2012 BPA Survey Results—Communications
Jan. 12, 2013

40% of you trace your introduction to WBC from the Avaloncon convention, which remains the single largest source of WBC attendance and explains the continuing popularity of many of the old Avalon Hill games at our convention. The next largest “recruiting tool” is a friend’s recommendation at 35%. Together, they account for 75% of the total attendance. The remainder came to us from Boardgamegeek (8%), Consimworld (6%), game clubs (4%), game conventions (3%), our website (2%), and all others sources (2%).Having been introduced to WBC, 39% of you rely on our website as your primary source of WBC information. 32% cite the BPA free monthly email newsletters as their primary source of WBC news. 12% rely on Consimworld, 10% Boardgamegeek, and 4% Facebook for their updates with all other sources claiming 3%. Given the amount of effort put into updating our website, we were interested in your use of its principle features. You responded as follows:
What You’d Like to See... What You Want Not to Change How I See It...

Better Website 2: Ditch html and modernize. / Change your website—it is convoluted and impossible to navigate.

Event Reports 1: I enjoy the post-convention event coverage that lets me sample what I missed and convinced me to attend the first time.

Guilty. No one ever accused me of being at the cutting edge of technology but what do you expect from a boardgame addict? As for being convoluted, I’ve been on a lot of fancier websites that are far more confusing to me than ours. I suspect its all a matter of what you are used to—and the fact of the matter is that we have a LOT of information on the site. The problem for most people is that they are only interested in a small fraction of that information and get frustrated when they have to look for it—especially when all they want is a pre-reg form which we don’t post till the convention approaches. Many don’t realize that a BPA membership and WBC admission are for the most part one and the same.

Bar-Code Badges 2: I believe enrollment/signup for the larger events (100+) could be better managed through technology.

 

No doubt that day is coming and there has been noise (but no action) at the Board level on this topic. But sometimes a pencil is a better tool than a computer. For the vast majority of events such a device is akin to hanging a picture with a sledge hammer and given the difficulty I have in wringing event reports out of the last reporting GMs, I hesitate to assume universal technology knowledge from every GM, let alone equipping 150 of such.

Lighten Up 2: You’d get more GM’s if they weren’t treated so dictatorially by the leadership. The early deadline for the “color commentary” for the yearbook that won’t be produced for 8 months, followed by threats, hectoring, and penalizing event participants by reducing their event level—all for the convenience of the paid staff—is just one example. On a related note, the governance process is really broken, and the deliberate holding of the members’ meeting to supposedly solicit feedback at a grossly inconvenient time for many attendees is a farce. Try holding it at 2pm Saturday and see what might happen. The method of selecting Century Events is flawed, too, in that it unduly rewards “hot” new multiplayer events over traditional events that are mostly two-player and so attract a lower absolute number of participants. Perhaps a formula could be created to equalize this and make everything that is currently based on raw numbers somewhat more equal and keep all of the older, traditional games from being swamped by Euros and multiplayer games. There are a lot of minor but cumulative irritants that make each year less enjoyable; e.g., the ban on selling/trading your own games (you WILL participate in our Auction, pay for it, and like it!); the allowing of commercial vendors to dominate the Auction, making thousands of dollars of purchases and outbidding the average member who just wants a copy of a favorite game from a fellow hobbyist, not at retail+; the table nazis in Open Gaming (you WILL finish your game in one sitting or we’ll confiscate it), the badge nazis (you WILL wear your badge at all times, even two in the morning, or you WILL go to your room and get it), and similar examples of disregard for the folks who pay the freight. It’s not as much about the rules themselves in many cases, as the authoritarian way they are promulgated and enforced. In other cases, it’s very much about the rules themselves and the totally non-transparent way they are created and imposed, without appeal. / Overall, just way too intimidating to someone new who does not want to go all in. It looks like an organization that was designed by wargamers. Not a slam, I’m a wargamer, but very rules heavy, especially if someone just wanted to come play games for a weekend. You have your reasons and your way and I don’t agree with your reasons or like the way you do things. I’ve given the convention a fair chance for three years with a continued level of disappointment. I have answered these questions as honestly and fairly as I can, but I don’t expect that I will ever attend again nor that you will ever change the management of the event in a manner I feel is conducive to having me return. There are many people who like what you have to offer and the way you offer it. I’m not one of them.

Management 4: Love the Board members being approachable at all times. They are real gamers I’m apt to game with at the con! / I like the structure and rules vs. the free form play of other gaming conventions. / The Board. I like that I can vote for Board members who then set the policy of the convention.

