Category Archives: Events

Back from Origins

Well, I’m safely back from my road trip out to the Origins convention in Columbus. Much fun was had, much gaming was done, and much money was spent. I’ll post a few photos in a bit.

I had a great time. One of my main objectives (born of a trip to Gencon a few years back) was to spend less time wandering around gawking at stuff and more time playing games, and I feel that I succeeded. The vast majority of my time at Origins was spent in the “war room” playing Advanced Squad Leader. A few random thoughts on the Origins experience:

  • Say what you want about their unkempt appearance, fanatic devotion to trivial topics, and their tendency to dress up in skimpy costumes clearly designed for much different body types than their own, but I find that gamers tend to be a friendly and enthusiastic bunch. I’m not the most socially-outgoing person in the world, but I forced myself to interact a bit more with people at Origins, and almost without exception the people I talked to and gamed with were fun and interesting people.
  • I learned that when you play a single game for more than ten hours straight, you experience an emotional rollercoaster ride in which you alternate between wanting to never stop playing, and wanting to never even look at the game again. Sometimes you experience this addiction and revulsion at the same time.
  • The convention center at which Origins took place is very large. The “war room” in which I spent most of my time was geographically about as distant as possible from the parking garage where my car (and game equipment) were stored. That meant that every time I needed something from my car (more dice, the ASL rules, Mt. Dew) I had to make an epic hike across endless halls filled with gamers, up and down stairwells, through twisty winding passages to get there. (On the plus side, maybe that helped to burn off a few of those Mt. Dews.)
  • It was glorious to see people playing “monster wargames”–games so large that they require multiple tables to hold just the playing boards. I think the physically largest wargames I saw being played were a Europa match and some sort of massive Barbarossa campaign, the map for which occupied at least four tables.
  • That said, there were fewer wargamers at Origins than I expected. The ASL crowd there was a bit on the small side–that made for a fun day-long tournament, but if you came looking for some all-weekend-long ASL action, it was up to you to organize it yourself once the tournament ended. (Personally, I enjoyed the smaller crowd since it gave the event a more informal and personal feel.)
  • I’d originally planned to play as much Star Fleet Battles as ASL, but I ended up not even breaking out my SFB rulebook once. After the ASL tournament ended, I decided that my fragile mind simply couldn’t handle switching gears for a day of SFB.
  • Only once did I nearly fail my saving throw and plunge my family into bankruptcy with frivolous game purchases, and that was when I was briefly seized by a desire to purchase lots and lots of Warmachine miniatures. I snapped out of it a few minutes later, but it was a close call. I played a demo game of Warmachine with one of the company reps, then started thinking about how cool it would be to own dozens, hundreds, thousands of miniatures, enough to make my own invincible army… but that way lies madness. I fled the temptation.

There’s more to be said, but I suspect I’ve bored you enough for one afternoon. To sum things up, Origins was a lot of fun, and worth attending if you’re in the area. Certainly not as big an event as Gencon, but if you’re having fun playing games, that shouldn’t really matter much. And next year, if you should spot me at Origins huddled in a corner surrounded by boxes of newly-purchased miniatures, go ahead and put me out of my misery.

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Of MerpCon, and Middle-Earth memories

Brace yourself for MerpCon! That’s right, a convention devoted to roleplaying in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth (largely, but not exclusively, through Iron Crown’s vintage Middle Earth Role Playing game). This will be the second such convention, and this year it looks like Michael Martinez (a familiar name if you follow any Tolkien newsgroups or discussion forums) will be the guest of honor.

I won’t be going this year, but it’s nice to see that the convention is apparently enjoying some success. Things are pretty bleak these days as far as roleplaying in Middle-Earth goes–Decipher’s Lord of the Rings is on life support, Iron Crown has long since lost the Tolkien license, and most of the fan-created Tolkien games out there currently seem to be either outright abandoned or are lingering in perpetual half-finished limbo. Nevertheless there are some good fan-driven Tolkien gaming sites out there at which the faithful still gather.

Iron Crown’s MERP game holds a special place in my heart, for it was one of the first RPGs I played regularly; I got many years of enjoyable gaming out of that thin red rulebook. Critics today tend to scorn it for its complexity and the rather non-Tolkien-ish elements that crept into it from its roots in the Rolemaster game system, but I can say that no such critique ever even occured to me when I was playing and running regular games using it.

Well, I take that back. I probably did realize on some level that the humorous and extremely gruesome critical hit tables in MERP (and there were many, many such tables) did not exactly line up with Tolkien’s grand vision for Middle-Earth, but I was having too much fun to worry about it. So what if, in the novels, Aragorn never had to worry about getting his jawbone driven into his brain by a lucky orc flail to the face, or about the risk of permanent paralysis from a crushing blow to his spine? Let me tell you, it sure made for some mighty fine gaming…

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Origins or bust

Well, it’s official: I’m going to the Origins convention later this month. I’m not yet quite sure what I’ll be doing there, but I figure with four days, a bag full of dice, and a 400-page Star Fleet Battles rulebook, I can probably find something with which to occupy myself.

The only other game convention I’ve attended was Gencon in 2003; it was much fun, although I decided afterwards that I’d spent too much time wandering the dealer hall and not enough time actually playing games. I hope to remedy that at Origins this year. Wish me luck!

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