5 days at Origins 2015
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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My husband Doug and I spent 5 full days at Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio - eating well and gaming our hearts out. We had to leave the children home with my obliging in-laws since our schools had not let out yet. The offspring were very jealous of us. My husband spent much of his time in Hall F playing miniatures since he does not often get the opportunity to do those at home except during Historicon in Fredericksburg, VA each summer.

I use Origins as my try-it-before-buy-it convention, so I try to focus on events that have boardgames that are either newly published or that I have never had an opportunity to play before. The following list encapsulates the games that I tried, how I felt about them, and what happened of note during the rest of the convention.

As for the short story - In the end my favorite games were Stockpile, Compounded with the Geiger Expansion, and Patchwork. We traded away 6 games and sold 6 games in the silent auction. We came home with:

from left to right - games we won, purchased, got in the math trade, and won in the silent auction. As always Origins is our most exciting vacation of the year. The only thing that will make it better is the later date for 2016, enabling my teenagers to attend once again.
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1. Board Game: 7 Wonders: Babel [Average Rating:7.20 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.20 Unranked]
Kathy Moyer
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Virginia
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I started Wednesday afternoon learning to play 7 Wonders Babel at the Asmodee booth. They had 2 tables set up to run this one and were good about walking through the rules. Unfortunately I completely misinterpreted a rule about how to support a law (supposed to be: play the correct colored card + extra resources to work toward getting that law enacted, but I heard "discard" instead of play), so I was last place out of 5 players with 15 points by the end of the game. Also, almost no-one besides me chose to work on the laws or the tower of Babel, making the game itself kind of blah.

There was significant time left after the first play through, so the people who wanted another try from both tables combined for a 7 player game that went much better than the first. Enough folks contributed to the tower and laws to make things more interesting, and because I was corrected on how the rules worked I ended up 3rd out of 7 with 46 points.

For our game group, which is somewhat burned out on 7 Wonders (+ cities and leaders), this expansion would probably not add enough to make the purchase worthwhile.
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2. Board Game: Roll for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.76 Overall Rank:60]
Kathy Moyer
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Stafford
Virginia
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After a quick run up to Happy Greek (our favorite restaurant near the convention center) for some dinner out on the patio, the husband Doug & I had a little time to kill before our next scheduled events. We strolled by the Rio Grande room to see what shorter games they had out. All their games run for free, instead of the $2 per 1-2 hours of gaming in the main events or $$ for a ribbon to play a set of events for "free" in certain areas like the Board Room or Mayfair Room. We chose to try Roll for the Galaxy with two other players.

The Rio Grande team stepped us through the game, and we quite enjoyed it. It has the same approach as Race for the Galaxy, in that you can explore, develop, settle, trade, or produce goods of various sorts depending on which development cards or planet cards you have paid for. Dice rolls mostly determine which actions you can take part in, although there are ways to ensure you will get the action you most want to take. The number of different colored dice you roll grow as your civilization grows during the game, and different colored dice have different ratios of icons (including wildcard icons) on them. I won our 4 player game with 37 points.

We own Race for the Galaxy, but have a few icon-challenged friends since we do not play it frequently enough for them to remember the icons from one play to the next several months later. This game could take care of that problem since it is somewhat simpler than Race, but at $60 the price was too high for the niche it would occupy in our group. We took a pass on buying it, at least until we catch a sale some day.
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3. Board Game: Stockpile [Average Rating:7.59 Overall Rank:285]
Kathy Moyer
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Stafford
Virginia
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Stockpile debuted at Origins. Ed taught us this new game from Navoo Games, but Seth (one of the designers) was right there by his side to fill in the details. One of the best things about Origins is getting the scoop from the designers themselves, so meeting Seth was fun - love his enthusiasm.

