Origins 2019

The yearly Origins expedition happened, and I was good this year and bought only three* games!

*Three games, plus an expansion for one of the games, plus a few BGG promos for some other games. Plus two plushies and a t-shirt. But under $200 total, which is still far better than the previous two years.

The theme this year is probably “Different”. I don’t know if it was just the games we were interested in, but there seems to have been a huge emphasis on Roll and Write games (either with actual dice, or cards ala Welcome To) and dexterity/physical manipulation games. A large portion of the games we played, including (amusingly) one of the “heaviest” games we played, are these kinds of games, and we generally played a lot of “lighter” games this time around.

We also had a fifth “official” group member in Sam, which resulted in a lot more fragmentation throughout the day. It wasn’t really either better or worse… just different.

We also stayed in a 3-bedroom townhouse instead of a hotel room, which meant we had a lot more space and were able to cook, which was extremely different. We did a grocery run on the first day that filled a cart, but actually only lasted us two and a half days (of the three where we were all present). But it was a lot nicer than going out to eat for every meal.

Overall, we played (or learned rules for) 76 games (!) over 3.5 days (including 28 on the first day alone!), 8 of which were roll and write games and 10 of which were dexterity/physical manipulation games.

Here’s the usual summary post. As always, photos are at photos.


Day one (Thursday):

Deadly Doodles – A roll and write game where you draw a path through a pre-set dungeon collecting treasure and killing monsters. Fine, but didn’t feel particularly noteworthy, although it was a very appropriate way to start this year off.

Little Town – Action selection on a map that keeps expanding with more efficient actions. I felt like it started off too slowly (you spend the first of four rounds just building resources, and then have to have turns with net 0 points to build fields), but Kevin liked the slower progression. We’d probably play it differently if we played it again, but it also didn’t feel all that interesting.

Legendary Forests – Carcassonne except every player plays the same tile into their own forest. I really liked this, as a way of reducing RNG between players. In my top 5 games for the con; bought a copy.

Obscurio – Essentially Mysterium with a traitor. The “ghost” puts markers pointing to portions of two randomly-selected image cards to give clues, and then players vote on which of six other images is the “correct” one. The first play of this was disastrous, as the person running the demo explained some mechanics badly, and got certain traps in the game completely wrong such that the game became unplayable. We gave it another try on day two, and it played much better. I think this was one of Jenny’s favorite games, but I was pretty lukewarm about it.

Dust In The Wings – Game where you move butterflies around a grid to accomplish changing goal cards. Not really memorable, and the strategy was very straightforward.

One Key – Again, similar to Mysterium. The clue-giver helps you eliminate certain images by providing other images as clues and indicating whether that image was strongly, somewhat, or not related to the correct image (the “key”). Quick and fun and overall enjoyable.

Century: A New World – The third in the “Century” series. The first one (engine-building, the deck builder) I really did not like. This one was a worker placement game, and was enjoyable enough, but was not particularly memorable.

Tuki – Speed physical manipulation, where you have to get your four colored pieces in an arrangement as shown on a goal card using white pieces as support. Some variation with a die adding additional placement rules and particular arrangement. Really enjoyable, and I may have bought a copy except the asking price seemed way too high.

Undo – A scenario-in-a-box game series (similar to the Next escape room series) where a crime has been committed and you have to travel to different points in time, making different decisions, to try and stop it. There were three different scenarios available. Felt okay, except that the decisions made in different events didn’t really seem to feed into the others, and a limited number of events you could visit meant you could miss parts of the story. Meh?

Shikoku – Play cards to move up a staircase, but you want to be the second or second-to-last player in order. Pretty casual, and fun enough.

Subatomic – Just like Cytosis (by the same publisher) was a pretty generic worker-placement game with a really well-integrated theme, this was a pretty generic deckbuilder with a well-integrated theme (collecting quarks; buying protons, neutrons, and electrons; and using them to make atoms). Fine, but didn’t feel particularly interesting to play.

Periodic – I didn’t play this, but David described it as more “learn the periodic table” than an actual game. Collect different element groups (based on things like discovery date or physical properties).

Mental Blocks – Another physical manipulation game, where every player has a different “view” of a structure, and have to collaborate to build the structure within a time limit. Made more complex by restrictions like not being able to directly touch larger blocks. Really enjoyable.

The Presidential Wall Game – A cross of Jenga and Don’t Break the Ice, featuring Trump. For the lulz.

Maniacal – A game where you’re a supervillian training minions, sending them on missions, and getting infamy. Didn’t get to actually play it, but it didn’t seem too interesting to me anyway.

Quirky Circuits – Literally co-op Robo Rally. Players play cards from their hand to collectively program a robot to accomplish certain tasks, but the card backs only give a general idea of what they do (the “move” card could move forward one or two or three spaces, or move backward). I’m not really a fan of Robo Rally, but this seemed really great if you do enjoy it.

Arraial – Selection and placement of Tetris pieces on a board (with Tetris gravity) to have large groups of colors and fill lines. Pretty fun.

Highlander: The Duel – Two-player combat simulation where you play cards to fight the other player. Meh.

Noises At Night – Hidden role game where you play “clues” into rooms to gain points based on your secret identity. Feels like a less-antagonistic version of The Resistance. Perfectly fine game.

Tournament of Towers – Dexterity game where you stack pieces based on card draws to build a tower, without making it fall over. Fun.

Smartphone Inc. – Economy-building game where you operate a smartphone company expanding around the world, making phones, researching technologies like Bluetooth, and selling your phones in different countries. Really enjoyable, and probably the heaviest game we’d played up to this point.

Onitama – Chess-like game where the moves you make are controlled by cards that are then passed to the other player. I’m not a fan of strategy games like this, but as far as they go, this was a good one. We also played the giant version of it, which was nice. Bottom 5 for me, though.

Tricky Tides – A trick-taking game where cards let you move around islands collecting and delivering goods for points. Has optional monsters that interfere with players. Jenny bought a copy.

Friday – A one-player game where you’re Friday (from Robinson Crusoe). Jenny played it by herself.

Monster Factory – A Carcassonne-like game by Donald X. Pick up tiles to build up your monster and minions, or to interfere with other players’ monsters and minions. Fine for what it was.