Wow. I must be one evil dude! I hope that made him feel better because it sure didn’t do much for my self esteem. He does get the prize for the longest response and I just couldn’t bring myself to break it up into its component parts nor to respond with a “he said/she said” argument on each point raised as I suspect his mind is made up—although I believe I address most of his points elsewhere on this page if brought up by others. I tend to cynicism too. Suffice to say that I’ve always maintained WBC isn’t for everyone, and this gentleman just proved my point.

As for the lack of transparency, I am unaware of any convention of size that provides even a small fraction of the feedback and attendee concerns and response—let alone an actually elected management—that this one does. This exchange is an excellent example of why. Although I suspect more than a little exaggeration is involved here. Badge checks at 2 AM? C’mon! We have no one on duty past midnight so that’s a little hard to believe. As for the Sunday 8 AM member’s meeting to solicit feedback being at an inappropriate time: 1. what other convention has any such meeting?; 2. there are actually two such meetings if you count the Annual meeting held on Tuesday at 3 PM—too grossly inconvenient?; Our members have overwhelmingly demonstrated that they are less interested in meetings than actual gaming. That’s why we had to steal time from the Auction in order to draw enough members for a quorum for the Annual Meeting! However, I am more than happy to schedule such a meeting at 2 PM Saturday as the gentleman suggests if he can muster promises from enought others to attend it. I just can’t guarantee anyone else will be there because the Board will be gaming or running events. Ultimately, my only other response is that I am tasked to enforce the rules enacted by a duly elected Board of his fellow gamers—a governing body on which this individual thus far has chosen not to seek election to argue for his viewpoints.

WBC is unique in many ways, but the most obvious is that it is not owned by any one individual, but by its entire membership. Sort of like the Green Bay Packers in the NFL except that you actually get to vote your shares. You elect a Board from among your fellow members who set my compensation and if 5 of those members decide I’m a bum, out I go. No golden parachute. Zip. Nadda. Every time I get a comment like yours I question my sanity for disenfranchising myself from my own work when I created WBC by setting my hobby before myself. Be that as it may, my days as CD are numbered. For better or worse, someone else will assume that role in the not too distant future. I am confident that better days lie ahead for the BPA and the pursuit of perfection will continue even though it will probably not arrive under my watch. I am content in having overcome the initial financial and credibility gap to get the ball rolling in that direction with a convention owned and operated by the attendees for the attendees with an emphasis on friendly competition. Any thing more than that is just a bonus.

More Transparency 1: Better visibility to the Board of Directors activities.  

The above exchange is a perfect example of why the Board’s inhouse debates don’t belong on the internet. Some folks enjoy arguments. I’m not one of them. If exposed to that kind of constant public flogging and second guessing, my willingness to serve would be nil—and I wouldn’t be alone. Even those who are the most generous with their time tire of the bickering. We generate enough heat between the nine of us—we don’t need a thousand more opinions from the peanut gallery.

Web Based Matching 2: I’d like to see a website/signup added to help facilitate open gaming matches, kind of like they do in the run-up to Consimworld each year. For instance, a person could identify three open games that he would like to find opponents for. This gets posted, and as more people sign up for particular games, you see the people you can contact to schedule matches.    Yea, that sounds like a good idea. That’s why we’ve been doing it for years and annually refer to it in our free newsletters as the convention approaches. Alas, it doesn’t get much use. A better idea might be to eliminate the middle man altogether and post such requests on our folders at BGG or CSW. That way you could theoretically post such requests in the morning and find a taker in the afternoon.
Yearbooks 3: I’m guessing from the questions concerning the yearbooks, you’re saying that there will be an extra cost for them in the future. If so, I hope that buying a yearbook will be optional and not an automatic added cost to BPA registration. / As someone who lives outside the US, it would be nice if the printed yearbook could be sent to me before the convention. I would be happy to pay extra for this (something up to $5 or $10, say). Status Quo: 1

We’ve long since realized that the Yearbook appeals to a minority of the membership, but that group has always been heavily represented on the Board. Obviously it appeals mostly to people who are into the competitive aspects of WBC and not those who spend all their time Open Gaming. The cost of such a publication in the current style requires production in quantity. Thus far, purchase of a Yearbook has been optional with the majority given away as an enticement for early membership. However, there is no such thing as a free lunch and ultimately that cost is passed on to the membership as a whole in the form of increased expenses leading eventually to increased fees or the earlier arrival of same.

