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WBC 2011 - From Italy and Back
Kaarin Engelmann
Germany
Stuttgart-Plieningen
BW
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I'm not Italian, but my husband's work has taken us to Vicenza, Italy, for a couple of years. Despite the distance and the cost of plane tickets, I still make sure to fly back for WBC each summer. It is one of the highlights of my year to see old friends, make new ones, and play games that I don't otherwise have the opportunity to partake of. This year I was a bit more relaxed and didn't rush around from game to game (as I did last year). Instead, I spent extra time visiting with friends (and occasionally sleeping off jet lag). It was a great time.

Disclaimer: I am the WBC Asst. Convention Director and on the Boardgame Players Association board of directors.
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1. Board Game: Airlines [Average Rating:4.57 Overall Rank:10773]
Kaarin Engelmann
Germany
Stuttgart-Plieningen
BW
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I was supposed to arrive back in America on Wednesday evening before WBC so that I could have a day to sleep off jetlag and pack for the convention, including finding the boxes of games and other paraphernalia that I bring to the convention each year (e.g., badgeholder, dice necklaces for my Chicks With Dice team, gaming-related t-shirts, bags of dice for games such as Liar's Dice and Can't Stop, refrigerator, etc.). Instead, I missed my flight by carefully remembering everything EXCEPT my passport. (Our friend raced with it to the airport--paying a $250 taxi charge--only to get there 5 minutes too late...sigh.)

Thus, I arrived on Thursday evening, in time to get up on Friday morning, frantically search and pack, visit with the parents-in-law, pick up my friend's son who was flying in from Alabama, get lost in the cornfields of Pennsylvania, and arrive at the Continental very late (as I decided too late that I wanted to arrive on Friday for a Saturday battlefield tour and hordes of little dancers and their families had invaded the Host, filling up all of the available rooms).

Meh....not really my ideal hotel room, but it served its purpose. The Wojtaszczyk family had very kindly allowed us to unload boxes of games into their room at the Host so that Nephew Jacob didn't have to cart it all across the street in the morning to transfer rooms while I was on my tour. The only problem with that plan was that I had packed my clothing into those boxes in order to save space in the van, so it was rather difficult to get ready in the morning.
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2. Board Game: Brandywine [Average Rating:7.19 Overall Rank:2569]
Kaarin Engelmann
Germany
Stuttgart-Plieningen
BW
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Last year, I scheduled a battlefield tour of Gettysburg, which is not far down the road from Lancaster. We had a fantastic guide and a large group of gamers (and a few spouses) who wanted to come along, including friends from England, Denmark, and Indiana (I mention Max Michael because he came out specifically for the tour and didn't stay for WBC as a result of needing to host Martin Wallace at GenCon). I heard mutterings back at the host upon our return that "I would have liked to do that."

Thus, when I scheduled this year's tour of Brandywine and Paoli and hired a top-notch guide (Tom McGuire) who is also an author on the battles, I expected to have a full crowd. Max (driving out from Indiana specially for the tour), John Sharp (commonly associated with Victory in the Pacific and War at Sea at WBC), Matt Ellis (who didn't actually make it because of his own airline difficulties from the UK), and Joseph Belyeu (young wargamer and historian, Ace of Aces back-to-back champion, Alabaman, and son of my good friend) were the only ones who ended up taking me up on the offer. (Mark Miklos--designer of the Battles of the American Revolution series and the main reason I had heard of Brandywine--could, unfortunately, not join us because of a previous commitment.) That wasn't so bad, as we were able to use my mini-van and get lots of attention from the guide, who was fantastic and could visualize the area just as it used to be. I don't feel sorry for those who claim they want to go on battlefield tours, though ;-)

Brandywine is a battlefield that requires someone very familiar with the area, because it is not preserved the same way Gettysburg is and requires a lot of driving around through residential neighborhoods and the like.

