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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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…
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!
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.