BPA thanks its membership for its most successful Membership Drive to date which resulted in a 9% increase over its previous record. The 2016 vote for 25 Trial events was as follows:
2016 TRIAL VOTES:
- BAT Battleline - 328
- TAM Trans America - 314
- MED Medici - 310
- SMW Small World - 297
- BCY Battle Cry - 283
- QGB Star Wars; Queen’s Gambit - 265
- UNP Union Pacific - 260
- YSP Yspahan - 245
- RGD Roll For the Galaxy - 234
- ADV Adel Verpflichtet - 233
- RFG Race For the Galaxy - 231
- ELC Elchfest - 211
- AOA Ace of Aces - 210
- PGF Pro Golf - 209
- AOR Age of Renaissance - 203
- MMA Monsters Menace America - 195
- CCN Commands & Colors Napoleonics - 193
- LHV Le Havre - 191
- WPS Win, Place & Show - 189
- SWD Seven Wonders Duel - 188
- IOV Innovations - 187
- LLM Leaping Lemmings - 187
- NVW Naval War - 186
- HOS Hammer of the Scots - 176
- GCA Great Campaigns - 175
Please note that several of the above events are without GM commitments and are expected to go unclaimed as are several Century qualifiers. The following events—assuming they have a GM commitment on file by March 15th will be listed as Alternates and be eligible for elevation by the CD to replace qualifiers without a GM commitment as well as Sponsor selection, but ONLY if a member submits an event form GM commitment by the March 15 deadline.
- MAN Maneuvre - 168
- KPR Kaiser’s Pirates - 167
- GXT Galaxy Trucker - 165
- LBY Labyrinth - 164
- 775 1775 - 163
- GXY Galaxy - 161
- TIM Tigers in the Mist - 160
- VTC Viticulture - 159
- PZB Panzerblitz - 158
- ROR Republic of Rome - 152
- MFD Manifest Destiny - 151
- WOG Warriors of God - 136
- HNT The Hunters - 132
- PDT Paydirt - 131
- AHD A House Divided - 129
- JUC Julius Caesar - 127
- FGF Founding Fathers - 120
- KYF Keyflower - 119
- TWI Twilight Imperium - 109
- SOD Storm Over Dien Bien Phu - 103
- LAG La Granja - 104
- LAS Las Vegas - 103
- RID Rommel in the Desert - 101
- GUE Guerilla - 89
- RBS Russia Besieged - 89
- COH Conflict of Heroes - 87
- ANR Android Netrunner - 81
- RTT Rattlebones - 75
- KAR Kanban - 74
- OW2 Origins of World War II - 71
- SMG Sergeants Miniatures Game - 66
- VIE Victory in Europe - 65
- KFE Koenig’s Fortress Europa - 59
- BBS Brawlin' Battleship Steel - 57
- GBM Global Mogul - 56
- MGW Mage War - 43
- TMP Temporum - 26
- WAR War Stories - 15
The following events received write-in support as noted. No event has ever won qualification via a write-in vote. Voters are urged to consider submitting a GM commitment for such choices in the future in the form of an event form in order to have them listed on the ballot.
- 1776 - 3
- Age of Steam - 2
- Athens & Sparta - 2
- Automobiles - 4
- Bumper Car Arena - 3
- Brew Crafters - 2
- Caverna - 4
- Churchill - 49
- Eclipse - 2
- Empires, Age of Discovery - 2
- Exploding Kittens - 7
- Glass Road - 4
- Goa - 2
- Great War, the - 6
- Hansa Teutonica - 2
- Jaipur - 5
- Lords of Vegas - 2
- Marco Polo - 3
- Napoleon - 2
- Nations - 2
- Pacific Victory - 2
- Red Winter - 3
- Richard III - 2
- Stratego - 3
- Terra Mystica - 3
- Texas Glory - 2
- Thunder Alley - 2
- Tonkin - 1
- Triumph & Tragedy - 7
- Vinci - 3
A few outspoken members have passed the time waiting for the announcement of this annual vote to muse in social media about improvements and how it is time to tweak the magic formula for determining what or how many events are to be held. This is usually fueled by the perpetual angst between the advocates of different genres which for the sake of simplicity I will just dub long or short games with their respective measuring holy grails of player hours vs head counts. Since advocates of both camps are equally convinced that the other side gets the best of it, nothing seems amiss from my perspective.
