Games that are a lot more popular at the World Boardgaming Championships
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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My family has been attending the World Boardgaming Championships in early August in Lancaster PA for several years now, and we now look forward the event eagerly. The following GeekList describes this year's visit from the Brosius family perspective, and you can follow the links in it to access the GeekLists from previous years:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/45262


Some of the games played at WBC are ones almost any BoardGameGeek regular would recognize, like Race for the Galaxy or Carcassonne. Others are little noticed and rarely played in the broader community, at least based on the records available at BGG, but they draw enthusiastic followings at WBC.

This GeekList contains the games that are most popular at WBC in relation to their popularity on BGG. Most of these games benefit from an enthusiastic GM who takes what might be a ho-hum game when viewed in dry abstraction and makes it an event.

To create the list, I defined a "WBC Popularity Metric" (WPM) as follows:

WPM = WBC entries / BGG plays

The WBC records show how many people entered the tournament for a given game each year. I summed these numbers over all the years a tournament has been run at WBC to get the "WBC entries" value. I then took the "Total plays" number from the game's BGG page to serve as the denominator.

In my analysis I used only the games that were on the 2009 WBC "Century" list (games that were not trials.) I was able to sum WBC entries only through 2008, since the 2009 entry counts are not yet available. For the entire set of games under consideration, WBC entries = 54,501 and BGG plays = 985,445 resulting in a gross WPM of 6%. It's not surprising that the ratio is so low, because there are far more people on BGG than at WBC, and even the BGG members who do attend WBC don't play all their games at WBC. Furthermore, a player can play a game more than once at a single WBC, and this is counted only once in the "WBC entries" statistic, further depressing the WPM.

The most popular games on BGG have infinitesimal WPM scores. For Agricola the value of "WBC entries" is 48 (the game only debuted in 2008 at WBC) while "BGG plays" is 52,219, giving a WPM score of 0.1%

Of course, the "WBC entries" number potentially contains games played all the way back to 1991, when WBC began (in its former incarnation as "AvalonCon") while most people have been recording games played on BGG for a much shorter time. This gives an WPM boost to WBC old favorites, but considering the title of this GeekList I think it's reasonable to allow such a longevity bump.

Despite these considerations, there are a number of games for which the WPM score is well over 100%. These are the games that, without much dispute, we can say are a lot more popular at WBC.
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1. Board Game: Pro Golf [Average Rating:5.40 Overall Rank:9637]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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First year at WBC: 1994

WBC players = 884

BGG plays = 74

WPM = 1195%

Pro Golf is a die-rolling sports game from the old Avalon Hill lineup. There's not much skill in the first place, but there's even less when you're in a field of 60 players, trying to finish in the top 4, or when you're playing a "Skins Game" for the trophy. The only decisions come every few holes when you're asked "lay up short or go for the green?"

As it was explained to me the first year I played, you always say "GO FOR THE GREEN!" when you are asked this question. May the luckiest player win!

Why is this such a popular game at WBC? I have to explain about the "late night" games at WBC. From 9am to 11pm every day, serious games are played, but at 11pm on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, lighter games are played to close out the daily activities. The players assemble at the Hopewell Room and randomly draw golfer cards from a big cardboard box (the GM, Bruce Monnin, removes all the Tiger Woods cards before we draw.) This year I drew Phil Mickelson, whom even I recognize is a strong golfer, especially with Tiger out of the mix.

Players then scatter in teams of 6 or so to tables all around the gaming area and start rolling dice. You're not competing just against your table-mates; you're competing with the entire field to make the final foursome. You exult and groan together with your table-mates as one of you sinks a long putt and another puts a shot into the water.

After each table finishes, you head back to Hopewell to record your scores on the master list. You then wait (if you're not too tired) for all the tables to finish. This year one player finished at -8, one at -7 and I finished at -5. There were several players at -4, so they had a sudden death playoff for the final slot.

At this point Bruce brings out the giant green foam dice (about 12 inches on a side) and the four finalists play a Skins Game to determine the winner. The few spectators who are still awake at 1 in the morning cheer the players on as they roll the big dice.

It's not much of a game, but it is an event. And this year, in 2009, I took first place in the tournament. (Don't tell anyone I said so, but it's still a game of complete luck.)
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2. Board Game: A World at War [Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:1884]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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First year at WBC: 1992

WBC players = 344

BGG plays = 50

WPM = 688%

You couldn't find a bigger contrast than between Pro Golf and A World at War, but they're 1 and 2 on this list. A World at War is a monster wargame that depicts all of World War II at a relatively detailed level.

The A World at War players (about two dozen every year) arrive at WBC and begin playing Tuesday evening at 6pm when WBC begins. They continue playing the same game day after day, for 14 hours a day, all the way through Saturday evening, at which point a champion is crowned. I'm not sure what the process of determining the champion involves, but it seems to involve a consensus vote on the part of the GMs, with input from the players, as to who did the best job.

