So, this is your first time at
the World Boardgaming Championships.
A bold prediction: it won’t be
first Avaloncon (that’s what the WBC had been named in
a prior life) was in 1997, so I’m hardly a veteran, but
after several years I can share some advice. Prior to that first
gaming con, I was unsure what to expect. Would there be rooms
of intense competitors vying for first place in cut throat fashion?
Would there only be expert players who would scoff at my feeble
gaming strategies? After all, participants come from all over
the US, and some even travel from overseas. Would everyone be
playing to win rather than playing for fun?
I was pleasantly surprised to find a
great mix of players. Most were at the
con simply because they were boardgame
enthusiasts. They loved the same games
I did! A few were beginners who were
trying a different game for the first
time. Most were experienced players who
knew the intricacies of the game and
were fun opponents. Oh, there was plenty
of great competition, but unfriendly,
cut throat, win-at-any-cost types were
very few. I learned the emphasis is put
on sportsmanship, and the biggest prize
(a free room next year) is given to the
person voted best sportsman. I had a
blast and return whenever possible.
every year I’m surprised by the size of the crowd. It’s
not that there isn’t enough room in the con hotel, it’s
just that every ballroom and meeting
room is put to good use. There are a small but growing number
of families that make the pilgrimage an annual vacation. Otherwise,
over 80% of the attendees are male from age 20 to 60. Sorry,
guys, this is not the place to meet lots of single women, but
I suspect you already knew that.
official schedule has events (that’s WBC-speak for “game
tournaments") running daily from 9 a.m. to around midnight, but
you can find someone awake and ready
to play in the open gaming areas at any
hour. Attendees, especially those from
outside the region, are dedicated boardgamers:
travel cost plus staying almost a week
at the hotel is not cheap. You can reduce
the cost by sharing rooms and/or auto travel. Doubling up in
a room halves the cost. Tripling or quadrupling reduces it still
further and is not uncommon.
as you would for any trip of this duration,
and bring a swimsuit for the pool. (There
are two.) Typical Lancaster weather from
June through August is hazy, hot, and
humid, so shorts and light shirts work
well outdoors—though you may not
get out much.
I quickly learned not to leave any heat
sensitive items inside my car. One sunny
day, I made the mistake of leaving my
copy of Eurorails there, and the special
wax crayons turned into a gooey mess.
The “weather” inside
the hotel can be a bit tricky. A sweatshirt
for the ballrooms or late at night often
comes in handy. Weather
sure to bring copies of games. After
making the trip, you don’t want
to miss playing your favorite game just
because there aren’t enough copies
of it. In fact, if there are insufficient
sets to go around, the GM (that’s “GameMaster",
the person in charge of the tournament
for that particular game) is authorized
to give you preferential standing (for
example, an easier matchup or perhaps
a bye) if you have your copy. Also bring
some of your favorites that no one back
home will play. Out of the 1,000 or more
attendees, you’ll almost certainly
be able to find a few people to try it
in the open gaming areas.
arrival, the first thing to do is get
your badge and badgeholder—and
any souvenirs your ordered in advance—at
the WBC Registration Desk in New Holland.
If you don't already have a Yearbook
& Program, you can get one here. (If
you have a chance, look at the schedules
posted online ahead of time.)
your urge to game non-stop, eventually
you’ll get hungry. The hotel offers
good food at reasonable prices. There
are daily specials at Chef's Marketplace
from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. In addition, you'll
find lunch and dinner specials daily.
(They are listed in the program.) There
are also great restaurantes in the area—check
with your fellow gamers or the concierge
desk for recommendations.
the WBC, I seem to operate on adrenaline.
Doing so non-stop is probably not the
best thing for your body, so try to make
time for sleep. Sleep never comes easy
for me because my mind is still replaying
all the glorious moments of the day,
as well as rethinking the failed decisions.
Wish I knew a good way to unwind. Maybe
my last game of the day should be something
I find boring? Or, maybe a dip in the
jacuzzi (if still open at that hour).
Anyhow, try to plan for this so you aren’t
completely exhausted by Sunday. Remember:
it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
you are a first-time GM, memorize when
and where (what rooms) all your heats/rounds
are. You’ll be asked approximately
every five minutes for that info. Try
to arrive about 20 minutes before the
start of the round in order to begin
signing in players and getting the table
matchups organized. Haul your kiosk from
the storage/display area in Paradise
Terrace to the appropriate location.
a plan in mind to handle late arrivals.
You can be sure someone will show up
15 minutes after everyone else has
started and will desperately want to
play. A reasonable way to address this
is to start another table provided there
are enough opponents. Brush up on the
rules because something you’ve
never seen before can and will happen.
Don’t be afraid to consult the
rulebook (and your assistant GMs) while
making a decision: it shows you care
about getting the situation right. Finally,
make note of any interesting happenings
so you can write about them in your event
take advantage of the GM:101 Seminars offered on Tuesday!
bottom line is to have fun. It’s
not easy to find such enthusiastic boardgaming
opponents elsewhere, so make the most
of it. Tip: save up your best dice
rolls and bring them to the con. But,
seriously, even if you don’t “take
home the wood” (that’s WBC-speak
for winning it all), you’ll take
home plenty of fun memories. And, I predict
you’ll be back again next year.