In Stockpile you are bidding on and collecting stocks from 5 companies, using a little insider knowledge and some possibly-less-than-legal manipulation of the market to make your favorite companies improve payouts while trying to tank the value of companies you do not own. It includes a bidding mechanic rather like Homesteaders except everyone will get new cards, some face up and some face down (if I bid higher than you, then you can jump to any set of stock cards and outbid that player or go and pay nothing for the pile of stocks that is unloved unless you get out-bid again). We chose to play with the included expansion that added individual investor abilities, which I think helped add flavor to the game. Stockpile played super-quick (under an hour if you don't include the instruction time and side discussions - our first play actually ran a little over an hour). I came in first out of 5 players with $157, playing as Bernie with a Madoff-like ability to make money off of fees.

I thought this game was terrific, in that it packed a lot of interaction without the specific "take that" effect that my group hates. The actions made sense with the theme, but it would not intimidate those who might be put off by the more mathy stock games. It was $50, which seemed a little high, but I just told Doug to put it on my Christmas list for when we would go shopping in the Origins vendor hall later during the week.

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4. Board Game: Istanbul [Average Rating:7.62 Overall Rank:90]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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Last game of Wednesday for me was Istanbul, run over in the AEG area. I played with 3 other players who were nice enough to start a few minutes late as I came hurrying over from my game of Stockpile. This is why I always try to buy tickets to events at Origins, so I have dibs on the games I most want to play.

In Istanbul you are moving your merchant and his assistants around town trying to get money and resources you can then trade in for gems. We had a little trouble with the concept of dropping OR picking up an assistant in order to take an action in each region. Most of us started out only taking actions when we dropped off an assistant, until the gentleman to my right explained that the merchant picking up an assistant gave them another opportunity to do some work for us. The first person to collect a certain number of gems triggers the end of the game, with the remaining players after that but before the start player finishing one last turn and the player with the most gems at the end is the winner. Since I found a nice area over to the side of the board by myself where I could do some laps collecting resources and turning them into gems, and the governor and black market dudes came to visit me there once thereby speeding things up, I was able to accumulate the necessary gems and win.

I had fun with this game. The variable set-up and mechanic of trying to avoid other player's merchants on the board (which makes you pay them to use a space) and still come up with a good strategy was interesting. My game group probably isn't the best fit for this game because they would probably think too long, and get frustrated when the "popular" spaces like the tea room are occupied. I won't buy it, but would be glad to play if someone else brings it to the table.
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5. Board Game: Monster Derby [Average Rating:6.14 Overall Rank:7910]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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Thursday morning dawned, and Doug and I went off to paint our free miniatures before starting our respective games. Monster Derby is a cute older race game. The fellow who helped come up with the new set of 25 monsters (via Kickstarter?) gave us the premise and set us loose. We got a game and a half done in our time slot, but I ran off before the end of the second race with him taking my place due to a desperate need for some lunch before my round of non-stop afternoon games.

In Monster Derby there is a set of 8 monsters (variable from game to game, and I am not sure how a bunny rabbit counts as a monster) who the players can move one-by-one across different terrains on the track (also variable between games) in order to try and force their favorites to finish in the top three. Monsters can attack and use special abilities to help or hurt other monsters, as well as maneuver along the track. I won my first game with 20 points because my favorites somewhat coincided with the girl to my right, so we helped each other move 2 of our favorites to finish quickly, and I got lucky someone else moved another monster fairly high on my list to cross in third place.

Light racing game; doesn't really fill any niche in my collection.
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6. Board Game: Lanterns: The Harvest Festival [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:590]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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Renegade Games ran a couple games of interest to me. The first I tried was Lanterns, a tile-laying game where you gather colored lanterns (cards) depending on how you orient and match colors on the tiles you place. Interestingly Renegade Games managed to sell me on buying a game mat (no, their company doesn't make those) because it was so easy to pick up the tiles & cards on the Renegade Games-labeled mat they had specially ordered and used to save us from the evil Origins convention center splintery tables.

Lanterns was a fairly light game, pretty and with just a little strategy (you don't want to give your opponents the cards they need to make sets of cards for points). Available points will decrease throughout the game, so it helps to be the first one on your block with those 3 pair, or 4 of a kind, or full set of colors. I lost this one to the Renegade employees.

