Let the Summer Conventions Begin!

I was lucky enough to attend the Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio last week. I've been working in the board game industry for about eight years but this was my first trip to Columbus for Origins and it kicked butt. Much like BGG.CON, it's a show where you can really play games and get down time with other people you usually only see on the internet. I love PAX and Gen Con, but there's a different kind of experience at Origins & BGG.Con in what happens off the show floor because there is less of a business agenda, no buyer's meetings, and time to really play. And Columbus is just adorable (Jeni's Ice Cream & Dirty Frank's - I <3 you).

One of the standout bits of the show for me was being invited onto the Origins at Night podcast with Mike Selinker, James Ernest, and Paul Peterson. They are a great group of people and fun to talk with. Before and after the show, I also got to spend some welcome time talking to Marie Poole, who ran the podcast with the guys - she is the CEO of Lone Shark Games and newly elected to the GAMA board. We talked about my blog, Munchkin Guest Artist Editions, food, and most importantly games!

I played a lot of games at Origins and want to share the ones that really stand out to me a week after the show:

  • Escape The Room: Mystery at Stargazer's Manor (ThinkFun). Played this one with a big crew including Paul from Games & STuff; Josh from Czech Games Edition; Anne-Marie and Sam from Fireside Games; Brandan from Blue Orange Games; and Rhea from Steve Jackson Games. It was a good introduction to escape rooms but left me wanting an advanced version. We had way too many puzzle solvers in our crew for it too last long enough for my liking but we had fun!
  • World's Fair 1893 (Renegade). A fun follow up to Lanterns from Foxtrot & Renegade! I played it with Nate from IDW Games & Daryl Andrews. I can tell this will be one I play again and again. It's beautiful and is just the weight of game that I like.
  • Button Men (Cheapass Games). You know who's fun? James Ernest. In the midst of all the talk of his upcoming abstract, Tak, James taught me an older game of his that I wasn't familiar with called Button Men. It plays off the title (which means hit men) and uses pins to represent characters that attack each other with dice rolling combos. Pairs & Deadfall are some of James' games that have been in heavy rotation for a bit but I'm excited to add a few more with Tak and Kill Doctor Lucky.
  • Isle of Skye (Mayfair). This games reminds me of Carcassonne but somehow seems less complicated even though it has more steps. You get to bid on three tiles you draw on each of six turns, one of which must be discarded - the other two can either be bought by another player or must be bought by you. Then you attempt to build your individual tile set to maximize the types of sets that score, which change from game to game. I was really happy to get a chance to play this with Mike Webb & Charlie Tyson from Alliance Game Distributors. This one is also a Spiel des Jahres nominee so congrats to Mayfair!
  • Onitama (Arcane Wonders). Still really loving this one and its smart packaging.
  • One Ring RPG (Cubicle 7). I got to sit on a game of One Ring with a group of friends. It was my first time witnessing a full-fledged RPG and it was very entertaining and made the idea of starting one way less intimidating. Thanks to Travis from Millennium, Scott from Renegade, Paul from Games & Stuff, Josh from Czech Games, and Steve from Rainy Day Games for letting me hang out!
  • Kingdom Builder & Alhambra (Queen Games). These have been on my list to play for some time so I'm really happy to finally have them in my collection.
  • Dead Last (Smirk & Dagger). Didn't play this one but I heard and watched a lot of people having fun with it, so it's on the short list to play before GenCon.

I also fell in love with a prototype from Matt Loomis and Isaac Shalev that I hope to see published sometime soon. It was such an elegant play experience and felt really uncluttered- I've been thinking about art direction for it ever since playing and can't wait to see how it turns out.

There were so many great games at Origins that I didn't get to all of them. I ran out of time for The Networks (Formal Ferret), Betrayal at House on the Hill (Avalon Hill), and CV (Passport Studios).  But I did get to pick up Imhotep since Origins and I'm looking forward to more time with the difficult levels. 

The day after Origins ended, it was off to the Licensing Show in Vegas. It was interesting as always (plus I got in a bonus visit to Hoover Dam). There is a new potential license that I'm excited to share more about once it's signed and there are some cool things coming from Steve Jackson Games we worked on at the show. Then it was on to Austin for meetings about the Munchkin CCG with Eric Lang & Kevin Wilson (who were great sports to pose for the above pic at the offices and be entertaining and productive all week).

Next up is DiceTowerCon & my post on Tetris!  Hope you have a happy 4th with lots of games!

On the Road

Tomorrow marks the beginning of a two week long road trip as my brother and I drive cross country from Maryland to California for my move. We're taking a southern route through New Orleans, Texas, and as many national parks as we can manage through the Southwest on the way to San Francisco. The goal is to arrive in time to make my flight to Origins in mid-June! There's been a lot of prep for the move lately but still time for some fun gaming stuff that I wanted to share before I hit the road. So here's what I've been up to lately:

  • Backing two more abstract games since Pyramid Arcade on Kickstarter: Tak by James Ernest from Cheapass Games & Santorini by Gavan Brown from Roxley Games. Can’t wait for these two to show up!
  • Playing a lot of Quadropolis (by Francois Gandon, published by Days of Wonder) lately and really enjoying it. I haven’t hit expert mode yet, but I hear it’s a totally different play experience so I’m excited to bring this along for the road trip and dig a little deeper into it.
  • Visiting Madison for ACD Games Day with Steve Jackson Games. ACD runs a great show every year and it was great to meet John, Rett & Alex from Catalyst Game Labs while I was there, who I’d only emailed with prior to the show. I got to check out both of the Spiel nominees that I hadn’t played yet: Imhotep (by Phil Walker-Harding, published by Thames & Kosmos), and Karuba (by Rudiger Dorn, published by Haba). In addition to all of the great people and gaming, I had a really nice bike ride with friends around Lake Monona.
  • Looking forward to Phil Reed's upcoming book, "Collect These Figures and Accessories", about the marketing behind Star Wars figures between 1977 and 1986. If you're not checking out his blog, Battlegrip, you're missing out on some toy advertising nostalgia.
  • Speaking of Spiel nominees… everyone I know loves Codenames but the Codenames Pictures protoype Josh from Czech Games has been carrying around is so crazy fun. 
  • Loving this video about the design and background of Catan from Great Big Story!
  • Marveling at the idea of bundling a Broken Token organizer with the sale of an expansion like Artana recently did for Tesla vs. Edison: Powering Up. I've been wanting to organize my Seven Wonders expansions for awhile and haven't yet made the move of buying one of the organizers so selling them together seems really smart!
  • Playing The Game over and over and over again. I love puzzles and card games and the social interaction of playing this with different groups is really funny... another game that is not just making the road trip, but living in my bag.
  • Drooling over the artwork for Above & Below. The game is interesting mechanically and the narrative element makes for a different gaming experience than I’m accustomed to - it feels like training for an RPG. Ryan Laukat designed and illustrated the game and I’m thinking one of the prints he has for sale at Society 6 would look nice in my new office!  It's a nice symbol of some of the more progressive art direction I'm excited by in tabletop games.
  • Laughing at the ridiculous fun I had trying out Calliope's upcoming game from the Titan Series, Hive Mind, by Richard Garfield during a recent business trip. 
  • Reading the first of Mark Rosewater’s “Twenty Years, Twenty Lessons” blog posts about what he’s learned making Magic.

I’ll be on the road tomorrow - first stop Boardwalk Games in Greenville, South Carolina. I am hoping to visit game stores along the way, so please be in touch if you recommend game stores or cafes along the crazy path I’m plotting!