretty much everyone. Armageddon is a competition to rebuild society while constantly warding off attacks by wasteland raiders. There’s bidding, worker placement, and plenty of meeples. The art has the necessary post-apocalyptic feel. I’d just like to see more of it. Also, when I think Mad Max I think action. In this sense, Armageddon is like Mad Max in theme alone.

 

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Oktoberfest (Rio Grande Games)

Dave: A game about Oktoberfest in Germany? Of course I want to play this ultimate beer and pretzels game! For Oktoberfest players take on the role of supplying beer to one of the many tents of tipsy revelers. This is accomplished by stocking up on kegs, building demand in the tents, and then closing it down before your opponents transfer the demand to something that they’re better stocked on. Oktoberfest’s artwork had me thirsty for our entire demo, but the game doesn’t adapt much of the theme into its play. Still, it’s a well-balanced mix of push-your-luck and stock-holding mechanics for a fun 40 minutes or so.

Kris: I don’t like beer. [ed note: Kris was playing in a Magic tournament when we demoed this – pretty obvious who’s more fun, right?]

 

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Hounded (Atlas Games)

Dave: A really good two-player game is hard to come by. A lot of the fun that comes with gaming is the “well, what is the other guy going to do?” When it’s just one-on-one, the other guy’s probable options are more limited. Hounded is the perfect head-to-head contest though as one player takes on the role of the hunter and hounds, while the other assumes the role of the cunning fox. Running around the forest, the hunter’s goal is to corner the fox, while the fox’s goal is to expose the morning, noon and night tiles to have outlasted the hunter. Clever use of mechanics mixed in brilliantly with a novel theme. Gotta love games like this!

Kris: Dave’s right. It’s hard to find a recent two-player offering that does something new. Classics like chess and backgammon are difficult to improve upon. Hounded draws players in by focusing on clean design, simple gameplay, and portability. There’s some degree of tactical depth here too. The fox, master, and various hounds all have different rules for movement. It sort of reminded me of Onitama on a larger grid with slightly more complex rules of movement. Hounded promises a lot of fun in frustrating one’s opponent.

 

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The Lost Expedition (Osprey Publishing)

Dave: Osprey Games have quickly emerged as one of my favorite publishers over the last few years. From their brilliant and easy to pick up Frostgrave miniatures rule set, to great reissues like Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space and Escape from Colditz, I’ve spent a lot of hours enjoying their hard work! Their latest game, The Lost Expedition comes from Let Them Eat Cake’s (another Osprey title) designer Peer Sylvester with art from comic illustrator, Garen Ewing. Taking on the role of jungle explorers, there are three ways players can play – solo, head-to-head, or as a cooperative. With a deck full of the hardships that come from adventuring in the tropics, it’s a race to be the first to find the prize – but can you survive?

Kris: Masterful use of Garen Ewing’s pulp-style art, Osprey! It perfectly fits both the theme and intensity of the game and immediately pulls players into this battle for survival against nature. Kudos as well to the young man who explained everything we needed to know about this game in well under ten minutes. There’s the underlying race, the battle against the elements, and plenty of risk-reward balancing. The Lost Expedition is one of very few games that stuck in my head for days and had me excited to play more.

 

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Rocky Road a la Mode (Green Couch Games)

Dave: I’ve said it before, but Green Couch Games really knows how to pack an amazing game into a small little box. They also know how to put it all together for a really reasonable price! For Rocky Road a la Mode players circle around the block selling ice cream from out of their cool little truck meeples. Cards are used for supply and demand and jingle volume as you attract folks of all ages to your truck. They sent us home with a copy and I can’t wait to get this one to the table!

Kris: I’m going to agree with Dave again here, but don’t get accustomed to it! Green Couch are the masters of tiny, budget games. Other board game designers could learn a lot from their efficient use of space and small (but detailed) components. The only aspect of their games that isn’t condensed is the delight gamers enjoy when playing them. I just wish the creepy guy driving the ice cream truck in my neighborhood better represented the wholesome, delicious fun of Rocky Road a la Mode.

 

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Guns & Steel (Tasty Minstrel Games)

Dave: Given a quick run over of this one, I was initially drawn to Guns & Steel by misremembering Guns, Germs, and Steel (a really smart book I own and should really read one day). Not sure if there’s a direct correlation there (maybe they could make a Germs Expansion) but it seemed to be a similar idea. Build your civilization up through scientific advances to best all of the other civilizations. Taking such a weighty theme, Guns & Steel gets you through all of known history in under an hour by utilizing a card pyramid mechanic of advances that you’re only allowed to unlock once the ones below it have been discovered.

Kris: Upon first look at Guns & Steel I thought to myself, “Okay. This is Sid Meier’s Civilization: The Card Game.” Turns out I wasn’t that far off the mark! Players can invest in their culture, build magnificent wonders, or focus on military might. There is even a technology tree, as players attempt to advance from horseback riding to rocketry. If you’re looking for a card game that plays like Civilization and requires under an hour of your time rather than weeks or months, then Guns & Steel may be the perfect game for you and up to three other friends.

 

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MoonQuake Escape (Breaking Games)

Dave: MoonQuake Escape’s awesome mix of plastic and cardboard that sticks out of the game board can only be compared to Mousetrap. Taking place on a planetary space jail, the captors made one big oversight in construction as the planet’s unstable core is erupting and the whole thing is about to blow! Fortunately, there’s only the one spaceship – so it’s not like all of the jailed aliens will escape. Your goal is to be that one lucky space convict as you battle your way to the surface and spaceship in a race to get off this doomed rock.

Kris: The board may look like Mousetrap, but this is a very different game. There’s an undeniably frenetic feel to the gameplay. Players must not only rush to escape on the single rescue rocket but also deal with an ever-changing board layout. I didn’t get to spend much time with this one, but I immediately fell in love with its wit and whimsy. Bonus points awarded to MoonQuake Escape because designer Jeff Johnston, who gave us the most memorable demonstration throughout all of Origins, is a dead ringer for one of the Ghettoblaster staff’s favorite comedian Andy Daly! Seriously though, Jeff’s energy and enthusiasm and passion for his product was much appreciated. Check it out!

 

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Merchants of Araby (Daily Magic Games)

Dave: Negotiation games are ones that people either really tend to enjoy playing or don’t. A certain amount of conflict and battle over interests is needed, and without that thoughtful negotiation, these types of games can really fall flat. That said, if you are part of a gaming group that is willing to hash it out over what’s good for me and what’s good for you, and won’t be at each other’s throats at game’s end, Merchants of Araby is a fun game of shrewd moves.

Kris: Maybe I was just hungry for another banh mi, but all I could see was Arby’s in this game’s title. Anyway, the design concept was to combine Magic: The Gathering with the classic Euro-style board game (I’m about half on board knowing that). Dave’s right that negotiation is quite the divisive mechanic. No amount of rules lawyering or clever planning can account for what may happen when deals are struck. All of these disparate elements may combine perfectly to scratch your gaming itch. The coolest thing about Merchants of Araby to me was how the magnetic box cover also acts as the play board. I expect this design aspect to be copied a lot in the next few years.

 

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Kerala (Kosmos)

Dave: Every time I walked by Kosmos’ booth I’m pretty sure I audibly said “Oooo! Pretty!” when looking at their new game, Kerala. A tile-placing, puzzle-based game, in Kerala players are trying to claim the most impressive fairgrounds with the most elephants possible. Named after the Indian province, artists Claus Stephan and Antje Stephan did an inspired job that is sure to bring even the most skeptic of non-gamers to the table.

Kris: Those are indeed some aesthetically pleasing elephant meeples! Kerala seems to offer a pleasant midpoint between simplistic kids games and five-hour sessions of deeper experiences. Players want to claim as many adjacent tiles of the same color as possible. While simplistic on the surface, there’s a lot of depth to enjoy as players familiarize themselves with the underlying tactics of Kerala.

 

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Arena: For the Gods! (IELLO)

Dave: Man, IELLO really knows how to make a game look fun! King of Tokyo, the Tales & Games series, The Phantom Society and Dungeon Fighter, it’s really hard to see these and not want to sit down and play them. Arena: For the Gods is no different and from the quick description I got it sounds like its as fun to play as it is to look at. Players start the game with an auction on mounts, weaponry, and armor. The catch is, you’re paying from out of your health for the arena! So you may be able to get super kitted out, but you’re going to be a little worse for wear in battle. Health is kept secret and it’s a race to strike the first killing blow for the gods!

Kris: Gladiatorial combat from the people who brought us King of Tokyo? I’m in! IELLO really know how to make cardboard cutouts appealing with designs that are instantly recognizable. Bidding life points for equipment is an ingenious way to strike a balance between quality gear and a hearty pool of HP. It seems to streamline the whole gaming experience in Arena. I also like how it can be played with up to six people. That must make for a chaotic experience in combat!

 

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H.I.D.E. (Mayday Games)

Dave: I’ve already talked about how great Mayday Games is in part one, so I’ll save that whole song and dance this time. For our second new demo from these purveyors of fun, we tried out H.I.D.E. Feeling similar to Ca$h ‘N Guns in its hidden identity, threat of assassination, prize grabbing goals and mechanics, H.I.D.E. introduces a few new welcome twists to the former’s simple game play. There’s still a lot of bluffing still, which I think I’m just horrible at so it all just feels like random chance to me, but if you’re into it than have at it!

Kris: I really enjoyed H.I.D.E., or Hidden Identity Dice Espionage. There is randomness in the dice rolls, but a much larger emphasis is placed on aspects like deduction and trickery. It can be played very aggressively if players want to assassinate their competition. Alternatively, gamers can instead choose to hide in the shadows and wait for their rivals to make a single deadly mistake. While a bit more complex than their more kid-oriented games, H.I.D.E. is just as appropriate for pre-teens as it is for adults.

 

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Century: Spice Road (Plan B Games)

Dave: As more of a thematic gamer, I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed Century: Spice Road. It’s not that there isn’t a theme, players take on the roles of merchants trading goods, but the theme is secondary to the mechanics of set collection, deck-building and hand management. Which I know, I know, could be argued is the sort of wheeling and dealing that you do as a merchant, but still, this is a very mechanic-centric game. When the mechanics work this well together though, it’s sort of just argued details. Brilliantly developed and designed, Century: Spice Road was one of my favorite games of Origins 2017.

