Tag Archive: “Origins”

ORIGINS GAME FAIR, July 11-15 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center

by David C. Obenour

The annual warm up for Gen Con, what Origins lacks in size it delivers in less crowded halls and less hurried play-testing tables. Having to awkwardly defend your space behind a fellow gamer for 15 minutes while they finish their play-test isn’t much fun and neither is having someone lurk over you when it is your turn to play. So taking advantage of this more laid back convention, Ghettoblaster was able to get in a whole lot of gaming! Not all of the games featured here are brand new, but they were new to us and maybe you too.

Also, it’s worth mentioning that there’s a lot more to do at Origins besides just playing games and some of our past reviews have covered all of the great food and fun that surrounds this five-day event (see Origins 2012: Day One).

But without any further ado, onto the games!

 

KAOSBALL (CoolMiniOrNot, 2014)

CoolMinisOrNot lives up to the first half of its name with the new, Kickstarter funded, Kaosball! Sure the base set with a board, rules and four teams retails for a hundred clams, but as a parental figure may or may not have told you growing up: you get what you pay for. Fantasy teams made of trolls, lycantropes, valkyries, cowboys, steampunks and more, all battle for your insatiable appetite for blood sport. Players control runners, bruisers and ringers as they fight, steal and tackle their way to possessing the ball and holding on for dear life, and points, atop of the scoring zones. Each team has their own special rules, and cool figures too, so Kaosball can potentially be a dangerous cash sink, but when you’re having this much fun…

 

RIVET WARS (CoolMiniOrNot, 2013)

2 rivet wars

Let’s time warp back a year (and to last review): CoolMinisOrNot lives up to the first half of its name with a previously successfully Kickstarter funded project, Rivet Wars! While steampunk is a pretty polarizing style, the World War I fashioned robo-minis made for Rivet Wars are pretty undeniable awesome looking. Infantry, artillery and vaguerly tank-ish looking contraptions fight through trenches and over hill and dale as provided by the nine double-sided battlefield terrain tiles. Unlike some military tabletop games, the rules are fairly uniform and simple, plus the battlefield is grid-ed out so you don’t need a tape measure for shooting or movement. Again, retail for this starting game set is $100 (though Amazon has it new for only $70) and again with a number of additional expansions with more cool minis it’s a potential cash sink… but also again, fun.

 

XENOSHYFT ONSLAUGHT (CoolMiniOrNot, 2014)

10 xenoshift

The ‘get your attention while walking through the Exhibitor Hall’ pitch is that Xenoshyft Onslaught is a cooperative, deck-building, tower defense game. For those of you not fluent in geek, that means you’re using a starting deck to acquire more and better cards, using those cards to stop your enemy, and all working together as a team. Concept-wise, Xenoshyft is pure Avatar. Humans have scoured the galaxy, seeking out resources, and in this case, are mining a planet dry of its inhabitant’s main food source. Players take the role of department heads (Med Bay, Weapons Research, Science Lab and Armory) for the company, NorTec Military. Each round a new wave of sunken-eyed, famished aliens assault the base and players must work together to defend each other and the base. It’s not easy, and you can tell the designers wanted you to feel torn about what it is your actually doing, but it’s still fun.

 

FREEDOM: THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD (Academy, 2012)

4 freedom

Freedom: The Underground Railroad is a remarkably well-made game. For all of the mindfully-done and historically influenced mechanics that it employs, once the turn order is ran through and understood the game plays fairly intuitively. Not getting bogged down in complex decision making minutia allows players to appreciate Freedom both as a game and as a look back at a time when America was most divided. Taking on the role of historical figures from the abolitionist movement, players work cooperatively to help guide escaped slaves along the Underground Railroad while evading slave catchers, and work to raise funds and support for the cause. Each character has his or her own special abilities, so a smart group utilizes their individual strengths to help the team. The main possible flaw for Freedom comes with this, as it does with most cooperative games, in an overly controlling alpha player can easily takes the reigns if not checked.