The Adventurer’s Guild – A prototype by Kevin’s friend, Matt. Race for the Galaxy-style phase selection across players, where the goal is to gain equipment and spells, gain followers, complete quests, and kill monsters for bounties. Raise your level via quests, raising the prestige of the guild itself, until you confront a final boss (different per player) using the engine you’d built up. Really fun.

Shake Your Booty – A prototype of a party game by Kevin and Jenny. Fill plastic treasure chests with different kinds of loot (metal cubes, glass beads, plastic coins, and plastic gems), then frantically shake them to determine the contests and bet on the ones that accomplish your goals in a set time limit. Really fun.

Crusoe Crew – Choose-your-own-adventure style game where four players have their own graphic novels, and collaborate to make decisions, explore islands and castles, and gain loot.


Day two (Friday):

Too Many Bones – DnD style game where combat abilities (and attacks) have their own dice and the story comes from a deck of cards with decisions to make. Very much not my thing, but everyone else seemed to enjoy it. Bottom 5 for me.

Slide Quest – Physical-manipulation game where players cooperate to slide a piece around a board to accomplish tasks, like pushing enemies into holes.

Atlantis Rising – A coop worker placement game where you’re collecting resources and building components to escape the city while the city (and its placement locations) are sinking into the sea under you. One of my favorite worker-placement games, actually. Top 5 games, for me, and probably the heaviest game since Smartphone Inc thus far this con.

Fire Tower – Manipulate fire using cards to light other players’ fire towers on fire. Really pretty to look at, but not something I’d really enjoy.

Mystery House – A game where you look into a house to solve mysteries, which removes walls allowing you to see more and more of the house. Didn’t get to play it, but didn’t feel very compelling to me.

Barrage – A worker-placement game themed around hydroelectric power, where the gimmick is committing resources for a number of turns rather than losing them. Didn’t feel particularly interesting, but we didn’t demo it.

Planet – Collect tiles with types of land, and place them on a 3-D grid (with the power of magnets!) trying to collect different animals by completing their placement requirements (such as having the most water not touching sand, across all players). I really wanted to like this, and the gimmick is fun, but it suffers hugely from action paralysis such that I really didn’t enjoy it. We didn’t finish a game, and bottom 5 for me.

The Refuge: A Race for Survival – A miniatures game that was actually extremely light and quick. Play cards to move through hoards of zombies to reach safety, while placing zombies to slow down other players. Surprisingly fun.

The Refuge: Terror from the Deep – Same as the above but with a larger enemy that slides around. Didn’t play it, but also seemed good.

Bosk – Strategic tree placement to drop leaves and control areas of the board. Didn’t actually demo the game, but it’s pretty to look at.

3 Laws of Robotics – Hidden role party game where you ask one question to help figure out your robot type and rank, and then give your “key” to the highest ranked robot of your type to escape. Made more complex each round by the addition of “laws” that limits what you can do or ask. Played with the designer, which was nice, but it was overall meh?

Dulce – Prototype game where you “roll and write” tiles onto your board to produce resources like peanuts or cocoa, and turn them into desserts you can sell.

Second Chance – A roll and write with no theme, where you select one of two Tetris-y pieces to fill into your grid each round, with the goal of filling as much of the grid as possible. Probably the lightest of the roll and write games we played. Fine, but there were better roll and write games.

Cartographers – A roll and write game where you fill in different terrain types (in different shapes) onto your board to gain points (a la Kingdom Builder). Some “terrain type” cards are monsters, that let other players fill in a monster on your map. Probably my second favorite roll and write, and probably my #6 favorite game this con.

Dungeon Academy – A frantic roll and write where each round is timed, and you have to quickly find a route through a “dungeon” of monsters (rolled dice in a Boggle-style grid) that gives you the most points. Too frantic for me, but generally well-done.

Pinnacle – Another dexterity game where you stack blocks to make a tower without being the player that makes it fall. Fine.

Silver – Card game where you want the lowest score across your cards, but can’t see most of them, but can use card abilities to view cards or swap them. Almost exactly like a game I’d previously played with Gracie. Fine.

Caravan – Pick up and deliver game with camels. Meh? Didn’t seem interesting, so we didn’t actually play it.

Beta Colony – Action-selection game where you gain resources and use them to build pods and landmarks in three different colonies to gain points. Probably the heaviest game we played the entire con. It might have been because I was pretty exhausted by that point in the day, but I didn’t really enjoy it. It was a fine collection of euro mechanics, but didn’t really feel like anything special.

Letter Jam – Word game where each player has a word, but doesn’t know the letters in it, and has to form words using every other players’ letters to give clues. Really fun.

Joraku – Trick-taking crossed with area control. Play cards to place cubes in different areas, and win tricks to score more additional points. Interesting concept, but didn’t play very well. Kevin bought it because it was $7.


Day three (Saturday):

Pipeline – Act as a private fuel company, buying crude oil, refining it, and selling it to make the most money. Some interesting aspects around collecting pipes and making a pipe grid for refining strength as well. Overall, a very solid game, and one of the heaviest we played.

Schrodinger’s Cats – Liar’s dice but simplified, with cards instead of dice, and with different player abilities. Super cute.

Brikks – A roll and write that is literally just playing Tetris. Pretty good, but Twice as Clever (see below) felt like the same game but was generally better.

Finger Guns – Party game where players simultaneously select different actions to attack other players, trying to either be the last man standing or turning everyone into ghosts. Really, really fun, and feels almost like an improved version of Bang (and not just because of the theme). Highly recommend this.

Men at Work – Dexterity game with a Welcome To-style deck of cards telling you what to do on your turn. Place girders and workers while trying not to cause Osha violations and place as high as possible. Really, really fun, and probably my favorite of the physical-manipulation-style games this year. Top 5 for sure.

Snail Sprint – A simplified version of Lemming Mafia, for kids. The best part was that the game box becomes part of the board, and the snails crawl up, across, and down it. Really cute.

Meeple Circus – Dexterity game where you draft different pieces representing circus performers, and then place them in specific ways to score points while timed. Super fun, and top 5 this year.

