Remember that George Clooney flick where he took the ultimate dunking due to a series of rare events? This year's WBC was my perfect storm. It all started when I transposed a pair of digits while ordering this year's supply of 528 plaques. It seemed innocent enough. The end result was that I bought two extra plaques for one event while shorting another event two woods. Simple enough. After inventorying and repacking all that wood I'd simply have to make a return trip to acquire two more plaques. Time was short and the To Do list was long but I'd manage it. Not a biggee as problems go.
The first storm clouds were sighted as we packed the truck the night before departing. My planned registration room help was feeling poorly and had to skip the training session on the new software (don't even get me started on the software). OK…we'll brief her on the fly later. And so began my ten-day tour of duty in the Registration Room. Monday turned to midweek and the patient remained hors de combat and I remained without a dice throw to my name. C'est la vie. As inconvenient as that was to my team and personal dreams of boardgame glory, it also kept me from scurrying around the hotel as much as usual to check on room setups. As it so happened, my Showroom honcho was also absent—unable to get time off from his new job—so when Host used the wrong tables for my setup, my usual watchdog for such things was absent and the flawed seating in the Showroom went unchallenged. Compounding this problem was a truck breakdown for Geek Chic which prevented their arrival with their custom made gaming tables also destined for use in the Showroom—and the Open Gaming playing area was further reduced.
Now all this was unfortunate but not disastrous. At least, not yet. On Wednesday, power was lost momentarily in the Host and soon thereafter the air conditioning was lost in Lampeter. Despite emergency attempts to fix the problem which met with only brief success, air flow to Lampeter was never fully restored. The necessary repairs required parts and—even if they had been readily available—vacating the system for what was essentially a two-day repair job. Moving out of Lampeter was not an option, due to the scheduled Pro Wrestling match to take place in the only available alternate space on the property. Consequently, the temperature and humidity in Lampeter grew increasingly worse.
At this point mother nature decided to finish us off and dumped tons of water in a local thunderstorm that centered over the Host and caused flooding in the area. Host sprung some leaks. By now I was looking over my shoulder for the inevitable plague of locusts. They didn't appear (yet)…. but more and more guests did and as conditions in Lampeter worsened, gamers moved into the Showroom looking for relief from the heat. Like the Titanic as more and more watertight compartments flooded, more and more gamers moved into the Showroom—and found the table space wanting. This ship didn't have enough lifeboats! Or so it seemed.
Unlike George Clooney, I somehow survived it all only to return home to find that plague of locusts in the form of hundreds of messages condemning the Host as half the world was now seemingly looking for an alternate site. If only it were that simple. While waiting for a meeting to discuss all this with the Host GM, I set about my usual post-WBC tasks which included contacting dozens of people about left-behind plaques. Among them were those two plaques I made the extra trip to procure two weeks before! The winners replied "recycle them"…they didn't want them. And that about sums up my week.
Despite my tale of woe I am heartened by the response of countless attendees who reported having another great time. Whether they managed to avoid Lampeter altogether or were just trying to make me feel better I'll never know, but I appreciate the sentiments nonetheless. And on a personal level, although I once again failed to deliver for my "We Ain't Dead Yet" teammates, I did receive the great honor of honorary membership in the Greenville Mafia—the greatest bunch of guys and gals you could ever hope to game with. Thanks much for a valued "Feel Good" moment when I really needed one.
Despite all this "Act of God" stuff raining on our parade in addition to the all-too-usual economic storm clouds, WBC again posted a 2% increase in attendance. In all, nearly every state plus 17 nations sent participants in 2012. The record crowd was reflected in tournament participation with a matching 2% increase and no less than 22 events drawing triple-digit participation. This despite the toll taken by the faulty air conditioning which dropped Lampeter event participation by 11%. Those who braved the horrific conditions there to continue in those events were truly dedicated. The average attendance for the 150 events rose 1.0 to 56 players per event, buoyed by 220 players for Liar's Dice, 211 for Lost Cities, 207 for Slapshot and 203 for Ticket to Ride. This year's champions are now listed on line at http://www.boardgamers.org/wbc12/champs.htm. A more complete listing of the top six places, updated laurel totals, and an After Action report for every event as only WBC does it will appear in November.
Twelve WBC champions successfully defended their titles this year, but Bruce Beard was not among them. Bruce lost his title as the longest continuous reigning master at WBC by having his seven-year winning streak in 18XX ended by Spencer Hamblen. Spencer took just one day and a single qualifying preliminary heat to win the Pre-Con, arriving and departing on the Sunday before WBC began. Also missing his chance at longest streak immortality was next-in-line Jason Levine whose four-year reign with Formula De also came to an end. But Jason would find comfort in other ways, so shed no tears for him. Instead, top laurelist James Pei returned to King of the Hill status with his fourth straight For the People title and 11th in 12 years! Not even the return of mighty Finn Riku Riekkinen (the holder of the lone blemish on Pei's 12-year record) to WBC with four of his countrymen could prevent the ex-Caesar from reclaiming the longevity title. Alas, Riku was too busy winning Twilight Struggle for the anticipated rematch to occur.
