The whirlwind of gaming known as Origins 2009 has come and gone. I had little time bask in the gaming afterglow; after I left the con I flew directly to Vermont to meet with my family so we could spend a week on an island on Lake Champlain.
Going from 24 hour gaming to an island with no indoor plumbing, no net access, and minimal power was a huge shift, but at least the lake does have a wandering monster…
So how was Origins? Good. Great even. It didn’t have the same maniac energy that GenCon has, nor did it have the same crush of people all trying to get somewhere at the same time. All of the events were in the convention center, which made navigating the con far, far easier than GenCon.
Going into Origins I’d heard that it had a great gamer vibe — meaning it was a place that people went to play games, rather than being more of an event-style, vendor-oriented show like GenCon. After going, I can agree with that sentiment. It’s a gamer’s con, with a heavy focus on board, card and miniature games. Indeed, while there was a serious RPG contingent, they didn’t have the same sort of sprawling setup that they have at GenCon.
The exhibition hall was smaller than GenCon’s and from what I understand, even smaller than what Origins had last year. Some big names were missing from the event – in particular Paizo and Wizards of the Coast. I expected Paizo to have some sort of presence given that Pathfinder’s big release is only a month or so away. Some sort of “preview” games would have been great, but my guess is that they are marshaling their resources for GenCon, and didn’t want to have to compete with Kenzer’s release of Hackmaster Basic.
I’m not sure what to make of Wizards of the Coast’s absence. I was expecting at least some small contingent representing their board and card game lines but perhaps they were content to cede Origins to Rio Grande and Mayfair Games, which are the rock stars at Origins.
In any case, I’m sure that the economy factored into their decisions as well; if you’ve got to put your eggs in one basket, then GenCon’s a pretty good bet.
I can’t say that HackMaster Basic had a huge buzz at Origins; I didn’t hear many people talking about it, but I did see a bunch of people walking around the convention with copies in hand and the Kenzer booth appeared to do a brisk business throughout the event. I don’t think Hackmaster will replace Pathfinder as the heir apparent to traditional, non-powers based D&D, but I think this edition should be able to carve out a sizable fan base.
The best part of the con, as is the case with almost every con I’ve been to, were the people. From drinking beer samplers at Elevator Brewery with my local gaming group on the con’s opening night to playing Spirit of the Century and Arkham Horror with my blogging and podcasting buddies to the new folks I met playing my RPG sessions, it was all good.
The single best non-gaming find at Origins, and part of what made it such a great event for us, was the North Market. This indoor bazaar had something like 40 food vendors, a common eating area on the second floor, and free wifi. It quickly became my group’s go-to place for most meals, partly because we could get on the net, but mostly because each of us could order what we wanted, and then rendezvous for the meal. The food was decently priced as well; it was easy to get a filling meal for $5-$8, which was a pleasant surprise (especially compared to the far more expensive food options at GenCon).
I don’t know that I’d want to go to Origins every year — GenCon is still the bigger draw for the gaming community, and there’s an entire contingent from the online blogging and podcasting community that I only see at that show — but it’s definitely an event I’ll be returning to.