Now I need to think up something cool for next year!
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3. Board Game: Let's Take a Hike [Average Rating:6.02 Overall Rank:4863]
Kaarin Engelmann
Germany
Stuttgart-Plieningen
BW
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I believe that the first game of the convention for me was Let's Take A Hike from Stratamax Games. Max Michael, Joseph Belyeu, and I ended up at Panera after not being willing to wait the hours in line that all of the other places we checked out required. After our meal, he pulled out his pre-production copy of the game, and we played until the restaurant closed. It was a hoot--especially sending bears to take a chunk out of someone else's backpack (the guy who was the slowest because he had the heaviest pack). I think it will be a great hit with my nieces and nephews and girls camp crowd and asked him to reserve some copies for me in case he sells out at Essen. He was nice enough to leave his copy with me to get some exposure at WBC and back in Italy. (I tried to submit a review, but it wasn't long enough to be accepted. I'll spend some time and write a longer review....long story short--BUY IT!)
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4. Board Game: Days of Steam [Average Rating:6.01 Overall Rank:3049]
Kaarin Engelmann
Germany
Stuttgart-Plieningen
BW
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I hadn't played Days of Steam since it was in the Stratamax box without the name on the cover--a copy I picked up at the UK Games Expo a couple of years ago and learned from the Warfrog guys. When I started, I could almost remember nothing. I just flailed around for a few turns until I got the gist of it. I still like it. I wanted to play again during the week, since I finally remembered how....but it was not to be. At least the experience was enough to get me to pull it out again and get it to the table. I hope that it runs at WBC again next year.
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5. Board Game: Manoeuvre [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:413]
Kaarin Engelmann
Germany
Stuttgart-Plieningen
BW
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I had planned to play Manoeuvre next, because I really enjoy the game and lots of my friends play it, but since I wasn't ready to run my King Philip's War demo and Mulligan round, I thought I'd better cram.
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6. Board Game: King Philip's War [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:3069]
Kaarin Engelmann
Germany
Stuttgart-Plieningen
BW
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I've really liked this game since it came out. I submitted myself as GM to get it on the ballot, but I didn't expect to run it. Plenty of people said they would take over for me should the need arise. Apparently it was destiny that I run it, as the ones who had volunteered fell like flies as we approached the GM deadline. Thus, I bit the bullet and ran it. My second demonstration was better than the first, but people seemed to get the gist even from my faltering version. We had 26 people who showed up for the Mulligan round, but not enough people brought the game, so I had to turn 8 away. It was a heartbreaker. By the time of the first round, I had scrounged up enough copies that everyone got to play (though it was close). Thanks to everyone who didn't give up hope! We ended up with 36 total players in the tournament, most of them new.
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7. Board Game: Game Auction [Average Rating:6.83 Unranked]
Kaarin Engelmann
Germany
Stuttgart-Plieningen
BW
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I help with the cash box and administrative work at the auction. It makes for a busy day but is typically entertaining (I made Bruce promise be funnier this year than he was last year). I usually bid on a few things, as well. This time I only picked up one item--Napoleon's Italian Campaigns. We finished earlier than expected, which gave me a chance to visit some demos I usually miss.
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8. Board Game: Combat Commander: Europe [Average Rating:7.93 Overall Rank:50]
Kaarin Engelmann
Germany
Stuttgart-Plieningen
BW
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Even though I've played Combat Commander before, I decided to sit in on the demo. I felt like I learned the rules whenever Bryan Collars had taught me or I'd played, but then I would go home and try to teach my husband and run into a wall. I knew I wouldn't be able to play this year, because my King Philip's War tournament was running at exactly the same time, but the refresher was appreciated.
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9. Board Game: Dominant Species [Average Rating:7.90 Overall Rank:25]
Kaarin Engelmann
Germany
Stuttgart-Plieningen
BW
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I asked Bryan Collars if he was planning to play in the Here I Stand heat on Tuesday evening. (He and I are both in a PBEM Final of the game.) He said he was feeling a bit burnt out on it and would play Dominant Species. I had been wanting to learn the game, so when he agreed to give me a demo before the heat, it was decided. His training taught me enough to know that it would be a rough game when one of the players at my table eliminated all of the grubs, removing every one of arachnid cubes from the board on turn one. We spiders were only down and not out. I managed to finish in the middle of the pack by the end of the game. It's definitely a game I see getting a lot of play in my house.
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10. Board Game: King Philip's War [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:3069]
Kaarin Engelmann
Germany
Stuttgart-Plieningen
BW
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Wednesday was King Philip's War most of the day, starting with a demo at 9. Most players in the first round had little experience, and I spent a lot of time going from table to table trying to make sure that everyone avoided making any grievous mistakes (such as surrendering the wrong tribe). I learned that I had not scheduled enough time for the game and/or I should have run the 5-turn scenario. (Too many games early-on had to be decided on adjudication.) I appreciate everyone's patience and cooperation! As the day wore on and people got more experience, it was easier. I had to step in as an eliminator in the quarter-final round. I did my job that time, but in the next round, I failed against Rob Schoenen, which left me with the ugly dilemma of three players remaining. We decided to dice-off to decide who would make it to the final and who would get third. (Happily, I did, at least, have a prize for third.) Tom Drueding was the good sport (and my nominee for Sportsmanship Award) who didn't get to move on to play for the wood. Next year should it be my lot to run the tourney again, I'll make sure that any such elimination occurs earlier in the tournament. In any case, the finalists (Rob Schoenen and Geoff Allbutt) decided to play the final on Saturday morning.
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11. Board Game: B-17: Queen of the Skies [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:937]
Kaarin Engelmann
Germany
Stuttgart-Plieningen
BW
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Why does one spent all day long playing a solitaire game that has been out of print for about 20 years? The camaraderie, that's why! I remember back in about 1998 when Judy Krauss would tell me about the tournament, and it sounded fascinating. A few years ago, I tried it out for myself and got hooked! This year, Paul Weintraub had acquired several WWII-era aviator caps for me, which I was able to pass along to my crew. The historical briefings were, as always, outstanding. I managed to put myself at a table that took way too long to finish the missions. Regardless, we had a great time, as always. I really enjoyed the experience (though I was disappointed to get a BIP--burst in plane--in the tail while we were still in the drop zone during the last mission. Truth be told, though, I would never have made it home anyway, as I already had a fuel tank leak.) When we finished, around 7:30, I had suddenly hit a wall with regard to needing sleep. I'm not sure if it was a sign of age or just jet lag, but I retired for the evening.
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12. Board Game: Saratoga [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:1814]
Kaarin Engelmann
Germany
Stuttgart-Plieningen
BW
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I was very sad to miss the Battles of the American Revolution tournament on Thursday night. I had been looking forward to it for many months--though I hadn't practiced, so the other players may have been relieved to not need to do on-the-job training again. (Actually, the GM and players in that event are GEMS and always very accommodating.) I just couldn't fight through the exhaustion. I guess I'll just have to prep for next year.
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13. Board Game: March Madness [Average Rating:6.25 Overall Rank:5290]
Kaarin Engelmann
Germany
Stuttgart-Plieningen
BW
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Terry Coleman has been after me to try this one for years. Last year I fully intended to play, but missed the Friday heat, which was my only chance. I made sure not to make the same mistake this year. My team pick of Illinois '89 ended up carrying me through to the Final Four, despite my lack of experience in the game. Chris Palermo and I managed to achieve an all-time high score in a game where I rarely rolled anything other than a 5 or 6, which gave me the chance to play many risky cards (the ones that cause fouls when you roll a 1 or 2). I became much more cautious in later games, though in most of those later games I still managed to foul out at least one player. I guess that's just the kind of coach I am ;-) I defeated Debbie Gutermuth along the way and ended up playing Jeff Finkeldey in my semi-final game. He finally stopped my heady ascension, but it was close, only two points and decided by the very last scorer.
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14. Board Game: RoboRally [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:220]
Kaarin Engelmann
Germany
Stuttgart-Plieningen
BW
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I'm BAD at this game. I have to write "L" and "R" on my hands to keep from killing myself on the board. Last year was the pinnacle of my entire playing career because I was the first one to touch Flag 1 and maybe even Flag 2....but then I fell hopelessly behind and had no chance to win. It seems like I should be discouraged, but NO! I play to entertain the other players at my table and because for some strange reason I actually have fun. This year, I was especially bad. I did, finally, touch Flag 1--and I wasn't even the last player, but I just kept dying when trying to get to Flag 2. I was on my last life and the leaders were headed for the final flag, right near where I was archived. Thus, when I came back in, I headed for the flag and stood on it as the GUARDIAN of the FLAG. They couldn't push me off by coming in straight, as there was a wall behind me. I shot everything that came nearby. I apologize to Alex Henning that I'm probably the reason she did not make it to the Final to defend her championship....it just seemed like a more productive thing to do than running around by myself in the corner to touch Flag 2 while the game finished up, half a factory away.
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15. Board Game: Ace of Aces: Flying Machines [Average Rating:6.94 Overall Rank:2311]
Kaarin Engelmann
Germany
Stuttgart-Plieningen
BW
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This is another game I'm pretty bad at. I occasionally shoot someone down, I often surprise someone with my selected moves (especially when I fly in front of their guns and I had the advantage of tailing), but more often than not, I'm crashing to the ground in flames. This makes me an especially popular opponent ;-) I made it to two of the Circuses this year and met some new friends. One of them was from Italy! I was able to speak a little Italian with him, which was a surprise for both of us. I'm happy to say that Joseph Belyeu--the young man I flew out to WBC from his home in Alabama and who is defending champion of the event--was able to win the whole thing again this year.
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16. Board Game: B-17: Queen of the Skies [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:937]
Kaarin Engelmann
Germany
Stuttgart-Plieningen
BW
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The B-17 After-Action Briefing is always enjoyable. Mike Lam hands out medals for heroic acts of bravery (e.g., landing a plane to save severely wounded crew instead of bailing out like any sane human), great loss (e.g., having all of your crew killed on a mission), fantastic achievement (e.g., getting 95% of your bombs on target) and the like. I didn't qualify for anything fabulous this year--though I had several of my crew members evade capture as POWs and killed all but one on one mission, but I did finish toward the bottom, so I got an early pick from the prize table About midnight, I had to throw in the towel and head off to bed.
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17. Board Game: King Philip's War [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:3069]
Kaarin Engelmann
Germany
Stuttgart-Plieningen
BW
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Most of Saturday was spent taking notes on the King Philip's War final so that I could put together a write-up. The Indians ran away with it, despite Geoff Allbutt's bid of 5 points to play them and his failure to get the three points for the border war. (He had used all of the razed/raided settlement markers and then some.) Congratulations to Geoff, who walked away with a pre-production map signed by designer John Poniske! Second-place finisher Rob Schoenen got a nice King Philip's War coin.

