Well I headed off to Origins 2012 this year on Thursday, May 31, 2012. For those who don’t know this was a very controversial date for the convention as it was moved to three days after Memorial Day this year. Not only was this an obvious conflict with the holiday but it was also a month earlier than usual while most public schools were still in session. To make matters worst the Origins website was not updated with details of the convention until about 45 days from the start of the show.
With all that at work my expectations were quite low. I arrived Thursday around 5:30 p.m. and immediately noticed that not only was the exhibit hall mostly empty but the convention center itself was mostly empty. There were no lines for anything and even parking was easy to obtain.
Inside the exhibit hall the first thing I noticed was that there was no major sponsor anchoring the convention. Even though the program indicated that it was sponsored by Mayfair and Wizards of the Coast neither had a large booth in the hall. Fantasy Flight did not attend at all and neither did Privateer Press.
Lucky for me there were not any real new releases I was hoping to get at Origins this year so the impact this had on me was insignificant. I was disappointed that the weekend auction that used to be hosted by Troll and Toad did not return. Instead the silent auction followed by a small one day auction was used again like last year. I managed to check in a few games into the silent auction and to place several rounds of bids. Overall I was impressed with how Katie and Soren ran it. There was a good amount of stuff out and it was grouped on tables with like merchandise. In fact, I was won over with the silent auction format and will definitely bring more stuff next year. I did not make the live auction though just looking at the inventory held back for it there was significantly less than in years past. I started to check in some rare games I wanted to sell but I was afraid most of my stuff would only go for the minimum bids so I chose to wait until GenCon. Actually what I would like to see next year is getting rid of the live auction altogether and simply running the silent auction and the auction store.
After checking out what there was see to very briefly in the hall I spent Thursday in the miniatures room playing a game of Battle of San Juan Hill using the Piquet game rules. This was a very well run game with gorgeous miniatures that the Americans managed to win after causing enough casualties to the Mexicans to cause their army to break. This was my first time playing Piquet and while I liked its tiered die system the card driven commands was way too limiting. In the game you cannot fire, reload or move unless you pull a card from your deck during your turn allowing you to do so. Which means often you will have five cards in a turn but none of them allow you to fire when you need to. This ultimately caused my unit to stall on a hill and never make it off the rest of the game.
The next morning I rose early to a western game using Reaper Miniatures’ RAGE game system. These are the rules used for Warlord which have been adapted for westerns, wierd war 2 and other genres. The game was a straight shoot out with each character having their own weapons and skills. I played a shotgun wielding nun who was killed in the first round by a gunslinger only to be avenged by her nephew Bill Cody. The rules seemed to adapt nicely to western however the characters died awfully quickly when everyone has guns instead of swords or hand weapons. If I had run the game I would probably have added more wound columns to some of the miniatures or gave everyone a save against taking a wound from any hit. Instead the GM made up for this by allowing us to bring in a new character as soon as ours died.
Even though I was enjoying myself in the miniature hall I was starting to think I wouldn’t be bringing much back from the exhibitor hall this year. That’s when I found FREEBLADES. FREEBLADES is a new miniature skirmish game by DGS games that features factions representing various kingdoms from earth’s history battling over a well laid out game world with a well developed background. What really pulled me in however were the miniature boxed sets. There were four available at the convention and I picked up one and individual miniatures from at least two others.
Other than the fantastic miniatures I also liked the fact that the game uses a tiered dice system up to and including a d14, d16 and d24!! All of which were on sale at their booth. Being a skirmish game and with factions consisting of about six miniatures I think this will be agreat game for Solo Wargamers.
I will be doing a solo playtest of these rules soon and posting the Battle Report.
There is also a Roleplaying system being playtested now for the game with plans for a mass battle game soon thereafter.
