Origins Game Fair Day 2 (2019)

Busy second day at Origins, which is why this is late.  We played or watched nine games, and re-played Deadly Doodles.  And visited with Mercedes Lackey, the Author GoH, once we eventually caught her at her table.

Catan: Cities & Knights (Catan Studios)

Almost identical to regular Catan, except that the robber works a bit differently.  Introduced invading barbarians and knights to protect against them.  The game also adds city walls and city improvements that grant development cards and other bonuses.  On the whole, I really enjoyed it and would definitely play it again.

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Catan: Rise of the Inkas (Catan Studios)

We only watched this one, so I didn’t get as good a feel for it.  According to the guy running the demo, it’s about 75% normal Catan with a Small World (Days of Wonder) style “civilization in decline” element and the ability to take over other players’ territory.

 

Schrodinger’s Cats (9th Level)

We didn’t get to play this, only have a talk through from one of the booth workers.  Unfortunately, that didn’t really have much detail of game play and didn’t help.  My son decided that it was the game he wanted to get this year, though, so we’re muddling our way through it.  The concept is a basic bid and bluff or build style game.  Each player is a scientist trying to prove or disprove Schrodinger’s famous experiment—alive, dead, empty, or Heisenberg Uncertainty (e.g. wild card).  Each scientist has a special power that can be used once per game and a feline parody name like Albert Felinestein, Sally Prride or Neil deGrasse Tabby.  The concept is amusing, but the rules are not written clearly.  We’ll need to check some YouTube play throughs to really figure out how to properly play the game.

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Blob Lobber (SJGames)

Not my favorite of the day, by far, despite my love of SJGames.  Basically, the play area is populated by a blob and four blob queens.  Cards are dropped from at least 12” above the play area and must flip over at least once.  If they land of blobs that are not your color, you get points.  If they land of friendly blobs (your color), you lose points.  If they land blob-side up, there are more blob targets available.

 

Bunny Kingdom in the Sky (Iello)

Expansion of Bunny Kingdom that builds onto the board.  Nothing majorly interesting or notably different about game play, except for a few cards that drastically change resource availability and, therefore, scoring.  Honestly, if I were to get Bunny Kingdom, I wouldn’t bother with the expansion.

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Tsuro: Phoenix Rising (Calliope)

Unfortunately, this is not available until September.  But, once it is, it is definitely on our purchase list.  A variation on basic Tsuro, except that the players are lantern hunting (to get stars) phoenixes.  As phoenixes, they also get extra lives (one each), so going off the board can be a strategic move as the player can “die” and return anywhere along the board.  Tiles (double sided, both sides can be played) also allow for movement across corners, which changes strategies considerably and the board begins mostly populated with tiles.  As the demo guy (Chris Leder) said, you really have to unlearn everything you know about Tsuro in order to play Phoenix Rising.  But, it was a lot of fun.

 

Kanagawa (Iello)

Interesting, if somewhat complex, game of “painting”.  A lot of resource management (paint, mostly) and figuring out what, exactly, you need to get the diplomas that carry points.  It was interesting, but I don’t think we were playing exactly 100% by the rules after the first couple rounds, once the demo guy left to help some other people with a different game.

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Legendary Forests (Iello)

Fun and simple little game in which the players are dryads building the best forest floor.  One player randomly draws tiles (full stack – 5, so not all tiles are used).  Every player uses the exactly same tiles, but orients them differently and gets different forests by the end game.  Some tiles have a different color number, which causes every player to draw trees to grow in their forest.  The trees are what give players points, since every contiguous group of a color of forest floor that has one tree in it scores points at the end.

 

Spymaster (Calliope)

Unfortunately, not available until September.  Fun game of strategy, resource moving/building, and deception.  Every player is the head of a spy agency, with three field agents (whom only the player can move).  There are also a dozen or more “neutral agents” (whom anyone can move).  The game revolves around collecting intelligence (which allows players to move agents and “pay” for missions) and moving agents.  Each face up mission (6, one per inhabited continent) has a cost in agents (agency, neutral, or both) and intelligence.  Movement can be used to get your pieces in position, or move the pieces another player needs out of position, or to feint and try to get other players to think you’re going after one mission instead of your actual target.  Looking forward to the full release on this one.

Origins Game Fair Day 1 (2019)

A good six hour day was had from demoing eight games to a brief chat with Mercedes Lackey to watching the kid flail his way through the boffer arena.

Deadly Doodles (SJGames)

Steve Jackson Games’ newest offering, technically it’s not being released until GenCon but they are demoing it and have some copies available for sale at Origins.  Over all, it’s a fun game.  In some ways, it has a Tsuro feel in that it is a path building game.  However, all four players are building their own paths on their own (dry erase) map, though all the maps are identical.  Players get points for getting weapons, monsters, and treasures.  They lose points for getting monsters without the associated weapons or for running through traps placed by other players.  Fun dungeon delving path builder.

