This year marked our 2nd trip to Western Pennsylvania for the annual convention known as WBC. You might be asking what the heck does WBC stand for? Well, it stands for the World Boardgaming Championships (WBC) put on by the BPA. What pray tell is the BPA? It’s the Boardgame Player’s Association (BPA) which is a not-for-profit that aims to help board game players play board games, compete in tournaments and hosts the World Boardgaming Championships. They also have a player ranking system for some games. It’s crazy sounding I know but it is really a thing. We first became aware of the convention about 4 years ago when round about the last week of July or so we would see all these awesome pictures on social media of huge monster wargames being played. We did some research, and without really having much of a plan at all or knowing what to expect, committed to attending last year for 2 1/2 days arriving on Thursday night and leaving early Sunday morning. We really enjoyed our time last year so much that we decided to return this year and stay for a full day more. It really is a special convention and while it is fairly large with 2-3,000 people attending over the week and a half, it feels really comfortable, intimate and not overbearing at all.
In this post, I simply want to share my 10 favorite things about the WBC. This list will be heavily weighted to things that happened this year as that trip is freshest in my mind, but we generally experienced the same level of enjoyment both times and are definitely already planning for 2020!
10. The Seven Springs Mountain Resort
I didn’t really think about the natural beauty of the mountains in Pennsylvania but there is some real natural wonder there. They built this Bavarian style resort in the middle of the rolling mountains and even though there isn’t any snow or skiing in late July the views are really spectacular. The facility is a bit dated but really has a lot of room for all types of activities from open gaming in a huge hall to events spread throughout dozens of rooms. The restaurants are decent as well, although they all use the same kitchen and as such generally serve the same fair but it’s not too shabby and the buffet at the Slopeside Restaurant is really pretty good as they have great salad, soups, breads and generally tasty meats and it’s all you can eat. We didn’t go hungry for sure!
Full disclosure here though. We have not stayed at The Seven Springs Mountain Resort mainly due to cost. It is super convenient and would be really great to be able to stay right on the campus as it would make our lives much easier but we have chosen a few different places to stay on our two trips. This year, our sweet spot was very cheap located in Donegal about $95.00 per night, but was about 5 miles from the resort. It was a decent enough space to stay but the noise from interstate 76 was not as soothing as I had hoped it would be and the in-room hot tub stayed dry as neither of us had any interest in trying it out together or separately.
9. Open Gaming
Where to start with this one. There is a HUGE room where there are about 500 tables set up to allow for gamers to sit down and simply play games. They have a large games library with well over 500 titles there as well and they also have these really cool little table tents that you can set up at the end of your table asking for people to join in the fun. This lends itself to simply seeing a game that you are interested in playing and sitting down. People are very interested in having you join and are generally really cool about the play experience. As wargamers, there are lots of multi-player wargames going on and we saw games of Cuba Libre, Gandhi, Fire in the Lake, Triumph & Tragedy, Combat Commander, ASL and Space Empires to name just a few. We also saw lots of 2-player wargames being played as well including Brazen Chariots from MMP, Enemy Action Ardennes and Bitter Woods from Compass Games, Old School Tactical from Flying Pig Games, Washington’s War from GMT Games and 1776 from Avalon Hill.
There also are areas where designers are demoing their upcoming games as well including The Barrack’s Emperors and Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea from GMT Games, The Greatest Day: Utah and Omaha Beach from MMP, World at War ’85: Storming the Gap and Lock ‘n Load Tactical: Point Blank from Lock ‘n Load Publishing. Such a great part of the event and I love that you can just sit down and play. We played several games while we were waiting for people or demos and really have a good time in open gaming.
Funny story that shows my big mouth and illustrates the purpose and utility of the open gaming area. On Friday, we were trying to gather up 6 players to try an upcoming game from Hollandspiele designed by Tom Russell called Westphalia. The game is a 6 player only, not 5 players, not 4 players, but 6 players, and we were missing one. So I stood up in the middle of the open gaming area and screamed that we were looking for one player for a new game and lo and behold someone came over and we were finally able to assemble the requisite number of players to play. It was quite a game and was focused on negotiation and trading as players try to control the European continent at the end of the Thirty and Sixty Year’s Wars.
