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WBC 2010 - Five Days of Glory at DonCon
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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It's been a crazy summer between work, family, and home renovations, so the WBCs kinda snuck up on me this year. I gave the week a total of about fifteen minutes' thought before grabbing the plastic tubs, tossing in a few dozen games, and hitting the road with Dutch Raspler. We headed down Monday morning, with no real plan beyond entering a couple tourneys, demoing Dutch and Morgan's post-apocalyptic RPG project, and gaming as much as humanly possible over the coming days.
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1. Board Game: Gettysburg [Average Rating:7.29 Overall Rank:1919]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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Dutch and I rolled into Lancaster mid-afternoon on Monday, and hooked up with Steve ‘GorGor’ Pleva and Timbo Wildersen for a trip out to Gettysburg. With the aid of J. David Petruzzi’s very handy Complete Gettysburg Guide (recommended by Dave Powell), we focused on the Round Top/Devil’s Den/Wheatfield end of the battlefield, with extended stops at The Angle and Culp’s Hill on the way home. It was a great side trip but four hours is just a taste of what the battlefield park has to offer. Highly recommended if you have the time to spare should you one day make your way to DonCon.



An appropriately-attired GorGor directs the defense of Little Round Top


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2. Board Game: Auction [Average Rating:4.83 Unranked]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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Last May we discovered the skeletal remains of a gamer we thought had moved to Baltimore, underneath a pile of old Glenn Drover games. Since then I've been trying to thin the inventory a bit. At this year's WBC Auction I cut loose a couple spare copies of ASL modules, Blood Reef: Tarawa – ASL Historical Module 5 and A Bridge Too Far: ASL Historical Module 6. I wisely steered clear of the auction while it was in progress - I knew I'd do enough damage in the dealer room later in the week.

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3. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:1522]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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I spent the better part of Tuesday playtesting Multi-Man Publishing's It Never Snows in September (INSiS), a sprawling monster covering Operation Market-Garden. INSiS uses Dean Essig's Standard Combat System (SCS), a very straightforward move-fight-exploit system seen before in games like Afrika and Bastogne: Screaming Eagles under Siege.

SCS scales quite well, and I was very impressed with how smoothly the game played, despite its size. This was the first time the playtest kit has hit the table, and we made it through four turns (a couple days of the campaign) in about ten hours of play, including set up, air drops, and ample bullshitting. We had four players - I commanded XXX Corps and 101AB, while Gary Phillips handled 1AB and 82AB. Brian 'Ultimate Evil' Youse managed the Germans up in Gary's sector, while Ken Dunn took the south.

By the time we called it a night, the Red Devils grabbed the Arnhem rail bridge in hand but were stopped short of the road bridge and looked unlikely to take it. 82AB was fighting through the streets of Nijmegen even as their drop zones were being overrun on the Groesbeek Heights. The Screaming Eagles were enjoying mixed success - they grabbed most of their bridges but saw the critical span at Son blow up in their face. They were handling the German pressure on their flanks without much trouble but 107 Panzer Division, perhaps the best formation in the game, was just beginning to make itself felt. Finally, the lumbering might of XXX Corps was flowing north through the arteries and capillaries of the Dutch road net. Simple but effective road movement rules constrain the capacity of any given stretch of highway, so half my battle was just managing the traffic - frustrating as a commander, but satisfying from a game perspective.

I had a blast with this - there are still some issues to be ironed out but the game played well from the get-go and doesn't need a lot of work. It was a great way to kick off the week's gaming.



The Arnhem railroad bridge in hand, the road bridge out of reach




Gah! The Son bridge is blown




XXX Corps moves out




This is not a good thing for 82AB




107 Panzer arrives - they put the Hell in Hell's Highway
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4. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:1522]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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While we were banging away in Holland, several other games were being playtested or demo'd around us, including Rick Young's FAB: Sicily from GMT, as well as John Poniske's (of King Philip's War fame) Lincoln's War, a remake of Storm over Arnhem, and Nathan Kilgore's VCS Salerno, all from MMP. There was also a little ASL playtesting going on as Chas Argent dropped by for a day to run a couple scenarios through their paces.



Rick (right) walks John Vasilakos through FAB Sicily




John (left) shows off Lincoln's War




Gary defends Arnhem Bridge from the ever-phlegmatic Brian's SS




The Allies hit the beach at Salerno




Perry Cocke tries to hold off Chas's American armor in the bocage


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5. Board Game: Atlantic Storm [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:2201]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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I always try to get in a couple heats of the Atlantic Euchre tournament every year. I took a break from It Never Snows Tuesday night for the first heat and had a pretty mediocre showing, finishing back in the pack. I held the Atlantic Storm card on the final convoy and had the opportunity to play it on either of the two way-out-front front runners, but I figured they were very close on points and didn't want to be an arbitrary kingmaker. Instead, I played the storm on myself and sure enough, the leaders were indeed tied going into that final hand. Michael Shea edged Stephen Squibb for the win. Good table, including Bill Edwards and couple other familiar faces.




