Words by David C. Obenour
Origins Game Fair | June 22-25, 2023 | Greater Columbus Convention Center
Feeling more like a “regular” convention again with every passing year, attendees of Origins Game Fair returned to Columbus, Ohio for another long weekend of glorious gaming. Back to it’s pre-pandemic event footprint, rooms and halls featured everything from large scale floor games to miniature tabletop games – and all the cards, dice, and meeples in between! While some notable larger publishers were missing from the exhibitor hall this year, the space allowed for additional indies to showcase recent and soon-to-be titles. Here is the first selection of games that caught our attention.
Mish Match (The Op)
Set matching games are fun in how they make your brain work differently. Dense strategy is fun too, but analysis paralysis is real, and a frantic spot-this-watchout-for-that game can be a welcomed change of pace for the afternoon. With a simple ruleset (think Egyptian Rat Screw and you’re pretty much there) what stands out about Mish Match is a cute street illustration style that appeals to kids and cool kids alike.
Dubious (Arcane Wonders)
We all have two sides, the things we do that are known and the things we do that we’d rather be left unknown. In Dubious, players are dealt a set of both things for their newly created character and then set about answering questions that reveal some truth… but not too much. The storytelling stays fresh with cleverly crafted illustrations that allow players to exist in different worlds – including modern, fantasy, and gothic (and likely more in future expansions). With a number of other titles simply aping the genre’s classics, it’s nice seeing social deduction and storytelling games explore new ways to decipher and deceive.
Ink (Snowbright Studios)
Death is only the beginning. In Ink, players rekindle the adventures of their favorite fallen pen-and-paper heroes as souls struggling to find peace. This other realm adventure sets your party out to recover memories, learn and overcome existential burdens, and fight monsters yet again in a struggle to survive even in death. While these reflections can feel somber, Snowbright’s setting allows your group to set its own tone with the addition of more lighthearted elements, such as boo-ristas serving up helpful elixirs.
Vast Grimm (Infinite Black)
The moment you set eyes on Vast Grimm a soundtrack starts playing of epic guitar riffs and spaced out synthesizer. Cyberpunk, vaporwave, synthcore, power metal – choose your own adventure – but the aesthetic for this Mörk Borg compatible-RPG is dialed and it looks brutally fun. Sold with the tagline “each miserable day that passes, the universe inches closer to its inevitable demise,” you’ll be throwing horns with one hand and casting a D20 with the other.
Ogre Sandwich (Strange Machine)
Not particularly known for having a discerning palate, as competing chefs in the ogre king’s court what fills your sandwich is important but maybe not as important as how full your sandwich ends up being! In this light dexterity game, chefs roll for ingredients they then plate, steal, and stack, in an effort to make the tallest and tastiest sandwich for his majesty.
Behext (Smirk & Dagger Games)
As powerful magicians, controlling arcane power is as much about supremacy as it is about survival. Playing as dueling spellcasters, Behext integrates unique elements of deckbuilding and manipulation for a sort of elegant game of hot potato. Powerful spells swirl around as each player adds to its effects and the ability for its control. As a Smirk & Dagger (not …& Laughter) title, the play is cutthroat and as much about maximizing your turn as it is minimizing your opponent’s.
Merchants of the Dark Road (Elf Creek Games)
The season of light is coming to an end, though the coming darkness offers no respite to your daily toil. In Merchants of the Dark Road, players set off into the dark and throughout the land in pursuit of fame and fortune. Utilizing a rondel system of action selection, your caravan must travel, buy, sell, dungeon delve, and manipulate markets and myths.
Ahau: Rulers of the Yucatán (Apeiron Games)
Games are exciting in how they can work as art, toys, and immersive tools for learning, and Ahau: Rulers of Yucatán seems to have succeeded in all three categories. Designed with the consultation of a Mayanist and professor of anthropology and archaeology, players manipulate worker placement and resource management to compete for the fame and glory of their city-state. Feeling more like a “classic” euro, it’s also exciting seeing a refreshed approach and aesthetic for this familiar style of play.
Thursday (Indie Press Revolution)
With a cover like a clever Fantagraphics book or the label of a good bottle of natural wine, Thursday will most likely appeals to fans of both. Stuck in a fatal time loop, players are forced to relive interactions from the meaningful to mundane as they try to figure out how to escape. Meant to be played without preparation or a game master, with so many incredible RPGs out there it’s exciting to find one as interesting and accessible as this.
Sizzling Circuits! No need to blow on the game box to boot up this fun. Mega Man Adventures brings the side scrolling levels and bosses of the first three classic titles to your tabletop for lightweight cooperative fun. Obviously created with longtime fans in mind, art is sourced directly from the original packaging and pixelated game graphics and campaign play mirrors the progression of the console experience.
Ahoy (Leder Games)
The latest from Leder Games, Ahoy is yet another beautifully illustrated game of asymmetrical play and win conditions. Setting sail through placing tiles and workers, each player controls a different crew of fantastical swashbucklers with their own reasons for seeking fame and fortune out on the high seas. Lighter than previous titles, Ahoy is a great introduction for the new and a fun entry for the already initiated.
My Island (Thames & Kosmos)
The follow up to Reiner Knizia’s My City, My Island is a legacy game shrouded in mystery. Arriving on an unknown island, players proceed to build their communities through 24 fascinating games. Adding dynamics with each session, chapters begin by opening an envelope with new rules and components to incorporate. Not set up as an exhibitor, in our meeting Thames & Kosmos’ rep was a little cagey about providing further details other than alluding to the rather ominous tagline that “Your island will be unique!”
Strange visions have been visiting the dreams of Arkham residents. At first it seemed unnerving but unremarkable, however as the town’s psychotherapist you have come to understand that this is a connected and concerning hysteria. In Psychobabble a number of dreamers share the same vision while one has gone completely mad. A social deduction game with hidden roles, you have to listen closely to each other, share your insight shrewdly, and try to make sense of it all… and each other!
And that’s it for Part One of our review of the games from Origins 2023. Be sure to visit our coverage from last summer’s Origins and then check back next week as we highlight more games from Columbus!