Festival of a Thousand Cats – Trick-taking with twists around gaining and losing points. Play cat cards, swapping with ones in the middle, to collect fish and avoid crows. Pretty good, actually.

Vast: The Mysterious Manor – A cross of Root and Betrayal on the House on the Hill. Highly asymmetric game where each player has a different goal to accomplish while exploring rooms in an old mansion. Abilities of each player also differ completely. Pretty good game, but it was a joy playing with the painted miniatures in the demo version.

On Tour – Roll and write where you play numbers in different cities on a US map, and then draw a route across the country. Pretty good, but the huge board and custom table it was played on was fun.

QE – An auction game where every player has infinite money, but can’t win if they spend the most money through the entire game. Themed around every player being a country that’s bailing out different companies around the world, trying to collect sets of companies across different industries, and favoring their own companies. Surprisingly enjoyable, and really interesting how numbers only make sense relative to each other and tend to inflate as the game goes on.

The Table is Lava – Dexterity party game where you throw cards onto the table to knock other players’ meeples off of cards and onto the table (which is lava). Really fun.

We Need to Talk… – Party game where you have a problem (that you don’t know) and other players clue you as to what it is. Fun.

Fire in the Library – Push your luck game where you draw cubes to save books from a burning library without spreading the fire. Seemed fine.

Volcanic Island – Move workers around a map to build villages and idols, and try to block off sections of island to destroy island hexes and hurt other players. Interesting tradeoff also where building requires lava, but erupting volcanos that provide lava can destroy villages and idols. Really fun.

Trap Words – A word game that is essentially Taboo, except the taboo words are decided by the other team. Traverse dungeon rooms by successfully guessing, making subsequent rounds harder and triggering traps that affect the game (like not being able to say words starting with “S”). I didn’t like it, but I also tend to not like word games. Bottom 5 for me.

Lanterns Dice – A roll and write where each player gets a different color, and you strategically fill in colored triangles on your map to form square regions. Seemed okay, but not one of the better roll and writes.

Hex Roller – A roll and write where you write numbers in chains of the same number across a hex grid in specific ways. Pretty fun.

Twice as Clever – Best described as Roll and Write: The Euro game. Surprisingly, one of the most complex games we played this year, but with absolutely no attempt at a unifying theme. Roll colored dice and select actions that differ for each color of die. Specialize to unlock increasing points or generalize to get lots of different bonuses. Top 5 games for me, but they were unfortunately sold out.

Epic Card Game – Magic but simpler. We got free starter packs.

Goodcritters – Pirates and gold, where a “boss” splits up gathered loot and other players vote on the split. Made interesting by additional actions to steal from another player, defend against stealing, or “skim” and get a free loot from the deck. Was actually really fun.


Day four (Sunday):

Bubble Tea – Roll dice and overlay transparent sheets on a grid to meet the requirement based on the roll. Really enjoyable, and had nice components like a shaker for the dice.

Kitty Paw – Race other players to assemble your cats into an arragement determined by a drawn card. Made more complex by cards representing other types of cats or components like boxes. Cute and lightweight.

Troll and Dragon – Push your luck dice rolling game. Very meh. Bottom 5 for sure.

Farmini – Kids’ game where you draw and place tiles to make a farm, collecting animals and cornfields. Surprisingly enjoyable.

Sticky Chameleons – Dexterity game where you have a sticky chameleon tongue and have to smash it against the table to pick up specific cardboard pieces, as determined by a dice roll. Chaotic and fun.

Kana Gawa – Collect cards to paint a continuous painting and enhance your painting ability. Drafting cards earlier gives you fewer of them, but more opportunity to select the ones you want. Fun enough.


Purchases

  • Root (and the Riverfolk expansion) – Played it before, and I was able to get it signed by the designer and artist
  • Legendary Forests – Seemed like a nice alternative to Carcassonne, which remains one of my favorite games
  • Meeple Circus – Fun meeple stacking!
  • Stuffed turtle and t-shirt – I’ve gotten a Tee Turtle plush every year (narwhal the first year, reversible octopus the second year). The t-shirt was because we did the buy-3-shirts-get-one-free deal with our group
  • Root Vagabond plushie – Because how can you resist it?
  • Promos: Power Grid, Takenoko, Codenames, Castles of Burgundy, and Raiders of the North Sea promos – Because promos are awesome

Origins 2018

I think the official subtitle of this year’s Origins trip is “Better than we expected.” In addition to playing many, many, many games that looked crappy at first glance that ended up actually being fun, I also came back with many fewer games than I thought I would, we didn’t burn ourselves out playing like last year, I ran into Tim more than I expected, and we also got a discount on the hotel room. So in general a bunch of things went better than expected this year.

So yeah. I went to Origins again this year, with the same group as last year (where we were occasionally joined by Kevin and Jenny’s friend Sam). It was a ton of fun. We went for one less day this time (starting Thursday instead of Wednesday), and due to having to bus home, I only had one suitcase for games this year. I think that worked out better anyway, since it helped me make decisions on what to buy.

This year’s haul: three promos, and 13 games (two of which are signed).

Noteworthy is the fact that we actually played every game I bought this year! Given around half of last year’s purchases remain unplayed, that’s a great thing.

As always, photos are at photos.

Anyway… The Games! Looks like we played (or got explanations of) 52 different ones this year, which is surprisingly more than last year despite having one less day. I think that’s due to us being more willing to stop playing games we weren’t enjoying, rather than sitting through them. We may have also just played a bunch of lighter games, compared to last year.


Day one (Thursday):

Dragon Castle – Tile collection and placement game that looks visually similar to Mahjong, where strategy is as much in what you leave open for other players as where you place the tiles you do take. A much stronger first game than last year’s.

Superhot: The Card Game – 2-player coop card game that’s intended to be a simulation of an FPS, where you work your way through a line of enemies, dodging bullets and using weapons. I didn’t play this, but the game seemed a little sloppy, and Kevin and David both seemed to dislike it. Probably bottom five games, based on their impression of it.

Shogunate – A quick hidden-role game where players distribute honor among different clan leaders, trying to prioritize their clans over other players’. Enjoyable, and I bought a copy and got it signed by the designer.

