The Future of Board Games Looks Bright at the Origins Game Fair
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The good folks at GAMA, who run the annual Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio, every June, were kind enough this year to schedule their convention far enough after the MLB draft to allow me to attend for the first time (and to bring my daughter). We spent just a day and a half at the con but sampled a bunch of new games and still met with many publishers about new and upcoming titles. Here’s a complete rundown, but I’ll mention the games that most intrigued me here: Arraial, Pastally, Era, Bosk, and Revolution 1828. (I’ve organized the list below by publisher.)
Pandasaurus: Arraial is the newest game from the designers of the heavy Euro game Madeira from 2013, but this is a lighter title, as players place Tetris-like pieces on their boards to fill out rows and match patterns to attract ‘visitors’ to their parties for more points. Dead Man’s Cabal is a medium-heavy game with a zombie theme, except this time you’re not fighting zombies but raising them so you have more guests at your dead man’s party. (Leave your body at the door.) Pandasaurus introduced two more titles due out later this year: Pastally is a path-building game like Tsuro or Metro, but allows you to stack tiles as you go; you get more points for sending your path through more tiles, including those in stacks. Mental Blocks has players working together to build a structure that matches each of their cards—but each card shows the structure from just your perspective, so you may place a block that fits your card but violates someone else’s. And they just had a teaser for the upcoming Machi Koro Legacy game, which takes the legacy format to a lighter game that is more suitable for family play.
Stronghold has two new games from legendary designers. Second Chance is a flip-and-write game from Uwe Rosenberg that continues his own theme of Tetris-like games that has included Patchwork and Cottage Garden. Subtext is a new game from Spiel winner Wolfgang Warsch (The Mind, The Quacks of Quedlinburg), but it’s a party game around words. Players draw cards with words on them, with one other player drawing the same word as you. You have to draw hints for your word so that only the player who has your word on their card guesses it, but none of the other players can. Stronghold also showed off the upcoming reprint of the tremendous but long out-of-print Egizia, a medium-heavy Euro that has obtained a bit of a cult following since its release. The new edition has all original art; swaps out two monuments (the temple and the graves) for two newer, easier-to-achieve ones; and a better variant for two players. The new version is also $40 plus shipping and you can still buy it as a late backer via Kickstarter.
Plan B and its Next Move imprint had two new games out and two more for demo. Century New World, the final part of the century trilogy that included Spice Road and Eastern Wonders, is out for sale (and a lot of people walked out with the game and an exclusive play mat). It’s a worker placement game that incorporates some of the same mechanics as the previous two titles. Tuki is a block-building game that tests your spatial relations skills (not my strong suit). Era, a competitive title from Pandemic designer Matt Leacock, is a citybuilder due out at Gen Con (August 1-4 in Indianapolis). 5211 is a 20-minute card game which is itself a remake of a Japanese game, 5 Colors, but adds scoring quirks and allows up to 8 players to play at once. It’s also due out at Gen Con.
Asmodee: Pandemic Rapid Response is yet another extension to the Pandemic brand, this time taking the greatest of all cooperative games and introducing a real-time element as well as dice rolling to determine what players can do on a turn. One Key is a light party game where the clue giver has to get other players to remove all of the cards shown except for the Key itself. Quirky Circuits is a coding game, played cooperatively, where players play their instruction cards face-down, so other players know the instruction type but not the specific move. The goal on each board is to work together to direct a robot to collect all of its targets and return to the home space before it runs out of battery. Obscurio, from the same designers as One Key, looks and sounds a lot like 2015’s Mysterium, but with team play adding a competitive aspect. It’s due out at Gen Con.
Floodgate had Bosk, which just went to retail (and which I’ll review very soon), the new game from one of the designers of Sagrada… and also had the first of three new expansions for Sagrada, Passions, which includes all new patterns to match and tools to give each player unique powers.
Cranio had one title on display that’s due out at Gen Con. Mystery House is an escape-room themed game with a 3-D board that presents each player with a distinct view. You solve clues to remove barriers so you can see further into the board and help solve that board’s puzzle. They also had demos of Masters of Renaissance, a card-game variant of the medium-heavy worker placement game Lorenzo il Magnifico; and Barrage, a heavy Euro title where players compete to control the water supply across dammed rivers to power their hydroelectric plants.
Kosmos had three titles in the Exit series of escape room-themed puzzle games, including the longest one yet, a two-part game called The Catacombs of Horror that promises to be tougher than the previous games in the line. They also had pre-order demos of the new version of Tribes, which promises a full civilization-building experience in less than an hour; and Roll for Adventure, a cooperative dice-rolling game.
I saw one new title at iello’s booth, Legendary Forests, the first English edition of a very simple Japanese game with high replay value. Players each get a stack of forest tiles and will play them all in the same random order, trying to arrange specific patterns of contiguous areas of any of the game’s three colors, scoring points if they place trees on those areas and doubling if they close the areas on all sides.
Renegade had a slew of new titles to show off, including Lanterns Dice, a new roll-and-write version of the great family game Lanterns; a new two-player game from designer Stefan Feld (Castles of Burgundy) called Revolution 1828, set in the dirty election of that year between Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren; and a rare solo game called Proving Ground. Their new social deduction game Game of Thrones: Oathbreaker is also out now, and they announced that Bargain Quest should be out in August and Paladins of the West Kingdom, sequel to last year’s Architects of the West Kingdom, should be out later this year.
Czech Games had Letter Jam, an upcoming word game where each player gets a set of letter cards that form a word from an adjacent player, but can’t look at the cards. Instead, players will display their letters for others to see, and their teammates (it’s cooperative) will form words from the letters they can see, so that each player can try to deduce the letter in front of them. It’s simpler to play than it sounds, but surprisingly hard to win unless you have players who are good at anagramming.
Deep Water Games now has five new expansions for its hit 2018 flip-and-write game Welcome To, and also unveiled a demo of Sovereign Skies, which just hit Kickstarter a week ago.
Keith Law is a senior baseball writer for ESPN.com and an analyst on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight. You can read his baseball content at search.espn.go.com/keith-law and his personal blog the dish, covering games, literature, and more, at meadowparty.com/blog.