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Origins 2011 - A realistic look at the state of Origins

Jeremy Salinas
United States
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Man Vs Meeple
I've returned from Origins, and although it was a much different experience this year than those in the past, it was still a very enjoyable and worthwhile trip for several reasons.

Overview and Basic Concerns

Going into Origins this year, I knew that my expectations were going to have to be lowered for me to enjoy the overall experience, so I treated the trip more as a normal business outing, hoping to spend the majority of my time doing networking with my peers rather than playing games.

Being a more active and recognized name in the Industry this past year, I've had the benefit and luxury of playing a huge number of games months prior to the public release. Come Convention time though, this is both a blessing and a curse, as a majority of the games I've played are just now releasing, so as enviable as my work may seem at times, it's not always as glamorous as it appears. In the back of my mind though, I was still very hopeful that a few unannounced titles would be released during the convention.

In reality though, more and more Publishers are choosing to skip Origins in order to focus and showcase their new titles at GenCon in August. Due to this, the Exhibition Hall at Origins continues to suffer the slow decline of attrition and one can't help but notice that over the past several years its had a trickle down effect into the smaller Publishers as well who are mostly struggling to obtain the traffic and sales they need in order to make their trips worthwhile. Attendance once again appeared to be down in the Exhibition Hall, and without the draw of the major Publishers at the show, its becoming more and more apparent that Origins needs a drastic change in its Philosophy when dealing with the Exhibition Hall. What I do know is that it can no longer be a direct competitor of GenCon and for that a change is needed, as attendance and traffic have shown that over the past several years.

Board Room
I spent 3 full nights in the Board Room and once again, it was a wonderful experience and a testament to the immense popularity and draw of Origins for Board Gamers. Pick up games with others were easy to find and most everyone there that I met was polite and attentive. There were a large number of Demonstrations, Prototypes and unannounced Concepts floating around the Hall for players to enjoy and preview, and I had the opportunity to provide some feedback on several that I personally played which was a real joy.

Being a larger part of the Community this year, I also had the opportunity to meet a great number of wonderful and appreciative people who have watched and enjoyed my Video Review Series. Most people didn't recognize me until I started talking which created some fairly humorous conversations throughout the Convention, but wearing my Drakkenstrike shirts and name badge drew a lot more attention than I had expected, and it was always wonderful to be appreciated by not only fellow gamers, but also the numerous number of Publishers who have given me a chance when I was struggling to find just a single company who listen to my vision.


There are a Huge number of Highlights from this years Origins, and I hope NOT to leave any out, and I am mostly terrible with names, so I will try to keep this brief.

These are in NO particular order:

1. Video Review Colleagues
A. I first met Ryan Metzler (aka Slaqr) from the Dice Tower. I will keep all our personal communication out of this, most of which was hilariously funny, but to be brief, he was a terrific and fun guy to hang out with, even though we don't share the same tastes at all in games.
B. I met Tom Vasel who really needs no introduction at this point. I had the opportunity to go to lunch with him on Thursday to discuss our goals and ambitions (which I will let him announce at his choosing), but the overall experience with him all week was wonderful. I also introduced him to Quarriors, which he immediately gushed over which only reinforces my original statement and Video Review....Quarriors is going to be a HUGE hit at GenCon...not big, but HUGE.

2. Publishers and Designers
A. After working with WizKids on Star Trek Expeditions and Quarriors, I was very excited to finally meet the guys who gave me an opportunity to Review a couple of their products very early in their production cycle. Justin and Max were exactly what I expected, smart, intelligent, forward thinking Publishers who knew what was important to gamers and what made them excited. One of my best experiences as Origins !
B. Christian, Phillipe and Pierre from Le Scorpion Masque. I've spoken with these guys in the past, but spending time with them in person was a blast. We played Quebec twice, and Christian table talked me like crazy (which I did back as well), but I ended up beating them twice so justice was done in the end...though I am sure he will have something to say about it. Very enjoyable conversations for about 6 hours.
C. Stephen at Stronghold Games. Another relationship that I forged rather early, but had never had the opportunity to meet in person. Stephen and Stronghold Games are the real deal, and just like WizKids, both of these companies are fairly new to publishing "Board Games", but both KNOW exactly what gamers want and are spending a considerable amount of attention to the details in all of their products. Couldn't be happier that this Company is finding success, and they deserve every bit of it.
D. Colby, Josh and Isaac at Plaid Hat Games. I spent a lot of time with all three guys, either talking about board games, watching games or playing games. Dungeon Run was one of my favorite games at the Con, though it still was not available for purchase cry Why tempt us? Another STRONG company that is taking their time with their games and giving each new release the proper amount of attention that it deserves...these guys need to be watched in the industry as they are a very talented group.
E. Ryan at Gary Games. I had hoped to see Justin again this year, but he couldn't make it, but I have traded a lot of email with Ryan so it was awesome catching up with him briefly at the Convention. Very down to earth guy and very welcoming, and he actually approached ME which was awesome and further confirmation that what I am doing is being noticed and appreciated.
F. Max at Mayday Games. My wife and Max bonded hahaha!!! She actually spent all day helping him preview his new game Eaten by Zombies after she fell in love with the premise and mechanics (a new deck builder). He is a new Designer and this is his first game, and one of the first ones we tried at the Convention. One of the nicest, most genuine guys we met!
G. Beth at AEG. I've spent a lot of time working with Bryan and Todd at AEG, but Beth is their Convention Guru and a really wonderful person. She and John spent some time discussing games with me which was an incredible treat !!
H. John at Small Box Games. I walked over to check out one of their new titles (Omen) and John (Owner and Designer) immediately recognized me so we sat down to play a quick game. Incredibly nice guy who is about a small a Publisher as you can get, but loves games and everything about them !!
I. Travis at Indie Boards and Cards. I had spoken with Travis on numerous occasions in the past, but met him for the first time at Origins. He brought 911 to the Convention in Prototype form, but I didn't have the chance to sit down and play it...although I LOVE Co-ops. I hope to see the game in some form at GenCon.
J. Brian and Geoff at Z-Man Games. These guys are so passionate about The Ares Project...you can just feel it sitting down playing and discussing the game with them.

