Origins 2014 – Friday

frontier wars 728x90 KS

Jim Zabek meanders the conventions, and reports thusly >>

The Night Before the Convention and All Through the House…

It’s summertime and I’m in Columbus; that means one thing: the Origins gaming convention is underway. I used to live far enough away that I had to fly to Columbus. But this year I was easily within driving distance. I hopped in the car and headed down the road.

Driving cross-country in a car is clearly a more scenic way to see the country than from an airplane seat, but it’s doubly a pleasure when you get off the interstate. That’s the route I took – the road less traveled. It also happened to be the fastest way to get from my origin to my destination (see what I did there?).

The cottonwoods were in full tilt and periodically I would zip through a cloud of them. It wasn’t difficult for me to imagine I was in a starship navigating through an asteroid cloud. Is that a little geeky? Yes, but I’m at a gaming convention.

Speaking of being at a convention, upon checking into my hotel it was immediately obvious that not only was I a welcome guest, but as a gamer I was very welcome, too. Both the front and back of my room key were logo’d with Mayfair Games’ Catan: Explorers & Pirates artwork. The guy behind the desk told me he was a gamer, and had a friend who is developing a new wargame. I gave him my number and told him to have his friend call me. It may come as a surprise, but I do happen to be friends with a few publishers in the industry and I would be more than happy to introduce him.

On the way up to my room the bellhop chatted me up about gaming – he plays Warhammer. And Dystopian Wars. This is the only time I have checked into a hotel and had guys bragging about being gamers. Thank you Hyatt for encouraging your staff to get into the spirit of the convention!

Driving in on Thursday night gives me the opportunity to settle into my room, look around the area to see what gamers are up to, and get ready to hit the ground running on Friday. I can already tell it’s going to be a great weekend.

Strolling down to the second floor I take a look around and find the upper lobby is packed with gamers. The first game I see is BattleTech. The second is the Star Wars X-Wing minis game. The third is a game of Gloom…and the list went on.

Back in the corner there were tables from Geek Chic for which gamers could make reservations and play on them. They are every bit as sexy as their website advertises and it is abundantly clear to me that I need one of these tables like I need oxygen to breathe. Yes, this is indeed going to be a great weekend.


It’s been a few years since I last attended a convention, so I was interested to see what might have changed. From year to year the changes are often subtle and can be difficult to discern, but this year the contrast was obvious: advertising.

From the time I hit the outskirts of the convention hall I noticed ads everywhere: banners on walls; ads wrapped around columns in the hotels; yeah, my room key from last night; projectors flashing companies’ logos. Ads were everywhere. Some people might have been annoyed, but I know better. I’ve been on the business end of having to draw in revenue to keep the lights on, and to me ads mean one thing: survival. One thing is clear: Origins should – at least in theory – be drawing in significantly more revenue than in the past. That’s good news because it means they are much more likely to be hosting conventions for the foreseeable future. And for a Friday I’m pleased with the con-goers I see. The numbers I see feel healthy. I’ll try to pry some official numbers out of Origins management later, but my gut tells me this place is booming.


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Ads are everywhere

Initial Recon

The first thing I did was flip through the events guide to get a feel for the games being played. Obviously Grogheads was hosting some cool events.


Yes, we are here in force.

There were plenty of typical things going on: RPGs, boardgames, seminars. On the elevator down this morning a guy got in wearing a Mage Wars t-shirt. One of my fellow elevator riders asked him whether he supported the game or played it. “Both,” he replied. He then went on to explain how he’d attended the seminar on using your spell book, but admitted that he probably ought to attend it again to get more out of it. I’ve had my eyes on Mage Wars for a while but don’t own it (yet). Attending a seminar might not do me much good, but I noted the availability in case I pick it up this weekend.

Many of the big players are here, of course. Mayfair is everywhere and so are its myriad versions of Catan.


I spent some time with Simon of Hawk Games checking out Dropship Commander. This is a sci-fi minis game that seems to be light and fast. Dropships swoop in on objectives and drop APCs. The APCs roll up to objectives and disgorge infantry. Tanks blast away at targets while AA units try to take out the dropships. Buildings can collapse, reducing infantry strength – I like what I see here. A 1500 point game (the starter set comes with two 500 point armies) takes about two hours to play. This is fast fun and I put it on my list of things to consider buying with my limited cash.


