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My fun-filled first Origins: new games, old games, eurogames, wargames, BBGers, designers, indie RPGs, and posing as a Mayfair employee
Ien C.
United States
New York
New York
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At the last minute, I decided to take a chance and fly out to Origins on my own and see what a games convention is all about. I'm really glad I did. Thanks to the CABS Board Room, exciting new game discoveries, and meeting and playing with some great people, including several BBG users, it was a wonderful experience.

I promised myself to take it easy rather than try to do everything. Typically I would hang out and play games at the convention in the mornings and evenings and take a break in the afternoon. Here's a chronicle for my own memories -- and for anyone else curious to see Origins through the eyes of a first-timer.

I had a great time -- and already wish it was time to go back! Indeed, pretty much the first thing I did upon getting home was registering for BBG.con.

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1. Board Game: De Vulgari Eloquentia [Average Rating:7.37 Overall Rank:495]
Ien C.
United States
New York
New York
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Got started on Weds evening with this beautifully crafted eurogame about creating the common "vulgare" language in medieval Italy. Having studied medieval literature once upon a time, I found the theme and art a delight. And the gameplay was excellent. It is towards the complex end of my normal tastes -- perfect for getting my gaming juices flowing at the start of the convention.


I think I came 3rd out of 4th. As Jeff noted, I spent a lot of actions moving across Italy -- it was fun hopping all over the map! I'll have to watch out for that at my next play, which I hope isn't too far away. I did succeed in becoming pope at game end to everyone's surprise, which gave me a kick!

Thanks to

Jeff Sharp
United States
Columbus
Ohio
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for organizing via BGG and

Paul Marshall
United States
Abingdon
Maryland
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for teaching!
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2. Board Game: Ascending Empires [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:464]
Ien C.
United States
New York
New York
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Having only played half a learning game after ordering the game from reviews alone -- the combination of physical dexterity with elegantly simple space conquest intrigued me -- I was eager to try out a full game for the first time.

Gladly,

Jeff Hannes
United States
New Windsor
New York
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was up for teaching and

j -
United States
PA
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was up for learning and we had a fun game. Ramming was rampant. The deciding factor seems to have been me getting to a battleship first -- and using it to bully my way to a victory. Jeff and I actually tied on total points -- with me barely edging out on the tie-breaker!

And guess who wandered by during the game?

Zev Shlasinger
United States
Naples
Florida
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It was great to say hello to Zev and tell him how much we enjoyed the game, published by his company. And he told me not to worry about the missing cube we'd discovered during setup, his customer service department would take care of it!
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3. Board Game: The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:71]
Ien C.
United States
New York
New York
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Thursday morning started with a couple of rounds of this addictive co-op "living card game." I've been playing solo somewhat obsessively in recent weeks, and I was looking forward to trying out 2-player co-op -- reportedly the optimal way to play the game -- with

Jeff Hannes
United States
New Windsor
New York
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. It was great.

With his three core sets and many expansions, Jeff had made up 6 different player decks, a number of them optimized for 2-player play, and was eager to try them out. We picked a pair of dwarf-themed decks to take on the The Watcher in the Water quest. We romped through it after a few hairy moments with nasty whip-lashing tentacles.


Then we continued into the The Long Dark of Moria. We were feeling confident and getting close to the end but then a Orc Patrol Leader proved to be our downfall. He threw his minions in front of him to dodge Galdalf not once but I think three times. Then he led us deeper into the maze of hidden halls where my Dain Ironfoot, who had been loaded up with powerful attachments, came upon Sudden Pitfall and was lost in an instant. Worse, this left an attack undefended, killing my Bifur, leaving me with a single hero. Our fellowship fought on valiantly, killing the Patrol Leader, but by then we were so lost we couldn't find our way out before the doom engulfed us. A dramatic (and enjoyable) loss.