8. Access to Designers
If you have ever had a desire to meet one of your favorite wargame designers then WBC is the place for you. Designers are simply everywhere and you will be very surprised to know that they are all supper accessible and more than willing to sit down and talk to you about their games, wargaming in general, history or anything really. In our 2 years going, we have met and talked with the following designers:
Gregory M. Smith
Mark Holt Walker
Every single one of them was willing to sit down and talk with us. And every single one of them was willing to play their games with us. It might be because we have a Blog and YouTube Channel that reaches many fantastic wargamers like you but I think it is just that they are all really down to earth wargamers who like to play and discuss wargames. I promise you that you will be able to see some of the best and they will talk to you.
7. Meeting the Ranks of the TPA Army
I love it when someone calls out our names and comes up to meet us. It is really great to get to meet many of our friends and followers (I hate that term!) when we go to these conventions. Last year, we had about 5 people who recognized us at WBC but man this year the flood gates opened and we had about 15 or so who came up and talked to us. We always give out buttons and stickers and also try to take pictures with them and post them on our social media accounts.
Here are just a few of the people that we met at WBC 2019:
We were even able to play a few games with some of these guys. Great to meet all of you and we hope to meet more in the future.
6. Spending Time with my Friend and Partner Alexander
I won’t get too mushy or show my feelings here as it would embarrass Alexander as he is British. But, I love to spend time with my brother in law, blog partner and friend. You would be surprised to know (or maybe you do realize this) but we see each other at least 2 times per week and play games together at least 4-10 hours per week, sometimes more. That is a lot of time to spend together and we have grown pretty close over the past 8 years or so since I first trounced him in Axis & Allies in 2011.
We talk about the blog and games all of the time and a 6 hour car ride goes pretty quickly when we get on a roll. I have often thought maybe we should just set the camera up and record as we drive out.
5. Hanging with other Content Creators
Two years ago we went to our first WBC on a whim. Luckily for us, we met up with Maurice Fitzgerald of Moe’s Game Table fame and he acted as our defacto host for those first two days taking us around the facility, introducing us to people we needed to meet and generally being a really cool guy. I don’t know if he was kind to us because we looked lost, are fellow content creators or he is just that nice of a guy but it was fantastic and frankly we missed Moe this year. We also met Nate Rogers (aka The Gimpy Gamer) last year and his lovely wife and really had a great time as we were involved in a 3 hour discussion with some heavy hitters in the industry such as David Heath with Lock ‘n Load Publishing, Mark Herman, Uwe Eickert with Academy Games and others.
Then we come to this year where we met Dan Pancaldi with No Enemies Here. What a cool guy! I am really glad that we were able to hang with him for a few days and have a great time playing games (Fire in the Lake: The Fall of Saigon with Mark Herman, King of Tokyo, Dominion: Intrigue and Tranquility Base) and doing interviews and videos. I cannot wait to see him again next year and we are going to come up with something to pit ourselves against each other different than arm wrestling!
4. Our Talks and Gaming with Mark Herman
In case you didn’t know it, both Alexander and I are huge fan boys of Mark Herman. We love his games and started our admiration with Empire of the Sun. Since we have played many of his games and absolutely love Fire in the Lake, Churchill, Versailles 1919, France ’44, SPQR, Washington’s War and Fort Sumter to name just a few.
Last year we got to play Versailles 1919 with him and Maurice Fitzgerald and we followed that up this year by playing Fire in the Lake: Fall of Saigon. I hate to say it but I stand 2-0 against Mark Herman. Let me repeat that 2-0. I won Versailles 1919 last year (I really feel like Mark helped me to win) and this year defeated him and Dan Pancaldi with the mighty NVA as I crushed Saigon with my spearhead of tanks! It was an awesome experience to say the least.
The Fall of Saigon is still in playtesting and hasn’t even been deployed on the GMT Games P500 yet but we were told it would be in August. I am really looking forward to this one as we simply love Fire in the Lake and this is more FitL!
