Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Origins: The Show

Despite the nightmare that flying to Ohio seems to be, we did eventually reach Columbus.  Jason Paul McCartan of Infinibadger Press was waiting in the airport for us - some of you may recall that he and I are engaged in a #PonyWar of exceeding viciousness.

This was the first time we'd met in person, and he'd driven to the airport multiple times over the preceding two days expecting to pick us up.

When we piled into the car with our stuff, we found a crocheted pony waiting for us. Apparently the Badger's wife decided that she wanted to be a party to the #PonyWar, too.

Steph and I were delivered safely to our hotel, and we thanked Badger several times. "It's no big deal," he told us, "You're family."

We heard that a lot over the weekend from a number of folks.

Thursday morning, we hit the exhibit hall fairly early.  The usual plan is "Do one pass without spending money and then go back later to spend."  And we mostly stuck to it.  We went back to the room and talked about every purchase we made at the entire show.

We ran into Stephan Brissaud pretty early - he's the VP of GAMA, and is the guy in charge of Iello US. He's also someone I worked with when he was with Asmodee (in fact, he's the one who first asked me to join their demo team).

We knew CMON was at the show, but we didn't see them in the exhibit hall, which confused us.  We later went back and found them in the gaming area next door.  It was Pete and Ruby and a ton of the Asmodee Demo Team in that booth.  They were all glad to see us. "You're part of the family," we were told several times.

I played Gekido: Bot Battles, and enjoyed it enough to pick it up. It's not a deep game, but it's fun. It's too long to be filler, but it's a decent enough warm up / cool down game. There are a few unexplained timing issues in the rulebook, but I expect CMON will publish a FAQ soon enough.

Pete co-designed a game with Richard Launius that I knew was going to be available at the show, so I asked him where to get it. "I'll show you," he said, and walked Steph and I over to the Indie Boards & Cards booth.  There were only a few games in the booth, but I looked straight at Pete and asked him which game was his.

I managed to keep a straight face, too, so it took him a minute before he realized I was pulling his leg.  The look on his face was priceless.  I later got him to sign my copy.

Steph and I got a sneak peek at the upcoming Cutthroat Caverns expansion. Cutthroat Caverns is one of those excellent games that I don't get to play very often. Everyone has to work together to overcome the obstacles, but only one player gets to win the game. It's very Republic of Rome or Castle Panic in that respect. The new expansion looks meaty and flavorful and awesome.

I walked past the Asmodee area a couple of times. It was really weird, because I didn't recognize a single person there. Not one. The crew were wearing a mix of uniforms - some were Asmodee shirts from years past, and some were wearing Fantasy Flight Games' "Flight Crew" shirts. But it wasn't uniform, and it (sadly) looked sloppy.

While wandering the hall, I kept getting stopped by people, too. "Hey, Eric," I'd hear, "You taught us to play [GAME] a few years ago, and you recommended [OTHER GAME], and we loved it. What are you teaching this year? Any new suggestions?"  Random people who I only vaguely recognized, because when you run 200 demos at a show, there is almost no way you will remember all of the faces.

I also demoed Rise of Tribes. It was decent enough, but I wasn't sure so I took Steph back the next day to check it out and she liked it enough to back. They'll be funding the day after this post is scheduled to go live, so if you're thinking about backing, look quickly.

"Kickstarter," is another of those words I heard a ton at the show.  "We just funded on Kickstarter," or "We're launching the Kickstarter for this shortly," or "The Kickstarter is live now," or (in a few cases), "We're currently fulfilling our Kickstarter for it, with retail copies hitting distribution shortly."

The number one question, by the way, that we asked at every booth was, "Are you in distribution?" Because getting books and games home from a show can be a huge pain, and we'd rather pay a bit more and support our Friendly Local Game Store.  If they were in distribution, we usually grabbed a business card and moved on.

I also demoed The Supershow. This game was not for me. I figured that out a few turns in, but gave it a full game just to make sure. It's because the game was so random. It's theoretically possible for one player to never get a turn.  Unlikely, but possible. And dice hate me.

