Origin stories

DCP plays back Origins Game Fair in Columbus

The crowd at this year’s Origins Game Fair, the second largest analogue gaming convention in the U.S.; photo: Jacob Sigafoos

By Josher Lumpkin

Reporting on Origins Game Fair (OGF) in Columbus, my initial impulse was to go on a Hunter S. Thompson-like bender. I imagined myself in an inebriated psychedelic stupor, stumbling my way through the brightly-lit exhibitor hall, tripping over my own feet, intrusively inserting myself into other people’s games.

On second thought, it was probably best that I stayed (mostly) sober, hitting the bar only a couple times a day to take the edge off of the otherwise crippling social anxiety. (I imagine many gamers and others attracted to geeky endeavors are touched by similar neuroses.)

In reality, it wasn’t hard not to drink. The people I interacted with were super friendly, which is a good thing, because there were a lot of them. OGF boasted record attendance this year, with 17,001 unique badges sold. It’s the second largest analogue gaming convention in the U.S., trumped only by the behemoth Gen Con in Indianapolis.

Board and card games are big business in 2017, and Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA), the nonprofit trade organization that puts on OGF every year, is thrilled. Though it is huge and growing, it is a laid back convention that feels much smaller than it is. Whatever your gaming poison—board, card, tile-laying, role-playing, miniature—they are available for purchase in the exhibitor hall.

In the main gaming hall, hobby gamers gather around tables as far as the eye can see. They have spent real money to purchase the tickets required to participate in gaming events, which may be anything from a $2 game of Ticket to Ride, a place in a $7 Magic the Gathering Tournament, or a $112 16-hour Dungeons and Dragons session (yes, 16 hours).

Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) was a co-sponsor this year, and the brand’s ephemera took over the Greater Columbus Convention Center: carpet stickers advertising “Tales from the Yawning Portal”—the new D&D module—trailed their way from the lobby outside of the exhibitor hall all the way up the stairs to the role playing area. Here, there were rooms and rooms of people playing “storytelling games.” Over 1,700 people sat down to play D&D at OGF. Role players also enjoyed “Pathfinder,” “Shadowrun,” and countless other role-playing-game (RPG) sessions.

Miami Valley tabletop game creators were well represented at OGF this year, as well. Adam Alan Wik, local designer of the anime-inspired battle card game “Galatune,” reported high sales. “We actually sold out of our inventory,” Wik says, “making sales with people from Ohio to Florida, to even France and Germany.”

Also spotted was Capstone Games from Union, Ohio, which was showing off an addictive little strategy game called “The Climbers” that will be the first game in their “Simply Complex” line. Capstone was also debuting “Lignum,” reasserting their place in the market as the source for American re-releases of out-of-print heavy European games.

Speaking of Euros, Vital Lacerda, a Portuguese game designer for whom I am a bit of a fanboy, was at OGF teaching his newest game, “Lisboa.” This beautiful game has everything I love about Lacerda’s work—brain-burning strategy, gorgeous art, and high-quality components. As he explained the game to me, I felt smoke billowing out of my ears and a pitter-patter in my heart. “Lisboa” would be my pick for unofficial “Game of the Con.”

Other titles that were particularly tickle-some to this writer’s fancy include “Barcelona,” “Rabbit Island,” “Isle of Trains,” and “Star Trek: Ascendancy.” I about jumped out of my skin when I saw the box for IDW Games’ upcoming “Planet of the Apes” board game, which I now must add to the list of titles I am excited about, in good company with Capstone’s “The Ruhr,” Wizkids’ D&D “Tomb of Annihilation” board game, and Gamelyn’s “Tiny Epic Quest.”

Dexterity games were more prominent than in OGF’s past. “Dead of Winter Flick ‘em Up” and “Flip Ships” were big winners, along with “Castle Flutterstone,” “Vampires of the Night,” and “Klask. “Everywhere I turned, people were flipping, flinging, and flapping game components. And don’t get me started on Fidget Spinners. Those things were everywhere.

Another phrase that was repeatedly used to describe games was “choose your own adventure.” More and more games seem to be incorporating this mechanic, where players can alter the course of a game by choosing between two or more paths. It feels like designers are scrambling to smoosh all the feel of an RPG into a board game. As someone who enjoys story-based board games, that’s all right with me. “Near and Far” and “The Shared Dream” both stood out as high quality titles of the sort.

Finally, there are some titles that I’d expect most casual gamers would really enjoy. “Century: Spice Road” is an addictive cube-trading card game. “Codenames Duet” comes out soon and is a two-player version of the popular word guessing game. “Unearth” is a simple dice rolling set collection game with adorable art. “The Godfather: Corleone’s Empire” has cool plastic miniatures. “Bärenpark” is a fantastic tile-laying, park-building game the whole family can play.

The 2018 Origins Game Fair will be held June 13-17, at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. For more information, please visit OriginsGameFair.com.

 

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Josher Lumpkin
Josher Lumpkin is a nursing student and aspiring historian who enjoys writing about music and geekdom of all kinds. He is especially fond of punk rock, tabletop gaming, sci-fi/fantasy and camping with his wife, Jenner, and their dogs, Katie and Sophie. Reach him at JosherLumpkin@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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