On Saturday, Jeff and I regrouped to try again -- and this time we made it through! It was a hoot to play 2-player with Jeff, especially with his nicely designed decks, and to play with some of the many player and encounter cards I've yet to get but have heard a lot about on BGG forums -- including the incomparable Ziggy Miner.

Later on Saturday, I had the chance to walk

Mike Lochtefeld
United States
Fishers
Indiana
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through the game mechanics, as he's been learning the game recently and wanted a recap. It was nice to find that I'm now familiar enough to teach someone this excellent game!
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4. Board Game: Space Alert [Average Rating:7.60 Overall Rank:75]
Ien C.
United States
New York
New York
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I often have trouble getting folks to play this, so I it was good to get an eager response from the [geeklist=141909]BGG Origins schedule-a-game list[/geeklist] as well as from the on-site CABS schedule-a-game whiteboard. Unfortunately, my previous game went long and logistics got a bit out of whack. In the end, I played a few rounds with

Samuel Williams
United States
Gahanna
43230
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and

Mike Lochtefeld
United States
Fishers
Indiana
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using Samuel's excellent speakers and cool iPhone random mission generator. It was the usual Space Alert! frenetic fun, but we didn't quite get into the groove in terms of actually dealing with threats, and our ship got riddled with fatal damage pretty quickly time after time. I think we were just about syncing up when folks had to leave. Alas, never enough time! :-)

(Edit: had the wrong Mike L at first.)
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5. Board Game: Telestrations [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:189]
Ien C.
United States
New York
New York
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I came across a table of 8 or so people playing this game at a vendor booth in the exhibit hall. I've heard a bit about it so was keen to observe the game in action. From what I saw (for just a few minutes), there was nothing that wowed me. It's a simple party game and I can see it working well with the right group in the right mood.
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6. Board Game: Crokinole [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:39]
Ien C.
United States
New York
New York
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Having just gotten a board (from Willard), I was eager to try out my newly acquired disc-flicking skills with whoever wanted to play. On Thursday, I played a quick game with a fellow named Gary after teaching him the rules. On Friday, a local CABS member (whose name I unfortunately can't remember) and I had a great three-round match -- ending 100-90 in my favor. Halfway through, a random Origins attendee came over and started offering play-to-play commentary -- making light fun of us whenever we made a bad shot. It was great.

Besides being lots of fun, Crokinole ended up leading me to try out some RPGs at Origins. I'll explain this odd connection later in this GeekList when I talk about those RPGs.
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7. Board Game: Last Will [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:234]
Ien C.
United States
New York
New York
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On Thursday evening in the CABS Board Room, I spotted

Mike Lochtefeld
United States
Fishers
Indiana
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with an orange traffic cone on a table, signaling a new game with open seats waiting to start, and happily went over and sat down. He was setting up Last Will, a game I'd heard about and just that day saw in the Rio Grande area: you race to go broke as fast as possible in order to prove your worthiness to inherit your rich uncle's vast wealth.

Soon, Kelly, a local gamer and CABS member and

Scott House

Texas
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joined us and we were ready to play.

With the help of some profligate friends (characters in the game who help you spend your money faster) and some excellent real estate deals (i.e. buying high and selling low), I went broke first! It's a nutty theme, simple but varied worker placement gameplay, and elegantly silly art -- adding up to a lot of fun.
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8. Board Game: Egizia [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:179]
Ien C.
United States
New York
New York
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After Last Will, I suggested Cyclades, as I was ready for some whacking of each other's armies. Alas, it wasn't in the CABS library, so at Scott's suggestion we played Egizia instead.

Wow. I figured I was going to be slightly bored with another worker placement game, but boy was I wrong. I loved the down-the-river mechanic among other things. I found the game wonderfully tense. Finished 3rd out of 4. A lovely, unique game -- way better than Stone Age, a game it's sometimes compared to, if you ask me.


