Report on ORIGINS '96 by David Richtmyer

Here's my recap of what was going on at Origins.

I.  What I bought:

I ended up buying Avalanche's Great War at Sea, Vol. I (the Mediteranean),
4 decks of Ulrich Blennemann's Tank Commander: the Eastern Front card
game, 1 complete deck of Columbia's Dixie: Gettysburg (it includes all of
the cards in the series), Sierra Madre's Luftschiff gamekit, and a copy of
Formula De (being imported, along with a gaggle of other Euro games, by

II.  What was being displayed:

Avalon Hill

AH had copies of recent releases, like London's Burning, Machiavelli, and
Hannibal on display, along with new for Origins releases like Air Barron,
the latest Stonewall GCACW game (on the Chancellorsville campaign), and a
working demos of Third Reich and Wooden Ships & Iron Men on a PC.  This
latter looks like a must; it looked and played magnificently--it is *not*
just a computerized version of the boardgame but takes it and goes on from
there.  Views are isometric that make the game look like a miniatures
game.  I passed on Air Barron, though it might be a good family game.
Mark Herman, at the GMT booth, told me that the ACW version of We the
People had been bumped up to first place in the production que.  Reinforce
success, I guess.


These two companies were displaying their whole lines, and displayed new
releases.  Avalanche had many copies (which went quickly) of The Great War
at Sea, Vol I the Mediterranean, which I quickly snatched up.  Two
strategic maps (done in 1/2 inch squares) where you maneuver your fleets,
and one map with very large (2" maybe) squares where you engage in
tactical combat.  Movement on the strat. map is by pre-plotting.  The
counters are one inch long, and like all the other graphics in this line
(done by GamesUSA's Brien Miller) are breathtaking.  The best part is the
rules: 7 pages long!!  And you get some 50 scenarios!!  (BTW, kudos to
those companies who are designing games that I can actually play in my
lifetime.  I did not buy one game that was a monster like the Gamers' OCS
series or GMT's 3DoG). GamesUSA had on display their map for Silent War, a
solo sub game in the Pacific in WWII.  It should be out this Fall.

Clash of Arms:

They had their whole line there, with Army of the Heartland, by John
Prados, being the new release.  This is the sister/companion game to
Prados' Campaigns of R.E. Lee, and covers the Western theatre (I never
could figure out why Georgia was in the 'West'!).  I passed because,
though it looked beautiful, it's not solitaire-able and I'll never get an
opponent to play it (too complex).


Columbia had their whole wooden block line there.  Sam Grant was not
there, as it was delayed for another couple of months so they could get
out Dixie: Gettysburg for Origins.  These cards are just flat-out
gorgeous, they are even better than Hotz' Eagles cards, if you can believe
that.  They were selling the game as either single packs or as a complete
set.  This latest version has the most cleaned up rules in the series, and
incorporates morale as did Eagles.  In this latest incarnation of the
series you can only use one of each of the specials in your deck.  Tom
Dagleish told me that sales of CCGs were down, and that he had fewer
pre-orders for G'burg than either Shiloh or Bull Run.  He indicated that
he'd like to do another Nappy battle (Austerlitz?) and maybe a French and
Indian wars battle.  Now that would be a title!


The Gamers had Hube's Pocket out; it was immediately put to good use by
gamers in the boardgames room.  Virtually their whole line was on display
and at good discounts.  Very friendly staff.  Many, many Gamers games were
being played at the convention.


Gene B. was not there as his wife is evidently having a baby.  The booth
was manned by RHB, Mark Herman, and David Fox.  They had Samurai out for
sale (and I saw folks immediately playing it in the boardgame rooms, more
on which later), along with a new Africa WWII game that is the second in
the Gameplayer Series (first being ACW Glory).  The Africa game had proofs
of the map and counters; it wasn't out yet.