A dropship attempts to flee the area after capturing an objective.


Zvezda continues to expand its line of games under the Art of Tactic line. Each of the games plays similarly, but there are some notable differences. Dice used in combat vary according to the contrasting quality of troops in the game. For instance, Samurai Battles uses a d20 because the line ashigaru is far from the quality of a mounted samurai. On the other hand, in Hot War a d6 is used because the relative difference between a squad with assault rifles and a machinegun nest is not that great. The latest release, Armada Invincible is set during the 16th and 17th Centuries. The initial ships come with the San Martin and the HMS Revenge, setting the stage for conflict between Great Britain and Spain. My initial reaction was that this era is the golden age of piracy. That elicited a cryptic, off-the-record anonymous remark that strongly hinted that, indeed, pirate ships were in the works. Also making Armada Invincible attractive are the fact that ships can be set on two different bases: one for gameplay on hexes showing the ship at the waterline, the other showing the full hull, on a stand, and to be used for display purposes. That’s pretty clever.

Zvezda isn’t done yet, though. A Borodino game is currently in development as is a World War One game, both of which are scheduled for release in 2014.


A huge WWII battle using Art of Tactic rules.


A huge WWII battle using Art of Tactic rules.



One of the ship from Armada Invincible.


Logistics Problems

Napoleon observed that an army marches on its stomach. That is true, and what is also true is that a gaming convention marches on the games and booth setup it brings. Zvezda unfortunately had its Armada Invincible held up in customs and unable to bring any product to the convention. Ares Games also had some headaches and I doubt they were the only ones. Ares had two issues: it almost didn’t get its booth materials in time to set up the booth for the con opening and – worse – its copies of Galaxy Defenders didn’t arrive, so despite the fact that I was willing to plop down hard cash for a copy, I couldn’t get one.

Galaxy Defenders is a coop boardgame played against aliens who have their AI written on to their cards. Players take the role of an individual soldier, called an agent. The game can handle one to five players. There are a variety of scenarios and these can be linked in a campaign. Players gain experience as they kill aliens, and their agents level up, improving abilities along the way. After each player or alien has completed its turn (move, shoot, action) an event card is drawn. These can trigger weather effects which slow players or change the effects of dice rolls.

Dice rolls are used to resolve combat and the defender then rolls to see if he can successfully block damage. Some aliens can regenerate health points. Players have the ability to, for instance, sacrifice ammunition and gain an area effect for their attacks. Advanced rules allow for rules like friendly fire. On the whole this is the kind of game I could put in front of my gaming buddies as a solid entry-level wargame. I really liked this game and would have liked to take a copy home. Ares assures me that games should be here in time for GenCon. Let’s hope so.


Not strictly game related, but a staple at many of these cons is Butch Honeck of Honeck Sculpture. His website is currently down for repairs, but this is the guy I would turn to for home décor. He makes everything from jewelry to clocks to doorbells, some in aluminum, most in bronze. He’s got an artistic hand and an engineer’s mind, and the results speak for themselves. I always look forward to marveling at his work when I’m at a con, and would highly recommend the folks looking to increase the geek factor in their lives to check out his wares.


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Collins Epic Wargames is here, too, and they’re getting ready to launch a Kickstarter campaign on their upcoming 6mm scale sci-fi minis wargame, Polyversal. This is a game that I’m really excited about. The sculpts look really good and Byron Collins makes great games. I can’t wait for this campaign to launch.



And that about wraps up Friday. I spent most of the day just slowly wandering the aisles of the exhibitor hall to get a feel for who was there. Tomorrow I’ll dive deeper into more games and report back.

Talk about Origins here >>

2 Responses to Origins 2014 – Friday

  1. Wish I was there! Things look great. Hope to see more great games in the days ahead.

  2. […] been following Polyversal for a few years now. Yes, years. Here’s the photographic proof at Origins! (Heck, here’s another from 2013…) It’s 6mm sci-fi warfare, so you can play out a large […]

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