 

STAR REALMS (White Wizard Games, 2014)

6 star realms

A head-to-head deck builder, Star Realms is deceptively simple and insanely addictive. Players take on the role of star fleet admirals and amass ship and base cards. Most all cards come with an alignment (either The Trade Federation, The Blobs, The Star Empire or The Machine Cult) and the more cards you’re able to play in a turn from the same alignment the more bonuses you receive – drawing more cards, additional attacks, higher purchasing power, etc. The starter set for a 2-player games is only $15. Want to add a third or fourth player? All you have to do is buy another set! There’s really not much else to say about Star Realms or maybe there is but writing about the game just makes me want to go play it again… I’ll be right back.

 

QUILT SHOW (Rio Grande Games, 2014)

5 quilt show

Admittedly, a game about competitive quilting doesn’t sound all that exciting at first but then a new game from Rio Grande sure does! Designed with the help of longtime quilting advocate and designer, Judy Martin (having published the most number of original patterns, she’s the Robert Pollard of quilting) Quilt Show is a fun little game. Players collect scraps of different colored fabric, much like collecting different colors of trains in Ticket to Ride, and use these combinations to acquire quilt square tiles of varying intricacy and point value. After a set number of quilt squares have been made, the first of three quilt shows is triggered. Players arrange their squares in patterns either different or alike, add up their quilts’ point value and ribbons and cash prizes are awarded. The fun twist here is that your unused fabric cards and quilting squares carry over to the next show, so while you might not have done well this time you’re in a much better position for the next show.

 

COPYCAT (Rio Grande Games, 2012)

9 copycat

The overall concept of Copycat matches its theme completely. Designer Friedemann Friese took all of the best mechanics from some of our favorite games – Dominion, Agricola, Through the Ages, Puerto Rico and Power Grid – and implemented them for a game about political campaigning. Benefit from and then take credit for the work of others. Perfect, right? Friese’s work isn’t completely void of it’s own inspiration though. While a lot of games can suffer from this sort of direct… copycatting, Copycat borrows enough different mechanics and uses them in a way that you never find your mind wandering to thoughts like “this is fun, but I’d rather just be playing…” or “I already kind of own this.”

 

TSURO OF THE SEAS (Calliope Games, 2012)

7 tsuro of the seas

Tsuro of the Seas takes much of its game play from the classic 2004 puzzle game, Tsuro. Players place tiles with interweaving paths, trying to keep those paths from the edge of the board for as long as possible. However, with the seas come monstrous daikaijus that add an element of randomness to play by devouring ships whenever their paths cross. The Veterans of the Seas expansion (2013) adds even more twists with Tsunami, Uzushio (Whirlpool), Taihou (Cannons) and Mystic Portal tiles. Ultimately, a lot of the original Tsuro’s beauty lay in its simplicity so Tsuro of the Seas’ variants, while interesting and beautifully designed, only clutter the concept.

 

RARRR!!! (APE Games, 2014)

3 rarrr!!

The Zombie tide has crested (or at least plateaued) and rising from the murky depths to challenge the undead’s pop-culture dominance is the mighty daikaiju. While a constant staple, over the last few years Godzilla and the Godzilla-like have been gaining more and more favor as the next big nerd theme. The aptly named Rarrr!!! starts with players building their Japanese movie monsters by drafting single syllable cards (creating fun names and divvying out electrical, toxic, radioactive and fire powers). After your monster is created another round of drafting creates your starting hand of power cards and you’re ready to clash over the major cities of Earth. Though different in its play mechanics, there did seem to be a fair amount of similarities in the look and feel to iello’s 2011 game, King of Tokyo. That said, there’s probably enough room for two hulking monsters on your gaming shelf.

