Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Miniatures Gamer's Perspective of Origins 2014

In recent years, I've become a bit of a gaming recluse, having faded away from very active involvement in HMGS-Great Lakes, and not having gone to a convention in years.  So, a couple of weeks ago, when an old friend got hold of me, and asked if I'd be interested in meeting up at Origins, it sounded like a great idea.

Origins (or Origins Game Fair 2014) is one of the premiere gaming conventions in the US, probably ranking only behind GenCon in size and scope.  Thousands come from all over the globe to participate in games of all genres; board games, card games, LARPing, miniatures, RPGs, and whatever else that I might have missed.  There is a large vending hall with artists, dealers, and manufacturers, an art show, auction, miniatures painting, and all sorts of things that gamers might be interested in.

I am basically a miniatures gamer, who likes a little role playing element in his games, and that has grown to a rather narrow minded focus in his old age.  Firstly, the terrain is more important than the miniatures, and my own gaming only spans colonial (including VSF with tanks), WWII to modern (I like tanks), and sci-fi genres (I like futuristic tanks too). But, I  do greatly enjoy seeing the artistry of any miniatures game, as well as the art and creativity of the costumes and creations of attendees and artists at a convention like Origins.  The creations of others are the inspiration for my own creations.  For me, conventions are about visual inspiration.

I arrived at the Columbus Convention Center at just past 9:00am on Saturday of the convention.  It was much like previous visits to Origins (I've been to Origins maybe six times over the years), with every manner of gamer scurrying about, a few sporting lasers, plate armor or fairy wings.

I made it to the registration desk at about 9:15 got in line maybe a 120-150 deep.  It was typical of my previous experiences at Origins.  What wasn't typical is the rate at which the line moved.  Previously, I had never been in line more than about 45 minutes.  But with the advancements in computer technology, the process was stretched to almost 90 minutes.

I met up with my friends, who had wisely managed to register the night before, and we were off to the dealer hall.  The hall seemed a little less full than in my previous visits, though by no means was it empty.  I don't know how many venders were present, as I never found a vender map or list.  The convention program was slightly larger than I remembered, but instead of the of the full color glossy program of years past, this year's was simply an event list without the gloss, advertising, or dealer map. 

The hall had an amazing selection of board and role playing games, and if you are into card games (particularly "Magic"), you were in luck. There were a reasonable representation of fantasy miniatures and less so of sci-fi,  though the Battlestar Galactica miniatures (Iron Wind booth?) were just outstanding.  There were also some incredible artists selling their work, as well as makers of costumes, clothing, artificial weapons, jewelry, etc.

I had targeted about six venders, that I new had attended the con in previous years, but soon discovered that none had attended this year.  After about 40 minutes of wondering through the hall, I came to the realization that there were was nothing that I was really interested. So, it was off  to miniatures gaming.

 As we walked down the concourse, talking over the ambient noise of the role playing and board game halls, I noticed that it was much more quiet as we neared the end hall with miniatures.  In my previous visits, miniatures were in a huge hall never tight for space, and with a vast number of miniatures events spanning the full range of possible periods and genres.

We entered the hall, only to find a long hallway created by temporary partitions that closed off half or more of the hall.  The miniatures area was still a large space, but smaller than in the past, and not terribly busy for noon-ish on the Saturday of a large convention.

After passing a couple of life size Space Marine statues, the first games that we encountered were a couple of Warhammer 40K tables.  One was loaded with GW manufactured ruins, and was quite attractive, another with a rather unique scratch-built set-up.  We then proceeded down the line of 40K games, which featured more unpainted or primered  miniatures than I have seen at all of my prior convention visits combined.  To be honest, I was shocked at the amount of unpainted lead (and plastic and resin).  There were some nice pieces mixed in , and some tables had only painted lead, but at least half of the 40K tables had some unpainted stuff.

Moving on, there was typical mix of games with several featuring very nice layouts and/or with cool features or miniatures. I saw more modern micro-armor than I have seen since the Cold-War was at its peak (did I mention that I like tanks), a couple very nice dungeon crawl layouts,  a "My Pretty Pony" game that was set-up, but not running ( I have to admit that I'm was curious),  some great pirate ships, etc.  What I didn't see was the show stopper.  Typically there are several really dynamic centerpiece games.  And there were some very nice and some really large games, but nothing that pushed the boundaries. 

My expectations are unfair; I know this.  I've been around the hobby a long time, and I've seen a lot of really cool and amazing stuff over the years, and thus, it is harder and harder for gamers to push that limit, to show me new things, amazing art and creations, original ideas, things that inspire me.  Yet, I find them on the internet almost every day, but  for the first time in over 25 years, I came away from a convention, visually uninspired.

After our pass through the miniatures gaming, we spent some time talking, catching up, and eventually made another pass through the miniatures area.  It was at this time that I realized something else was missing, or at least I did not see it.  Where was HMGS-Great Lakes?  I know that for some years, and during my last several visits to Origins, that GL had been involved in promoting and providing historical miniatures at Origins.  In the past, there had sometimes been a large service desk with HMGS volunteers doing things to assist/promote/recruit.  I did not see that this year, though that may have gone away some time ago or been located elsewhere.  I have no idea. 

A little more talking, a stop by the auction, and another pass through the dealer hall (with no purchases) concluded my visit to Origins 2014.

Though I didn't quite get what I was looking for out of Origins, I realize that is a function of my own narrow interests and admittedly unrealistic expectations.  In the end,  it was good to visit with old friends, and that still made it a good day.  

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