Words by David C. Obenour
Origins Game Fair | June 22-25, 2023 | Greater Columbus Convention Center
Four days of gaming require more than just one post! Head back into the exhibitor hall and weave your way through the aisles with us for part two of the games that caught our attention from this year’s Origins Game Fair.
Punch Bowl (Runaway Parade Games)
The art and concept for Punch Bowl feel taken directly from the label of a classy bottle of vermouth. Giant fruits have started to grow, and humanity has taken the predictable next step – giant cocktails! Controlling one of these juicy ingredients, players add fruit, booze, and ice cubes to glasses and shared punch bowl before they are served and scored. Coming soon to Kickstarter, Runaway Parade Games made a splash with Fire Tower and Punch Bowl is an exciting chaser.
Mother of Frankenstein: Volume 1-3 (Arcane Wonders)
Inspired by the remarkable real life of Mary Shelley, Mother of Frankenstein was one of the most impressive offerings at Origins. An extravagant and immersive three-part cooperative investigation, creators of top-ranked escape room, Lab Rat have cleverly filled each Volume with documents to scour, riddles to decipher, and literal puzzles to build (of both two and three dimensions!). And if that didn’t hook you, balancing out all of that head scratching is the emotional investment from YA novelist, Tommy Wallach’s overarching and unfolding narrative. Cooperative games call for cooperative design!
The Lunch Room Game (Easily Amused Productions)
Games are toys that are meant to be fun, and Easily Amused Productions heard that PA announcement when working on The Lunch Room Game. With clever components and an illustrative style that appeals to kids and cool kids alike, players compete to fill their lunch trays while fighting over tater tots and watching out for the mean girls. Play it with your nephews, play it with your uncles, play it with whoever – because fun is fun!
Liftoff! 2.0 (self-released)
It’s hard not to notice how far tabletop gaming has evolved since Liftoff! was originally published in 1989. A niche hobby of niche interests, board games have softened their edges (often literally, relying heavily on simple square cardboard tokens) for a more inviting and illustrated experience. Which is exciting to consider on hearing of Fritz Bronner’s relaunch for Liftoff! 2.0. Still in development, Bronner has assembled a team that features NASA artists and architects and it will be interesting to see what they can do with the game some 34 years later.
Dicey Devices (Origami Whale Games)
You didn’t get into mad science for its benefits package or retirement plan. Mad science is mad after all! Working with your army of lab robots and trusty assistant, it’s time to unchain your inhibition and your creation to wreck havoc on creation… and those foolish enough to dare dabble in the mad sciences with you. Still in development with a Kickstarter coming in October, there’s a solid base of art and conceptual components for gaming that matches engine (ehem-devices) building, set collecting, and area control.
Cowboys with Big Hearts (Indie Press Revolution)
The doc has told you the news. At first you laughed but the look on his face told you he wasn’t joking. Your heart is too big – which you’ve been told before – but no, it’s literally too big and it’s going to kill you. Soon too. In this fatalistic RPG for 2-6 players, the only thing that’s left for you to do before riding off into the sunset is try and make things right. Or maybe a little more right, at least.
Oros (Aesc Games)
Sent down to the mortal realm by the great Wise One, as a demigod you must shift land masses and influence those who dwell there. Working with the wisdom of mountains, tiles slide as tectonic plates – colliding into hills, then mountains, then volcanos, and erupting into overflows of more land. Your followers must understand the meaning and reverence of this, as you raise up sacred places and ascend your ziggurat before triggering the end. There’s a lot to celebrate with Oros’ equal parts earth sciences and mythology, paired wonderfully with fun gaming.
Thunder Road Vendetta (Restoration Games)
1986. Tina Turner headlined Bartertown in theaters across the nation. Seeking to capitalize on America’s fixation on fast cars and explosive guns, Milton Bradley released the totally-different-post-apocalyptic-racing-rumble of Thunder Road. 2023. With a new Mad Max not too far in the rearview, Restoration Games have revived this totally-different-post-apocalyptic-racing-rumble for Vendetta. Amazing new art, and new hazards, damage, decisions and consequences, the action is still fast and explosive – so get ready to witness one another on the Fury… er… Thunder Road!
Hands (Deep Water Games)
Inspired by ASL, Hands is the game of gesture-making and acknowledging. Players are dealt a hand of hands (*ba dum tss*) that they then have to replicate and watch for their fellow players to make – if they have that same card in their hands. Find the pairing and score a point. However, when a player makes a two-handed gestures be sure to not be the last to replicate it! Fast, fun, a little dexterity based, and a little educational – a fun change of pace for any evening or afternoon of games.
Chicken! (Keymaster Games)
Like a good friend’s bad pun, game designers can be an exceedingly clever and cheeky bunch. For Scott Almes part (of Tiny Epic fame), Chicken! works brilliantly on two levels – with delightful barnyard illustrations and components, and a push-your-luck mechanic for anxiously tossing dice again and again. Collect your chickens and reroll your eggs, just be sure to have them back in the coop before the foxes start to lurk!
Lore of Aetherra (Hit Point Press)
Fate and circumstance has led to the downfall of society and civilization. Living amidst the grim ruins of a once magnificent city, the Lore of Aetherra is a science-fantasy adventure that pit adventurers on a quest to contact the lost druid – who alone has the power to awaken ancient technology and restore an age of peace and prosperity. Oddly enough, it was a relic of ancient technology that initially drew me in – as one of the Kickstarter benefits for Aetherra was a beautiful blue translucent vinyl. Utilizing Fifth Edition rules, you can try out the 40-page adventure preview for free online!
Astra (Mindclash Play)
We’ve always looked for the stars to show us meaning. To project ourselves onto these seemingly eternal points of light and establish our place in the great expanse. In Astra, players work together to connect the stars of constellations, though only one astronomer will be remembered for completing the formation. Dry erase is an inspired mechanic for star gazing games – and one we’ve seen before too – but our fascination with the cosmos is vast enough for numerous games.
The Lord of the Rings: Adventure to Mount Doom (Thames & Kosmos)
You’ll need to everyone’s sword, bow, axe, and dice to help Frodo along his Adventure to Mount Doom. It’s fun to see modern gaming taking classic gameplay styles and enliven them with choices and consequences. For Adventure to Mount Doom, the board is a set path – but the dice are colored for simple but significant roles and effects as you send the fellowship along their way. Round it out with cooperative play and budget-friendly components, friends and families can easily craft their own tales of there and back again (and again and again).
And those are the games we played at Origins 2023! Be sure to follow along for more gaming interviews and features, including coverage from Gen Con in the coming weeks.