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Origins Game Fair - Columbus, Ohio - The Second Largest Gaming Convention In The United States (Updated For 2013)

Updated on July 8, 2014
Origins Game Fair Exhibit Hall (The Retail Area)
Origins Game Fair Exhibit Hall (The Retail Area) | Source

Introduction To Origins Game Fair

The second largest gaming convention in the United States, Origins Game Fair, is held each year in Columbus, Ohio at the Greater Columbus Convention Center and attached hotels. This gaming convention focuses on "unplugged" games such as board games, card games, collectable cards games, miniature games, party games, and roleplaying (RPG and LARP). For five days Columbus, Ohio is filled with people who leave their laptops, ignore their iPads, toss their tablets, and put away their phones in favor of interacting with live people and using their brains. Technology takes a new meaning at this convention. New types of dice, gaming manuals, and game mechanics are the techology of choice at Origins Game Fair.

Games run nearly 24 hours a day. Schedules are available on the Origins website under Events.

Origins Game Fair Dates

May 30 - June 3
June 12 - 16
June 11 - 15
June 3 - 7
The Board Room At Origins Game Fair 2012
The Board Room At Origins Game Fair 2012 | Source

What To Expect At Origins - Origins Game Fair Isn't Just For Geeks

Origins Game Fair is fun for people who are casual gamers as well as those who are very serious gamers. While you may walk in and see people dressed in costume or lugging around carts of game supplies, a majority of the games can be enjoyed by gamers of all ages and interest levels. There are many games where people will gladly teach you the rules and how to play. Other games are researved for seasoned veterans and are played as tournaments. There is an area to demo new games, a game library, and many games that you can specifically buy a seat for. (This is how you attend all of the tounaments.)

(There will be information on the costs and ticketing below.)

Origins is is a unique convention in that it covers so many types of games. It has LARPS for people who like to wear costumes and be immersed in their games and it has fun, lighthearted party games for the casual gamer. This helps a lot. People can play games, watch independent movies about games, browse the retail hall, play games, take part in tournaments, or attend seminars on a number of topics. There are also activities for non-gamers that attend the conference with a significant other or with their family. These activities include things like a scavenger hunt, knitting lessons, and chainmaille instruction.

Origins makes sure that people are aware of their options. The convention publishes lists of suggested activities that they call "tracks" that will give people ideas as to what they will find interesting. While it doesn't have a lot of mainstream games that are found at big box retails stores, most people and families will find something of interest.

The 2013 Events are up and posted. Just go to the Origins site and click on events. There is a .PDF that list all of the events and can be downloaded. On the main page you can also download the 2013 site guide and schedule book from the Origins main page. These books show information about some special events, recommended tracks, maps to all of the halls and exhibit areas, and other general information.

Origins Game Fair Location

The Greater Columbus Convention Center:
400 High St, Columbus, OH 43215, USA

get directions

Registration and most of the Origins Game Fair is located in The Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio

Ticket Types And Costs

For 2013 there are a few options for tickets. Guests can buy a Day Pass or a Full Pass. The day pass is much more limited than the full pass, but cost much less. Here is a rundown of the differences.

Day Passes

Day passes are available for Saturday. This is a great option for families as an entire family can attend for $15. Day Passes do not have access to any of the ribbon areas, tournament games, or any games that have scheduled sessions. However, if you are coming for one day, this may be the best option for you as you can still visit a number of areas within Origins Game Fair. Day passes can access the following non-ticketed events and areas:

  1. Exhibit Hall (has over 200 vendors and numerous game demos available)
  2. The Origins Theme Area including special breakfasts or evening events and the Origins art show
  3. Origins Auction
  4. Open gaming area (there are open tables available in this hall, as well as a number of game manurfacturers and designers with open demo games)
  5. Origins murder mystery dinner ($40.00 entrance fee)
  6. Origins award cememony
  7. Smithee Awards
  8. BattlePod sessions (requires purchase)

Days passes are available Thursday-Sunday. Note that Sunday is a much shorter day and often many people are packing up early.

Full Pass:

The full pass is available Wednesday-Sunday. It allows entry into all areas of the Origins Game Fair. There are still charges for ribboned areas and games.

Origins Registration 2007
Origins Registration 2007 | Source

How To Pay For Game Sessions

Most of the gaming areas at Origins that can be accessed with a Full Badge require extra fees to be paid. If you have a full pass you may buy your way into games. There are three ways that these events typically are paid for: ticket, ribbon, and generic token.


Tickets are like movie tickets. You buy tickets ahead of time for a certain game and a certain time. The benefit is that each game only has a limited number of seats. Individuals with tickets will be taken first. If there is a game that you really want to play, register for it early and get a ticket.

Generic Tokens

Generics cost the same amount as tickets per hour. You can buy them for $2.00 each and each one can get you into any game. Games typically cost one token per hour, so a three hour game would cost three tokens. If the game is sold out, individuals with tokens will not be accepted. Generics can be returned and refunded at the end of the conference. This way you can buy enough to drop into lots of games without fears of buying too many.


