Sunday, June 16, 2013

Origins Game Fair 2013

Going to Origins Game Fair is one of the highlights of my year, and this year was no exception. Prior to going I was a little annoyed that they were only doing day passes for Saturday (even though I had planned to go on Saturday), as it screwed a lot of people who work weekends. But I was pleasantly surprised when I found that that all three of us - brother, sister, me - could get a family pass for only $15.00. This saved us money and made the con an even better value. 

I love Origins because it hasn't gotten out of hand the way some other cons have. Everything is accessible to everyone and isn't gated behind huge additional costs. So much of what happens at Origins is player/customer driven, from the impromptu gaming sessions in the open hall, to Morton's List, to midnight games of Are You a Werewolf? I hope that never changes. 

My Origins experience started this year before I even left home. Since the theme of this year's con was Super Heroes, I decided to wear my badge from 2009's Hero Con. 

I had a few people ask me if my name is really Arwen, and I told them no and explained City of Heroes to them. When I said that I was wearing the badge in memory of the game, they all nodded reverently, knowing what it means to a gamer to have their game shut down. 

My first stop at the con was at the Crystal Caste booth for my commemorative dice. 

Everyone who pays to attend Origins gets the commemorative D6 and the option to buy the rest of the set. I don't normally buy the full set (though my sister does each year), but this year there was a coupon to buy the whole set for just $10.00. So I did. Plus? It's purple. 

My next purchase was the out-of-print card game Gother Than Thou, self-dubbed The Most Pretentious Card Game Ever Made. 

Gother Than Thou was made in 2001 by the now-defunct studio Savante Garde Entertainment. It takes a loving jab at goth culture with cards like Boots!! which cost you money but gain you goth cred, and Visit from Parents which cost you all of your goth cred. The good folks I bought it from even gave me a foam brain stress ball. 

After one pass through the dealer's room, which took around three hours, we decided to get some lunch at the fabulous North Market. If you ever find yourself in Columbus, OH, you owe it to yourself to stop there. Just about anything you'd want to eat is in the market, and you can also get fresh fruits, veggies, herbs, cooking ingredients, and baked goods all grown and prepared locally. Though everything is delicious, I opted for Nida's Sushi, a pan Asian shop in the middle of the market. I got the chicken pad thai bento box and had a very happy belly afterward. 

Our second sweep around the dealer's room was for serious shopping and gaming. Our first stop was at the Game Salute booth. What caught our eye initially was the game Wok Star

All of Game Salute's games are crowd sourced through Kickstarter, which really impressed me. Wok Star just got funded, but you can still chip in to get your copy (slated for delivery next March). The premise of the game is that the players are members of a family that own a Chinese restaurant, and each one of them has a role to play to get the food out to the customers. Everyone is playing at once, on a timer, to get their goals completed. It sounds chaotic and awesome and I'm really looking forward to playing it! 

The other game by Game Salute that caught my attention is their The Princess Bride: Prepare to Die! game. The premise of this game is to recreate Inigo Montoya's most famous line in the most ridiculous way possible. There are people cards (living, dead, fictional), and situation cards (such as You drank my milkshake). 

Because we showed so much interest, Game Salute generously gave me a free starter set of cards to try it out. We sat down in the dealer's room for a good long while and had a blast trying it out. There are three ways to play, but the one we experimented with plays similar to Apples to Apples - one person is a judge and everyone else has three situation cards. The judge turns over a person, and everyone chips in a situation. The judge then declares a winner. The other two options are just as fun, and all have the ability to create an awesome phrase like "Hello. My name is Wil Wheaton. You sheared my alpaca. Prepare to die!" 

Next it was off to Gut Bustin' Games to pick up Oh Gnome You Don't and Cheap Shot
We got to play test Cheap Shot with creator Lisa Bowman-Steenson, and she gave us a walk through of Oh Gnome You Don't. We also got a preview of the expansion for Trailer Park Wars

Oh Gnome You Don't is a hilarious game full of puns, fart jokes, and back stabbing. The goal is to collect gems and race around the garden avoiding dangers and screwing over the other gnomes. The artwork is adorable, and it was what first drew my attention. Gut Bustin' Games makes some of the best games I've ever played. Bonus? Lisa's daughter is in the Coast Guard, just like my baby brother. 

We also had the good fortune of sitting down with the folks from Fun to 11 and testing out their game Flame War

The premise of Flame War is that you are an internet forum moderator and you have to successfully close three threads. Sounds easy, right? Well it's not, because your fellow players can start flame wars in your threads that you have to deal with before you can close them. As someone who has been an internet moderator, I found this game hilarious, and sadly, quite accurate. I ended up picking up my own copy. 

Fun to 11 also crowd sourced this game through Kickstarter, and all of the snarky comments on the bottoms of the cards were written by contributors. They're written in Twitter style, and all of them are hilarious. When discussing the game later, my sister said "It's a fun game, but I would have enjoyed it more if we were playing in an area where I could cuss really loud." There are lots of opportunities to screw your team mates, and we took advantage of each one. 

Another awesome thing about Fun to 11 is that they keep younger girls in mind when designing their games. They recently got a game called Fairy Mischief funded through Kickstarter. It's designed for younger kids and is designed to grow with them as they grow and get better at gaming. The artwork is gorgeous, the game play is flexible, and it's a great way to introduce gaming to young gamers. Look for it later this year. It would make a great game for any budding gamers you know, and looks like it would be fun for us older ones, too. 

At the end of the day, we stopped by the Chessex booth for more dice, because gamers always need MOAR DICE. Always. It's a rule. 
The peace sign dice are standard sized D6, to give you the scale. 

Our last stop of the day was at the Rather Dashing Games booth, where we got to meet the very charming Grant Wilson. You may know Grant from the television shows Ghost Hunters and Ghost Hunters International, but he is much more than that. He's a gamer, a game designer, an artist, a musician, and a hell of a guy. Here he is with my sister and me.

Grant walked us through the game Four Taverns, in which four players are tavern keepers who compete with each other to fund adventurers to complete quests for them. It's a very cool concept and a lot of fun to play! And the tavern is a setting every gamer knows well - have you ever played a D&D campaign where you didn't go to a tavern at least once? 

Fairly Dashing also had demos of their game Dwarven Miner set up, as well as a few early editions of the game for sale. Sadly, all the demos were full, and I was too short on cash to pick up a copy. But I intend to, as it's another really great game. The premise of the game is that you were hired by adventures to outfit them for adventuring. So you go down to your mine and you mine (via rolling dice) to gather your supplies. But like in any good game, there are pitfalls and obstacles to overcome, as well as other players to compete against. Dwarven Miner was also crowd sourced via Kickstarter and will be available later this year.  Fairly Dashing also impressed me in that all of their games are made in the US with sustainable materials. Grant enthusiastically told us that using sustainable materials is very important to them, and it is to us as well. 

All in all, it was a fantastic day. Had a lot of fun, got a lot of ideas for future games, and created some great memories. I'm also very excited to see so many game companies using crowd sourcing for their games, as we've all seen the awesome things that can come via Kickstarter and other similar projects


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