Games Played, Demoed, or Watched @ Origins 2017
Eric Leath
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A list of games experienced at this year's Origins 2017 game convention, and my thoughts on each respective title.

(Still working on getting opinions written for everything. Apparently I had more to say than I originally thought; sorry guys)
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1. Board Game: Adrenaline [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:542]
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Played a few rounds of this with Patrick Hillier and a few nice women whose names I forget during the Punchboard Media get together.

Only played a few rounds of this, as I was falling asleep from getting up at 4:30a that morning for work, but I wasn't really into this particular title, which aims to re-create the feeling of FPS video games like Halo, etc. While it gave this feel very well, the game felt like a shootout from Westworld, except everyone is cast as James Marsden's character who just dies and respawns ad infinitum.

My gamer style is more defensive and cerebral, I guess; so I probably should have declined the invite in the first place, but if someone did a game like this with CLASS SPECIFIC roles (e.g. Team Fortress 2 or Overwatch) and/or different/customizable maps, I'd definitely be willing to try it out.
 
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2. Board Game: Bärenpark [Average Rating:7.41 Overall Rank:388]
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Got 4 plays of this in and taught a few more at the Mayfair booth when their team was busy.

Aside from Century: Spice Road, I think this may have been the game with the most buzz during Origins. The patchwork like game has you building a theme park for bears consisting of 4x4 tiles. When you cover up certain icons with the polyominoes, you subsequently receive other pieces or draw another 4x4 tile. If you cover 15 of the 16 squares on a tile, you then are rewarded with a bear token (tokens decrease in value from 16 to 1, so get on them quickly).

Frankly, this was probably my favorite *Published* game of Origins this year. Everyone with whom I played grasped how to play quickly and enjoyed it thoroughly. It will draw comparisons to Patchwork and Cottage Garden: It can handle 2 more players than Patchwork, and doesn't seem quite as deep as Cottage Garden (though the difference is marginal), but is ~20$ cheaper than the latter title, so choose at your own discretion. In any case, I'm glad I picked this one up and look forward to playing it with my group.
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3. Board Game: Braintopia [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:5650]
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Watched a group of well-known reviewers {Watch It Played, Roll Dice Take Names, OneTAR, etc) play this on Wednesday.

Braintopia is a speed game in which players rush to solve a problem or do certain actions faster than all other individuals playing. For example, some cards may have a player feeling a tactile card and trying to distinguish what it is; other cards might assign color and value to your fingers then ask you to put an equivalent value on a part of your body (e.g. blue 3 on your nose = right middle finger on your schnoz).

This one seemed interesting as a starter for a game night or for use with people who fancy themselves as intellectuals but not gamers. I'd play it, but probably not often and probably not for very long. Think of it as a "fancy appetizer" in the restaurant of gaming.
 
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4. Board Game: Century: Spice Road [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:219] [Average Rating:7.47 Unranked]
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Played Once at the Plan B booth

The *other* hot game at Origins this year, this one sold out relatively quickly. I don't feel that I need to provide explanation on how the game works... as it's been well documented in LOTS of different places before the con started. If you haven't seen it, look up BGG's playthrough of it on GameNight!

Opinion wise, I'm somewhat torn on if I like this game or Splendor better. On one hand, I like the strategic aspect of Splendor better; that is, I feel like you can actually plan ahead in Splendor better as opposed to just hoping the right card(s) flop(s) onto the board in Century. Conversely, the engine building in Century feels a lot more rewarding: Splendor has a "oh, I've got these gems on my cards, I guess I can get this Level 2 card" whereas Century's turning X into Y then Y into Z has a euphoric Rube-Goldberg feel, even if it does take multiple turns to pull off successfully.

I held off on buying this one, and will probably pass on it altogether, opting instead for the Cities of Splendor expansion coming out later this year. It seems like a decent game, but doesn't hit me hard enough that I feel like I need both it and Splendor in my collection.
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5. Board Game: Codenames Duet [Average Rating:7.89 Overall Rank:125] [Average Rating:7.89 Unranked]
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Watched my wife and our friend Christie play this one on Sunday morning before the hall opened. The CGE team doing demonstrations was fantastic too, so I think they deserve a big shoutout from us for their demeanor and professionalism.

Again, not gonna go into how to play Codenames... though this one adds a bit more of a cooperative feel to the title. I also like that there is a pseudo campaign mode included with the game where you get a varying number of clues to pick up and mistakes allowable.