Thursday evening, I went out for drinks with the Badger and discovered that I like Scottish Ale. Since I'm not a fan of beer in general, this is a useful thing to know.

Friday was more of the same, only we ran into Carol (formerly of Asmodee, now with CMON). Her face lit up and she gave us both big hugs.  She almost didn't recognize me initially, but she definitely recognized Steph.  Later in the booth, she introduced us to a few of the new people, and added, "They're part of the family."

I almost wanted to grab a CMON shirt and start working then and there, because it's a weird thing not having a set schedule at a con.

Steph and I demoed Onitama, which put it on my list to get eventually. It'd be higher on the list, but Steph beat me pretty quickly. It also has an expansion out now.  It was a surprisingly-deep game given how fast it was to teach and play.

I'd been meaning to check out Dropzone Commander since our booth was across the aisle from theirs at GenCon a few years ago, so I got a chance to sit down and play a demo.  The game has a lot going for it, but it was just a bit too fiddly for me. I definitely understand all the love it gets, though. The role specialization of each unit means that larger armies than the starter box will be significantly more interesting to play, but since no-one locally plays it, I'd need to buy whatever armies I wanted to play with or against. Or convince a friend to buy in, but that gets expensive for them, too.

That's how the whole weekend went, honestly.  On Sunday, the CMON crew invited us to join them for dinner, but Steph was asleep and I was pretty peopled out. Otherwise we absolutely would have joined in because they are family.

Over the course of the show, five different publishers/teams asked if we'd be interested in joining their demo team for GenCon or PAX Unplugged or even next year's Origins. Or other shows.  Apparently we have a rep of some sort. I almost want to eBay our services, just to see what kind of attention we can get (probably not much - getting approval to bid on eBay through your corporate office is not an easy thing to do).

On Monday, Badger picked us up and we headed to Bob Evans for lunch.  He'd been raving about it for a while, and we don't have them locally.  It was good, but I don't like it as well as he does.  It's like a cross between Shari's and IHOP.

After lunch, we headed to the airport for the trip home.

While on the way there, Steph's phone rang.  Our flight had been delayed.  When we reached the airport, we learned that it'd been delayed enough that we were going to miss our connection in Minneapolis, so we needed to be rebooked.

"I don't know what I can do," said the gate agent, "Because this is a United ticket."  We were booked to fly Delta.  Apparently when we bought the tickets, United sold us tickets on a Delta flight.

I don't know if I mentioned it in our last travel post, but we booked First Class, because I had never flown First Class before. I wanted to know what it was like.

After a bit of hemming and hawing and calling a supervisor, he got us rebooked to fly through Detroit instead on a flight that was supposed to be boarding right away.  So we grabbed our tickets and got through security as quickly as we could.  We got to the gate and discovered that the flight had been delayed.  In fact, that flight had originally been scheduled to leave before 11:00 that morning. It was now 3:00 pm.

Suddenly, we were in danger of missing our connection in Detroit.

But we got free (room-temperature) soda, water, and snacks.

After about 40 minutes, we were able to board. There were only five passengers going to Detroit at that point, everyone else having rebooked.  Spell check, by the way, hates the word "rebook," and it's very distracting.

Steph and I got off the plane and rushed to make our connection. I know I haven't mentioned this before, but Steph uses a cane to get around sometimes. Monday was one of those days. We got to the correct gate as they were about to start boarding. And ... we lost our First Class status, but we got onto the plane. We were going to be home a few hours ahead of our original schedule, so it was a mixed bag.

This sums up my thoughts pretty well:

We got home and just collapsed. It was an exhausting day, and an exhausting trip altogether.

A decade ago, I told someone "Origins is where you go to play games, GenCon is where you go to buy them."  And I stand by that statement.  There were no RPG dealers in the exhibit hall. There were RPG Publishers, but the shops that were there were all minis and board game shops.  In fact, it was impossible to buy D&D books at the show (despite an official presence there). It's probably for the best, otherwise one of the Badger's children would now own Tails of Equestria. And we would have needed a new ride to the airport.

I want to go again, but it really depends on a number of factors.

I guess we'll see.

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