Yesterday you got Jason’s perspective on our recent trip to Origins where he did an excellent job of summing up the experience. I’ll try not to retread too many topics that he already covered and instead give a completely biased take on praising the employers that let us experience Origins from a slightly different perspective, Asmodee. This was my first time at a large convention (by which I mean more than 150 people and 1 large conference room). It was also my first experience helping to run the show rather than just attending. I didn’t know exactly what to expect going into Origins but the whole experience exceeded my expectations at every turn. My first day I worked from 10 am until midnight demoing games and I had a blast. Jason and I staggered back to our hotel where we played one more quick game before calling it a night. I can’t say for sure but I’m pretty sure I dreamed about games and all the great things that I was planning for the rest of the convention. We had better chances to wander around in the following days and it seemed like every night we stayed up a little later to cram in as many games as possible. But most of our time was spent in the Asmodee booth and even if I hadn’t been working there I’m pretty sure I would have ended up there quite often. I’m sure happy that my Origins experience was spent with the publisher that had the best presence there. Here are just a few reasons why.
Let me tell you, Asmodee had an incredible team assembled for Origins. And I’m not just saying this because half of them shared my nationality (I’m referring to the Canadian half in case Jason’s article didn’t already tip you off). They were friendly, polite, approachable, good looking, easy going, professional, bilingual, a little (or a lot) silly, excellent teachers, and an absolute blast to play with. You could look around and see everyone having a great time (well at least in our booth and the foam sword fighters next to us). That’s not just because of the games that they were playing but because these guys could make anything fun. That’s right, even Jason enjoyed playing Splendor and I’ll admit that I actually had fun playing Desperados of Dicetwon despite my general disdain for dice that aren’t used in a clever euro game. Hopefully no one went home and realized that their game group is not nearly as much fun to play with as the Asmodee gang.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that Asmodee has an impressive catalog of games to add to the fun. The obvious star of the show was the Spiel-nominee Splendor which is a dead-simple, refined, efficiency engine building racing game with some really nice chips to make the game play even smoother. We started with one modest copy set up on a table next to our Splendor tower but that clearly wasn’t enough as demand pushed us to having four tables going at the same time by Saturday afternoon. If you’ve got someone like Jason in your group that will fall asleep at the mere sight of Splendor then you’re still in luck. Just in the last year there are releases ranging from the most creative and fun party game I’ve ever played (Concept, also a Spiel-nominee) to an aggressive deck-builder based on the popular World of Tanks to the throw-down, push-your-luck dice thriller Desperados of Dice Town. There was also a brand new release for those seeking the latest and greatest to try out, the beautiful and puzzly tile-laying, palace building game Sultaniya. If that’s not enough you might be amazed to discover all the games that Asmodee has published. As we unpacked boxes on Tuesday afternoon I kept finding myself saying “they published that one too?” From Nations, to Rampage, to 7 Wonders, and Seasons it seems there’s something for every type of gamer. They have big box games for hardcore gamers as well more compact ones (The Builders, Timeline) for those looking for an impulse buy that won’t break a convention budget.
They were prepared
We showed up early Tuesday morning to help set up Asmodee’s booth and I looked around thinking “where is everyone else?” Things were pretty hectic with plenty of games to unpack, banners to unfold, walls to erect, and tables to unfold but when the dust cleared and everything was set up it still looked like a ghost town. It’s true that we weren’t set up in the main exhibit hall but that section wasn’t even going to be open on Wednesday and people would be looking for something to do. When we showed up the next morning things still looked pretty empty except for Asmodee’s beacon of gaming goodness. There weren’t massive crowds on that first day but a lot of people wandered our way looking for something to do and we were ready with tables to play at and games to buy. Now I understand that there are other conventions going on along with the challenge of splitting presence between the two halls but I feel like Asmodee’s effort to have a clear and welcoming presence right from the moment the convention opened up did not go unnoticed.
It can be disorienting to walk around the crowds at any convention and find the company that you were really excited to visit or game that you were dying to try out. Asmodee’s presence was both clear and welcoming. Front and center was a tower of Splendor boxes, a game that many attendees came seeking out. Right next to that were a dozen tables set up with their latest and most popular games just ready to be played. If anyone so much as picked up a box or gazed on a game that was laid out on a table they were offered a full play through regardless of whether they brought any friends with them. Over to the side was a vast collection of games that were available to be purchased right there. I could practically reach back and grab a copy of Splendor from the tower the second that someone expressed interest in picking it up. Things were busy and there were many points at which every single table was full. Still, they let anyone play all the way through to the end of their game even if it meant dedicating a demoer and table to a 2-hour introduction to Seasons. Both Jason and I found ourselves hanging around and helping out even when we weren’t scheduled to work because it was such a lively and fun place to be (and we wanted to make sure everyone else was enjoying it too). I got a chance to walk around both halls in my time off but didn’t find anywhere quite as friendly and welcoming as Asmodee. It showed as people returned to the booth with their friends and family to introduce them to their favorite games or try something new. More game towers were constructed and then steadily depleted as many happy gamers found something to love and someone friendly to try it out with.