Orc-lympics – A deceptively simple drafting game that’s as cute to look at as it is fun to play. Immediately after we played a game, all three sets of us (Kevin/Jenny, David, and I) bought a copy of the game. Definitely in the top five for this year’s Origins, at #2. One of three games we played more than once this year.

Pikoko – A trick-taking game where you can’t see your own hand of cards. Instead, players bet on how well they think other players will do, and then you play for your neighbor. A lot of fun, and the art and game components are also gorgeous. Will seriously consider buying a copy, but didn’t mostly because of the size of the game box.

Escape Tales: The Awakening – A detective/escape room type game, where you explore different objects within a room, along with a storybook, to progress the plot and move on to the next room. It felt a little clunky, and it really wasn’t helped by the storybook being so badly written. This was a good example of a game that was basically all theme and no game. In the bottom five games for this year.

Altiplano – A “bag-building” game… basically a deckbuilder crossed with a worker placement game, where you collect tiles, draw them from a bag to execute different actions, and generally score points. It is definitely a cute game, and it was enjoyable enough to play, but it just didn’t feel special. Would play again, but wouldn’t buy.

Echidna Shuffle – Probably the cutest game we played. A kids’ game where you move echidnas around a board to collect bugs and move them to stumps, but with a surprising amount of strategy. Also mitigated dice screw in a good way — each roll determined your next two turns’ of moves, summing to 9 across two turns. A good game, and something I’d gladly play again, but it was maybe a bit too simplistic for what we usually play. Definitely “better than we expected”.

Curio – Best described as “Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes”: The Board Game. A series of small puzzles requiring interaction and communication between players, where you speed through things as accurately as possible. I bought a copy, and got it signed by the designer.

Senshi – Disc-collection game where you want to strategically play colored tokens based on your stacks, while minimizing other players’ points. Another game that was “better than we expected”, but wasn’t particularly interesting.

Decrypto – Team game where you send clues about words to your partner while not letting the other team figure out the words as well. Interesting enough, and I’d play it again.

Potion Explosion – Resource-drawing game where you build up potions from marbles pulled from a track. Another game that was “better than we expected”, but it wasn’t all that interesting.

Wallet – Party game where you pull random cards from a pile (or, in this case, an actual cloth wallet) to try and get the most money without violating any of a few goals. Fine, for what it was, but not something I feel the need to play again.

End of the Line – A game set in a post-apocalyptic future where you send your family members to stand in lines gather resources while messing with other players’ families in line through various events. Was actually a fairly interesting game, and I may have been interested in a copy, except it felt too expensive for what it was.

Dominion: Hinterlands – It’s Dominion. Hadn’t played this set before, but it didn’t feel particularly different than usual.

Dominion: Nocturne – The newest Dominion that actually feels like a rather different game. In addition to a new “Night” phase, happening after your usual plays and featuring unlimited plays of “Night” cards from your hand, it also adds a bunch of starter deck replacements (swapping out your copper or estates), player statuses, and boons and hexes. It was actually really enjoyable, and this has the privilege of being one of only three games that we played more than once this year.


Day two (Friday):

Prowler’s Passage – Two-player tug-of-war game where you fill in pieces of a city while collecting tiles and controlling those colors. Seemed decent enough, but wasn’t particularly interesting.

Junk Orbit – The one big disappointment for the con was that this game was sold out by the time we played it. Pick-up-and-deliver game with a great twist, where you’re in space and you throw your junk in the right direction, causing your ship to move backward that number of spaces. Easily top five of the con, and probably #3 for me. Then again, it being sold out was perhaps a blessing, because its game box (a large hat-box-looking cylinder) would have been impossible to carry home. What were they thinking?

The Climbers – I’d played this years ago, but it’s been re-released, and it’s just as fun now as it was then. A game where you physically move blocks and maneuver your piece upward, trying to reach a higher point than other players. Super enjoyable, especially for its differences in a sea of board- or card-based games.

Kitchen Rush – Essentially “Overcooked: The Board Game”. We didn’t get to play, but they were showing off the game. It looks fun enough, but my question is why you’d want to manually control the fiddly bits of Overcooked. I’d rather just play the video game.

Shaky Manor – Best described by Jenny as a game “I had to play once, but never want to play again”. A game where you physically shake components around a tray to get desired ones into a room as dictated by a goal card.

Cytosis – A rather classic worker-placement game themed around a cell, that was actually great fun to play. Collect cubes representing RNA, proteins, lipids, and carbs, and use them to make hormones. Another example of “better than we expected”, and it’s a great example of how you can do a classic genre well, without innovating too much, and still make a really great game.

5-Minute Chase – Asymmetric real-time tile-laying game where half the players legally lay down tiles to escape prison, and the other half study those tiles carefully to chase them. Enjoyable enough.

The Mind – The ultimate example of “better than we expected”. A card game with a super simple premise: Players have a card or two, from a set uniquely numbered 1 through 100, and have to collectively play them to the middle in order. But they cannot communicate with each other. Was surprisingly fun, like when Jenny pulled out her phone and started fiddling with it to indicate her high card, or when Kevin stared at Jenny for like 30 seconds to get her to play her card.

Dinosaur Island – Essentially “Jurassic Park: The Worker-Placement Game”. A game where you’re trying to assemble a dinosaur-themed theme park, create real dinosaurs from DNA to attract visitors, and prevent the dinosaurs from eating your guests. Its neon coloring and plastic (rather than wooden) components were surprising turnoffs for me, but didn’t distract too much once the game was actually under way. Enjoyable enough, but not particularly memorable.

Reef – A game where, similar to Dragon Castle, you lay pieces down on a grid in optimal ways to score points. This time they’re four colors of coral instead, and the goals differ based what cards are out, and the cards can also chain with each other if you plan it right. Enjoyable enough.

Rwby: Combat Ready – A fighting game themed after an anime show (apparently?) where you play cards to attack a villian and cooperate with each other. Mechanically fine, but it just didn’t feel like something I wanted to play. In my bottom five games for the con.

