The summer tabletop convention season officially got started with the Origins Game Fair in Columbus OH recently. It ran from June 12-16 and entertained over 18k unique attendees.
Folks who have met me at other conventions know that I'm a sales agent for Indie Press Revolution, the industry's principle distributor of small press and independent RPGs. They make these games available to retailers, and sell them online and at convention to benefit the creators. Under my Jim Likes Games banner, I'm the face of IPR in the Northeast and near Midwest.
For the two biggest dedicated US consumer conventions, Origins and GenCon, I head out and meet up with the IPR crew to work their booths. It lets us catch up, hand off stock, and encourages customers to seek us out at other regional shows.
I'm happy to report we had a great show this year and I had a really fun time. It's been a few years since I was last able to attend Origins, and the show has definitely grown! I used to manage a store in nearby Ann Arbor, MI, so I've been an attendee off and on for over 20 years. Nearly a decade ago a couple of friends and I facilitated the very first Indie Games on Demand sessions, with just 4 tables in a corner of the Shadowrun room. The growth of that project into an Origins institution is the industry milestone I am most proud of. Thanks to the schedule we set up back in the day, I was able to run some games after the hall closed, which I'll talk more about later.
One the sales floor, business was brisk, with a nice mix of enthusiastic return customers (“I always try to find you guys first!”, “Well, that's my entire game budget spent in one booth.”) and curious newcomers (“These are all ROLE-PLAYING GAMES? Oh... my.”). We were rarely without anything to do.
Our runaway best-seller was definitely For the Queen, a brand new card-driven free-form story game designed by Alex Roberts and illustrated by a host of talented artists. We blew through it by mid-day Saturday, thanks to strong demo support form the crew at Evil Hat (the publisher) who had tables running constantly just next door. I am going to sell a TON of these at future shows, and I expect it'll be a monster hit for Alex and the Evil Hat folks. Experience with this just confirms that my normal practice of having open demo copies of any card-based games is a powerful sales tool.
Honorable mention must go to Improv for Games. It's been out for a few months, but demo support from author Karen Twelves helped people really get a handle on what the book was about (improv theater games modified to play at a table before a gaming session to get everyone ready to play). That hands-on experience converted many skeptical gamers into owners of the book. Seeing that has me thinking that maybe I should have one or two of these exercises ready to run by people in my booth by way of demonstrating the techniques.
At Indie Games on Demand, I managed to facilitate 3 games: 2 of Trophy, a dark fantasy horror game for which I wrote an adventure module (called in incursion), and 1 of The Skeletons, Jason Morningstar's 1-shot freeform game of skeletons cursed to guard a tomb from ever-more-persistent waves of grave robbers who will eventually defeat them. I was lucky enough to join in a playtest of the game when Jason was developing it, and I've loved it ever since. It's consistent best-seller at IPR for good reason. Finally, the IPR folks let me play hooky form the booth one morning so I could actually sit in as player on a game of Shadow of the Century, a FATE-based game of VHS-style 80s action adventure. I got to be Jet Black, one of the Centurions, heroes whose adventures span an entire century, for good or ill. We made a tank fly using a jet pack, and hacked a mainframe. It was pretty epic.
The food at Origins is consistently excellent: that are of Columbus has been the subject of an aggressive effort to revitalize the downtown, and its paid off in a wide variety of choices, including excellent vegetarian options for me and my other industry friends who pursue diets of conscience.
So all in all, a wonderfully successful show for IPR, I had a great time, and if you're not attending Origins, you're really missing out on an underrated gem of the tabletop hobby. In just six short weeks, it's GenCon! Which is intense, and we'll sell a huge pile of games, but it's not always exactly fun. I'll report back on how they manage this year in just a few weeks.