We will probably pick this one up at some point. I don't think it's better than original Codenames, but is light years better than the Pictures expansion; and, if nothing else, the card sizes are the same as Original Codenames, so the cards can be cannibalized to add more variety to the award winning first title.
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6. Board Game: Discount Salmon [Average Rating:5.69 Overall Rank:11231]
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Played once at lunch on Sunday, but have played several other times with friends Chris Copac and Tiffany from League of Nonsensical Gamers.

Discount Salmon was the winner of the Tabletop Deathmatch contest run by CAH's Max Temkin a few years back and is a speed reaction game that tasks players with curing fish swimming in Lake Miasma, the world's most polluted body of water. Players spread the lake cards out then flip one over to reveal a fish with various maladies (Such as Dry, Toxic, Ugly, Stinky, etc.) Players then rush to play modifier cards on the fish such as Lotion to cure Dry, Perfume to cure stinky, Make up to cure ugly, etc.) The player who has the most fish when the lake empties is declared the winner.

Generally I loathe speed games, but I seem to have picked up several at this year's Origins. Discount Salmon is just a silly game that gets people laughing and is excellent at making people drop their preconceived notion that games have to be complex or inaccessible.
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7. Board Game: The Downfall of Pompeii [Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:447]
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Played once on Sunday; have played other peoples' copies numerous times


Ah Pompeii! The super thematic game of throwing people in volcanoes after you firmly establish your place in hell by blocking an escape route with Lava. For those unfamiliar with the game, it is played in two phases:
1.) Phase one has you populating the city of Pompeii by playing cards that correspond to colored buildings in the city.
2.) Phase two sees the volcano erupt, raining terror down on the city in the form of lava tiles drawn from a bag. If citizens aren't adept enough at (literally) playing "the floor is lava," they are burnt to a crisp and their charred bodies are thrown into the volcano piece on the board.

The winner is the player who manages to get the most villagers out of the city unsinged.

As you can probably tell, I love Pompeii and was happy to get my own copy of the title using a 50% off coupon earned from demoing Mayfair games.

 
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8. Board Game: Ethnos [Average Rating:7.59 Overall Rank:244]
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Played once with my wife, Matt Loomis (Cosmic Kaboom, Seikatsu), and Ben Pinchback (Fleet, Goonies, BttF, Wasteland Express...)

Though this one seemed to have a lot of buzz going into Origins, it didn't seem to be talked about once the convention officially started. I'm not sure if this is because CMON didn't have any copies on hand until Saturday or if people had picked it up earlier... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Anyway, Ethnos sees players drafting cards from a deck and then making sets consisting of all one color (i.e. region) or all one creature/race (i.e. Wizards or Elves). When a set is played, the rest of the cards in hand are discarded and a marker is placed on the board in location matching the COLOR of the card chosen to be the leader of that set, so long as you have fewer pieces there than cards in your set.

[For example: if you played a set of 4 Elves and chose the Orange one to be the leader of the group, you could place a piece of your color in the orange region as long as you currently have 3 or fewer pieces there]

Additionally, each race has a special power you can utilize when you play a set with them as the leader: Halflings are numerous but don't place markers on the board; Elves return cards to your hand, Wizards let you draw cards (*cough* and seem fairly OP *cough*) and skeletons are fragile and decay at the end of each round, thus affecting the number of points you get for sets (in this case, the larger the better, going up to 15 points for a set of 6). Play goes on for 3 rounds, with the player having the most pieces in an area winning the points (in later rounds, 2nd and 3rd points are also awarded).

I liked this one pretty well... turns go SUPER quick and, though it sometimes seems like players are in topdeck mode once the initial row runs out, the fact that players have to discard any cards not used in a set fills your options up with fairly good regularity. I *did* get a rule wrong during our play, for which I apologize to Matt and Ben, but it didn't seem to affect their enjoyment.
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9. Board Game: Ex Libris [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:798]
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Played Friday(?) evening with Daniel Newman, Aaron Wilson, and Jason Kingsley; taught by Adam McIver

The playtest of this prototype (coming later this year from Renegade Games) happened purely by chance: I was browsing Twitter hoping to find people with whom to eat dinner and saw Daniel and Adam talking about playing games in the UnPub room. So I made my way down to the end of the hall and saw Adam setting up his game. Spoiler: I was an English major and have worked in a library, so this game's theme was right up my alley.

Ex Libris (Latin for "From the Library of...") has players going around a magical town (via the Worker Placement mechanic) collecting books to put in their private collection in hopes of being deemed worthy of being the town's next Grand Librarian. Players get to place 2 normal workers and one special worker per turn. In my case, I had the thief, who could steal an opponent's cards if I named a book genre that was in their hand. Other players had such fantastic beasts as a Fire Imp, a Ghost, and a Gelatinous Cube.