Noria – A game where the interesting mechanic is set of spinning gears that limit what actions you can take on a given round, and where strategically placing new action tiles on the gears was crucial to success. Also an interesting mechanic where you improved scoring for some elements while simultaneously hurting others, leading to natural specializations. Otherwise a standard exercise in building your engine to collect lots of points. Was actually rather fun, but its price doesn’t seem worth it for the gameplay.

Raiders of the North Sea – Probably the biggest surprise of the con, for me. A game that looked easily dismissable, and looks like a typical worker-placement game, but that actually has a lot of depth to it due to the shared worker mechanics, as well as the requirement to upgrade workers to make progress. This is on my list of things to buy, later, and is probably in the top five for this year’s Origins, at number 5. (Then again, worker placement games are my favorite genre of game.)

Broadhorns – A game with decent enough mechanics, but where the iconography was among the worst we’ve ever seen in any game. It was enough to ruin the few gameplay mechanics we enjoyed, and it just generally wasn’t interesting to play once we finally figured out what certain things meant. Bottom five for this year, and would probably take the lowest spot if not for the Carcasonne dice game.

Tzaar – Another game in the GIPF series, this one resembling checkers. I didn’t actually play it, but it seems decent enough.

Gizmos – Basically Engine Building: The Board Game. The entire game revolves around improving your ability to do actions so that you can do more and more actions. For example: buy a card so when you buy future blue cards, you get a pick action, and when you pick a blue gem, you get to store a card. Actually a really enjoyable game, and I think everyone was surprised afterward by how much we liked it. Another of the (much) “better than we expected” games.

Roll for the Galaxy – Nothing new for any of us, but Kevin and Jenny hadn’t played since last year’s Origins. You should already know how much I love this game, and it’s still probably either my #1 or #2 game from last year’s Origins.

Captain’s Wager – A betting game where you try to win the most of three “fights” with a given hand of cards. Purchased it because it was $5, but we solidly found this one “better than we expected”. This one will actually likely see play again, and was enjoyable to play.

Get Reelz – A party game where you’re creating movie titles based on cards in your hand. Purchased it because it was $5, and it doesn’t try to be anything it’s not. A good alternative to Apples to Apples, in any case.


Day three (Saturday):

Coimbra – A dice-action game primarily distinguished by the ability to gain points in a number of ways. A good example of “dice done right”, and also one of the few games where “multiple paths to victory” is actually a real thing: There is so much you can do in the game to get points that it’s pretty easily to go in different directions than everyone else. Enjoyable enough, but wasn’t personally terribly interesting.

Oceans – The sequel to Evolution. It’s still in the design stage, so we played a prototype version and gave feedback about it to the creator. In general, it’s a much more streamlined game than Evolution, and plays a lot smoother and is more enjoyable. Has some balance issues, as is to be expected right now, but I’m looking forward to this when it comes out.

Spy Club – Detective game where you collect cards to solve a case, with a legacy component where you can play a series of five games, unlocking more content across the campaign. Seems to be intended for kids, and was a decent enough game, but was a little too simplistic for our tastes.

The Legend of the Cherry Tree – Push-your-luck game where you draw colored flowers from a bag and try to collect sets without busting in each draw. Enjoyable enough, but didn’t feel particularly special.

Herbalism – Initially described as “Card Counting: The Game”, which immediately turned me off of it. It wasn’t until I watched a play of it, and then played it later after Kevin and Jenny bought a copy, that I really got into it, and got a copy for myself. Basically, given 12 visible cards and known numbers of each color, figure out what color(s) the two hidden cards are by asking questions of other players about their cards. A super simple, but surprisingly deep, quick game. Kevin and Jenny played this twice, but I only played once, so I’m not counting it.

Welcome To Your Perfect Home – Best described as a cross between Yahtzee and Racko, this is a game where numbers are revealed and you have to slot one of them into a line of monotonically-increasing numbers on your neighborhood design. Different icons increase the choices and ability to do different things. Went into it not expecting much, but this easily lands in the top five at the #1 spot for this year’s Origins. Managed to pick up a copy thanks to Kevin: The game isn’t actually released yet, so they had 100 copies for sale (and were releasing 25 copies a day), so on Sunday morning, we waited in line for the hall to open, and then Kevin ran to secure a spot in line for me to buy a copy. So good! One of three games we played more than once this year.

Round House – A game where you move workers around a circular board to execute actions and gain points. Wasn’t paying too much attention (and didn’t actually play this), but it seemed unnecessarily complex for no good reason. Seems likely to have made the bottom five if I actually played it, but since I didn’t, I don’t feel qualified to pass judgement on it.

Sorcerer Stones – A game where you move and rotate tiles to control and collect colored cubes. I didn’t play this, but Kevin really enjoyed it, and it looks like an interesting game. They bought a copy, so I’m sure I’ll give it a go at some point.

Mystery of the Temples – Gem-collection game where you put them onto a track to trace a path through specific colors and gain points. A rather unique mechanic combined with a circular action board. I picked up a copy.

Eko – Basically a variant of checkers. I had no interest in it, but it seems like a fine game.

Merlin – A dice-action game where you move around a circular board (seems to be the theme of this afternoon) executing actions to gain points. One of the most complicated games we played, component-wise, and also didn’t feel particularly interesting.

Pulsar 2849 – The surprise of the day for me, after Merlin and Coimbra both were just “okay” games. Another game with dice actions, but the dice were done in a really balanced way, and the exploration and upgrades felt compelling and perfectly-timed. Also noteworthy for its excellent iconography, which meant we were able to pick up the game extremely quickly with a few basic explanations. Lands as #4 in my top five for this year, and I will look at getting a copy.

Fresco – We only got a brief explanation of it due to the hall closing, but basically a collection game where you collect “paint” cubes and use them to complete a painting. Seems fine, but not terribly interesting.

Carcassonne: The Dice Game – Push-your-luck game themed around Carcassonne, where you assemble city pieces into the largest city you can while avoiding catapults. Bought it because it was $5, and played it over dinner. It was… not good. Definite bottom five for this year, and probably the worst of the bunch.

Conquest of Speros – Another $5 game purchase that ended up being rather fun. An area-control game that looks like it was built by someone reusing Magic: The Gathering cards, but that actually is interesting to play. Enjoyable, and I’d do it again.


