Origins 2024 Recap – Board Game Quest

Another year, another Origins in the books. There was a mix of the familiar and the new throughout the halls of the Greater Columbus Convention Center this year. Origins continues its steady climb back to higher attendance numbers, having seen a slight increase over last year: 17,706 attendees in 2024, compared to 16,082 in 2023. However, the board game library, run by CABS (the Columbus Area Boardgaming Society), had its biggest year yet with 5,640 games checked out, which is a 35% increase over last year’s totals.

Like last year, I decided not to lean too heavily into pre-scheduled gaming sessions and just decided what to play in the moment. And just like last year, there was plenty of standing in front of cabinets full of games, wondering what to play. The open gaming section had been expanded quite a bit this time around, with my completely unscientific guesstimate being that there was twice as much space in which to grab a table and play a game. If you’re attending Origins with family or friends, it’s obviously pretty easy to get in lots of gaming. The CABS library consists of several large cabinets containing over 1,700 games that are arranged next to the open gaming area. Even with the extra room, the open gaming space was pretty filled out during the busiest times, particularly on Saturday. Nevertheless, there always seemed to be at least a few available tables peppered throughout the hall, so I don’t think anyone missed out on getting their games in. Even on Sunday, there was a pretty decent crowd of people playing games, which isn’t usually the case for the last day of the con.

Those who attend Origins on their own, though, also have plenty of opportunities to find someone to game with. Of course, there are thousands of official events on the Origins schedule, many of which are board gaming and RPG sessions. There’s also a BGG geeklist titled “What are you bringing? What are you playing?” each year that’s a really great way to coordinate gaming ahead of time. But, aside from these pre-planning options, you can easily find a pick-up game by searching the tables for signs indicating that a group is looking for more players. These signs can be picked up at the library, so if there’s a game you’re dying to play, just check it out and let people know you’re searching for others to join you.

New Games

While roaming the exhibit hall, I came across quite a few games that looked interesting. Capstone Games had Anunnaki: Dawn of the Gods, from designers Simone Luciani and Danilo Sabia, which is a 4X eurogame that has players developing an ancient alien civilization. They also had Uwe Rosenberg’s new tile-laying game, Tangram City, with the designer shifting from polyominoes to tangram-shaped tiles. Czech Games Edition was showing off SETI: Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, which has you seeking signs of life out in the universe. There was also an interesting roll & write-style title from Inside Up Games called Draft & Write Records, where players try to turn their garage band into a big time act.

Taking advantage of the wealth of options in the board game library, I managed to revisit some older titles that I’d previously enjoyed, but hadn’t gotten around to playing lately. There were also a few new games that I tried out, some that had been on my radar and others that I hadn’t even heard about before playing them at Origins. My gaming group has been going through Vladimír Suchý’s catalog lately, so we played what was my introduction to Suchý, Pulsar 2849. In Pulsar, players draft dice to power actions that allow them to explore space, discovering new planets, developing technologies, and harnessing the energy of pulsars. There’s an engine-building element where you need to begin generating victory points early in the game so as not to fall behind your opponents, as catching up can be pretty tough. It’s one of my favorite Suchý games, along with Praga Caput Regni.

I also got around to playing Bärenpark for the first time, a game that I’ve had on my to-play list for quite a while. It’s a light tile-laying game where players are building their own bear park with polyominoes representing things like koala enclosures and snack stands. It’s fairly simple and plays quickly, but it’s an enjoyable filler or a solid option for when your brain isn’t up for something heavy. One title that I hadn’t heard about previously was IKI, a set collection game situated in feudal Japan, where players visit local artisans and vendors to buy things like rice, fish, and pipes. You’ll need to hire your own artisans and keep them well-fed with rice, all while preparing for fires that break out and rage through the town. It was an interesting theme with engaging mechanisms, but some of the limitations were unnecessarily brutal in my opinion. You often need to take off entire turns just to buy enough rice to feed your workers or shore up your fire-fighting prowess so that your buildings don’t get burned down.

Origins Recap

Outside of Games

While Origins attendance is returning to previous levels, it’s more and more obvious that publishers are shifting their attention to Gen Con. There seemed to be fewer publisher booths this year, and a proliferation of vendors selling things like t-shirts, RPG terrain, and geeky knick-knacks. And dice; there were tons of booths with vast arrays of dice. Metal, glow-in-the-dark, color changing, silicon; if a type of dice exists, it was probably on display in the exhibit hall.

Another addition this year was a slate of celebrity guests from pop culture spheres such as film, television, and music. There were tables set up in the back of the exhibit hall where these celebrities would sign autographs and pose for pics with the fans. A number of panels were available throughout the weekend as well, with the various guests chatting about their careers and such. I’ll have to admit that this move, for me, was pretty hard to understand. I imagine the organizers, seeing dips in publisher engagement and perhaps slow attendance growth, thought that throwing in celebrity meet-and-greet opportunities would draw in more crowds. But I’m not convinced that turning Origins into some sort of second-rate comic-con is the way to go.

Origins Recap

For one, the celebrities themselves weren’t exactly top-tier names, so I can’t imagine many people picked up an Origins ticket just to see Kevin Sussman, Adrianne Palicki, or Scott Grimes. I watch a lot of movies and TV, and I hadn’t even heard of half the celebrity roster’s names, nor could I even recognize them by their pictures. I will readily admit, though, that I definitely went to the Adrian Paul panel to hear the Highlander actor speak, because I really enjoyed the show back in the day. So, I guess they got me after all. Still, breaking up my day of gaming, and interfering with lunch, to walk over to a different hall for the panel wasn’t exactly convenient.

My primary goal when attending Origins is to play as many games as possible, so trying to juggle scheduled 50-minute special events when I have no idea how long the next game is going to take isn’t really appealing to me as an attendee. So, for me, the introduction of random C-list celebrities at a gaming convention is pretty strange. I do hope that this experiment was just a blip and the organizers focus more on ways to get people gaming together. I get that there might be plenty of people who feel otherwise, though.

Origins is a great convention for gaming, and I feel that it could continue to thrive by leaning into this niche. Sure, if you want the hottest, latest new release from your favorite publisher and you’ve gotta have it before anyone else, then you might not find that here. But, if you are really into playing board games and RPGs, and you like meeting and playing with others that feel the same, then Origins is the place to be in June.

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