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Origins Game Fair 2019 Recap

I’ve always heard wonderful things about Origins Game Fair, but never had the opportunity to attend. Living in Utah, the distance made things a bit more difficult. Near the end of last year, however, I moved my family across the country, and now we live a whopping three hours away from Columbus, Ohio—the city in which Origins takes place.

Obviously, I took advantage of the distance this year.

This was my first-ever time at Origins, and at a convention bigger than SaltCON (which is a convention I love, by the way). This recap will take you through the experience as I experienced it. In short, I had an exhausting, wonderful time, and I will certainly be back next year. The long of it? Well, continue on, fair reader…

Experience of a First-Timer
As I mentioned, this was my first time at Origins—or any other large convention, for that matter. This year (2019), SaltCON had over 1,900 people show up. I don’t have the numbers for this year, but in 2018, the attendance at Origins was 18,648 people. Compared to SaltCON, attending Origins was like moving from a small town to the big city.

When I first stepped foot inside the exhibitor hall, I was overwhelmed. Perhaps “overwhelmed” is too strong a word. Maybe bug-eyed and bushy tailed would be a better way of putting it. It was huge, with people crowding in around everywhere! I was the new kid at the playground, but I was so excited to start looking around.

In fact, I did nothing but look around my first day there.

I decided the best thing to do was just wander. So, I wandered. I got my bearings and made sense of the seeming chaos of booths and vendors and demoes and attendees and games everywhere! This was heaven. I had died, and bless my soul I had made it to heaven.

So, obviously, my first stop was the White Wizard Games booth to pick up my free copy of Epic Card Game. (Didn’t want to risk them running out, which apparently wasn’t going to be a problem). I then hit up a few other booths for free things like dice and a demo/pre-built deck for the Dragon Ball Z Super Card Game. Now that my free things were acquired, I could get down to brass tacks.

The hotness.

The booths.

The games.

As an editor, I like to cut words where I can. However, the writer in me doesn't always know when to stop. While I can say a lot about my experience as a first-timer, I will suffice it to say that I wore myself out talking with everyone hawking their games. I made some great connections, met some great people, and discovered some fantastic games (more on the games further down). I was completely beat by the end of my first day, and driving home after my second day (yes, I only stayed two days, and yes, I do wish I could have stayed longer) I had to switch off driving with my wife for the last hour because I simply could not stay awake at the wheel. It’s a three-hour drive. I barely lasted two. But, we made it home, and I’m surrounded by new games, business cards, and good memories. I’m still trying to catch up on sleep, but that’s a price that must be paid at all conventions.

Games Played

Played Lords of Hellas on Friday night with friends.
In this section, I won’t discuss all the games I played and demoed and merely glanced at (there were so many!). Instead, I’d like to make mention of a few of the lesser-known games I found at Origins, games that maybe weren’t on The Hotness or being touted endlessly on social media. There were certainly amazing games from big-name publishers (a couple of which I will mention in this section), but there were some valuable gems skirting around as well. Here are some of my favorites.

Proving Grounds from Renegade Game Studios

Alright, so I know I said I wanted to talk about some lesser-known games, but I can’t pass up this opportunity to mention Proving Grounds. Of all the games appearing at Origins, this was the one I was most excited for. It’s strictly solo, is designed by Kane Klenko (FUSE, Flatline, Flipships, etc.), has real-time mechanics, and has an included novelette that sets up the scene for the game. I’m a writer and a copy-editor - favoring the fantasy genre above all else, so the included story was a beyond exciting announcement. (I’ve even taken to write short fiction inspired by thematic board games, so this is totally my thing.) I’m a huge fan of Kane Klenko’s games, as well as real-time mechanics, so I was more than excited about that. I also play my fair share of solo games, so this was another mark in its favor.

In the end…I must admit I haven’t played it yet (come on, it hasn’t even been a week—as of this writing—since I’ve been home!). But, I did demo it and went through a few rounds, and it sure looks and feels great. If you haven’t seen much of this one yet, and you enjoy a good solo game, definitely check out Proving Grounds.

Dino Dunk by Twin City Games

Along with the other things I love (as mentioned in my comments about Proving Grounds), I love a good dexterity game. And I love dinosaurs. Put the two together, and you’ve got a winner. I had the designer, Cody Stevens, show me how to play, and then we played through a few phases. It’s essentially basketball with dinosaurs. The three-point arc is a river of lava flowing around a volcano—which is the “hoop” you’re trying to score in. Each dinosaur on your team has specific skills and abilities. For example, the T-Rex has stubby little arms, so it can’t shoot. But it can dunk! The Velociraptor is quick and agile, so it is able to reposition itself better before shooting or passing. 

I only played a few phases, but I managed to skirt by the opposition and sink a 3-pointer—nothing but net! Er, lava? Didn’t even need the backboard. *dabs* In my short time playing, I found the mechanics to be quite solid, and the double-sided play mat looked great. I hope to one day get the chance to play through a full game, as I had a lot of fun the few minutes I played.

Fire Tower by Runaway Parade Games

Fire Tower caught my eye as I saw people playing. I could tell from the board that there was a lot of fire burning in the game, but I really didn’t get what was going on just by watching. Fortunately, I was able to play a game with one of the designers and a couple other interested people. From the sidelines, it looked like an interesting game. Actually playing was something else entirely.

It was fast, competitive, and tense. And I enjoyed every minute of it. In fact, since being home, I sat down to play it with my wife, and after our first game, she demanded a rematch. That’s always a good sign! But getting back to the Origins point in time, I really enjoyed spreading the fire to my opponents’ towers, putting out fire in my own tower, and otherwise causing—and reacting to—organized chaos. Much like a real forest fire, winds change and what once was safe becomes an impending target. It’s that back-and-forth, that constantly changing threat, that really makes Fire Tower an exciting game.