Day four (Sunday):

The Flow of History – I think of this as Through The Ages: Light. Build different types of cards, representing things like military or culture or leaders or monuments, to get the best city. The most interesting part is the bidding and stealing mechanic. Rather enjoyable, and given I went into it not expecting much, definitely falls under “better than we expected”.

Luxor – A game where you move along a path, collecting tiles, with movement controlled by playing cards from either end of an ordered hand. Enjoyable enough, but not particularly memorable, and it unfortunately felt like a light game with non-light game setup requirements, which turned me off of it.


Purchases (in order of purchase):
Conquest of Speros – From the $5 clearance rack, but ended up being surprisingly fun.
Captain’s Wager – Also from the $5 clearance rack; also surprisingly fun.
Get Reelz – Also from the $5 clearance rack. Interesting enough as a party game.
Orc-Lympics – My first real purchase of the con. A steal at only $10, and I think it’s also not officially out yet. Super quick, super fun!
Codenames Duet – I’d played this at last year’s Origins, and really liked the variation on Codenames. Bought it primarily because of the free copy of That’s a Question (thanks to David also buying a copy).
That’s a Question – First played last year, and played again at Carnival this year. It’s always enjoyable, and it was free, which is even better.
Curio – Got it because I could get it signed by the creator, and also because I think my group would enjoy a board game version of Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes.
Shogunate – Seemed like a great filler game, and I really enjoyed it, and I was able to get it signed.
Paradox – I played this at last year’s Origins, and thought it was fine then, but not particularly worth a buy. This year it was on sale for $10, which seemed worthwhile.
Carcassonne: The Dice Game – Can’t win them all. A bargain bin miss.
Welcome to Your Perfect Home – Detailed more above, but I love that I got the game before it’s generally available.
Herbalism – Picked up a copy thanks to a buy-one-get-one-50%-off deal, after enjoying it so much.
Mystery of the Temples – Paired with Herbalism above. Looking forward to playing it.

Life

Uh, wow. It’s been three months since I last posted. So much for posting at least once a month…

In the home repair department, we successfully replaced our old bathroom ceiling fan. We are quite proud of ourselves!

Downtown flooded a bit in March, thanks to the excessive rain we’ve been having. We missed the worst of it, but caught some of the mess.

Life has otherwise just been full of board games and rock climbing.



With luck, it won’t be another three months before I post again…

Origins 2017

I went to my first board game convention!
Apparently this is what happens when I go to a board game convention. Yay for 19 new board games and/or expansions (and promos, besides)?

I went to Origins in Columbus, Ohio with Kevin, Jenny, and their friend David. It ended up being an awesome experience; we basically played board games every waking and non-eating moment from Wednesday afternoon until Saturday evening.

It looks like I played (or sat and watched an entire game of) 47 different games. I think I only played four games more than once: Saboteur, Roll for the Galaxy, Codenames Duet, and Caverna: Cave vs Cave.

Photos of the entire trip are at my photos site.


I don’t want to forget my experiences and game impressions, so here is a brief summary of every game I played on the day I first played it, along with some brief thoughts about each. Also pictures, of course.

Day one (Wednesday):

Hounded – Asymmetric chess-like game where one player tries to corner another’s fox using hounds. Decent, but very easily broken (just block off a corner using your hounds), and not something I’d really replay. Also it’s only two players, and I wouldn’t ever really get a chance to play two-player games. The huge version of it was impressive though.

Codenames Duet (Prototype) – 2-player cooperative version of Codenames, due to be released at Gen Con. Plays really well, and is an interesting twist on Codenames. Would have bought it if it was available.

Glux – Well-made strategy game. Not too memorable (forgot we played it until I went to write this), but fine mechanically, and well-produced.

Captain Silver – Fun shape-feeling game (like sensors in Space Cadets) that is slowed down a lot by the scoring phase. Enjoyable enough, but meh.

Puppet Wars Unstitched – Miniature games for people that don’t want to build miniatures. Not really something I’d enjoy, but decent enough game.

Galaxy Trucker – The classic that I’ve played so many times and love.

Top Secret Spies – Hidden-role game where you move spies around a board with die rolls to maximize your points. Actually a really, really good game until you add in the top secret cards, at which point the game just falls apart. With the cards, this is probably one of the bottom 5 games I played. I’ll probably try making a version of this (basic rules only) with board game people’s faces.

Roll for the Galaxy – Dice-rolling game that fixes everything I dislike about Race for the Galaxy. Amazing game (easily top 5 of the games I played). Bought a copy of the base set plus the first expansion after playing it.

Day two (Thursday):

Radiant: Offline Battle Arena – A customizable card game apparently based on a video game. Decent enough gameplay, although like many customizable card games, it sometimes gets into weird loops or degenerate situations. Enjoyable, but I probably wouldn’t play it again.

Pinball Showdown – Everyone is a pinball and you’re trying to hit targets for points. It sounds weird, but it actually plays really well, and is a lot of fun while remaining really thematic. I bought a copy and got it signed by the designer.

Russian Roulette World Championship – Social bluffing game that is really, really well done and is a lot of fun. I would have bought a copy, except I think the theme (while it fits the game mechanics perfectly) might be a little off-putting to people in my usual gaming group. David picked up a copy, so we can play it, though. Really fun.

New York Slice – Set collection game that is mechanically awesome, and has probably the best production of any game I played. (The box opens like a pizza box, and the score pad is an order receipt). Easily in the top 5 overall, and might be my pick for best game I played there. Picked up a copy plus a sheet of promos.

Werewords – Social deduction game similar to Werewolf, except with a secret word that people are trying to guess by asking yes/no questions. Really good, and a lot of fun. Top 5 of the games I played. David picked up a copy, but it really just needs the phone app to play.

Century: Spice Road – Production game that reminds me a lot of Splendor, except it feels really clunky and was rather off-putting for me. The deck-building aspect of it was interesting, but I felt like I was often way too constrained to be able to do anything useful. Bottom 5 of games I played.