There are a few areas in Origins that allow unlimited play with the purchase of a ribbon. Like generics, you can only get a seat if there is room. Ticketed guests take priority. This is great if there is a certain area that you like to use. It is also a good way to spend time in between games. Get a ribbon to one place and if you have down time, drop in and play. To see this year's list of available ribbons, go to the Origins web site at the top of the screen.

Attendance Fees

Ticket Type
Good For
Day Pass Individual
Good for Saturday
Day Pass Family
Good for Saturday
Full Show SIngle Day
Good for one day Wednesday-Sunday
Full Show Special Badges (Educator, Retailer, Military, Club)
Good for full week Wednesday-Sunday
Full Show
Good for full week Wednesday-Sunday
Full Show Child With Adult
Good for full week Wednesday-Sunday
If you have a full pass you may buy:
Typically one hour of play
Event Tickets
Varies by game
Typically one hour of play = $2.00
Unlimited play in the area covered by the ribbon

Directions And Construction

Before Heading to Origins Game Fair, Go to Paving The Way to see what roads are available. A printable list of openings and closures can also be downloaded to keep in your car. I also recommend OH Go! OH Go! is a live traffic website for Ohio. It has a nice mobile version also available.

Parking At Origins Game Fair 2014

New for 2014 - The Greater Columbus Convention Center now has a map online that shows walking times for their lots and the surrounding lots that they do not run. You can see what is available in a reasonable walking radius.

The Greater Columbus Convention Center is surrounded by parking. Many of the lots will charge a flat special event rate. Depending on the time of day that you arrive, you may receive an hourly ticket. It is a downtown area and you will may be parking during typical work week hours. There is no in and out privledges at any of the lots. You will have to repay if you leave and come back. The prices vary a bit based on the lot. The bulk of the gaming is in the northern end of the convention center. If you are doing more roleplay or LARP games, these activities are in the Hyatt Regency and Crowne Plaza hotels on the south end of the convention center.

Make a loop around and see what prices are and how you feel about walking distances. Remember that you may be walking back to your car in the middle of the night. Keep that in mind as you decide how far away you wish to park.

When possible I have included descriptions on the parking map. Google isn't placing the pins perfectly so read the descriptions or feel free to go to the Origins web page and download their map.

My map only includes the closest, convention center parking. There are a large number of additional lots that can be found on the Origins Game Fair site under "about Origins".

Convention Center Parking

Columbus Convention Center East Lot:
Greater Columbus Convention, 301 N fourth St, Columbus, OH 43215, USA

get directions

Columbus Convention Center South Garage:
Columbus Convention Center South Garage, Columbus, OH 43215, USA

get directions

This lot is also the Hyatt's parking. It can be reached off of Nationwide Blvd. It is connected to the convention center.

Columbus Convention Center West Garage and Suface Lot:
Vine St & N Front St, Columbus, OH 43215, USA

get directions

This can be reached from Vine or Front St. It is across from the south end of North Market.

Columbus Convention Center North Lot:
N High St, Columbus, OH 43215, USA

get directions

This lot is actually on the north side of E Goodale St. between High St and 3rd St.

Origins Convention 2011
Origins Convention 2011 | Source

Hotels Near The Columbus Convention Center

There are a number of hotels surrounding the Greater Columbus Convention Center. They are worth the money! Many local people stay at the hotels so they can stumble back to their rooms at 4:00 AM and get a nap. It is much easier than staying in a hotel off site.

Keep an eye on rates and rooms. Most years the rooms sell out quickly. In particular, the rooms at the Drury Inn, Hamptom Inn, and Hyatt Regency. Rates change frequently and you may find specials than are better than the advertised convention rates. is my favorite site to use as it is easy to sort hotels by distance to the convention center. Click on their name and it will take you right to this search. All you will need to do is fill out the dates for Origins Game Fair.

Here is a list of Hotels surrounding the Greater Columbus Convention Center:

  • Drury Inn
  • Red Roof Inn Downtown Columbus
  • Hyatt Regency At Nationwide
  • The Lofts
  • The Crowne Plaza Downtown Columbus
  • The Hampton Inn

All of these hotels are connected to the Convention Center or less than a block away from it.

Where To Eat At Origins Game Fair

There are a number of eating choices inside and outside the Greater Columbus Convention Center that are available during the Origins Game Fair.


Inside the convention center, food can be found in a number of places Check out the convention center website for the full list.