Kris: I didn’t get to spend time with this one, but it sounds a helluva lot like Dominion to me. Trading spices isn’t the most enthralling theme in my mind, but a good game is a good game regardless of artwork or thematic details. I’m definitely eager to see where the Century series goes in the future. The possibilities are infinite!

 

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The Shared Dream (Odam)

Dave: Only getting a description from one of the game’s designers, this impression is going to fall woefully short of everything that seems to be promised by The Shared Dream. As Odam’s first board game, The Shared Dream is an adaptation of their RPG series Of Dreams and Magic (oh damn, that’s O.D.A.M.!). Players work cooperatively in both the dream world and the waking world, utilizing a dreamed persona and a “real” persona to try and combat the coming nightmare. Utilizing scenarios, a campaign, and a tile-laying mechanic, it seems like there are hours of gameplay here and rich opportunities for replay.

Kris: The Shared Dream is a unique concept that shows a great deal of promise. I tend to enjoy the interactions between two different realms, realities, or the flip sides of the same coin. They remind me of Silent Hill and Stranger Things. I’m curious as to how these interactions work in this tile-based interpretation of their already established world. A board game version of the same intellectual property could also serve as an excellent gateway to Odam’s RPG offerings.

 

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Flipships (Renegade Games)

Dave: Nostalgia alert! Flipships is a board game version of Space Invaders mixed with a drinking game. If that doesn’t appeal to every 30-something year old out there that still kindles even the smallest flame of fun, then I don’t know what will. The mothership is sending out wave after wave of kamikaze fighters to attack earth. Our core will stay strong for only so long. Do you have what it takes to flip your missiles onto the oncoming waves of aliens and ultimately the mothership itself? Better limber up them digits!

Kris: Another dexterity game! This one has the twist of combining a classic video game with that paper football game we all played when we were bored in elementary school. Players flick a cardboard disc onto cards representing incoming starfighters or into the gaping maw of the mothership. Alien ships are relentless in their approach, so player’s flicks must be both accurate and precise. Flipships does stellar work at combining different aspects of other games into a singular, cohesive experience. Great job!

 

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Pinball Showdown (Shoot Again Games)

Dave: The second of my favorite games from Origins this year had to have been Pinball Showdown. Developed by a professional pinball repairman, Diane Sauer has created the second best thing to actually playing pinball. For Pinball Showdown players are the balls released during a multi-ball. Targets can be struck and points earned, but momentum needs to be spent. Go down to the flipper and you don’t get points, but you build back momentum. Heck, if you can get some awesome music and flashing lights, this may be just as good as playing pinball!

Kris: Dave and I both love pinball, so this one immediately grabbed our attention. The main issue this game addresses is a simple one that has plagued designers for years. How does one translate a game that is perfectly fun in its original form to an equally enjoyable tabletop experience? Diane Sauer figured it out. In Pinball Showdown players act as the actual pinballs during a brief period of multiball mania. It’s all about maintaining the perfect balance between speed and control. The all-important multiplier also comes into play and can be the difference between a high score and a humiliating drain. If it’s in both of our top fives, you know this one rocks!

 

That’s it for Origins this year! Thanks so much to the organizers at GAMA, all of the great exhibitors, and throngs of volunteers that made for a great few days of gaming for Kris, me, and about 17,000 other passionate gaming nerds.

Be sure to check back in a couple of months when we hit up all of the great games at Gen Con!

ORIGINS GAME FAIR, June 14-18 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center

by David C. Obenour & Kris Poland

It’s Con time of year again and Ghettoblaster’s intrepid editor and gaming associate editor were thrilled to be out there in the crowds (well, maybe not always thrilled about the crowds) doing the hard and dirty work of demoing, demoing, demoing! With belly’s full of bourbon and Lan Viet’s delicious grilled pork ban mis we dove into the Columbus Convention Center once again for another amazing few days of gaming! Here’s the first of two posts of what we played.

 

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Lazer Ryderz (Greater Than Games)

Dave: Man, who gives a crap about how this game is played – look at that packaging! A Tron-like sci-fi game from out of what looks like a shelf worn VHS box set? Hell yeah! Thankfully, after you’ve spent hours dazzled by the game box and its components, getting to the rules proves pretty damn rewarding too! You’re riding your lazer bike around, leaving a trail of lethal lazer behind you and collecting power prizms for points and glory! With a similar move mechanic to Fantasy Flight’s X-Wing Miniatures Game it seems quick to pick up on and play. Let’s go Lazer Ryding, boyz!

Kris: Excellent over-the-top 80s art direction and refreshingly straightforward game mechanics make for a perfect match here. As Dave mentioned, Lazer Ryderz takes the simple movement mechanics from the X-Wing Miniatures Game and turns it into a fast-paced race to claim Power Prizms. A healthy dose of randomness in Prizm placement ensures that every game is anybody’s game, and a relatively brief playtime makes this one a strong candidate for either a quick diversion or a lengthy tournament scene.

 

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Attack on Titan: The Last Stand (Cryptozoic Games)

Dave: Cryptozoic has finally found the perfect use for their ubiquitous cardboard stand-up! Included with almost every game from the publisher, the stand-up model for Attack on Titan: The Last Stand is the towering and terrifying titan! With multiple levels up and down the stand-up, and two more levels for the nearby castle, all but one of the players roll dice to cooperatively swing back and forth, fire, stab, and dodge their way to taking down the monster. The other player takes on the role of the titan, using sacrificed player dice to eat villagers, attack other players, and generally be a big jerk. As one of the two companies to continually surprise with their licensed games (GaleForce Nine being the other), Cryptozoic does not disappoint here!

Kris: As far as I’m concerned, this one was an early contender for cooperative game of the show. Knowledge of the Attack on Titan anime and/or manga isn’t required, but it certainly helps get into the spirit of things. I like the way each character has specific strengths that require good teamwork and communication in order to reach their greatest effect. The Titan is a constant threat, and its ability to grab other players’ dice when its face is rolled make for constant risk/reward evaluations. Licensed properties are good again? What a time to be alive.

 

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Vast: The Crystal Caverns (Leder Games)

Dave: A dungeon crawl unlike any other, Vast has players taking on the role of a knight and a thief (okay, still like others), goblins and the dragon (a little more uncommon), and… the cave they’re all in? Utilizing different goals and play mechanics for each, this really reinvigorates one of the most classic gaming themes out there. Vast is currently on their second printing, and the folks from Leder were also teasing an upcoming asymmetrical sci-fi 4X board game called Deep.

Kris: What a cool concept! This almost seems like a tool for better understanding quality level/dungeon design in games of all sorts. So rarely do most of us concern ourselves with thinking about the ecology of a game environment that when a game reminds us of such relationships we can’t help but think, “Why hasn’t anybody already done this?” Check out Vast to peer behind your GM’s screen and see just how much work they do for you!

 

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Castle Flutterstone (Lion Rampant)

Dave: Castle Flutterstone is definitely a family game. Players place lightweight bats on the bellows, line them up and then slam down to release a gust of wind that lifts their bats up to the game board. Go through the hole – move x, land on a platform – move y, first player to reach the end wins! Unfortunately the less than exact art of bellow-lifting will probably make this little more than a fun but short diversions for those without kids. Still, there are worse ways to spend 20 minutes!

Kris: I like dexterity games quite a bit. In fact, Dave and I had lengthy discussions throughout the weekend in an attempt to answer one question. “What game is this year’s Coconuts?” In other words, what game is easily-accessible for the youngest gamers but still offers enough strategy and complexity to maintain adult gamers’ interest? Castle Flutterstone may not fully meet those criteria, but it nevertheless appears to be a good time in short spurts.

 

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Paradox (Split Second Games)

Dave: I didn’t fully get the rundown of Paradox as I was in the back of a group and no amount of peeking through or wiggling to the other side really seemed to help me. That said, what I did hear (and later confirmed online) was about a cool game on a space-time disturbance that is fracturing entire worlds’ existences! As scientists trying to repair these connections in time, Paradox utilizes drafting, set collection, resource management and more. They also enlisted 15 different artists for the game, which was a cool way to showcase the vast difference of the unknown universe.

Kris: Sounds like Interdimensional Cable to me [ed note: nice Redgrin Grumble reference, Kris!]! A strong theme can either be that element that gives a game immediate curb appeal or that slowly pulls you into a bigger picture over time. Dealing with the problem of space-time getting wonky is a perfect setup for a chaotic game, and drafting is a mechanic that really jibes with such a narrative. Art can make or break a game experience, so kudos to Split Second for addressing that thematically with a myriad of art styles.

 

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Element (Rather Dashing)

Dave: For all of the promise of Element, the game did prove more than a little bewildering in our demo. Players utilize the four primal elements; earth, wind, fire and water in an attempt to trap the player counter-clockwise from them on the board. The only problem with that is as you move around the board it becomes a little hard to remember which player that was. Also, play advances counter-clockwise too, which… why not go clockwise as in almost every other game? It’s a shame these two issues proved as confusing as they did (especially because 4 colored cardboard tiles would solve one problem and omitting “counter-” would solve the other) because the different flow of elements and the rock-paper-scissors succession of elemental strength was really interesting.

Kris: Ah, how many times have I walked away from a game demo bewildered? Sometimes it’s the game itself that deserves blame. Often it’s the person running them demo’s attitude or personality that can turn one away from a game. Nevertheless, sometimes certain people and certain games don’t mix. Who knows? Element may be perfect for your gaming group. It just isn’t necessarily a good match for ours.

 

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Onitama (Arcane Wonders)

Dave: Simple rules can often make for strategically rewarding games. Taking inspiration from Chess, Onitama pits two player’s rows of four pawns and a king against each other. On their turn, players utilize one of two available moves on cards and then swap that card with another idled move to the side of the board. The next player then does the same, leaving the two players swapping between one of five available moves in a race to capture the other’s king or take their king to the other king’s starting position. No luck here, it’s all about getting out ahead of your opponent and forcing the finishing move.

