Monday, August 5, 2013

WBC 2013 Part 1

Well, this year the World Boardgaming Championships seemed to sneak up on me.  Held every year in early August, in Lancaster PA, the WBC is essentially a bigger version of Prezcon.  While Prezcon has 600ish attendees, the WBC gets 1500+ - one of their board members recently told me that they are the 3rd largest pure boardgame con, after Origins and BGGCon (clearly, he wasn't counting GenCon with it's 30K attendees as "pure boardgame").  In any case, like Prezcon, the WBC is a tournament style convention first and foremost, although they have a very large open gaming area.  At the beginning of each year, the Boardgame Players Association (BPA) members vote on which games will make the "Century List", i.e. the 100 (give or take) games that will make the cut at WBC.  They actually run a little over 100 as publishers can sponsor games, and my impression is that there is a core group of favorites that it's almost impossible to get dropped.  Now, this is a long convention - it officially runs from Monday - Sunday, however they have "pre-con" events starting the previous weekend as well - so you could spend 9-10 days at this convention if you so desired.

Last year, the WBC was plagued by some infrastructure issues that hit the aging location - The Lancaster Host.  Primarily this was in the form of lack of air conditioning in much of the conference center, including the large "Lampeter Room".  As you might imagine in a building full of gamers - who's hygiene habits can sometimes be questionable - this led to some uncomfortable situations by weeks end.  One of the side effects was that more people escaped to the open gaming area, which was still cool - and that led to a lot of crowding and table scarcity.  I'm happy to report that the A/C was in fine form this year, though. 

Unfortunately, I have a little too much in the way of home responsibilities to go for the whole week, so I typically head up on Thursday and stay through the weekend.  This year my buddies Brian Green and Paul Owen joined me at the con.  I'm not going to give a thorough game-by-game rundown like I did for Prezcon, but I want to hit a few highlights.  And, unfortunately, I was a little lazy on taking pictures - so any that you see here are likely one's I've stolen from the internet somewhere.

Pic from BGG user David Morriss
Thurn & Taxis - It had been about 3 years since I last played this euro about building postal routes across Bavaria (you have to love euros and their themes) - since they removed it from the Prezcon list much to my friend Grant's dismay.  The other players at the table were gracious enough to help me shake off the rules rust.  I'm happy to say I finished in a tie for 2nd - and I conceded the actual 2nd place finisher to another player who was looking to move on in the tournament.

7 Wonders - This was the largest game I played in, with probably 120+ participants.  The GM separated everyone into 4 player games.  Each table was to play two games, you got points for your finish in each game (8,5,3,0 I believe and 8.2, 5.1, 2.5 and 0 for the 2nd - the decimals to help prevent ties).  In my first game I was the Pyramids of Gaza and finished in 2nd place.  In the 2nd game I had the Hanging Gardens, and I misplayed the very last card, causing me to finish in 3rd instead of 2nd.  If I had finished 2nd both times, I would have had the highest total, and moved on.  Bummer.

Amateurs to Arms - This game about the War of 1812 was published last year, from Conquest of Paradise designer Kevin McPartland and co-designer Jerry Shiles.  I had pre-ordered it, but had yet to get it to the table.  So, I went to the demo, and then played in the "Mulligan" round.  This is a card driven game, in the same vein as Twilight Struggle - i.e. each card has text that you use to invoke certain events, or a number value, which you can use as "operation points" to do many different things such as levy troops, build forts, etc.  Each side starts at opposite ends of a "peace track", and where those two counters meet on the track determines the winner.

This is an interesting game, but I'm not sure these type of card driven games are my cup of tea - I'm so-so on the aforementioned Twilight Struggle for example.  The game is beautiful - the map consists of essentially everything east of the Mississippi.  But 90% of the action takes place around the great lakes.  So, there's a lot of empty real estate.  It also runs long - I conceded to my opponent after 4 hours - although he didn't have a huge advantage, and it's conceivable I could have come back.  I definitely want to get some more plays of this under my belt - but considering it's length, and it's only  2 players, I'm not sure when that will happen.  Let me take the opportunity once again to praise the components of this game - in particular the map and cards.  The map is practically a work of art, and the cards contain lots of historical tidbits.  Also, the "designers notes" are a funny read - Jerry's sense of humor certainly comes through.

This is the upper right quadrant of the board...but where most of the action takes place.

Thursday night open gaming consisted of playing World Without End, St. Petersburg and Hex Hex XLSt. Pete is an interesting one - Brian and I had both played this several year ago, as were just getting into the "hobby boardgaming" arena, and both of us came away with negative impressions that kept us from the game for years.  Paul brought it back out, and re-taught us, and we played again.  Brian didn't change his opinion much, but I came away with a better impression.  Some of that might be because I had a good game, and won - but I think years of playing these games now has given me some insight into many of the mechanics, and I think I just "got it" this time around.  I'm not saying it's my favorite - but I won't avoid it either.  Hex Hex XL was one we had high aspirations for - but it fell flat for us.  Brian in particular seemed disappointed, but I think a large part of it was due to having only 3 players.  My intuition says this one would be better with 5+ players. 

More to come in Part 2.....


  1. Amateurs to Arms: Does the board go all the way south to New Orleans?
    By card-driven, do you mean a similar system to For the People, We The People, Washington's War, Hannibal, RvC?

  2. I'm only familiar with Washington's War in those you list, but yes, it's similar. You can use the cards to play them for the point value on them (which allows you to do things like raise more troops, build forts, etc - each has a "cost" of points) or you can use the cards for the text on them - although in many cases you have to be in a specific situation to use that text.

    And yes, the map goes all the way down to New Orleans. And as far west at the Mississippi. But 90% of the game takes place around the Great Lakes, which makes that portion of the map feel a little crowded.