I was going to pick up a discounted copy for my sister for her birthday, but they ran out before my Sunday shopping day. I did get a free promo tile, that will be useful if I get her the game later.
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7. Board Game: Gravwell: Escape from the 9th Dimension [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:876]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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The second game I tried with Renegade Games was Gravwell, a race game where you are using fuel & gravity to try and pull yourself out of the gravity well around a black hole before it pulls everyone else in. This time three of us played with one Renegade employee filling out the 4th slot.

Gravwell has an interesting movement mechanic, dependent on the cards you draft (you only know 1 out of 2 when you draft them) as well as the relative position of the other ships. It is designed to be a quick game, running in under an hour. I often have trouble trying out-think my opponents (I agonize and then make the wrong call), so I have a feeling that repeated plays would not improve my performance at this one, unless luck comes in to play. I lost this one, although I would enjoy playing it again.


Not a fit for our group.
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8. Board Game: Murano [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:849]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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Thursday afternoon continued in the Mayfair room with a 2-man game of Murano. Note: Do not try a new game for the first time in the Mayfair room at Origins, because there probably will not be someone assigned to explain it to you; go to the Mayfair demo area instead.

In Murano you are moving gondolas around the island region to take actions (get cards with end-game point conditions for islands you influence, build roads & buildings on the islands, gather money, make glass, place gondoliers to influence islands, etc). Gondola movement is key, since boats can only move if there are not other gondolas in their way, and there are increasing costs associated with moving boats out of your way. Unfortunately even with the help of a volunteer we both got the gondola movement rule wrong (taking multiple actions/turn instead of just one), and my opponent misunderstood how end-game scoring would work, so we gave up trying to figure out who won (if we scored it his way, it would have been him; if we scored it per the rules it would have been me). Frustrating.

This was potentially a good game, but due to our errors it was hard to tell. Also my group already has a lot of similar-enough games so I didn't have any urge to buy Murano.
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9. Board Game: Patchwork [Average Rating:7.75 Overall Rank:58]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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Doug and I chose correctly with Mayfair for this game early Thursday evening after dinner at Barley's Brew Pub (got our 2 free glasses right before they ran out) and tried Patchwork in the demo area instead of the Mayfair room.

Patchwork is a quick little 2 player game where you try to collect pieces of oddly-shaped fabric, and spend time and "buttons" to place them in your quilt (player board). As your time marker moves along the central board, you can get benefits like little filler patches for your quilt if you are the first player to cross them, or periodially get more buttons to spend depending on how many are already on your quilt. A player can get multiple turns in a row if they are trailing the other player in time enough. At the end the player with the most buttons after subtracting 2x the number of unfilled spaced in their quilt wins. I beat Doug, even though I had a number of gaps in my quilt and neither of us got the 7x7 fully-filled section bonus.

We definitely needed more 2 player options in our collection, the theme was interesting for me (since I do some needlework), and I liked the tetris-fit-the-pieces-most-efficiently mechanic. Since I had enough Mayfair Catan ribbons by the end of Origins to get their discount coupon, I picked this up half-price.
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10. Board Game: Outside the Scope of BGG [Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:2636]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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Last game for Thursday night was a play-test of a game in work called One Giant Leap. This was an epic attempt to recreate the tension of the cold war space race, while adding other countries into the mix such as India and Japan. After almost an hour of discussion about the game & its development over the last year and a half, including the general play and how each country had unique capabilities (ex. the Chinese had limited numbers of research engineers, but could steal one technology each round), we delved in. At first all went well - we assigned our engineers to work on basic space flight technologies required to try and launch unmanned satellites. Just about everyone was on-track for our first launches in the same turn, but jockeyed for position because there are significant benefits to status for your nation if you are the first ones into space. Sadly, bad dice rolls and bad event cards caused failed launches for my Russians and my neighbor the Indians.

As the game progressed the Indians continued to roll exactly what they didn't need ("OK, I need above a 3 on a 10-sided die... Darn it I rolled 3 again!"), and I was in a similar boat due to negative event cards and rolling 10's when I needed any other number. Failed launches cause public opinion to drop (except for Russians whose special ability was to control the press, lucky me), and lower public opinion affects funding, crippling those who are losing. Both India and Russia eventually got our first satellites up, around the time the others got working on more advanced satellites or even manned space flight. There is no method in the game to ensure success at a launch - even adding & using multiple flight and ground safety tokens and getting my technology as advanced as possible I still only managed to get the one rocket to space.

