Monday, August 11, 2008

WBC report: First impressions

Well, first off, I didn't win any trophies -- not that I expected I would.

I really hoped to get a chance to play some stuff that I've been wanting to play and haven't gotten to for various reasons. In that quest the WBC was an enormous success. I got to play Acquire, Napoleon's Triumph, Memoir '44, Battle Line, Nuclear War, For Honor & Glory and Axis & Allies: War at Sea. I only managed to eke out a victory in one game of Battle Line and the game of For Honor & Glory.

I was close to a second victory in Battle Line but my winning claim was thwarted by two consecutive Tactics Cards (they were using the rule that you could only claim at the beginning of your turn, giving the opponent a chance to affect the outcome with a Tactics card.)

Napoleon's Triumph as a learning game and I see today on re-reading the rules that we played at least one key rule wrong, so that loss can be chalked up to experience. A lack of experience also pretty much doomed my chances in both Memoir '44 and Acquire, but in both cases I learned a lot from the defeats and feel my play will improve.

The Axis & Allies battle was pretty close but I can definitely attribute my defeat to poor unit selection. Note to self: Never buy PT Boats!

The Nuclear War tournament was surprisingly frustrating. The game is, by nature, a real crap shoot anyway, but I definitely got more than my share of crappy card draws and other bad fortune. I played four rounds and in the first three I was either the first or second player eliminated. In the first round my initial population draw (seven cards in a 5 player game) netted me less than 20 million people! Needless to say it didn't take long for that to go away. The third game was the worst one, as I didn't even get to play a turn. I got hit with one of those 25 million people Top Secret cards and I had exactly 25 million and was out before I got to even play a card! The tournament was saved from being a totally sour experience by the fourth game where I managed to be battling for the win and fell victim to a propaganda card during a brief interlude of peace.

The con, as always, was well organized. By this time Greenwood's got a workable system in place and many of the attendees have been there enough times that everyone pretty much knows what to do. The same veteran faces were there. Damn! We're all getting old.

There's definitely a changing of the guard under way, though. The euro-style games are becoming ever more prominent and wargames less so, although there are still quite a few wargames in evidence.

The wargaming crowd has pretty much moved en masse to the card-driven style games first made popular by We The People, although some of the most popular games of that genre are not even wargames -- Twilight Struggle and Making of the President 1960!

The other real growth area among players was Borg's Commands & Colors system, which saw well-attended competition of all four of his games (C&C: Ancients, Battle Cry, Memoir '44 and BattleLore).

It still made me feel good to see some old standbys still going pretty strong and when I got there Friday the final rounds of such stalwarts as Waterloo, Afrika Korps, PanzerBlitz and Battle of the Bulge '81 were wrapping up.

There really wasn't a lot of buzz about new games as far as I could see, although there were a few new ones out. I think it's fair to say that the Hot New Game of the convention was the one that was barely there. There was a demo copy of Agricola in the Open Gaming tent that got constant play and I spotted a couple of other copies that folks had managed to get, although at least one of those was the Germ edition. Z-Man games was there and I overheard them being asked about the status of the game -- completely sold out -- with a new shipment expected later this summer. All their copies were sent out in preorders and they had none left to sell at the WBC.

It does look like an interesting game, in the euro way. As to whether it will live up to the hype and be the new Tigris and Euphrates, Puerto Rico or Ra I can't say. On the other hand, all those games' events were well populated, along with the Ticket to Ride and the other titles.

The rise of the Euro has also affected the demographics of the attendees substantially. While there are plenty of us classic old wargamer types still wandering about -- bellies and beards included -- the WBC now also features notable numbers of younger and female players as well. While it's nice, of course, to see more women gamers, the most hopeful sign of the WBC for me was the large number of younger players. Many are, no doubt, attending because of gamer Dad, but overheard snippets of conversation in the cafe, bar, corridors and game rooms showed that at least some of the attendees are members of gaming groups that are sprouting up around the country. At least some are probably getting organized using the Meetup Internet services.

Overall, it was a good time. My goal next year is to win a little more, though.

1 comment:

  1. Hopefully some of the younger folk there will be intrigued by the wargaming going on, and try it out.