Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Origins 2016: The Gaming

My trip down to Origins this year was a short one, just two of the convention's five days, but that was plenty of time to get in some games!

I only had one gaming event planned ahead of time (an Epic limited event on Saturday). I've learned over the years that it's wise to keep your schedule flexible. Once you're on the ground, it's easy to find lots of interesting things to do. Unless the event is something that's likely to sell out (either something super-popular or with very limited space), it's easy enough to show up with generic tokens rather than locking yourself into a particular schedule. Also, don't schedule back-to-back events if at all possible, since the early one might run late, or you might be tired enough that you won't enjoy the later event much anyway.

Everything I played this year was a card game of some kind. Origins actually has a lot more role-playing games than anything else, but I tend to gravitate toward the card games unless I'm going with a group. Partly that's for the sake of time...a single RPG event can take many hours...but mostly I just prefer to know at least one or two other people in an RPG event, and I didn't have anything like that organized this year. There are plenty of board games as well, some of which I tried out as demos, but I didn't play them as organized events.
Wasn't hard to find the Star Realms event area, with this banner to navigate by.
The White Wizard Games folks were present in force, doing Star Realms and Epic events. Got to play events for both those games, and had a good time with both. On Friday, I played a bit of Star Realms, then on Saturday did events for both games.

The Epic limited event was different than anything I'd played before. Since Epic doesn't have randomized packaging (i.e. Magic boosters), they can't just give you some random packs to use. Instead, everyone brought their own set of cards, then the organizers handed each person a list with 60 random card names that you were allowed to use to build your 30-card deck. If you didn't like your list, you could replace it with another random list, but only once. First time I'd played a format like that, and I thought it worked pretty well. I lost all my games, which isn't too surprising since I'd never actually played an organized event for the game before. I usually play group games with friends, but it's a very different game playing one-on-one! All my opponents were nice enough, though, and everyone got some promo cards to take home.
Epic promos - alternative art cards.
The Friday Star Realms event was just a few people, eight if I remember correctly. But the event on Saturday was a big one, with 48 people playing (here's a picture from the game's FB page). Each round was one game with either the original Star Realms set, or the new Colony Wars set, determined randomly. I'd never played Colony Wars before, but it doesn't have any new rules so it wasn't difficult to get up to speed quickly. Lots of cards I'd never seen before, though! I only won one game out of three on Friday, but I was fortunate on Saturday to go 4-1-1 across six games and make it into the top 8 playoff. The playoff rounds all used the original Star Realms set, and we played best of three games. In the first round, my opponent and I split the first two games, and I just barely pulled out the third game for the win. But then my luck ran out, because neither game was close in the second round. Got beat twice, in large part since my opponent got Brain World in both games. Actually that silly base showed up in my opponent's deck in all four of my last games, and I count myself lucky to have won the one that I did! So in the end I finished fourth, and took home a play mat prize as well as several promo cards.
Event loot! Playmat and promo cards.
I also played in a Magic event that was a bit of an oddball, a draft using random packs from Modern format sets. Usually in a draft, everyone's packs are from the same sets. But in this event, they threw a whole bunch of packs into a couple of bags, and each player pulled out three packs at random. That was a lot of fun, using strange card combinations that you almost never see together. Won two out of three matches in that one and got a few Origins packs as a prize.

The atmosphere was good in all those events, friendly without being overly competitive. Everyone I met and played against was having a good time. Every convention has big events where the competition level is high, but I generally avoid those in favor of the smaller, more casual formats. I find my stress level stays lower that way, and I have a better time overall. It certainly worked out that way with these events!

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