Origins 2011--In Praise of the Day Pass
M King
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Last year, I almost swore off Origins. Pre-registering on the website was so frustrating I gave up, onsite registration took an hour, and from there it went downhill. Everything that could go wrong did, leaving me a sour taste.

But I couldn't resist going back one more time, this time with a different strategy. My son and I got day passes, saving us the $70 for one day badges and $ 40 for Board Room ribbons we'd purchased in previous years. I figured we could use that $110 on games instead. Also, in years past I felt like I'd never really explored all the Exhibitors Hall had to offer.

So, on Saturday the 25th, we tried Origins again with our new strategy. I'm really glad I did, because this was one of my favorite convention experiences. Below are the highlights.
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1. Board Game: Speedy [Average Rating:6.38 Unranked]
M King
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My first experience at Origins was lining up to get our day passes. When we first saw the line to get them my son groaned, no doubt remembering past registration experiences. But this line moved right along and in five or ten minutes at most we had our wristbands, our swag bags, we'd picked up the convention "books" and headed for the exhibitors hall. I was amazed at how fast it was compared to the dismally slow onsite badge registration. Don't know about this year, but last year was awful.
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2. Board Game Publisher: Decision Games (I)
 
M King
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Our first stop was turning in our Decision Games coupons for free copies of Strategy and Tactics or World at War. My son and I made our choices and moved on.
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3. Board Game: The Resistance [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:186]
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We passed the booth demoing this game and joined a quick game. It is sort of a Werewolf variant with a Resistance fighters' cell being infiltrated by one or more spies. You must use deduction to figure out who the spies are in order to thwart their attempts to sabotage your missions. It took a while to catch on to the ways you use people's actions to give you information about what they are. Of course, if they're new to the game they may not make the best move, thereby throwing off your deductions. Which is what we did. It was a fun, simple game with lots of party-game-ish interaction. I probably would have bought it if not for the 5 player minimum. I rarely have that many people wanting to play a game. Still, the folks at the booth were great, and I look forward to checking out their next game, 911 to the Rescue.
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4. Board Game: Strike of the Eagle [Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:1400]
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Having played the online contest/tutorial just released for this game, I was very psyched to try it out. We walked right into a demo at the Academy Games section of Mayfair's substantial gaming area. The teacher was great--like all the Academy staff I've met he was very well informed, personable, and friendly. We went through a two turn demo and I was impressed by a lot of things about the game. The hidden orders added a layer of decision making to the game that raised it above some other block games. The physical production was, as is the case with all Academy games, top-notch Euro-quality. It had the kind of constant interaction between players that is present in the COH series. And like COH it produced a lot of interesting historical effects from very elegant mechanics. This is the one game I purchased at the con with all that money I saved this time around. Considering how gorgeous this game is, and how fun, it was money well spent.
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5. Board Game: Pick a Paint [Average Rating:5.79 Overall Rank:12108]
M King
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Next, my son went to the Paint and Take area and painted what looked like a WW2 French soldier. He did a really nice job in a short amount of time. The paint and take area is a nice relaxing oasis in the middle of all the chaos. I was tempted to join him, but couldn't resist trying to get some more demoing done. While he was there, I ran off and demoed...
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6. Board Game: Spearpoint 1943 [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:4083] [Average Rating:6.88 Unranked]
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This game. I received a demo from the designer and company founder himself. I hope I didn't offend him. I was a little antsy during the demo wondering if my son was done painting and looking for me. So if you read this, Byron, I was enjoying the game, I was just distracted.

This was an impressive little game. I liked the simple but effective mechanics and the way the graphic design of the cards presented you with all the information you needed. It reminded me a little of Naval Battles, with its two lines of units and reinforcements that you bring in from your hand. It played very fast and seemed fun. I'm interested to see what the game boards add to the experience. I may jump in to this system after seeing how that works.

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7. Board Game: Let's Do Lunch! [Average Rating:5.50 Overall Rank:13067]
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Next up was lunch. Time is of the essence when you only have one day so we took our coupons to the food court, grabbed some BBQ and headed back to the action. We went to the open gaming area. We saw Star Trek Expeditions being demoed but we passed it by as we went on in search of two games that we never did find. They were...
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8. Board Game: Sturm Europa! [Average Rating:8.16 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.16 Unranked]
 
M King
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Sturm Europa. Didn't see it anywhere.

And...
 
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9. Board Game: War Stories: Red Storm [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:8038] [Average Rating:7.30 Unranked]
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Again, we didn't see it anywhere. Maybe we were looking in the wrong area, but the sign said "open gaming" and we didn't see any other areas marked that way. This was disappointing as I was looking forward to checking out both these games. I hope other folks found them and will post their thoughts.
 
