Board games galore to lure thousands to Convention Center


In 1975, about 1,200 board game enthusiasts gathered at Johns Hopkins University to hold the first Origins board game convention.

After much traveling around the country, the 17th Origins convention will return to Baltimore tomorrow, but this time as a four-day game extravaganza sprawled over the Convention Center and the Hyatt and Sheraton hotels.

Organizers expect 6,000 to 8,000 people to attend seminars, scope out new products, socialize, but above all to play games. Lots of them. Thousands of games over the long weekend.

One hundred companies will have exhibits, and inventors are expected to introduce about 250 new games at the convention. But if you want a shot at playing one of the new games, you better hurry, because games guru Steve Peek says competition will kill 98 percent of them this year alone.

Big hits are even rarer, but the lure of a breakthrough success such as Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, Monopoly or Dungeons & Dragons -- all designed by private inventors, rather than big game companies -- keeps people trying.

"If you are that one in 500 or one in 1,000, you hit the big payday. And when you hit the big payday, you have an annuity and make millions of dollars each year for the rest of your life," said Mr. Peek, of Dallas.

This year's convention will place less emphasis on high-powered strategy and war games that take hours or days to play, organizers say. "The people who went to the convention 17 years ago are now in their mid-40s. . . . We have gotten to the point with families and all that we don't have eight hours or so to devote to a war game," said Mr. Peek.

Scrabble, Boggle, Pente and other light fare will be well represented throughout the weekend, especially for Friday's "Carnival of Games," which is geared toward people who may like games, but are not hard-core devotees.

Thirty thousand free tickets have been distributed to disabled people around the state for the "Carnival of Games," and the MTA will provide reduced fare handicapped service to the Convention Center.

Organizers hope to encourage attendance by the handicapped since -- unlike with many sports -- they usually are at no competitive disadvantage when playing board games.

Adults can get a one-day pass to the convention for $5. Kids are free, and most of the games inside have no charge. Some competitive events have a registration fee ranging from $1-$6. A four-day pass is $24 in advance or $30 at the door. Call (301) 298-3135 or (301) 234-1510.

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