Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Origins 2011 Recap

I always look forward to Origins and end up prepping months ahead of time.  The North Coast Gamers had over 100 hours of events and 5 GMs in the Miniatures room 2 GMs in the Board Game room and 2 GMs in the RPG area.  As usual, everyone had a great time.  The volunteers of both the staff and other GMs were great and it is fun to see the same people from across the country year after year.  Although we don't have a formal get together, we are able to get into a game together, shake hands and otherwise ask how things are going with each other.  There is certainly a camaraderie that is built over the years and friendships across the tables are common.

I admit that this year seemed lighter than previous years on Wednesday and Thursday, but by Thursday evening the place was hopping!  You can feel a vibe in the air that reflected the building excitement of the attendees as the vendors were setting up their booths behind closed doors and the tables in the miniatures hall started to come to life as with landscapes and cityscapes that promised great fun.  Board Gamers carried stacks of their favorite games heading towards the tabletop areas.  Everyone had a smile on their face.  On Friday, the con was in full swing with crowds of people filling the halls.  Both Friday and Saturday seemed to have more people than in prior years.  I noticed many more children and women in the crowd this year which reflected the success of the efforts of making this a family-focused event.  I saw many new and many old (but still friendly) faces carrying GM badges this year and that reflects a level of experience of GMs and their dedication to the hobby and this convention.  Why not 5 starts out of 5 you ask?  Well, to begin with, I would have loved to see more people on the earlier days.  Additionally, there was still plenty of room on all the days for more players!  So, the attendance was ranked just a smidgen lower because we always like to see new people coming and there is still plenty of room for that.

Gaming Diversity:
I’ve been to many conventions and have to say that Origins has been consistent on offering the most gaming diversity.  There were nearly 4,500 events over the few days with top-notch GMs.  I spent most of my time in the Miniature Hall, primarily because I was constantly running events, but I did manage to make it to the other halls and RPG areas.  I was able to get in on some great games.  I’m not a role-player, but clearly the folks were having an awesome time.  The schedule really accommodated everyone’s calendar since there were so many events; it was easy to find an fun game to play.  The board game area had everything… and I mean everything!  They had family games, euro games, war games, old games and games not even released yet.  In the miniatures hall, I noticed an increased number of ‘home brew’ games (the North Coast Gamers ran several of these).  Beyond that, the miniatures hall had everything from historical, fantasy, kid-centric, you name it.  By far, this was the best year I’ve seen for the miniature’s hall.  The Steampunk theme was well carried into this hall with many steampunk games.  I know the Steampunk Beatdown game that the NCG ran was sold out time and time again.  I did notice that there was less interest in some of the ‘branded’ miniature games.  Warhammer Fantasy had a lighter presence than normal even though there were a couple of tourney’s for it and 40K.  I didn’t see any Lord of the Rings being played which usually has a large following, but I simply may have missed it.  The Star Wars game was back and it was a big hit as usual.  Many more historicals than usual and there were several American Civil War games and Flames of War games with fantastic scenery and looked great.  Many sci-fi games filled the hall and there were some 1950’s classics as well as some alternative WWII as well as many of the widely played games of Battletech, Mechwarrior,Star Fleet Battles, etc.  Zombies abounded and I would be wrong to overlook the Smurf Wars game which was one of the favorites.  The RPGs were in a much more comfortable area than in previous years and there seemed to be a huge variety of games being played.  My hope is that someone who is into the roleplaying really provides some solid feedback on their experience.

The vendor room was bigger this year with many more booths than normal.  The eating area was removed at the rear of the hall allowing for more vendors.   Therewere many major manufacturers there this year and also there were some solid, smaller shops as well.  A good number of clothiers to fit with the Victorian theme were present with some awesome steampunk designs.  My favorite was a booth that sold boxes of old vacuum tubes and gears from clocks.  It was capitalism at its best.  I rated this section a 4 out of 5 because I had hope to see a broader variety of independent games that struck my fancy.  There certainly were other independent game manufacturers there, but nothing that fit my personal flavor.  There were a couple of games and a steampunk decoration that I picked up so I contributed to their success.

The Greater Columbus Convention Center is a perfect place for a convention.  Plenty of hotel space on site or within a short drive, tons of restaurants, both formal and informal.  Great entertainment at night…not that anyone left the convention at night because of the great games  mind you.  I have no negatives to say about the venue.  In the past, there were problems with waiting for the elevators at the Hyatt, but I experienced only 1 time that I was getting a little perturbed at how long it took.  Otherwise, it was a great hotel to stay in.

A couple of suggestions for next year:
  1. Have large signs in the halls (like a parking lot) to help people find where the tables are...Section A, Section B, etc.
  2. The volunteers were great, but there was confusion when we and our players asked how many seats were available and were told that an event was sold out when in fact there were plenty of seats open.  I learned after the second day that it was better to look up our events online.
  3. We need to do something about the costs for the food court.  $3.00 for a cup of coffee is pretty tough on me, considering I drink 3-4 cups a day!  Maybe I just need to bring my thermos or cut down...that would take care of it ;-)
  4. Information seemed to be shared very late this year for the GMs.  A couple of weeks earlier would have made all the difference in the world.
  5. I'm always an advocate of clubs supporting the events at any con and we do our best to provide that support. It was appreciated that we were allowed to have a club table by our games, but it would be nice to have people have club tables near registration to encourage people to join local clubs.
  6. Many have voiced this already, but I too am fearful of the date move for next year.  I understand the reasons given for the change, but I think it will hurt attendance.  Although we will certainly attend next year, it will be tough arriving before Friday evening because school is still in session.  It isn’t that I’m a teacher anymore, but it does impact the schedule with school events and extra-curricular activities that the kids need to be shuttled to. 


  1. Umm...that would be COLUMBUS convention center -- not Cleveland! Other than that, I agree with your report wholeheartedly...!

  2. I missed the big O this year, but it sounds like it went well. Do you all ever go the con called con on the cob? It's kind of in-between Cleveland and Akron - small, but fun.

  3. FWIW - the Java City place out in the main concourse near registration has some sort of deal for free refills with a particular size of coffee. I only know this because several of the War College game staff were quite happy around 11am when they weren't $15 in the hole for their 3rd cup of coffee.