As an aside: I'll have to crunch some numbers and do a lot of analysis to determine if there should be any change to play balance, considering how many Indian wins we saw in the tournament.
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18. Board Game: Eleminis [Average Rating:5.94 Overall Rank:6209]
Kaarin Engelmann
Germany
Stuttgart-Plieningen
BW
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Somewhere along the way, when I didn't have much going on, the Greenville Mafia invited me to a heat of their Eleminis tournament. Cute artwork, but the game doesn't have quite enough meat to interest me...it had nothing to do with the fact I missed out on getting the star button
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19. Board Game: Slapshot [Average Rating:6.34 Overall Rank:2027]
Kaarin Engelmann
Germany
Stuttgart-Plieningen
BW
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I concluded Saturday night with my traditional participating in the Slapshot tournament. It is always a highlight for the week, and this year was no different. I ended up at a table with Laurie Wojtaszczyk, which is always a pleasant occurrence. For awhile there my team was looking very promising, and I even made it to the table play-offs, but by that time, bruisers had cut me up so badly I had no chance. If only some of those bruisers had been in the play-offs to even it all out devil In any case, I didn't mind getting some extra sleep to prepare me for my standard Sunday morning event. It was a hoot to find out that Nicole Reiff took home the Slapshot championship in a year when her father won none.
 