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Ship Shape (Calliope)

Essentially a board covering, resource gathering game with penalties for being too greedy.  The “story” is that players are smugglers trying to build cannons to protect their ship, gold, and contraband.  But, the player with the fewest cannons loses points (can’t protect their ship) and the player with the most contraband loses points (gets raided by the Crown).  We only got the short version demo, versus a full play, so my understanding of the game is probably incomplete at the moment.

 

Bunny Kingdom (Iello)

Fun, slightly complex, game technically intended for ages 14+ due to the math involved (but my 8 year old loved it).  Each player draws 10 or 12 cards depending on how many players (2, 3, 4).  Rounds proceed by each player plays two cards, places their pieces or does card actions, then passes their remaining cards clockwise.  Then they play two cards, place pieces, and pass the remaining cards.  This continues until all the cards are played.  Then scoring commences by counting up the number of town/castle towers multiplied by the variety of connected resources (ex. carrots, fish).  Some cards give full game goals for bonus points as well (ex. control 9 cities).

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King of New York (Iello)

Expansion and variation on King of Tokyo, monsters destroy NYC.  Dice rolls determine energy, health, damage, etc.   But, the city fights back by mobilizing troops as you destroy buildings.  Not one of my favorites, but it does seem to be popular with a significant number of people.

 

Catan: Legend of the Sea Robbers (Catan Studios)

Very fun, if rather complex, variant on basic Catan.  Typical Catan set up, except with three starting settlements, two roads, and a ship.  Ships are needed to cross the waters and get ore (which cannot be rolled).  Good news, though, the robber cannot rob anyone who has less than 4 victory points.  The goal is to reach 11 points by building the usual things (settlements, cities, roads, development cards), with the addition of ships.  Ships get castaways who can be sent out each turn for ore (for a price), but there are also some bonus gifts along the way and some helpers who have special abilities.

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Farmini (Iello)

Cute farm building game, kid wasn’t too impressed but it was kinda fun for a once or twice off.  Basically, every player is trying to build a fenced area to protect their farm animals.  And drawing farm animals occasionally to score points (which also come from fencing in corn fields).  What are they protecting the animals from?  The wolf cards.  Each wolf card targets a specific animal (pig, chicken, goat) and any of said animal that is not fenced in is lost if the wolf comes up.  Players score points for every animal they have and enclosed corn fields.

 

Zombie Kids (Iello)

Nice, simple, fast area denial survival game.  Up to four players are kids trying to protect their cul-de-sac from a zombie apocalypse.  Each player’s turn starts by rolling a spawn point for a zombie (five areas plus a “no spawn”), then they move.  When they enter a space, they can remove two zombies.  If there are 3+ zombies in a space, the players can no longer enter it (area denial).  The goal is to lock all four gates (requires two players at the gate space) before all the zombies are placed on the board (if you run out of zombies to play, they win).  Initially, it seems rather easy, but quickly becomes quite difficult.

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Rivals for Catan (Catan Studios)

Good, fairly fast, two-player version of Catan.  In some ways it’s simplified, in that players aren’t competing for space or resources.  In other ways, it’s more complex, in that there are other factors (strength, skill, trade power) that come into play and both players begin with six resource points that expand by the end of the game (I ended the game with 8 or 10 resource points to watch, as well as maybe 8 buildings that each gave different abilities).  It can be a little tough to keep track of all your resource sources and building abilities as the game progresses.

Ashford Grows & Looking Ahead

For the last couple months, I have been expanding both most of the Ashford vignettes and the world itself.  In the process, I’ve written several additional vignettes set in the broader world.  These aren’t typed yet.

Next week (the week of the 3rd), I plan to begin posting those vignettes on, probably, Fridays.  They’ll interweave with the Ashford ones.  I’ll still tag them Ashford, even though they don’t take place at that specific site.

Also, we’re less than 2 weeks from the Origins Game Fair–June 12th-16th.  I plan on spending two days there with my son and a half day alone, with accompanying photos and write-ups of the games we demo (probably a lot from Iello, Calliope, and SJGames, though I also want to his Asmodee N.A. and a few others).  Plus, Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon are the author Guests of Honor this year.

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.

Quick Update

Two quick updates:

1) The WiP piece is completely drafted.  It needs work, but the basic piece is done.  And clocks in at 16,651 words (or 59 pages).

2) Tomorrow through Saturday will be my annual visit to the Origins Game Fair.  This year, I’m planning daily posts regarding the fair itself, the people, and the demos.  We’re planning one full day and two half days this year.  Hoping to see Steve Jackson of SJ Games and should see some of the first demonstrations of Axis & Allies & Zombies.