Monday, June 28, 2010

Origins 2010


I am back home in Springfield, Ohio, for the first time in a month. The vast majority of the trip was dedicated to getting married, but the tail end was a trip to the Origins Game Fair in Columbus, OH.

Unlike GenCon last year, this year I prepared by registering for a bunch of events and got to play a bunch of games. Many games don't quite fall under the "combinatorial" heading, due to their inclusion of random elements or imperfect information, but they all have elements of looking ahead necessary for playing games well. Sometimes these elements can be modified to either publicize or derandomize information. Othertimes, other combinatorial aspects can be extracted into their own game. In any case, playing any board game can always be a useful exercise for gamesters!

Okay, I'm going to try to recall the games I played. If I forget any and add them later, I'll add a bolded note and a comment. Unfortunately, I don't have pictures now; when I take the initiative to put up all my pictures, I'll add links to the origins pics.

I missed the first few days of the convention and showed up on Friday morning. That morning, I was lured into the Looney Labs room by a bunch of people playing World War 5. I got in on the next game and pulled off a sneaky win with the luck of the dice. This continued a pattern of other games using Treehouse pieces, starting with Volcano, an actual combinatorial game. After this, I sat down and was introduced to Martian Coasters, then Treehouse, the original game for the pieces, then Martian Chess (another combinatorial game!) and finally Pikemen (combinatorial again!). Pikemen was especially fun, since we played on a three-player chess board someone there had!

I stayed extra long at the Looney Lab site, and had to race to my D&D appointment with some other folks from Wittenberg. After that fun excursion, I played Age of Conan, which was a bit disappointing. Saturday started off with my first game of Arkham Horror, which is perhaps the first time I've ever played a co-operative board game. Here, all the players work together to complete a task (sealing away an ancient, Lovecraftian demon) while the game mechanics work to try to unleash the monster into the world. Definitely not combinatorial, but definitely very fun.

Arkham Horror was followed by Robo Rally, which I had played once before. This is a great board game that really uses some programming aspects. In this game, players move robots around a grid by choosing individual move or turn cards from a dealt hand. Those cards are placed face down in an order to be executed, then all players' first cards are revealed and executed, followed by the second, and so on. My first sequence of moves was miscalculated and landed me in a pit obstacle on the grid. Oops! While at Origins, I tried to find a copy, but didn't find one reasonably priced. This is by far one of my favorite games from the weekend.

Heroscape came next, a strategical battle game with very beautiful pieces and an easy-to-understand hexagonal layout. I generally swoon for hexagons, but I didn't expect I would enjoy playing this game as much as I did.

Next, I headed over to the Mayfair room, expecting to get roped into some form of Settlers---I've never played! Instead, I got in on a demo of a not-yet-produced gem, slated to be named Lords of Vegas. This game simulates casino bosses building up the Las Vegas strip. As the rules were described, I thought it was going to be overly complex, but then everything came together as we played. We were easily the loudest table in the whole Mayfair room that night, and the game came down to a roll of dice at the last moment. This was tons of fun, and actually one of those times where some simple probability analysis can really help out.

My last scheduled event was Runewars on Sunday morning. This game did not inspire me (though there were hexagons) as much as others, mostly because there were a few too many things going on all at the same time, and just too many rules to keep track of. Some board elements didn't seem to interact in any way, and I lost interest pretty quickly. I did make up for this by spending the afternoon browsing the dealer hall and demoing a few games that caught my eye. I spent some time at the Out of the Box booth, meeting some people there and trying out some other games. I also met the creator of WEGS and learned the basics for that role-playing system. I made sure to get a set of Treehouse pieces to play around with later.

Did anyone find any great combinatorial (or combinatorialish) games at Origins? If so, I'd love to hear about them!