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Origins 2012: There & Back Again (on a Saturday!)

origins coverIf you’ve been following recent gaming news, then you probably already know that last weekend Origins Game Fair was in full swing at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio.  Sponsored by GAMA (Game Manufacturers Association), the convention has been going on strong now for over three decades since 1975 – and it’s only a few more years from its 40th anniversary.

Now while I was not able to attend the full event, I was able to day-trip down to Ohio on Saturday for a short, whirlwind-style, tour of the convention.  It’s only about three and a half hours from the Detroit burbs to Columbus, and thankfully it was a great day for driving, the weather for the trip being clear and comfortable in the 70s.  What made this trip to Origins somewhat memorable is having along with me three guys who had never been to GAMA’s Game Fair – and for one of the three, it was the first time he had ever attended a gaming convention!

By the way, if you’ve never attended Origins, one of the great things about the con is its venue – the convention center being easy to get to, and with ample parking garages within a ten minute walk.  And numerous area hotels have shuttles that can take you back and forth from the conventions hall on an hourly basis.  Not to mention that the cost of a Day Pass is only 15 bucks!  While you can’t purchase games on a Day Pass, you can play in any demo game, and visit the Exhibition Hall to shop for gaming goodies, as well as attend the Auction Room, seminars, and check out just about any of the gaming areas to spectate.

This year the tables in the Exhibition Hall were sold out, and the con boasted 350 vendors offering a wide range of gaming and hobbyist merchandise. 

Hollow Earth Expeditions at Origins 2012

Hollow Earth Expeditions at Origins 2012

Board game and miniature games did seem to outnumber the role-playing game merchants – and yes, Mayfair Games was there in force with the Settlers of Catan! – but then Origins has always been a big hit with the wargaming fans.  I got a chance to stop by a few booths and network a bit in my “EN World Reviewer” persona, particularly looking to get a chance to check out more indie-style RPGs for my review schedule.

I got to chat with folks at the Indie Press Revolution booth, where there were big stands of the Dresden Files RPG and the Hero System 6th Edition prominently displayed.  Having recently read the first dozen books of the Dresden Files series recently, I’m rather jonsing to get a copy of the game to check it out.  I also stopped by to check out the Horror/Sci-Fi RPG called CthulhuTech by Wildfire.  It’s got some visual art pieces in it, and the idea of battling an invasion of Elder Gods using a ‘mech really amused me.  And anther RPG that really caught my eye was Exile Games Studio’s Hollow Earth Expedition.  The game has won several ENnies over the past few years, but I’ve never had the chance to write them a review.  But it definitely is an intriguing setting and would merit a review in my column sometime soon.

And I have to mention that I really wanted to get my hands on a set of the metal d6’s!  The Q-Workshop booth had sets of Steampunk and Dwarven style dice in solid metal castings which looked totally awesome!  Admittedly, they are also quite heavy, and my poor dice bag is already falling apart just from all the plastic sets I have crammed into it now.

Although Wizards of the Coast did not have a booth in evidence in the Exhibition Hall, I did find them camped out in the ballroom at the Hyatt at the end of the convention center.  Both RPGA events and D&D Next Playtest events were run all convention long there, as well as a few seminars and demos of other games.  Sadly, time constraints prevented me from attending Mike Mearls’ seminar on “The Future of D&D” that evening, but I did get the chance to take part in a demo of the new D&D Dungeon Command game!

Galen Ciscell (left) battles Ben Wintersheen (right) in Dungeon Command, as Chris Dupois explains tactics.

Galen Ciscell (left) battles Ben Wintersheen (right) in Dungeon Command, as Chris Dupois explains tactics.

WotCs Peter Lee and Chris Dupois were running demos of the new “skirmish” style board game, which was an awesome experience, as both gentlemen were involved in the design and implementation of the game itself.  D&D Dungeon Command is a dice-less strategy game using miniatures from the D&D line as troops (although I understand that it was announced that there are some new models in the mix), and a set of random cards to bolster allies and confound enemies to provide tactical nuances to the play experiences.

Each game box features a small army of monsters and NPCs which go to battle in a dungeon setting, fighting over treasure and trying to annihilate your opponent’s forces.  The box comes with 12 miniatures, a set of monster stat cards, the random tactical cards, and four pieces of dungeon tiles, plus accessories like damage markers, treasure markers, etc.  The first two sets (Heart of Cormyr and Sting of Lolth) are out in July, with other boxes to follow in September and on into the fall.  Ideally, each player would purchase a different set of D&D Dungeon Command, and interlock the tiles of their sets into a larger play area, as well as to bring a wider array of forces into the combat – in fact up to 4 players can compete with four different armies.  However, Chris Dupois demonstrated that the game could be played with just a single set, and two players splitting the forces and cards to have a quick game.

Peter plays a nasty card which poisons my poor troll.  Regeneration is not going to help it now...

Peter plays a nasty card which poisons my poor troll. Regeneration is not going to help it now...

