The WBC - A Casual Gamer's Recap
Mat Thomsen
United States
Medway
Massachusetts
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I should start by pointing out that "casual" in the title's context means "not competitive". I don't go to the World Boardgaming Championships to compete in the many many game tournaments, though I did play in several heats as a way to play some of my favorite games. But that was only a small percentage of how I spent my four and a half days there. I have the utmost respect for the competitors there and much of my enjoyment of this convention was sharing in the success of my good friends in their respective events.

These tournaments are what the convention is named after of course, and they are what set it apart most from other gaming conventions.

What makes the WBC different for me, however, is that I feel no pressure if I'm not constantly playing a game. As a casual player, it offers some amazing opportunities and I spend a lot of time just wandering around, taking in the sights and leaving myself open to new and interesting gaming experiences that I would never have otherwise and with people I would never run into anywhere else.

Here are a few of the experiences that found me at this year’s convention...
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1. Board Game: WBC: The Board Game [Average Rating:7.40 Unranked]
Board Game: WBC: The Board Game
Mat Thomsen
United States
Medway
Massachusetts
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I did not actually play this game, but I did watch a demo for a few minutes.

I arrived in Lancaster, PA before 1:00 on Wednesday. I checked in, ran into some of my MA folk, chatted for a bit and then made my way to the open game room.
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2. Board Game: Terra Mystica [Average Rating:8.13 Overall Rank:17]
Board Game: Terra Mystica
Mat Thomsen
United States
Medway
Massachusetts
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The open gaming room at the WBC is terrific. They have a well-stocked library that is organized alphabetically and check-out is quick and easy. There are foam-core stands that players place on tables so other players know they are looking to play something. There are three types of signs: "let's learn this together," "I'm happy to teach," and "Experienced players please." I saw one of the "let's learn" signs on a table with a player looking to learn Terra Mystica. Since this was going to be my first game at the WBC, I thought I'd start in my comfort zone. I offered to teach this to Heather and in a couple of minutes, we had two other players. We had a great game that didn't bog down and the new players did great!

Thanks Heather, Kevin, and Kieth!
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3. Board Game: Bruxelles 1893 [Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:319]
Board Game: Bruxelles 1893
Mat Thomsen
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Medway
Massachusetts
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As we were winding down the final round of Terra Mystica, my friend and gaming mentor Rich M, found me and was free to play based on a win that allowed him to skip a second heat. We played a 3p game of Bruxelles. This game has hit me exactly like Terra Mystica did when it was released. It has found its way to the table a lot, even though it's a medium-heavy Euro. Really good game and the only one, other than TM, that I have played twice back-to-back. Just great. And it was terrific that I got a play it with Rich, since we have not both managed a game of this at our weekly game night.

Thanks Rich and Max!
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4. Board Game: VivaJava: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game [Average Rating:6.63 Overall Rank:2058]
Board Game: VivaJava: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game
Mat Thomsen
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After Bruxelles, Rich and Max had to make their way to another tournament heat. I wandered for awhile before I ran into some guys who grabbed this from the gaming library. Turns out, they were friends of TC Petty, who designed it. They joked about not having played it yet and that they wanted to get back to TC on what they thought. I offered to teach it to them. We played two games. One was almost all brewing, the 2nd, all research. These plays offered a nice view of the two main ways you can earn points and how doing both is pretty important.

Thanks Jerry and Peter!
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5. Board Game: Red7 [Average Rating:6.91 Overall Rank:698]
Board Game: Red7
Mat Thomsen
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Medway
Massachusetts
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Jerry and Peter were off to meet some folks, but while one went for a beer, the two of us broke this out.

Actually, I broke this out after many games I played. It's so fun and fast to teach, and the WBC seems to be structured in a way that everyone always seems to have fifteen minutes before they have to meet someone.

