It’s official– on Sunday, Russ and I are headed the 1,128 miles from Rockford, MN, to the weeklong World Boardgaming Championships in Lancaster, PA. Mike is tagging along for two days; he’ll stay Sunday night with us in Pittsburgh and then hop a train from Lancaster to New York City. In recent days, we have learned that the WBC has shattered all previous records and a huge number of people have pre-registered this year. We expect around 1500 gamers to be there, along with various boardgame manufacturers. The heart of the WBC is competitive play, which is why we chose to attend; other options included GenCon and Origins. What will we be doing this week, you ask? Well, I’d like to divide that into four categories: compete, meet, try, and buy (catchy, I know!).
Compete: This is truly the core of the convention. 125 different games will be played; winners will take home plaques declaring them to be the champion for 2009. In essence, we are traveling to Lancaster because we want to match our skills against the best of the best. Tourney formats differ, but most include a few rounds of preliminary play, followed by a quarter-, semi-, and final round in which the winner is determined. Some tourneys have hundreds of people competing, while others have only a few dozen. I’ve packed my schedule because I’m thinking that I’ll get knocked out in a lot of first or second round games. Here’s the list: Here I Stand, Hammer of the Scots, Wilderness War, Twilight Struggle, Britannia, and Crusader Rex. Russ will be tackling most of these same games, but he’ll also add 1960: the Making of the President.
Meet: I’ve had the good fortune to rub elbows with a fair number of gamers and game designers via various blogs, Web sites, podcasts, and Play-by-Email (PBEM) tournaments. We hope to see some of these people and person, and no doubt we will make some friends across the gaming table as well.
Try: This is the other exciting part of the WBC. Many games are demo-ed by the designers themselves. Often, there is a one-hour slot in the convention schedule during which you can meet up with other interested people and the designer, and he/she will teach you the game. You often then have about an hour before the tourney begins. Russ and I have both compiled lists of games we’d like to demo at the convention. The other cool part about trying games is the Open-Gaming Room, a massive ballroom with a free games library. You can just check a game out, find some random people, and begin play. I’m hoping to learn Britannia this way; it’s sat on my game shelf for two years now, and I’ve never played it. If I’m lucky, a group of veterans will have mercy on me and teach it! I’m interested in trying the following: San Juan, Thurn & Taxis, Britannia, Advanced Civilization, Fields of Fire, Battlestar Galactica, Steam, and Puerto Rico. Many game designers also take this time to playtest games they’re tweaking. I’m hoping to at least see Virgin Queen (the sequel to Here I Stand) and War of the Roses in action.
Buy: We are gamers on a budget, but that shouldn’t stop us from picking up a game or two. WBC has a Tuesday auction that goes practically all day, and an silent auction store running at the same time. I have a list of things to shop for, but I’ll wait and see what I actually purchase before it ends up here on the blog.
Are we excited for this? You bet! This is the culmination of ten months of planning and a personal promise that I made to myself: to get in shape and lose twenty pounds. This trip (definitely made possible by the amazing support of my loving wife!) is the long-awaited reward for that. Expect to see semi-regular updates from the convention–check back often as we offer coverage, analysis, and musings from the Lancaster Host Hotel.