  • Inside the exhibit halls: There is a food stand inside many of the exhibition halls. These typically carry hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken fingers, sandwiches, pretzels, pizza, and drinks. Many of these are open at night.
  • In the food court in the center of the convention center on the first floor: This is similar food to what is in the exhibit halls; however it is a bit more extensive. There is a coffee shop added to the mix that has bagels and muffins in addition to the other fair. Full pizzas can be ordered here. Parts of the food court are open fairly late but not as late as the food in the exhibit halls.
  • At the South end of the convention center near Battelle Hall: Head towards the Hyatt. Go as far straight as you can in this direction. You will see an escalator. Take it down a level and you will find a food court. It has a Subway as well as a hamburger shop, snack/nut shop, mexican, greek, pizza, and chinese restaurant. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner can be found here. Some of the restaurants are open very late during Origins.
  • Einstein Bagels: Einstein Bagels can be found close to the Hyatt just south of the walkway between the convention center and the Hyatt. It is open for breakfast and lunch.
  • Max And Erma's: There is a Max And Erma's across from the South end of the convention center near the Crowne Plaza on Nationwide Blvd.
  • North Market: This is located just over a block west of the convention center. Exit the convention center, cross over high street, and head down Vine St. North Market is very popular. It is open for lunch and very early dinner. There is a huge variety of American and international food. It is all hand made and it isn't a sit down place. There is also great snack food here. I highly recommend it.
  • Short North: Across from the convention center and then heading north on High St. there are tons of sit down restaurants. This includes the Japanese Steakhouse that is right across from the convention center. Check out the Short North website for maps and a list of places to eat.


  1. Secure your badge and ribbons! I can't stress this enough. The badge holders that Origins provides are lightweight and are easy to lose or have things fall off/out of. I recommend getting a badge holder. If you don't already have one, the Origins souvenir booth sells them and they are generally under $10.00. The Origins badge holders have a place for pens, generics, and money. Make sure to staple or pin your ribbon to your holder as it will not stay on otherwise.
  2. If you have a smartphone or tablet, download the site book, schedule book, and event grids before heading out. Get a copy of the free app Documents, Good Reader, or other PDF reader that does bookmarks, search, and annotations. (Check out App Advice for a list of options and links to the apps) You now can search the schedule and make notes. This is a huge help as there are literally thousands of sessions that you will be searching through.
  3. In the food court near the Hyatt there is a Subway. They are selling giant refillable cups. Refills are only .99 and the cup is less than $3.00! It holds around 40 ounces.
  4. There is a great convenience store that is open past midnight near the food court by the Hyatt. It has medicine and snacks.
  5. Take a refillable water bottle with you.
  6. Bring a pen.
  7. Bring cash - not all the vendors accept plastic.
  8. Check out the paint your own miniatures in the vendor hall - it is free!
  9. Bring a cart to carry your stuff around (you will be walking a lot).
  10. Bring a jacket and wear pants. The convention center is very cold in the evenings and mornings.
  11. Pack snacks. You may not want to get food between games due to scheduling.
  12. Look for vendor freebies. There are free game sessions in the vendor hall and in the open gaming demo areas. Sometimes vendors also offer coupons or food (sometimes full meals) for playing games.
  13. Avoid check in during prime time - the lines are insane.
  14. Sign up for game sessions early if you have something you really want to do.
  15. Get a ribbon so you can have unlimited gaming in an area of choice. The Board Room is a great choice as it has thousands of games available. They are all free once the ribbon is purchased.
  16. Take your license. You can check out games at the Board room, the Origins award library, and some other places with a license or state issued photo ID.
  17. Look for food coupons at the information booth in the Convention Center.

If You Like Origins Game Fair

If you like the Origins Game Fair or if you enjoy games and live in the Columbus area, check out one of the largest gaming clubs in the United States, The Columbus Area Boardgaming Society (CABS). CABS typically has over 100 people at each meeting and has around 2-4 meetings each month. They have a library of thousands of games that are available to members. The first visit is free. After that, a visit will cost $5.00 per visit or pay $55.00 for an adult to come for the remainder of this year. The membership dues include all meetings as well as some bonus events like the Buckeye Game Fest.

CABS will be at the Origins Game Fair. Check out the Boardroom to get a taste of CABS while you are at Origins.


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    • profile image

      Randall Porter 

      6 years ago

      Essen is Huge!! On the scale of E3. The wiki entry says 150,000 attendees but that's more than likely turnstyle so the turn number is probability say 60,000, maybe. Schools close it's a big deal from what I've read. The winner of their board game awards usually ends up as a best seller over here the following year.

    • Lwelch profile imageAUTHOR

      Lena Welch 

      6 years ago from USA

      Out of curiosity... I keep hearing about Essen. How does it compare to the set up that I am familiar with at Origins or GenCon?

    • profile image

      Randall Porter 

      6 years ago

      Origins is not the 2nd largest 'hobby' game in the world, Essen in Germany is the largest, followed by Gen Con and then maybe by Origins. There are the Pax shows but they are a combination of hobby and electronic gaming shows.

    • Lwelch profile imageAUTHOR

      Lena Welch 

      6 years ago from USA

      Subway cups are available again this year! .99 refills for all who get one.


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