However, as my time at the helm of the good ship WBC ticks down in its last voyage, this is a good time to once again make my case for what has gotten us this far. Hopefully, it will make things easier for my successor. My recommendation is not surprisingly to continue the trail I’ve blazed since experience is the best teacher, but ultimately the conference will continue to evolve based on circumstances as they develop and your Board will make changes as needed after discussing the pros and cons of each at length. But now seems a good time to reacquaint those who have joined us along the way to the guiding principles upon which WBC (and its predecessor Avaloncon) was founded 26 years ago.
Virtually all of the comments I’ve seen debating our current qualifying process quote erroneous facts in whole or in part gleaned from previous opinions expressed by those equally in the dark. If its on the internet, it must be true, right? Believe that and you are the prime audience for fairy tales.
Well then, we need more transparency you cry! Ah yes, because we all know no one would take advantage of democracy and game the system. Heaven forbid! Well, sadly, my experience of running competitions over the past three decades has taught me quite the opposite. It’s sort of a “ban all guns and only the criminals will have guns” argument. Lots of valid points to be sure on both sides, but wishing and good intentions don’t always make it so. More often than not, well intentioned solutions (like so many half-baked laws) only solve one problem while creating others with unforeseen consequences.
Like it or not, history teaches us that the most efficient form of government is a benevolent dictatorship—and I—as the creator of this annual gaming nirvana have been elected Il Duce—for one more year. Republicans and Democrats not withstanding, the enterprise is better off with one head who has no ax to grind supervising the process than making it easier for too ardent advocates of a particular game or genre to pad his numbers at the expense of others. Too harsh? I’ve seen it done—numerous times. So, no—we will not put the numbers out there for everyone to nitpick endlessly. Or set our version of GOP and Democrats to warring with each other over who is getting the short end of the stick.
Don’t trust me to play it down the middle? That’s why you have an elected Board to chastise the CD if things go amiss—and drag me kicking and screaming to tweaks like the Legacy system from time to time. But no, I am not going to endlessly debate the numbers for any particular event with any of 2,000 adherents on the internet. I have no life as it is.
This unending argument all revolves around my “Less is More” philosophy. Gamers are no different than other members of the species and tend to a "want their cake and eat it too” philosophy of life. We revel in excess - even though too much cake is bad for us. I’m living proof of that as the zip lines weight limit precludes me from partaking of that newest WBC attraction. My passion for cheeseburgers aside, I’ve been around since the dawn of game conventions and seen what happens firsthand when the number of tournaments expands beyond the audience’s ability to partake of each one in meaningful numbers. The sense of a true competition and the achievement that goes with besting a field of your peers is lost when a mere handful of players compose the field.
That, and the realization borne of experience that volunteer GMs provide the best gaming environment, became the basis for the Century concept. Limiting the number of events to provide focus by increasing the level of participation and requiring GMs to adhere to at least minimum quality standards returned a measure of confidence to competitive gaming. The resulting success story is not to be trifled with as gamers from around the world book passage to attend WBC year after year—looking for something not available to them locally. Mind you, there are bigger cons—and depending on your definition of fun—better ones, but competitive boardgame play at WBC remains the gold standard. It is a reputation that has been hard won over decades and it is not to be frittered away by once again treading the road of excess.
So less is more…but now that WBC has doubled in size and length surely it should have more events you say? Well, the number of events has been expanding—perhaps not as quickly as some would like—but the Century “100” concept inflated long ago—take it from the guy who must provide all the support for each of those extra events. Here is how I view it:
- GMs—THE INELASTIC LAW OF SUPPLY & DEMAND: The low hanging fruit in my defense against event inflation has been the consistent dearth of sufficient GMs to service the events we already have. For too long we’ve taken advantage of those doing double or triple duty to run multiple events. Sure, players want more events but relatively few are willing to take a turn at actually running one. Last year, one such worthy ran SIX events against my better judgement. That will NOT happen again under my watch. Moreover, an increasing number of GMs who have borne the burden for far too long are stepping down or cutting back. So much so, that the real question again this year is not whether there should be more events, but if we will be able to service the number we already have. It’s a recurring problem that grows worse every year as the number of events increase. You want more events—find more GMs willing to run them. No one gets paid to run our events. They happen because someone cares enough to sacrifice time and effort. We are an organization of volunteers…when that commodity is in short supply, don’t expect more events.