By 3 hours in I was totally in the hole, didn't have any money to do anything, and started moping because I didn't have any options to nuke anyone, including myself. At the end of 4 hours (11pm = quitting time) we were still in the first quarter of the launches anyone would need to win. This game needs to either be simplified to speed it up significantly, cut down on the number of player countries, and/or give a player something worthwhile to do once they start a downward spiral. I wanted to walk away because it was that hopeless and unfun for me after a while (noting that those still in the space race seemed to be enjoying the reenactment, although they provided a lot of feedback to the designer about ways to speed the game up). One Giant Leap needs more work.
 
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11. Board Game: Compounded: Geiger Expansion [Average Rating:7.08 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.08 Unranked]
Kathy Moyer
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Stafford
Virginia
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I was exhausted after the Russians' crushing defeat in the space race on Thursday evening, so Friday morning called for better living through chemicals - radioactive chemicals! Time to try Compounded with the brand new Geiger Expansion. Grand Gaming Academy ran this game, and the designer came over to see it in action. Darrell chatted with us about the trials and tribulations of finding the proper glow-in-the-dark substances to represent Polonium and Radium. And he helped clarify some of the new rules. I had never played the original version, but the rules all seemed to make sense in the context of the game - combining elements in the lab to make the requested compounds while controlling fire and radioactivity in the lab.

In the Geiger Expansion, players can each take on the abilities of a scientist (I chose Marie Curie, of course) to manage different aspects of the new radioactive elements and their affects on the lab. The more Polonium comes out, the greater the radioactivity of the lab in general, and when the lab's Geiger counter goes too high more and more elements become unavailable for use. Also certain compounds can become radioactive, destroying them rather like fire can. A new "cooling" action and some new tools are available to mitigate the danger of radioactivity, as well as the option to convert Radium to lead over time instead of placing regular elements onto compounds. We were lucky and made use of the "cooling" action and our special scientist abilities to keep the radioactivity under control the whole game, so in the end there had been no big disasters and two of us tied for the win.

I really liked this game, and am sure the expansion was part of my opinion since I like having different player abilities in my games. Unfortunately Compounded with the Geiger Expansion was not for sale at Origins, so our friend will have to wait a bit for his birthday present.
 
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12. Board Game: Floating Market [Average Rating:6.27 Overall Rank:4302]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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Friday after lunch I had another opportunity to learn from a designer during Floating Market. Ben Pinchback was running an event of his game, although he did have to consult with his own rulebook during play because the icons on the finished product varied from the prototype he was used to.


Floating Market involves sending three kids (meeples) to the docks to get 5 different fruits (out of 7 types) so their Ama can make fruit salad. Every player contributes one of their colored dice each round (either 4, 6, 10, or 12 sided, or a negative 6-sided white die), that are rolled together to determine which boats at the docks will give out fruit or money. Other options for the children at the docks can let them buy fruit for money, or influence which boats will be most likely to pay out, or return the previously used dice to the player. The game played in an hour, including the explanation time, and ended while I still only had 2-3 fruits. My child-laborers were sad they didn't get any fruit salad.

Cute & short worker placement game, but a little too much luck for my taste (even with the interesting options to influence the die roll each round).
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13. Board Game: Scoville [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:539]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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Given that the men in my family love spicy food, it was time to breed some hot peppers. Grand Gaming Academy was teaching Scoville, as well as running a game give-away raffle to those who played in their area (so I had put in an entry from my play of Compounded earlier on Friday as well). I was lucky enough to win their demo copies of Little Devils and Article 27 later that night - woo hoo!