Kris: This one quickly grabbed my attention with sleek, simple design and deceptively deep tactical play. I disagree with Dave in that I believe there is a single element of luck in Onitama. You don’t know which of your opponent’s two movement cards will be implemented. Enemies can be baited, but plan too far ahead or rely too much on access to that one card you desire and you’ll likely fail. A small and simple game with huge tactical possibilities, Onitama nears the top of my list at this year’s Origins.

 

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Lisboa (Eagle Games)

Dave: Designed by the creator of The Gallerist, Lisboa is a heavy Euro (and just pick up the box to see it’s heavy in every sense of the word) from Vital Lacerda – who actually walked me and my friend through his own game! #nerdout

Anyway, for Lacerda’s new game, players take on the role of rebuilding the capital of Portugal in 1755 after it was destroyed by an earthquake, followed by a tsunami, and finally followed by 3 days of raging fires. In the broadest strokes possible, this is done through courting the favor of the king, the marquis, and the royal builder. With a number of different interactive mechanics, the theme still relates well in the gameplay and the art helps to break up the charts to provide a breath-taking visual.

Kris: I’ve learned something about myself as a gamer over the last few years. It’s something that could immediately reduce my gamer status to pariah in certain circles. Oh well. Time to out myself. I don’t like heavy Euro games. I won’t go so far as to say I hate them, but that style of game will always be the last I want to play. Therefore, I ask you to please just read through Dave’s thoughts again. I’ll be over here checking out some Reaper Miniatures.

 

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Three Kingdoms Redux (Capstone Games)

Dave: Capstone Games are doing the noble work of re-releasing critically acclaimed European games Stateside. They started with Arkwright and my only issue with that game is the same issue that I have with Three Kingdoms Redux – the art. It’s not that either game is particularly unattractive, but both being dense Euros the boards end up looking like a set of charts that would intimidate even an accountant. After playing Arkwright I mostly got over this, and I hope the same would be true of Three Kingdoms Redux. The theme is captivating with the unification of Feudal China (the same as with Koei’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms) and the idea of a well-balanced three-player game is interesting too.

Kris: While Dave was checking out another “dense Euro” I continued to browse miniatures. A figure with pointy ears dressed all in black approached me. “YOU LIKE REAPER MINIS?” he asked in a booming baritone. “Sure,” I replied. “IS THERE ONE THAT YOU REALLY DESIRE?” the stranger inquired. “Not really. Just browsing,” I said, slowly backing away. Who knows what wonders I missed out on by cowering away from that conversation. This wondrous stranger may have gifted me the resin model of my dreams… or he could have tied me up in a van down by the river.

 

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The Climbers (Simply Complex)

Dave: I don’t know if it’s just me, but I’ve got a thing for building with blocks. You add in a set of rules and turn building blocks into a game and you’ve got me completely! Adding new blocks each turn, players’ goal for The Climbers is getting their meeple to the highest point possible. Did I mention this game also comes with ladders for climbing the blocks? Ladders that can double as bridges as you build up separate towers alongside the main one? Originally released in Germany, Capstone Games offshoot Simply Complex has also increased the quality of art and components for this new edition.

Kris: You are not alone, Dave! Building blocks remind us of our early years, of simplicity and imagination. They fulfill our need for play in the most primal sense. While I cannot claim to understand the popularity of customized meeples, I certainly get their utility as game pieces. The Climbers taps into that childlike wonder of creating something you know is only temporary. There is great joy to be found in building, destroying, and rebuilding in this game. The Climbers is a sure bet for kids of all ages.

 

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Dimension (Kosmos)

Dave: We’ve established that building with blocks is fun (or at least I think so), now we get to build with balls! For Dimensions, players take from the four colored balls at their disposal to build the biggest tower possible. For each round, new rules are introduced that penalize any transgression – white can’t touch green, orange can’t be on top of any other balls, all green balls must touch orange. You’ve got 60 seconds to build the best one possible! As a timed game, this one’s all about the adrenaline rules cross-referencing as you build to maximize within the parameters.

Kris: More building. More tactile feedback. More exploration of the deepest elements of play. Dimension is another dexterity game, only this one requires quick decision-making while the timer ticks down. Building one’s creation within the strict timeframe of only a single minute adds an element of stress that drives competition and keeps us coming back for more. Stacking spheres is rarely this fun!

 

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Unearth (Brotherwise Games)

Dave: As a fan of the great phone puzzle game, Monument Valley I was immediately drawn to Unearth. It features the same unmistakably modern take on Escher-esque geometric and mind-bending art… accept the same artist didn’t do it. Potentially murky inspiration versus replication issues aside, Unearth proved to be as fun in the playing as it was to look at. Players roll D4s, D6s, or D8s to add up your claim to ruins, but low dice rolls allow players to collect stones – yet another way to earn victory points. Brotherwise Games currently has a pre-order up too.

Kris: I sincerely thought Dave was going to get litigious regarding the similarities between Unearth’s visual design and Monument Valley. I’m just relieved he didn’t cause a scene. There’s a lot of potential here, regardless of your opinion of the game’s artwork. I’m a man who enjoys rolling big handfuls of dice, so there’s an immediate appeal for me when a game uses different dice to achieve different goals. Promising!

 

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Super Show (SRG)

Dave: I first saw this game at Gen Con last year, but it was in a shared space with another developer and when I went back through for a demo the table had something way less cool being played. What really caught my eye this year was a number of cool new promo packs for wrestlers like Colt Cabana, David Starr, Johnny Gargano, Lio Rush, Kenny Omega and more. They were a little pricey at $15 a pack, but apparently the wrestlers get a rub from that – so that’s cool! Anyway, Kris is the real professional when it comes to wrestling (I’m just a not-particularly-smart mark) so I’ll let him take this one.

Kris: It’s difficult to capture the unique intensity of a pro wrestling match in a tabletop setting. Many have tried, and only a few have succeeded. Super Show actually does a great job at merging the two worlds into one. It’s clearly made by people who love wrestling for people who love wrestling. Players choose a wrestler (or tag team) and enter the squared circle. Dice are rolled, stats are compared, and cards are played. Pins are handled well too, adding a heightened intensity to every match. Excellent attention to detail makes each wrestler feel unique, and officially licensed likenesses of independent wrestlers elevate Super Show to the next level! Kudos to SRG for taking wrestling games seriously and having a hell of a time while doing so!

 

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Macroscope (Mayday Games)

Dave: Mayday Games are masters of simple and fun. Two years ago they gave us monkey flinging action with Coconuts. Last year they gave us balancing trash in an overflowing bin with Garbage Day. I’m pretty sure both games were made with children in mind, but that didn’t stop them from being two of our favorites. This year we’ve got Macroscope, which features a beautiful 3D playing board that hides simple line drawings underneath small covered holes. On a player’s turn they lift a piece and determine whether they’d like to hazard a guess at what’s the drawing underneath. Without the dexterity element of Coconuts and Garbage Day, the “simple” is laid a little too bare for this to appeal to older audiences. Still, I’m sure this would be tons of good family fun!

Kris: I love this! Macroscope reverse engineers the pixel hunt games that eat up space on smart phones around the world. Instead of looking for minute details in big images, players try to identify a simple line drawing by revealing little bits of it at a time. It’s clearly geared toward young ones, but any age group can have 15 minutes of fun with a few rounds of Macroscope. The design is clean and appealing, and there are enough images on the included double-sided cards to play for a long while before repeating the same game twice. Keep it up, Mayday!

 

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They Who Were 8 (LudiCreations)

Dave: They Who Were 8 was a really unfortunate example of demos and walk-throughs being heavily reliant on who is doing the walking-through. On our first pass, we were given a somewhat distant and very tired run down of the game, complete with a few opinions on its short-comings. Granted, it was 20 minutes before the hall closed, so I get fatigue. But really enjoying the art I went back the next day to ask again with someone new behind the table. This time we were explained a really interesting game of bards telling tales of gods! For this, players were given two god cards, one paired up with the player to their left and one paired up with the player to their right. Glory and infamy tokens get piled on each god and the goal is to be in the most glorious pairing, but being the more modest of the two gods.

Kris: A fairly simplistic game with absolutely beautiful artwork, They Who Were 8 is a cool little game. As Dave mentioned, players are bards singing of the virtues of their two gods. Bards must interact with their rivals to either side, and gobbling up all the praise doesn’t guarantee a win. Enter modesty as the game-winning quality, and you have an experience unlike anything else we saw on the convention floor.

 

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Near and Far (Red Raven Games)

Dave: Racking up a ton of awards in 2015 and 2016 for Above and Below, and having a buddy who got it and won’t stop raving about it, I was really interested to hear more about Above and Below and their new game Near and Far. Unfortunately, Red Raven Games was only offering ticketed demos at Origins and didn’t have an open copy of either game to leaf through and marvel at. From what I could gather, Near and Far is a sequel to Above and Below and is run like a campaign as players try to reach the story’s end. Maybe like a choose your own adventure meets RPG meets board game? It all sounds very novel and cool, so I hope to find out more for you (and me)!

Kris: Like Dave, I’ve only heard tales and never had the opportunity to get my hands on this one. The only thing I can say for certain at this time is that I am intrigued!

We’ll be back with part two of our review with more games from Origins!

ORIGINS GAME FAIR, June 15-19 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center

by David C. Obenour & Kris Poland

Day 12 of bánh mì withdrawl: Miss you Columbus’ Northside Market. Miss you everyday… and we also miss all of the good times we had in playing our way up and down the aisles (and then again and again) at Origins Game Fair! If you missed part one, go back and check it out, but without further ado, here’s part two!

 

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Dead Last (Smirk & Dagger Games)

Kris: Dead Last reminded me a lot of Ca$h N Gun$ in that it involved players taking the role of criminals who are probably going to all kill one another. All forms of table talk are allowed and encouraged, from open alliances to subtle nods. The coolest part of Dead Last is that the last two players standing enter into a final standoff where they can either cooperate or duel to the death. Accommodating up to twelve players increases its likelihood to come out when lots of friends are over, even if some of them aren’t all that familiar with gaming.