- THE TRIAL/NEW GAME COROLLARY: Part of the annual Trial Vote commentary is the lament of those who feel they must use their ten allowed votes to bring back old favorites and as a consequence can’t vote for new games. Ignoring the whole question of how many events is too many since that particular issue does not seem to concern those for whom ten votes is insufficient, let’s look closer.
Every event that was successfully run in the preceding year but did not make the Century cut was placed on the ballot as was every other proposal for which a GM commitment was received. If your new event was not on the ballot, it was because neither you nor anyone else wanted it enough to step forward to GM it despite our numerous requests to do so. In all, there were a total of five new events that had never graced WBC on this year’s ballot. Even if you voted for all of them, that still left you with five chances to support the return of a golden oldie. Not enough for some folks? Maybe not, but then some don’t like auctions or tournaments either and would have us eliminate those features in favor of more Open Gaming. To each their own. This country has many game conventions. Pick the one that suits you best and enjoy yourself.
Note that another 30 games received write-in votes. No game has ever qualified by write-in during our 17-year history. Certainly there are those who would prefer a convention that had nothing but new games. They wouldn’t be wrong—they just want a different niche than the one we occupy. Lesson to be learned: unless you are willing to run the event yourself and submit an event form in time to get it on the ballot, don’t waste your vote on a write-in.
Secondly, the lion’s share of new events are introduced by vendors/sponsors as part of their inherent membership privileges. Again, the operative requirement is the willingness to participate in the process. The membership can want Game X but if no one is willing to run it, obviously they don’t want the event enough to make it happen.
Third, concern about events being repeatedly cut despite having numbers far in excess of what’s available in the way of tournaments for that game elsewhere is understandable, but ignores the self-correcting aspect of the Century formula and Trial vote process that guards against too much of one type of game overwhelming the others out of pure numbers. I would ask why it is that this convention draws tournament fields that are so much larger than are available elsewhere for those games? Could it be that the restrictive policies of ensuring focus and quality are working?
Those who argue that the formula needs to be tweaked to ensure all events with X number of participants are continued would be disappointed to learn that the correction I favor would be an increase in the penalty for using multiple heats—thus reducing those artificially high player fields. File that under “Being careful what you wish for.”
To elaborate, no one is more aware of the advantages that offering multiple heats provides in increasing play opportunities and enlarging fields. After all, I am the one that originated the concept as it applies to Avaloncon/WBC. But the fact remains that it constitutes a huge advantage in the headcount category of comparative event strength over Continuous play events by offering multiple entry points. I maintain that a 16-player field in a Continuous play event is a stronger field (and more deserving) than a resource-hogging 60-player field that uses four starting points. So pure headcount derived in this fashion is a misleading indicator of worthiness. This is especially true of events which use multiple heats as a form of scheduled open gaming with many entrants who have no inclination to continue in the event past the opening round. There is nothing wrong with that practice, but don’t expect me to give it as much credo as someone willing to stick it out to the end of a tournament. After all, it IS called the World Boardgaming CHAMPIONSHIPS—not the World Boardgaming Convenience.
I am reminded of one GM in particular who thinks I am the devil incarnate because I require any 4th heat to be held at 9 AM. It seems his players prefer to sleep in—as if they are any more deserving of special consideration than those of the other 164 events. Why should some other event be forced to move or not have its own room because you demand to have a 10 PM start four times? If retirement did not beckon, the change I would recommend is to eliminate all fourth heats altogether. For far too long the answer to making the Century cut has been to add more heats. And I am not alone in this sentiment. At least one of the applicants for my job espouses a maximum of TWO heats per event. That approach has the twin benefit of using resources more efficiently and providing the two formats with more of an even playing field, but would certainly cut down on the scheduled Open Gaming opportunities and high No Show rate of the present system. Doubtless, such a change would be controversial…and given the diversity of opinions among the membership, we get quite enough controversy as it is. I am all for creating convenience when I can, but don’t then cite those increased playing fields as rationale for why such events are more deserving than others using a single start.
