A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to spend a few days at the World Board Gaming championships held in Lancaster, PA. Until this trip, my experience with game conventions was mostly limited to Origins.
The first thing to know is that WBC is heavily focused on tournament play.
Each year they choose 100 or so games (aka The Century Group) that are the ones for which players will compete. The Century Group is chosen via votes by the membership of the Board Game Players Association. The details of the selection approach can be found here.
Several games on the list are actually out-of-print titles which might make it challenging for new gamers to become competitive.
I’m not highly competitive gamer, so my goal was to explore WBC’s open gaming opportunities. I was somewhat disappointed at what I found.
The primary area for open gaming is a room that is a repurposed dinner theater. As such, bright lighting in the room does not exist. Some efforts to increase the amount of light in the room were made, but overall I found it to be generally quite poor. This appears to be an ongoing problem, as I noticed that some WBC attendees carrying in their own table lamps.
There is another option however. There is an overflow open gaming area in a separate building, that looks to have been an indoor tennis court that was remodeled to as a event room. It was well lit, cool, and quiet. Since this overflow area is not in the main building it didn’t have a huge crowd, which might be problematic for gamers hoping to find a game they could join.
Given the tournament focus of this convention, I suppose I should have expected the open gaming options to be limited.
At WBC, I estimated that there were about 25-30 exhibitors in the dealer hall. There were a few notable vendors such as Stronghold Games, and Days of Wonder. Stronghold was selling their newest title – Space Cadets: Dice Duel. I was excited to see that Day’s of Wonder had a presence, but they didn’t appear to be selling products. Overall, it wasn’t a bad mix of vendors for a small con.
The WBC event has very strong presence of wargaming. From the dealer hall to tournament play, this convention clearly has roots in wargaming. Although my focus is more on euro\amer-games, it was interested to see that war gaming is alive and well.
Another strong element of WBC is their availability of Jr. Events. There were ample opportunities for kids to play in tournaments. The WBC planners clearly have made an effort to provide a wide range of kid friendly events. Kudos.
Overall, WBC is a nice small con, especially for those who are more interested in competitive play. Aside from some challenges finding parking, I would rate the the venue as merely ok.
In my opinion, The WBC could benefit from finding newer facility to host their convention, or at a minimum address the shortcomings of its open gaming area.
I am on the fence about attending this one in the future, but I think that gamers who enjoy highly competitive play, this is likely one of the must attend events in the US.