Adventures in Conlandia – Origins Game Fair

Origins Game Fair may be the biggest convention you haven’t attended. Held in Columbus, Ohio in June, it draws more than ten thousand attendees and has been going on since 1975. Originally created to serve gaming in general, but also wargames and miniatures, it migrated to a new city each year during its first twenty years. In 1996, it settled into Columbus and has been held there since. Many people skip it in favor of GenCon—if you can only go to one con a year GenCon normally wins on sheer size and options, but GenCon isn’t the only game in town and Origins is worth considering.

Origins, to me, is a sort of GenCon-lite. You still have more options than you have time to do them all—from scheduled games, panels, crafting seminars, a costume contest, games on demand and more (over 4,500 to choose from)—but at 20% of the attendance.

Games on Demand at Origins gets busy during peak times, but isn’t the crush of people it is in Indianapolis. By the numbers- GenCon 2014 saw 1452 players in 310 games with a pool of 70 GMs. Origins saw 415 players in 90 games with a pool of 44 GMs. That means Origins had ⅓ of the total games with ⅔ of the GMs. Put differently at GenCon the player-to-GM ratio was about 21:1 where Origins saw 9.5 players for every GM. The space at Origins seemed nearly as big but because of the lower attendance it didn’t feel as packed or loud.

Registration for the weekend is $55 ahead of time or $65 on site and $15 for a pre-registration day pass or $20 on site. You can also purchase a ribbon if you plan to stay in a specific area like the Rio Grande, Mayfair or Upper Deck rooms. There’s also the Geek Chic lounge or Origins After Dark and more.

For food options, this is hands down the best con I’ve been to. The North Market is a three minute walk from the convention center (you may have to walk further inside the building than you do once you’re on the street). The food on offer ranges from German to Indian to Sushi and more and includes the famous Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. There’s also plenty of restaurants around and the only potential concern I’d mention is that if you have a big group it can be hard to get seated on Friday and Saturday nights.

Hotels range from just over $100/night to more towards $200. Adjacent to the convention center are the usual H options—Hyatt, Hilton and Hampton along with Drury Inn (usually the cheapest and fastest to sell out). As of this writing there are still rooms available around $120 and the convention is one week away.

I played in my first LARP at Origins in 2014: we had a room all to ourselves a little away from the Games on Demand room. We had a soundtrack and the facilitator was able to adjust the lights and it was thematic and really fun. I also ran and played in a couple tabletop rpgs at Games on Demand and it was a really pleasant experience from both sides. The room was big enough for almost every session save Friday and Saturday nights (during which we had overflow space, though it was louder and more crowded than the main room). I played Urban Shadows, Monsterhearts, Dream Askew and Souls of Steel and ran Heroine and InSpectres. LARP games played were Being Human and The Climb.

A lot of people skip Origins in favor of GenCon, but it’s a great con and for indie gaming it’s an awesome experience. I think you should check it out!

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