Keep an eye out for this one at GenCon and give it a play. This year's Love Letter!
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6. Board Game: Can't Stop [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:758]
Board Game: Can't Stop
Mat Thomsen
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Medway
Massachusetts
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Well, time flies when you playing games and before I knew it, it was 11:00. Time for the huge Can't Stop tournament. Imagine two-hundred of us huddled over plastic stop signs with fingers crossed and eyes fixed on those four dice. That many people playing in the same room at the same time creates a unique cacophony, and the spontaneous "amazing-roll" uproars from various tables were scattered and frequent.

This, and several other events like it are one of the main reasons I went back to the WBC this year. Many conventions have many special events, but I have never experienced anything close to this. And each night, these events get bigger, louder, and more memorable.
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7. Board Game: The Beer Game [Average Rating:4.73 Unranked]
Board Game: The Beer Game
Mat Thomsen
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Medway
Massachusetts
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Well, not really, but since we are doing this thing chronologically, and since my last game of the night on Wed. was Can't Stop, I thought I would report on the non-gaming activity of the night.

Every night, the same group of us all seemed to find our way to the hotel bar to recap the day and wax philosophical about games and gaming. Well, I wax while the big fish discuss how their heats went and who won and why.

Either way, it's my favorite part of the day. Not because of the drinking, but because of the conversation.

Thanks Rob, Mike, Linda, Rich M, Jeff M, and Rich I
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8. Board Game: Ra: The Dice Game [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:1523]
Board Game: Ra: The Dice Game
Mat Thomsen
United States
Medway
Massachusetts
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Thursday started with one of the three heats of Ra: The Dice Game. This is probably my favorite dice game and it was a very friendly heat. I found that the initial heats were all very relaxed and fun with subsequent rounds much more serious and less so. More on that later. What was nice about this game, is that two players ( not me ), tied for first. The way this tournament is structured, both winners advanced to the next round. Guess our table was just that awesome.

Thanks Rob, Chris, and David!
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9. Board Game: Stone Age [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:122] [Average Rating:7.56 Unranked]
Board Game: Stone Age
Mat Thomsen
United States
Medway
Massachusetts
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The Rahtzee heat was at 9:00, this heat of Stone Age was at 11:00. The tables are all randomly assigned, so I had to smile when I landed with one of my TotalCon cohorts Chris.

We had a great game that played quickly and was competitive for 2nd place. Chris beat us pretty badly, but we had a great time with plenty of laughs. Stone Age is one of my favorite games and one I don't get to play as much as I would like. Thanks to the WBC, I got a great play in.

Thanks Chris, Matt, and Jim!
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10. Board Game: Guildhall [Average Rating:6.91 Overall Rank:1077] [Average Rating:6.91 Unranked]
Board Game: Guildhall
Mat Thomsen
United States
Medway
Massachusetts
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I ran into Heather from Wednesday's Terra Mystica game and she had just bought Guildhall. I've been wanting to get another play of it for some time now so I asked if she was up for a game.

It was a close one with two of us one turn away, when the game ended. I really like this one. It was nice to remember it.

Thanks Heather, Jeremy, and Joshua!
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11. Board Game: Gravwell: Escape from the 9th Dimension [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:1180]
Board Game: Gravwell: Escape from the 9th Dimension
Mat Thomsen
United States
Medway
Massachusetts
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There was a sign on a table requesting players for Gravwell. Charlie was a really nice guy and we soon had a third.

This went exactly how this game should. Lots of anticipation and crushing disappointment. So much fun. We played it twice in a row. The 2nd play had even more trash talk and chaotic twists.

Great fun.

Charlie and I then played Red.

Thanks Charlie and Jonathan!
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12. Board Game: Macao [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:355]
Board Game: Macao
Mat Thomsen
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Medway
Massachusetts
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Again Rich tracked me down with a perfectly timed arrival between heats and was up for a game. Jonathan had to go meet someone, so Rich, Charlie and I played Macao. This is only the 3rd time I've played it and did not even realize that I managed to build an excellent collection of cards! For the last three rounds, I produced enough gold to buy the prestige points and the 2 pts on my last inactive card. It was very satisfying given how I felt about my play thus far -- I thought I wasn't doing anything right for the first 8 rounds. I managed a rare win. Good game.