If you haven’t heard of it…well, you have now. Definitely give it a look, as it’s one of those games that, to me, flew under the radar. Very happy to have found it, and look forward to playing it more!

Fire in the Library by Weird Giraffe Games

The last game I’ll mention is Fire in the Library. Now, I had heard many good things about this game previous to Origins, but never really knew much about it. When I visited their booth, I got the chance to play. Turns out it’s a press-your-luck game, and as those who know me already know, I do enjoy pressing my luck. 

And Fire in the Library did not disappoint.

I did horrendously in the game I played, but I quite enjoyed losing. The game played quickly, the mechanics were simple to learn, and the enjoyment factor was way up there. I won’t say anything else about this game other than it’s a fantastic press-your-luck game, and if you’re into that kind of thing, you really need to check out Fire in the Library.

Improv for Gamers by Karen Twelves

I said I wouldn’t talk about more games, but this isn’t a game—it’s a book! This book is full of improv games (alright, so maybe there are games attached to this) that are tailored for gamers - especially those who role play and LARP, but there is a lot of good information and a lot of games for tabletop and board gamers as well. 

I was in my school’s improv troupe in college, and we were awesome (non-biased, of course). Getting up on stage and making things up on the spot was exhilarating. The audience’s laughter made our shenanigans worth it all (despite losing our dignity somewhere along the way).

But you know, I have gleaned many real-world benefits from my time as an improv performer, and this book looks to help provide DMs and gamers of all types with the skills necessary to up their game, to make their experiences more colorful and complete. These improv games aren’t only for those familiar with the art, but are made for everyone - beginner, introvert, or whatever. If you  are a DM, this will not only help you make impromptu decisions when your players do something quite unexpected, but will help your players roll with things better as well. These games help sore losers not be so sore about losing. There are so many applications that I feel this book and these types of exercises can really enhance a person’s gaming experience. Very cool idea to mix improv with gaming, and I think it works wonderfully.

Other Things
There was so much going on at Origins, that I simply could not fit it all in during my brief stay. But, there were some fun things taking place.

I saw a life-sized King of Tokyo being played, and it looked awesome.

Speaking of awesome, there were lots of war games set up with all types of settings. But, the coolest setting I saw was that of a beach invasion. The explosions in the water looked superb, the detail in the beachscape was second to none, and just wow! I mean, check out this picture and see for yourself:

Very cool.

There were lots of tournaments going on as well, from HeroClix to Star Wars Destiny. I was happy to see a strong turnout for the Destiny tournament, because a lot of folks think the game is dying out. The tournament attendance would suggest otherwise. I’m a big fan of Star Wars Destiny, so that made me happy.

The stairs were decorated as well, which was a cool look. In fact, I’m pretty sure these stairs were so respected that people wouldn’t use them for fear of desecrating them. At least, that’s what I assume is the case as to why the escalators were packed and the stairs virtually empty.

I also got to meet some people I’ve only known through social media, which was really cool. Getting to put faces to the names was great, and getting to know them bit more on a personal level was definitely a highlight of my trip.

And we can't forget everybody's favorite stop...Tim Hortons! I'm Canadian, and as such, I have an affinity to good donuts...namely Timmies. It pains my soul that I don't have a Tim Hortons nearby, so when I do visit a place with a Timmies, I make it a point to go as many times as possible. 

The only downside to Tim Hortons in the USA is that I have yet to see a Canadian Maple donut. Those are mmmmmmm good!


Origins was a fun, yet exhausting, experience. I am already looking forward to next year, and next time, it’ll be even better. Origins is a great opportunity to check out games both new and old, to meet people and network (if you’re looking to network), and play games with friends. Many people come home with a boat load of new games, and while that’s awesome and exciting, don’t feel like you have to spend a lot of money to have a good time. I spent $3.00 while there (on parking far away from the convention center, no less), and still had a super fun time. Of course, coming home with games like Dino Dunk and Fire in the Library would have been wonderful, but I still had loads of fun, had many fantastic experiences, and enjoyed myself no end. If you have the money to spend on new games, you’re going to love Origins. If you don’t? Well, it’s still a great time with lots going on. Origins Game Fair is one of those conventions all types of gamers will enjoy, as well as all types of budgets. 

Did you go to Origins? Let us know how your experience was in the comments!

About the Author:

Benjamin Kocher hails from Canada but now lives in Kentucky with his wife and kids. He's a certified copyeditor through UC San Diego's Copyediting Extension program. He's a freelance writer and editor, and covers everything from board game rule books to novels. An avid writer of science fiction and fantasy, it comes as no surprise that his favorite board games are those with rich, engaging themes. When he’s not writing or playing games, Benjamin loves to play ultimate Frisbee, watch and play rugby, and read the most epic fantasy books available. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminKocher and Instagram @Benjamin_Kocher, and read his board game-inspired fiction at BenjaminKocher.com.

Check out Benjamin's reviews here.
Origins Game Fair 2019 Recap Origins Game Fair 2019 Recap Reviewed by Benjamin Kocher on June 28, 2019 Rating: 5


  1. Our family has been going to Origins since 2008. We always look forward to it each year. We decided to spend most of this year in the board room playing games we own but haven't played yet. It worked out really well since we were able to knock off eight or so games. I recommend going to everyone because we love it so much. I do recommend the board room ribbon to have a nice place to play and access to the library. We won four games this year just by spending so much time playing in the area.

    1. Awesome! I'm glad you and your family loves it so much. I'll have to get into the board room next time. This year, since I was only there for two days, I didn't have much time for that. But it looks and sounds like a fun place to be!



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