Elsewhere, the fair sex lost market share again this year with just five ladies claiming titles in 2012—down from six in 2011 and eight in 2010. Donna Balkan (RBN), Stephanie Kilroy (RDG), Mary Ellen Powers (LLM), Carolyn Strock (TAM) and Sarah Vasilakos (FMR) lorded it over the guys in their respective events. Multiple winners were scarce with only eight finding the winner's circle more than once compared to 20 in 2011. The aforementioned grieving Jason Levine led them with a homer (LWL, POF, SJN, WPS) while defending Caesar Randy Buehler (SPB, AGE, T&T) and Nicholas Henning (AUT, MMA, P1S) both tripled for the second straight year. At the other end of the title spectrum, 42 players won their first WBC championship (down from 46 in 2011 but still a major increase over the 31 in 2010) and 88 earned their first laurels.
So what do we do in the wake of an elements-challenged WBC? Well, many gave thanks for what was still their best gaming of the year and looked forward to next year. So, how can I do any less with so many friends to reconnect with? I mean if Gareth Williams can come all the way from Morocco and pull up his sleeves to help with the breakdown on Sunday, how can I stand around feeling sorry for myself? Maybe next year I'll be able to pick up a breakfast tab before that sneak Yoshikawa grabs it. And what would I do without being heckled by Bruno all week long? And, of course, there's always Bruce to root against. Only 11 months to go.
I've since consulted the General Manager of the Host about this year's problems. They've vowed to do better and so have I. Contingency plans have been extended and agreed to in an effort to ensure that this year's problems don't resurface. Among the improvements for 2013 will be a return to the poolside pavilion for overflow Open Gaming and efforts to improve the lighting and air conditioning in this year's troublespots. To guard against a reoccurrence of another "Act of God" emergency, the 23,540 sq ft Expo Center will be held in reserve for our use should the need arise.
For our part, attendees will have to do a better job of obeying the rules. Like all hotels, our contract with the Host prohibits the use of outside food and drink on the premises. What you consume in your guest room is your business, but setting up an Open Bar in the public meeting spaces will no longer be tolerated. Such action endangers the Host liquor license and enforcement will be a point of emphasis going forward. Similarly, the practice of reserving rooms on speculation resulting in early sellouts will be countered starting in 2014 by requiring a mandatory forfeiture fee for cancellations in an attempt to better serve those wishing to stay at the Host.
Looking further ahead, we will be conducting our due diligence in selecting the next site for WBC once our current contract expires in 2015. Such searches are a lengthy process and contracts are signed years in advance to secure preferred dates. To that end, we will be conducting an online survey of our attendees to gauge both your desires and pain threshold insofar as what it will cost to fulfill those desires. This survey will question not only where you want to go but even the format WBC should take in the future. Movement to a more expensive facility may well require considerable change in how WBC is run. Given the rarity with which we conduct such surveys and the importance it will take in forming the decision for the next WBC site, I encourage EVERYONE to take a few moments to take part once this survey goes live. Those who don't will abdicate their right to complain about the resulting decisions.
Closer to home, I once again remind everyone that WBC is all about volunteers. You only get out of WBC what you put into it. For most of you that may be only a few minutes, but give us that few minutes. If you saw an act of sportsmanship or a good (or bad) GM experience tell us about it. Nothing gets rewarded or corrected if we don't hear about it. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to take part in our Awards process and/or GM feedback program with your impressions.
Similarly, if you want to see an event added to WBC 2013, know that it will only occur if someone volunteers to run it and is willing to do so according to our rules. So, if you want to be a part of the solution instead of a part of the problem and are willing to serve instead of being served, read our GM Guidelines and then submit an Event Form before December. That will get your event on the ballot and we will put it to the membership in our Annual Membership Drive.
Said Membership Drive begins Dec. 1 and lasts one month. Those joining the BPA at that time enjoy our lowest prices, get to vote for our 25 New or Continuing Trial events for 2013 and get free stuff like our spiffy new souvenir t-shirts, hats and full color Yearbook. But that ends and prices increase at the end of the year. So, take a moment to subscribe to our free monthly email newsletter to be kept appraised on the when and how of it all.
Thanks for your patience during this year's AC issues and I look forward to seeing you again in 2013 when I will aspire to a different movie title for my post-con newsletter.
WBC Convention Director
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