Trickster: Champions of Time – Trick-taking game (ha!) that is actually the best trick-taking game I’ve ever played. Mechanics don’t screw lead players and the abilities give you a lot of “outs”, plus you can collect the most of any given color to negate those cards. Bought a copy, and got some promos with it.

Element – Place elemental tokens on the board to trap other players’ pawns. Interesting mechanically, but wasn’t really memorable in any way.

Deadline – Detective story game that feels like someone wanted to write murder mysteries and slapped some card mechanics on top of it. Decent enough for what it is, but not something I’d want to play again.

Unearth – Dice-rolling and set-collection game that falls flat and doesn’t really feel like you have any control over it. Easily bottom 5 of games I played, and possibly the worst of the bunch? We didn’t finish the game the first time, and walked away from it when playing again on Saturday from frustration and lack of interest.

Portal Heroes – Card game where you collect number cards and use them to collect character cards. Fine, and plays fine, but not really memorable.

The Colonists – Worker-placement game with a moving worker on a hex board. Has the ability to be super complicated and deep (4+ hours), but has ways to reduce complexity for shorter or easier games. I really enjoyed it, and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to use a 50% off coupon on it, reducing its price to $45. Hopefully I’ll be able to convince enough gaming group people to play it.

Chicken Cha Cha Cha – Children’s memory game with chickens. Fine for what it is, but not something I enjoyed.

Dominion: Prosperity – It’s Dominion, the classic deckbuilding game. We played with only Prosperity cards, so the game was ridiculously full of trashing duchies and getting free gold for buying them. Final scores were over 100. Kind of ridiculous, but fun. It’s Dominion. :P

Near and Far – The “sequel” to Above and Below, except it’s only really related to Above and Below as far as the world goes. Story-telling adventure game that is really, really fun, and it has a campaign mode that I’m interested in trying if I can get a group to commit to it. Got my copy signed by the creator!

Day three (Friday):

Saboteur – Hidden-role tile-placement game. I’ve played it before, and it’s always enjoyable enough. Would probably buy it at some point, but didn’t pick it up here.

Costa Rica – Push-your-luck set-collection game. Fun enough, but not really memorable in any way.

Cottage Garden – Really fun game where you try to fill a board with differently-shaped pieces, themed around flowers and planting. Mechanic for piece-selection is what makes this interesting. Top 5 of the games I played, and I would have bought a copy except the asking price didn’t seem worthwhile (I think it was $65?).

Welcome to the Dungeon – I mostly tuned this out, so I don’t know what it’s about other than you finding items and fighting your way through some enemies.

Agricola: Family Edition – A variant of Agricola that strips down the rules and complexities of the game in a way that really works and keeps it interesting. If Cavera fixes Agricola by giving you more choices and complexity, this fixes Agricola by giving you fewer options but making feeding less stressful. Bought a copy (partially due to having another 50% off coupon), and I’m looking forward to playing it again.

Ethnos – Area-control game with card set collection. Decent game, but I feel like the card randomness is too random, with no real way to mitigate it. Would be much better with a couple rules tweaks (like having a constantly-refilling set of cards to select from when drafting). Probably wouldn’t play it again regardless, though.

Alchemists – Logic-puzzle game that “requires” a mobile app to play. Was a really interesting concept, and the puzzle-solving aspect was really interesting, but it felt like there was too much game around it, such that it stopped being interesting for us. We didn’t finish a full game of it, and stopped playing so David could attempt to solitare the puzzle in as few steps as possible, instead. Wouldn’t play it again as-is.

That’s a Question! (Prototype) – Social “would you rather” game that would be good as an icebreaker game, but that feels like it needs to support more than 6 players to be good. Decent enough, and it works well as what it tries to do.

Lyngk – Similar to chess or checkers, where you try to strategically move pieces and stacks to collect more sets than your opponent. Decent enough, but not really the kind of game I enjoy.

Tiffin – Cube-placement game where you collect colored cards and use them to complete routes. Had too much deck screw to really be interesting (both in routes and colored cards). We didn’t finish a game of it.

Piñata – Kids’ game that doesn’t try to pretend to be anything it’s not. Good game for what it is, but not really interesting enough to hold our attention.

Adrenaline – Basically “First Person Shooter: The Board Game”. Really good theme, and it felt like playing an FPS, but I didn’t really enjoy it. The jumbled rules explanation we got before someone else stepped in to correct everything probably didn’t help. I think Kevin, Jenny, and David enjoyed it, but this is not something I would play again. Still, playing with the giant version of the game was nice.

Lemming Mafia – Kids’ game where you race lemmings and/or cause them to drop out by putting their feet in concrete and making them “sleep with the fishes”. Bought it because it was on the $7 discount rack, and it actually ended up being a really fun game. Plays quickly, and is super easy to understand and explain, but still manages to have a lot of depth. Great game.

Johari – Card collection game with action selection that reminds me a little of Puerto Rico or Race for the Galaxy. Mechanically a good game, except the rules were really vague on some important points, and the graphic design was terrible enough that it hindered play a few times. With some small rules clarifications, would be a good game.

Day four (Saturday):

Food Chain (Prototype) – Quick card game where you try to play around what you think your opponents will play. Fun, and easy to learn, and has super cute art. Would play again.

Arena: For the Gods! – Combat game with dice that fails to be interesting and has way too much dice screw. We didn’t finish our game (even after resetting and trying it with the proper draft mechanics). Easily one of the bottom 5 games I played.

Lorenzo – Worker-placement game that is really well designed and that also has some of the best graphic design I’ve seen. Iconography is used so well in the game that we corrected the game-demo person a couple of times based on the icons not matching the explanation. Still, for some reason, it didn’t really click with me, and I can’t explain why. Excellent game, but not one that I’d want to buy or play.

7th Sea Miniatures Game (Prototype) – I don’t remember the name of this, but it’s a miniatures game in the 7th Sea world that seems to really accurately simulate ship movement and combat. Jenny played a round of it, and she seemed to enjoy it, but I have no interest in either the mechanics or the theme.

Paradox – Set-collection game where the primary mechanic is playing Bejeweled with colored tokens. Sounds weird, but it actually fits together really well, and was enjoyable to play. Fun, especially because we played it with the creator.

