It’s been 3 weeks since i returned from Columbus, OH, the site of the 2015 Origins Game Fair. Not sure why I can’t get into a writing regimen, but oh well. As I write this, I am trying to watch “The Comedians”, but it’s almost over. I also learned that Chris Squire has died, which is a total bummer. Almost puts me in a mood NOT to write, but I am going to do it.
I accepted an invitation to be a volunteer for IELLO games and it’s the first time I had been to convention of this type. Not sure what to expect, but given they paid for room, food, and compensated in games, it seemed like a great offer.
I arrived in Columbus on June 1st in the evening, after working a full day. I took a plane, so I was at the hotel around 9pm I believe. I got to my room and found my roommate had not arrived. I was a bit astonished to find we were in one room with a king bed, but the thinking was that one of us would stay in the bedroom and the other would take the living room, which was separate. Since I arrived first, I took the bedroom. 🙂 (I would later find out my roommate’s flight was canceled and he would come in at 1am the following night).
The next morning I had my free breakfast at the Drury and then walked over to the Hyatt, where we were gathering to spend the first day learning to play the various IELLO games. After introductions, we broke off into groups to play the games. Sara E., who was the previous volunteer coordinator, and I played the 2-player Steam Torpedo first. It’s a strategy game with complex rules, but I got the hang of it and was called upon several times in the following days to explain it to people at the game fair. That’s about all I got in before we took a 3-hour lunch break. Not sure why we took such a long break, but most of us had lunch together (at a somewhat fancy restaurant that they covered) and then explored a big flea market-like building with various food vendors, among other things. I believe the place was called North Market. I would return there a couple times for lunch over the next few days since it was right across the street from the game fair.
We spent the rest of the afternoon playing more games, but I still didn’t them all in (like Pingo Pingo, Three Little Pigs, etc.). Back at the Drury, they had free food and drinks for happy hour until 7pm. I can’t remember if I stayed and talked that night, but pretty much spend the night in. I wanted to stay up for my roommate, Richard, and I pretty much did. He texted me around 1:45 because he couldn’t get upstairs. Apparently he never got a card from the front desk. We talked for a bit, but then off to bed.
I still have never got my head wrapped around Wednesday and I heard the same thing on the Dice Tower podcast. It was the first day of the convention, or was it? The exhibit hall was not open, but the open play (OP) gaming area was. We were told it would be an additional day to learn to play games, but there were a lot of people coming to play. So while I did learn a couple new ones (most notably the very fun Medieval Academy and the very complicated Guardian Chronicles), I still never got a grip on Pingo Pingo.
The next day I was working in the exhibit hall, where we only had a select few games to preview and then send patrons over to the OP area if they wanted more. Interestingly, we were asked to start later than OP. Richard worked in this area too and we went down early to learn some more games, but were immediately called into duty. It was very busy and the atmosphere was electric. Activity was constant.
During my lunch hour, I got to meet longtime Facebook friend, Rob, who I have known for nearly ten years now. But only on Facebook. Music was our mutual interest, and were actually the same age and have similar tastes. Odd meeting someone live for the first time that you feel you’ve known, but we hit it off just fine and had a great lunch together. Afterwards, we had our picture taken out in front of the convention center.
In the evening I got together with David H., who described me as his friend from the start, which was odd but also great. Such an interesting, opinionated, and honest guy. We walked the streets looking for a place to eat. It took so long to find a suitable site that Richard was able to join us, after doing double duty with AEG. And when David went off about a bad experience with Mayfair, it caught the ear of someone walking by – Amadeus, who was a volunteer for Mayfair. He joined us in a lively discussion about a variety of topics before we called it a night. I would run into Amadeus again Saturday night and we worked out a deal where I was able to get Murano, a game I had targeted from the start.