Dave: I’m normally very wary of party games. Most substitute hackneyed nostalgia, shock humor or socially acceptable nerd culture references in place of a good game. May I also add, get off my lawn! Now that I’m done being a curmudgeon Dead Last looks like a really fun game! Like Kris mentioned, my first thought was of Ca$h N Gun$ too – a fun party game but one that we already own. Thankfully we stuck around for a quick explanation where we were told all of nuances of Dead Last. Everything from texting to meaningful eyebrow stroking can be used to communicate with your fellow players. Party people seemed to be having a rowdy good time with this one all weekend long and for once I think I agree with them!

 

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Epic Card Game (White Wizard Games)

Dave: Honestly, collectible card games (CCGs) are more of Kris’ thing and while I could appreciate what was going on with Epic Card Game (and am a big fan of White Wizard Games other creation, Star Realms), I think I’ll let him handle this one.

Kris: This is easily in my top three games of the fair. The design goal of Epic, unfortunately one of the lamest game names ever, was to make every game turn feel like the craziest turn of a Magic: The Gathering duel. Mission accomplished. Anyone familiar with Magic will instantly pick up the idea and run with just how much they nailed it. For those who may never have played a CCG, Epic’s rules are few and simple enough to avoid intimidation. The starter deck comes with 120 cards from four different colored factions that can be used as standalone decks or in drafts or various other formats. A handful of boosters are also available. Epic is an impressive followup to the equally impressive Star Realms.

 

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Ruckus: The Goblin Army Game (Goblin Army Games)

Kris: The volunteer demoing Ruckus directly told us that the game was not good. This was a huge bummer, as secretly lining up blocks of goblin infantry in different formations looked to be right up my alley. I just feel bad for the designer that this guy who clearly did not care for the game he was presenting to gamers immediately turned us away.

Dave: The unfortunate reality is that the person presenting you with a game, and the people demoing a game with you, really color your opinion. At first glance, Ruckus appeared like a beer and pretzel game, and already owning a few goblin-themed beer and pretzel games, I wasn’t that interested. Then I was told that in fact this was a fairly long and involved tactical game but as soon as I got somewhat interested I was told that it really wasn’t that good of a game. Sorry we couldn’t be more helpful! Hopefully they’ll be at Gen Con with someone more helpful explaining things.

 

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Tiffin (Rio Grande Games)

Kris: I never would have guessed I could be so drawn in by a game about delivering hot lunches on a bicycle. Tiffin lands in my top three because of its unusual theme, easy-to-learn gameplay, and lively pace. This is another example of how an excellent game demo can make a world of difference. Dave and I played a full three-player game with a polite and friendly stranger after the Rio Grande volunteer ran us through the rules in five short minutes.

Dave: Yeah, Tiffin really was on the opposite end of the spectrum from Ruckus: The Goblin Army Game. Rio Grande has developed a great group of friendly playtesters who know the company’s games up and down and seem genuinely happy to explain them to you. For this game, each player has a number of tiffins (hot meal containers) that they load up on delivery bikes before sending them out into the busy streets of India. As the game progresses, the deliveries become more valuable and the player that dedicates more resources to the delivery scores more points. Easy to learn, quick to play, and still with a number of decisions and wagers, Tiffin was a lot of fun!

 

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Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space (Osprey Games)

Kris: Like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the title of this game explains everything. From the folks who brought us the brilliantly streamlined miniatures game Frostgrave comes my favorite gaming experience of Origins 2016. Players secretly become humans or aliens on a spaceship. Armed with only dry erase notebooks full of ship layouts and a marker, aliens try to track down and kill humans while humans try to make it to escape pods. Fans of Nuns on the Run will instantly understand the appeal of Escape, and newcomers will pick it up in a flash. It’s one of the most exciting games of cat and mouse tabletop gaming can offer.

Dave: This was my favorite game of the con too and the only one I actually played twice. Everything about Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space is on point. The art is bleak and eerie and adapts easily to the gameplay. The rules are quick to explain and easy to understand. There are a number of different spaceship maps and playing variants to keep play exciting and new (plus, it’d be ripe for expansions). It’s probably the most excitement I’ve felt in playing a non-real time board game.

 

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Age of Conan (Ares Games)

Kris: I didn’t get much of a look at Age of Conan outside of a very brief explanation. It’s definitely a dudes on a map game that looks to have significant depth. All of the components did well to represent the brutal world of monsters and warlords that make Conan’s adventures such an enjoyable celebration of violence.

Dave: Almost two weeks out from Origins, Age of Conan is the game that haunts my dreams. The castles, the armies, the kingdoms on the map, the varying quests of Conan as he wrecks havoc across Hyboria, cleaving men and bedding women… this game is a metal album or dusty paperback novel that you get to play out! I didn’t get a chance to demo this one but the super friendly staff at Ares’ booth gave me a very in depth run through. Also of note is the recently released Adventures in Hyboria expansions which “takes Conan from a two-dimensional character into a more dynamic presence” in the game. Sounds like a must have to me!

 

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Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers (Tasty Minstrel Games)

Kris: This was the first game of the con that we played, so we were all jazzed up to try something new. It’s a shorter, fast-paced game in which players captaining huge battlecruisers gun it out with hands of cards. All captain’s decks are identical, and if they play the same cards in the same turn the results can be disastrous. Though hands are small and decks burnt through quickly, the game comes with a lot of cards that can be mixed and matched and lead to interesting tactical combinations. I can see a lot of replay value in Battlecruisers.

Dave: Yeah, there’s no denying the white-hot enthusiasm as my inner voice chanted, “Games! Games! Games!” for the first play test of Origins. Thankfully Battlecruisers proved to be a lot of fun as our first game too. Sometimes what I like to do with demos is play them thematically and see how that works for gameplay. The first card I played was the Reckless Pilot, so after playing that and needing to burn a card it only felt natural that a Reckless Pilot would have no use for a Captain and all of his by-the-book ways. This lead to the type of fast and loose game that you’d expect, which showed a great marrying of concept and design.

 

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Fire Dragon (HABA)

Kris : I didn’t get a chance to experience this one at all. Dave?

Dave: Fire Dragon or Feuerdrachen as the large German title on the box proclaims is a game for children or adults that are easily impressed by shiny things. Guess which one I am? In the game players fly their two dragons around the volcano, collecting the rubies spewed out with each fiery eruption. The volcano sits in the middle of the board and is a neat, two-part aluminum cup that you pull apart on each eruption – spilling the rubies onto the game board. It’s fun, short and silly for people of all ages.

 

and now, some teasers

 

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Wasteland Express Delivery Service (IDW Games / Pandasaurus)

Kris: Who wouldn’t want to be the Pony Express of a Mad Maxian world? That sounds crazy fun! I was really excited to see this. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to speak with anyone about it much. From what I gather players make their way across interlocking terrain tiles while balancing speed of delivery against avoiding radiation poisoning and murderous marauders. I love the theme, the artwork is phenomenal, and one of the designers also made Dead of Winter. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of this one.

Dave: The whole time while watching Fury Road I kept thinking, “I want to play this as a game!” Soon, thanks to IDW Games and Pandasaurus, we all can with the upcoming release of Wasteland Express Delivery Service. The artwork is awesome and kind of reminded me of the hyper-detailed work of comic illustrator, Brandon Graham. We didn’t get much more than core concepts and a look at a decently assembled prototype, but that’s plenty to be excited about!

 

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The Last Friday (Ares Games)

Kris: Probably the game that I am most eager to play, The Last Friday is a slasher movie game that pits a murdering psychopath against sexy teenage campers. Its main gameplay mechanic is hidden movement, similar to Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space. The narrative plays out slasher movie style across four acts with all the splatterific tropes fans of the genre have come to love. Whether you grew up cheering for Jason Voorhees or just want the thrill of surviving a lakeside massacre, The Last Friday is full of potential.

Dave: This game looks so cool it’s almost not fair. I love Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan as much as most everyone else, but The Last Friday? C’mon. Railroads across Europe and frantically trading for stone to get the largest army or running for your life from a deranged 80s horror archetype? Sure, with a playing time that tops at out two hours this game isn’t going to be for everyone but you’re on game 20 of a two post long review of a gaming convention. You know you’re every bit as excited as I am.

ORIGINS GAME FAIR, June 15-19 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center

by David C. Obenour & Kris Poland

Another year, another kick off of the tabletop games convention season with Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio! Fueled exclusively by Lan Viet‘s bánh mì sandwiches, we took advantage of the expanded exhibitor hall (stretching game demo space into two larger halls), manageable crowds and friendly volunteer playtesters, to get into a whole lot in those few days. So let’s get to what everyone actually cares about: the games!

 

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Salem (Passport Games Studios)

Kris: I didn’t get to play Salem, but I watched over Dave’s shoulder as he finished up his demo. It looks a lot like the dozens upon dozens of Are you a Werewolf? (Or Mafia. Whatever.) style games out there right now. The biggest difference between Salem and the rest of the crowd seems to be that while the rest are more focused on fun, lighthearted social play, Salem is a serious logic puzzle to be solved by serious players.

Dave: Kris is right that thematically, you would think that Salem sits alongside a number of party games already out there – but this is no party game. The research that went into Salem is nothing short of remarkable. The four trials that represent turns take place on the historic Salem Witch Trials and each of the 49 characters represented were real participants and have a few sentences back story written beneath their token. The art is also very dark and fitting of the concept, with heavy ink lines for deep shadows. As for the game itself, Salem plays out like a logic problem or Sudoku channeled through a more involved version of Clue. Having not used this part of my brain in years there was a rather bewildering learning curve, but that too added to the game’s experience as you were forced to make accusations and vote on guilt.

 

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TANKS (Gale Force Nine)

Kris: Gale Force Nine have been killing it of late. It’s truly surprising to me to see a company that began in gaming accessories churn out some very cool-looking and playable games. TANKS looks to continue that tradition with skirmish-level miniature battles that can be setup and played in a matter of minutes rather than hours. The models look great, with nice details and variable armaments, and the price point for entry is incredibly reasonable. I’m very excited to get my hands on the starter set and take TANKS for a test drive.

Dave: X-Wing has brought a whole new wave of gamers to the tabletop and with it a whole new wave of games. Taking its roots from Gale Force Nine’s Flames of War system (even sharing the same tank models), TANKS is a quick to pick up and play game of World War II tank combat. The core set is only $25 and comes with all of the rules and a Panther and Sherman tank. Is TANKS a cleverly marketed gateway drug for Flames of War? Perhaps. Do I care? Guys, we’re talking about battling tanks, here!

