World Boardgaming Championships 2011 – Convention Coverage
(Editor’s note: Links within this article are to games previously reviewed on ArmchairGeneral.com.)
The World Boardgaming Championships (WBC) Convention met in Lancaster, PA, during the week of August 1–7, 2011 for its thirteenth incarnation. Despite the lofty title, the WBC is much more of a friendly competition between gamers of all skill levels than a cut-throat rivalry (although one can readily find the latter type of game if he so chooses). Competitive tournaments run all week, and the dedicated gamer can turn the experience into a personal marathon of gaming and sleep-deprivation.
A Eurogame unfolds.
A direct descendant of Avaloncon, this convention has expanded to cover all types of boardgames and certain other types, ranging from light role-playing (Werewolf at midnight) to serious wargaming (World at War, running for the entire convention). Organizer Don Greenwood noted that perhaps 55% of the games played are Eurogames, with wargames constituting the majority of the remainder. Generally, wargame tournaments ranged in size from 16-50, while a Eurogame like 7 Wonders had a tournament registration of 99. However, for the target audience, this article will concentrate on the wargames. A review of the schedule/program showed over seventy-five separate wargame tournaments.
The Russian Campaign and Bitter Woods (a Bulge game) (reprinted by L2) are specifically noted for the caliber of opponents during the tournaments. While most players are friendly, experienced sharks do inhabit these waters. This reviewer witnessed several gamers losing by the end of the third turn in the former game due to a single misplaced counter, which was pounced upon by these prowling albeit genial monsters.
World at War covers the entire Second World War, and these experienced teams of players spend the entire convention at this mighty endeavor, playing up to sixteen hours per day. Five of the eight tournaments actually completed the war, and the awards for competition are determined by the players at an after-action meeting.
On Tuesday, an auction was held of over four hundred games, ranging from the common to the sublime. Attendees can pre-register their potential cast-offs or gold (value is in the eye of the bidder) for either a prix fixe determined amount, or an actual bidding auction (which is limited to what can be sold in a day – both collectibles and less expensive games). While train games seemed to be the bigger sellers—18xx C2C sold for $230—wargames held their own, e.g., War in the Pacific fetched $140 (punched), DAK 2 sold for $170, and Up Front sold for $65-80 depending on the condition.
Hot bidding at the Auction.
Although the WBC may not be one of the largest annual gaming conventions (with attendance usually around 1500), over the last few years, it has become a showplace for wargame designers to show off their prototypes and for the end user to get an appreciation for future releases. This is a noticeable change from prior WBCs, as the convention seems to have become the site for wargaming aficionados. Among the potential releases:
(1) Greg Smith, formerly associated with computer game companies HPS and John Tiller Games, was showing his solitaire boardgame of submarine warfare in the Atlantic The Hunters: U-Boats at War. It is somewhat reminiscent of Avalon Hill’s classic B-17, albeit with more decision-making by the player. A follow-on product, Pacific Hunters: U.S. Subs at War, is currently in the design stage;
(2) L2 Games premiered Breakout Normandy: Deluxe Edition, a reprint of Don Greenwood’s classic simulation of the breakout from the beachhead. In fact, L2 Games had a complete sell-out in the vendor’s area by 2:00 PM on Saturday (the vendor area is only open between Friday and Sunday);
Sifting for gold in the vendor area.
(3) Lock ’n Load was showing Warparty, a fantasy-themed game described as Axis & Allies meets Dungeons & Dragons;
(4) GMT was showing several designs. Gilbert Collins’ Mr. Madison’s War, a CDG (card driven game) of the War of 1812, with a difficulty level ranging between that of Washington’s War and For the People. Interestingly enough, Clash of Arms was showing a prototype of their CDG 1812 game with a more strategic perspective, Amateurs to Arms (potential release date of late 4th quarter).
Battles of the American Revolution, Volume 8: Newtown and Oriskany: America vs. the Iroquois will soon to be appearing on GMT’s P500 pre-order list, as will Sal Vasta’s Unconditional Surrender: Europe (strategic World War II). In addition, Mr. Vasta has released Unconditional Surrender: Case Blue, as a free print-and-play.
A big crowd at the open gaming tables.
(5) MMP: Magazine Special Operations #1 was released at the convention on August 5, with a game included (Savage Streets, an area movement game of the central sector during the Battle of Stalingrad).
Forthcoming: Setting Sun (formerly titled Storm Over Leyte Gulf), a card-assisted Pacific simulation by Tetsua Nakamura and developer Adam Starkweather;
Mr. Lincoln’s War, a CDG of the Civil War, described by designer John Poniske as more of a political simulation with a difficulty ranging between Price of Freedom and For the People. Although initially shown at last year’s WBC, it remains in playtesting and will probably be published in the second or third quarter 2012.
Reluctant Enemies: Operation Encounter showing the invasion of Vichy Syria and Lebanon in June-July 1941 at a battalion level.
(6) Lost Battalion Games officially released Sergeants: Day of Days, a hybrid of miniatures and board wargaming covering tactical combat during World War II.
(7) Victory Point Games continued its growth and had a physical presence together with two new releases, Hero of Weehauken (a solitaire game covering the Aaron Burr conspiracy) and Assault on Galactacus Prime (a two-player science fiction deck-building game).
Surprisingly, one of the more popular games among designers was Battlestar Galactica. A number of wargame designers (e.g., Mark Herman and Peter Perla) told this writer that the theme was not the attraction; rather, the game mechanics and sheer enjoyment made this into a stellar (no pun intended) social gaming experience as a five-player game.
Perhaps someday … but in the interim, Warriors of God (a game of the Hundred Years War) and Washington’s War (the American Revolution) seemed to be among the most popular of the wargames, and one could always find a willing opponent for them. A large open-gaming room and free games lending library offered the opportunity for an attendee to try a variety of games during the week.
Tense action at the Warriors of God tournament table.
On Saturday night, the Charles S. Roberts Awards were announced for excellence in game design. Among the winners were:
Labyrinth: The War on Terror (Best Post-WWII and also James F. Dunnigan Design Elegance Award)
Washington’s War (Best Ancients to Napoleonics)
Overall, this convention continues to grow in popularity and has become a mandatory event for the wargamer.
Don Greenwood presides over the Boardgame Players Association (BPA) meeting.