1st Annual Cephalofair Awards for Origins 2015
I must admit that I feel like my recap for Geekway to the West
a few weeks ago lacked a little punch, so I decided that for Origins I would fall back on the tried and true method of giving out random awards for random people and games I saw and experienced
at the convention.
Behold! The 1st Annual Cephalofair Awards for Origins 2015!
Best Podcast to Listen to while Driving to the Convention:
You need to listen to something driving the 4 hours from Lafayette, Indiana to Columbus, Ohio, especially given the early hour in which I started driving. Listening to podcasts is what keeps me awake and out of a ditch on the side of the road. I ended up listening to both the Dice Tower and Board Game Hour on the way to the convention, but considering that Tom Vasel had nothing but bad things to say about Forge War, the childish bleatings of the Board Game Hour podcast
won out in this category.
Most Mismanaged and Poorly Executed Registration Line:
I thought waiting an hour in the GenCon pre-registration line was terrible last year, but I did not understand the true nature of line madness until I got to Origins
. At least the GenCon line moved
. I got in line for on-site registration at Origins and there were maybe 20 people in front of me. Surely I'd be in and out of that line in no time, right? RIGHT?!
It took an hour and a half. To serve 20 people. Think about that. I watched a father and daughter stand at the kiosk for a full 30 minutes before they finished their registration.
"What is the deal?" I asked myself, slipping further and further into insanity. "How can a line this short take so long?" And then I understood when it became my turn. These workers had no idea what on Earth they were doing and were the least effective people at their job that I have ever encountered. This guy had to type my information into the system and would - no joke - make a few keystrokes and then get in a conversation with the person next to him, make a few more keystrokes and then get into another conversation. He had zero regard for the suffering masses behind me, languishing in the insanity of the situation.
Worst Publishing Team to Room With:
In order to save some money, I ended up rooming with my favorite Indianapolis publishers, Action Phase Games
. This turned out to be a giant mistake. This group of cackling men-children will stop at nothing to turn every word you say around into some sexual connotation. Also they snore and made me sleep with an air conditioner blasting directly in my face. In all seriousness, though, it was a lot of fun.
Best Place to be outside the Convention Center:
However much I enjoyed getting getting made fun of for my Smart car by Action Phase Games, I must admit that I had more fun hanging out at the Cabalist House
. Every year fans of the Secret Cabal Gaming Podcast get together and rent a house a mile away from the convention center during Origins where they game non-stop throughout the event. I don't know how one reserves a spot in this haven of awesomeness, but I was able to befriend one of the residents and got invited over on multiple occasions to game. It was a blast. Brandon, Rob, Todd, Addam, Johnathan, John, Brian and the rest were all really awesome people to hang out with.
Best Game about Sewing Dresses:
So speaking of gaming at the Cabalist House, I got a chance to play Rococo
the first night I was there. Have you played Rococo yet? You should go out an play it right now. Stop reading this silly blog post and play the game. It's about making dresses, so there's a good chance your wife might even be interested in it. I know it's a little old (I remember being encouraged to play it at last year's Origins), but it is fabulous and much better than a game about making dresses has any right to be.
Best Demo Experience:
I demoed a few games over the course of Origins, and I think I enjoyed my time with Marco Polo
the most. It wasn't perfect, but the dice placement aspects were cool, and the economy of the game was tight and interesting. I found myself wanting to play for a couple more turns after the game was over, which means it didn't overstay its welcome, but also means it was far too short. Also I think the highly variable player powers, while really cool, were slightly imbalanced.
Best Substitute for Chipotle when Chipotle is Inexplicably Closed:
After 2 days of eating nothing but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I was ready for a little change of pace. Luckily I ended up running into Jason Kingsley, who has somewhat similar dietary restrictions, in my search. Unfortunately, he informed me that Chipotle was closed, but was willing to go in search of an alternative. We found this place called Plantain Cafe
, which, in addition to serving plantains cooked at least 3 different ways, also had a burrito bowl very similar to what one might find at Chipotle. We had a very nice conversation about game designing, family and working from home.
Most Fun Playing a Game:
I played a lot of fun games at Origins with a lot of cool people, but the best experience was probably playing Spyfall
with the immature weirdos in my hotel room. I can't even explain why this game is so fun. You need to just go and try it out. You may like it. You may hate it. You're mileage with the game will probably vary depending on the people you're playing it with, but I personally had a lot of fun with it. We weren't even keeping score. Playing Mysterium in the Cabalist House the next night was also a lot of fun. That is a really fascinating game, but as a non-ghost player, there was a lot of down-time where I was having less fun.