 

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Garbage Day (Mayday Games)

Kris: Garbage Day is elegance and simplicity in game design wrapped up into an instantly understandable product. Perhaps it’s just a case of rules overload, but I find it so refreshing to play these straightforward, streamlined games that absolutely anyone can pick up and enjoy. There’s very little depth to Garbage Day, but there doesn’t need to be. There’s the skill element of balancing cards on the trashcan and the gambling element of managing how messy a player’s room becomes. That’s it. This is a must play for everyone from family gamers to hardcore rules lawyers who need to be reminding of the importance of fun in gaming.

Dave: One of the greatest things about the rising popularity of board games is all of the creative concepts that publishers are willing to back. Now, from the gaming company that brought the West monkeys flinging rubber coconuts into plastic bushels, we have the game of avoiding taking out the trash! If that sounds like a dig at all, you obviously haven’t played Coconuts (read our summary from last year’s Origins) or Garbage Day yet. Packed inside a plastic garbage bin, Garbage Day has players drawing from a deck of trash, to then either store in their room, hide in their opponent’s room, or precariously balance atop of the bin. One of my favorite games of the weekend.

 

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The Refuge (B&B Games Studio)

Dave: The Refuge’s art really drew me in but after hearing the run through it sounded like… a more complicated version of zombie-themed checkers? That’s not entirely fair as we didn’t get to play this one. Honestly, Kris seemed a little more into it so I think I’m just going to let him take it.

Kris: It blew me away to learn that The Refuge was in development for two years. The game is incredibly straightforward. Think Frogger but with zombies instead of traffic. Get from one side of the board to the other without dying. That’s about it. There are weapons and ways to switch places with other players and a handful of other elements that ought to keep gameplay from getting too stale too quickly. There’s potential for a lot of fun here, but The Refuge isn’t going to replace Dead of Winter on anyone’s shelf. Hopefully that two-year development time meant that they play-tested the hell out of it in order to make it as balanced and smooth as possible.

 

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Avalanche at Yeti Mountain (Green Couch Games)

Dave: For just being a deck of cards, a couple of plastic holders and a handful of wooden pawns, Avalanche at Yeti Mountain does a great job of feeling like it’s more. Laying out a slope of 12 cards, players ski and rocket jump their way down the mountain, trying to avoid the yeti and outrun the avalanche. Adding to the affect, the avalanche is represented by a stood up card with a track on the top to indicate its speed (which increases with every rocket jump). It’s a fun and clever game designed in a fun and clever way.

Kris: I completely agree with Dave on this one. For such a tiny box, there’s a lot of goodness packed into Yeti Mountain. It’s about risk and reward and the balance between competition and cooperation. Players take the role of skiers testing out experimental rocket boosters. If everyone moves as fast as possible down the mountain, the avalanche speeds up and ultimately consumes them. If everyone plays it too safe, they quickly become Yeti chow. Don’t be fooled by its diminutive appearance. There are great times crammed into that itty bitty package. Kudos to Green Couch!

 

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The Networks (Formal Ferret Games)

Dave: Hire your stars, pay for new shows, solicit advertising and set that primetime schedule, in The Networks players fight for viewers as growing television stations. Turns represent seasons and each new season some shows get circulated reruns, reruns go into the archives, and a variety of new show, ad, star and action cards are available to add to your station. It’s a unique concept that’s translated very well through simple rules with a variety of decisions. I’m not sure how it would work out (for that matter, neither is the entertainment industry) but it could be neat to see an internet streaming expansion.

Kris: The Networks instantly won points with me for its lighthearted graphic design and stylish presentation. It’s a game that immediately looks fun to play. The titles and images associated with the television programs, stars of the small screen, and ridiculous advertisements will bring smiles to the faces of all but the most dour gamers. We only had time to experience two seasons out of the standard five season game length, but it was enough exposure to the game’s core elements to see there there’s a lot of variety in strategy and fun to be had with The Networks.

 

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Klask (Oy Marektoy Ltd.)

Kris: Klask is a weird one. I prefer to think of games of its ilk as games of skill as opposed to games of strategy or even luck. It’s more akin to foosball or air hockey or Subbuteo than to Catan or Axis & Allies. I see this as a positive trend. The more variety in gaming the better! Klask seemed fairly pricey for what it was offering, but I choose to assume that it’s hand assembled from quality parts. Dexterity, patience, precise movements, and a patient hand will all be key components of success for any Klask players. If we get our hands on one of these, I could see tournaments in the Ghettoblaster offices becoming fiercely competitive. I’m comin’ for you, Dave!

Dave: There don’t seem to be enough yet to call it a trend, but more parlor-type games have been showing up at conventions. It’s the logical progression too, after popular games like Space Cadets have reintroduced dexterity and physical challenges to gaming. So here we have Scandinavian publisher Oy Marektoy and their very Ikea-looking take on air hockey, Klask. As the box says, “Get your hand under that table! Try to score but watch out for the hole.. Klask!” Those are pretty much the rules. The magnetized pawn moves as you drag it along from below, trying to knock the ball into your opponent’s hole while also trying to avoid trapping it in your own. Three magnets sit in the middle and if two of them latch onto your pawn, it’s trouble. It was definitely fun, but its simplicity may land it on the shelf for stretches of time between playing.

 

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Bottom of the Ninth (Greater Than Games)

Dave: I didn’t get much more than a brief rundown of Bottom of the Ninth but this might have been my favorite designed game at Origins. The player cards resembled old Topps baseball cards, the tones are all done in a dusty, Middle of America coloring scheme, and there are two sets of double sided baseball discs – one with High and Low, one with Inside and Away – for the batter and pitcher to size up each other with on every pitch. The game only simulates those high stakes last three outs as it’s the bottom of the ninth and the game is tied, so play time is short and exciting.

Kris: Color me impressed. Most baseball simulations do absolutely nothing for me. My eyelids grow heavy and my focus wanders whenever hitting percentages and RBIs are even mentioned. Bottom of the Ninth, however, boils baseball down to the most exciting scenario in any game. It’s the last inning and the game is tied. It all comes down to one pitcher and a handful of batters. The player cards look phenomenal, and the pitcher/batter face-off component is smart. There’s a lot of potential for amazing showdowns here. I’m definitely looking forward to spending more time with Bottom of the Ninth.

 

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Crazy Karts (Portal Games)

Kris: A good (or bad) demo can make (or break) a game in the hearts and minds of gamers. That’s why it is unfortunate that our session with Crazy Karts felt manic and confusing. My heart goes out to those volunteers that spend hours on the convention hall floor dealing with gamers who cover the entire spectrum of interest, etiquette, and hygiene. Nevertheless, my experience with Crazy Karts was less than stellar. There seems to be a lot of spectacle and forced mirth around a concept that is, at its core, fairly barebones. I do believe that there is some potential for fun with this game, but I’m uncertain as to whether or not it’s worth putting in the effort. Just play one of the many versions of Mario Kart for your Nintendo console of choice instead.

Dave: It can be hard to judge a game on a demo because admittedly the play-testers are often running you through a simplified version to save on time. So it’s entirely possible that there’s more to Crazy Karts than what we experienced. What we did experience though felt a little too complicated to be so simple. The straight racetrack tiles were only broken up by intermittent obstacle spaces (without any twists or turns or jumps) and even though the racetrack tiles were double-sided, the illustrated terrain had no effect (the bridge spaces on one tile were effectively the same as the water spaces). The team dynamic of having two players on each kart lead to some exciting guesswork and the real time rush to distribute each turn’s power cards within five seconds of the first team’s completion kept things moving along. There were definitely things I like about Crazy Karts but maybe not enough to make room for it on the shelf.

 

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Beyond Baker Street (Z-Man Games)

Dave: A fun things games can do is take a well known concept but come at it from a different angle. In Beyond Baker Street players take on the role of not Sherlock Holmes or Watson but members of the Scotland Yard, continually embarrassed by this upstart detective always getting their man. Working together, players share evidence but there’s a leak and every time information is shared Holmes gets one step closer to solving the case. The designers execute this through gameplay in a brilliant appropriation of Hanabi’s core mechanic –holding cards faced outwards and giving clues based on the color or number. This was my sleeper hit of convention.

Kris: Every nerd has his blind spots. One of my biggest blind spots encompasses all that is Sherlock Holmes. As with steampunk and Dr. Who, I just don’t care. I guess that goes to show just how much a theme can matter to a game. Ultimately, play mechanics and strategic depth and fun-factor keep us playing. But a good theme can draw in new players. It’s a shame too because the idea behind Beyond Baker Street is great! It’s the equivalent of GCPD to Batman. I’ll have to take a closer look.

— but wait, there’s more —

Come back later this week for the Games of Origins, 2016: Part Two – featuring Dead Last, Epic Card Game, Tiffin, Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space, Conan, Ruckus, Battlecruisers, Feuer Drachen, Wasteland Express and Last Friday!

ORIGINS, June 3-7 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center

by David C. Obenour & Kris Poland

Welcome back, dear reader! We’re continuing our coverage of the 2015 Origins Game Fair with round two of our game previews, observations, and insights. Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list of every game at Origins. We’re just hitting some of the highlights. Be sure to check back soon for in-depth reviews and interviews featuring some of the titles discussed here. Enjoy, roll them dice, and grab them cakes!

 

ENCOUNTERS: BRAVEST WARRIORS (Catalyst Game Labs, unreleased)

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David: A really simple, really fun push-your-luck game set in the world of Cartoon Hangover’s Bravest Warriors. Choose a warrior, utilize their ability and then it’s off to slay monsters! Monster cards are flipped one at a time, exposing an encounter value that players need to meet exactly with one or more of their six D6s rolled in a turn. After each successful encounter, players can choose to flip another enemy, but an unsuccessful roll gives your opponent the chance to steal all of your glory from that turn. Short, sweet, and full of glory and defeat! Can’t ask for much more.

