Origins 2006 - Day 2

I've got a Flickr photostream setup for the Origins photos I'm taking… I'll just post a few photos here to highlight the games I played today.

I had a pure chance encounter with friend Jay Schindler, which was a very pleasant surprise. Last I heard about Jay he was dealing with some serious heart issues but is on the path to recovery and well enough to attend the convention.

Jay Schindler

Jay and I sat down for a demonstration game of Cleopatra and the Society of Architects with Days of Wonder marketing guru Mark Kaufman. I was prepared to be let down a bit based on feedback of heard, but the game was quite fun (though we didn't finish). It is hard not to pick up each DoW game given the production quality, and I think this would get played at home.

Mark Kaufman teaching Cleopatra

Saw a lot of Tempus being played.

Tempus

I hooked up with designer Kevin Nunn on the show floor. We played a prototype, had some dinner, and played a three-handed game of Ingenious. Another very tight game that was resolved by 2nd and 3rd tie-breakers (I finished last this time).

Ingenious

The guys from Northstar Games ran a very enjoyable Wits & Wagers tournament. My group (with Kevin Nunn and Rick Thornquist) was in the running after the first round but collapsed on the final question on the second round, taking us out of the running. Good fun though - this is a great party game.

Satish Pillalamarri Runs the Tourney

Last stop this evening was a prototype called North Dakota Cola War by JM Rasmus et al (JM gave our demo). This is an Americanized area control game set in the cut-throat soda industry of North Dakota. Very good game with some unbalanced special cards that we think can be fixed - we liked it enough that we want to try it again tomorrow.

North Dakota Cola Wars

Overall it was a fun second day - I was working in the morning but managed to spend time from noon to 10:30pm at the show. The scale is quite a bit smaller than GenCon, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The show floor, however, is much less impressive. Notably absent are the huge-scale setups from Wizards and Fantasy Flight. Tomorrow I'll enjoy about a half day there before flying back home in the early evening.

Origins 2006 - Day 1

I'm able to mix some business with pleasure this week. I'm here in Columbus, OH doing some customer visits but I'll be able to squeeze in about 2 days at the Origins International Game Expo. I've got some more work to do tomorrow morning, but starting Thursday afternoon I'm free for some gaming until late Friday afternoon when I fly back to Portland.

Tom Vasel and I made a date a few weeks ago to have dinner tonight. We hooked up in the Board Room hosted by the Columbus Area Boardgaming Society (CABS) at about 4:30. Also there was the omnipresent (and omniscient?) Rick Thornquist. We chatted for a bit while Rick and some others wrapped up a game of GemBlo. Tom's been in country for about 2 weeks, spending his time up until now with family in Pennsylvania. He returns across the Pacific to Korea in about a week.

Tom and Chris

Tom, Rick, and I then hopped in my car to drive over to Valerie Putman's home for some fellowship and BBQ. Met some interesting folks there, including the infamous Mr. Cranky and Jay Tummelson.

Rick and Valerie

After dinner it was time to return to the gaming hall. Rick, Michael Pennisi, and I sat down to try out the new Mayfair Games release Bison. This is a tile-laying area majority game with some interesting elements. The game is very action constrained (this is a Kramer / Kiesling game, after all) and has some bizarre scoring elements - it isn't uncommon for the player that finished 3rd in the majority to score more points than the 2nd player. It sort of made sense, and I'm interested in playing again to see how I can play better given a better understanding of the system.

Playing Bison

The components are pretty nice, but the theme is pretty thin and the game feels abstract. I was hoping for bison miniatures but I only saw cardboard tiles and wooden cubes.

Bison Closeup

Halfway through the game I was a bit turned off - it felt like a Colovini game with a touch of Trias. It did improve as we finished and I'd like to try it again, though I doubt it will be a purchase. We finished in a dead-heat with 26 points each, with Michael and I also in a tie for the tie-breaker. We had identical scores, though he claimed since he had more bison points than I that he should win.

Bison Player Board

Winner's Circle

A rarity - we got in some family gaming this weekend! After spending about 24 total hours on baseball fields this weekend (local tournament for both boys), I got some relief Sunday afternoon and managed to sit down and watch the US Open and play a game. We pulled out a new acquisition - Winner's Circle, the Face2Face games remake of Royal Turf.

Julie and Matthew had played this one before, but it was new to me and quite a good game. We played with the default rules where bets are open but only played two races.

Winner's Circle

The components are decent - I love the horses and the cards and board are decent quality, though my board had a printing smudge on one corner. My only complaint, which is quite significant, is that it is quite hard to tell which horse matches which starting slot for the 3-4 horses that are close to a neutral grey. I think I have some mild color blindess, but even Julie and the boys had problems at times figuring out which horse on the track matched which card. Face2Face should have placed a number or some other matching / distinguishing mark on the horse to help keep everything straight - you shouldn't have to work this hard when playing a game!

Winner's Circle Closeup

I suspect the hidden bet variant (including the zero bet chit) makes for a better game.