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 hordes 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.
- 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