Gideon Goes To Origins Game Fair 2021

If you’re interested in seeing a longer, but unscripted account of my Origin’s experience, check out this video!

If you don’t know, Origins is a large convention in Columbus Ohio that primarily focuses on Board Games and TTRPGS. My partner and I attended this year’s convention as Press. My feet hurt, my back hurts and I’m still tired, but it was totally worth it. I have every intention of going again next year.

Khora by Iello, their first foray into heavier games.

It was the first convention I’ve attended as Press and I have a lot to cover. I came home with a ton of board games. Some of which I bought and some that were given to me by Publishers/Designers for review purposes. But I’m not going over those just yet. I’ll be doing a Origins Haul video soon and then I will review each of them over the coming weeks or months. Instead, I wanna talk a bit about the convention, my experience there, and the cool stuff that I saw. Let’s get started!

Health and Safety

I’m an anxious and paranoid person. My sanitary measures since the pandemic began have been extreme, even by cleanly standards. I’m vaccinated, but break-through cases are a thing. While I’d likely be fine, other people I come in contact with, such as my parents, may not be. I like to roll the dice in games, not in life. So naturally, I was worried about a big event like Origins.

Once I was there, I stopped worrying as much. When all parties involved are wearing masks, the chance of infection is extremely low, this has been true even before the vaccines existed. It was one thing to read that Origins required masks, it was another to see it. Masks were enforced sure, but the people there simply wore them with no fuss. It was the first time since the pandemic began, that I saw uniform mask usage on that scale.

A picture right after we arrived, at least face coverings also mask my anxiety!

The handrails on the escalators were disinfected with UV, and there were hand sanitizer stations scattered everywhere. The exhibit and gaming halls were lively, but I was never elbow to elbow with anyone. With the sole exception of standing in line to enter the Exhibit Hall on Saturday morning. That was optional, and I did it of my own accord because Pandasaurus Games had a single copy of The Loop left, and I wanted it. (I totally got it too!)

The absolute safest way to hold the convention would have been to require proof of vaccination. But Origins nailed the second-best way, and I applaud them for that. More importantly, I applaud each and every attendee for following the mask and safety requirements. If the world acted as they all did, Covid would have been behind us a long time ago.

A Welcoming Atmosphere

To circle back, I have anxiety issues. I’ve been dealing with something heavy in my life since June, and driving makes me nervous. That wombo combo nearly broke me when we arrived Friday morning. I’m Press, I have to talk to people and make connections. Yet, there I was, walking to get my badge, and I couldn’t breathe. A panic attack wouldn’t exactly be a great first impression.

Three things helped me keep it together and eventually have a great time. First was a video from Quackalope that I watched a day prior. In it, Shira dealt with similar issues at Gen Con and overcame them. That served as an inspiration for me. I saw her and Jesse at Origins too! I missed my chance to speak to them though, and I regret that so much!

So it turns out, the shorter person taking pictures is probably not a great idea!

The second was my partner. She’s about fifty times more outgoing than me, and if she sensed I was overstimulated, she would take the lead in conversations. I would have been lost without her.

Thirdly, I have never been to a public event with nicer people in my life. Everyone from publishers to designers to and other attendees, they were all very friendly. I didn’t have a bad experience once. From small indie publishers, to big names such as Chip Theory Games, each person I met made me feel less and less like a stranger in an unfamiliar place.

Everyone was polite and welcoming, and the overall atmosphere was warm. It truly felt like people who loved games were just there to have a good time. That allowed me to tear down some of my defensive barriers. I went on to talk to a lot of people, and demo a lot of games.

Speaking of demos. Almost every exhibitor had tables where the folks running it were happy to show off current or upcoming games, and even let you try some of them. Here’s some of the stuff I encountered.

Vagrant Song

Vagrant Song by Wyrd Games is an upcoming campaign co-op game about fighting ghosts on a train. I was sadly, unable to obtain a copy, the little stock they had sold out fast. One of the demo runners however, graciously gave us a demo even though we came to his table late. I can safely say that I’m extremely excited about it.

Each encounter is a kind of boss fight against some type of ghost. You’re fighting them, but it’s not necessarily to kill the ghost. You’re trying to save them. Each character had different play styles and abilities but, the turns were simple to understand.

What interested me is the way the game prevented players from overwhelming a single ghost through numbers alone. The ghost got to act after each player’s turn which allows the game to scale beautifully to the number of players at the table.

The old-school cartoon aesthetics look fantastic, and though it’s a campaign game, there is no component destruction. Everything I learned about it pointed towards the game having a high replay value. It also has these really cool thematic mechanics where certain events can affect the ghost’s humanity, and the ghost could switch between happy or angry altering their actions. I really enjoyed it, and I can’t wait to play more.

Fortune and Famine and Gunfights and Gamblin’

Mid Level Meeple consists of a Husband and Wife design team, and we had the chance to demo two of their games. Fortune and Famine is a 2 to 6 player game where each player rules a kingdom trying to survive famines over the course of four seasons.