Caverna: Cave vs Cave – 2-player variant of Caverna that is super simple to play and explain, but that has a good amount of depth and strategy. If it wasn’t for my dislike of 2-player games (because I would never really get a chance to play them), I would probably consider buying it.
(No pictures because I only watched other people play.)

Lobo 77 – Quick card game that is a little like 6 Nimmt. Quick and fun and easy, but has player elimination that can be a little rough. Doesn’t try to be anything it’s not.

Bärenpark – Same core mechanic as Cottage Garden, but with the interesting mechanic being around placement order and position instead of piece selection. A lot of fun, and seemingly has more strategic depth than Cottage Garden, and a much better price point ($40). Top 5 games that I played. I bought a copy.

Spirit Island – We didn’t get a chance to play this, but it’s a co-op game where every player is drastically different (different character, different cards and abilities, different core functionality in the game). Looks really good, and is really pretty, but I’m not a fan of co-op games.

Jump Drive – It’s Race for the Galaxy with all the interesting parts of Race taken out in an attempt to simplfy the game. But, if Agricola Family simplifies Agricola well, this is the exact opposite. Mechanically seems interesting until you get to the point where you’re drawing 15 cards a turn (with cards already in hand and a hand size of 10), and you have to study all of those cards to figure out what to keep. Also snowballs in a ridiculous way (50 points ends the game, and I scored 42 points in the final round alone) that just isn’t fun. Easily bottom 5 of the games I played, and would probably be my pick for the worst game I played — it generally feels and plays like a mess and would benefit greatly from mechanical changes (like having separate currency that isn’t cards).


Purchases

Near and Far – Detailed above. I loved Above and Below, and heard good things about this. The ability to get it signed was just gravy. Played once.
Above and Below: Groves – Expansion cards for Above and Below.
Above and Below: Extended game and tokens – Expansion book with new adventures for Above and Below.
Mysterium Promo Pack – Additional suspect, location, and weapon card for the game.
Caverna Water Expansion – Extra Caverna tiles. For Max and Yubin.
Coup Speculator Promo – Extra Coup cards. For Max and Yubin.
Trickster: Champions of Time – Detailed above. Played it, loved it, bought it. (Included promos.)
Pinball Showdown – Detailed above. Played it, loved it, bought it, got it signed.
Johari – Detailed above. Purchased due to it being on sale for $7, but it seems worthwhile. Played once.
Lemming Mafia – Detailed above. Purchased due to it being on sale for $7, but it was actually really good. Played once.
Roll for the Galaxy – Detailed above. Played it, loved it, bought it. (Got some promos for it as well from playing.)
Roll for the Galaxy: Ambition – Expansion for the above that was part of the demo set we played.
New York Slice – Detailed above. Played it, loved it, bought it. (Also bought a sheet of promo “Daily Special” cards.)
Agricola: Family Edition – Detailed above. Played it, loved it, bought it. (50% off helped make that decision easier.)
Bärenpark – Detailed above. Played it, loved it, bought it.
The Colonists – Detailed above. Played it, loved it, bought it, but only because I had a 50% off coupon.
Power Grid: The First Sparks – Had wanted this game a while ago, but it was out of print and unavailable. Saw it at the con as part of a buy-one-get-one-half-off deal, so picked it up with Roll for the Galaxy. Unplayed.
Gold Ahoy! – On sale for $4. Figured it was worthwhile even if we played it just once. Unplayed.
Zombies!!! Roll Them Bones! – On sale for $3. Figured it was worthwhile even if we played it just once. Unplayed.
Rocket Jockey – On sale for $4. Figured it was worthwhile even if we played it just once. Unplayed.
Forever Young – On sale for $7. Figured it was worthwhile even if we played it just once. Unplayed.
Monuments: Wonders of Antiquity – On sale for $7. Figured it was worthwhile even if we played it just once. Unplayed.
Aeroplanes: Aviation Ascendant – On sale for $10. Figured it was worthwhile even if we played it just once. Unplayed.

Black Friday, weather, games

Life goes. It’s been busy — hard to believe we’re already halfway through December.

I took advantage of the Black Friday sales surprisingly little this year. I picked up an iPod Touch to replace my Samsung digital camera, at almost $50 off, which was nice. The iPod actually takes better photos, and is generally useful as well in places that have WiFi. It’s been a nice replacement for taking daily photos.
I also picked up season 11 of Supernatural (usual $10), and a few booster boxes of .hack//ENEMY ($3/each) since they’ve been out of print for years and it seems prudent to stock up now while they’re still buyable.
I also bought myself the new computer (a desktop this time) I’ve been wanting for years. My old laptop seems to be having a lot of trouble now, and I wanted something that could actually run Photoshop Lightroom (bought as part of my camera bundle at last year’s Black Friday), so it’s nice. :) Although it’s a little confusing now to sit at my desk and have 4 different keyboards and 3 different mice in front of me… I’ve typed on the wrong keyboard so many times.

We decorated our house for Christmas. Yay for garland things and big red bows!

The weather has been bizarre here lately. Friday it was freezing. Saturday morning the world was ice, and I walked to Giant Eagle and slipped a lot. By Saturday evening, the world was water, and I was overheating in even just a plain t-shirt with a sweater on top (never mind my usual winter coat). Today it’s cold again. Yay weird Pittsburgh.




Owen’s been visiting and there’s been board games.

We had a fun game of Salem where we killed all of the accused people. Also two of my three witches survived. Yay Salem. Also, I feel like the game plays better with 7 people. Everyone starts with totally equal information, and you don’t have to play weird annotation games with the shared colors. Limiting round 2 to 10 minutes and round 3 to 25 minutes also seemed to work well to keep the game moving.

We had a close game of Settlers with our new dice deck. It was a little weird (and maybe more awesome?) because the 8s came out mostly together, the 6s came out mostly together, and the 7s waited almost all for the end. This led to some interesting situations (abundance of wood early, abundance of sheep in the middle game, and sad everyone late game). It actually ended up being really close — Greg was one sheep away from winning for a couple of rounds, and I would have won had I rolled anything other than a 7 (due to having 8 cards and needing 5 of them to build my last city). So yay games.