Origins 2022 is the first major convention I have attended since 2019. I’ve been to a few smaller “cons” here and there, but this is the first major one since… well you know. Even though things were a little different both overall and personally (Asmodee having a smaller presence and my first participation in a miniatures game demo as examples), it just felt good to be back in a setting where everyone is elated to walk around, emptying their wallets for new purchases, and playing games with both friends and strangers.
This year, I got to meet up with a podcast I have been listening to since its inception: the guys over at Hidden Gems. We gamed in quite a few capacities, playing new games and old favorites. So big thanks to them for allowing me to feel right at home in their game group. To piggyback off that, my list will not be exclusively Origins releases. They have an extensive library, and we brought our own games that we prioritized playing. Lots of reviewers, including myself, will be reviewing games that were released at Origins, and some may be featured here!
Top 10 Games Played at Origins 2022
10. Mountain Goats
The first of four (yes, four) games from BoardGameTables.com, Mountain Goats is the one that feels most familiar. Similar to another game that will appear on this list, you are rolling four dice and attempting to reach the top of a row of numbers, here from five to 10. What makes Mountain Goats different from other dice games is that when you reach the final card on a number’s mountain, you take a point chit matching that number. And you don’t leave the summit once you reach the top until someone else bumps you off, so if you roll that number on your next turn and you still sit on the summit, you take another scoring chit that matches the number. I don’t think it reinvents the wheel, but sometimes a pleasant game doesn’t have to.
9. Factory Funner
One of the most thought-inducing 30-minute games I’ve ever played, Factory Funner is a pipe-laying game where four different colors of energy travel about the board to machines that players choose simultaneously. If it weren’t for the real-time selection of tiles, this game would be 100% multiplayer solitaire since the actual assembly of factories can be done at the players’ leisure. Each item placed that round costs $1, but the machine that is newly powered gives so much money as well, so basically you are getting some sort of revenue (hopefully) for building. What’s cool about Factory Funner is that machines output a color as well, and if they can power a different machine with that output, you get a bonus of $3 for each time that happens. It’s not one I’ll be grabbing for quite often, but it’s a thinky filler that fills a void most games don’t.
A Hidden Gems beloved review, Hawaii could be the definition of a medium-weight point salad game. There are lots of ways to score. Each game has some variability in the setup. There are two main resources and one that can be wild. Players can acquire end of game special scoring tiles that are unique to them. All that sounds by the numbers, so what makes Hawaii different? At the end of each round, if a player meets a threshold of shells (one of the resources) that they have spent, they receive points, and the biggest spender gets extra. What’s interesting though is when you spend shells, a player always has the option to double the amount they pay to get a better version of what they’re buying. But the kicker is that the shell count for spending is only the original amount, not the doubled. So every turn, you want to spend double the amount to get the good stuff, but that cuts into your chance of getting the end of round points. It has some tense decisions that euro gamers can really dig their teeth into. It is far out of print but is available for online play on BoardGameArena and Yucata.
7. Kabuto Sumo
I can be very entertained by a simple concept. I’ve always had glowing eyes for the coin pushing arcade machines filled with game tokens, so when I found out Kabuto Sumo uses that mechanism, I had to try it out. The short answer is that it is indeed entertaining. While the game isn’t perfect, running a little long for what it is, Kabuto Sumo is just simple fun. Push a piece into the ring from your inventory. Claim whatever pieces that fall off the ring into your inventory. If you run out of pieces, you lose. If you push your opponent’s piece off, you win. Use special abilities if you’re playing the advanced game that connects to professional wrestling (points from me for that). You’ll be getting a full review on this one in the coming weeks.
6. Can’t Stop
If you know me, you would be scratching your head as to why this isn’t higher up, even in the first spot. A couple of reasons. To start, I prefer the game with three players, so a teaching game with two players wasn’t preferred. But the bigger reason for Can’t Stop not ranking higher is that I play it all the time online. It’s not a big deal to show someone Can’t Stop, as much as I love it. The tensions were still high in our play, but not enough to secure it a Top 5 spot.
I spoke about Kaivai last year at DoaMCon 2021. It’s one of the most unique euro games out there. It has a tight economy, balancing three different resources that serve different purposes. It has an agonizing decision to make at the top of the round that dictates turn order, expansion of the islands, cost of buildings, and movement potential. It has a mix of traditional euro ideas and spatial expansion of ten islands that are auctioned for points at game end. But to be honest, it’s not a game I want to get out and play all the time. Teaching the game can be tough, and new players can have difficulties grasping the interconnected aspects until after their second round. But for those that like to hunt down grail games, Kaivai is worth the look for the sheer unique feel it provides.
A few years ago, Andrew and I were raving about Smirk and Laughter’s abstract Shobu. It felt like a game that could have been a game discovered by archaeologists through its sparse components and simple rules. Well, boop. somewhat has that feel, but without the look. An abstracted take on cats jumping on a bed, both players begin with kittens. When three kittens of a player are lined up, they are removed from the board, tossed in the box, and upgraded into cats. If three cats are lined up, that player wins. But where boop. changes things up is when pieces are placed next to each other. When a feline is placed next to another, regardless of the color or number, they are booped one space away from the newly placed cat. This could make a line of three or could knock them off the bed. The set up for a winning play is very thought inducing, so I am excited for boop. to hit stores later in 2022.
3. The Crew: Mission Deep Sea
I missed out on The Quest for Planet Nine when it was first released, only trying it out online, which wasn’t the best way to play. After trying out the latest version of the co-op trick-taking game, I’m wanting to play it more, even though I don’t like cooperative games. The clever use of mission cards to dictate where the priorities of the players lie is quite cool. It speaks to the quality of the game when it is my most played game of the convention and I only played it with strangers.
2. Cat in the Box
A second trick taker in the Top 3, Cat in the Box is another game I covered at last year’s DoaMCon. I’ve quite thankful it’s hit a wider audience thanks to Bezier Games, because it is fantastic. The big hook, other than the cute cats, are the cards. Like many card games, there will be one of each number in four suits with red being the most powerful suit, aka the trump suit. Notice how I said “will be,” because in Cat in the Box, the cards in your hand are suitless. So when I play a seven card, I declare what suit it is using a little grid in front of me and marking it with a piece of my color on a board in the middle of the players. When a card is played (the yellow three as an example) that card can no longer be used on the board, which could end hands prematurely. It does trick taking in a brainy way that I can really appreciate.
1. Ghosts of Christmas
Yes, the entire Top 3 is made up of trick takers. Ghosts of Christmas is similar to Cat in the Box in that it turns the genre on its head. What it does is that you are playing three tricks simultaneously to the three ghosts of Christmas, like in the Christmas Carol story. When a player plays a card to one of the three ghosts, the other must follow suit to that ghost. But players can play to whatever ghost they would like, if they can. Why is this important? Like Cat in the Box, red is always the trump suit. So if I play cards to where I no longer can follow suit to a particular ghost, I can play a trump card to win it. And the three tricks do not resolve until all cards are played to them. So if I make it to where I win a trick that I shouldn’t have, I could then cause the next trick to be in a different suit than initially expected. It’s hard to explain, but it works beautifully, to the point where no trick taking game really feels like it.