Battlefront Easy 8 – World War II
Upon returning to the miniature hall I played in a WWII game using the rules from the old Battlefront Easy 8 game system. Basically it was a meeting engagement which saw me commanding a Tiger Tank escorted by a squad of Grenadiers trying to locate Americans in a French town. Unfortunately the GM made several changes to the rules which I believe broke the system. One of which was removing opportunity fire so the MG I was given never had a chance to shoot. The other was diving the two actions each figure is usually given into two separate card pulls so that if your card came up you could either fire or move but not move and then fire like in the regular rules. As a result the Americans in the house were able to do several rounds of fire on both their cards while I was forced to move and then wait for a card to fire – only to be shot and suppressed or killed so that when my next card came up that I would have fired on I instead had to recover or retreat. Fortunately, I did not need to move my Tiger tank much and it was able to do the only real damage to the Americans. But ultimately without any infantry support my tank crew temporarily bailed from the tank and considered assaulting the American positions themselves but abandoned the idea soon thereafter and simply returned to the tank to end the game with our objectives unaccomplished. Despite this it was a fun game with the funniest part for eveyone being when I was given a replacement squad of Grenadiers in a halftrack and the GM allowed the halftrack to speed past the Tiger that was partially blocking a bridge in an attempt to get into the town and engage the Americans. Instead the halftrack and crew were ambushed by an anti-tank bazooka that destroyed the track and the crew in the center of the bridge with one shot!!! We all started laughing when I said my tank crew was looking on calling them “idiots” for ignoring the fact that the Tiger wouldn’t cross the bridge without infantry support but they thought they could just speed right over!
On Saturday I made another foray into the exhibitor hall and in addition to picking up more Freeblades miniatures I also splurged on some Sergeant Major Miniatures. For those who do not know this I was told by one of the reps that SGM miniatures acquired the old Vendel Miniatures range. This is a range I remember quite well and loved for ancients and historical. SGM Miniatures is selling this line in packs of 8 for $12.00 and packs of 4 for $6.00. They have a wonderful range of Greeks and Persians and even some Tolkien fantasy. If you are looking for anything historical this is definitely the place to get some nice figures at a great price. I will certainly be getting more as I expect to be picking up the SAGA miniature wargame rules in the near future.
I ended the convention with a game of Flames of War on Saturday morning. This game saw me leading an early war German panzer company against a Polish infantry division guarding an armored tank. Because we were short one player I was pitted against two Polish players with anti-tank guns, mini tanks (tankettes), howitzers and train mounted canons. This was only my second or third game of Flames of War but having played infantry against tanks before I knew the key to defeating infantry was to pin and suppress them. Since my tank guns were the only guns that had a chance of harming the armored train I also knew it would be important to turn the AT guns of the Polish and get them to concentrate on my armored car squadrons and infantry tanks. In the end I was able to flank the Polish on the right and left with armored cars and anti-infantry tanks while simultaneously pinning and assaulting their infantry resulting in whole lines falling back behind the train tracks; leaving my Panzer III and Stug free to pound the tank from the center. Because a rules change by the GM I never actually destroyed the tank but based on the number of Polish infantry that was killed or routed it was conceded I would of won the scenario had we not run out of time. As a bonus we all got a free copy of the Flames of War handbook which now has me wanting to break out my Axis & Allies miniatures and start putting together some FOW companies!
This was not the last game I played though. The last miniature game I played was a post-apocalypse sci-fi game I believe called SFD3. Essentially it involved men in armored suits fighting to repopulate the earth. The rules were homebrew and we played on a very nice industrial complex gameboard made in part with painted pop cans! The game ran about 45 minutes to an hour and ended with me earning a VP victory even though I had lost more suits than my opponent.
I have not heard any numbers on the convention attendance yet and I am sure it will be better than I thought as Saturday was very busy especially with the family day passes. Either way I probably played more actual games this year at Origins than I have in several years. This however was due to the fact that there wasn’t really anything to demo in the hall which usually accounts for a lot of my time as I try out new games and products. But I enjoyed getting into the miniature games I did get in and feel the lesson to take away from this convention is no matter how big or small a con is what you get out of it is what you make of it. I came looking to either do some good gaming or pick up some cool products. In the end I did more of the former than the latter but enjoyed myself none the less.