2016 was the year WBC moved up in class and down in attendance as we bid adieu to the Lancaster Host and experienced previously undreamed of amenities in the Laurel Highlands of southwest Pennsylvania. The Seven Springs Mountain Resort greeted WBC with enthusiasm and a facilities upgrade which drew rave reviews from most attendees. The 160 mile westward migration along the PA Turnpike resulted in a first ever attendance decline as the head count dropped 22%.
That predicted downturn was partially offset by an enthusiastic membership that arrived earlier and stayed longer than had been the norm previously. Whether it was the elimination of pre-cons in favor of an expanded nine-day conference or the excitement generated by the new venue, we were surprised by the size of the crowd on hand for the opening Saturday. Despite the smaller overall headcount, steady daily attendance made up for most of the shortcoming with the average tournament turnout down only 0.7 players from 59.6 to 58.9. 25 events drew triple-digit participation—actually up one from 2015—and 14 events managed to post their largest attendance of the decade. 152 of the scheduled 154 events achieved tournament status with fields ranging from a minimum of eight to 288 players for Splendor!
Click for larger image
14 reigning WBC champions successfully defended their titles, led by the current Caesar, James Pei, who extended his dominance in For The People to eight straight years to maintain his hold on WBC's longest winning streak. In the process, Pei again took Caesar honors for an unprecedented third straight year—easily topping runner-up Randy Buehler by 87 laurels! Perennial 18XX champ Bruce Beard remained Pei’s closest pursuer with his fourth straight 8XX title. He is followed by four others who won their third straight tournament: Harry Flawd (Paydirt), William Burch (Ace of Aces), Sweden’s Bjorn von Knorring (Manoeuvre), and Pei himself (Sekigahara).
On the other side of the title spectrum, 38 claimed their first WBC title (up one from 2015) while 73 earned their first laurels of any kind to claim genuine contender status in the years to come. 13 gents managed to win two events each while two managed to claim three titles: the perennial Caesar duelists Pei (For the People, Hannibal and Sekigahara) and Nick Henning (Automobile, Galaxy Trucker, and Vegas Showdown). But both were outshined by newcomer Moon Sultana who became the first multiple winner (Castles of Burgundy, Tzolk’in) among the ladies since Rebecca Hebner managed it as a teenager in 2001. The gals, for their part, outdid themselves in 2016 and obviously found Seven Springs to their liking—tripling their titles won from 5 to 15 to make it the best Year for the ladies thus far.
The same old ringers won in the same old way as the top-seeded Harry B’s repeated as Team Tournament champs in 2016 over 69 teams - the smallest field in the past 16 years. At least this time the margin of victory was slim as they were tied by the Uncivil Servants at 18 points each—the 16-1 favorite edging the 35-1 runner-up by virtue of a total field tiebreaker—having bested the Servants by contesting seven more participants. Actually, only three more players playing War of the Rings would have been worth a 19th point and victory to the Servants, but this ain’t horseshoes and close is not good enough. The Servants can take solace (or not) that they were the only team to score with all four players. Taking third two points back were The Greenville Mafia’s “I Am Standing Up” team. None of the top three teams scored a bonus point since each of their players had won their chosen events previously.
Only three of the top 26 rated teams in the 69-team field made the Top Ten—making it a tough year for prognosticators. Among the hardest hit was the Happy Handicapper himself who could muster only the Harry B’s (duh) in his Top Ten picks to tie for worst performance in the Bracket Bustin’ contest with but one correct pick. He had a lot of company in ticket tearing territory with Nest of Spies nestled at 16th and the usual favorites burning brackets galore. Only one handicapper managed to get four correct out of ten: Kevin Youells. He (as did many others) correctly selected the top three teams and then added the 6th place Think First at 72-1 odds to be the only prognosticator with four correct answers. His 2017 Sustaining membership was thereby duly entered in the books.
Simple and short games were again the big winners in the Year of the Family as evidenced by the record setting attendance of GM of the Year John Corrado’s Facts in Five event which used the larger Seven Springs forums to good advantage while absolutely swamping his previous high water mark set in the previous year by 37 additional players. The runner-up for GM honors, Andrew Drummond, also hosted a pair of high attendance, quick playing events with Can’t Stop and Seven Wonders Duel.
It was perhaps fitting that in a year where the ladies tripled their market share with 15 event titles, that one would break into the Triple Crown Awards as well. Laurie Voisin accomplished that by edging Nels Thompson in the membership vote for Sportsperson of the Year to claim free lodging at WBC 2017 for her selfless act of alerting the true winner of her Five Tribes heat of his right to advance.
2016 was definitely a year of new beginnings with the announcement of a new CD in the form of Ken Gutermuth to run WBC 2017. New beginnings can be bittersweet as we bid goodbye to the retiring Don Greenwood after 26 years of service heading the combined Avaloncon/WBC conference. Other sad departures are the loss of the voice of Slapshot as Reverend Keith Hunsinger made his farewell appearance due to other career opportunities. And of course, every WBC we remember those friends we’ve lost in the intervening year … 2016 being the end of the game for “Coach” Mike Hazel, Eric Ritter and Kevin Sudy.
In the continuing circle of life that marks the evolution of Winners and Losers in WBC events, 14 events set new attendance highs for the past decade while 41 set new lows. The following record attendance highs and lows over the past decade are limited to events with at least a three-year track record.
Zenith: Those setting new attendance records for the last decade were: Egizia +45, Facts in Five +37, 7 Wonders +21, Trans America +10, Sekigahara +6, Brass +6, Concordia +6, Auction +3, Twilight Struggle +2, Battleline +2, Speed Circuit +2, B-17 +1, Mr. Madison’s War +1, War of the Ring +1.
Nadir: Those sinking to new lows in the past decade were: Small World –49, King of Tokyo –30, Dominion –29, Elchfest –16, Puerto Rico –16, Memoir ‘44 –14, Tzolk’in –13, Settlers of Catan –12, Titan –10, Enemy in Sight –9, Sergeants Miniatures Game –9, Bitter Woods –8, Hammer of the Scots –8, Power Grid –8, Queen’s Gambit –8, 1989 –7, Age of Renaissance –7, Conflict of Heroes –7, Formula De –7, Princes of Florence –7, Commands & Colors Ancients –6, Gettysburg –6, Labyrinth –6, Leaping Lemmings –6, Dominant Species –5, Superstar Baseball –4, Titan Two –4, Cities & Knights –3, Galaxy Trucker –3, Julius Caesar –3, Panzerblitz –3, Robo Rally –3, Virgin Queen –3, War At Sea –3, Washington’s War –3, Yspahan –3, Euphrates & Tigris –2, Lost Cities –2, Commands & Colors Napoleonics –1, El Grande –1, Great Campaigns –1.