Would it kill you to pick a 1940 convoy? I mean, c'mon.

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6. Board Game: Combat Commander: Europe [Average Rating:7.93 Overall Rank:51]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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In the absence of an ASL event I had to get my tactical combat fix elsewhere, so Wednesday morning I turned to Combat Commander. Joel Tamburo rolled out a Swiss format this year, promising a full day of gaming regardless of performance. I had a half a dozen games under my belt so I was comfortable with the rules but I still felt like a newcomer.


I had a remarkable run of success early on, defeating Kaarin Engleman when her American paratroopers failed to pack Move cards, and then taking down Charles Eastman when he met a pair of Ambush cards at a critical point in the game. Mike Gentile and I had a fun match as his numberless Romanian hordes tried to overrun my peaceful Soviet village, but his troops' crap morale failed them as they melted off the board edge under a barrage of Rout cards. Finally, Bryan Collars patiently walked me through the (new to me) Pacific module rules, only to find my fighter plane in the right place at the right time to break several of his key defenders in our jungle fight. I was soundly outplayed in this particular game, but air support saved my bacon and Bryan's brittle Japanese just didn't have the oomph to regain the advantage once I edged ahead.



Kaarin considers scrawling 'Move' on one of her Command Confusion cards



At 4-0 I found myself paired with Jeff Spaner in the semifinals. We played a tiny scenario, Red Skies at Night, with my Germans hunting down Jeff's Soviet paratroopers. Our surrender limits were set at four, and I quickly had Jeff up to three losses and at the edge of defeat. However, he counterattacked and soon had the upper hand in VPs. My only chance was to kill one last unit to force a Surrender, and just managed to eke out the win. A fun game but I think we both would have preferred something more substantial.


Early Thursday I sat down with Mike Johnson for the final. We used the scenario generator to create our forces - I was extremely skeptical going in but it proved to be a lot of fun and, I think, pretty balanced. Mike found himself with a Militia detachment, while I bought a full SS company. The disparity in forces gave Mike a ton of purchasing power, which he used to buy satchel-charged-equipped Assault squads and a double buttload of fortifications. I had the firepower, but he had time and terrain on his side.


I stumbled early but was making good progress by the midgame, steadily chewing up Mike's troops and inching my way closer to his surrender level. However, he was working the decks like a master, flipping eight to twelve cards with every Fire order, relentlessly mining for Time events. Sure enough, we had three Time cards over the course of three or four turns, and suddenly I was feeling the heat. I was still two kills short of forcing a Surrender when I dove into a close combat with the threat of Sudden Death hanging over my head. Mike already had the Initiative, so when he pulled a Time card off the top of his own deck to resolve the melee, it was a fitting ending - he won the close combat and ended the game decisively. It was a good, satisfying game made all the more fun by the asymmetry of forces. Thanks Mike for a great final, and thank you Joel and Bryan for a fun event.

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7. Board Game: Can't Stop [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:477]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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Ah, Can't Stop - I couldn't even get started. Despite opening up the six, seven and eight columns in my first two rolls of the Wednesday night event, I flamed out on my third roll. Ted Drozd, my nemesis from last year's World at War: Eisenbach Gap final, walked away the easy winner.



Ted looks on as Billy succumbs to temptation

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8. Board Game: Space Alert [Average Rating:7.60 Overall Rank:74]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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I made the mistake of making eye contact with ManMountain Dan Dolan a little after midnight Wednesday night, and found myself roped into a game of Space Alert with George Young, Jim Doughan, and Greg Schmittgens. This is an action planning game reminiscent of RoboRally but with the insane atmosphere of a space ship under alien assault. We had a blast with this despite having little or no idea what we were doing. Needless to say, the alien attack craft shot us to pieces in short order, but it was a hoot.



Everyone to the reactor room!
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9. Board Game: Alhambra [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:306]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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On Thursday Timbo was fishing around for some light Euros to try in a tournament setting, so GorGor and I turned him on to Alhambra. Tim was playing catch-up most of the game, not surprising since it was his first time. Steve and I duked it out for the lead in purple, and once he locked it up it proved decisive. I like this game three-handed, where the randomness is tolerable, better the chaos of the five-seater tournament heats.