Each ruler has a unique ability, and the game features card bidding where everyone is trying to grab the workers they need to store grain. Silver is also important because you not only need it to bid, but also to store your grain. Famines wipe out half of your unstored grain the moment they pop up.

The game becomes a very tactical mix of bidding, resource management, and take that! Some cards allow you to steal silver or grain from other players. I also have a weak spot for Asymmetric player powers, and I adored Fortune and Famine. I wasn’t the only one, I saw a bunch of players go and order the game right after demoing it.

Gunfights and Gamblin’ is a mixture of quite a few genres. We played it with an expansion that increased the player count up to six. Teams of three were split between Pioneers and Renegades, and each person on the team had a separate role. My partner and I were on the renegade team. Our goal was to burn down the town’s buildings that the pioneers were protecting.

We wouldn’t know where the Pioneers were defending, but if we attacked an empty building we could burn it down. Otherwise, we got into a shoot-out. There was a ton of table talk as we each had a job to do. As the scout, I could try to reveal whether or not a building had a Pioneer. The Honcho would gamble for money to outfit us with weapons, and she directed where we would attack. Finally, our thief stole items and ammo for us. There is a lot of dice rolling involved, and everyone at the table had a good time.

I’m terrible with names, but the person running the demo for us was a friend of the designers, if I recall correctly. He seemed to have an infinite supply of enthusiasm and was exceptionally welcoming. He did a great job running the games for us!

For Glory and Mythic Mischief

Both of these games bum me out because I told the folks running the booths that I’d be back to demo them and I never did. Time got away from me completely…

For Glory by Spielcraft Games is a deckbuilding gladiator game. I loved everything I saw about it, from the artwork to the mechanics. You recruit different gladiators, acquire patrons, and battle through different arenas. It’s the perfect theme for a deck-building game. Sadly, it’s actually out of print. The upcoming Kickstarter on October 19th is for both, a reprinting of For Glory and production of a new expansion. I’m looking forward to it.

Mythic Mischief is an asymmetrical game about causing mischief in a school for mythics. Teams consist of creatures such as Trolls and Witches that all have different ways of manipulating the board and moving around. It has a solo mode too, which gets a big thumbs up from me!

Frosthaven

There is no way we could go to Origins and not demo Frosthaven by Cephalofair. It wasn’t just a normal demo on standard tiles, we got to play on some really cool 3D terrain. I played as the Deathwalker, and I did terribly. It took me too long to wrap my head around how to use the shadows, but the class seems really fun!

For the most part, it felt like more Gloomhaven and that’s just fine since Gloomhaven is, you know, fantastic. But one stand-out feature I noticed was one particular enemy we fought actually changed the standard focus rules based on what card it drew. It went for the character that was farthest away. If other creatures have abilities like that, it could really add a lot to the game and switch up how you play.

I started playing Gloomhaven late, so I totally missed the Frosthaven Kickstarter. I’ll just have to hope I can get it eventually anyway. But for those of you who backed it, you’re in for a good time!

More Games

Here’s a quick rundown of some other games I saw or played at Origins.

Kohaku is a beautiful game of tile placement by 25th Century Games. You’re attempting to build the best Koi Pond by drafting tiles. It seemed very easy to learn but looked to have some depth. It features a solo mode too!

Thunderworks Games had a nice booth featuring a variety of games within the Roll Player brand which is really cool. In particular, I learned about Cartographers which, is a kind of mapping, or flip and write game. I’ve never played anything like it before and, it looked really fun.

Merchants of The Dark Road is releasing soon and, I loved the cart-shaped player board, simple but attractive. It’s currently up for preorder on Elf Creek Games. I didn’t get a chance to demo it, but it looks really interesting to me.

Mythalix oozed with an awesome mythological theme and art. I’m a sucker for that kind of thing and, you can play as ten different Greek Gods battling each other. It looks awesome!

A Game On Every Table

A Game On Every Table is Origins tag line, it might be an exaggeration, but only just. The gaming halls were filled with events that you could buy tickets to. Exhibitors were demoing games at their booths, and there was a large free play area where you could just sit down and play with people using games you either bought at Origins or brought with you.

There was also a gaming library area. I didn’t have time to take part, but essentially you pay a fee, and you could take games from the library and play them right there. That could be a great way to check out a bunch of games you’re interested in buying, or just play for the fun of it. It’s something I want to try at the next Origins.

Many groups had really cool terrain setups for their events. There were some cosplayers around, and some of the exhibit booths just had really cool sights and props in general. There was fun to be had just strolling around Origins and seeing it all.

Outside of games, you could find anything from TTRPG books, high quality attire, and a variety of fantastical trinkets. There were some virtual gaming booths around as well as artists row featuring the artwork of some very talented people.

I’m still recovering from the trip, but I’m already excited for the next Origins Game Fair in June of next year. I highly recommend attending if you can and who knows, maybe we can play a game together. I’ll certainly be there!

Look for my Origin’s Haul video soon, after which I have a lot of board games to review!