Big Experiment #10: The Lab
Part 3 of Andy's Origins Report (see also: The Booth and The Halls)

Here's a typical glimpse of the scene inside our gaming room, known as The Lab...

...and these are the 34 Prize Medallions we were awarding to the winners of our official annual tournaments:

To see all the Medallion designs along with the names of this year's winners, check out the the Origins Medallion Gallery 2009!

This was the year of the 20th International Icehouse Tournament, and as usual, Eeyore created a special set of stash pads for the occassion. Here's his "20 years ago" design:

I donned my 20-year-old t-shirt from the First IIT for the occassion, but as you can see, I wasn't alone in doing this. Everyone said Kat Dutton looked better in hers than I did in mine. Of course, I had to agree. (Kat was at that first tournament, but only technically -- she was born a couple of months later!)

Unfortunately, our magic t-shirts didn't help us, as Kat and I both failed to make it into the finals. Oh well, maybe next year!

Here's referee Eric Zuckermann posing with the finalists (Marc Hartstein, Jacob Davenport, Joshua Kronengold, and Ryan McGuire) and this year's Cooler Than Ice winner (Timothy Eller):

And here's last year's winner, Tucker Taylor, passing the coveted Icehouse Scepter along to this year's winner, Jacob "The Shotgun" Davenport. (This is at least the fourth time Jake's had that scepter... I've lost track.)

Speaking of Tucker, and moving along to Fluxx, here we see him in referee mode, starting up one of the Fluxx preliminaries:

...and here we see the four Fluxx finalists (Jim Viscusi, Daniel Shamblin, Ivan Lugo, and Bart Janssens), as they prepare for their final showdown on Sunday morning:

...and lastly, here's Tucker awarding the Fluxx Championship Medallion to Ivan!

Of course, we also run tourneys for the other flavors of Fluxx. To the right we see Justin Clothier presenting the Monty Python Fluxx award to Marissa Wills, and below we see Kat Robertson congratulating Mort Meyers for his EcoFluxx victory, and Seth Chupp for his Stoner Fluxx win.

Having just launched our new game Are You The Traitor?, we were of course running the first ever tournament, and we got a good crowd of players:

...and we were all amazed when the Traitor tournament was won by an 11 year old girl! Here's Annie Stout getting her award from Ryan McGuire (with her proud father watching in the background):

As the game inventor, I was always happy to offer a hearty congratulations to a tourney winner, like Chrono-champ Lisa Stassun here...

...but if I'd actually been player in that game, and thus had personally lost to the tourney winner, I'd also give them an official "Stodgy Harumph-Harumph," as I'm doing here with Derek Croxton, winner of the first World War 5 tourney.

Here's Johnpaul Adams winning the Martian Hold'em tourney. (I was knocked out early -- I went all-in after flopping a straight, and then lost to a flush on the river.) I gave JP my stodgiest harumph-harumph, but he didn't care... :-)

It seems like there was always a game of Volcano going on in some corner of the Lab. This is because A) it's a great game and B) unlike most of our other tournaments, the Volcano championship is played in "Floating Tourney" format, which means games are played randomly throughout the course of the weekend, whenever one player challenges another to a game.

Of course, folks were always eager to play Volcano with Kristin, since she designed it. Since everything was so well run this year, Kristin as able to spend most of her time just hanging out in the lab, playing our games with our fans!

Here are the finalists in the RAMbots tournament. I've won this one a couple of times in the past, and I came painfully close to winning this one as well. I was all set to hit my final beacon when Jake stuck his RAMbot's butt right in my path! Ryan got the medallion -- and a particularly stodgy Harumph-Harumph from me!
But there was one event I did do well in: the Binary Homeworlds tournament, the one I really wanted to win. This was the fifth year in a row I've won this tourney, and I only faced off against two challengers this time, Arthur (shown here) and James Hamilton (seen earlier in the booth). But they put up a good fight -- while small, it was an exciting tourmament! Thanks for running it Dayle! Incidentally, this was the first time we ran this event using chess clocks, and that system worked out really well.