What do you mean I can't use blue money to buy the blue building?




Very good




Needs work




See me after class

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10. Board Game: Rush n' Crush [Average Rating:6.44 Overall Rank:1959]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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Scott Muldoon fired up Rush n' Crush to wide acclaim at one of our Chelsea game nights, so I grabbed a copy and brought it along to Lancaster. Gary, Timbo, Paul Haseler, Campoverdi Greenfield and I gave it a spin Thursday night and apparently got about a dozen rules wrong. We immediately discarded the notion of team play, opting for every man for himself instead. Australian Paul exploited his genetic post-apocalyptic advantage, hammering us into scrap one by one until only Timbo lay in his sights. Sadly for Paul, he failed to navigate the third turn and kissed the wall in a fireball of destruction. Timbo drove on for the win.



Gary chuckles uneasily as Paul rolls up for a friendly sideswipe
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11. Board Game: Atlantic Storm [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:2201]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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Another heat of Atlantic Euchre with Matt Evinger taking a hard-fought win in a very close game, in which I was a complete non-factor. I did manage to sink Tirpitz with my X-Craft, so I slunk way with a shred of my self-esteem intact.




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12. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:1522]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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Long-time buddy and DonCon team mate Phil Barcafer was wondering how the already-awesome game of Elk Fest could be improved, and it didn't take long to find the answer - add violence! The result is MeepleFeast, with polar bears taking the place of elk, ice floes substituting for rocks, and hapless meeples scattered across the floes to be consumed in an orgy of sawdust-drenched slaughter. Each player has two meeples of their own color, and there is a fifth, neutral meeple. To win, a player must eat his two target meeples and then and only then the neutral meeple - it's sort of like eight ball but with one ton man-killing beasts instead of pool cues. I edged our fellow team mate Matt Fagan for a win in my match, and am sold. Phil just had a couple copies made up but I think he could actually sell a few of these.




Matt lines up a shot




Meeplelicious!




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13. Board Game: Galaxy Trucker [Average Rating:7.51 Overall Rank:85]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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Late Thursday I once again felt the steel jaws of the Dolan leg-hold trap snap shut. This time we fired up Galaxy Mothertrucker, with GorGor and Pete Reese. Pete was a complete newcomer to the game. Dan tossed in the expansion, which proved a pleasant surprise. I find a lot of expansions are unfortunately too much of a good thing, but this one offered interesting new gameplay and shook things up without weighing the game down. We all got pretty chewed up at some point, with only Steve surviving all three runs. Poor Pete found his ship cut in half twice, with several large asteroids coming right down the 7 pipe. GorGor won, with me a distant second, Pete somehow in third, and Dan trying to pay off his loan in fourth. This game is very popular with our group but I can see why it drives some folks nuts. My love is undiminished and I'll be ordering the expansion soon.




Embrace the insanity




Double-plus ungood

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14. Board Game: Worm Up! [Average Rating:5.92 Overall Rank:3270]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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For a nightcap, Dan treated us to Worm Up!, the game of competitive worm racing. Players bid for movement factors in a process akin to Nobody but Us Chickens, as they worm their way forward to be the first across the finish line. Steve and I started out slowly, while Dan found himself locked in a battle for the lead with young Max. Max deftly outwitted the field with his bidding and flipped the finish line around at a key moment, allowing him to crawl home with a win. Good silly fun.




The ManMountain, outmatched and loving it

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15. Board Game: Nexus Ops [Average Rating:7.29 Overall Rank:221]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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After a costly pass through the dealer room Friday morning, I sat down to Nexus Ops with Timbo, Jim Doughan, and Jim's son Jack. This was a first time playing for all three but they quickly warmed to the game. We had a three-way fight for first with Jim, Jack and myself all within a card or two of victory, but Jack pulled off a power move and emerged the winner. This continues to be a reliable choice for a fast-playing but rewarding multiplayer.


Father and son at each other's throats

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16. Board Game: Alhambra [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:306]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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I jumped into an Alhambra heat around midday Friday - as mentioned earlier, these were five-seated games which changes the character of the game. Planning yields to hand management - if you have a flexible collection of coins you're in good shape to seize opportunities as they arise. This was a solid table, without much margin for error. I made an ill-advised overpayment in the midgame that put me off my cycle and I was playing catch-up the rest of the way. Chris Rericha pulled off a win but I think it was anyone's game going into the stretch.




