Monday, June 16, 2014

Origins 2014 Review

Origins 2014 has come and gone with the good and the bad.

Overall, it was a lot of fun. This was my 13th Origins and I saw a number of changes this year that I thought made the con a much better experience. (I missed Origins 2013 so these changes may have been implemented earlier, but they were new to me.)

Vendor Hall

The vendor hall, while smaller than it had been in previous years, was packed with lots of great companies selling many more things than I could afford to buy. I loved that they moved the Art Room into here, as now I could spend more time looking (and buying) their stuff. There were also a number of new vendors I hadn't seen before at Origins, like Pelgrane Press. Hope they come back!

There certainly seemed to be more people in the vendor hall than in years past. A number of merchants remarked this to me as well. Hope this means a turn around for the major vendors to start coming back, while still keeping the smaller ones there.

One interesting thing I noticed was there were a number of booths for games that are either on Kickstarter now, or will be soon. I wonder if this is going to be something we'll be seeing more. Fortunately, they all had playable demos, which I'm sure helped drum up interest.

Unfortunately, there was a lack of used game merchants there, which really cut the number of RPG items that I wanted to pick up to almost nothing. I hope that changes next year.

Board Room

When I say board room, I mean one of two board rooms - the board game hall with the supported play, and the CABS board room you needed a ribbon to use.

First, the hall. I was initially shocked to find that some of the major vendors, like Asmodee and Mayfair, had small booths in the vendor hall. I realized why when I found their larger booths in the board hall. This was a great idea! Not only do people get to see/demo the games for longer (props to all their volunteers too), but it filled up the space better. No more open area with just tables. This looked much better.

A panoramic view of the board hall.
Once again, the CABS board room rocked. Their library continues to grow, and any game I wanted to check out they had in their library. In fact, there are some games I checked out from CABS that directly led to me purchasing them.

CABS also did their raffle a different way than I had previously seen. Every time you checked out a game, you got a ticket. Please keep doing it this way. Not only did this make the board ribbon an even better value, but I think it was a very fair way to do it.

The Auction

I participated in the silent auction this year and ended up selling four of my games for good money. The auction process went very smoothly, and I never had any problems putting items in the auction, bidding, or collecting my money. The people running it did an excellent job and I was very impressed.

I need to apologize as well. I was initially (and privately) critical that I was not able to put an item in the silent auction, and then the live auction if it did not sell. However, I now see there is no need to do so. The Origins auction guys certainly know what they are doing.

Kenneth Hite

Sadly, I have never done any of the seminars at Origins. This is mostly because there have not been any that I found interesting in the times that I was free. This year, however, I saw that Ken Hite was running a few seminars and I made sure I was free for at least one.

The seminar I went to was Ken entitled "Building the Perfect Monster" where he discussed, and answering questions concerning, how to add monsters to your scenarios/campaigns, and how to tweak them to fit in. There were only 10 or so people in the seminar, but this worked out better as it gave more time to talk to him.

Overall, it was a great seminar and I wish I could have gone to his other ones. Mr. Hite was also kind enough to autograph my Trail of Cthulhu book too! :)

Other Items of Note

A couple other items of note that spring to my mind:
  • The video game room was new to me, and my daughters played in it for an hour. They loved it, and I admit I was a little jealous that I had not gotten to play as well. While Origins is not known as a video game con, that room did a great job filling a need that will attract more people.
  • Barley's should be commended once again for not only having great food and drink, but also having the coolest Origins pint glass.
  • I saw more cosplay this year than I have before. Most, if not all of them, were excellently done and I enjoyed seeing them. Great job to all who did!
  • The mammoth versions of the Mayfair games are awesome. Please tell me how I can get a rug printed out with one of the game boards!!!
  • On my way back to the hotel on Saturday night, I got to see World Naked Bike Ride go by. That was interesting. :)
The Mayfair Games Mammoth Pompeii board
(and my wife's feet).

My Games

Due to some issues, the games from our group were not put into the original event schedule that was released, so most players did not know about our games and this was reflected in our attendance. Three out of my four games had to be canceled because I had no players; most of our GMs had similar experiences.

Fortunately, my last game ran and went pretty well. My game was The Menace from Beyond - a new Ubiquity game from Siege Tower Games. It is a 50's b-movie RPG that puts players smack into the middle of alien invasions, radioactive monsters, and everything else that made the 50s sci-fi genre what it was.

Overall, the game went well and the players appeared to enjoy it. There was one issue where one player did not like how another was playing, and I did not realize it until he said something after the game. To his credit, he did say something during the game, but I thought he was roleplaying his character at the time. (If I had thought otherwise, I would have changed things.)

Despite that, the game was successful and I am happy with the scenario. I need to modify some bits of it to make it better, but it was good.


In the end, Origins was still a blast. More importantly, my wife and daughters enjoyed it, especially since this was my youngest's first Origins. As always, there were some issues, but nothing major enough to keep us away.

Our haul from this year.