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Origins Game Fair 2016: Day 2

Despite the fact that I've spent a lot of time running demos and helping out various game companies over the years, I've never actually officially worked as an exhibitor before. A lot of this had to do with a form of commitment-phobia. With all of my medical issues I've been hesitant to actually pull the trigger on some sort of formal, full time volunteering. I've been happy to pitch in but usually on more of an ad hoc basis. I could never be certain pain or drug side effects or other problems wouldn't take me down and the idea that someone else could be depending on me added a level of pressure and anxiety I didn't need. Things have been better, at least somewhat, since the torrent of surgeries though and so I took the plunge this time around. I figured if nothing else, it sounded like Curt had a long term, experienced crew and if I needed to flake, I could probably do so without too much damage. In the end, I hadn't counted on the fact that he hadn't been to Origins in 10 years but I also held up much better than I thought I was going to.

I didn't manage to get much, and certainly nowhere near enough, sleep that first night at Origins. For some inexplicable reason I woke up around 6am and couldn't get back to sleep so there was nothing much to do but wander downstairs and get breakfast.

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The breakfast setup at the Hampton was pretty spiffy. There was always something interesting in addition to the traditional eggs and sausage whether it was little individual sized western omlettes or some sort of odd cheese, egg, and bacon bagel whozit.

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John's an early riser so on those days where I couldn't get back to bed, we would sit down in the breakfast area and chat until his RPG events were set to go and I would wander back upstairs to take a shower and get ready to go. BTW, the shower/water pressure at the Hampton was freaking amazing. I have been in a lot of hotels and suffered through a lot of drip drip drip showers over the years but this was by far the best water pressure I've ever had at a convention. I think it helped that I had Gold status through the Hilton Honors program and was able to pre-select my room 24 hours before arriving. I got to pick something right next to the elevator on the third floor and I'm sure that helped a lot.

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The exhibit hall opened at 10am each day but exhibitors were allowed in at 9. I wandered over to find everyone else already there setting up for the day. We ended up with 5 demo tables, 2 of which were assigned to Dead Last, Smirk & Dagger's new release this year, 2 for Nevermore, last year's release, and then 1 for all the various legacy games of years' past.

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Here's me looking somewhat bright and bushy-tailed in front of the booth before the doors were unbarred and hoards of gamers were set loose into the hall. The basic job assignments had Melodee handling purchases and transactions, as well as passing out Smirk & Dagger buttons like a fiend and delivering elevator pitches to all passerbys. Jon, Andrew, and I mostly spent our time running the various demos, with Curt as our fearless leader.

If you haven't run game demos or had a job in sales before, you might not be aware at just how much this sort of thing is like acting. I'm not suggesting that you are being duplicitous or two-faced, but you are very much playing a role. You are there to project a certain attitude and atmosphere, and with experience you start to discover what lines or approaches work best to get the most number of people interested in your product. It also uses up a lot of emotional energy over the course of a day, something that I had never fully appreciated until I had to do it for 10 hours straight. Some of you might might be aware that left to my own devices, I'm not usually a bright, chipper, sunny person. I had learned years ago that if you're going to demo a game and represent someone else's company, you pretty much have to adopt that sort of demeanor and over the years it's become almost second nature. Not to toot my own horn either, but I think I've also gotten pretty darn good at it with experience. Besides, there's always that little thrill of victory that passes through you when you show someone a game and right after they go and purchase a copy. It is pretty exhausting to always be 'On' for an extended period of time though, especially when bright and cheerful is not your default personality. It becomes all the harder when pain issues or drug side-effects or other things weigh on you. Still, it was a really interesting experience and a rewarding one.

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I imagine you all probably want to hear about Dead Last so you can run and pre-order a copy from your FLGS. It's a fun social collusion game which takes all the various group games that have a vote someone off the island mechanic and fixes the inherent problems in them. So if you've ever played and enjoyed games like Mafia, Werewolf, Cash 'n Guns, Resistance, etc....then you're sure to like Dead Last. Like all of those games, players basically have to come to some sort of consensus about who they're going to vote out each round. The twist that fixes the inherent flaw in all those other games is that no one is the person who receives the most votes out of the round, but anyone who didn't vote along with the majority is also eliminated. This gets rid of the default strategy in most games like werewolf, that of going under the radar and being unnoticed as the path to survival. I mean, why would you choose to play a social game where the best strategy is the one which pretty much requires you to not be social? If you don't interact with the other players in Dead Last, at least enough to suss out which way the wind is blowing, you are absolutely certain to be eliminated. Each player also has an ambush card that they can play repeatedly instead of voting for someone else. If you play your ambush and the majority of the table voted for you, you are safe. Instead, you get to pick one of those who voted for you and take them out instead. This makes it so that passing and receiving information from other players about who to eliminate has to be a subtle thing. Simply calling out, lets all vote for Tim is almost sure to guarantee that Tim will play his ambush and survive if people do vote for him. So rather than overt speech, you tend to get a lot of nudges, card flashing, waggling eyebrows, head twitches, the Greg Brady yawn and point behind their back maneuver, etc. In the end, when you get down to 2 people remaining the players get 3 cards representing that old psychology experiment of the Prisoner's Dilemma. You play one card out of Share, Steal, or Grab One And Go and then divvy up the 4 available gold cards based on what's revealed. Sharing gets each person 2 gold, stealing while the other shares nabs you 4, and if you both steal than neither of you get anything but every other player picks up 1 gold apiece. Grabbing One and Going gets you 1 gold regardless of what the other player chooses. The game ends when you acquire either 24 or 25 points of gold depending on the number of players. Each gold has a random value on it, with more 3's than 4's and more 4's than 5's. That's pretty much the game. You should go and immediately order a copy now.

So at one point before the exhibit hall opened, Shawna had stopped by to make dinner plans for that evening. We were all going to head over to Barleys and Shawna had a means to get us all a table in a reasonable amount of time. The place is usually packed during metal times and it can be a hour plus before you actually manage to snag a table. In addition to her crew and ours, Rob also came along and we spent a very enjoyable meal discussing various fantasy novels and their audiobook versions.

Now it's been years since Gencon's coupon book had anything but crap in it. This is one point where Origins kicks the every loving hell out of Gencon. Each year, Barley gets a special pint glass made especially for Origins and the coupon to acquire one is in the Origins coupon book. As you can imagine, the mugs usually go incredibly quickly, and is one of the reasons it's almost impossible to get a table at Barleys the first day or two. Curt had picked up all our exhibitor badges but we hadn't been able to get our coupon books and by all rights we should have been denied them but our waiter was extra generous and after swearing everyone to secrecy, gave everyone a glass.

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I had actually picked one up for the first time last year but ended up giving it to Sherry when I heard she had missed out and wanted one. So in effect, this was my first Barleys Origin glass.

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The chickenfingers were also quite tasty and I was generally a very happy camper. Also a very sleepy camper. The food and the lack of sleep over the past few days took a toll on me and in the end, I bowed out of the night's events in exchange for getting a couple extra hours of sleep. It was a good decision in the end since I'm not sure I wouldn't have just toppled over otherwise with a tummy full of chicken and a head full of cobwebs. Not a bad start to my first full day at Origins.


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In the darkness the trees are full of starlight
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