Origins Game Fair 2018 (Day Three)

Third day wrapped up my Origins experience well, a lot more mellow than the previous days.  Even so, I did all the things I’d intended to do.  Ran into some old friends from college, whom I hadn’t seen (offline) in a year to a couple decades, as well as one of my former Scout leaders and his son, whom I hadn’t seen since I was 18.

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Hung out in the authors area with some folks and ended up chatting with Timothy Zahn and the friend who was helping to man his table.  She was interesting, discussing some family history things while Zahn signed books.  He and I talked over the place of the Thrawn trilogy in the greater Star Wars overview—I mentioned my hope that they’d be episodes 7 to 9, he said he’d always thought of them as 6.1 to 6.3, then added “Not my circus, not my monkeys” about their current state.  A friend of mine also asked about Thrawn, whom it turns out Zahn completely invented, rather than being handed by the publishers.

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Also met Steve Jackson, chatted with him about my experience demo-ing the Munchkin CCG on Thursday.  He had some feedback related questions and seemed to enjoy my answers.  When he held a signing, I got my copy of GURPS Fantasy (3rd ed. GURPS), the first ever GURPS book I bought (and first thing I’d gotten from SJGames) signed.

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I only did two demos, but also sort of watched a demo of Axis & Allies & Zombies.

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Magic Maze (Dude Games)

Difficult game in that players are not allowed to talk to each other.  They have to communicate with looks or by tapping a particular piece in front of a player.  Action occurs in real time, with no turns.  Essentially, the players are bad adventurers who aren’t good at their jobs.  They need gear, but have no money.  So, they plan to steal gear.  Each player has a role and power, and can move pieces in one direction (N, S, E, W).  In 3.5 minutes, the players must explore the area, get to their assigned places, and escape . . . without talking.  I’m probably not explaining it entirely well, but it was fun.

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Obligatory Catan sheep

Dungeon Rush (Stronghold Games)

This was an interesting slap game.  Each player gets two adventurers, who have two special items (sword, arrow, mask, wand).  Each player turns up two monster cards, then slaps (right and left, which correspond to an adventurer) one or two monsters for their adventurers to fight.  There are three rounds per level, three levels total.  Some cards provide victory points, some provide experience (XP), some provide both.  It’s a fast, kind of fun mechanic.

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Origins Game Fair 2018 (Day Two)

Because of the kid, we spent almost the entire day at Calliope Games.  They are running a thing where people who do 15 demos (unique games, each with its own button) with them get a Calliope pin.  He took this as a challenge and gleefully accepted.  The staff there were awesome about it and loved him, even when we had to do three demos in a hour to make the cut (because it was his last day going and we had to get home).  They rushed us through the last two so he could get his buttons and pin.

Also got to, briefly, see Steve “Evil Stevie” Jackson before he began a massive, 12 player, Ogre game.

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Evil Stevie himself

 

Tsuro (Calliope)

Excellent, relatively simple, tile laying game.  We’ve had a copy for years and play it often.  Basically, players are dragons flying around.  The goal is to stay alive (e.g. on the board) without running into other dragons . . . and, if possible, forcing them to run into each other or off the board.  The last one standing wins.

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With the Tsuro fez.  Fezes are cool!

Hive Mind (Calliope)

Fun little social game, sort of a clean version of Cards Against Humanity, in some ways.  Players are bees in the hive.  The Queen says the hive is too big and some bees need to leave.  So, she moves to a different space each turn to determine how many people move down (or up) the hive’s levels.  Players draw cards, choose one of six questions, and write down their answers.  Answers are scored based on how many people respond the same, and the lowest total points move down the hive, until someone is booted out.  Quick fun, “party” game.

 

Roll for It (Calliope)

Nice little dice game.  Simple and a lot of fun.  Three cards are drawn face up.  Each player rolls six dice.  They can then bid on the card (ex. if a card shows 1, 2, & 4 and the player rolls a 2 & 4, they can place those dice on the card, until they get a 1 or another player takes it).  Each card has a point value determined by the difficulty of acquiring the dice shown on the card (2 to 15 points each).  The first player to reach 40 points wins.

 

King of Tokyo (Iello)

The precursor to King of New York.  Also much simpler as there are no buildings to smash, no military units attacking you, and no real movement at such.  Still, it’s a lot of fun.  Son played as Cyber Kitty and I took Space Pengwing (in honor of Bartram Cumberland).  It was a quick and fun match for two players, obviously longer with more involved.