In Scoville each player has the opportunity to plant peppers (of different strengths, represented by different colors & sizes), harvest peppers, and use peppers to claim prizes, chili recipes, & sell for points, money, & other peppers. There is only so much room in the communal field, however, so you have to be careful about where you plan to grow the best peppers so you have the best opportunity to harvest the ones you want. I muddled along in the middle of the pack, letting other players determine my position so I would not have to spend my money to outbid the others for player position (since money is also worth a few points in Scoville, and I didn't know what I was doing anyway).

The mechanics of this game were different enough from other games that I enjoyed myself even while not quite getting the hang of it. I have a feeling it would require several plays for me to wrap my head around some good strategies for denying other players access to my favorite peppers. Not on my buy list.

The rest of Friday was dedicated to wandering the vendor hall and the silent auction. I was supposed to try the Mammoth version of Star Trek Catan at 7pm, but the previous players hadn't finished yet and nobody else showed up to play so I just watched their game and chatted with a Mayfair volunteer for a bit before returning to the Silent Auction to see if we had won anything.

While waiting in line to get my silent auction results I tried a game Ed (who had taught Stockpile on Wednesday) pulled out involving press-your-luck dungeon exploration, but we didn't get a chance to finish more than a couple rounds before the line started moving. Doug won a copy of the Rolemaster RPG Space Master in the auction, and we managed to sell all 6 games we brought along for that purpose. Sadly I was outbid for Dragon Master, which I was wanting for the artwork ever since seeing it in the BGG Origins Math Trade.
 
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14. Board Game: Musée [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:2944]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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Saturday morning and insomnia got me moving early. Not too much running at 8am, so I went over to visit Eagle-Griffon Games area and play a light game of Musée. It was just me and my instructor, since the others in the area were angling for some deeper fare. E-G-G was running big games like Frances Drake as well as little fillers like this one.

Musée is a card game where you try to place artwork into your 3-tiered gallery while following a few simple rules. Numbers on the cards must increase from left to right, and you only score points for the total number of cards in your gallery at the end of the round plus bonus points for grouping certain similar art together (next to each other or connected via staircases). I quickly lost 2 rounds (playing best 2/3), but didn't burn too many brain cells over it.

I think this is a good filler, and assume it plays as well with 3-4 people. If Eagle-Griffon booth hadn't run out, I would have probably used their discount (determined by rolling a number on one of their Tumblin' Dice boards) to buy it.

Next up on Saturday morning - ORIGINS MATH TRADE! I went early since I had some traders who would have to leave early for other events & tournaments. I brought my pretty avatar sign & stack of games, set up shop next to
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and his son. I got the best math trade reaction EVER when a little boy came up and started bouncing up and down and exclaiming how the Disney Magic Kingdom Game was the BEST and he was soooo excited to get it. What a thrill!
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15. Board Game: Five Tribes [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:56]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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After some clam chowder for lunch at the North Market, I returned to Asmodee so I could learn to play this Five Tribes game I had been hearing about. Like other games run by Asmodee they had one instructor for several tables so more people could try each game. Four of us checked out the neat pieces (camels, palaces, palm trees, meeples) while we waited for our turn to learn.

Five Tribes definitely had a different approach than other games. The meeples start out on the board, and you can pick them up from one space to walk them to another while dropping one per space moved. The final space must contain at least one meeple of the same type (color) as your final dropped guy, and then you collect all the fellows of that final color from that space. Each color of meeple has a different effect in the game (traders claim resources cards, reds are assassins, etc) as you claim it. If you empty a space, you get to take ownership of it with your camel pieces, along with its end-game points. There are lots of ways to get points in this game, so we didn't really know how we were doing until the very end, at which point it turned out that I crushed the other folks. Go Me! And then when my opponent lent me a purple pen to do the scoring I stole that too (because he walked away before I could give it back). So Andy if you are at Origins next year you can find me at the north end of the convention center at 10am Saturday (Math Trade location & time, most likely) - I will have your pen in my badge-holder waiting for you.

I really enjoyed Five Tribes and can see why it is highly ranked here, but I want to limit the number of games I get that are harmful for those playing with AP-prone friends, so I didn't look to buy it.
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16. Board Game: Russian Railroads [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:69]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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My final game for Saturday night was Russian Railroads, over in the Puffing Billy (Train Gamers Association) area. We did not have a teacher for this one, per se, but as usual in train-land there are always players who have played every train game available who will share their knowledge. Every other player had played this at least once before.