Games at the Show
As I said, this was a very disappointing New Release Schedule for me this year, and most games that were new I had played in some capacity. In some "semblance" of order, here are some of my favorite games.

1. Quarriors!
Although not for sale, it was being shown heavily by WizKids, and unanimously enjoyed by everyone I saw playing it and have introduced it to myself. This is going to be a monster hit !!
2. 7 Wonders: Leaders
Very very very limited quantities at Origins, and I think a lot of people weren't able to pick it up. I've played it 4 times so far, and it's pretty awesome !!
3. Québec
The only real new Euro there (and again not for sale until Sept.). A fun game that I can't wait to play again in its final form.
4. Mage Wars
I don't believe this is in the BGG database yet, but was in demo form and really well liked by a large number of people. It's an ElfinWerks game.
5. Summoner Wars: Master Set
The Master Set is awesome....with an awesome insert and lots of new factions !!
6. Dungeon Run
Only in Demo form, but I really really liked it.....a LOT.
7. King of Tokyo
This game was being sold by a random vendor even though it's hard to find here in the US, and I saw it being played all over the place. Although it's not a new game to me personally, it's new to a lot of people...and very very fun !!
8. Ascension: Return of the Fallen
New Release !! And I still haven't played it yet....but I do love Ascension so I am hedging my bets of liking this new expansion.
9. Eaten by Zombies!
Another game only in demo form. It's a very easy, light, but vengeful Zombie Deck Building game that's really fun and escalates quickly, resulting in a lot of death !!
10. Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War
Another game I've had for some time, but it was released here and being played all over the place. Everyone I spoke too who has played it has loved it!
11. Omen: A Reign of War
I got a very brief demo of this, but am looking forward to sitting down and playing it in full. The artwork is BEAUTIFUL !!
12. The Ares Project
I've had this for a couple weeks, but didn't really get a chance to play until I sat down with the Designers to learn. If you dig RTS computer games (Starcraft, etc), you will dig this...it really presents that style of game in a Board Game format almost perfectly. This game sold out I believe in less than a few hours.
13. Thunderstone: Thornwood Siege
I've already put a Review up of this, but another game that saw its release at Origins.
14. Nightfall: Martial Law
I've had this for a couple weeks as well, but just now got a chance to play it. I've been without the proper sleeves for 3 weeks, so I ended up buying sleeves at Origins, but playing another persons copy shake.
15. Grimoire
It's been out for awhile in Japan, but just came out at Origins via Z-Man.
16. King's Vineyard
I picked it up and alot of people at the Convention enjoyed it...I am hoping it's another hidden gem like Hagoth.
17. Discworld: Ankh-Morpork
I played the demo (nope, it is not out either), and I really enjoyed it !! It's confrontational, but fun.
18. Star Trek: Expeditions
Another game that I've had for months, but debuted at Origins. This was being played everywhere and deservedly so, it's a solid Cooperative game.
19. Star Trek Deck Building Game: The Next Generation
I have mixed emotions on this one. I hated Bandai's Resident Evil Deck Builder...and the gameplay in this one left me wondering if it was the person who taught it to me, or the gameplay itself.
20. Fealty
WHAT? One of the surprisingly fun unknown games at the fair that I picked up...a really cool, quick playing strategy game.

So that is just a very very very small sampling, and I probably left out a ton of people, and games and moments that were great at the Convention. Origins remains a fun and enjoyable experience, but I think it's beginning to lose its focus just a bit which is creating some identity issues, most obviously with its use of the Exhibition Hall.

Thanks to everyone who came up and introduced themselves, or sat down and played a game/prototype or two with me. I look forward to GenCon and hope that it brings a wealth of new, unbelievable titles to our Industry.
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