 

Menu Masters (Calliope)

We played this last year, but did it again for the buttons.  Players are chefs who send their minions out to purchase ingredients, take over stores (to get money), or to the bank (small money).  The goal is to complete three menus, with scoring based on the star value of each ingredient involved (ex. salad could be 2, 3, or 4, stars/points).  It’s so fun we’ve played it multiple years and enjoyed it.

 

Capital City (Calliope)

Interesting card building game in which players take on the role of a random family of settlers represented by animal cards.  The players build the town over the course of a set number of rounds, and place workers (from their family and others) in the town buildings to get money (to build other buildings) and votes.  Placing workers in the buildings activate them, generating money or votes (but not both).  The end goal is getting the most votes to become mayor of the town.

 

Ancestree (Calliope)

Kind of strange, but fun, game of family trees.  The goal is to build the best family, following five lineages (Asian, African, European, American, Middle East).  Mixing lineages is necessary as the number of generations you have from each line determines base victory points.  And some members (descent or marriage) carry wealth, with gold being a one to one point ratio.  The final element is counting the number of marriages formed, for additional points.  There are a number of interesting strategic elements involved, and the game seems like one that will change a lot through play.  It’s definitely one I’d like to look in to further and try again sometime.

 

Hounded (Atlas Games)

Two player game in which payers take the role of fox or hunting party.  The fox moves fastest (up to three spaces, any direction) with the dog pack and hunt master having more limited movement, but a 6:1 advantage in numbers.  Face down tiles get flipped by the fox or a specific dog (terrier) landing on them, with different effects from nothing to dens (allow teleports).  If the three day phase tiles flip, the fox wins.  If the fox ends its turn next to the hunt master, the hunting party wins.

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Thieves (Calliope)

Another that we played simply for the button, as we’ve had a copy for years.  Fun little resource building and balance game that, after 21 games in 11 hours over 2 days, I’m not going to say more on.

 

Shutterbug (Calliope)

Players are photographers looking to get the best photos of cryptids for their newspapers.  They travel the country trying to get the photos one of their two newspapers want within 8 rounds of play.  It’s kind of fun, requires some strategy, changes almost every turn, and does require some resource management to get the necessary cards to ensure the needed photos and quality.

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Promo cards (second set)!

Tsuro of the Seas (Calliope)

Variation of classic Tsuro.  In this one, players are ships trying to navigate the sea, avoid colliding with each other, and evade the dragons.  The dragons are independent beasts controlled solely by dice rolls.  If dragons collide, one is removed.  If dragons go off the board, they’re removed.  If they meet a ship, the ship is eaten.  If they cross an empty tile (a ship’s wake), the tile is removed.  It’s a cool modification of the base game.

Origins 2018 Day One

Day one (really day two, but my day one) was a little bit of a mixed bag, but largely good.  Registration has been pretty well streamlined and quick, especially on a Thursday when there aren’t that many people there.  Took my seven year old son again this year.  We got over to the Steve Jackson Games room early, technically before they opened, but they waved us along with a couple other parent-kid pairs) in to play around beforehand.

Always fun to walk around a bit, but we didn’t spend much time sightseeing today.  Instead, we focused on game demos.  And we tried out the Origins Arena—boffer sword fighting.  Kid did pretty well for his first time at sword & board fighting.

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Simon’s Cat (SJGames)

A fun game that we’ve had at home for years.  The mechanics are basically Uno, with artwork from the Simon’s Cat YouTube videos.  The tricky part is that there are several suits (cat, kitten, dog, garden gnome), but they don’t all have the same number of cards (ex. cat has 10 cards, gnomes only have 2) and they aren’t numbered the same (ex. cat has 3-12, gnome has 1-2).  So, while it is Uno based, it has its own strategy.  It’s a family favorite around here, is quick to play, and has simple rules.

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Munchkin CCG (SJGames)

Translating Munchkin to a CCG is interesting.  In some respects, the mechanics are similar to Magic: The Gathering, with card tapping and such.  On the other hand, the rules allow for cheating, er, bluffing.  And attacks from monsters are not simultaneous, so you can attack with a weak monster to trigger your opponent’s defenses, then send the big monster in to take them out.  All in all, it was a fun experience, and would be high on my list if I ever wanted to get into CCGs again (which I really, really don’t).

Settlers of Catan (Mayfair, now Asmodee)

The classic, but the kid’s only played Catan Junior, so we tried out the full version to see how he did.  Much ink has already been spilled on this game, I won’t say any more.

