The Eleven: Games to Look For at Origins

The Origins Game Fair is taking place next weekend, from June 15-19 in Columbus, OH.  While not as big of a deal as GenCon or Spiel, it is really the big kickoff of the convention season.  There are quite a few games that will be at the convention (look at the BGG preview for a comprehensive list of games), but many of those are just available for demos ahead of their GenCon release/Kickstarter campaign.  So, today, I’ll highlight eleven that are either debuting at the show, or soon thereafter.

(By the way, I’m not going to be there.  I’m just interested.)

image by BGG user clayross
image by BGG user clayross

Arkwright was originally published in 2014 by Spielworxx, with Capstone Games publishing this English version.  The game was designed by Stefan Risthaus, plays with 2-4 people, and takes 2-4 hours to play.  In Arkwright, you are running up to four factories in England during the late 18th century/early 19th century.  There are only six turns, and in each, you will be building or upgrading factories (and possibly even closing factories); purchasing machines; increasing quality; improving distribution; purchasing or selling stock; shipping goods; or producing goods.  As the game proceeds, goods will increase and decrease in value, and you’re playing with the ultimate goal of having the highest value of stocks in your own company.

This is an extremely heavy game, which I don’t normally highlight because I’m not normally able to play them.  I find that I need to be in the right mood for heavy games, and with limited gaming time these days (with a soon-to-be one-year-old in the house), I’d rather spend that time on playing lots of stuff rather than digging in on something like this.  However, I know that the guys at the Heavy Cardboard podcast really love this game (it won their Golden Elephant Award for 2014), so if that’s your thing, this is probably a really good one to check out.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Costa Rica is a new game from design team Brett J. Gilbert and Matthew Dunstan, the same pair that brought us the 2015 Kennerspiel des Jahres nominated Elysium.  This one is being published by Mayfair Games and Lookout Games.  It’s a push-your-luck set collection game where players are leading expeditions around, trying to collect sets of animals for points.  If you end up taking tiles, you leave the particular expedition, meaning that you won’t be eligible to get any ones going further.

There’s not a lot of information out there right now (other than this video from Nuremburg),  but I’m primarily looking at it because of the success the pair had with Elysium.  Dunstan also designed Relic Runners, another exploration type game that I really enjoyed, though it didn’t do as well as some Days of Wonders titles.  Lookout usually does pretty well with its games, so this is one to look for.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Crazy Karts is a game by designer Charles-Amir Perret that is being published by Portal Games.  The game is for 3-8 players and is kind of like Mario Kart on steroids.  Players are on a team of two players (an odd player will be a Lone Wolf), and each teammate will be controlling a different action board.  Each player will secretly and simultaneously assign cards to their action board before revealing.  The team that wins initiative will resolve their ten actions first, alternating between the player.  These actions include using your team’s special ability, using a power up, braking, speeding up, turning, shooting, charging, and repairing.  The game consists of two races – a qualifying race that determines final position (as well as gets the winner valuable upgrades) and a final race.  The team that wins the final race is the winner.

The title and box art of this game suggest something that I think is much lighter than what you get.  I love programming games, and this seems to be a really unique take on it, with two players responsible for programming one car and not knowing what the other is doing.  There’s the possibility of taking damage, there are obstacles, and there’s a whole lot of stuff in the box.  In other words, it’s a Portal game.  Looks pretty cool, I’ll be interested to hear how people like it.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Dominion: Empires is the tenth expansion to Donald X. Vaccarino’s ever-popular Dominion (and second expansion since they said they weren’t making any more).  This expansion has Duration cards, Events, and VP tokens, which are all popular things from previous expansions.  This one introduces Debt tokens, which are taken when you buy certain cards and must be paid off before you can buy any other cards.  It also has split piles, which are piles of 10 Kingdom cards with two different cards present (5 each).

I like Dominion a lot, but I haven’t played in a while and I’m mostly just watching the expansions come out with interest.  It’s been cool to watch it evolve over the years.  I’ll be doing a preview of this one, probably in a couple of weeks – I’ve done one for every expansion since Prosperity, might as well continue the trend.

image by BGG user randast
image by BGG user randast

Holmes: Sherlock & Mycroft is a two-player game from designer Diego Ibañez and publishers Devir.  It was originally published in Spanish last year, and is now getting an English edition.  It’s a set collection game where you’re using different character abilities to try to get the most cards in particular sets.  Each player takes turns placing one meeple on a character, and may not place their meeple on a character that already has their meeple.  Your pieces are not removed from round to round, so in the next round, you must move one before you can take that power again.  Points are scored by the player who has the most in each set, subtracting points for each card of that set their opponent has.  The player with the most points wins.