Thus, the survey was an attempt to gauge membership interest. Of the 735 replies to this question, 28% indicated that they read neither the on-line or printed version, 28% read the web version, 21% read the printed book, and 23% read both. So, one could make the case that the book appeals at least somewhat to 72% of the membership as long as it is free.

However, when asked what they would pay to support the continued production of the printed book, 44% chose 0, 14% chose $2, 14% chose $4, 12% chose $6, 2% chose $8, and 13% chose $10. Since the books cost nearly $7 each to produce and mail that leaves only 15% willing to pay what they cost. And that is the good news since that figure does not include the considerable labor costs in editing, layout and mailing which all comes out of the overhead cost of doing business and which is passed on to every member on some form whether they read the yearbook or not.

So, is it worth it? Like everything else, it depends on your point of view.

Quicker Information 3: I would like to see a post of the convention times, events and results sooner. / Setting a goal of having WBC results posted—at least the final table results—within a month after WBC would be great. It’s nice to see who won (which does get posted on a shorter timeline), but waiting ~6 months to see full results of events you played is a little anti-climactic. Year-to-year cumulative statistics on titles, Laurels & history 4: Wish you would partner with west coast cons to keep laurel counts.

A convoy can only move at the speed of its slowest vessel. But give me a break—the time differential is under four months, not six—and even then I get grief that I am harassing GMs for the information too soon—as if after three months they are finally going to get their writing inspiration. Posting partial information only adds to the workload/time required to post full results later—which then lose their audience because they’ve become old news with already seen partial results. It takes time to update 150+ pages. Lots of time—especially when you have to wait for input. Yeah, it would be nice, but try as I might, I ain’t ESPN.

More BPA Email Tournaments 2  

We have no limit on Email tournamemts. Our only requirements are a minimum number of member entrants and that the event be one that is contested at WBC. Much like WBC itself, the limiting factor is the number of GMs willing and able to run the events. BPA does not run tournaments—we provide a forum and minimum standards for those seeking to attract entrants under our umbrella. The rest is up to you.

Program 1: Where the program lists the game schedules, I would like it to include the start times for all of the rounds, not just the first, in continuous play formats.  

There are two problems with that. Aside from increasing the number of entries to the point where the thing resembles a phone book, there is no way to predict exactly how many rounds most continuous play events will have since it is often dependent on the number of entrants. Therefore, the added entries would be as much misinformation as information. That also applies to the start times of subsequent rounds even when you know the number of rounds. Although we try to predict when subsequent rounds will occur, we don’t exactly have the accuracy of a Rolex. Not all GMs adhere to the schedule to the degree we would like. They may or may not give meal breaks, or be unwilling to adjudicate slow games (although they are supposed to). Consequently, the safest policy is to let the GM of continuous play events announce the start of their next round rather than confuse people by printing a schedule that the GM may not keep.

Embrace online registration 1: including accepting credit cards and/or PayPal payments.  

We’ve been accepting Paypal for online registration for several years. We do not accept credit cards, nor are we likely to before I take my exit. I’d rather keep costs low than pass on the cost of credit card fees to you in the form of higher membership rates.

More Event Details 1: It would be helpful to know when special rules are listed on the website, compared to the program. While the program is never far from my side for the week, it would be nice to know when additional information is available elsewhere. As an example, I learned from experience that the Command & Colors scenarios were posted ahead of time. This allows me to practice. Does that give me an unfair advantage? By the same token, I know what sets to bring.  

We think so too. That’s why we’ve been offering Event Preview pages on our website, one for each WBC event—ever since we started. Its a helluva lot of extra work but something we believe a conference purporting to be the World Boardgaming Championships should do. We refer to them frequently in our free monthly newsletter but we can’t force players to read them. A bigger concern is the occasional GM who doesn’t update his event preview in accordance with his plans/our requirements and then springs a format, scenario or house rule change on his players without advanced warning. Such is forbidden—especially for playing GMs as it raises questions of fairness—but sadly not every GM actually reads and follows our GM Guidelines as they promised to do when accepting the event. Such failures are chastised when known and banned from additional GM duties unless they declare their willingness to do better the next time. So, yes, the problem exists occasionally, but we work to prevent it and can be successful in that in the long run only when such problems are brought to our attention with specific details. Commenting generally that a problem exists without naming the perpetrator of said problem does not get the situation addressed.

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