Origins 2013 Report -Day 4: Final Day

Saturday, June 15, I had a noon game of Savage Worlds – Space:1889.  I was really looking forward to that because I really wanted a much more satisfying RPG than the first one.  The board games so far have been very satisfying but the RPGs have not.

Saturday is the only day that Origins sells day passes.  So you either buy for the weekend or come on Saturday for a day pass.  Walking down the escalator down into the convention center, it was quite apparent that Saturday was going to be their biggest day.  Registration lines were the longest I had seen.  The line for generic chips (to be used to get into games you did not preregister for) was obscenely long.  And the dealers room was buzzing with more people than I had seen all weekend.

Walking around the dealers room prior to the game, I did pick up a few good deals.  One dealer I had frequented was called Chimera Games.  They had some great deals on older items or out of print items.  I guess I am an old gamer.

Upon arrival at my Savage World – Space: 1889 table, I found a nice group of people picking characters.  The character sheets were in these nice plastic post card protectors, and the character name signs were pre-printed with nice logos on them.  That is a little more impressive than the last RPG game I played here.  Presentation is everything and if you can take the time to create nice characters sheets and character name signs, it goes a long way in creating a good con game experience.

I had specifically signed up for this game so I could be in the same game as a good friend, Jim Harris (yes, THE Jim Harris).  He and the GM showed up at the same time, as they were in a game together in the prior slot.  Mike Sprague was the GM and he is fairly well known in the Savage World circles.  I liked his attitude, passion for the game, and general demeanor.  He’s a nice guy.

The adventure was drawn from old GDW’s Challenge magazine which supported the original Space: 1889 back in the day. I have to respect a guy that pulls from an old resource like that.  The party was made up of mostly stuffy British citizens and soldiers.  I was not overly excited about playing a Brit, although I would have if need be, but when the American character came across the table, I jumped at it.  To play an American in a group of Brits was like me (from South Carolina) playing in a group of a bunch of northerners.  It worked out pretty well.

I really liked the group dynamic that was developing.  Most of the players dove straight into the role head first.  But as it turned out, we were too smart for our own good.  We did an end-around of the adventure and went in the back way.  In the end, we ended the game an hour early.  It was sort of a letdown but fun all the same.

I returned to the dealers room afterwards.  The one thing I wanted to do was vote for the Origins Awards.  The history of the awards goes back to 1979 but has evolved over the years, with changes to and additional categories.  This year, there were 14 awards and included Best Roleplaying Game,  Best Board Game, Best Collectible Card Game,  Best Traditional Card Game and many others.  The winners were announced on Saturday at a dinner with Kevin Sorbo as Master of Ceremonies.  To attend, it was an additional $30 to cover the dinner.  Press was allowed in after the dinner if they could arrange the time get in there at the right time.

And the winners were:

Best Roleplaying Game
Marvel Heroic RPG Basic
– Margaret Weis Productions
– Designed by Cam Banks, Rob Donoghue, Jack Norris, Jesse Scoble, Aaron Sullivan, Chad Underkoffler

Best Roleplaying Supplement or Adventure
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Civil War Essentials Edition Event Book
– Margaret Weis Productions

Best Board Game
Lords of Waterdeep
– Wizards of the Coast – Designed by Peter Lee and Rodney Thompson

Best Collectible Card Game
Legend of the 5 Rings: Embers of War

Best Traditional Card Game
Doctor Who the Card Game
– Cubicle 7 Entertainment/Treefrog Games
– Designed by Martin Wallace

Best Family, Party or Children’s Game
Quarriors! Dice Building Game
– Wizkids
– Designed by Michael Elliot and Eric M. Lang

Best Gaming Accessory
Metal Steampunk Dice Set
– Q Workshop
– Designed by Shannon Couture and Blazej Walczak

Best Miniatures Rules
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Campaign Starter Set
– WizKids

Best Historical Miniatures Rules
Flames of War: Open Fire!
– Battlefront Miniatures, LTD.

Best Historical Miniatures Rules Supplements
Flames of War: Nuts
– Battlefront Miniatures, LTD. – Designed by Michael Haught

Best Historical Board Game
Samurai Battles
– Zvezda
–Designed by Richard Borg and Konstantin Krivenko

Best Publications
Battletech: Weapons Free
– Catalyst Game Labs
– Edited by Jason Schmetzer

Best Miniature Figure Line
Marvel HeroClix: Galactic Guardians
– Wizkids Games

Best Miniature Figure Rules
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Campaign Start Set
– WizKids Games

Congratulations to the winners!

