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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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”).
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.).
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.
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.