Origins 2010 Wrap

Well, another Origins is over, and from all accounts the show was very successful. Word is that attendance was up a whopping 20% over last year, and the dealers that I talked to all said that sales were up significantly. The Board Room ribbons, which had projected to sell a few hundred, broke 1500 sold and had to be capped because there physically wasn’t enough room in the area, even after adding a couple dozen tables.

While I left Origins with less swag than is typical, and played only a couple of games, I still had a fantastic time. I was a regular attendee of Origins even before I lived in town (8 minute drive from home to the convention center FTW,) so I’ll definitely be back next year.

I leave with a strong hankering to do more boardgaming over the coming year. I’ll probably post updates on how that goes as things develop.

The 2010 Origins Awards

I was planning on liveblogging from the Origins Awards, but other stuff came up. So in lieu of that, here’s a link to a list of the nominees and winners. Congratulations to all of them!

Origins Spotlight: Baba Yaga

I’m feeling almost guilty doing one of these on a game called Baba Yaga. Not because Russian folklore is unworthy subject matter for a boardgame, or because Chicken Hut Games is a small startup. I’m feeling slightly guilty because Thad and Rich, the designers, are friends of mine. So is Julia who hand-assembled the game in her living room and who runs Dogs in the Vineyard for us every so often. For that matter, so is Maryanne who did the logo (somebody I’ve met twice is a friend, right?) and so on and so forth. So be warned: unlike the other products I’ve had in these Origins Spotlights, I know the people making it, and cannot remotely be accused of not being biased.

I did not, however, manage to playtest the game, although I’d seen some of the components. I did get to play it today and it’s a lot of fun. It’s based on Russian medieval folktales, as noted, and despite being a (mostly) cottage production the component quality is very high. (I don’t want to give the wrong idea – everything is professionally printed, but the game was assembled in Thad and Julia’s living room.)

Baba Yaga is one of those rare boardgames that actually plays like an RPG that’s not D&D. It’s very story-driven, to the point where reading the flavor text on the cards as they’re played added a lot of atmosphere to the game. I would like to play it again, and I’m sure I’ll get the chance; knowing where the designers live and all, I can drop by at 2AM and demand to play. I’m sure they won’t mind.

Baba Yaga is available for sale at Origins (at the Con on the Cob booth,) and online ordering should be available in the next couple of weeks.

Origins Spotlight: Blitzkrieg and the Renaissance of the Monster

If wargaming has become unduly directed toward the various “monster games” in recent years, it’s still gratifying to see new blood enter that particular sub-fold of wargame publishers, even more so if they’re promoting their work at Origins. One such company is Diffraction Entertainment, an international team with a remarkable product line that they’re showing this year, The Second World War.

Proofs of the first module in the series, Blitzkrieg, are at the show and it’s pretty impressive. The entire line will cover all of World War II at the operational level, at 15 miles to the hex and in two-week turns, but Blitzkrieg takes western Europe from the invasion of Poland in 1939 to the fall of France in 1940 – and beyond if a brave German player wants to attempt Operation Sea Lion. The land, air and naval wars are all covered in immense detail, the level of research involved is simply staggering, and the maps are works of true craftsmanship, derived from modern satellite maps, military maps from the American, German and Russian archives, and even such things as wartime-era Polish railroad archives (it’s more important than you’d think, when you need to ferry provisions to your troops on the Russian front.)

I had a long chat with John Bannerman of Diffraction, and in his fine Scottish brogue he told me that people working on at least three continents have put over 15,000 man-hours of research into the project so far. Blitzkrieg isn’t going to be for the faint of heart, or for the new-to-wargaming, but to the hardcore audience this has to be one of the most exciting releases of the last few years. It didn’t make Origins as a salable product due to printing hassles, but I’m told it will be available for order fairly shortly – and Diffraction may be putting in an appearance at GenCon.

Origins Spotlight: The Return of the Folio Wargame

Origins has its origins (ha!) in the hobby of tabletop board wargaming. It was started in 1975 in part by Avalon Hill, and has a long tradition of supporting wargaming. With the graying of the wargaming hobby that’s declined a great deal in recent years.