Additionally, you need to SHELVE the books you get (represented by the game's cards). Not only that, but it behooves you to shelve them Alphabetically {something I did not do well in our playthrough, but can be remedied by not playing like an absolute idiot}. Likewise, points can be achieved by:
- shelf stability (i.e. having a large square or rectangular shelf rather than singular titles hanging precariously.
- Having cards of your secret goal genre (Mine was "Monster Manuals")
- Having cards of the public genre (Ours was Reference), and
- Having the most LEAST of a particular genre [think Knizia scoring in something like Ingenious]

Players can also lose points by having titles from the banned genre (our banned list included Fictional Works).

Overall, I thought this was a really good and clever title I'm looking forward to purchasing when it releases. I would have liked more ways to manipulate the place of books on my shelf, but as I said... this could have been remedied by me simply being less zealous with the placement of my books at the beginning of the game (and is thematically accurate because, let me tell you, moving books en masse is a huge pain in the @$$).
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10. Board Game: Fight for Olympus [Average Rating:6.87 Overall Rank:2227]
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Demo'd this game at the Mayfair tables for the sole reason of getting my Cattle Ribbon to complete the set, get my 50% off coupon, and purchase Pompeii.

This one is a hand management game somewhat like BattleLine. Players play god cards from their hands by discarding other cards of the color requirements, then placing them in one of 6 spots on the board. Gods across from each other battle, with damage being assigned in a very M:tG esque way (Power, Toughness, etc). Unopposed gods get bonuses based on where there are on the board (Olympus granting VP, Delphi(?) granting wild card markers, etc.) PLayers play until one person fills all 6 spots, gets 7 VP, or the deck runs out (which happens most often).

For being obligated to play this title to get a ribbon, it wasn't as excruciating as I was expecting. I got an early Ares on the board and was at 6VP when the Mayfair rep step in to help my opponent and make the game a little closer (I ended up winning by 1VP when the deck ran out). I learned that I'm not really a fan of discarding to play a card, but I liked the art and the theme; so there's that.
 
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11. Board Game: Ghost Blitz [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:885] [Average Rating:6.76 Unranked]
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Played Sunday night with my wife and our friend Christy (but have played before with random other friends)

Another Speed recognition game, who am I becoming?! This time around, players are putting out cute little pieces [White Ghost, Red Chair, Green Bottle, Blue Book, Grey Mouse]. Once the pieces have been placed, a card is flipped and players rush to grab the right piece based on one of two criteriae:

1.) If a piece's color matches [e.g. if there is a blue book on the card], grab IT.
2.) If there are no pieces depicted whose color is the same, grab the piece that is not depicted by a color or picture. [e.g. if there is a Red Ghost and a Blue Mouse on the card, you would grab the green bottle because it's the only thing not represented on the card.]

Much like Discount Salmon earlier in this list, Ghost Blitz is just silly fun and is great at priming non gamers for a night of slightly heavier stuff. Had been looking for this title for a while and glad I found a copy.
 
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12. Board Game: Great Western Trail [Average Rating:8.28 Overall Rank:9]
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Played Thursday(?) with Copac and Daniel Newman.

I'd been wanting to play this to see if I would enjoy it as much as other Pfister titles like Oh My Goods and Broom Service. So, we sat down, rustled up some cattle, and drove them to Kansas City over and over.

I can see why this is a popular title: the movement mechanism is compelling and there are lots of moving pieces to fiddle with upon repeated plays, but this title is a little heavier than what I normally play. Thus, I would certainly play it again if asked to, but I don't feel any need to own it or seek people out to play it again.
 
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13. Board Game: Honshū [Average Rating:7.08 Overall Rank:743]
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Played Fri(?) with Aaron Wilson and some guy who wouldn't shut up about how he liked to compulsively smell game components gulp

Pictures and reviews of this one had been blowing up my twitter timeline for quite awhile, and I typically love what Renegade has to offer. So, I figured I should give this one a try; and, after some initial confusion about the rules, we were off.

For those under a rock, Honshu is a "Trick Taking game*" (sorry purists) of two parts:
1.) The trick taking part, which works exactly as you would imagine aside from the option of a player to use a cube from his city to add 60 to the card's face value, then...
2.) Taking cards from the trick and adding them to your city. There are specific rules about how you can tuck/cover certain squares of the cards, but as a generalization, you want to have large groups of contiguous lakes, forests, and cities. Additionally, you'll also want to have cubes that can be delivered to factories of the same color.