If you really love a big, complicated game, there's no place better than WBC to find like-minded people who are eager to sit down and spend 60 hours playing with you.
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3. Board Game: Gangsters [Average Rating:6.23 Overall Rank:3461]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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First year at WBC: 1992

WBC players: 847

BGG plays: 144

WPM: 588%

For many years, the Avalon Hill Game Company published wargames with a number of family games included in the mix. One of these family games was Gangsters, a multi-player game that casts the players as leaders of rival gangs and pits them against each other in a struggle to "take over" a city.

The credit for this tournament's success goes to John Pack, the GM. John took over this rather humdrum tournament quite a few years ago and added a heavy dose of theater. He deserves the "above and beyond the call of duty" award for the effort he puts in. John distributes customized name tags to each player with mob-style nicknames like "Viper", "Numbers" or "Sticky Fingers". He awards prizes to players who suffer outrageous swings of fate. He compiles voluminous stats, creating an aura of permanence and history that goes a long way to drawing people back to the game year after year.

Despite its light-ish feel, Gangsters is plainly a game of skill. In addition, the use of a sand timer to create time pressure adds drama. But if you've ever played this game at home, you'd find it a completely different game if you played it at WBC under John's fabulous GMing.

I own a copy of Gangsters that I've never played, and I want to give it a shot just to see what it's all about simply based on John's publicity effort.
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4. Board Game: March Madness [Average Rating:6.25 Overall Rank:5367]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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First year at WBC: 1992

WBC players = 671

BGG plays = 124

WPM = 541%

March Madness is the second sports game in this list. It has a lot more skill than Pro Golf, as you can see by the fact that Bruce Reiff and Terry Coleman have each won the tournament four times (Terry most recently in 2009.) It doesn't get much play on BGG, but it draws a diverse crowd at WBC, including both Euro gamers and wargamers---not a bad achievement for a sports game. The Boardgame Players Association, which runs WBC, also holds a PBEM tournament for March Madness every year.
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5. Board Game: Football Strategy [Average Rating:6.35 Overall Rank:2950]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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First year at WBC: 1991

WBC players = 534

BGG plays = 113

WPM = 473%

Given the Avalon Hill-based roots of WBC, it's not surprising to see Football Strategy on this list. Football Strategy is an early Avalon Hill title, released in 1959, and the employees of Avalon Hill ran a Football Strategy league for many years that included people like Don Greenwood (WBC Director) and Alan Moon.

Bruce Reiff is the acknowledged master of Football Strategy, having won the tournament eight times in the past fifteen years. Now Bruce's daughter Nicole is playing in the tournament, and I wouldn't rule out the possibility that she might win it one of these years. It seems like a simple game, with the offensive and defensive players simultaneously choosing plays that are then cross-referenced against a results grid to determine the outcome. It's a classic "Princess Bride" situation, where you "know" your opponent won't choose that play, but then what if he knows you know that, so he does choose it, and so forth.

The 2009 tournament featured Bruce playing against Don Greenwood, who came out of retirement to give Bruce a challenge, but Bruce edged him by a 20-17 score. Bruce didn't win his ninth title, though, as Bert Schoose took his first "wood" this year.
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6. Board Game: Anzio [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:2105]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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First year at WBC: 1991

WBC players = 289

BGG plays = 72

WPM = 401%

I remember playing Anzio way back when it was brand-new. My friend David bought a copy and we were amazed by the fact that the counters were not blue and pink (like the ones in most Avalon Hill wargames,) but instead tried for the most part to match the uniform colors of the soldiers. The game also featured a step reduction system and a brand-new Combat Results Table. It was innovative for its time, but for the most part it has disappeared from popular view, as evidenced by the fact that only 72 plays have been recorded on BGG.

There is one man, however, for whom Anzio has been a way of life. Tom Oleson comes to WBC every year and plays Anzio in preference to any other game. Tom has developed and maintained rules clarifications, arranged for the publication of a new map that eliminates terrain ambiguities, championed new scenarios, and served in every way as an advocate for the game.

Each year's WBC includes a "Grognardcon" mini-convention within a convention that allows devotees of the older Avalon Hill titles to meet on an unscheduled, as-available basis to compete in a basket of these titles. Anzio is the first game on this list, but there are others further down. WBC, with Tom's help, has been one of the primary factors in keeping this game alive and spreading the word to others.
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7. Board Game: High-Bid [Average Rating:5.74 Overall Rank:6682]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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First year at WBC: 1993

WBC players = 502

BGG plays = 129

WPM = 389%

"Auction", also known by its earlier name of "High Bid" when 3M published it, has almost disappeared from the boardgaming scene except in Columbus OH, where it gets regular play at CABS (Columbus Area Boardgaming Society), a huge boardgaming club that meets several times a month.