Kris: Pendleton Ward’s simple, bubbly character designs are already iconic representations of cartooning in the 2010s. They’re also a perfect match for a simple, bubbly game like Encounters. Having already struck gold with Adventure Time: Card Wars, Catalyst nailed it again with another of Ward’s creations. Encounters is quick and fun as a two-player game and begs to be played for just one more game. Adding the blue and red sets together makes for up to eight-player games that likely take longer to complete but are just as straightforward in the rules department. A nice, inexpensive break from the rules-heavy games that dominate tabletops of late, this one is highly recommended for adults and/or kids.

 

CONVERT (Yodeo Games, 2014)

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David: No matter how old I get, blocks will always be fun to play with. A simple and sharply designed puzzle game, Convert pits two-players against each other as they place different shaped blocks on a 4×4 grid to convert rows to their solid color for points. Blocks have to be placed within the grid and must be full supported underneath (no hanging moves allowed). At the end of the game, bonus points are awarded for each exposed brick of your color on top and the highest brick decides ties. Eat it Kris! I’m the highest! (Also, as a bonus, if you follow Yodeo Games on Facebook they release a monthly puzzle for you to try to replicate with the blocks provided. More playing with blocks!)

Kris: Whoa, Dave. Way to get aggro. Win or lose, there’s an undeniable charm to Convert. The chunky wooden blocks feel great in-hand, and the minimalist black and white design offer a much needed reprieve from the incredibly busy and colorful box art that most games use to grab players’ attention. Ian Reed has created a game that is quietly understated but has tons to offer. It rewards thoughtful play and strategic planning. Monthly downloadable puzzles offer an awesome bonus that mean endless replayability. And you don’t even have to bother with Facebook. Just look for the monthly puzzle on Yodeo Games’ site.

 

WAR STORIES: THE GAME (Level 42 Media, unreleased)

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David: Party game, story-telling, celebrities and inappropriate humor. Eh. There’s a kind of cool story about this being used to help the designer’s friends deal with PTSD but I don’t know if I really want to talk about this one. Do you?

Kris: Sure. I’ll give it a go. War Stories: The Game is not to be confused with Artana’s War Stories: Liberty Road and War Stories: Red Storm. The latter two are wargames in which WWII battles are fought. The former is a competitive storytelling game. Each player gets a minute to tell their story using as many cards as possible. Cards feature items, locations, heroes, villains, and more. Once a storyteller’s time is up, it’s up to the rest of the players to decide which cards were used correctly. There are plenty of opportunities to take cheap shots at celebrities, and the only real limit is a player’s imagination. This could be a strength or weakness depending upon players’ creativity or likemindedness. I fear a similar weakness to games like Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity. That being that they aren’t really games. They’re more ways to find out the political leanings, prejudices, and limits of taste of the people with whom you’re playing.

EDIT: It looks like War Stories Kickstarter has been cancelled after they noticed what Kris noticed – Artana already has a game called War Stories. Hopefully they will regroup and be back shortly!

 

ROLL FOR THE GALAXY (Rio Grande Games, 2015)

1 roll for galaxy

David: Admittedly, I was late to Race for the Galaxy but it’s been in pretty heavy rotation since we picked it up. The original version was a deck-building sci-fi game that focused on maximizing card synergy to get the deepest discounts and score the highest victory points. You could choose to focus on military, colonization, technological developments, producing and consuming or any combination to any degree. Each hand plays out differently based on what you get and what you do with what you get. For as many options as there were, design and gameplay were smartly crafted to assist and not overwhelm. Yeah. It’s a great game.

After a number of expansions, we now have Roll for the Galaxy. I spent so much time describing Race because Roll is essentially the same game in everything except for how it plays. It shares the same theme, the same art, even the same end goals. However, trading card based play for dice make it play surprisingly different. Collecting cards let you plan out in advance, but rolling dice throw wrenches in the works, forcing rethinking and adapting. It’s all of what makes Race for the Galaxy great, only different.

Kris: Race for the Galaxy never really grabbed my attention the way it did with Dave. I played it twice and must say I found it more complex and overwhelming than the other players did. Thus, I spent the period of time Dave checked out Roll feeding quarters into Reaper’s gumball machine amassing as many cool Bones miniatures as I could. However, I like the element of randomness that dice rolling adds to any game. Given that, this might be the version of an already popular game that manages to sink its claws into my brain.

 

BILLIONAIRE BANSHEE (Game Yay FunBreaking Games, 2015)

1 billionaire

David: I’m not the biggest party game fan, but Billionaire Banshee is pretty fun (and quick enough that as long as you don’t play it into the ground it will stay that way). On your turn you flip a perk and a quirk of a person to hypothetically hookup with, you secretly pick whether you’d date or deny them and then your friends all try and guess your answer. It’s funny, it’s inappropriate and it uses 8-bit art – and though 8-bit art is feeling about as played out as zombies these days – those are all the touching points of a successful party game.

Kris: One of the first cards we came across in our first game of Billionaire Banshee was “Butt Stuff”. Oddly enough, I can’t remember if that was a perk or a quirk. Regardless, this is a fun little game. After a few rounds, our friends made our own rules that basically turned Billionaire Banshee into our own version of Comedy Bang! Bang!’s Would You Rather? I’d argue that’s a significant strength in a game. We could build on the already salacious cards, making them even more ridiculous as we played. Plus, designer Steven “Razlo” Bailey spent a good ten minutes discussing Japanese wrestling with us. Bonus points!

 

DUNGEON FIGHTER (iello, 2014)

1dungeon fighter

David: It’s fun seeing more and more games of skill coming out these days. After spending a couple of hours building a Medieval farm or banishing an ancient Lovecraftian horror, giving the right brain a break while you roll dice from under-the-leg to land onto a target damage board is a welcome change of pace. Somewhere between party game and board game, games like Dungeon Fighter offer up something that most everyone can appreciate. It’s cooperative too, so everyone’s on their feet, rooting you on.

Kris: I wouldn’t necessarily call Dungeon Fighter (again, not to be confused with Dungeon Fighter Online. Let’s make up some original game titles, people!) a party game. I’d say it’s a board game with dexterity elements. Players team up to explore dungeons and fight various monsters along the way. The monster battles are where things get interesting. There are three main dice (red, green and blue) that correspond with a special ability belonging to each character. There is also a pool of white dice available to all players. The catch is that once a player rolls a dice of a certain color that color is no longer available to other players. This adds a small amount of teamwork and planning to the often hilarious, dexterous dice rolls that follow. Players must bounce dice off of the table and onto a target to determine how much damage (if any) they will inflict on a monster. If their chosen die lands with its symbol facing up, that player’s special power activates. Dungeon Fighter seems like a feasible alternative to get players out of their seats between marathon rounds of D&D or Axis & Allies. As an added bonus, the artwork is light, playful, and very high quality. It sort of reminds me of the cover of a Terry Pratchett novel.

 

COCONUTS & COCONUTS DUO (Mayday Games, 2013)

1 coconuts

David: I was pretty skeptical when Kris picked up this game. Flinging coconuts into baskets from a little plastic monkey? What seemed silly and childish quickly became a good-hearted, emotionally-charged game of skill as we lined up are monkeys and drew back their spring-loaded arms. It also quickly became a drinking game.

Kris: I’ll admit it. This was my favorite game of the convention. I was thrilled to see it, and purchased it immediately. I’ve been excited to get my hands on Coconuts when I first learned of its hardcore following and tournament circuit in South Korea. Maybe my brain is just getting softer as I age. Perhaps I’m burning out on rules-intensive gaming. Whatever the cause, this game is just what I needed. 95% dexterity with 5% tactical card playing turned out to be just the right combination of what I was looking for. It’s just as appropriate for kids as it is for adults, and it can be played as a quick diversion or a lengthy tournament. The addition of Coconuts Duo is awesome as it turns a three-to-four-player game into a two-to-six-player game when combined with the original. Kudos to Mayday for seeing the simple brilliance of this game and purchasing North American distribution rights. Laugh at me all you like. I’ll have a blast playing with my Coconuts.

 

CASTLE ASSAULT (MomentumVolsk LLC, unreleased)

1 castle

David: The jury’s still out for me on the whole combat lane mechanic. Part of me thinks it’s overly simple and confining but another part of me thinks that I haven’t played them enough to pick up on the nuances. Either way, Castle Assault is a quick and fun enough take on the style. With a number of race decks to choose from (undead, vampires, elves, humans, etc) players are pitted head-to-head in a, you guessed it, castle assault. Each deck has its unique strengths and weakness, and the designers did a great job of fitting those within the game. Great art too.

Kris: In another somewhat rare occurrence where Dave and I disagree, I’m totally into combat lanes. I’m not sure if there are a lot of nuances to pick up as much as it’s just a case of surrendering to certain limitations. I like that each playable race not only has its unique tactical advantages, but they also have completely different art styles on their cards designed by a different artist for each race. Our game was awesome in that the ending came along in a totally unexpected fashion. I thought I was in a great position to take Dave’s castle out, when he suddenly wiped out my castle’s hit points in a single attack. It was one of those moments for which we all play games. I’m not saying every single instance of Castle Assault will play out as such, but it’s a game that certainly has that potential.

 

…and that’s all for the games of Origins! Be sure to come back in a little over a month as we bring to you the games of Gen Con 2015. 

 

ORIGINS, June 3-7 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center

by David C. Obenour & Kris Poland

Greetings, ‘blaster faithful! It’s summer games convention season, and the Ghettoblaster team kicked things off by attending Columbus’ Origins. 2015 was a kick ass year for the Origins Game Fair. With an extra day added and a record breaking number of attendees, more games were played by more gamers for longer than ever before. We’ve compiled a list of some of our experiences from the event, highlighting some games that truly impressed. Enjoy, and come back soon for part two of our trip to Gamesville. Population: nerds like us.

 

LETTER TYCOON (Breaking Games / Squirmy Beast, unreleased)

1 letter tycoon

David: Great job to Brad Brooks, who designed a really fun take on a word-building game. Players form words out of the letter cards in their hand, earning money and stock and the opportunity to buy patents on any of the letters used. Build the most valuable letter empire and win the game. All of that said, just look at this game. Mackenzie Schubert and Peter Vaughan did a truly remarkable job in designing Letter Tycoon’s amazing artwork. It’s as attractive on your shelf as on your table.

