Origins 2009

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the Origins Game Fair, in Columbus, Ohio, for the first time. It was a wonderful experience and I got to hang out with a fun group of friends that I rarely get to spend time with (a result of us living in different corners of the US). As this was a game fair, many games were played. Shocking, I know. Most were new to Andy and myself, and only one was of questionable quality.

Are You the Traitor? Type: Card gametraitorcontents Players: 4-10 Duration: 10-30 mins Rating: Meh.

This was the first game played once arriving in Columbus Friday evening. I met up with several folks at the Crowne Plaza Hotel bar, where they had commandeered a large table. Chris began the game by offering the disclaimer that his kids had talked him into purchasing Are You the Traitor?. With that, we began our attempt at playing.

The premise of the game is as follows (at least to my understanding). Each person randomly chooses a character type (Key Holder, Guard, Traitor, or Wizard). The wizards then draw to find out if they are good or evil. The key holder is reveled to only the guards and the traitor. The traitor wants to get the key so that he or she can hand it over to the evil wizard. The guards want to find the traitor, so that they may arrest him. The key holder wants to find the good wizard so that he or she may hand over the key to them. Right. So, apparently, though open conversation, folks are supposed to surmise who is whom.

Let me paint a picture on how our average game played out.

Guard: "Are you the evil wizard?"

Good Wizard: "Of course not. I'm the good wizard. Can't you tell??"

Guard: "How about you? Are you the evil wizard?"

Evil Wizard: "Clearly, I'm the good one."

And it pretty much went on like that. At one point there was some wizard questioning about what they would do given the choice between a puppy in peril and a sack of gold. Pretty much, people got bored and started yelling out "You're the traitor!!" or "You're the EVIL wizard!!!" while pointing an accusing finger at their target. None of the guesses were correct which meant that evil always won the round and claimed a treasure card per evil player. Once one person got 10 points worth of treasure cards, the game was over.

During the first half of the game, I ended up always being the key holder, which lost it's appeal quickly, albeit, quite humorous.

After several rounds and even attempting to make the game more interesting by allowing the evil players to know who each other were, we ended up just calling the game.

Perhaps this game would have been more enjoyable if we had a larger group? I really couldn't say. One would think that our group of seven would have been plenty... At least the art on the cards was well done.

One positive thing that did come out of this game, we now have a nice inside joke. So, if perchance one of us spontaneously calls out "YOU are the EVIL WIZARD!!" just smile and nod.

Fluxx (ver. 4) Type: Card gamefluxx Players: 2-6 Duration: 5-30 mins Rating: Enjoyable

Moving on after Are you the Traitor?, Chris pulled out Fluxx. The premise of this game is that the rules and goals of the game keep changing as the game progresses.

The game starts out with the basic rule. Draw one, play one. Rule cards vary and may be added to the game rules each time a player is allowed to play a card. Some rules overwrite each other, but mostly, they are all additive. This means the game can get pretty wild. Luckily, there are action cards which can reset the rules among a myriad of other actions (such as allowing you to take your neighbor's cards or whatnot). Another card type is the creeper cards which you must play as soon as they are drawn. These can have negative effects upon the player. Although, most of the time these effects didn't come into play. There are goal cards that specify a certain condition that needs to be met to win the game. These can be overwritten by a new goal card. Finally, there are keeper cards which are items that are relevant to meeting the goals and must be in play to be active. For instance, a goal may state that one must have milk and cookies. If a player has the milk keeper card and the cookie keeper card in play, then that person wins.

I thought it was a fun little game. At one point the rules exploded into something like six or seven rules. That got a bit crazy, and each person's turn took several minutes (especially if they played action cards saying they could draw/play extra cards).

In fact, I had enjoyed it enough to purchase the Zombie Fluxx version after returning home (although, I had my sites on the Monty Python version, but my game store was all out of that particular version). The premise for Zombie Fluxx is mostly the same as original Fluxx, but all creepers are zombies (and there are definite side effects to having zombies). The goal cards are themed on escaping the horde or committing zombie-cide.

