As many are aware, I’m a huge fan of the annual Origins Game Fair in Columbus, OH every June. The hobby board game community in the US has only a few dedicated, national scale get togethers every year (the others being GenCon, World Boardgaming Championships and BoardGameGeek Con) and Origins is the one that gives my family the best mix of shopping, gaming and geekery. Origins has gone through a lot of changes this year – with new leadership and some fairly public difficulties adopting new software for running the event. But what can we expect from the con itself?

Origins isn’t really a shopping con – that isn’t to say that there isn’t shopping to be had, but if you’re focused on getting the year’s new releases, GenCon is your best bet. However, Origins has a pretty large vendor hall and we’ve been able to get the dish on several hot releases that will be available at the con. My pick for hot game of the con is the new Roadkill Rally from Z-Man Games. Zev’s team has a ton of new releases (including the long-awaited US release of Perry Rhodan) that will be at Origins, but this Car Wars-inspired gem really captures my interest (and who can’t get behind granny with walker meeples to run down!). Mayfair will also be releasing Settlers of America, the next game in the Settlers of Catan historical series – could be interesting, but I’ll probably get a demo before committing. Jolly Rogers Games will have a fairly limited number of copies of the greatly anticipated, Founding Fathers – a board game on the development of the US Constitution with mechanics borrowed from Twilight Struggle and 1960:Making of the President – but with support for up to five players. Also in limited numbers will be the $130 Crokinole boards from Mayday Games. These have been the subject of some debate given that they will be available for pickup at Origins before they are available to preorders. All of this is in addition to the giant Origins auction hosted by Troll & Toad.

So what about the games? In a lot of ways, Origins is all about the gaming. This is a con that has a very serious commitment to all sorts of hobby games without engendering the level of competition seen at other cons. Gaming highlights this year definitely include the return of TerrorWerks, the very physical LARP of a dystopian sci-fi future, complete with airsoft guns. If that’s not your pace, the Rising series of zombie LARPs returns this year, including the fan-favorite “School’s Out!” event where parents take on the role of zombies while their kids take on the role of intrepid zombie hunters. LARPing not your speed? Then the traditional RPG crowd is pretty set this year, with all of the “Living” gaming series present (RPGA, Arcanis, Shadowrun, etc) as well as new releases like the Dresden Files RPG (which I raved about earlier). The 40KOrigins crew has been really busy this year and is bringing out a stellar set of game events for everyone’s favorite futuristic fantasy miniature game. And then there’s the CABS board room – the star of the show in my eyes – a giant room housing over 1,000 board and war gamers who have shown up to try new games and have a good time. The board room has been moved closer to the main body of the conference and will sport free wi-fi and a free game for every ribbon holder (while supplies last; both thanks to Rio Grande Games). There will even be a few CCG/CMG tournaments this year, including a major Magic event and the Clout Fantasy championships (as intriguing as this game is, I’ve never played it…).

Gaming Media
No, I’m not talking about us (though I’ll be there!), I’m talking about gaming luminaries and beloved podcasters. Podcasters Chris Hanrahan (2d6 Feet in a Random Direction, That’s How We Roll), Steve Conway and Dave Coleson (The Spiel), Fred Hicks (That’s How We Roll) and John Richard & Cody Jones (Game On!) and a host of contributors to the Dice Tower (although Tom Vassel himself will not be there this year due to his impending move from South Korea back to the US) will all be in attendance (I’m sure there are others I’ve missed – feel free to post in the comments if I overlooked you!). Each of these groups generally have various get-together and ad-hoc events that are sure to provide opportunities to get to know them better or at least say “hello!”

Special Events
Ah, the special events. I’ll be honest, there seems to be two types of gamer at Origins – those who love the special events and those who think that would get in the way of more gaming! That said, there are numerous special events ranging from the annual Smithy Awards for the worst movies to see film, the life-sized gaming events (Candyland and Chutes & Ladders are both running this year) and the contentious Origins Awards for the best game products of the previous year (all of which will be playable in the open play area of Origins – so try it before you vote for it – please!). A new event that has us pretty excited is the new Mayfair Games evening get together which will feature food, drinks and a social environment for checking out new games.

We’ll be covering Origins this year on the site with video, photos and the daily reports that we use to cover all of the major gaming conventions!