Kris: Letter Tycoon could have easily been a lame rework of Scrabble. Fortunately, that’s not the case. It’s just as much about smart investing as it is about showing off one’s vocabulary. Our demo game was quick enough that Tycoon could end up being just as good a main event with your casual gaming friends as it is a quick in-betweener with your hardcore gaming group. While I wouldn’t necessarily describe it as having amazing artwork, the design is unquestionable attractive. Doubly so if you’re really into typefaces.

 

BRING OUT YER DEAD (Upper Deck / Ginger Ale Games, 2015)

1 bring out dead

David: You can’t take it with you, but you can eternally remind folks of all of the “it” you’d accomplished in life with a great burial plot. The head of a family in Medieval Europe, it is your role to make sure your deceased relatives are buried in the most prestigious plots available. With vampires, grave robbers, fortunetellers and one lazy gravedigger though, things aren’t as easy as they might seem (it’s as much about making sure you win as making sure your opponents don’t). Lots of fun and maddening frustration to the very end. Max from Ginger Ale Games wins playtester of the Con award for his walk-through of this game too.

Kris: I 100% agree with Dave that Max Holliday gave us the best game demo experience of the entire convention. He was incredibly knowledgeable (no surprise, given his role in the game’s development) and provided us with the exact amount of information we needed every step of the way. It also didn’t hurt that Bring Out Yer Dead was a whole lot of fun to play. Planning ahead only gets players so far, as a single card played at the right time can turn the tide significantly. This is a game that focuses on actions and reactions. I have a feeling it will work its way into our gaming group’s regular rotation.

 

MONSTER TRUCK MAYHEM (Dice Hate Me Games / Greater Than Games, unreleased)

1 monster truck

David: Whew. Real time board games sure can get your blood pumping! Jumping behind the wheel of a mystic monster truck (Cthuhlu, Valkerie, etc) players manically roll their way through the course – crushing cars, jumping buses, spinning out and boosting through turns. Three dice make up your action pool as you roll for pairs to move along. Three of a kind, and you’re forced to move that distance. End up in an oil slick and you’re there until you’re able to get three tires. Get too far ahead and you have to read a “Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!” card, letting you show off your best late night commercial voice (and letting your opponents catch up). It’s short, silly and most importantly, a lot of fun.

Kris: Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to play Monster Truck Mayhem. However, I was genuinely impressed by the amount of whooping it up I overheard from the people who were playing it. I can accurately say this at the very least. It sure sounded like a helluva lot of fun. As a child of the ‘80s, just the look of this game brought back memories of Bigfoot and Grave Digger. And just to be absolutely clear, this game is in no way affiliated with the abysmal Monster Trucks Mayhem Nintendo games.

EDIT: It looks like Monster Truck Mayhem’s Kickstarter has been cancelled as of yesterday, though there are plans to bring it back. Here’s hoping, because it was a really fun game!

 

TESLA VS. EDISON: WAR OF THE CURRENTS (Artana, unreleased)

1 tesla edison

David: It’s funny that we were demoing Tesla Vs. Edison directly across the aisle from the hooting and hollering of Monster Truck Mayhem. A more different game, you’d be hard-pressed to find.

Taking on the roles of 19th century inventors and other luminaries, players compete in the high stakes industry of light and power. After the solid 30-minute game explanation and a few rounds played, the rules made sense, but the dizzying amount of options is what’s bound to fascinate some and overwhelm others. Will you spend your time developing patents, profiting in the stock market to the benefit and determent of your opponents, starting projects in cities across the northern states, or in publicity stunts to promote your preferred current as the most up-to-the-minute option? They’re all beneficial, but there are only so many actions in a round!

Artana Games, previously Conquistador, has a flawless record so far of smart, intricate and gorgeously designed games with New Science and Tomorrow (I haven’t played either War Stories games, unfortunately) and Tesla Vs. Edison is another winner.

Kris: While the demo we played went on way too long for my liking (I have other games to try, dammit), the core gameplay of Tesla vs. Edison is solid as a rock. Choosing allies, researching and patenting technologies, building power plants, garnering public approval, and smart investing are all critical gameplay elements that demand thoughtful consideration. Each inventor has unique strengths and weaknesses that should keep experiences varied over multiple sessions as players fight the battle between AC and DC. Unsurprisingly, the game is a delight for the eyes. If you enjoy the look and feel of New Science, this one is right up your alley. The learning curve may be a bit steep to begin with, but after a few play-throughs it ought to flow nicely.

 

BATTLE FOR SULARIA (Punch-It Entertainment, unreleased)

1 battle for sularia

David: Honestly, I’m not that much of a collectible card game gamer and a lot of what these guys were saying shot over my head. I’ll let Kris handle this one.

Kris: I love CCGs, so Battle for Sularia is definitely in my wheelhouse. I also love getting hands-on experiences with such games at conventions. Every playtest begins with the same question. “Do you play Magic?” When I respond affirmatively, the look of relief on the face of the designer/playtester/volunteer makes me smile every time. While Magic players will be comfortable with the basics, there’s also plenty to set this game apart from the herd. There are two different resources, Influence and Sularium, that are used to deploy different types of cards. There are also sites that can be played apart from familiar creatures and instants. Additionally, deck construction is based on a points system. Decks must contain at least 60 cards, and each card has a construction value of one through four. A deck’s maximum construction value is 90 points, so min-maxers cannot make legal decks just by gathering up all of the most powerful cards. This should lead to more balanced games. Perhaps most impressive is the amount of backstory created for this game. Sularia is a complex world full of multiple factions, political intrigue, and interesting characters. Most of what I’ve seen of the card artwork is top notch as well. I’m definitely looking forward to getting my hands on the first Battle Kit that pits the human-like Jotune against the mechanized Synthian.

 

TRICKED-OUT HERO (Prolific Games, 2014)

1 tricked

David: Kind of a fun concept here! Take a traditional trick-taking card game mechanic (Hearts, Spades, Euchre) and give it a nerdy twist. In Tricked-Out Hero, players choose a classic adventurer (mage, sorcerer, warrior, etc), draw a monster they’ll fight for the round, and then play a hand of trick-taking cards to build up Magic, Melee, Health and Monster points based on the suit of the tricks they take. Monsters are flipped, points are added and then battle is done with a D8 plus any bonuses. A good game to introduce some of your non-gamer friends into our weird and nerdy kingdom of fun.

Kris: I despise trick-taking cards games. It probably stems from the childhood trauma of being forced to participate in them during family gatherings when there weren’t enough adults around to play a full game. Tricked-Out Hero made this mechanic bearable for me. In fact, I actually had some fun with it. Adding the slick veneer of fantasy archetypes and battling monsters to a well-worn genre of card game was enough for me to embrace a gameplay style I never thought I would enjoy again. Well done, Prolific Games!

 

THE SPOILS (Arcane Tinmen, 2006)

1 spoils

David: Ditto on what I said for Battle of Sularia.

Kris: The Spoils is a CCG with a rocky past. It came. It went away. It came back again. And now it seems as if it’s here for the long haul. Again, if you can successfully navigate your way through a game of Magic: The Gathering the mechanics of this game will seem like second nature. The cards are pretty. The resource system prevents players from getting mana screwed. Starters and packs are also fairly inexpensive online now too. If you can pull together enough friends for a booster draft, then I definitely recommend this one for a fun night of deck-building and card combat.

 

FIEF: FRANCE 1429 (Academy Games, 2015)

1 fief

David: Though it’s sold in multiple expansions with keep and castle pieces and metal coins (to keep initial cost down), the completed version of Fief was one of the most striking games of Origins. Like Game of Thrones set in 1429 France, players head up families vying for power through any means possible. This includes promotions of barons, earls, bishops and even a pope and king, strategic marriages and alliances to other families, wars, assassinations, executions and more! Originally a French game, Academy is reintroducing this game in English with updated rules, units and art. An involved game, both in terms of rules and play, but it definitely looks like it’d be worth the time and effort.

Kris: Fief looked absolutely gorgeous laid out on a table at Academy Games’ booth. The models of windmills and castle keeps and walls and the historically accurate metal coins scattered across the table really drew the eye to this game. Unfortunately, as Dave said these are expansions. While the base game isn’t as beautiful to behold, it includes the core of the basic gameplay. There were also five books of expanded rules in play. While they may not be as attractive as 3D buildings, I’m certain they add even more depth to an already complex game. It’s just a bummer that, purchased independently, all elements of the game will cost players near $200.

In a rare occurrence for a publisher, Academy Games seem totally committed to historical accuracy and education. It’s possible to actually learn something about French history while playing this game. If you’re interested in political intrigue, arranged marriages, religious oversight, and the occasional assassination in a game that’s likely to consume a few hours of a Saturday afternoon, then Fief is for you.

 

Stay tuned for part two of The Games of Origins, featuring Encounters: Bravest Warrior, Convert, War Stories: The Game, Roll for the Galaxy, Billionaire Banshee, Dungeon Fighter, Coconuts and Castle Assault!

It’s that time of year again. Gamers the world over are nearly bursting at the seams in anticipation of “The Best Four Days in Gaming”™ at Gen Con 2014. Well, I’m not going. My decision to skip this year isn’t out of protest or anything of that ilk. It’s just a busy time of year, and I have other things to do. So I figured I’d post my super late thoughts on the 2014 Origins Game Fair, an event I actually attended.

I like Origins. A lot of gamers seem to think of it as an appetizer to Gen Con’s main dish.  Others describe it as a lesser convention. I don’t know if either perception is necessarily accurate. Columbus’ Origins has it’s own identity and a pacing that is very different from its neighbor in Indianapolis. My experience this year was a more relaxing one than any time I’ve spent at Gen Con. Granted, I wasn’t there on Saturday and heard that lines on that day only were nearly unbearable. Anyway, here are a few games I played and stuff I thought seemed cool.

I saw this bootleg Archer shirt. It was probably funnier when ISIS wasn't real and super scary. Organized murderers are the real monsters.
I saw this bootleg Archer shirt. It was probably funnier when ISIS wasn’t real and super scary. Organized murderers are the real monsters.