Dicey Peaks (Calliope)

A new game from Calliope, it’s an interesting dice and resource management game.  The goal is to ascend the world’s tallest mountain without running out of oxygen or being caught by the yetis, before the other players.  Sets of dice are optimized for climbing, resting, or balance (or can cause avalanches or yeti attacks).  Tiles get flipped when landed on and can push the player along, reduce their oxygen supply, or send them backwards.  Fun, quick, and fairly simple game.

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Ugh! (Calliope)

Played this last year on my own, but had to have my son try this year.  He loved it.  John Kovalic’s art brings out humorous cavemen, pets, and living spaces.  Each card has a number value and the goal is to collect sets of three (caveman, pet, house).  Each card value in the set is multiplied, then sets are added together at the end.  Then there are the Ugh! Cards, that do bad stuff.  Fun, simple, and fast game.  We picked up a copy this year to join Thieves and Tsuro.

Running with the Bulls (Calliope)

Played for the third year running, because the kid wanted to again.  It’s definitely growing on me the more we play it.

Super Kitty Bug Slap (SJGames)

Basically a variation on Egyptian Rat Slap (or other, less PG, names).  Each player gets a card with a cat and a bug on it.  The goal is to be the first to slap any card that matches the color (orange, green, purple) or shape (round, square, triangle) of your cat, or your bug (ladybug, fly).  The person with the most cards at the end wins, but misslaps dock points from your score (ex. if you have a green, square cat with a ladybug, and are first to slap a card that has none of those things, you lose a point).

King of New York (Iello)

Variation on the famous King of Tokyo.  Good game, a little disjointed in the demonstrator’s explanation, but still played fairly well.  We’ll have to try it again sometime to get a better feel for it.

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Dungeon Raiders (Devir Games)

Fun card game.  Each player is a member of an adventuring party delving into a five layer dungeon.  Each level has two visible challenges and three face down challenges.  The players have to work together to defeat the challenges, while also ensuring that they have more gold and fewer wounds than anyone else.  Every players gets five cards (numbered 1-5) that they can only use once per level to get past challenges as a team (or to screw other players, as the case may be).  And each character class has its own special item that gives a different effect or power (one time only).

Rabbit Island (Infinite Heart Games)

Apparently, this is a recently Kickstartered game that will be out in August.  The rabbits sail to an island where they explore and set up both the island and initial settlements.  Play then continues to see who can acquire the most victory points by building burrows and towns.  The player with the largest harvest and the player with the most carrots also get bonus points.  Movement cards let rabbits move around the board, action cards help them or hinder opponents.  It was interesting and fun, and the movement cards can be arranged in order (a number on the bottom) to tell the story of the rabbits.  And it includes rabbit meeples.  But, at around US$50, it’s a bit expensive for my taste.

Origins Game Fair 2017

This past week was the Origins Game Fair, which I spent several hours attending.  Over the course of six hours Friday and a couple hours Saturday, I ended up demo-ing or otherwise playing about a dozen board games, most with my son.  I also wandered around the Exhibitor Hall Saturday, checking out artists and game companies, seeing Timothy Zahn & Jean Rabe, and chatting a bit with Sheryl Nantus, Donald J. Bingle, and Margaret Weis’s table minion.  Also talked a bit with wonderful artist, David Lee Pancake.

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So, without further ado . . .

Menu Masters (Calliope)

A fun game in which each player is a chef with a number of kitchen minions.  The goal is to complete three menus (when one player completes three, the others have one turn to finish with the ingredients they have on hand).  Each player has two secret menus and all players can work from three public menus.  The goal is to combine the most high quality ingredients (as noted by stars on each ingredient).  Minions can be sent to the stores—produce, butcher, bakery—to purchase ingredients or to “own” the store for the round (to get more money).  Had a blast playing and trying to balance the elements and strategies of the game.

Wordoku (Calliope)

Combination Boggle and Sudoku with a few tweaks.  Neither of us enjoyed this one as much as the others.  Personally, I’d rather stick to Scrabble or Upwords.

Running with the Bulls (Calliope)

Described by the company as board game plinko, that’s a pretty apt description.  Players all start with a number of dice randomly assigned to five starting points where they are chased by randomly placed “bull” dice.  Each player has a number of cards they can use to affect the outcome of the run, remove runners, change directions, and modify bulls.  The locations at the end of the run also affect points.  More enjoyable now than when we played last year in the pre-production version since they seem to have ironed out the kinks.