I also love to sit and talk with Mark. He is a true joy to listen to and frankly I don’t know that I really can add much to our conversations but he is a master story teller and a really interesting chap. I can’t wait to see him again next year and play whatever he has cooking!
3. Big Wargames
If you like big wargames then WBC is your place! There are huge games all over the place and people set them up and play all week…literally. We got to check out The Greatest Day: Utah and Omaha Beach from Multi-Man Publishing and also saw many others including A World at War, Holland ’44, and Unconditional Surrender from GMT Games.
2. The Brotherhood
This one is a little bit less tangible but is just as real of a benefit as the others I have discussed here. There is something to be said for being locked into a building with 3,000 gamers who all love gaming! They are there to play, discuss, buy, sell, compete at, enjoy and examine wargames. There are people who come to this event every single year and plan the entire week out with monster wargames. Where else in the world can you do that? Well, there are a few other places but WBC is a brotherhood. I feel a true kinship with the people that we have met there and played with. I feel true friendship for people that I have had amazing conversations with like Mark Herman, Greg Smith, Mark Holt Walker, David Heath and others. I feel the kinship and the closeness and it is wargames that have brought us together. That and a healthy respect and interest in military history and those who have served our country to make our freedoms possible.
One great story. A few years ago, Alexander played and did a review video for the solitaire game Ranger from Omega Games. The game allows players to take a squad of Rangers through a few missions focused on the planning, execution and adaptation of a field mission. This video struck a chord with one of our followers named John who was a Ranger. He came to WBC this year and brought with him a gift for Alexander. His actual Ranger field manual that was wrapped lovingly in an empty MRE bag. He presented that gift with great pride to Alexander because he had felt a connection. And that brings me to my final point.
1. Quality Connections
Wargaming is a hobby like no other. We are crusty older people who sit in the dark for hours upon end pushing around cardboard counters to replicate or do better than the historical result from many a by gone battle. This hobby is about connections. I talked to people who have played with the same person in their basement for decades. I have heard from some who look forward to WBC each year for the B-17 Queen of the Skies events because they have flown with the same bomber group for nearly 20 years. What does that tell you about our hobby? Connections. We do this because of the connections that we make. The friendships. The relationships.
Heck, I look forward to the next 30 years playing games with Alexander and I don’t ever see getting tired of it. Because why? Because each week I get to do something I love with someone for fun. That’s it. FUN! This hobby is fun and if you aren’t having fun with your hobby, it might be time to come over to the dusty and musty stacks of counters with someone who might be your soul brother!
We absolutely love WBC and have already begun planning our trip in 2020.
Thank you for sticking with me through my musings. I hope that you can see that I really enjoy WBC and look forward to multiple trips in the future. I hope to see you at WBC 2020!
Here is a look at our debriefing video from this year and our video from 2018.
I had a great time and reminiscing like this is sweet. Love you Grant and kiss the Englishman for me will ya, eh!
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Great post, Grant. You further my belief that this gathering is absolutely an item on my bucket list.
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I haven’t been to the WBC in many years since we moved down South and it moved to the current location. I used to go to the original Avaloncon’s and then, after Avalon Hill was sold, to the early WBC’s in the Lancaster, PA area. One person I miss seeing is Don Greenwood. You didn’t mention him and I haven’t been in touch with him for several years. I hope he is well and still involved in the BPA and WBC.
Grant, you must be the only person in the world to have a winning record against Mark Herman! I hear he plays a mean game of… well, of any single game he plays 🙂
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I think he took it easy on me! It was said more tongue in cheek.
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Hey, what are the names of the wargames you pictured in reasons #3 (especially that first pic)?
World at War 85: Storming the Gap and The Greatest Day: Utah and Omaha Beach
I’m catching up on my blog reading and just saw this one.
One of these days, I will get out east (WBC, Origins, Gencon or something) and see you guys, get a game in, maybe a drink or whatever and just chat.
It’s one of my goals!
I’m glad you had such a great time.
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