DAY TWO:

If you’re familiar with modern board gaming than you’re familiar with Settlers of Catan. Unlike in music where being famous normally equates to being shit, Settlers is a great game. Created by Mayfair Games they took the concepts of resource collecting into their onsite exhibit – awarding folks who play test their games with a Wood, Clay, Sheep, Stone or Ore ribbon. Once you’ve collected all five you get a special board for Settler of Catan and a 50% off coupon! This proved far too tempting of an offer so the entire morning was spent in the exhibitor hall play testing Mayfair’s games. Here’s a quick rundown…

 

Mayfair Ribbons

Nuns on the Run: some players play as nuns trying to sneak contraband materials back to their rooms and another player plays as the prioresses trying to catch them. Awesome game that’s completely unlike anything else you’ve played (probably). We bought this one with our coupon.

Station Master: A card game where you load up trains with posh passenger cars for your locomotives and stinky fish cars for your opponents. Quick and ever changing, this game was a lot of fun!

Settlers of America, Trails to Rails: Historical Settlers of Catan set during the westward expansion in America. A few fun twists on this to separate it from its springboard game, the only drawback would be if a two-hour game intimidates you. Coward.

Horus: This game very well could have been a lot of fun – a tile placing game for gaining influence on the land on the Nile River valley – but we played it with two very smelly and unfriendly nerds, so… yeah.

Nuns

 

Trails To Rails

Across High Street again, we went to Columbus’ amazing Northside Market for lunch. I have to say that one of the greatest things about Origins could be its location. Right in the heart of the Short North, there’s no shortage of other fun things to do (and eat) within a short walk.

Then back into the exhibitors hall to take advantage of all the things we scouted out the day before! First up was iello Games’ King of Tokyo. Half cards and half dice in its gameplay, King of Tokyo was a real blast and beautifully done. Not too complicated, but fast-paced and with enough choices to keep things interesting. Probably would have picked this one up too if it weren’t for the $40 price tag. Maybe at the next Con one of the dealers will have it a little cheaper.

 

King Of Tokyo

Going full gear on gaming for the past 24-hours, we took this opportunity to wander around some of the other things Origins had to offer. It’s important to note – for everything I’ve written about so far, there’s at least forty other things going on at the same time: gaming tournaments, miniature painting, film screenings, autograph signing (someone in our group got Felecia Day’s) and bunches more. We wandered through the art room for about 45 minutes before building up our resolve again to dive back in.

Heading back to Rio Grande’s gaming room we checked out Pantheon, a game set around the Mediterranean Sea where players build temples and try to win the favor of the gods. It was a fun game with neat pieces but the way things played out it gave the impression that after a few play throughs it might be easy to figure out how to best win and everyone’s just going to do that one thing.

 

Pantheon

Feeling a little burnt out on crowds and… certain other aspects (were we able to get #ConStink to trend on Twitter at any point?), the Ghettoblaster crew wound things down by taking the games we got to a quiet table in the gaming room. One awesome find by Ghettoblaster Video Game Associate Editor, Kris Poland came in the form of Cryptozoic Games’ Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt Skullzfyre. Adultswim fans will immediately recognize the awesomely over-the-top violent art of Superjail’s Nick Edwards who does a great job with the cards for Epic Spell Wars. You’re a wizard and you try to kill the other wizards, but don’t worry if you die – you get special dead wizard cards to make you kick even more ass when you come back to life in the next round. Lots of fun!

So that’s it! What seems like a billion games later, Ghettoblaster had experienced a great convention at Origins in Columbus. If you love gaming, but you’re the only one around where you live who does – you should definitely come. If you’re a lonely and isolated nerd – you should definitely come. But moreso, if you’re just a good dude or dudette who can sit around a table, drinking, bullshitting and competing against one another, you should definitely come to Origins.

As many of you know, there’s a heck of a whole lot more to board games than just chutes and ladders. Columbus’ Origins is a four-day celebration of the many things that come after those early boxed activities that taught us all how to roll the dice. The games, the culture and the community, there’s more to it than you could possible imagine before seeing it all crammed into the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Origins 2012, buy the ticket and take the ride!