Ugh (Calliope)

Simple, fun card game in which the goal is to build sets of three—person, home, pet—with a caveman theme while avoiding the, truly evil, “Ugh” cards.  Artwork on the cards is done by John Kovalic, of Dork Tower & Munchkin fame, with his typical sense of humor.  The difference in scoring is what sets this one apart.  The point scores for each card in a set are multiplied, then the sets are added.  So, a set of Person 3, Home 4, and Pet 2 = 24 points (3 x 4 x 2).

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Captain Silver (Queen Games)

A bag draw game that went well with a young child.  Each player has a ship and a bag of pirate items.  Most of the board is four rows with pirate item icons.  Items are drawn from the bag and placed on the board, if they fit the next space on a row.  If not, they go on the island at the end.  Once one row is complete, the play shifts.  Players either get to move their ships or are given gold based on which item spaces they managed to cover in each row.  Moving the ship gives additional treasure and points.  Items left on the island remove points.

Wendigo (Iello)

Somewhat fun game for kids.  The tokens represent campers with one player chosen as the wendigo and the others as scout masters.  During the night phase, the scout masters close their eyes while the wendigo replaces a camper.  During the day phase, the scout masters try to find the wendigo (one guess per player per day phase).  The next night phase, the wendigo gets to remove a camper from the board and play continues until either the wendigo is caught or six rounds have passed.

Sheriff of Nottingham (Arcane Wonders)

Fun deception style game in which players take turns as the titular Sheriff.  The non-Sheriff players then try to smuggle legal and illegal goods into town, potentially bribing the Sheriff not to search their cart or to ignore them and search another player.  Each player places a stated number of cards in a pouch (cannot lie about the number) and states what goods they are, ex. 3 chickens (can lie about this part).  Penalties apply for being caught lying, and for falsely accusing a player of lying.  Reminds me of a board game version of the old card game BS (aka Cheat or “I Doubt It”).

Barenpark (Mayfair)

Rather fun spacial awareness game in which players attempt to construct the best bear park.  The best description I came up with is a board game version of Tetris because the goal is to fill four cards with different shaped pieces.  The game rewards fast building, as most of the pieces and the bear statues that one acquires for finishing a board, are awarded in decreasing point values (e.g. first player to get a bear statue gets 16 points, second gets 15, third 14, etc.).

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Costa Rica (Mayfair)

Tile flipping game in which players send out six expeditions each from different starting points (all players start at the same six points).  Most of the strategy depends on willingness to weigh benefit-risk ratios of continuing the expedition versus taking tiles versus passing in the hopes of taking more tiles.  Enjoyed by both myself and a six year old, the game play mechanics are straightforward and the game is fairly quick to play.

Saboteurs (Mayfair)

Another fun deception game in which most of the players are constructing a mine to find the gold (one of three cards, the other two are useless).  Players cooperate to get from the mine entrance to the gold.  However, there are players who secretly want to gold to remain where it is and the other players to fail.  These saboteurs can break mining equipment, redirect tunnels, cause cave ins to remove tunnel sections, and look at the target cards to lie to the other players about which is the gold.

Oh My Goods (Mayfair)

Played this resource building game last year, but played it again this year to give it another chance.  Unfortunately, I still think it is needlessly complex and clunky in its mechanics.  Most of the players I demo-ed with (all veteran board gamers) became quickly confused about turn segments and resource counting as well as card data.

Ciúb (AMIGO via Mayfair)

Another that seemed to be an interesting concept, but needlessly convoluted.  A dice gathering game with the intent to finding the right dice combination to cast a given spell card (and collect the card for points).  The over-complexity could have been on the end of the demo-instructor and the fact that we were checking it out right before lunch.  If Mayfair’s still demoing it next year, I may try it out on my own again, to give it a second chance.

Game Days: Origins Game Fair 2016

Interjecting some non-writing life here . . .

Next week, June 15th, is the Origins Game Fair.  I’ve attended for one day each a few years in the past, played some great demos, picked up a few tabletop games and some cheap (going out of print) RPG books, and generally enjoyed event.

Even got drawn into a brief wargaming scenario during my first year attending.

This year’s going to be different.

This year I’m taking a five year old for his first (technically second, but the first he’ll remember) time, then I’ll go back another day on my own.  So, we’ll see how this goes.  He loves games and seems rather  excited, so that’s good.  We’ll see what he thinks of Michael Stackpole and Timothy Zahn.

With any luck, he’ll enjoy himself and this will become an annual semi-family thing.