Here you see the five Finalists in the NanoFictionary Tournament:

The scoring system used in NanoFictionary allows a crowd to listen in as jurors and cast votes that are worth points in the final score, so we paused our Homeworld game to go hear the stories being told by the group above.

Gabriel (on the far left) told a very entertaining tale about Scientists & Hobos, which featured the strangely memorable line, "Hobo, Help us!" But the competition was fierce, and previous champ Lee Butler got the medallion, seen being awarded here by Eeyore.

The referees in the Zendo tournament take their jobs very seriously.

They also enjoy getting dressed up for the ocassion!

Here are this year's Zendo Finalists: Nik Dutton (last year's winner), Jacob Davenport, and Dan Isaac. Jake won this tournament as well! It's good for me he's not a Homeworlds player...

Inspired by the who goes first rule in Aquarius, we always have a "who has the longest hair?" contest we call the Aquarius HairDown. Kat Dutton took top honors again this year, with Beth Dillon very narrowly defeating Emily Frawley for the women's runner-up award. The Men's runner-up was taken by Tim Eller.

As for the actual Aquarius tournament, it was won by Stephen Blanzaco, who was so happy about it, he went home and changed his Twitter icon to be a photo of his Medallion...

Speaking of Aquarius, version 2.0 is about to debut! We actually received the cardsheet and box proofs from our printer at the show, and signed off on them and returned them before the covention was even over. We also found a couple of problems we were able to fix, which you can actually see in this image of the proof:

Firstly, one card had gotten swapped out by a redundant copy of another card. (You can see the doubled card in the upper right hand corner -- it's one of the new diagonal element cards, the one with Fire and Space.)

Secondly, since the number of cards increased from 60 to 80, we added both a new Action and an extra copy of each Action. This proved to be a mistake, since this changed the ratio of Actions to Element cards too much. We concluded this after playtesting it at the convention, and changed it back to being 3 of each Action just before it printed. (We replaced those cards with another copy of each of the single-panel element cards.)

Speaking of playtesting, I had a lot of new game prototypes I was showing around and letting people try. In particular, we were doing final testing on the design of Martian Fluxx, which is next up with our printer after Aquarius is done.

I also have several new pyramid games in the works, which I talked about at length in my What's Next? talk and even played with people, but which I'm not going to talk about more online just yet.

Lastly, I've once again been experimenting with the rules for Just Desserts, and was letting folks test the new Version 5 rules during the weekend.

To keep everthing running smoothly, the Lab has a whole chain of command. Ultimately, Kristin is in charge, but the main person calling the shots at any given moment is the Top Rabbit (TR), who can easily be identified by the special Purple Labcoat. The TR is stationed at the front desk, ready to greet everyone as they come into the Lab.

Each tournament has a specific Referee, and the refs all report to the Tournament Director (TD) who wears the Teal Labcoat and reports to the Top Rabbit.

The three people who took turns being the Top Rabbit this year were Nathan Dilday, Beth Dillon, and Lee Butler. The TDs shown here with them are Marc Hartstein, Eric Zuckerman, and Johnpaul Adams.

Thank you to all the TRs and TDs for all your excellent work!

Sometimes people give us nifty things they've made, and this year was no exception. Jim Steiner made this really cool Martian Chess chessboard, which is lit from underneath:

...and the Barney family gave us these giant pyramids which are even bigger than our regular giant pyramids, and which have a wonderful fuzzy texture!

Thanks, dudes!

Having now spent a great deal of time sorting through many different photo collections, I have a couple of lingering favorites I wanted to include, simply because I like them. One is a pretty good one of me, and the other is this super-charming photo of Dan Efran and his son Nicholas:

But my favorite photo from the weekend is this great group shot we got of all of the working rabbits (or at least as many as we could get together at once) all wearing their lab coats:

Our faces are pretty small in the picture above, making it difficult to read our expressions, so here's a magnified view, in which you can truly see how we were feeling:

Thank you to all the Rabbits who worked so hard to make another Big Experiment another huge success! You-all rock!

To see more photos, check out Robin's Origns Photo Album!

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