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10. Board Game: Dungeon Run [Average Rating:6.30 Overall Rank:2580]
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We returned to the exhibit hall and made our way to Plaid Hat's booth. Colby Dauch gave us a demo of his company's next game, Dungeon Run. My son and I both enjoyed it, finding in it some echoes of Betrayal at House on the Hill, and Wrath of Ashardalon, only, as my son put it..."better." There seemed to be more tactics involved in the battles, less same-ness in the dungeon environment, and the possibility of shifting from cooperation to competition seemed a great touch. It looks like this will be another great success for Colby and Plaid Hat. My gosh he is young--how can he be such a talented designer and be that young?
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11. Board Game: Julius Caesar [Average Rating:7.78 Overall Rank:744]
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I had looked in vain for Columbia Games in the exhibitors' list, but despite a statement by Columbia that they would be at Origins, I didn't see them. But as I was wandering the hall I found a copy of Julius Caesar laid out for demoing and a bookshelf full of other Columbia games. This was the Ferkins Games booth, and the proprietor was nice enough to give us a demo of a turn. I could see the great physical design and the elegant simplicity of the ruleset. But my son wasn't really grabbed by it--maybe we needed to play a few more turns. It's still on my buy list, but maybe I'll wait a little later in the summer for it.
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12. Board Game: Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:1163]
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Next we hit the Stronghold Games booth and played a demo of this interesting game. The physical set is gorgeous, with a beautiful mounted board and hard plastic two-part pieces that look like something from a high quality mahjongg set. It looks like Stratego in reverse, with your opponents pieces visible to you, but not your own, and vice versa. It blends deduction and abstract strategy. A lot of fun.
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13. Board Game: Dice Town [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:730]
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Next, we stopped by the Dice Tower booth. Not much happening here, though we were efficiently and helpfully signed up for the raffle and given some free dice, which was nice. You can never have too many dice.
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14. Board Game: Ascending Empires [Average Rating:7.19 Overall Rank:810]
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We got a quick run-down of the rules, but didn't go on to play. The dexterity element was interesting, and the 4x style gameplay might be fun, but this didn't call out to us. Possibly because it was the end of the day.
 
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15. Board Game: Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! – Russia 1941-42 [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:419]
 
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And this was the high point of the convention--a three year old game I've owned since the Origins convention where it was released. I'd never played with the revised, simultaneous activation rules. They really made it a better game, and I think it answers many of the criticisms of the original game. Uwe's son Gunter gave us a demo with the new rules--very fitting since he was the one that demoed the game for us at Origins three years ago when the game first came out. We played a really nail-biting scenario that saw the advantage move back and forth, but ultimately, an early mistake on my part, and good tactics on my sons's part, gave him the victory. It had been a while since we'd played it, and as we were in the middle of the game my son remarked "I forgot how fun this game is." Later as we walked out of the exhibitors room as it closed he said "I don't know about these new games--I want to go home and play more Conflict of Heroes."
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16. Board Game: The Polls are Closed! [Average Rating:6.07 Unranked]
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And that was pretty much our day. I didn't list all the games I looked at and lusted after--I came close to bringing Stronghold home, and COH: Price of Honour, and Frontline Spearpoint, and Confusion, but I decided to wait until payday. I bought some card protectors from the very nice and helpful people at MayDay. I realize I've written about lots of nice people at this con and its not because I'm such a Pollyanna but because really everyone was great. It was the inverse of last year's experience when we seemed to run into every grouchy person at Origins. I did come to one conclusion--
 
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17. Board Game: Bargain Day [Average Rating:4.75 Unranked]
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The Day Pass is a fantastic deal for someone like me who can only make it up for a day. We had a very full day of gaming. We had a mix of partial demos, full games, and rules briefings. We saw hot new games and classics. We talked to a lot of great people. And we didn't lack for stuff to do for even a minute. In fact, we didn't get to many things I'd hoped to see, like Gorilla Games and Out of the Box Games and Crazy Egor's and I didn't get to Chessex for some funky dice. And my idea to stay after the exhibitor's hall closing for more gaming in the Open Gaming Area, we were pretty tired, and had a 2 hour drive to get home, so we just hit the road, instead.

While I missed the fun at the Board Room, I didn't miss spending the extra $110 that would have cost me. After last year I was ready to write Origins off completely, but now I can't wait until next year. Of course with the change of dates, who knows if we'll be able to be there, but we'll give it a try.
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