Spirit of the Century Type: Story-based RPGsotc-220 Players: 3-8 Duration: 3+ hours + prep. time (more than one game session) Rating: Very Enjoyable

Bright and early (for those of us still on PST) Saturday morning, we gathered once again. This time Spirit of the Century was our game of choice. The week prior to Origins our wise and all knowing DM had us create our characters and back-stories ahead of time. I was thankful for this as the last (and first) time I played this, was at Dragon*Con. We spent too much time character building and not enough time playing (in my opinion) for the allotted time.

The general premise of SotC is that all the players are characters that were born on the first day of the turn of the century (1900) and are referred to as "Centurions" for this reason. The game itself is set in the pulp era, when the characters are coming into their own, around the 1920s. The characters have some history with each other (which was setup during character creation). It is nice and action packed and creative, but still well structured. The use of "aspects" are especially fun. These are traits of the character that a player can evoke to help them out. Likewise, the DM can evoke these traits as well to put a twist in the plot. Aspects can really be anything. Some of the aspects from our game included "A Wheelbarrow, a Paperclip, and a Flashlight? I can work with that.", "Lasers Make Everything Better!", "Cold? What cold? This is BRACING.", and "It's not *designed* to do this, but...".  Also, it uses Evil Hat's FATE system.

All in all, an excellent game. I would talk in detail about our session, but that would take to long. Rumor has it that it may show up on the interwebs in podcast format at some point. I'll be sure to link to it when that happens. To sum up, there were portals, shiny automatons of DEATH, lasers, mystical crystals, evil villainy, and cake (which was a lie). Good times. I only hope we can engineer someway to continue the game through the magic of the internet.

Arkham Horror (with Innsmouth Horror Expansion) Type: Board gameva53 Players: 1-8 Duration: 2-3 hours Rating: Very Enjoyable

After lunch of Saturday, we most of us reconvened in the open gaming room to slaughter some elder gods. Yes, the next game we played was the Lovecraft mythos based board game, Arkham Horror. A folks were kind enough to setup the game before the rest of us got lost trying to find everyone wandered over.

Andy and I do in fact own a copy of Arkham Horror, but had never finished a game. Not only did we complete a game, but this was our first experience with one of the expansions. While it's a fairly involved game, with multiple rounds per turns where players and monsters wander around the city of Arkham represented by the board, it is quite fun.

The premise of the game is that a Great Old One (a randomly drawn über-monster of nastiness) will awake at a certain point in the game per a "Doom Track" that is slowly being advanced. The players' characters (or investigators as they are referred to in the game), each unique, run around Arkham (and in this case Kingsport as well) trying to close portals and slay or flee from the monsters that came through the portals. When the Great Old One inevitably awakes, the characters must defeat it or loose the game. It's players versus the game. There are other factors such as terror level and complexity from cards drawn and character traits, but that's pretty much the just of the game.

I didn't pay attention to how long the game went on for, but like most Arkham Horror games, it went on for at least several hours. Throughout the game a few folks came and went and doubled up when necessary. The great thing about this game is that you can do that without any problems or detracting from the game play. The highlight of the game was Mur's character, Hank Samson, looking for his Pa and doing the community of Arkham a service by putting down all the "ugly dogs" (a.k.a. portal monsters) that were infesting the streets. And boy howdy, did Hank put down those dogs.

In the end, we cut the game a bit short by doing some calculations and deciding that when the Great Old One awoke in the next round or two, we had sufficient fire power to put that ugly puppy down.

Pandemic Type: Board gamepandemic_cover Players: 2-4 Duration: 45-60 mins Rating: Awesome

After concluding Arkham Horror we went to a BBQ at Mur's friend's place. In addition to having some excellent burgers (thanks @Doc_Blue!) John and Laura brought Pandemic which we busted out not long after finishing our food and socializing a bit.

The premise of Pandemic is that many cities have outbreaks of some flavor of infectious disease. There are four diseases on the board at the start. These are distributed amongst various cities drawn at random. There are five types of specialists (characters) that can be drawn. Each specialist has their own specialties, so to speak, that can be used to aid the research team in their task of eliminating all of the diseases. Like Arkham Horror, this is also a cooperative game, where everyone must work together to defeat the game. This game definitely has the advantage over the players.