Mayfair is importing a gaggle of Euro games, and are busy producing their
own versions, in English, of many of the titles.  In some cases they had
both their version and the Euro version (like Steffan Dora's Linie 1 which
Mayfair calls Streetcar); the Euro version was invariably more costly, but
of better physical quality.  Among the titles: Settlers of Catlan ($35),
the aforesaid Linie 1/Streetcar, Formula De (plus many expansion tracks),
Manhattan, Shark, etc. etc.  Mayfair had a big booth and was very busy.

Moments in History

Uli and Dirk were there hawking Tank Commander card decks; I'd describe
the game as Up Front Junior.  Scale is individual vehicles, with squads
and individual weapons like Panzerfausts.  Artwork, by Beth Queman, was,
IMHO, poor. I bought 4 decks, however.  Fields of Glory was also on
display; map this time is by map maestro Rick Barber.


Omega didn't have their new titles out, but I did talk for a long while
with the very friendly proprietor about their soon-to-be released 1864, a
strat-level ACW game that will have two maps (one for each theatre).
Movement is by regional boxes, which the designer claims is an all-new
system, and combat is also a new system.  Their graphics are supposedly
going to be upgraded (computer graphics?).

Paper Wars

Rich Erwin was there hawking !No Parasan! and other Alea Spanish games,
along with copies of PW, of course.  Good to see the editor I've been
working with for these last few years.


Spearhead had all of their games on display, including the new Jack Radey
East Front game and a demo version of "They Met at Gettysburg."  Graphics
here are by Joe Youst, and are a vast improvement over the Antietam game.
The map has an outer perimeter that allows for off-board movement ala
Storm Over Arnhem (and this venerable Courtney Allen design is the game system
upon which Pete Perla based this ACW version).  A very friendly fellow in
their booth promised me that the rules would not duplicate the snafus that
plagued the Antietam game, and I have every reason to believe him.  This
one should be out at the end of the month.


Talonsoft had Shiloh up and running and all I could do was drool.  When
you order an attack, or are attacked, a little window opens up showing the
appropriate action as a video of ACW reenactors, complete with sound.  So,
when the Rebs charge your position, you see a little video of
hell-bent-for-leather Rebel-yelling soldiers overrunning your emplacement.
I kibitzed with Charlie Kibler, formerly of AH, for a long time; wonderful
fellow as were the Columbia, Spearhead, Avalanche guys.


TimJim had on display a prototype copy of a neato power politics game
based on the French revolution.  Players take up factions (Royalists,
Jacobins, etc.) and attempt to gain control of Paris.  The map was about
2' x 4' and laminated, and quite evocative of the period.  Hopefully this
not-so-little jewel will be out in a few months.

III.  General impressions

The event was huge, the boardgame rooms were about the length of an
American football field (100 yds.) and *filled* with boardgamers playing
everything from Hannibal and War at Sea to Enemy at the Gates and World in
Flames.  If boardgaming is going out of style you'd never know it by
looking at these rooms.  There was one whole section devoted to Gamers
games, and another for Columbia's block games.  There were even gamers
playing old SPI games there!  I think that the boardgamers actually
outnumbered the roleplayers, at least in the number of rooms taken up.  Of
course, the CCGers were everywhere; they mostly played on the floor. The
miniature players had a huge room to their own, and on the balcony was set
up many stands of "Mustangs and Messerschmitts."  This latter game is
based on a set of amateur rules that were spiral bound, and the stands,
wooden dowels easily 5-6 feet tall and mounted on little tri-wheeled
platforms were spectacular.  The allowed for painted 1/72 scale WWII
fighters and bombers to be modeled 'flying' at any altitude and angle.
After playing Over the Reich and always having a hard time visualizing a
two dimensional counter representing a plane in an inverted left bank,
this spectacular miniatures game just might get me to try minis.  The
convention center was huge, it easily took up 2 city blocks.

There were tons of people and all were accomodated effectively/efficiently
by this city/convention center.  I look forward to next year's offering.


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