April 23, 2024

Origins 2023 Countdown ~ Advice for First-Time Attendees

Armchair Dragoons PAO, 17 May 2023

Plenty of people attend Origins for the first time each year, and while they might have a sense of “lots of games in one place” they don’t really quite grok the full enormity of it all, unless they’ve attended something like GenCon.  Here to help you get through it all is our distinguished panel of Origins veterans, with advice for any Origins rookies out there.

Big thanks to Origins veteran Bob Fix, Carolina Game Tables’ Jodi Black, Dragoons Brant Guillory & Mike Colello, and Ardwulf.

responses edited lightly for typos & tense

What’s the one thing an Origins rookie should absolutely make sure they do while at Origins?

Exhibit Hall!

  • One thing that someone new to Origins should do is really explore the Exhibitor Hall. This may sound obvious, but when you do, make sure you take your time and pay attention to everything in the Hall. It may take more than one trip through, but there is a lot in there and it is easy to miss things. Also, don’t be afraid to approach the vendors and ask questions. They really are friendly and eager to tell you about their wares!
  • Plan at least 8 hours for the Exhibit Hall (can be broken up over the weekend, but schedule it in!). Walk the grid one direction, but then walk it backwards because you’ll see lots you missed! (Don’t walk backwards, silly. Just redo the grid in the opposite direction)
  • Give yourself a reasonable shopping budget and stick to it. By reasonable, I mean you should remember some of these games and experiences aren’t available anywhere else so you better buy them! Also plan for hotel, food, gas/travel, etc.
    For example, you may see your favorite game designer/author is available for signing (honestly they’re flattered to do so, just ask, most will sign for free), but you left your copy at home. Buy the latest version for signing and give the old copy to a friend so it can become their favorite game, too. But don’t just say “oh, $100 should cover all the fun stuff” then go to Origins and put $1000 on your credit card. No one wants you to do that. Especially not you. 


  • Play games that you cannot play at home or have never played before. Origins is a huge convention with thousands of events. Try different stuff, even outside your normal interests or habits.
  • If you schedule yourself for ticketed events, make sure that either (1) you leave a good time gap between them, or (2) make sure they’re on adjacent tables.  More than a few events end up running a few minutes long as people are wrapping up end-game scoring, and you don’t want to be holding up another game waiting for you to get there.
  • Related to the above point – if you get there far enough in advance, treat that first hour or two like the first day of high school and walk the halls to figure out where everything is, so that you’re not scrambling to find something when you’re already out of time.

Outside the Convention Center!

  • Make sure you leave time to see a bit of Columbus, even if it is the area immediately around the convention Center.
  • Go to North Market for at least one meal; go to at least one of the local bars.
  • Visit North Market (cross High Street between the Hampton Inn and Hilton and walk a block away from the convention center). There’s everything from ice cream to delicious Indian food, perfect for a relatively quick and cheap meal. Beware they close early and seating can be hard to find.
  • Columbus Crew (MLS team) has a home game Saturday night and the new stadium is within a moderate walk from the convention center.


What’s the one thing an Origins rookie should absolutely NOT do while at Origins?


  • Don’t over schedule yourself. There are a lot of events and and there will be a lot you want to do but leave yourself some free time. You will want some downtime, time to shop, time to eat, and time to just hang out with new and old friends. Also, don’t spend the entire time in the Convention Center.
  • What you should not do is try to pack your schedule with as many events as possible and not give yourself time to breathe. Bathe, keep hydrated.

Exhibit Hall!

  • Sounds too obvious, but don’t interrupt people at a booth when they’re talking to a customer.  Seriously, just don’t get in the way of someone trying to make a connection.
  • Comfortable backpack for the day, but don’t pack the kitchen sink. Leave room for the stuff you’ll buy. If your bag gets big enough that you are now taking up enough space for two people, please wear your backpack across the front of your chest. You’re less likely to wipe out a display rack if you can see how much room you occupy.


  • Don’t make rude comments about people’s costumes.  It doesn’t matter if you think it looks awesome or ridiculous.  People put a lot of work into their costumes and it’s not just to invite ridicule.


Any other random thoughts?

  • Sounds silly, but pack a couple of quart-sized ziploc bags in your day bag.  You’d be amazed at how many things you’ll end up dropping in them so they’re not left loose in the bottom of the bag, whether it’s dice or cards or half a granola bar, there’s plenty of things for which you’ll find those bags useful.
  • Good pair of walking shoes–and a backup pair of good walking shoes!
  • And heck, if you’ve got time and somewhere to do it, change your socks mid-day, too.  Your feet will definitely thank you.
  • No good decisions happen after 2 a.m. Go to bed! (Also known as “You get stupid at 2 a.m. Yes. Even you.”)
  • (If you fly to the convention) Put a collapsed duffle bag into your carry-on suitcase for all the goodies you’ll pick up while at Origins.
  • The Con Diet. I find it works best to pack a protein bar or small snack for lunch each day and eat a hearty breakfast and dinner (if you’re not a breakfast person this might not work). Focus on protein and vegetables–carbohydrates happen without any help, it seems. This way you maximize your time during the day for fun at Origins, stay healthy, and save money. We like to take our time during the evening meal with friends, finding out what fun everyone had.


What advice do you have for an Origins rookie?




Thank you for visiting The Armchair Dragoons and saddling up with the Regiment of Strategy Gaming.
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At the Origins Game Fair so grand,
The gamers gathered from across the land,
With dice in their hands,
And cards in their bands,
They battled for glory so grand.

Brant G

Editor-in-chief at Armchair Dragoons

View all posts by Brant G →

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