This seems like a very simple game with some opportunities for smart, clever play.  I like the worker placement aspect with your pieces blocking you from choosing that action again.  The theme seems practically non-existent (which is a shame – the world needs more good Holmesian games), but this looks like something I really would like.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Junk Art is the second release from publishers Pretzel Games (part of the F2Z family with Z-Man and Plaid Hat).  This game was designed by the Bamboozle Brothers, Jay Cormier and Sen-Foong Lim.  It’s a stacking dexterity game with ten different game modes.  There are 15 wooden pieces in each of four different colors, and in the base game, you choose two cards and give them to your neighbor.  Your neighbor chooses one and gives you the other, and you both put the indicated piece on your base.  But there’s also a trick-taking variant, some simultaneous stacking variants, a few speed variants, some drafting variants, a take-that variant, and a way to combine with Pretzel Games’ first title, Flick ‘Em Up.

Dexterity games are fun and silly, and I think this one looks pretty unique in that there are a bunch of different ways to play.  It’s got a good concept, and Pretzel Games already has pretty high quality standards with their component quality, so it should be solid in more ways than one.  There will only be 48 copies at Origins (the game is actually releasing at GenCon), so get there quick if you want it.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

My Village is a follow-up to the 2012 Kennerspiel winner, Village.  Designed by Inka and Markus Brand, this 2015 release is getting an English version courtesy of Stronghold Games. The game has a similar feel, but uses a dice mechanism for action selection rather than the cubes of the original.  In My Village, you’ll roll dice, then players will take turns selecting two of them, adding the pips, and using that as your banner total to activate different actions.  As you play, villagers will age and die, as in the original, and it’s the player with the most points when a requisite numbers of coffins are filled that will win.

I’ve only played Village once, but really enjoyed it.  This one looks like an interesting dice version, but it’s not really a dice version in the traditional sense – rather than dice being an overwhelming replacement of a lot of key mechanics, it’s just there as a way to determine what actions can be taken.  It looks fun.

image by BGG user IngredientX
image by BGG user IngredientX

The Networks, by Gil Hova and Formal Ferret Games, is about being a TV executive programming your lineup.  You’ll be buying ads, hiring stars, and putting shows on the air in your prime time slots.  As shows age, they gain or lose viewer, so you have to find the right balance in order to make the most money and win the game.

I followed this game during its Kickstarter campaign, and it looked super cool then.  It’s got a great theme, and looks like something that doesn’t take itself very seriously at all while still providing good depth and strategy.

image by BGG user W Eric Marting
image by BGG user W Eric Marting

Royals is a 2014 game that is being reprinted as part of the Dice Tower Essentials line by Arcane Wonders.  The game, designed by Peter Hawes, is set in 17th century Europe and is about various nobles fighting for supremacy.  It’s an area control type game where players are trying to spread their influence around Europe to various personalities.  There’s points for being first, points for having the most in a country, and points for having the most with each personality.

This game has been compared to Ticket to Ride in that it is a gateway style game, though this one is a gateway to area control instead of route building and set collection.  I find it hilarious that the cover features scowly men (Tom Vasel of the Dice Tower is notorious for bashing that every chance he gets), but I do think this looks like a very good game.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Smugglers is a game by Catan designer Klaus Teuber and his son Benjamin.  It’s being published by KOSMOS.  In the game, players are smuggling goods by wrapping them in balls of clay and trying to roll them through doors.  If you succeed, you will get an opportunity to try and take the contraband of the smugglers who could NOT get their goods through the door.  The player who has collected the most in the end is the winner.

This is a pretty odd looking game, but it seems pretty interesting.  I’m most intrigued by the design team – the Teubers have worked together before, on last year’s Tumult Royale, but I have a feeling this one will get more widely noticed as it’s being released in convention season.  We’ll see how it goes.

image by BGG user Chris Schreiber
image by BGG user Chris Schreiber

Stellar Conflict is a reimplementation of the James Ernest/Tom Jolly game Light Speed, first published in 2003.  This version is set in Artipia Games’ Among the Stars universe, and is being published domestically by their American partner Stronghold Games.  Each player is part of an alien race taking part in a space battle.  Each race has their own power, and chooses which ships will be deployed for combat.  The ships deployed determine how long the combat round will last, and you’re trying to complete objectives and destroy enemy ships.

I never played Light Speed, but I do really respect James Ernest and Tom Jolly as designers.  Artipia Games always seem to be pretty well received, and their Among the Stars universe is proving to be a pretty rich theme for them.  So I think this one will be a pretty good game.


That’s it for today.  What games are you looking forward to at Origins?  Are you going?  Let me know, and thanks for reading!

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