After playing Last Will and Egizia, I asked myself which I'd rather play again first -- and couldn't decide, as I liked them both so much. Not a bad way to end Thursday night at Origins!
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9. Board Game: American Rails [Average Rating:7.59 Overall Rank:888]
Ien C.
United States
New York
New York
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The Friday morning game of this Chicago Express-killer (at least for me), organized and taught by

Adam Brocker
United States
Gilbert
AZ
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, turned out to be a major Origins highlight for me. Adam was a good teacher and the game runs smoothly and intuitively from turn to turn with a nice turn order/turn options track on the board. I loved the open map without set starting or ending cities. The share auctions can get pretty intense, as can the fight for turn order. Fun fun fun.


In our game, I managed to pip

john guthrie
United States
silver spring
maryland
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to second place by one point (i.e. 159 to 158) through some aggressive defensive track building, if that's the right way to put it. Adam took the spoils. A great game.

I definitely want to buy this one! Too bad it's out of print. I've already gotten on the waitlist with the publisher.
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10. Board Game: Incan Gold [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:511]
Ien C.
United States
New York
New York
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I've wanted to try this (classic?) filler for some time, and finally got the chance at Origins at one of the scheduled games. The group played twice. Very nice, fun little game, with an innovative communal press-your-luck mechanic. I'll probably pick up a copy before too long.
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11. Board Game: Twilight Struggle [Average Rating:8.34 Overall Rank:1]
Ien C.
United States
New York
New York
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Having enjoyed the two games I've played but rarely having the time to play more, getting in a game of the legendary Twilight Struggle -- number 1 on BGG -- featured prominently on my Origins wishlist.

So on Saturday evening, I started writing "Any novice Twilight Struggle player want a game tonight?" on the Board Room white board. Before I had finished a fellow named Ken tapped on my shoulder. He said his college-age son would love to play me, so we went looking for him. Turned out his son was busy in a Diplomacy tournament, so Ken decided to play me himself.

It was a topsy-turvy game that lasted some five hours, ending in the headline phase of Turn 10 (the final turn of the game). Ken, as the US, came on strong in the first turn, going up some 10 points right away. I fought back as USSR, swinging the score in my favor by about 10 points by mid-war (i.e. by turn 4 or 5). But the US events Tear Down This Wall and Bear Trap got the best of me around turn 7, and it was a slow inevitable fall of the Soviet power from then on.


I can't help falling in love with Twilight Struggle each time I play. The only complaint I have is how long it takes, at least for a newbie! I'm lucky Ken was a patient teacher and coach.

Apart from the great game itself, two memorable things happened while we were playing.

First, Ken (from near Columbus) and I (from New York) discovered we both grew up in Potomac, Maryland -- and both attended Wayside elementary school!

Second, some time during the mid-war, a friendly, thoughtful-looking fellow came over and watched us play, adding a few comments. As he was leaving, we discovered he was none other than

Jason Matthews
United States
Alexandria
Virginia
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, the co-designer of Twilight Struggle! It was great to be able to thank him in person for the hours of pleasure he'd given us through his game. That encounter was certainly an Origins highlight.



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12. Board Game: A Few Acres of Snow [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:140]
Ien C.
United States
New York
New York
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Imagine my disappointment, when arriving early for the scheduled Saturday 9am session of A Few Acres of Snow in the Mayfair room, to be greeted by a Mayfair employee with the disclaimer that no one there knew how to teach this game, given it was "so new." So what else to do but dive in an learn it myself from the rules? Soon,

Mark Edwards
United States
Cary
North Carolina
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showed up, introduced himself, and the two of us were learning the game from the rulebook together. Because it took us some time to get up to speed, we only got perhaps a third of a game in, but we both really enjoyed it.

I'm attracted to the combination of Dominion-like deck building with a relatively short asymmetric wargame, giving some narrative purpose to the gameplay, all wrapped in lovely art and what strikes me as a grand sense of irony about all this fighting over "a few acres of snow." Mark has since told me he has ordered a copy and I think I will soon also.


