A couple of weeks ago, I ran across a mention of the World Boardgaming Championships, to be held in Lancaster, PA, during the first week of August. After a little investigation, I decided to go and see if it was interesting. Overall, I found it quite enjoyable, and will probably return next year.
The World Boardgaming Championships is a gaming convention, held yearly since 1999 by the Boardgame Players Association. This convention replaced AvalonCon which had been run from 1991 to 1998 by Avalon Hill. This year there were ~1,300 attendees.
One of the nice things about the WBC is that there is no preregistering for games -- if you show up for a game, you'll get to play, as long as there are enough copies of the game available. Players are encouraged to bring a copy of the games they want to play, but there's usually enough copies available -- I never saw anyone turned away for not having a seat available. GM's are authorized to give precedence to players who bring a copy of the game. Non-players don't need to buy a badge, so non-gaming spouses are free to come in and cheer you on (or cheer you up).
Day One, Tuesday, July 31st:
I worked a half-day, and then drove to Lancaster from work. I had a good drive, with enough time to check in to my hotel, check in to the convention, and find my first game. Since I was driving, I packed a tub full of my favorite games, knowing full well that I wouldn't have time to play all of them.
- 6pm -- Power Grid, qualifying heat (1 of 3). The first heat was played with 5-player games, on either the USA or Benelux maps. I played against 4 other players on the Benelux map, and got my head handed to me. I made 2 critical misjudgments -- one early, and one mid-game, that basically doomed me. This game had the dubious distinction of having the worst power plant shuffle I've ever seen -- at least 10 plants came out in more or less numerical order.
- 8pm -- Attika, qualifying heat (1 of 2). The first heat was played with 4-player games. We had a late-comer join up, who proceeded to sand-bag everyone else at the table, and the game was over in 30 minutes. The late-comer was Valerie Hall, who finished 5th in last years Attika tournament.
At that point, I had a headache and needed food, so I bagged it for the evening.
Day Two, Wednesday, August 1st:
- 9am -- Attika, qualifying heat (2 of 2). Another 4-player game. This game was a lot closer. Arguably I was in second, but close doesn't count in the Attika tournament, so I'm out of it now.
- 10am -- RoboRally, qualifying heat (1 of 2). This game was 6 player game on the Cross and Island maps, with 3 checkpoints. One player made it to 3, one to 2, and the rest of us got close to 2. At least I didn't die, and I only took 1 point of damage, which got fixed the next turn.
- 1pm -- Power Grid, qualifying heat (2 of 3). A 4-player game in Central Europe. This was a hard-fought game. At the end, it came down to two players who connected and powered 18 cities, with equal amounts of money left. I had the higher-numbered power plant, so I won the tie. Yay me!
At this point I had Yet Another headache, so I went back to my room and rested for a while.
- 5pm -- Age of Renaissance, demo. An opportunity to refresh my memory of the rules, and meet the GMs and prospective players.
- 7pm -- Age of Renaissance, qualifying heat (1 of 2). A 5-player game with 4 novices and a beginner (me). After 5 hours of play, the game was called done. I was winning right up to the final card plays, where 3 commodity plays netted ~600 points for other players (and not me). I ended up meeting some people from Reston (David Willmes) and Springfield (Megan Willmes and her father Gary Willmes) and have invited them to join us for Ludus.
Day Three, Thursday, August 2nd:
- 9am -- Power Grid, qualifying heat (3 of 3). Another hard-fought 4-player game, this time on the France map. In the next-to-last round I missed being able to win by 5 Elektro; I came in second with 18 cities powered, losing on cash.
- 7pm -- Puerto Rico, qualifying heat (1 of 3). A 4-player game. I succeeded in putting together a reasonable factory strategy ... and ended up last. I didn't get enough money fast enough, and was always getting caught out during the Captain phase.
Carrie drove up from Virginia with the dogs, and got in a little after midnight.
Day Four, Friday, August 3rd:
- 9am -- Open Gaming. I met up with the Williams and a couple of other people, and started a 6-player game of Age of Renaissance, just for fun. I didn't get to finish, because I was fourth on the list of alternates for Power Grid. Luckily, someone stepped in to finish for me.
- Noon -- Power Grid, semi-finals. Several of the semi-finalists were no-shows, so I made it into the semi-finals. This turned into a very hard-fought 5-player game, on the USA map. It came down to who could fire 14 cities (out of 15 built); I missed winning by 16 Elektro, but I'm happy with second place -- the after-action review didn't reveal any mistakes.
- 6pm -- Puerto Rico, qualifying heat (2 of 3). Another 4-player game. I tried a different variation of the factory strategy, but the person to my right was running a factory strategy as well, which ended up being a loss for both of us. Oops.
Yet Another headache, so Carrie and I headed back to the hotel.
Day Five, Saturday, August 4th:
I ended up getting a slow start, so I decided to skip the Settlers of Catan tournament, and had breakfast with Carrie instead.
- 11am -- Puerto Rico, qualifying heat (3 of 3). Another 4-player game, another try with the factory strategy. This worked better this time, I took 2nd with 52 VP (the winner had 54).
- 3pm -- Manifest Destiny, qualifying heat (4 of 4). This was a new game for me -- I didn't even have time to read the rules before game start. It's similar to Age of Renaissance, in that it's a card-driven map-based economic domination game, with victory being determined by the value of purchased 'advances'. In practice it has simpler mechanics, and is focused on North America instead of Europe. I ended up third of four players, but in a strange quirk of fate, all four of us had other obligations (dinner with Carrie in my case), and so no one from our game advanced to the semi-finals. Bill Crenshaw, the designer of Manifest Destiny, lives in Vienna, so I'm going to try to get him to Ludus and/or TCEP.
Day Six, Sunday, August 5th:
- 10am -- TransAmerica. The TransAmerica tourney was done with rounds instead of qualifying heats, with either 4 or 5-player tables. I was at a 5-player table, so we played 5 times, with the lead rotating so that everyone had a turn in the barrel. At the end, all of the scores for each gamer were totaled, with the lowest two scores progressing. I had 4 good games, but a 7 in the 3rd game was too much to overcome.
As I wrote above, I expect that I'll go back to WBC next year, though I'm going to make my plans early enough to get a room at the convention hotel, and to be able to board the dogs. I'm also going to drive up the day before (or perhaps even the Sunday before) the convention, so that (1) I'm well rested, and (2) I can participate in the WBC auction.
Update -- November 2007:
The WBC organizers finally got around to publishing the detailed results of all of the tournaments, and it turns out that even though I didn't make it into the Power Grid finals, I took 6th place overall, and so I am one of the 2007 Power Grid Laurelists. Laurels are the way that the WBC ranks players across all of the tournaments.