Russian Railroads is NOT a pick-up-and-deliver train game. It is a worker placement/point salad game involving the building of railroad tracks. You can get points for efficiently building longer and fancier tracks, bonuses for getting bigger and better trains to ride on your tracks, points & bonuses for improving your industry, and the occasional engineer you can hire to get you more points and bonuses... are you getting my drift? There is a reason they give you 100, 200, 300, and 400 point markers because you will lap the 100 point track, potentially multiple times. If you interfere with the other player's plans, you will both likely lose because while you are stopping that player those worker actions are not the best for you, but if you don't interfere then you may lose because their strategy is more efficient than yours. Sigh. As expected I lost this to the more experienced players (last place).

I normally like most worker placement games, and I think I would be fine playing it with my friends until they start solidifying their favorite strategies,but at that point I would be afraid the fun and replayability would drop for me.
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17. Board Game: Lost Legacy [Average Rating:6.49 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.49 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.49 Unranked]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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Sunday morning I just had some time to kill before doing my major shopping in the vendor hall, so I stopped by AEG to try some of their "5 minute" games with a teacher and two other players I have seen around Origins before.

First up - Lost Legacy. It is in the Love Letter-style of tiny card game - draw a card, play a card, try to find & keep the legacy card before all is lost. We all lost. As the name says. Sad day. Time to try another one.
 
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18. Board Game: Love Letter [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:217]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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Munchkin Loot letter was our second "5 minute" game at AEG. It is literally the same game as Love Letter, just with Munchkiny flavor text and that great John Kovalik artwork. Draw a card, play a card, and try to survive and have the highest point card in hand at the end of each round. The first one to win 4 rounds (in a 4 player game) wins. That was me.

My kids like everything Munchkin, and my son likes to carry stuff like decks of cards around with him wherever he goes, so buying this in its small bagged form was a no-brainer.
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19. Board Game: Cypher [Average Rating:6.02 Overall Rank:4507]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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Third up at AEG was Cypher, again a small card game. In this one you are trying to take control over the rogue AI ("How?" you ask? By having the most points, of course!). Players draw, play and then pass cards to the other players while trying to keep the three cards in front of them that will add up to the highest point total once someone plays a game-ending card. I came in 3rd out of 4 in our game.

There were a few more cards in this game than Loot Letter, and no getting totally killed out before the end of the game which makes it friendlier than that one. I like science fiction and need a few more little filler games. Since the second small AEG game bought only cost $5, I chose to get this one in its blue pouch for me.
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20. Board Game: Empire Engine [Average Rating:5.89 Overall Rank:4946]
Kathy Moyer
United States
Stafford
Virginia
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One final "5 minute" AEG game to end the convention, so we chose to try something a bit different with Empire Engine. We traded in our English-born instructor from the first three games (he had one last thing to do at Origins as well), and switched to another AEG representative who, like the first, had never actually played this game before. A fast look at the rules and a tiny amount of fumbling our way through the game and we managed to work this game out, although it took somewhat longer than the other three games.

In Empire Engine each player has the same pair of gears and pair of 4-sided action cards. Each round the players secretly decide two actions - whether to produce goods, soldiers, or inventions (yellow, red, and blue cubes), or to attack another player or defend against attack, or to store and/or salvage resources, and choose the appropriate gear (and sometimes give up resources to power that gear) to rotate each action card to those desired actions. Actions resolve in stages (collection first, then attack/defense, then store/salvage), and after a certain number of rounds the player who stored the most things (goods, soldiers, and inventions) and got the best bonuses for majority in each color of cube wins. In our game I came in first with 15 points.

I thought it was good, but a little too fiddly for a micro-game. One reason I liked Cypher better is that it was only cards, no cubes.

After this last game we shopped, failed to win at the Mayfair raffle, ate, packed up, and headed out for the ~7 hour drive home without hitting any deer or police officers along the way. Success! The End.
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