I was unable to attend the ceremony, however, due to scheduling conflicts.  There were several other events I missed because there was just too much to do.  I love attending auctions, but this year I was strapped for cash, so I was kind of glad I did not make it to this one.  I am a sucker for a good deal at an auction.  They also had a silent auction but I steered clear of that because of the same reasons.  In addition they had several seminars or panels on the schedule that I wish I could have made.  In particular the Christianity in Gaming, the Pathfinder: Q&A with Jason Bulmahn, Q&A with Steve Kenson, and the various Q&As with Steve Long.  Next time, I will make a point to try to attend more of those and report on them.  I was by myself this year and I was trying to get a lay of the land, get The Gamer’s Codex name out there, and get in as many game demos as I could take.

The energy of the dealers room seem mixed despite the new influx of new Saturday-only attendees.  The economy may be a major factor even today.  I was encouraged to see the Geek Chic folks still around.  In 2008, I interviewed them when they released the Sultan gaming table at GenCon.  I thought perhaps those tables were a little too expensive to be a lasting product in the industry, especially in this economy.  However, they are apparently still thriving.  They even had their table set up in a special location where people could arrange for a special gaming experience on those tables.  I wish I had done that.  Those tables are amazing.  I plan to have an interview with the president of Geek Chic up soon.

I also did a few short demos of a couple of games, most notably Quicksilver: The Great Airship Race.  Funded on Kickstarter, these guys are working hard to sell their game and were all super nice.  I met the designer and the graphic artist.  There game is a steampunk-inspired race game with some really slick mechanics, nice graphics and great re-playability potential.  The only disappointment in this game is the playing pieces – I would have been more excited if it had nice minis and not the simple card board standing up airships.  But other than that, it was a very slick looking game.

That night I was invited into a pick-up game of A Game of Thrones by the same guys that I played with the previous night.  These guys are some good guys and I thoroughly enjoyed playing with them.  I learned a lot while playing with these guys.  These guys made me feel really welcome despite the fact it was my first time.  They also did not make me feel I was an idiot.  It was just a good gaming experience.

This time I played Baratheon and did much better than last time.  I did not win, but I played a major factor in who did.  At the end, we actually got some prizes because one of the players was head of the Axis & Allies section of the board game section and he had some free games left.  That was a nice way to end the night.

Overall, I enjoyed myself at Origins.  There were some small issues that I can understand and got over, and the biggest problems I had were mostly from outside sources.  The worst experience was a very bad GM.  The best experience I had was the feelings I had enjoying a good strategy war game with like minds; pure and simple gaming without drama and personal feelings.  It was a very satisfying experience.

I had a conversation with a young attendee that had been to more Origins than I have been and he did voice a few feelings I had throughout the weekend.  Since it was my first, I really wasn’t sure and I did not want it to influence my writing but the fact that this guy voiced it to me without any prompting almost affirmed my suspicions.  In general, throughout the weekend, I had gotten the feeling that there was a energy problem at the con.  This particular young attendee noticed an decrease in the overall positive energy, as did his brother.  He did note he had heard that there was a lot of volunteer burnout throughout the staff.  Origins Game Fair is run by GAMA which is a non-profit operation run by volunteers.  I can imagine that it is hard to maintain the same level of energy year by year for a con this size on a purely volunteer staff.

I cannot say definitely there is a problem with the con, but what I can say is that there is something noticeable about it that is missing.  Many I talked to expressed they were very satisfied with most of their gaming experiences but there was always a “..but …” that followed.  I also believe that it is not something that is irreparable.  I am sure with some work, it can regain the energy of its youthful days.

Origins Game Fair needs to be on any gamer’s bucket list.  Go to it with lots of preparation and research ahead of time.  Budget a considerable amount of money because you always spend more than you plan.  Good downtown alone is expensive.  You definitely have lots of chances to game the games you never have a chance to play at home as well as the games you have never heard of.  There are plenty of game premiers and a ton of people demo’ing their games in the vendor room.  You definitely will be gamed out by the end of the weekend.  I know I am.