But there are two bright lights at this year’s show. One is Decision Games‘ new series of folio titles, which will be launching shortly but unfortunately weren’t ready for Origins. These harken back to SPI’s old folio and quad titles – relatively simple, quick-play games that are priced at the entry level (most will be $19.95,) and aimed at introducing new players to the wargaming hobby. Many of the titles are in fact revised version of SPI classics such as Kasserine and Bastogne, which Decision now owns the rights to. Board wargaming has long needed this kind of entry-level product, and it’s gratifying to see that Decision will have a whole line of them out in the next few weeks – and they’re not all World War II titles, either. The whole list includes such battles as Leipzig, Shiloh and the Golan Heights.

As for the other wargaming highlight of the show… well, stay tuned.

Ardwulf Does Origins, Day 2

As a general rule, any game that I would like to play in at Origins is sold out by the time I try to buy tickets for it. Thus it was today with Fantasy Flight GamesTwilight Imperium a title I own and like very much but don’t get to play very often because it’s huge and time-consuming.

I did spend quite a lot of time strolling through the dealer’s room talking to people and browsing, and picked up a couple of bargain buys – AEG’s Empire (an oldish d20 product that I’d been on the prowl for,) and the Kingdoms of Kalamar Atlas, another one of those books I owned but foolishly sold off at some point.

Brian O’Halloran of Clerks fame is here, by the way – I’ve seen him several times already, but as a general rule I’m not interested in bugging celebrities.

I also had to throw some drunk out of the press room. It’s not as entertaining a story as it might be, however.

Update: I also scored a couple of trial codes for Star Trek Online and Champions Online. Those will get some use fairly soon.

Origins Spotlight: 40KOrigins

40KOrigins.com is a group of fans local to Columbus (with some additional folks in accursed Michigan,) who have put a massive amount of time, effort and money into putting together and promoting a huge series of events and tournaments at this year’s show. Among those events is a gigantic event tomorrow in the Apocalypse format, projected for 400,000+ points. For those not familiar with the points system used for 40K, this amount of points is beyond huge. I’m planning on getting some pictures of the event to post tomorrow.

I spoke today to two members of the group, Jim Leitzel and Doug Houseman, and what struck me in our discussion was that 40KOrigins isn’t a company-sponsored group; , they’re just a group of enthusiasts who saw a greater need for a 40K presence at Origins and decided to do something about it. Although they’re getting some support (in the form of prizes,) from local stores in the Columbus area, they’re getting absolutely no help from Games Workshop. Despite the fact that they’re doing a tremendous job promoting one of GW’s product lines at one of North America’s premier gaming events – a responsibility that GW itself seems to have abdicated, as they haven’t had an official presence here in many years, and the presence of their games has waned precipitously.

These guys are shooting to run the largest 40K game ever played tomorrow. Anyone at the show owes it to themselves to drop by the miniatures hall tomorrow (the thing will probably be running most of the day,) to check it out – and play in it, if possible. What 40K player wouldn’t want to be a participant in the biggest 40K game ever, in what is sure to be one of the most memorable events from this year’s show?

Also, the winners’ trophies are very slick. Hopefully I’ll get some pictures of them as well.

Origins Spotlight: Atlas Games

I took the opportunity to sit down this afternoon with Bobbie Olson, freelancer and self-described “warehouse monkey and office troll” for Atlas Games.

Atlas’ big push this year is for a card game called Renfaire, which came out very late last year year and is the company’s biggest release so far this year. It’s up for an Origins Award for best children’s, family or party game. It sounds pretty neat, and given the interests of Mrs. Ardwulf and I, I strongly suspect that this game will end up on my own shelf at some point. Atlas also has an expansion out for Mad Scientist University on the spring break theme.

I focused my questions, though, on Ars Magica, the premier game for roleplaying wizards (and not coincidentally one of my personal favorite games.) Bobbie says that the line is doing very well and told me about a couple of new books in the works, including one on ancient Rome and Greece. Alas that she couldn’t give me a firm title or a release date, but it likely will not be out by GenCon.

There’s also – and this may be surprising to many – some stuff in the works for Unknown Armies. I didn’t get anything firm on it (yet,) but I’m very happy that this remarkable game will be getting some more love soon. I’ll try to corner Jeff Tidball at the show and pry some information out of him.

Ardwulf Does Origins, Day 1

I’m writing live from the Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio. Go New Media! So far I haven’t done anything but take a quick look around, but I hope to provide news and updates over the next couple of days.

The biggest news that I’ve caught so far is that the Dresden Files RPG is here – initial word was that it wasn’t going to make it, which would be unfortunate, as it’s the biggest release Origins has seen in years. I suspect that supplies are limited; I’ll try and catch a moment with the fine folks at Evil Hat to find out.