Frankly, my initial impression was that Honshu is kinda underwhelming compared to all the hype it is/was getting. In most of the tricks we had (I'd say roughly 80-85%), the player who threw the highest card generally took their own card into their city (with the 2nd and 3rd place people doing the same) which made me wonder why we were going through the trouble of the first step anyway. Passing cards to the Left and Right after the first half of your hand was played also felt a little forced/unnecessary {though I understand what it adds from a strategic standpoint)

Despite this, the game intrigued me enough that I'd certainly play it again to see what I'm potentially missing.
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14. Board Game: Hounded [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:4992]
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Demo'd Saturday with my Wife, then played Sunday (x2)

While walking through the auxiliary gaming hall earlier in the week, I came across this asymmetrical Fox & the Hound game that came with absolutely adorable meeples. R and I are always looking for more 2P games to play and this seemed like it would be right in our wheelhouse.

As you might have guess, Hounded has one player as the Fox and the other as the Houndmaster and his 5 dogs (3 Foxhounds, a Terrier, and a Bulldog). Each turn, the fox may move 3 spaces--one of which may be diagonally--on a 7x7 grid and then flip over a tile. Most of the hounds may move 2 spaces orthogonally or 1 space diagonally; with the exceptions being the Bulldog and Houndmaster (who can move one space orthogonally). Additionally, the terrier can "dig," a move that can be used to flip any tile on which he ends his turn. To win, the hounds must make the fox end his/her turn next to the Houndmaster and the fox must either uncover the Day/Dusk/Night tiles , or elude the hunters until all but 6 tiles are flipped.

My wife and I have found this one to be a great filler and I can see it hitting the table a ton in the forthcoming months. If you have a significant other or child with whom you play games, I highly recommend this one.
 
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15. Board Game: Magic Maze [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:333]
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Watched Rodney Smith, OneTar, Marty from Roll Dice/Take Names, and a few others play this on Wednesday.

I figure most of you know how this one works by now: Players are fantasy characters looking to ransack a mall and then GTFO as quickly and efficiently as possible. There's only one thing making this a little more difficult than anticipated: namely, each player can only move the pawn in a singular direction. So, Rodney may be able to move the pawns down and Tiffany may be able to move pawns left, so you're gonna have to communicate to get things done.

except... you can't talk. You can only "gently" tap (read: vehemently slam) a red pawn in front of the player you want to take action.

I think *I* would love this title, but I'm not sure how it would go over with my group, considering one of our members is very chatty. Regardless, I will probably pick this up at some point and give it a go. I like the creative design and want to encourage more things like it.
 
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16. Board Game: Onitama [Average Rating:7.59 Overall Rank:177]
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Demo'd Sunday with our friend Christy.

I'm a fan of abstracts and had heard good things about this title. This, coupled with a new expansion piqued my interest enough to give things a try.

In Onitama, 5 cards are dealt to the table (2 to each player and one to a central, communal area.) When a player takes a turn, moving one of his/her pieces into a space dictated by a card in front of him/her, he/she places the card used into the communal area and takes the communal card into his/her play area. Repeat ad nauseum until one player's master is captured or a player's dojo is invaded.

I'm sure there is far more to this one than I picked up on in a singular play, but honestly... I don't think the game was fun enough to make me want to play again. I think the demo team did the game a big disservice by putting the most banal, constricted moves on the tables as options. Our game just saw both of us turtle until we got rather sick of nothing happening, said "f**k it," and then kamikaze'd to the middle of the board just to get the painful experience over with. For my money, I'd MUCH rather play something like Santorini or The Duke.
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17. Board Game: Portal of Heroes [Average Rating:6.81 Overall Rank:2136]
Eric Leath
United States
Newark
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18. Board Game: Roll Player [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:341]
Eric Leath
United States
Newark
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19. Board Game: Seven7s [Average Rating:6.38 Overall Rank:4025]
Eric Leath
United States
Newark
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20. Board Game: Space Race: The Card Game [Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:2714]
Eric Leath
United States
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21. Board Game: Stroop [Average Rating:6.73 Overall Rank:5374]
Eric Leath
United States
Newark
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22. Board Game: Take the Bait [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
Eric Leath
United States
Newark
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23. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:2239]
Eric Leath
United States
Newark
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24. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:2239]
Eric Leath
United States
Newark
OH
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25. Board Game: Unreal Estate [Average Rating:6.29 Overall Rank:5512]
Eric Leath
United States
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