During the game, players draw cards that are either cities, special events, or epidemics. Cities can be used to travel from place to place, or if a player has four of a common region (cities and diseases are grouped into regions by colors), they may choose to cure the disease. Once all diseases are cured AND eradicated from the board, the players win. However, if the diseases reach a certain level, then the pandemic wins. Special events are advantageous and can be used to help the cause (such as a free airlift or preventing diseases from spreading for a turn). Epidemics are bad as they can cause a chain reaction of outbreaks. This had been our death for at least one game. During a players turn they have four actions which they can spend on moving or removing an infection token from a city or performing a specialized action or giving a city card to a player.

Strategy is essential for this game, but careful planning can still go askew with the draw of the deck. Despite the odds, it's still a very fun game because of this challenge and the cooperative nature of the game. In addition, this game won the Origins 2009 best board game award that very night. I made sure to order myself a copy once I got back home and I'm looking forward to playing it again soon.

The 3 Commandments Type: Board gamegame_285_imageboxcover Players: 3-7 Duration: 45 mins Rating: Enjoyable

After we got back downtown after the BBQ, we headed to the board game room to claim our free games (we didn't know this at the time, but apparently folks who purchased a board room ribbon got a free game). As we were late in our claim, they only had one game left which was The 3 Commandments. As a result, we got two copies. We made a trade with Jim and Mur for a copy of Ming Dynasty, so everything worked out in the end.

John and Laura had accompanied us to the board game room to make sure we got our free games (because they are just that nice :) ). After acquiring the game we were curious enough to try it out.

The premise is that one player is the high priestess (John graciously volunteered to be her first). The high priestess then draws three commandment cards. She then decides which actions (which are kept hidden from the other players) to be good commandments (2) and taboos (1). The board consists of a series of circular marked areas with different colored wooden pegs which the high priestess arranges in such a way to influence good commandment actions and discourage taboos. The goal of the other players is to do something to the pegs in order to get points for following the good commandments.

This confused us a little at first, but once we started playing it turned out to be quite an entertaining game. Since no one but the high priestess knows the commandments, you had to get creative to figure out what the good commandments were. This involved John running around the gaming table and telling a peg that is was not a pastry of some sort. There was stroking of pegs, whispering sweet nothings to the pegs, and becoming hostile to the pegs. This was a good approach, it turned out, since the commandments ranged from talking to the pegs, to touching them in a certain way, to moving them in a certain manner and all sorts of goofy stuff.

The game ends when all players have been the high priestess (changes each round). The player with the most points (tallied from good commandment acts) wins.

This would make a great party game and we were pleasantly surprised at the quality of our freebie.

The Red Dragon Inn 2 Type: Board gamereddragoninn2 Players: 2-4 Duration: 30-60 mins Rating: OK (needed more people)

After wishing everyone a fond farewell on Sunday, Andy and I went back up to the board game room. We had heard good things about The Red Dragon Inn 2 over the weekend, so we thought we'd try it out.

This was more of a card game than a board game. The board part of it was to keep card and discard piles organized and to keep track of your fortitude and alcohol content. It's a drinking game, but with drink cards rather than the actual substance (of course I've heard it works with both ;-) ). The premise is to get your opponents to pass out. This is done though drinking contests and gambling. Each turn a player draws, takes a drink, performs an action and buys other players drinks. As the game progresses your fortitude decreases while your alcohol content increases. There are action and drinks than can help you as well as hinder other players. When the fortitude and alcohol content equal each other, you pass out. Last person standing wins.

Since there were only two of us playing, it was okay, but not too exciting. I think it would have been better if there were more people playing. Perhaps one day we will get the opportunity to find out, however, it's not a game I'm interested in enough to add to my collection.

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All in all Origins was a blast. I was really nice getting to hang out and game with everyone, and between that and the culinary bliss that is known as Schmidt's Restaurant und Sausage Haus (if you ever go to Columbus you MUST eat there at least once) we will definitely have to try to attend again sometime.