We Get It, You Love Asmodee. Enough Already!
Alright, alright. I did get to enjoy some of the other wonders of Origins during my time in Columbus. I obliviously enjoyed visiting with Jason and Derek but I’ll let you read all about that in Jason’s article if you haven’t already and get down to what I played and took home.
Splendor – Ha, you thought I was done talking about Asmodee and their great games! Well you were wrong. Splendor is the game that I spent most of my time demoing while I was in the Asmodee area. I had played it once before Origins and after four solid days of teaching and playing it I decided to take it home. It’s certainly a good sign when you’re willing to buy a game that you just spent that much time teaching to other people. I love a tight efficiency engine-builder and this one would go over great with my family. Alright, enough Splendor love.
Sultaniya – This one was a new release for Origins and we actually had to spend Tuesday night brushing up on the rules because they weren’t expecting to have it available. From my initial read through of the rules I thought it looked interesting but my first play really proved that there’s a lot more depth than there first appears to be. I cringed at the comparisons to Alhambra that I heard during the convention because aside from tile laying and the general setting it doesn’t share much in common. A more apt description that I heard was vertical tile laying. I appreciated the very puzzly feel that player’s get as they each attempt to construct a palace with different scoring objectives in mind (both public and private). Everyone I taught this game to really enjoyed it and I saw several people coming back to give it another try. Fortunately I was able to get enough plays in during the convention to get a good handle on the game and will hopefully have a review ready relatively soon. I really enjoyed this one, it was probably the surprise hit of Origins for me.
Ascension: Realms Unraveled – It’s a bit of an understatement to say that I’ve been excited for this one. I finally got my hands on a copy early on during the convention and opened it up in the Asmodee booth late one night. I was meet with joking disapproval as I poured over a non-Asmodee game in our coveted area. I didn’t actually get a chance to try it out at Origins but I did get to pick up some sleeves from the Stoneblade booth and sleeve it on our drive home. You’re sure to see this one show up in the Monday News Bits until you’re sick of hearing about it and I review it already.
Valley of the Kings – I had a great review for this one over at Strange Assembly and was interested in trying it out. I spotted it set up at the AEG booth in the Exhibit hall and was excited to find Tom Cleaver, the designer, on had to demo it for me! I only had a short time to play through a couple of turns but was impressed and picked it up shortly after. Tom had mentioned that he would be happy to sign my copy so I spent the rest of the convention hunting him down and finally got him to sign it Saturday night before we left. I haven’t gotten to play it yet but I’m very excited for a relatively fresh deck building experience in a reasonably sized package.
Roll Through the Ages: The Iron Age – Jason and I were wandering around the Eagle-Gryphon area and Cubist caught my eye. I had wanted to try it out since I was so enthralled with Blueprints and have really been looking forward to a meatier take on that concept. But then I saw the new Roll Through the Ages and that I simply had to play it. Ever since it’s announcement I’ve been following it with baited breath. I wanted to love the original Roll Through the Ages (The Bronze Age) so badly but it just did’t offer enough decisions to keep me coming back. Then I heard that Tom Lehmann (this man can design a game, folks) was involved in a sequel of sorts and I was hooked. Well let me tell you, the demo completely sold me on this one. I was extremely happy with the added variation in the new design and despite our somewhat incomplete demo I will most certainly be getting this one as soon as I can get my hands on it. As an added bonus, Tom himself thumbed a comment I made about my demo on BGG so my experience is complete.
Subdivision – I was wondering around the exhibit hall on Wednesday before it had opened up and saw this one set out, I was tempted to sit down and try it out right there but decided I better not push my luck. I came back at a more official time and got a brief demo which gave me a better take on the game. I heard it described as a cross between Take It Easy! and Surburia (or something like that). I guess I can see that though it probably isn’t doing the game justice. I’ll be very interested to get a more complete play through once this one comes out as my family really enjoys Take It Easy! and I enjoyed what I saw.
Pagoda – We were neighbors with AEG and I was able to pop over and watch a couple other people in the middle of a game of Pagoda. I’m really intrigued with simple and straight forward two player designs and this one seems right up that alley. I got a relatively good sense for how the game played but I would really like to get the full experience before I commit to it as I was a little concern about the random card draw. Overall I think it’s a really solid design that could easily compete with the likes of Jaipur if it’s as good as I hope it is. Jason described it as “boring” so that’s basically a glowing recommendation in my book.
We hope you enjoyed our ramblings about our marvelous journey that was Origins. Hopefully we’ll be able to bring you more coverage from a little convention called GenCon once it rolls around. I heard Asmodee has a couple great games in store, I even got a quick peak at a couple of them!