Thanks Rich and Charlie!
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13. Board Game: VivaJava: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game [Average Rating:6.63 Overall Rank:2058]
Board Game: VivaJava: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game
Mat Thomsen
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Medway
Massachusetts
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Podcast: The Long View


I met Geoff Gambill only briefly last year at the WBC. We exhanged a couple of emails when he requested feedback about his podcast from listeners. Needless to say, I'm a fan of the Long View and having a chance to get to know and play games with Geoff and his family was terrific. It's great when someone whose voice is one that speaks to, for, and about our hobby, is also just a guy who will sit down and roll some dice with his kid and a guy he just met.

Bravo Gambill clan and Zach too! Keep up the great work on The Long View.
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14. Board Game: Piñata [Average Rating:6.81 Overall Rank:2667]
Board Game: Piñata
Mat Thomsen
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Medway
Massachusetts
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After VivaJava Dice, Geoff had to meet up with his family, so Zach and I played Pinata.

I much prefer Balloon Cup, but I guess Pinata Balloon Cup is better than no Balloon Cup.

Thanks Zach!
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15. Board Game: Pro Golf [Average Rating:5.61 Overall Rank:16835]
Board Game: Pro Golf
Mat Thomsen
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Medway
Massachusetts
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Okay, here is where leaving myself open to trying new things really started to pay off. This was Thursday's 11:00 event and every time someone asked about it, the answer was, "Can you do this? (gesture representing rolling dice) Then you can play this game."


From gallery of Madcapmartini



And yes - that is exactly what this was, but it didn't matter because these old-school, former champions of games like Merchant of Venus and Caylus love playing this game AT the WBC with each other. It was an awesome thing to be a part of. Seeing how much these guys loved playing this game, made me love playing this game. And it made me realize that I get just as much satisfaction from being around others who love games as I do from playing them.
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16. Board Game: Decathlon [Average Rating:5.38 Overall Rank:18702]
Board Game: Decathlon
Mat Thomsen
United States
Medway
Massachusetts
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After Pro-Golf, Rich I. wanted to show me Decathlon. A game he really likes and uses similar charts and dice rolling as Pro Golf, except here you have to choose how to manage your athlete's attempts at various events. It was really fun and each player's chart was based on a real life Decathlete with strengths and weaknesses in the corresponding events. I would love to get this game and try it again with other groups. Unfortunately, it's one of those old hidden gems that gets lost in the shuffle of time.

Thanks Rich M, Rich I, and Rob!
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17. Board Game: Friday [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:428]
Board Game: Friday
Mat Thomsen
United States
Medway
Massachusetts
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Didn't play this, just getting back to the chronology.
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18. Board Game: The Speicherstadt [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:834]
Board Game: The Speicherstadt
Mat Thomsen
United States
Medway
Massachusetts
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I hooked up with a TotalCon pal for a game on Friday morning and we picked this one. It was only my 2nd time playing it, but I really liked it. I'm a big fan of most of Feld's game, and this one is no exception. I think this fits in well with his lighter, 60-min series of games like Bruges and Rialto. The three make a heck of a trilogy actually.

Thanks Charlie and Dave!
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19. Board Game: Ra: The Dice Game [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:1523]
Board Game: Ra: The Dice Game
Mat Thomsen
United States
Medway
Massachusetts
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I then played my 2nd heat of Ra: The Dice Game and won! I moved on to the next round Saturday afternoon. Woo hoo!
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20. Board Game: Landlord! [Average Rating:5.92 Overall Rank:6000]
Board Game: Landlord!
Mat Thomsen
United States
Medway
Massachusetts
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I ran into Geoff and Zach again and we were all free for a quick game. Geoff had just rec'd this one in a math trade and wanted to give it a shot. It was really fun! The artwork was offensive, which made it great. It felt like an old Mad Magazine game. Geoff somehow kept renting his apartments to old dudes like this

Board Game: Landlord!


who kept getting murdered! You see, this is a take-that game, so you can play however many cards you want, but you need to be a bit careful because the cards double as your buildings, so you need to hang onto some of them. Zach and I took great pleasure in playing "Murder" cards on Geoff's buildings resulting in the idea that Geoff was a psychotic, old man-murdering landlord.