One amusing thing about this experience was that I ended up teaching the game to the four Origins attendees who showed up for the 11am session (thus forcing us to quit our game). I had enjoyed the game so much that I figured teaching it was the next best thing to playing. I had to assure everyone that no, I was not a Mayfair employee!

Later that day, I ran into Ian Schreiber, the game design author and educator, in the Mayfair room and ended up also walking him and his wife through the game. So I have perhaps the unique distinction of having taught or demoed this game to half a dozen people without having yet finished my first game. Can't wait until I do!
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13. Board Game: 1st & Goal: Northeast Division [Average Rating:7.17 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.17 Unranked]
Ien C.
United States
New York
New York
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As someone who spends way too much time on the NFL, I've been naturally looking at ways to spend even more time on it via boardgames. From reviews, I had high hopes for 1st and Goal so was excited for kick-off when

Mike Lochtefeld
United States
Fishers
Indiana
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and I sat down to play. He's a Colts fan and I'm a Jets fan (who also roots for the Giants, not least to keep peace with my wife). Thus we have a shared... aversion, shall we say, for the Patriots.

So we decided to use the Northeast Division expansion die sets to simulate a Jets/Patriots game -- with me playing a strong-defense-and-ground-and-point team and him playing an high-scoring offensive powerhouse. Sadly, for me, it went the way some real Jets/Patriots games go. 17-0 Patriots, with two turnovers to kill promising drives by Mark Sanchez in the first half. We couldn't help imagining the fans chanting "Tebow, Tebow, Tebow..." Sigh.

Good game, which nicely captures the ebb and flow and drama of football. Perhaps too well, as I took the playcalling too literally, rather than being more analytical about the dice combos, which are really what determine the outcome.

I'll definitely play this again. Especially after Sanchez stops fumbling, throwing easy picks, and rolling double T's (which trigger a turnover) on the play die...
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14. Board Game: Plato 3000 [Average Rating:6.45 Overall Rank:2589]
Ien C.
United States
New York
New York
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After football, Mike brought out this rummy-style set-building card game with a whimsical philosophical theme and distinctive colorful high-concept cartoon art. We played two quick, enjoyable games, each winning one I think. A unique little game.

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15. Board Game: Memoir '44 [Average Rating:7.53 Overall Rank:87] [Average Rating:7.53 Unranked]
Ien C.
United States
New York
New York
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By Saturday night, I was really itching to play a wargame-type board game as a contrast to the eurogames, and

Scott House

Texas
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was happy to oblige when I suggested Memoir '44, which I'd been wanting to try for some time. Quick 30-minute games with simple rules and tactical variety sounded perfect to me. It took us a bit of time to sort through the two boxes of Memoir '44 kit in the CABS library and set up the first scenario, but once we got into it gameplay was as enjoyable and quick as advertised. Scott beat me as the British against the Germans, but it wasn't as quick a death as it looked to be at first.

This classic game feels like whole new vista of boardgaming ready to be discovered. Happy anticipation! So many scenarios and expansions to catch up on... Not to mention the whole class of wargames which up till now I've mostly ignored. So many games -- so many types of games -- so little time.
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16. Board Game: London [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:170]
Ien C.
United States
New York
New York
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I'm guessing Scott and I would have kept shooting and grenading each other in the fields of France if not for it being time to meet

D K
United States
Ohio
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and his wife Kelly (who we'd played Last Will with earlier) for a planned game of London. I almost didn't join in, as I was feeling a bit "euro'ed out" by then, and also wanted to see what 200-person Werewolf was all about. But I ended up staying in the Board Room to give it a shot after all. The theme of building London, where I lived for a few years a few years ago, was intriguing.

It's an excellent game -- but probably, for me, a game to respect rather than enjoy.

(Edit: typo)
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17. RPG: Unpublished Prototypes [Average Rating:8.00 Unranked]
Ien C.
United States
New York
New York
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On Sunday morning, the final day of Origins, I branched out to a completely new area of gaming: RPGs.

