World Boardgaming Championships in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. WBC is one of my favorite conventions, and this one had a few highlights that I hope to share over the next few posts.
Wooden Ships and Iron Men
One of my primary goals this year was to win the Wooden Ships and Iron Men (designer the late S. Craig Taylor, artist Edward Moran, publisher Avalon Hill) tournament, run by Tim Hitchings. Last year I placed second when I lost to Dan Long in the finals. So my highest priority upon my arrival this year was to qualify for the semifinals. My friend Brian Greer was interested in playing WS&IM. He had come over to my house for a moderate-sized fleet action some time ago and had wanted to play again ever since. So he and I opened with a one-on-one duel between 64-gun ships-of-the-line. In our battle, I loaded with chain shot early and focused on knocking down his mast in order to gain a maneuver advantage. I succeeded in getting the rigging section knocked down and got upwind of him, but then the wind shifted 120 degrees and erased the wind gauge I had worked so hard to gain. He had meanwhile focused on banging away at my hull, and after about 20 turns, did enough hull damage to force me to strike my colors. So my effort to qualify got off to a very poor start.
While at the WS&IM table, Tim Hitchings had to leave for a few minutes and asked me to help the players in the game next to mine in case any questions came up. I helped clarify a few of the tournament rules for them, not realizing whom I was advising. I found myself talking with Jack Greene, who had worked at Avalon Hill in the mid 1970s, about the same time I was playing AH games as a teenager. (He would later found his own company, Quarterdeck Games.) He was gracious enough to express interest in "East India Company." I would see him later in the convention at the Avalon Hill reunion panel.
I've played Small World (designer Philippe Keyaerts, artist Miguel Coimbra, publisher Days of Wonder) a few times, most recently at PrezCon last year in the tournament that my friend Grant Greffey ran. I tried my luck in the tournament here at WBC, and it went rather well. I opened with Spirit Dwarves, who took a nice position among a few mountains in the east for the first three turns before going into decline. Since they had the "Spirit" attribute, they would remain on the board even when a second race of mine went into decline, and in fact one region remained controlled by the Dwarves and scored for me every turn of the game, right up to the end.
They were followed by Heroic Ratmen, who dominated the northern region of the board and, with their Heroic attribute, set up a nice defensive position at the approaches around the east and west ends of the central lake. After going into decline on the sixth turn, they continued to score many points due to their numbers and remaining unmolested by my opponents, who seemed more focused on each other than on me.
The Ratmen in turn were succeeded by the Seafaring Skeletons, who entered in the southeastern sea, pushed up to the central lake, and in the subsequent turns made their way to the northwestern sea on the far corner of the board. By then I had attracted the attention of my opponents, but too late, and I won with the score of 112 to 92 to 86. As it happened, that single victory qualified me for the semifinal on Saturday evening, but since it conflicted with the WS&IM semifinal, I was unlikely to appear at the SW event.
I had made a few purchases from fellow boardgamegeeks and arranged to meet them at WBC for delivery and payment. So it was on Thursday evening that I met VictorTheGeek to buy a copy of Pit (designers Harry Gavitt and Edgar Cayce, current publisher Winning Moves), which I'd learned about when I researched games that Americans might have been playing on the eve of the Parker Brothers release of Monopoly in 1936. In fact, the copy that Victor sold me was printed in 1964 and is in remarkably good condition, especially for a 49-year-old game.
Later I met Chris "Lemur" Palermo to buy Junta and Dixit. I'd heard of Junta on a podcast, and it sounded like exactly the kind of crazy social game that I love playing late at night. This copy is the 1985 West End Games edition. I'd seen Dixit played on Wil Wheaton's TableTop YouTube program, and my whole family was interested in giving it a try. So all in all, I was very happy with the second-hand purchases that I'd made.
Trains Planes and Automobiles
This was the second year I ran a Trains Planes and Automobiles (designer yours truly, artist Sean Cooke, publisher Blue Square Boardgames) tournament in the Juniors Room at WBC but the first time it would be a plaque-earning event. I was glad that I'd brought two copies of the game, because ten kids signed up to play. I ran two five-player games (shortened by declaring a winner at five assignments rather than the usual seven), with two players advancing from each to a four-player final. The winner Nathan got the plaque, and everybody got a button for playing. It's always great to see kids enjoying my game.
Race for the Galaxy
I had seen half a demo of Race for the Galaxy (designed by Thomas Lehmann, published by Rio Grande) at my first Congress of Gamers several years ago, and didn't quite get the game. Later I picked up a copy, and Kathy and I tried to learn it, but we just didn't get it; I think the iconography had us stymied. So when I saw the opportunity to see another demo, I figured I'd go and make sure that I asked all my questions so that I had no doubt about how to play. Fortunately there were about five of us, and Nick Kiswanto did a great job answering all of our questions. It was much easier with this second look to draw analogies between RftG and Puerto Rico, which Kathy and I really enjoy. I think I'm going to look this one over at home again and see if we might try it out one more time with a fresh perspective.
I'd picked up Ingenious (designer Reiner Knizia, publisher Fantasy Flight Games) at PrezCon about a year and a half ago, one of three Reinzer Knizia acquisitions that year. Kathy and I have really enjoyed it, and even Kathy's mother Ag has played it with us on one of her visits. Thursday night was the first time I'd played it in competition, and it was an eye-opening experience. Whereas Kathy and I might achieve one or on very rare occasion two "Ingenious" scores (getting 18 points in a color for a free additional turn) in a single game, my opponents Rebecca and Tom each scored five "Ingeniouses," and Katie scored an incredible perfect six for the win. I placed third, because my minimum score among the six colors was higher than Rebecca's, but I was nevertheless flummoxed by the style of play I saw. I should add, by the way, that Rebecca, Tom, and Katie were three of the friendliest, most pleasant people that I played against the entire convention. I didn't mind getting trounced at all.
Cities and Knights of Catan
My friend Keith had expressed an interest in entering the Cities and Knights of Catan (designer Klaus Teuber, publisher Mayfair) tournament but didn't know the game, so Brian, Keith, and I got together around midnight in open gaming so I could teach them the game. Just as I was starting the explanation, we were joined by a fellow named Herb, who became our fourth. Cities and Knights is by far my preferred format for playing Settlers of Catan. The guys got the hang of it, and although it ran a good three hours, we had a great time. Keith ended up winning.
More WBC recap to follow ...