Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Origins 2016 Post Game Report

The Eagle has landed.
My wife and I were fortunate enough to attend Origins 2016 in Columbus, OH this past weekend. It was the first time in over 5 years having a vacation without kids (Thank you, Grandma Diane, Papa Frankie and Great Aunt Donna!). To say that the weekend was hotly anticipated would be an understatement... and our expectations were almost entirely met!

Origins did have a registration snafu on Wednesday due to some down computers (people always blame the computers), but we were lucky enough to miss all of that. By Thursday morning, the Registration and Pre-Registration (Will Call) lines were not terribly long and we got our badges and tickets in 15 minutes, tops. They did. however, have a snafu with printing the coupon books, so many of the vendor booth SWAG was not available to a great majority of attendees. That was a pretty bad screw up. I mean, when you pay $55 just to get in the door (no games included), you expect to get some SWAG... or at least a coupon to buy some SWAG at a discount.

I won't bore you with a blow-by-blow, but will hit some of the highlights.

The King will personally come
to your home to play Royals
Royals - This pre-release was available at Origins (will release officially at Gen Con) is an area control game with a card mechanic similar to Ticket to Ride. It was easy enough to learn with solid mechanics that we picked it up on the spot. A play test write up is coming.

Tyrants of the Underdark - This is a deck builder and area control game that was also being previewed at Origins (release on July 12). Very swingy scoring. Control areas can change hands quickly. Hard to tell who is winning at any given moment. I will also write a play test review on this one shortly.

Robo Ruckus - A completely robotic app-driven version of RoboRally. The creators have open sourced the software code and posted all their build instruction online! In a two hour time slot, we actually got to play 3 different games... which is often more than can be said for RoboRally on the table top (depending upon how slow your friends play). A great time was had!

Bitches be rammin'.
Giant King of Tokyo - King of Tokyo... but bigger. I won a special promo penguin character for my home game.

Car Wars - Played a basic arena combat scenario. Of the many players, I was one of two that did not pick a ram car. I managed to dodge the ram vehicles, but not getting those ram kills costs a lot in terms of overall points scored. I was very close to gaining a much-needed kill to tie the score when time ran out.

Things are getting a wee bit tight...
X-Wing - We played two different scenarios run by different groups. The first was a trench run on the Death Star. It had some balance issues in that the group of Y-Wings couldn't actually complete a full length run from the starting area to the exhaust port in the 3 hour time slot, even if they did nothing else but head in a roughly straight line toward the objective. Yep -- three hours and they never got to fire at the exhaust port. A con game with more than 8 players bogs down speed of play significantly.

The only way to win was to send in the X-Wings to torpedo and leave the Y-Wings out to dog fight, which is counter intuitive to the intended play style of the models (and makes Y-Wings somewhat useless to the scenario since they cannot fly fast nor maneuver well).

The second scenario was a straight up dog fight which played smoother since it had only 6 players. There was a bit of an imbalance in the pilot skills between the Empire and Rebels, but to their credit, the group running the game helped make some adjustments during set up to level the playing field. They also made adjustments for the next group. The Rebels scraped ot a victory with just two ships left using good tactics toward the end. I ended up winning the Corran Horn promo card that I then got Michael Stackpole to sign.

A very pleasant and accommodating
Michael Stackpole
RPGs - We also played our fair share of RPGs with a couple sessions of D&D Adventurers League season 5 preview (giants!), 13th Age and Kobolds Ate My Baby (All Hail King Torg!).

Vendors - Hearkening back to 2009, I recall that Origins couldn't even fill their Exhibitors Hall. A lot of the industry just didn't come out for anything smaller than Gen Con. A lot changed in 7 years. All their vendor spaces were full and most of the major publishers were present -- Catalyst, Mayfair, Rio Grande, Fantasy Flight... The notable absence was Paizo, which is understandable since they are recovering from Paizo Con just a couple weeks prior. Wizards doesn't have a exhibitor's booth since they don't sell direct, but they were present for the D&D Open and Adveturers League events.

Things I Missed

BattleTech Grinder - Sometimes there just isn't enough time for BattleTech... but the Grinder is a fun event where you can just keep fielding larger and larger mechs (until you can't). Need to set aside a 4 hour block for myself next time.

BattleTech Alpha Strike - Catalyst also has a "lite" version of BattleTech which is less complex and plays more quickly, so it's easier to field and play a whole lance per player without taking weeks to complete a game. Been wanting to try it and just haven't gotten around to it.

Dresden Files Card Game - Evil Hat has a new card game based upon the Jim Butcher IP. Meant to try it out, but just didn't get there.

Knuckle Sammich - 9th Level's Kobolds are at it again. I played Midnight Massacre, but didn't get around to the card game demo.

HackMaster - Beautiful, new (relatively)  books with some interesting mechanics. Another "judt not enough time in a weekend" event.

More D&D - I wanted to do all 5 of the Adventurers League previews, but there is only so much time in the weekend. I did participate in 2 of the 5.


Saw the new Duchess Gaming Table from (enter to win one here). This is a game table that is actually in the somewhat affordable realm. Cheaper than their competition by a fair amount. Checked out the Mystix Mapping System -- basically Colorforms for D&D mapping. Fantastic idea. Did not get to Dresden or Knuckle Sammich demos, as I noted.

Final Thoughts

As others on social media have noted, Origins is of the size that it makes an excellent alternative to Gen Con. With an attendance around 15K,  it is large enough to have a wide variety of games, but small enough that you can easily get a nearby hotel room. While there aren't quite as many industry luminaries as Gen Con, it appears Wizards of the Coast will continue its support for the time being. With other major sponsors like Mayfair, Catalyst and Fantasy Flight, Origins should continue to have a strong future as a fairly large convention for those looking for an alternative to the Gen Con insanity (or would like to do both).

Kobolds Ate Our Babies! (ALL HAIL KING TORG!)

13th Age - Swords Against the Dead

More X-Wing...
Doing my best Porkins impression before a fiery death.
Chris O'Neil of 9th Level Games

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