Word of a reprint of this game has me excited. Not sure if I want new art or not, but either way, it should be a fun one.

Thanks Geoff and Zach!
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21. Board Game: Compounded [Average Rating:6.74 Overall Rank:1613]
Board Game: Compounded
Mat Thomsen
United States
Medway
Massachusetts
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Another one Geoff rec'd in a trade and wanted to try. I've played the game a few times but always had a teacher. Well, I was the only one who had played so the rulebook management was mine. Not a big deal though because this game is quite intuitive. This game has some of the best player boards ever. The whole game is there. This is proof that every publisher should hire professional graphic designers when it comes to conveying a lot of important information in a concise, attractive way. Dice Hate Me has a slew of them and man!-- you can tell. I also played VivaJava Dice half a dozen times while at the WBC which is another example of excellent graphic design.

Thanks Geoff, Zach, and Joanna!
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22. Board Game: Medici [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:558]
Board Game: Medici
Mat Thomsen
United States
Medway
Massachusetts
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This is one of the events I played since it's my favorite game. Sadly, playing this game competitively removes a lot of what makes me love it so. I am officially turning my mission to spread the word about this game's greatness into a crusade! I'm so sad for the folks who never played this one before, and decided to try it here. This is a social game. In my review, I call it a party game. Everything that Cosmic Encounter has (my other favorite game), this one has too! Manipulation, coercion, negotiation, bluffing -- it's so good.

The idea of this on an ipad horrifies me. It makes me think of birthday cake without candles. There is no point in playing this game without people.

All of the things that make this game great are (rightfully) discouraged in competition, so this was a disappointment. However, I convinced my new friend Joanna G. to try it. The good news is, she saw through the format's limitations, and still liked the game. Phew! All we need to do now is find her a copy!
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23. Board Game: Perudo [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:710]
Board Game: Perudo
Mat Thomsen
United States
Medway
Massachusetts
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If you have never heard 250 people shaking dice in plastic cups, you should.

This was Friday night's party event. The first game we played was absolutely awesome! There was yelling and trash talk and lying and truth-telling. So much fun! It came down to me with four dice, and my new frenemy with one. I was confident . . . until . . . 3-1 ...2-1 ... 2-0! Phew! Got scary for a minute there. I moved on to the next round!

This game was everything it should be. Lots of laughter, table talk, and a great story. Sadly, my next round did not deliver on this level. Quiet table, low energy, lost, bummer. Time for beers.
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24. Board Game: The Beer Game [Average Rating:6.50 Unranked]
Board Game: The Beer Game
Mat Thomsen
United States
Medway
Massachusetts
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I ran into the one and only Jim Reed from the NJAGPodcast. We shared a beer and I taught him Red7. He loved it and requested it the next day to show his buds. Glad I could help James! Cheers!
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25. Board Game: High-Bid [Average Rating:5.80 Overall Rank:11360]
Board Game: High-Bid
Mat Thomsen
United States
Medway
Massachusetts
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Over beers, Rob and Mike from TotalCon were retelling the story of Mike's win in the Auction event this year. I inquire about it, and we agree to play it right there in the bar, now 1 a.m.

This game was made in 1965! It's the American predecessor of Medici! (it is in my mind anyway) So I'm raving about how fun it was after we played and Mike says, "I got a copy in my room for ya if you want it."

"Really?! How much?"

"$5"

"Sold!"

His wife had thrifted a copy a few months back and they bring games to sell off at the WBC.

Only at the WBC can you bust out a game from 50 years ago at one in the morning, learn it from, and play it with the world champion of that game, then buy a copy of that game -- a game you never knew existed 45 minutes earlier -- from him for $5.
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