Spreading the love of board games one meeple at a time
Last month Krista and I made an impromptu trip to Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio. It was only a week away and one night when I got home from work, she asked me if I wanted to go.
The thing about my wife is she always wants to travel, go new places, and see new things, so I assume this was her way of getting in a mini vacation for her, while making it seem like it was all for me. Another reason we decided to up and go to Origins was because we plan on going to Spiel in Essen, Germany this October (the world’s largest board game fair), and we were curious to see what a game fair is all about.
Having an avid love for board games (perhaps an unhealthy obsession) I was very keen to see, meet, and talk to just about everyone I could at this event: industry leaders, game designers, volunteers and enthusiasts. I will admit to feeling like a little kid again, full of excitement, dreams, and possibilities.
The fair itself was huge, although we were informed it wasn’t as big as Gen Con in August, and supposedly pales in comparison to Essen in October. It was big conference halls filled with exhibitors demonstrating and selling their games. At first our plan was just to walk around and take everything in, but everyone was so friendly and outgoing that almost immediately we found ourselves seated at a table at the Slugfest booth playing The Red Dragon Inn 3.
The Red Dragon Inn 3 is a hilarious game where players take the role of an adventurer. I was Wizgille the Gnomish Tinkerer while Krista was Phrenk the Troll Alchemist. Our Slugfest representative, who taught us the game, was Kaylin the Pixie Enchanter with her giant wolf, Wulfric. We enjoyed learning the game and finding out about the company and who designed the game. Krista loved it so much that we purchased a copy of The Red Dragon Inn 2.
It was at this point when I realized we should have brought an extra bag to the fair, as there were going to be many games I would want to buy. But, as I mentioned in my Shut-the-Box post, we are strictly carry-on luggage only travelers. We may have to revise this rule for our trip to Germany.
Our desire to buy everything versus our ability to bring it home brought up an interesting debate: should you buy directly from the exhibitor, who is often the actual designer or, help out your Friendly Local Game Store and support a local business? In the end our luggage restrictions answered the question for us, but when we could we purchased from the designer. There was so much excitement from people who know and love their own game, that it really is hard not to purchase some games directly.
After the Slugfest booth, we came to a game called Sentinels of the Multiverse. It’s a cooperative card based game where players work as a team of super-heros, fighting together to stop an evil adversary from taking over the world. The gameplay was easy to follow, and with different hero and villain characters available, from the core game to its expansions, leaves a fair amount of re-playability. The game plays as if it was a comic book with great art and would greatly appeal to anyone interested in the comic scene.
After the game we got a chance to talk to the booth representative, who turned out to be the co-founder of the game and the company Greater Than Games, Christopher Badell.
We asked Christopher how he ended up in the game industry and he told us a really amazing and inspiring story about the start up of his company and how he never really thought of becoming a game designer. He said he was just trying to make something he would enjoy and before he knew it, great interest was formed. Christopher managed to team up with the right people, and suddenly he was a part of a successful game company. I can only imagine the high people like Christopher get from witnessing people playing his game and enjoying it.
Another game we played was, Hibernia. We were drawn to it because it had a really lovely set up. The game designer, Eric Vogel, had commissioned an amazing colourful table sized map of his otherwise small travel sized board game. Hibernia was a Origins Award nominee for Game of the Year and I was really excited to try it out. When Eric asked us if we like war games I could tell right away that Krista was a little put off as she prefers to stay away from aggressive strategy war games. Once we got playing, however, she really liked the game (partially supplemented by the fact that she won), and suggested buying it. Sometimes if you can get past the label or the theme of a game, you find you would actually really enjoy the product. In fact, the game didn’t play too much like a war-game at all, and theme aside, was like a fun, competitive puzzle.
The fair was more than just playing games. Krista and I went to some lectures, and listened to people talk about the board game industry. We were especially inspired by Jennifer Brozek, a writer for RPGs and author. She talked about how she got in to writing for games, and gave a bit of advice about being active in the industry. She and her husband were also kind enough to give us some feedback on our blog.
We also met Dylan Birtolo, a jouster and writer from Seattle, who let us try on his armor. Being an avid board gamer himself he also sent me a great email with a long list board games to try out and introduce to people.
This trip was really turning out to be a blast, especially after we met Russell and Brian, who were demonstrating a game called King of Tokyo at the Iello booth. We ended up going out for dinner and drinks together and got introduced to the after hours Board Room. This was a really cool aspect of the Origins game fair, one Krista and I would not have experienced if not for these two. The Board Room was a giant hall of tables where people could borrow and play games from the library of games. Giant orange traffic cones were provided as markers of people who wanted more players to join them. I thought that was a great idea to help break the ice, meet some new people, and play a game together.
I think Russell and Brian really enjoyed broadening our board gaming scope and introducing us to some great games we have never played before. Krista’s favourite was Tichu, which is considered a must know trick taking game. We also really enjoyed Keythedral a game by designer Richard Breese who apparently only does limited print runs and the game is hard to come by. We also got introduced to one of my new favorite group games, Dixit, a light hearted and fun game of art and imagination.
Krista and I were at Origins for four days, and spent most of our time playing board games and attending lectures, but there was much more to Origins then just what we did. Origins has a lot of LARP events, tournaments, a beer garden, a hall dedicated to Miniatures and celebrity Q&A and photo sessions. Origins was a really amazing experience and for anyone interested in board games LARPing, minituares, or CCG’s, even if your just a casual gamer, I would definitely recommend it. The people were friendly, there were a lot of things to do, buy, and experience and overall it was a total blast.