Quick Trip to Origins 2015
Clay Ross
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Ohio
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Origins is a great convention: smaller crowd, lots of board game publishers, plus it's local for me!

I went Friday to demo a bunch of games that are both old and new. Here is what I played at Origins this year.

This was a great warm-up for my 2-day trip to Gen Con.
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1. Board Game: 1775: Rebellion [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:250]
Clay Ross
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Heard so many great things about this game from its simplicity to its engaging, fun gameplay. As soon as the doors opened, I was able to sit down with 3 other players and play a few turns. I played as the yellow (loyal militia to the Redcoats, I think).

There is so much going for this game. Each player represents a faction, either on the Americans or British side. I really like the cards that are unique to each faction. The cards are your actions in the game and once you play a card, it cannot be used for the rest of the game. It's definitely an area control game. But there are two things that put this game on my buy-list:

1. Each faction (represented by cubes on the board) has a unique set of dice that are used to resolve combat. There are Hits, Flee, and Decision results. Roll a hit and your opponent loses a cube. Flee results in your own cube being placed off the board in a temporary holding location until your next turn. Decision will allow you to leave one of your cubes in the same battle or you can move to an available neighboring space. The faces of the die for each faction are all different. Really cool feature to resolve combat instead of adding up the pips on the die. Thank you for being unique!

2. There are neutral Native American cubes spread throughout the map that will ally with whomever enters their space. You then get to use their dice in battle. As if that wasn't cool enough, some factions have the ability to call in a separate faction, such as the French or Hessians. Each of these separate factions has their own unique dice as well.

You can't go wrong with this game. It's more educational than your traditional game as well.
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2. Board Game: Cacao [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:497]
Clay Ross
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Ohio
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This was played 2-player. It's a tile-laying game in the same light as Carcassonne. It plays quickly in about 15-20 minutes for a 2 player game.

I'd like to play it again with 3 or 4 to get a better feel. We played the game out since it's so quick. If I were to play a tile-laying game, it'd be Carcassonne over this.
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3. Board Game: Dark Moon [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:749]
Clay Ross
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I was excited to try this re-themed BSG-lite game. For you BSGers, in a nutshell, dice are used in lieu of skill cards. Someone will be 'infected' at the beginning of the game (there is no sleeper phase). I played with 4 others, so there were 2 infected players, of which I was one. After playing a few rounds, I quickly realized this game was not for me. The production quality is pretty low:
1. At the end of every player's turn, 2 task cards are drawn and 1 is resolved. The task card deck is very small (maybe 30 cards max).
2. The quality of cardboard is not there. Player screens are thin. I can see them tearing at the creases in about 5-or-so plays. However, I was a big fan of the wooden dice with the curved corners (makes the dice actually roll when they hit the table).

I understand you can't have the full effect of BSG due to the shorter play time, but every single turn felt the same. It felt repetitive and we ended up calling it after 2 rounds (10 turns).
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4. Board Game: Colt Express [Average Rating:7.18 Overall Rank:306]
Clay Ross
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If this doesn't win the SdJ, someone got paid off. For those of you that have played Walk the Plank (which is a fun, 20 minute game) you will recognize that, at Colt Express's core, it's the same game. Gameplay is very simple: reveal an event card (not sure what they are technically called, but that's what I'm rolling with) which will tell you how many cards each player will play (and how those cards are played in the main pile). Once all cards are put in the main pile, the game turns into movie-mode. Cards are revealed one at a time and the corresponding player takes that action. It's a programmed movement game that works, and works well. This is a phenomenal family game that will feel like a movie and will pull you in to its player-driven story. Fantastic game!
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5. Board Game: Nations: The Dice Game [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:715]
Clay Ross
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I really enjoy Nations, especially over Through the Ages - I know...you want to crucify me, but hey...everyone has their own tastes

Let's get this out there first: It's not really a civ-lite game.......at all. Each faction is identical. The tiles (instead of cards) that you purchase could have any object on them...it's purely flavor text.

Now, for those of you still reading and taking that into consideration, I firmly believe you will enjoy this game. You play through 4 ages with each age taking, at most, 5 minutes per player. There are 4 different types of dice: white - basic (you start with these and they provide your nation with every resource), red - military, blue - stone/knowledge, and yellow - economy. You will need a mix of the red, blue and yellow dice.

It's quick and very fun. The dice give it a gamble feeling. This means you cannot take this game as a serious strategy game (although it is full of strategy with the different ways to build your nation and gain victory points). It is now my go-to filler. It slightly scratches the "I-want-to-play-Nations-but-don't-have-enough-time" itch.
 
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6. Board Game: The Voyages of Marco Polo [Average Rating:7.97 Overall Rank:41]
Clay Ross
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There are so many great things going for this euro. It's worker placement game through the use of dice. It's a train game with your end-game goals identical to those in Ticket to Ride.
Each player has their own individual and unique special ability (for example, player 1 doesn't roll their dice, ever. They decide what their die results are at their leisure).
Each city on the map has a card that will unlock a new action for you to use once you arrive in that city. You can then use that action throughout the game. The deck of cards for the city actions is huge. This is amazing for replayability.
You also have contracts to complete with camels and trade goods (in the same light as The Speicherstadt).

This game is not "just another euro." It might be the euro of the year. I still have to try La Granja (amongst others)
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7. Board Game: The Downfall of Pompeii [Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:448]
Clay Ross
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This is a super random game. In a nutshell, you place your people (represented by wooden octagon pieces) in buildings on the game board through cards. Occasionally an Omen card will pop-up and you get to pick a player's person to put in the volcano (I call this the human sacrifice card). When the volcano erupts (this will happen after the board has been populated with a lot of people), the cards are not used anymore. Instead, you will draw tiles from a bag that indicate where the lava flows through the city. Once you place a tile, you get to move 2 of your people on the board. Your goal is to move your people to one of the various gate (or exits) of the city. Whoever has the most people out of the city at the end of the game wins. The winning score in the 4-player game I played was 5. Lesson learned: Volcanoes are very dangerous.

It's light and is great for kids...one actually played with us and she talked more smack than ever!
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