I started my demo playing against another convention attendee while Peter Lee explained the components and a bit of the rules.  But sadly, my opponent had to leave early, so I ended up playing against Mr. Lee himself, who I think might have had a bit of an edge on me, having designed the game and all.  His Drow forces stomped my poor Tyranny of Goblins set flat, even though I had a massive troll and a barbed devil allied with my puny humanoids… *sigh*.

Overall, I have to say enjoyed the D&D Dungeon Command game experience, and definitely like the elements all brought together in the game.  I like that the dice-less play means that the game is more about positioning your forces, using dungeon terrain, and playing your tactical cards right – although admittedly, one does trade a bit of dice-luck for card-luck.  But then again, you have a bit more control of card-luck and tactical placement than you do over a game heavy with dice-luck, as Galen Ciscell, one of my fellow demo participants, pointed out.  By the way, I later found out later that Galen designed the recently released Atlantis Rising board game, so he is not exactly a stranger to game design and mechanics himself.

Peter & Chris finish their demo. But I can't resist a last look at the components.

Peter & Chris finish their demo. But I can't resist a last look at the components.

I should also note that gamers who own the Legend of Driz’zt or the Castle Ravenloft board games will find that the miniatures in the D&D Dungeon Command sets can be used in these previous games, and stat cards for these other games are provided in D&D DC boxes.  And of course, the minis can be used for any D&D roleplaying game, which means that there’s a lot of gaming to be had from a single box set.  The price point for a D&D Dungeon Command set is around $40, according to the creators – although I found Amazon is posting the pre-orders at about 27 bucks!  And after the demo, Peter and Chris informed me that there will be a Game Day of D&D Dungeon Command in hobby stores on July 21st, so make sure to check in at your local store to give this new D&D-related board game a try!

On one final note, Chris Dupois is working on a remake of the classic TSR game from the 70s – Dungeon!  The new game will be given a new facelift, and will feature iconic new characters, using “standies” for the heroes and monsters.  The newest version of the game will be priced at around $20.00, making it a good and very reasonably priced entertainment to introduce gaming to friends and family.  I remember a lot of fond hours playing my old Dungeon set in the 80s, until numerous moves between college dorms and apartments finally annihilated the flimsy cardboard box, so I am definitely curious to see the new rendition of the classic game.

And while I was there at Origins, I did chat with some folks here and there throughout the convention about the D&D Open Playtest – sort of “man-in-the-crowd style” – and not surprisingly, I got a wide range of opinions about the new edition.  Some folks seemed to like D&D Next, claiming it reminded them of 1st and 2nd Edition, but quite a few others showed strong dislike for the new edition for exactly the same reasons.  A third and larger group of commenters fell into the “wait and see” category.  While not really enthused about the basic D&D Next Core rules, they were not turned off by them either.  For these gamers, there seemed to be an interest in seeing what the add-on “rules modules” will bring into the game.

So although my time was short, I definitely had a great time trekking down to Origins this year.  It’s a great outing and a lot of fun to attend, and really heightens the anticipation for GenCon 2012 – and you can be well assured that I’m counting down the weeks here before I can get to the Best Four Days of Gaming!

So until next blog… I wish you Happy Gaming!

About The Author

Michael is an Adept of a Secret Order of Dungeon Masters, and dwells in a hidden realm with his two evil cat-familiars, deep within the Vale of Wolverines, called by some "Michigan". He has been esoterically conjuring D&D Campaigns for nearly a Third of a Century, and has been known to cast ritual blogs concerning Dungeons & Dragons every few days with some regularity. Michael has freelanced for Wizards of the Coast, and writes reviews of D&D and other Role-Playing Game products on EN World News.


3 Responses to “Origins 2012: There & Back Again (on a Saturday!)

  1. Alphastream says:

    Dresden is a fairly fun game. I especially like the character/campaign generation system.

    I am curious about games like Dresden. It was being promoted there… but were any games running? I had recommended it to my friends for Gen Con, but there are practically no Dresden adventures running at the con. This is sadly typical. Name the game, and if it isn’t a major organized play game (Shadowrun, Arcanis, Rokugan, D&D), you can barely find a game.

    Shouldn’t these companies work to create more games at Gen Con, a place tons of gamers go to play new games? I would guess that DMs would be willing to run the games for little more than a thank you.

  2. Dave Wainio says:

    The expense for a small company to attend Origins if they are not located within sleeping overnight range is quite high. It’s not just the booth costs but lodging and food, plus whatever you spend getting your display materials ready. You generally have to pay something for special demo billing as ell.

    While it possible to try to recruit GMs to run your game for a free copy or whatever, it is a scary proposition to blindly let people you don’t know or control be the first view of your game. If they are terrible or misunderstand something, bad word of mouth can spread about your “lousy” game that is unwarrented. So for companies that can’t be there, the fears and risks of unsupervised official gaming is too high.

  3. Ben winters teen says:


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