- MORE EVENTS REQUIRE MORE SPACE—The oft repeated denial of this statement is correct only if you are a fan of cattle cars! The notion that the same number of people on hand take up no more space whether they are playing in one event or two is valid only if they are playing in the same room with the same table types, the same GM/instructor, using the same space per game, with the same number of chairs per table, the same playing time, etc. In reality, different events vary in all these particulars. They need their own staging area for sign-in and relatively quiet table assignments and house rules, the ideal type of tables, space, number of chairs and AV aides. Even when playing in the same room, different playing times and formats will create inconvenient gaps when one event ends and another begins. Space is indeed a resource and more events use more of it.
Now, if you were claiming that more events brought in more players you might have a point. However, I’ve seen no evidence to prove that and my experience with emphasizing quantity over quality is quite the opposite.
That said, our new venue and prolonged length does provide more space and a far better playing environment and should not be a deterrent to increasing the number of events—but I just had to get that misnomer off my chest.
- SCHEDULE CONFLICTS: The only thing criticized more frequently than the number of events is the schedule. Why does X always conflict with Y where X and Y are “my” two favorite games? Wishful thinking about genre tracks and cooperative schedules aside, the fact of the matter is that the more events you have, the more conflicts there will be. It is simple math. The problem is exacerbated by the GM shortage. In order to get more GMs, we usually guarantee them the freedom to choose their own schedule. Could we lessen conflicts by scheduling events as we pleased? Yes, but then we’d have less GMs—and correspondingly less events with which to conflict. Hmmm…maybe not such a bad idea after all—but the point is—you lessen one problem only by making another one worse.
- RESOURCE ALLOCATION: The average commenter is only concerned with juggling his game choices against the limitations imposed by the schedule. A CD gets real life experience at resource management on a far greater scale that includes, but is not limited to, space assignment, table types, formats, GM restrictions, affordability, amenities, staff time, and venue limitations of seemingly endless variety.
There are all sorts of resource costs beyond mere space and tables. Putting aside such mundane costs as salaries, insurance, advertising and site expenditures, let’s restrict the discussion to the cost of adding more events and assume that, for the sake of argument, there is no issue with finding more GMs or reduced focus (attendance & schedule conflicts) for other events. Why could adding more events cause a problem? Let’s count the ways:
For each event you add, someone (me at the moment, unfortunately) gets to:
- Create and update another event Kiosk, then strip it down and store it for another year
- Create another plaque with original art, order it, pick it up, transport it, inventory it, and distribute it
- Coordinate with another GM to counsel/approve format, event preview, and distribution of GM shirt and further manipulate a schedule and signage already full of special requests.
- Create & coordinate no less than 13 different media variations of a larger schedule
- Create and format another website preview page while trying to ensure that convention rules and guidelines are followed
- Create, edit and format another website After Action Report page—assuming a report has been received in less than four requests
- Totally rewrite an After Action report for use in Yearbook print media
- Add to the ballot and explain why the event hasn’t become our 312th event despite having X number of players
OK, that last one is a bit sarcastic…but you get my drift. Adding events has a cost—both monetary and in terms of non-renewable resources (time). The point of diminishing returns applies. Adding events without a corresponding increase in resources is bad for the bottom line. Composing and updating alone of over 350 web pages annually is extremely time consuming. I am not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that I often spend more than double the hours supporting an event than the combined playing hours of every player that actually participated in that event.
Whatever you think of the extra “bells & whistles” lavished on our events, I hope you will ask yourself why it is that WBC tournaments tend to draw so many more players than is the case elsewhere for the same games. What came first—the chicken or the egg? I suspect the TLC lavished on events (including those annoying rule enforcements) which is not duplicated elsewhere has something to do with it—and should not be ignored as a Resource cost. There is a reason no other con lavishes as much attention on its tournaments. It is very time intensive. And speaking as that tired little hamster spinning the wheel that makes all this go—every additional event is another straw added to this camel’s back. That resource is finite.
There are only so many hours in the day. Just as a shortage of GM resources is a problem—so too is the lack of administrator resources. Stretch any of these resources too far, and the end product suffers.
Less IS more.