Sunday, July 09, 2006


We are still soliciting guest submissions to Gone Gaming. This is the last submission in the queue. As a reader of Gone Gaming I must say that all the submissions so far have been entertaining, I look forward to posting more. If you have something to say about boardgames send it to us at, we will probably post it. Thanks to those who have already sent us material, you are welcome to send us more.

Once again, here is an enjoyable read by Mr. Kris Hall. Enjoy.

Until this year my experience with gaming conventions was limited to an hour checking out the dealer’s room at a convention in a hotel near the Los Angeles airport. But a move to West Virginia has placed me within driving distance of Columbus, and an invitation from Ted Cheatham (who does video reviews for the Boardgame News website) to go to Origins was impossible to resist.

Maybe all real gamers have been to Origins or other major conventions, and a description of what to expect would be like me giving swimming lessons to a group of Navy SEALS. Nevertheless, let me inform any possible existing convention virgins what they are missing by not making the pilgrimage to Columbus.

Shock and awe. I spent my first couple of hours just walking around and staring in stunned silence at the cornucopia of cardboard. Almost every game I’ve ever heard of and a large number that I hadn’t beckoned to me from the dealers’ booths.

I stopped by the Fantasy Flight booth and was able to confirm for myself that World of Warcraft does indeed have 1,763,759 little plastic demons, dragons, and owl-bear-reindeer monsters. I hadn’t brought the family forklift with me so I was unable to leave with a copy of the game. I stopped by the Decision Games booth and was able to examine the maps of two upcoming Strategy & Tactics games. I was happy to learn that 1066 will not be a tactical treatment of the Battle of Hastings, but a four-player strategic simulation of the conflicts surrounding the Norman conquest.

But I was also riveted by all the non-gamer barnacles that cling to the Origins man-o’-war. One booth sells enough real metal swords to outfit an orc army. Another sells padded medieval weapons that allow would-be Bravehearts to hack at each other without ending up like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Another booth sells plush Cthulhu-and-friends toys culled from H.P. Lovecraft’s nightmares. Still another dealer sells fantasy art that may have been obtained from the Barad-dur gift shop’s going-out-of-business sale.

The miniature-gamer sub-cult has such an abundance of toys that they command a convention room of their own. I’ve never been a miniature gamer myself, but it sure is fun to check out the museum-quality dioramas. I was surprised to learn that the six-foot-long Helm’s Deep model was owned by a guy that I’ve gamed with.

Ted Cheatham had warned me not to expect to find discounted prices for games from any of the major dealers, and this turned out to be mostly true. But I spotted at least one bargain: the L2 Design folks were selling copies of Bitter Woods 4th edition with it’s expansion kit for about $65. This is a substantial discount from the original price, or prices I’ve seen on E-bay.

Of course, no gaming convention would be complete without doing some actual gaming. I sat down at the Rio Grande booth to examine an open copy of Thurn and Taxis only to find a gamebooth gnome appearing instantly to teach me the rules. Two other passers-by were quickly lured into playing the game. The game lasted little more than half an hour, and I soon found that all the rumors were true. Thurn and Taxis is indeed a user-friendly, quick-playing game in the same vein as Ticket to Ride. For me, T&T is so much like Ticket to Ride that I don’t feel compelled to own both games. But I’m sure it will be a popular game this year.

Next I returned to the Fantasy Flight booth for a demo game of Warrior Knights with three white-and-silver-haired gentlemen as opponents. Once again age and treachery bested youth and enthusiasm, and I was soundly defeated. But the experience placed Warrior Knights on my soon-to-be-purchased list.

Going out to dinner with ten other gamers and game-company employees resulted in me hearing a variety of rumors and game reviews. Eagle Games didn’t have a booth this year, and rumors were flying that the company was being bought. But no one seemed to know exactly who was doing the buying, so perhaps the rumors aren’t true. On the other hand, Glenn Drover apparently showed up with a copy of Age of Empires III to demo. Gamers who were lucky enough to play the demo raved about it. I was told that we can expect to see Age of Empires III showing up about the time of the Essen convention, and my mouth is watering in anticipation.

Another gamer I met had played a demo copy of the GMT World War II tactical slugfest Combat Commander, and came away very impressed. He said it compared favorably with Memoir ’44, and added that he had quickly placed his order with the GMT Project 500 list for Combat Commander and it’s expansion. Perhaps this game will be the happy medium for gamers who think Memoir ’44 is too light and Advanced Squad Leader is too unwieldy.

So did I enjoy Origins? Of course. Would I return? Yes, again. Although I probably won’t be heart-broken if I am forced to miss a year. I won’t go to Origins to buy games because I can save money by purchasing from on-line dealers. But I will go to Origins to check out games and learn which ones I truly want to buy. All wargamers know that good intelligence saves lives. And dollars.

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