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20. Board Game: Attack Sub [Average Rating:6.51 Overall Rank:2369]
Kaarin Engelmann
Germany
Stuttgart-Plieningen
BW
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I always enjoy this tournament, win or lose. My first game against Andy Lewis (one of the developers of the game) saw my Argentinians take down his Brits. He was not pleased as he shot a torpedo at me that missed. I actively pinged him, used Battlestations, and shot an identical torpedo which took him down. I lost the next game, not helped by the fact that I willingly took the non-favored side (that will teach me to metagame the tie-breakers). In my third game, I failed miserably even though I took the favored side, but I considered it a victory as I taught my opponent's teenage sons to make a torpedo wooshing sound when shooting at their father. (They even convinced him to do it once when shooting at me.) Totally worth the loss for that little victory
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21. Board Game: Twilight Struggle [Average Rating:8.34 Overall Rank:1]
Kaarin Engelmann
Germany
Stuttgart-Plieningen
BW
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I finished out Sunday with a pick-up game of Twilight Struggle. My opponent gave me the Russians, and we didn't play any of the optional rules (though we had the optional cards in the deck). I held my own, but on Turn 9 he got the victory. I can see a few places where I made some small errors that could have helped me if I'd avoided them, but it was fairly tight game that reminded me how much I like the design. Yes, I do need to play it more often. We played it nearly daily for a couple months after it first came out, but as I'm almost always busy on Fridays at WBC, I haven't played in the tournament--or the game at all--for a long time.
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