Origins 2021 Recap
By: Chad Christian (TapRackBang)
I could sum up almost everything about Origins Game Fair into this: I’m just glad we had some conventions this year. The world is such a mess right now, but every time I walk into a convention full of fellow nerds, I take a sigh of relief and say to myself, “I’m home.” Though Origins was drastically scaled back, this year was no exception to that feeling. To walk into a convention hall and see the banners and cosplayers and hundreds of tables set up with games and terrain and dice towers and dungeon maps was like a salve to the soul after months of global frustration.
While we couldn’t hold down a booth like we did at Gen Con, myself and another from our Dayton Stack did all we could to represent Stack Up at Origins. I’ll tell you all the same thing I told the group on Discord on day one: if there’s any question whether we had an impact at Gen Con this year, Origins answered with a resounding “YES.” Before we even walked two full rows of the show floor (maybe a 5th of the whole thing), we were recognized by our red shirts several times from Gen Con attendees. On top of that, without even having a booth, we made several meaningful connections with gamers and developers alike who were sincerely interested in the good work Stack Up is doing. Several donations of games and literature were made directly to us, as well as plans for the future. To me, this provided even more validation that the tabletop realm of gamers needs every bit as much support as our video game counterparts. We greatly look forward to furthering our cause in this way.
As for Origins itself, it was very obviously scaled back due to the state of things. Personally, that didn’t bother me at all; rather, it made me all the more grateful to be present at the event. Masks were required regardless of vaccination status, though I hardly noticed it on my face anyways - there were just too many better things to focus on. There were some hiccups in execution, such as failing printers halting the registration line for a while and our D&D game getting canceled for unknown reasons, but we were able to attend a convention once again, which was more than enough. There remained an astounding number of gaming events held outside the exhibit hall, and we did jump in on the free paint-and-take, though I tend to focus on the vendors and what new things I can find and existing favorites I can revisit.
Whether brand new or just new to me, there were a handful of noteworthy finds this year. Sitting somewhere around the top of the list was Chip Theory Games. I picked up Too Many Bones at Gen Con but began playing during our evening downtime at Origins. Though the game has been around a few years now, discovering it was quite the experience, and I prioritized picking up some new characters and expansions at Origins.
We sat down (alongside some emeritus Gama board members) for a couple of hours and demoed their other hit game Cloudspire. It was a mental workout at first, but we ended up loving what we saw and picked up the gameplay bundle. We also came across Flatworks Gaming and got the rundown on their upcoming Kickstarter project Squadron Dice. I’m looking forward to getting hands-on that one for a solid, easily portable dice roller I can take to family gatherings or the brewery with friends. You can find a quick overview and sign up for an email reminder for when the project goes live at SquadronDice.com. Flatworks was also providing a full demo of their already successful game Dwarven Smithy, a card game where you take on the role of, yes, a Dwarven smithy, gathering materials, hire workers, craft tools, and fulfill orders from both the commoners and the king. We also made friends with the folks over at Tortured Earth and sat down for a fantastic demo with the masterminds of their original tabletop RPG and namesake Tortured Earth. They graciously provided us with their collective works, and we look forward to diving into the material and getting some playtime in on their unique system, which allows for seamless transitional play between fantasy, sci-fi, and horror genres.
By now, you may know that I am a huge fan of good solo play tabletop games, and Die in the Dungeon from FunDaMental was another great find, allowing for one to two players but designed with solo play in mind. It’s a lighthearted, “punny” dungeon-crawler where you take on the role of the dungeon’s boss monster, trying to thwart the efforts of those pesky adventuring heroes. We made connections with the teams over at Limitless Adventures, Game Tank, and more.
One benefit of a smaller show was that I allowed myself to slow down and actually hold conversations with more developers who were absolutely passionate about their games. The unbroken determination of these artists through the hardships of the past couple of years was humbling to witness. No doubt the pandemic has made things more difficult for the video game industry as well, but trying to develop, manufacture, market, and sell a product that hinges greatly on people being together had to be a steep uphill battle. Those who stuck with it to the end seemed all the more driven. It goes to show just how much of an impact games can have on our well-being. We look forward with hope for future events; make sure you check back with us here for our reviews of the games we found this year!
Check out a slideshow of Dayton Stack members Chad & Jason's Origins adventure below.