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Origins Game Fair 2023

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

Origins 2023 has finished. It was a good convention overall, and the attendance seemed to be much better than last year - although I have not yet seen the numbers. I am going to try to update this post when I do see them.

*UPDATED - Attendance for the year has been reported at 16,082. This is a 38% increase year over year, but still not back to pre-pandemic levels. It sounds about right to me given how full the halls felt each day.

4 men around a table with a map showing hexes and blocks with Russian and German tank forces about to fight in a World War 2 scenario
Tim Densham (my business partner at Catastrophe Games) teaches True Command to Gary from Aardwulf and Mike from My Own Worst Enemy

First - the week started with a very nice social cohosted by Arwen from the Cardboard Time podcast . It was a joy to meet Arwen in person and spend some time talking with some of our mutual acquaintances and friends. We are already planning for another event in 2024. Some of the people who attended that were kind enough to check out Mango Cabana and seemed to genuinely enjoy the experience. This was a relief to me as I am personally stressing about the upcoming crowdfunding.

The week was focused on sharing prototypes and/or teaching at the Armchair Dragoons events area in the events hall (2117). Arabian Struggle in its current form was very well received as well as our other games, but I wish more people had been able to check out Sadr City as I think Tim has improved on his first game, Zurmat in its follow up. In any case, this was our base camp for the week. Next year, I plan on signing up for an event or two as a player as this is where I really wanted to play games, but didn't get a chance to try other companies' games. The games I wanted to play the most were The Halls of Montezuma by Kevin Bertram and Gilberto Lopez and Undaunted: Battle of Britain by Trevor Benjamin and David Thompson. They were both filled throughout the convention. The one solace I have is that Battle of Britain is now available for purchase.

Man standing in front of a game table of giveaways with arms apart
Brant from Armchair Dragoons on the Sunday raffle for gamaes

There were several games I checked out during the convention that I thought were interesting and deserve revisiting but I did not get to play. They included: Ahau: Rules of Yucatan (Grand Gamers Guild), Diced Veggies (KTBG), Forges of Ravenshire (which recently finished a successful crowdfunding campaign), and Mission Control (3WS).

The games I did get to play for the first time were Roll to the Top: Journeys (Allplay), Fire in the Library: The Card Game, several prototypes, Octopus's Garden (Maple), Mountain Goats (Allplay), Lord of the Rings: Adventure to Mount Doom (Kosmos), and My Island (Kosmos).

Fire in the Library the Card Game by Carla Kopp prototype box
Prototype box

My favorite of these was Fire in the Library the card game as it changes the dynamics from the original in a couple of key ways, including that it can be a little mean. But I like the cards and I like the way the push your luck just feels different with cards on a table. I hope to play this one again and get the chance to review it fully.

My Island will be a game that I will enjoy because I already had quite a bit of fun with My City. This is the sequel to it, and it is also designed by Reiner Knizia. My Island takes place over 24 scenarios and has all new gameplay experiences while feeling familiar.

Most of my convention was spent either teaching people games, taking meetings to check out new games, or meeting people to see how I could do things better for either myself or the companies I work for part-time. I also got to have some nice meals with people and just hang out too.

There were many new vendors, a lot of the old stand by vendors, and some prominently missing vendors this year. The hall had a very nice layout at the Origins team did a good job with layout. As a media member, I did have a few questions and thoughts that I hope we (GAMA) can improve on in the future if we are going to be a destination show for media. I had already seen many of the games via other outlets and we could probably do more to encourage some type of exclusive first looks or something of that nature. This type of approach would help encourage media to treat this as a true must attend show.

an LED lit building showing a sci-fi wargame with hover tanks
Small Building from Collins Epic Wargames

There were over 5000 events and the open play space was completely packed out for several hours on Saturday evening. People definitely wanted to play, but it was the only day that felt completely busy and no lines were ever too long. Maybe that was just a result of the Origins staff doing an excellent job of keeping things moving; it could also be that there were less attendees than anticipated. Since I was often head down teaching, it's hard to know.

Gnomes and Wizards brightly colored board with custom triangle board pieces, a sort of area control game, will come to Kickstarter in October of 2023
Gnomes & Wizards

My favorite part which is unique to Origins is all of the new and largely unknown games each year. I hope to see even more next year as this year it felt like many new vendors took the time to attend.

The vendors in the exhibit hall who I felt stood out were: Hachette, Free League Publishing, All Play, Capstone Games, Grand Gamers Guild, and 25th Century Games. The booth layouts were enjoyable either visually, or due to demos, or both.

The game is set up for up to 4 players - it shows different abstracted international tourist attractions like the pyramids as groupings of squares which must be filled in with dice rolls and some dry erase markers.
Roll to the Top: Journeys from All Play in their demo area

Filter game is about schooling your opponents by building the best fish tank. 30-60 minutes game for 2-4 players
Filter in the UnPub room

Octopus Garden is a lighter tile laying game where you try to group coral, place octopus, and pick up ocean trash
Octopus Garden by Roberta Taylor and Maple Games

Cover of Kapow! Volume 1 shows different heroes and villains fighting in a comic book style
Kapow! - An assymetric dice powers game

Tim, Aiden, and me working our way through the Seth Jaffee and Rick Holzgrafe game on a vinyl board using cubes and basic pieces
Apotheosis prototype in action

A note on the Origins Awards which I did not end up attending as I was busy teaching games that night. The winners are as follows but you can find more info here:

Retailer Game of the Year

  • Boop (Smirk & Laughter Games)

Origins Fan Favorite

Board Games - Social/Light Strategy

Board Games - Strategy

Board Games - Thematic

Card Games

Children's Game

  • HONK! (Sinister Fish Games)


Miniatures Game

RPG Core

RPG Supplements

2D Art & Illustration

3D Art

Graphic Design



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