Number of Players: 2-4
Playing Time: 45 minutes
For Ages: 10+ and 8+ for junior version
Goal: Starting at the center of Africa the player who expands mankind the most efficiently wins.
How You Do That: Players will do this by evolving, migrating or swapping their tribes to earn rewards that help them get the most victory points.
Game End: The game ends when one (or more) of four things happens. One of the three card decks is empty, all innovation tiles have been taken from the rewards board, the tribe pawns reserve is empty, or all players have used all their villages.
Brief Game Play: In game set up what each player gets depends on the number of players and which version you play. In the regular version each player will get 9 villages of their chosen color and 1 objective card. When taking a starting objective card players will draw 3 from the deck (purple) and keep 1 returning the others to the deck. One of the three weakest tribes will put on the Central Africa territory marked with the Origin symbol. In a 2 or 3 player game players one row of the middle tribes (9 tribes) are taken out of the game. Once the rewards board and players have their starting bits play can begin. Players will do 1 of 3 things on their turn. The choices are: evolution, migration, or swap. During their turn players can play up to 1 of each color card if they choose. The reward phase comes next. Players will get 1 of the 4 type of rewards: cards (action-yellow/green, permanent-orange, or objective-purple), innovation tiles, hunting tokens, or straight tokens. Once players have done their rewards phase the next player in clock wise order takes their turn. This continues until game end conditions (mentioned above) occur. Victory points are added together. Victory points can come from straight tokens, hunting tokens, innovation tiles, objective cards, and cards still in hand.
Junior Version: The best way to approach what the junior version does that’s different is to focus on the rewards board and what triggers game end. Game end is triggered when any of the card decks becomes empty. As soon as a player draws the last card the game ends immediately and scoring begins. In other words the junior version has one thing that ends the games as opposed to the regular version when one of four things happen. This version uses the other side of the rewards board. So, the main difference between versions is that the junior version scores how many sets of different color cards you have and counts the arrows as points on the innovation tiles. Another scoring difference is you get 10 points if they have at least two tribe pawns of each color. Straight and hunting tokens score the same way. The fact that the junior version focuses on the card back color and does not use the text side means the game should take less time and be easier to add up points. The junior version puts the age range at 8+ so it’s up to the parents to decide if their young ones can deal with the junior version or regular version. We have not played the junior version but do like the idea the game has included a simpler version as an option for younger players.
I was first attracted to Origin because of the great looking pieces. That inspired me to look up video reviews to see if this is a game that our family and friends would enjoy. I soon was also attracted to the multiple ways you can score points and thus the many different ways you can try to win. After a few plays I saw how well balanced the game is. Meaning you cannot ignore the player who goes for all the hunting and/or straight tokens, for example. You also cannot ignore the player who focuses on the innovation tiles. Like a lot of games I like how you quickly understand you have to find a balanced approach to winning while also paying attention to what your opponents are doing. Another thing worth noting is we ‘house rule’ that straight and hunting tokens are randomly placed face down during set up. The face down straight and hunting token idea for the regular version comes from the junior version. In the junior version they are placed face down and it works well for us in the regular version. On a Board Game Geek forum thread for Origin I noticed someone who thought there was way too much randomness. I don’t see where there is much randomness in Origin at all. The best I can tell is they are referring to the cards and you get a bad draw and that could be enough to prevent you from winning. Well, the game is designed where you can choose multiple cards (rewards phase) and keep one. The rules mention you could also discard cards you already had in hand. Thus allowing you to dump ‘bad’ cards you somehow still have. For a game that has a lot of choices to make during the game it seems very easy to learn anyway.
Origin is a good family game in that encourages interaction among players. As with most games Origin offers good practice for improving sportsmanship. Origin also helps players with flexible thinking as you may have a plan, a path to victory in mind, but, especially in a 3/4 player game, you will probably need to change those plans when your turn comes around again. In the regular version of Origin young players will have a good opportunity to work on organizing skills as you will have to organize your cards and innovation tiles. I should also mention that I’ve seen Andre from Matagot respond on Board Game Geek that the purple objective cards are an important part of the game. This has the effect that players need to adapt their plans to the objective cards in hand.
Like many games there is good practice to be had for young players to practice basic math skills. Also, this is good for planning skills and being flexibility skills too.The board is a map of the world and that perhaps might bring up some questions about the names of places in the world.
For what it’s worth I recommend Origin. Of course you are the best person to make the decision if this is a game for you. As I write this Origin is still easy to find. However, I’ve seen something saying it’s out of print. Maybe a year from now then this game could be a bit harder to find. So I’d find a copy for your collection while you can.