It wouldn't have happened without the friendly guy running the Crokinole table right outside the Board Room. When playing Crokinole (see above), somehow the topic of RPGs come up. I mentioned I was curious to find out what they were all about, and figured Origins would be a good place to do so. Turns out he was a big RPGer.

He suggested I stop by the RPG desk in the other part of the convention center, far from the by then familiar board game areas, which I later did. The folks there were not exactly welcoming when I told them I was a boardgamer with zero RPG experience curious to try something out. So I figured perhaps it's wasn't the right time and place.

But the next day, on Saturday, I happened to run into the same Crokinole/RPG guy just as I entered the convention hall. He said "got two minutes?" and whisked me away to a small room in the RPG side of the convention where the "indie RPGs" were being held -- and told me to try one of these, as folks there would be more welcoming to newbies.

So that's what I did on Sunday morning, bright and early at 9am. Indeed folks there were friendly and eager to teach. I didn't get a traditional RPG experience with a game master (GM) leading the way, but it was a new experience.

The first game I played was an unpublished prototype called Snapshot: 1969 designed by

Chris Engle
United States
Ellettsville
Indiana
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, run by Chris himself. Like many indie RPGs (apparently), there's no GM. It's more like group storytelling. In this quick game, everyone "plays" a single character together, constructing scenes set in the hippie '60s based on a series of stylized photo-like images from that era.

I felt a bit awkward playacting and essentially writing fiction on the fly rather than making moves on a board, but it was satisfying to see a reasonably coherent and interesting story come together before our eyes. Kind of cool!
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18. RPG Item: JM08: Flyover [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:3869]
Ien C.
United States
New York
New York
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This was my second RPG, also played in the "indie RPG" room. Like Snapshot: 1969, Flyover is a GM-less game. It's based on the Fiasco RPG system where each player is a character and the group collaboratively constructs a story a scene at a time each turn. The system is geared towards stories of action and melodrama where things go wrong, with the Flyover scenario set in a small town in the middle of the country where nothing is what it seems.

I created and played as "Bo," the happy-go-lucky warehouse worker who is hired by the local business grandee to smuggle thoroughbred horse fetuses to a Saudi prince. Bo's goodie-two-shoes big brother, a TSA agent, tries to get him put away for suspected bioterrorism. In the end, Bo and his many friends around town turn the tables on the powerful people and he ends up the kingpin of a massive organ smuggling operation.

Like I said, melodrama. laugh

I didn't do a traditional GM-led RPG, but these indie RPGs were certianly a new experience and I'm glad I tried them. If I hadn't tried them at Origins, I'm not sure where else I'd ever have the chance. Did I have fun? Yes. Am I going to become an RPGer? Probably not.
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19. Board Game: Goa [Average Rating:7.70 Overall Rank:52]
Ien C.
United States
New York
New York
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Then it was back the comfortingly familiar world of board games! I headed to the exhibit hall to check out some demos.

Goa was the first game I took a closer look at. I got a nice walkthrough from the booth staff, getting a high-level sense of how the game works. I'm attracted to the auction mechanic, and it certainly seems like the excellent game it's known to be, but overall I didn't see anything that would motivate me to play it instead of, say, playing more of Puerto Rico, which I already don't have enough time for.
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20. Board Game: Core Worlds [Average Rating:7.33 Overall Rank:314]
Ien C.
United States
New York
New York
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Wandering by the Stronghold booth, I saw a charismatic man energetically teaching Core Worlds to two players. I've been curious about this game, so I sat down and listened in. Turns out the guy was

Stephen Buonocore
United States
Somerset
New Jersey
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and it was great to see someone with so much obvious pride in the game he publishes.