Nerdery

DAY ONE:

Arriving mid-afternoon on Friday, any repeat convention attendee will tell you that this is the time to take advantage of the smaller-sized crowd. Though already somewhat congested, the halls and rooms are all at about half occupancy compared to the throngs that will be arriving on Saturday. People watching and mass camaraderie is great, but so is elbow space and shorter lines.

So first on our list of things to do was a walk through of the exhibitors hall. Like most other cons, Origins’ exhibitors hall is laid out like a flea market with rows and rows of vendors, both independent companies offering their games directly (with helpful folks on-hand to help explain and play through a quick demo for you) and local and regional shops with new, used and discounted stuff.

Though smaller than nearby Indianapolis’ Gen Con (one of North America’s largest gaming convention with just over 36,000 people attending last year) many of the same big dealers and companies were present at Origins along with a few indie companies as well. Role playing books, collectible gaming cards, board games from all eras and countries, the obligatory Cthulhu paraphernalia – if it relates to gaming or more broadly to geekdom it’s probably here and for sale. Since there was nothing in particular we we’re looking for or were super concerned would sellout, day one was for looking and day two would be for buying.

Another awesome non-music thing to dork out about is beer and Barley’s Ale House just happens to be right across the street from the Columbus Convention Center. Creating a special Origins-themed menu, the Ale House was temporarily renamed “The Brewpub at the End of the Universe” ala the second book in Douglas Adams’ science fiction pentalogy, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. But we came here to drink beer, not get caught up in gimmicks (no matter how fun they may be) and between the Rye IPA, Russian Imperial Stout and our personal favorite, the Blood Orange Wit, Barley’s did not disappoint. Add a couple of shots of Woodford Reserve along with a mixed drink dubbed the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster (another Hitchhiker’s reference) and we were merrily on our way back across High Street to the Convention Center.

 

Barleys

Separate from the exhibitors hall, there was a general board gaming room that offered a number of new games and games up for Origins Awards for attendees to take and play, free of charge. One that was available and had caught our eyes from earlier in the day was Banditos. The setting of the game is at the US/Mexican border during the 80’s when the Mexican governments centralized their banking system leading to “unstable” (ie. easily rob-able) situations. Playing as American “Banditos” looking to take advantage of the situation, it was a fun concept with well-done art but clunky gameplay stretched things out a little longer than our interest allowed.

 

Banditos

Also separate from the exhibitors hall (long closed by this point in the night), a few of the larger gaming companies had rooms of their own filled with tables of new stuff to try. Rio Grande (makers of Carcassonne, Dominion, Puerto Rico and Power Grid) was one of said companies and before they kicked us out for the night we thought we’d pop in to try Alan Moon’s new game, Airlines Europe. Moon’s big game that you may know is Ticket to Ride for Days of Wonder and there’s more than a bit of influence taken for Airlines. Players develop airline routes between the European cities and invest in their stocks (similar to Acquire). Neat art and fun little plastic airplane pieces, I wouldn’t be surprised if this one eventually found its way onto our shelf.

 

Airlines

After that it was back to the hotel room for a late night Pathfinder session. If you don’t know what Pathfinder is, the elevator pitch is that it’s basically Dungeons & Dragons third edition. If you don’t know what Dungeons & Dragons is than get outta here! I kid. Anyway, the module we played was a short 16-page campaign from 2011’s Free RPG Day entitled We Be Goblins. As you might have guessed, you get to play goblins which lead to all sorts of great situations like, “Should I lob a bomb down that chimney? Seems a little rash… oh wait, I’m a goblin! Fuck it and chuck it.” Perfect nerdy end to a perfect nerdy day.

Pathfinder

Read about Day Two here: http://ghettoblastermagazine.com/2012/origins-day-two/