The CABS members are active at WBC, and they serve as the backbone of the tournament. That's not to say that others don't play too. Once you have a core group of enthusiasts, others seem to be drawn in to join them. I've played in this tournament only once, and I've played it one other time (in Columbus.) It's not my favorite game, but if you want to play several games of High-Bid with interested players, attend WBC or visit the CABS in Columbus.
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8. Board Game: Battle of the Bulge [Average Rating:6.39 Overall Rank:2859]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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First year at WBC: 1991

WBC players = 272

BGG plays = 71

WPM = 383%

Battle of the Bulge is the second "Grognardcon" game on this list. I am actually more familiar with an even earlier version, the 1965 edition of The Battle of the Bulge, but Battle of the Bulge is the version that is played at WBC.

This year's tournament was won by Phil Evans. It's his third championship in Battle of the Bulge, but it's his first since 1997. WBC has been running for 19 years, and there's a sense of history in the longer-running tournaments.
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9. Board Game: Slapshot [Average Rating:6.33 Overall Rank:2054]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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First year at WBC: 1993

WBC players = 1853

BGG plays = 504

WPM = 368%

Slapshot is the second late night game on this list. It's actually twice as popular as Pro Golf at WBC, but it's (deservedly) seven times as popular on BGG, so the WPM, a relative measure, is lower.

The Slapshot tournament, which begins at 11pm on Saturday night, is truly an event. People arrive in hockey jerseys and in groups with the letters "R-A-N-G-E-R-S-!" painted on their bare chests. (Dave Dockter is always the "!" because he's too thin for a real letter...)

The tournament now draws more than 150 people each year, and it starts off with the ceremonial Reading of the Rules. The following page contains a link to a video demonstrating the extremely cerebral nature of this game:

http://www.boardgamers.org/wbc/publicity.htm#press

My wife runs the Ticket to Ride tournament (WPM = 2%) with a round at 9am on Sunday morning, and she always has to recruit a few hotel employees to help her clear beer bottles from the ballroom before she gets started.

Slapshot is a classic example of a game that's a lot more popular at WBC. You can play it with your group at home, and it's an enjoyable, light game, but it's just not the same as at WBC!

It's great that WBC attracts 220 players for Ticket to Ride or 50 for Agricola, but in my opinion, the fact that there are 175 screaming people, some with painted chests, for Slapshot is far more impressive.
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10. Board Game: Waterloo [Average Rating:5.71 Overall Rank:6910]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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First year at WBC: 1991

WBC players = 302

BGG plays = 87

WPM = 347%

The third Grognardcon game on the list is Waterloo, one of the "pink and blue" games in the Avalon Hill series. The colors aren't so jarring in a Napoleonic setting, because the French really did wear bright blue uniforms, and the British red uniforms may have become pink after hard use.

It's not a big tournament, but hardly anyone is still playing this game on BGG, so the WPM is high. Rob Beyma has won this tournament every two or three years since 1991, for a total of 6 victories, but in 2009 it was Richard Beyma who won, for the first time. At least they kept it in the family!
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11. Board Game: Circus Maximus [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:1163]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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First year at WBC: 1991

WBC players = 1346

BGG plays = 489

WPM = 275%

Circus Maximus isn't exactly an unpopular game on BGG, but it's a real experience at WBC. The GM, John Jacoby, has run the tournament for 10 years, and he won GM of the Year back in 2002. John creates hand-crafted Circus Maximus sets, and each year's final is played on a giant race track with detailed miniatures. John placed Hershey's kisses at each end of the oval, and the player whose driver rounds each corner first gets to eat the kiss (a simple but effective incentive!)

At WBC, there are nine drivers in each game, more than most people have available in their local game, and in a game in which you can ram other drivers and take them out of the race, this just adds to the fun.

This is another game that draws both Euro gamers and wargamers. In a hobby that is all too prone to divide itself into groups, I'm all for this trend!
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12. Board Game: Enemy in Sight [Average Rating:6.25 Overall Rank:2463]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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First year at WBC: 1991

WBC players = 730

BGG plays = 267

WPM = 273%

Enemy in Sight is a light card game with a battle theme, like several other games at WBC. It certainly has a strong luck component, but there are important timing decisions to make. You'll see the usual wide array of players, from grizzled veterans to kids and teens, if you attend a heat of this tournament.
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13. Board Game: 1776 [Average Rating:6.39 Overall Rank:2056]
David Dockter
United States
Minnesota
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1993

WBC players = 194

BGG plays = 199

WPM= 97%

...but that should sky rocket up once 2009 attendance factored in One of the reasons why WBC is the best con in the business; it has a tournament for a 35 year old wargame.
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