Origins – Day 2

I am happy to say I’ve actually met quite a few of the high-profile game designers, both euro and wargame, including Reiner Knizia, Klaus Teuber, Francis Tresham, Alan Moon, Grant and Tom Dagliesh … if you go to a few of the bigger cons, it’s not hard to find them and chat. You know what always strikes me about them? They all seem like such regular guys. In a hobby that doesn’t always seem like it’s dominated by mainstream types, most of them are friendly, forthcoming, easy to talk to, and normal, whatever that means.

This was the 30th Origins (somewhat amusingly, all the merchandise was emblazoned with a 30th Anniversary logo, but of course the 30th event and the 30th Anniversary are a year apart – this was the former), and one of the themes was “play a game with the designer”. So we signed up to play Manhattan with Andreas Seyfarth. After some difficulties with the space, we finally located him and a place to play. Our fourth and a copy of Manhattan evidently had more trouble, so we started in with a 3-player San Juan. Andreas was a real pleasure to game with. When I met with Klaus Teuber and Reiner Knizia, I had no idea what to talk about with them. I mean, it seems so boring to say “Hi! I love your games!”, although admittedly you have to go with that at some point. I assume that I am like most people who write about games – I’d like to design a game someday and feel like I should get some tips from the masters, but I have no idea where to start. So this time, I just gave up and went with playing and enjoying the game. That’s why I’m in this whole business after all. So that’s what we did – played, chatted, commiserated about jet lag, swapped some gaming stories, and some fond memories of Puerto Rico, San Juan, and Manhattan. Andreas is a true gamer and a great guy, and playing a couple games with him was the highlight of the convention for me.

It turns out our fourth was Tom Vasel, of BoardGameGeek, so once he tracked us down and a copy of Manhattan arrived, we played that. Manhattan is a very good game, although decidedly less friendly than San Juan, but still a good time was had by all. For the record, Andreas crushed us all in both of his games.

After this, Kim went on to her D&D game, a swashbuckling genre game run by Amorphous Blob, who run generally excellent RPG events, and Kim and I have both had tremendously positive experience with them – the only problem is that their events fill up quickly, so you have to be fast. After only fair experiences with other RPG events, and no interest at all in the various “Living” settings that seem to attract the power gamers, we now sign up for their events exclusively. Kim is happy to report that this adventure did not disappoint. They also seem to draw a good crowd, one whose RPG expectations are in line with our own.

I had observed several games of Marco Polo, but never played prior to now simply because the 8+ age rating is a huge red flag for me personally. But this is Knizia, so I gave it a shot. It’s not bad, but I didn’t find enough there to engage me. It then didn’t help my estimation of the game when I won handily. It’s pretty much a classic race game, drafting and all, but with the catch that each space on the track has a very different cost, so you need to predict which spaces you’ll have to pay to enter and which you’ll be drafting through, and try to optimize your had to cover various different costs without a lot of duplication. Solid and a quite functional game – as one would expect from Knizia – but dry and a bit simplistic.

The last event of the day that we had scheduled was Hollywood Lives, a board-party-LARP hybrid game from Kevin Jacklin and Reiner Knizia. Each player plays the role of a Hollywood celebrity producing and starring in movies. You buy scripts, negotiate roles and salaries, produce and act in a 3-minute trailer for your fellow-gamers, earn money, and vote on Oscars. It combines the free-form party-game aspect of LARPs with the more structured context of boardgames. Not being a hugely outgoing person myself, I was both nervous and excited about this one, but it unfortunately requires 10 players and we only had 6 (perhaps in part because the event was scheduled in a remote and hard-to find location, although a quick query to the information booth and we had no trouble). Too bad. However, I was intrigued and will likely order the book and try to run a game at home.

Coming up tomorrow … Nexus and FFG’s War of the Ring! Plus the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG, and the death of wargaming at Origins.

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