This year’s theme was monsters, so it was cool seeing Ninth Level get some attention for the full-color release of their beer and pretzels RPG Kobolds Ate My Baby! They also featured a quick and easy card game starring the same hungry kobolds from their RPG. A brief demo was enough to recommend a purchase. It was also nice hearing the occasional bellowing of, “All hail King Torg!” Things like that warm a gamer’s heart.

I spent some time with our Editor-in-Chief and Lead Designer at the Cool Mini or Not booth. They make some really fun games. Their price point seems a little higher than average, but that’s easily explained by all the neat plastic miniatures included. No cardboard standees here. Kaosball offers a unique update in the vein of Blood Bowl or Bill Lambeer’s Combat Basketball. It’s a two-to-four player board game in which your team can try to score the most points or simply murder the opposition. The core set comes with four full teams, all of which have beautifully designed (although unpainted) miniatures. Tons of additional teams are also available for purchase. Rivet Wars was their other game we demoed. It has elements of RTS games with two players building up armies that will ultimately march to their doom. If you’re the type of gamer who doesn’t mind a substantial initial investment for hours of fun in the longterm, you can’t really go wrong with Cool Mini or Not.

A four-player game of Kaosball in progress
A four-player game of Kaosball in progress

As I’ve been building my WFB Skaven army, of course I had to pick up some bits. I managed to score some different sized bases that I plan to use in creating some unit-filling scenery, a few Dwarf victims, a Plague Priest, an older Warlord model, and a reasonably-priced Forge World Warlord on Brood Horror. The army is coming together nicely. Check back for studio updates and hopefully some battle reports.

I picked up what looked to be a trading card on the top of a trashcan. It turns out it was some clever advertising from illustrator Kelsey Cretcher. Her work has a very clean, almost storybook feel to it. Check her out if you want some drawings or design work.

Dead of Winter from Plaid Hat Games is a pretty cool twist on what could be a tired zombie trope. Two-to-five players try to get their group of survivors through a deadly post-apocalyptic scenario. Basic concerns like food, fuel, and ammo come into play. Most interesting, however, is that each player has her own secret objective. Victory conditions can be met for the team, but individual players can still lose if they fail to meet their secret objectives. Add to this the fact that one or more of the players may win by betraying the others, and things get very interesting. Votes to exile members of the community show that even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse politics still plays a vital role. There’s potential here for a huge amount of replayability.

Sticking with this year’s monstrous theme, RARRR!! by APE Games could be a great educational tool. It involves elements of betting, pressing one’s luck, and a whole lot of basic math. The demo was enjoyable, and the art style is a perfect fit for a light-hearted monster game.

My RARRR!! monster tearing shit up
My RARRR!! monster tearing shit up

White Wizard GamesStar Realms just might be my favorite game of Origins 2014. It’s a two-player deckbuilding game in which each side attempts to build up their fleet while decreasing her opponent’s influence. Think Dominion or Ascension… only in space. Ships and bases belong to one of four factions. Some allow players to get rid of their basic cards, some allow for draws or forced discards, some build up for massive attacks, and others help replenish a player’s influence. The core set is fantastic, inexpensive, and has me very excited about future expansions. If this sounds even the least bit intriguing for you, be sure to grab a copy of Star Realms.

That’s that, I suppose. All in all, I had a pretty great time. I guess not everyone around me shared my perspective. I heard the comments, “I’d rather be at the Geneva Convention,” or “I wish this was Gen Con,” more than once at this year’s Origins. For all those gamers left longing a couple of months ago, it’s just about time for those wishes to come true. Enjoy the hustle and bustle, everyone! If you’re lucky or rich enough to play in the Cones of Dunshire charity event, then bully for you. Thank Adam Scott (or Ben Wyatt if he’s in character), and tell him that he’s a goddamn genius. 

 By Kristofer Poland

The historic Origins Game Fair was held this past weekend (if you consider weekends to begin on Wednesday) at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. Hercules himself, Kevin Sorbo was there signing autographs, presenting awards, and debuting his new movie Julia X. He was joined by unpronounceable Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd (Mr. Fantastic) and more. Ghettoblaster was also there to bring you the lowdown on some really cool games both newer and older. Rather than giving you an overall convention review, I thought readers might get more out of learning about some of the games we saw as highlights of the convention.

Castellan
Castellan

Our first great surprise was followed immediately by our first big disappointment. We played a quick game of Steve Jackson Games’ Castellan. It’s a simple game of building castles and claiming space within them. It comes in blue/red and yellow/green varieties, and both can be combined for a four player experience. As much as we enjoyed it, it was completely out of stock by Friday. Lame.

Quicksilver
Quicksilver

A blimp race doesn’t inherently seem that cool to me. However, the good folks at Split Second Games just may have changed my mind with their first game Quicksilver. How? It features intuitive movement mechanics, a near infinitely modifiable game board, wonderfully thematic card art, and versatile combat. Keep an eye on these guys. If this game is a sign of the quality of things to come, gamers are in for a treat.

Legend of the Three Kingdoms
Legend of the Three Kingdoms

ZiKo games brought Legends of the Three Kingdoms stateside for the first time to my knowledge. As they explained it, it’s a game that plays a lot like Bang! featuring the stars of Dynasty Warriors. I’ve always enjoyed Bang!’s mechanics, and China’s rich history/mythology is a natural source of characters and conflicts for gameplay.

Space Cadets
Space Cadets

Everyone in our gaming group is excited to play Space Cadets. We’ve had our eye out for Stronghold Games’ cooperative spaceship crew simulator for over a year now, and Dave fortunately grabbed the last copy at the convention. Each player takes one role as captain, helmsman, engineer, weapons officer, shield officer, or sensor officer. Everyone has to work together to keep the ship operational by completing unique challenges specific to each role. Looks like fun on a bun!

Guilds of Cadwallon
Guilds of Cadwallon

Observant readers of our magazine may have already seen our review of Cool Mini or Not’s Guilds of Cadwallon. It charges players with taking control of different regions by placing their minions around them. While the design on the miniatures and the cards are drastically different, they’re all very nicely designed. Card illustrations are particularly beautiful. While the deluxe edition was a bit pricey, the standard set is cheap enough. This one’s a must have for anyone who loves screwing over their friends in order to claim a last second victory.

Flame War
Flame War

Flame War by Fun to 11 is a silly game. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s a game about forum moderation. While being a forum administrator doesn’t initially sound like a very fun concept, Flame War’s mechanics are enjoyable and simple. It makes for a great, quick game that’s full of internet themed humor. All players need to do is begin and close out three threads, making sure that conversations within them go both ways. Other players can post negative topics onto opponents’ threads to keep them open. It’s an excellent game to play when you are lacking in time or just want some quick competition between longer gaming sessions. Just watch out for the powerful ban hammer.

APE Games’ Kill the Overlord is another card game we looked into. It doesn’t take too long to play and can support up to eight players. It has the feel of a party game and was described by its makers as having a “hot-potato” feeling. All players send out Executioners to assassinate the Overlord. Unfortunately, Executioners in this game are idiots that can be easily manipulated. It has absolutely charming artwork and, despite its murderous theme, may be a good way to include your snotty, obnoxious children into your gaming hobby.

World War I dogfights have fascinated me ever since playing Red Baron on my PC as a 12-year-old kid. So it should come as no surprise that I’ve had my eye on Wings of Glory (particularly the WWI line) for years now. I was surprised to learn that Ares had acquired the rights to the game from Nexus and Fantasy Flight over a year ago, and I love what they’ve done with the Duel Pack. There are two varieties available, but I had to go with the one that included von Richthofen’s legendary Fokker Dr.I. He was the Red Baron himself, after all! It serves as a starter, providing two nicely detailed models, bases, cards, and simple rules to get players dogfighting on the quick. 

Having lost an aunt to cancer and with my father currently battling the disease, I was immediately interested in John Gillick’s Castles & Chemo (Sorry to get so serious all of the sudden. We’ll return to our regularly scheduled lightheartedness soon). Gillick is publishing his own adventures and supplements and running fundraising gaming events  all to raise money for cancer research via the American Cancer Society. He claims that D&D sessions were incredibly helpful in helping him deal with his own battle against cancer and sincerely wants to help others develop that sort of support. In his own words Gillick’s organization aids in, “Granting a +4 bonus to Saves vs. Cancer.”

Founding Fathers is a game about the Constitutional Convention. Christian Leonhard and Jason Matthews at Jolly Roger Games went to great lengths to ensure the historical accuracy of this title. Everything from the design of the hall to the ideologies and quirks of individual delegates is represented here in loving detail. Articles are presented both as they appear in the Constitution and as opposing factions would have wanted them. In the end each player wants to have the most influence on the final outcome of the document. This looks to be a great title for the history buffs amongst us who might like a bit of a break from historical wargaming.

The New Science
The New Science

The New Science just might be the game that stole the show for most of us. Columbus’ own Conquistador Games gives us a new lens through which we can view the giants of scientific history. It plays as a resource management (or Euro-style) game with players taking on the role of famous 17th century scientists as they research, experiment, and publish their findings in a race for prestige. If you’ve ever wondered how Galileo’s unpopularity with the church affected his studies, then this is the game for you. A special point should be made of just how attractive this entire package is. A great game can be aesthetically ruined by poor graphic design. Conquistador went out of their way to make this one as enjoyable to look at as it is to play.

There you have it. We played quite a few games, and you read about them. I played in one Magic: The Gathering mini master tournament. It was single elimination, and my two crap packs and horrible land draws ended in immediate defeat. That was enough competition for me.

Although a little underwhelming this year, Origins still offered up a lot of fun. The patient gamer had opportunities to playtest dozens of new games. There were plenty of competitive tournaments for those who like to game for cash and glory. Plus, attendees could take pride in the fact that their gathering was not the most socially unacceptable gathering to take place in Columbus at the time. That dubious distinction goes to a Brony-filled Trot Con being held at Columbus’ other convention center. I secretly hoped for an all out nerd war between guys dressed as superheroes and other guys dressed as ponies. Kind of like the episode of Home Movies with the battle between the Renaissance Fair and Science Fiction Convention (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IkBb1k6_GkY). It didn’t happen. I guess there’s always next year. 

Come on back to Gamers’ Paradise here on ghettoblastermagazine.com for upcoming reviews of the games described here and more!