Chris (in the hat) struggles to maintain consciousness as Jim plots his move


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J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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I picked up this Martin Wallace design on the strong recommendation of a friend and sat down with it Friday afternoon along with Shelley and Al Rose, and Campoverdi. It didn't seem that interesting when reading the rules but once we got rolling we had a blast. This is a well-themed monster mash, as players represent mad scientists unleashing their minions on the each other and Earth's great cities. Players select from a limited number of actions to build or heal their monsters, direct human defenders, attack, or move. Exhausted actions can still be accessed via an interesting 'pass' mechanic. As an added twist, each player has a couple cities with which he has a secret affinity, so while bashing the other players and the rest of earth, players try to protect their own turf without being too obvious about it. We had a blast, going the distance in a very close game in about a couple hours. I hope this sees a new print run, as it deserves a wider audience.




Al prepares to lay waste to Delhi




The Brazilian Army rallies to the defense of Rio




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18. Board Game: Kawaguchi's Gamble: Edson's Ridge [Average Rating:7.44 Unranked]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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A couple years ago I playtested an early version of Ken Dunn's Kawaguchi's Gamble: Edson's Ridge, and was interested in seeing how the game has evolved since then. Ken and I sat down for a playtest of the current version Friday evening. I initially intended to just play a turn or two to get a sense of how Ken tweaked the mechanics, but we ended up playing a full game - we just got into it and the turns clicked by at a pretty good pace.

As the Japanese, I drove hard up the left flank for Henderson Field, avoiding the core of Marine firepower atop Edson's Ridge. A succession of Banzai attacks carried me to the brink of success, but a lone Marine engineer platoon held off the better part of a battalion, just long enough for reinforcements to fill in the line behind them. To stop this threat, Ken severely weakened the ridge defenses, so I still had a shot at a win if I could sweep all the on-map objectives. However, with my best infantry lying dead at the edge of the airfield, my remaining second-liners and heavy-weapon teams just weren't enough to do the job. I took the hilltop after a bitter struggle but the Raiders held onto the lee side, rewarding Ken with a two point USMC victory.

I really like the way the game flows now - combat is much smoother, the machine gun units have a sensible, historically-relevant role, and the game really moves along. I will post a full session report soon but suffice to say I'm very happy with the state of the game.




Edson prepares to defend his eponymous ridge




Tamura probes for a weak spot




The Japanese overrun the hilltop



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J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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Sadly we had no copy of PitchCar in hand so we reached for Moongha for our Friday night/Saturday morning wrap up game. Phil, Matt, Ken, and I started things off but we were joined at one time or another by Al, Dutch, and David Doktor. The simple formula of Doktor + Destruction = Victory is pretty reliable, so when he joined Phil's council of advisors the writing was on the wall. They literally stomped us into rubble - I'm still missing a filling. I had to head home Saturday morning so this was a great way to end a week of gaming.



Late night Moongha - 'Sidney' under assault



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20. Board Game: Jupiter [Average Rating:6.08 Unranked]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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Al brought his 800mm telescope down for the week, hoping to do some stargazing. Unfortunately, the typical DonCon overcast interfered with the plan, but early Saturday morning the skies cleared and Al set up his 'scope in the Lancaster Host parking lot. We took a break during Moongha Invaders to check out the moons of Jupiter - it was a spectacular sight, with startling clarity. An unexpected delight in the midst of the main event.
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21. Board Game: Cornucopia [Average Rating:5.97 Overall Rank:4777]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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What a blast - my five days of the WBCs flew by. I got a lot of games in but I saw many more I wish I'd had the time to join. This remains a top notch event - I know GenCon and Origins have their partisans, and justifiably so, but my heart will always be with DonCon. I haven't missed one yet, going all the way back to Camp Hill, and I expect my streak to continue - good gaming and great friends, year after year.

Following are a few more shots of gamers I observed and harassed:
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22. Board Game: Founding Fathers [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:688]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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Founding Fathers got a lot of love, perhaps the most popular new title of the week:


Perry, Greg, Jesse and Bruce try FF
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23. Board Game: Successors (third edition) [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:540]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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Good pal Dr. Rob ran Successors as usual, backstabbing his way to victory in the best tradition of the Diadochi:


An early heat of Successors
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24. Board Game: Arkham Horror [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:134] [Average Rating:7.43 Unranked]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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Dutch, Shelley (ubarose), Al, and a few others like to get as much as possible of Arkham Horror and its expansions out on the table every year:


The annual Arkham Horror game with all the fixin's
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25. Board Game: Pursuit of Glory [Average Rating:7.99 Overall Rank:977]
J. R. Tracy
United States
New York
New York
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Open gaming saw some surprisingly meaty games; here we see a crew giving PuOG a try:


Uli and Herr Fuchs work out their Balkan issues as Forrest looks on
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