Friday and Saturday I continued to work in the exhibit hall. I met a lot of great people on my break and swung a couple more deals to get a copy of Francis Drake, Fleet, and Trains: Rising Sun. I didn’t target (or really know) anything about these games, but I wanted to get some other products outside of IELLO. Unfortunately, I kind of mismanaged how much I was getting from IELLO, so I had to cut out a couple IELLO games in the end (Heroes of Normandie) and cancel any further trading after discussions with Rio Grande (only trade demo games) and Ares games, who had two volunteers talk to me but never found them again. I probably would have traded for Inkognito. I also bought a game from R&R (Hey Waiter!) after getting a $4 discount spinning a wheel at their booth. Had to use it, right?
I also acquired a game from a silent auction on Friday. Dr. Stephen showed me where it was taking place after our shifts were over, but when I went into the cold room, I already had to pee really bad. He was trying to show me where Specter Ops was in the room. It’s a brand new game I had targeted and tried to trade for with Plaid Hat, but was unsuccessful. I would buy shortly after getting home. Anyway, I went through the room really quickly and found a game on my wishlist, Blue Moon Legends. I put a bid in for $18, which is about half what it sells for new. I then got out of there but promised to return before it closed at 8. What I didn’t realize is that during the last hour, people would only be able to enter the room for 2 minutes to check on their bids. Too little time to check out what else was there. No one increased the bid on Blue Moon. I did put in a bid for a couple card games packaged together that I had never even heard of. I returned an hour later and stood in line forever to find out if I won. I was told to stay, but not informed of what I won. Was it Blue Moon Legends or the card game? Turns out, it was the former, so I was quite happy.
Being at Origins is all about playing games, and other than my demoing time, I hadn’t really played much. So Friday night I went to the Asmodee demo area, which was open until midnight. I sat down and played Nations Dice game with my other volunteer coworkers and one other guy. Alex torched us. I also finally learned Five Tribes with Richard, but we had to go before finishing the game. I returned to Asmodee on Saturday night and played “Escape: The Curse of the Temple”. I think I’ve learned I really don’t care for real time games like this. Played with five people and it was just too frantic and seemed sloppy. I can see this with 2 or 3 people, but really didn’t care for it.
Also on Saturday, I played my favorite game of Origins and one of the best games I played in a long time: Baseball Highlights 2045. I only knew of it because Richard entered a tournament for it, and there was only one other person in the tourney, and it was Chris! So I sat down and played with an Arcane Wonders volunteer. Great competition, I pulled out the win. And now, after Father’s Day, I own the game! There’s still plenty of games I acquired at Origins that I haven’t played, but I have played Baseball Highlights a few times. 🙂
I finished the week off working the OP area on Sunday. It was also pretty fun, but activity really died down considerably in the afternoon. At 4pm, we shut everything down and it was clean up time. We all worked together as a team to take down all the tables, repack stock, etc. I was provided a large bag that I thought I could use to bring my games on the plane. But the bag ended up splitting and I had to throw it away. But I also got a lot of promo cards for King of New York and King of Tokyo, some KoT buttons, a hat, a water bottle, and plenty of other goodies. Richard and I headed out around 5:30 so we could catch an Uber at 6pm, so we said our goodbyes and headed back to the hotel for one last free meal and drink. But I still needed to check out, and it was during this process my bag ripped. Tape helped, but I didn’t want to risk it and paid $35 to ship it on Delta because I also had to pay to check in my regular bag.
So what did I think of it all? I thought it was great and I would do it again. Maybe even do GenCon next time. I met some of the people that got me more into board gaming in the first place: Tom and Zee from Dice Tower and Rodney from Watch it Played. Plus, I also met a guy from named Josh from Cool Mini or Not right here in the Atlanta area. Hopefully I will run into him again. And then of course there are all the folks at IELLO and the volunteers. Fun group of people. Many of them are regrouping for GenCon in a few weeks, but it doesn’t look like I will be able to make it. Next time, I would like to participate in some planned events and maybe enjoy the city’s culture a bit more. But all in all, I can’t complain.