I didn't have time to stay and play, but my curiosity is even higher than before.
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21. Board Game: Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War [Average Rating:7.20 Overall Rank:680]
Ien C.
United States
New York
New York
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Next to Core Worlds was a set of Confusion, an abstract with a clever twist: you have to rely on the other player to tell you what moves you are allowed to make with your own pieces. The idea is the pieces are spies ostensibly working for your opponent but really working for you. You mark in your folder what you know about each of your pieces, and what your opponent knows about his or her pieces.

It's a game of deduction -- with an added bluffing component, as there is one double agent piece which you can use to trick your opponent.

I played around half a game with another Stronghold staffer, and found it an interesting game. I'm not sure how often I'd be in the mood for it, but I can see that abstract fans might really love this game.
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22. Board Game: Who Would Win [Average Rating:6.36 Overall Rank:3335]
Ien C.
United States
New York
New York
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As I passed another booth, a staffer corralled me into a playing a couple of quick rounds of this 3-person party game (if that makes sense). Two players each get randomly assigned a famous person, like Elvis or Julius Ceasar, and then have 20 seconds each to argue why that person would "win" at a certain randomly chosen activity, say "cooking" or "dancing." A third person, the judge, decides, on whatever basis he or she likes, who "wins."

I think this is re-release of an existing game, and I liked the contemporary design of the cards, and I can see this being fun for some quick laughs and silly conversation now and then. But nothing amazing.
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23. Board Game: Morels [Average Rating:7.18 Overall Rank:414]
Ien C.
United States
New York
New York
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Now this one did amaze me. At first, I was attracted by the art --



-- and then I was struck by the obvious delight another player was taking in learning the game, playing against the person giving the demo.

So I waited my turn and sat down. Turns out the person was

Brent Povis
United States
Pittsburgh
Pennsylvania
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, the designer and independent publisher of the game. He was a pleasure to spend some time with, eagerly explaining the hidden stories in the art, his thinking behind the game, and of course how to play.

And playing the game is where it got really special. It's a quick 2-player card-based game comparable to Jaipur and Lost Cities (and, according to Brent, a game called Jambo which I haven't played but now want to).

As I wrote in the favorite-new-game-of-Origins GeekList (where Morels currently has the most thumbs):

Quote:
Excellent gameplay, excellent art, excellent production (including those hand-carved limited edition sticks). Though I've only played two games, I'm excited this has the potential to be as good as if not better than Lost Cities and Jaipur for a quick 2-player game. It's got the fun and variety of Jaipur and, at times, the depth and intensity of Lost Cities. And wow, the thematically-integrated art is really lovely and exceptional, much better than the other two.

Really an exceptional release that deserves a lot of attention.


The fact that Morels comes from a self-published independent designer makes you want to root for it all the more!
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24. Board Game: Pocket Battles: Elves vs. Orcs [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:1547] [Average Rating:6.77 Unranked]
Ien C.
United States
New York
New York
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I grabbed this at the Z-Man booth after chatting with the friendly staffer there (who is planning on opening a FLGS in Staten Island). I liked the idea of a very fast 2-player duke-it-out battle game that fits in your pocket. For $10, I figured it can't hurt to just try it out, especially as I've had good experiences with Z-Man games.

I only managed to skim the rules with

Scott House

Texas
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before it was time to head to the airport, so I haven't played it yet. From my first impression of the rules and the well produced mini-card tiles, I think I'm going to like this one.

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25. Board Game: Onirim [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:726]
Ien C.
United States
New York
New York
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This was the other $10 game I picked up at the Z-Man booth based on the box description and staff recommendation alone. It's a solo or 2-player co-op card game in which you are a "dreamwalker," trying to explore different parts of your dream (i.e. match card sets or other card combos) before the deck runs out. You have to deal with "nightmare" cards which set you back and other along the way.

I got into the rules on the plane ride home and have since played several times solo -- and love it. And I haven't even tried the three included expansions, with additional cards and rules which make the dreamwalking even more challenging and varied. The lovely, mysterious art and the mechanics really do make you feel like you are chasing dreams, in a light, fleeting way. An instant new favorite solitaire game.

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