Words by David C. Obenour
Origins Game Fair | June 9-12, 2022 | Greater Columbus Convention Center
Following last week’s part one coverage, we head back into the exhibitor hall to bring you even more highlighted games from this year’s Origins Game Fair! It’s clear that regardless of the status of production schedules and crowd funding, there has been no supply chain delay on creative ideas! Here is part two of our coverage of the games we played and heard about from over the weekend.
Akropolis (Hachette Board Games)
Another game of ancient city building (see City Builders), Akropolis adds dimension to tile placement by increasing stacked value and collecting stone from the quarries you build your features on top of. Drawing from a shared construction site, players collect different colored districts each with their own unique way to score. More puzzley than thematic, there’s a lot of pretty and thinky enjoyment to be derived from this straightforward ruleset.
Block and Key (Inside Up Games)
Another example of me being a sucker for playing with blocks (see Castles by the Sea), Block and Key is a fun game that mixes three-dimensional play for two-dimensional goals. Players add blocks to the shared and elevated playing board as they try to complete challenges from their two-dimensional cards and view of the board. But – like the recesses and ridges of a key – adding three dimensional blocks mean that you are changing your opponent’s vantage too!
Moonrakers (IV Games)
Amidst a destabilized future, control of your outlaw faction is uncertain and it will take clever teamwork (with your own goals in mind) to earn the prestige needed to lead. A deck-building game at its center, Moonrakers puts players in negotiated semi-cooperative play with one another as they complete contracts and objectives. All of which makes for a lot of thinky gaming and engaging player interaction without a lot of necessary rules explanation!
Jiangshi (Wet Ink Games)
It’s the 1920s and you have just immigrated from China to the western United States. While this new country hasn’t been as welcoming as you’d hoped, you have been fortunate enough to open your own family restaurant. Which feels like it could be sustainable… until the Jiangshi started showing up. There was a lot we got excited about at Origins but the dual horrors of monsters and the monstrous ways humans can treat each stood out in how they were masterfully woven together into one fascinating and eye-opening game.
boop. (Smirk & Laughter)
A bunch of cats pouncing around the bed and scampering off kittens, the theme is as much a part of boop. as the art and components. Which is fine, because how deep down and theme-filled can you expect this sort of kitten mischief to be gamified anyway? 32 cat meeples and a quilted playmat provide the delight and a push-pull pattern-building mechanic keep you and your opponent booping along for a solid half hour of fun.
Stonewall Uprising (Catastrophe Games)
Another weighty exploration of history through gaming (see Free at Last), don’t let Stonewall Uprising’s bright and colorful illustrations fool you. This two-player deck-building game pulls from the inspiring (and at other times, infuriating and deeply saddening) real world history of the LGBTQ+ civil rights struggle in the United States. Games can be great tools for deepened understanding and empathy, so we’re excited to hear more about this game as it develops.
Watergate (Capstone Games)
Staying with troubling two-player games about 1960s U.S. history, Watergate pits an investigative journalist against the corrupt Nixon administration. Evidence and accusations literally surround the president on all sides, can the connections be made and validated to take down this infamous politician or will misinformation and coercion bury the story? A fascinatingly simple gamified adaptation of a fascinating and complex period of history!
Final Girl (Van Ryder Games)
Playing off our shared classic horror tropes from decades of frights, Final Girl’s core box is the VCR and each subsequent Feature Film game provides you with freshly-painted-nail-biting drama. Released in 2021, there are already five near-franchise familiar scenarios and while Final Girl is a one player game, there’s plenty action and excitement to enjoy as a group, shouting “don’t go in there!” at each other deep into the night.
Gartenbau (25th Century Games)
As an abstract, puzzley game, Gartenbau leans into its theme with incredible turn-of-the-century style illustrations and fun components like garden tool meeples and a cardboard wheelbarrow. All of which makes for a delightful setting for gardeners and non-gardeners alike, while the game’s core play centers more on a combination of drafting, tile placing, and pattern building.
Ghosts of Christmas (BoardGameTables.com)
For as much as it means gathering with others and celebrating together inside, Christmas themes are fairly sparse in the board gaming world. With fun illustrations and components like meeple wreaths, what makes Ghosts of Christmas even more attractive for your next seasonal gathering are the clever adaptations on trick-taking play – making it familiar to friends with even a passing knowledge of card games. There’s also even a simpler “Tiny Tim” version to teach at the kids table!
Tenpenny Parks (Thunderworks Games)
Another amusement park builder (see Ark Nova), Tenpenny Parks takes players on a thrilling ride of mid-century amusement park building. Lasting for five months (or turns) players expand their property, fell trees, run amusements, advertise attractions, and build rides that inspire thrill, awe, and joy – all critical to a successful (and game winning) park. The game’s center-piece lies with its wonderfully executed carousel component – which players can rotate to choose that round’s discounts and upcharges.
Enigma Beyond Code (CrowD Games)
Enigma: Beyond Code takes its inspiration from the pages of World War II code breaking history with added magical realism from the “chaos” needed to run the Enigma machine. A social deduction game, players assume the roles of mathematicians, intellectuals, and ne’er-do-wells with their own agendas for wanting to crack the code and control the chaos. Over in less than a half hour, the rules are quick to pick up and explain in a group setting.
Amygdala (Game Brewer)
A beautiful and abstract strategy game, Amygdala is loosely themed around the workings of the mind as we experience the science of human emotions. However, this is really just a vehicle for the vibrant illustrations and components as they convey the game’s mechanics – primarily set in puzzley thinking like area influence, pattern building, and tile placement. From the creator of Azul, there’s a lot to like about this kind of game and still time to get in on the crowdfunding!
And those are the games we played at Origins 2022! If you haven’t already, check out part one of our coverage, be sure to subscribe to our Digital Zine and follow along for more gaming interviews and features!