Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

WBC: Thinking about August in December

I'll preface my remarks by stipulating that I am a relatively new member of the Boardgame Players Association, and all I know is based on what I read in the newsletter and elsewhere online.  None of this represents any kind of official news or information from the BPA.  Caveat lector.

An odd thing about the Boardgame Players Association - not necessarily bad, just odd - is that December is the month for membership registration for the upcoming year.  For my part, the only reason I join BPA is that a sustaining membership provides admission to the World Boardgaming Championships and the opportunity to vote on the "trial events" that will be included as tournaments the following summer.  So that means that among all the preparations for the winter solstice holidays, I take a little time to think about summertime gaming at WBC.

The lobby of the Lancaster Host,
which belies its age
The BPA is surveying its membership right now about the future of WBC.  The venue for the convention has been the Lancaster Host in Lancaster, Pennsylvania - a sizable, affordable location but not the most modern facility.  Last summer was particularly uncomfortable due to an unfortunate debacle with the air conditioning. Also, open gaming seems to have grown faster at WBC than the available space, with the result that tables were often in very short supply.  We all made do, and the convention director, Don Greenwood, did his level best to keep the convention running despite the worst setbacks.

So now, with just three years left on the BPA contract with the Lancaster Host, the question arises:  Does the future of the WBC continue to include the Lancaster Host, or is it time to move on?  Don poses the question in the form of a dilemma:  Change of venue means change in WBC itself.  Either it becomes smaller, or it becomes more expensive, or it becomes shorter, or ... something.  There's no easy, coming-of-age, "hey, we're so big, now there are whole new options available to us" kind of obvious answer.  Rather, WBC is so big, and the summer is so popular, that the BPA will have a hard time finding a large enough location for a long enough stretch in a popular enough time of year in an affordable enough facility.  Hence the survey, so that BPA can get an idea which way the membership wants to go.

For my part, I just want to play games, and I don't want to spend an arm and a leg to go someplace and do it.  To me, WBC is a great opportunity to play games I might not otherwise get to play, and to play my favorite games against some of the best competition in the country.  It is also a terrific opportunity to hook up with designers and publishers and see prototype demos and show off my own designs.  It's also a great excuse to stay up with my friends until 2 a.m. playing Citadels.

So I don't have a strong opinion about where WBC goes, so long as it is still affordable, not too far, and doesn't scare off the people I want to meet up with.  I think BPA is doing a reasonable job testing the waters to see what options best satisfy the membership as a whole while recognizing that you can't please all of the gamers all of the time.

I'm not as close to the Historical Miniature Gaming Society, but I understand that over the last several years, they have made some controversial decisions in relocating their biggest convention, HistoriCon.  This huge miniatures convention used to swamp the Lancaster Host with legions of gamers and vendors, far more than WBC.  Years ago it was clear that it had simply outgrown its traditional site.  I am told that its moves to Baltimore, then Valley Forge, and most recently Fredericksburg, have had considerably mixed responses among HMGS members.  I suppose that's to be expected.  I don't know how those moves were made or to what degree the HMGS board solicited membership input before making those strategic decisions, but I got the impression that many people were unhappy.

So my bottom line is that I'm glad BPA is making an effort to get a sense of where it's people's priorities are with plenty of time to make a contractual decision for the next era of WBC conventions.  We'll see how things go.  If they don't go too far north or west, I expect I'll continue to attend for the foreseeable future, no matter how long or short, how large or small.  I just like to play games and meet people.


  1. My first WBC was this past August and my family and I had a great time. As such a newbie, I shouldn't have much of an opinion. But I would gladly bear the swamp of the Lampeter room each year before I would change the convention in such a way that shortened the week, or shrank the crowd.

    Thanks to you and all the others who volunteer a portion of their time to making the Juniors room at WBC such a success. My kids weren't able to attend the last two days this summer, so we missed you. But if you are hosting a Trains, Planes and Automobiles Jr event this coming year, there should be at least 3 young Saccentis in attendance.

    1. Scott, thanks for the kind words! I fully expect to run Trains Planes and Automobiles in the Juniors Room again next year. It will be great to meet the Saccenti contingent!

      Have you responded to the survey? I think your sentiment is exactly the kind of thing they need to hear to weigh what to do for the next venue contract.