Origins 2010 - Day 1

By Scott Parrino 25 Jun 2010 0
Origins 2010 is underway, and here's what I'll say: it feels big.  It feels 2005 big, and not last-year-was-bigger-than-the-lousy-year-before-so-it-feels-big-in-comparison-big.  The exhibit hall goes all the way to the back of the building again, and is full of game companies, and not just foam swords and leather corset booths.  

There is a new team managing the show for GAMA, although many of the volunteers are still the same (such as Gordon Bliss and Peter Panzieri, who run the Origins War College).  Things have been moved around, too.  The War Room and Board Room are now a sectioned-off area of the main gaming hall, with their own prizes, giveaways, and Rio Grande-sponsored free food (!).  Upstairs at the north end of the building is the Origins Beer Haus (which will be thoroughly investigated tomorrow).  The War College is now very close to the registration desk, but upstairs in rooms that were previously used for something else, and judging by the attendees meandering through the area, "something else" seemed to involve victorian goth anime raves.
 
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Still, the tables are full of gamers, the exhibit hall was buzzing with action, and I was bunkered into the War College assisting Dr James Sterrett with his (in)famous military staff wargaming exercises.  In the past, I'd helped teach a bit of the process, observed some of the fun, and chased my son around the building in between.  This year, I was a coach for the entire event. Twice.  Wow.
 
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Dr. Sterrett.

Dr Sterrett puts ordinary game-folk through the quick-and-dirty version of a military planning process, in which the participants assume the roles of commanders, intelligence officers, maneuver planners, and fires coordinators, and develop a plan to execute a mission.  The plan is then put through the ringer with one of several different computer games, and the staff gets to see how well their plan works during the mission.  And because that isn't quite torturous enough, they continue to update, refine, change, modify, throw out, and redo the plan throughout the exercise as the game changes the conditions on the ground for them.  It's fascinating to watch players with no military background at all - some of whom might've been challenged to *spell* "XO" - take to their roles in the staff and, by the end of the exercise, gel into a decent team that understands how the roles work together and can cooperate to produce a nice staff team capable of some quality work.
 
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Some photos of the Division Staff. 
 
The real hallmark of how great these sessions are, though, is in the repeat participants.  From the morning session to the afternoon, we had 5 repeat players, including a couple of kids I thought for sure were going to bolt 10 minutes into the first presentation.  All three of them came back for the third session, too.  In fact, the third session included nothing but repeat players, with some returning from last year's events.
 
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The first game was based on Flashpoint Germany, with designer Jim Snyder operating the game.  The players were the command and staff of 1-11 ACR in a Germany, facing down a reinforced MRR in the attack.  Ouch.
 
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Jim Snyder, left. 
 
In the second game (using Decisive Action), the players were a division HQ, and the participants greatly exceeded our expectations in both number and enthusiasm.  Not only did we have enough people to give the most important staff positions assistants (S2, S3, S4, and FIRES), but we *still* had enough participants to play the subordinate brigade commanders, whom the staff had to regularly update on the changes to the plan, since they were not a part of the planning process.
 
Finally, the third game used Battles From the Bulge, with game designer Dave O'Connor - freshly jet-lagged from overnighting at O'Hare airport - helping run the machines and the participants split into German and American teams for a good old-fashioned force-on-force throwdown.
 
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Dave O'Connor.
 
 

I've got a variety of photos from today, but quite honestly there wasn't much opportunity to explore the convention with 10 hours committed to the War College.  On my brief walk through the Exhibit Hall, I did stop to take photos of the game tables sold by Geek Chic HQ.  These drool-worth creations feature integrated drawers for dice or minis, bookshelves, concealed storage trays for massing reinforcements or devious DM plotting, and the uber-geekest tool of all, built-in dice towers (see photos).  The day I can afford a house with room for one of these is the day I can actually afford one of these.  Honey, my birthday is coming up soon!
 
Friday's agenda includes testing a new project for the National Defense University, and the ever-popular Professional Games and Simulations seminar roundtable that I moderate each year.  Once those are done, I'm off to the exhibit hall to take a lotta pix, play a little game, get down tonight... uh-huh, get down tonight!
 
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