Best Game I've Never Finished: Dominant Species
is one of those bucket list games for me. My friend out in California really wants me to play it with him, but when I went and visited him, we only managed to finish half a game before the other players got tired of it. I didn't fare particularly well in that game, but I learned many valuable lessons about controlling and planning around those swingy domination cards. I've always wanted to try it out again, possibly with fewer than 6 people, and then found myself in a 4-player game at Origins Friday night. Being able to better maneuver through the domination cards led to a much better experience with the game. 3 hours later, though, we were still 2 turns from the end and had to stop the game to head to the Secret Cabal meetup. One day, Dominant Species, I promise I'll finish a game of you.
Best Place to be Friday Night:
So what is better than finishing a game of Dominant Species? Hanging out with the members and fans of the Secret Cabal Gaming Podcast
of course. I remember last year going to the party at Origins and having a lot of social anxiety because I didn't really know anyone, but this time was much better and I felt like much more a part of the community since I had made a lot of friends in between the two events.
Best Podcast with only 5 Episodes Aired:
There are lots of other cool podcasts out there but I gotta give a shout out to Brandon Nall at the Brawlin' Brothers Boardgaming Podcast
for being a totally legit dude. He was super-excited about trying out Gloomhaven and we ended up doing a lot of gaming together over the course of the convention. I'm a loyal listener of his podcast now, and I think he might be Gloomhaven's number one fan. A true match made in board game heaven.
Worst Demo Experience:
On the advice of a very nice Stronghold booth worker at the Cabal meetup, I went and demoed La Granja
on Saturday. I will admit that the guy demoing the game was also running a demo for Dark Moon at the same time, and both games were already sold out so he probably didn't really care about his job all that much, but seriously, what a horror show
. He didn't explain turn structure or what the overall picture of the game was. He just sort of went around the player board and vaguely explained what each thing did. I was totally lost.
After many questions, which had to be answered by the rule book and my opponent who had played before (because dude was off busy with the Dark Moon game), I finally got a handle on the rules. It took about half the game. The weirdest part, though, was that even though it took maybe 15 minutes to even find enough people to start the demo, the guy refused to let us play a full game. He insisted on starting the game on the second turn, further confusing what was going on and giving me very little ownership of the game state. I'd like to play it again now that, despite dude's best effort, I have a handle on how to play it.
Best Game I've Played a Million Times but Still Have to Play Wherever I Go:
As the convention drew to a close, I realized my experience was not complete. I hadn't played Terra Mystica
yet. How could I not have played Terra Mystica? No matter where I am or what I'm doing, I always have to be playing Terra Mystica, so I needed to remedy the situation post-haste. I found some poor random saps, taught them the game and then proceeded to crush them beneath my heel. Then I felt better.
Biggest Waste of Hype and Cardboard:
The convention was not all roses and sunshine and heel-crushing however. Every convention has its egg. I will admit that my prognostication about the egg of GenCon, X-Com
, turned out to be largely incorrect -everyone loves that damned game - but I don't hesitate one bit to let everyone know that Bring Out Yer Dead
really confounded me in a "Why did this get made?" sort of way. The action economy of the game seemed horribly off. You could chose 3 of 5 actions at the beginning of every turn, which was incredibly dull, and then over time you could accumulate other 1-time action cards, but some were utterly useless while others were, well, mildly useful. When the entire game was just a race to get all your coffins out onto the board, any action that didn't help with that just seemed pointless. There were a lot of traps in the game with scoring opportunities that you thought might be good but ended up being horrible. And turn order was hugely important, but there was no way to control it. Totally confounding
Best Game Played:
And finally, the gem of the show. Look, Spyfall was a great time, but I can't in good conscience give it this award when I take into account the no-good, very bad artwork. It is seriously horrendous and grotesque. On the other hand, the artwork in Welcome to the Dungeon
is just as lovely as its light, push-your-luck mechanics.
Each round of the game starts with a hero full of equipment ready to head into a dungeon. Players then take turns either adding a monster to the dungeon or removing a piece of the hero's equipment. They must do one of these things or they have to pass and bow out of the round. Eventually, everyone but one player passes, and that player is forced to take the now ill-equipped adventurer through all the monsters that were added to the dungeon. If the hero survives, that player earns a point, and 2 points wins the game, but the hero is just as likely to die in the process, and 2 deaths knocks a player out of the game. It's a very simple bluffing game that's just really fun and entertaining. Maybe I'm just a sucker for the fantasy theme.
Okay, well, that about wraps it up.
If you disagree with any of my award picks, feel free to suggest your own in the comments. Also know that any insults thrown were made in jest. Except for Bring Out Yer Dead. Man, I don't ever want to see that game again.
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