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Subject: Early Impressions of Seven Springs rss

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Curt Collins
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My .02

Pros:
More comfortable temperatures
- Rooms tended to be more on the cold side, which can be corrected with an extra shirt
- The one area (ski lodge) that didn't have AC was quickly remedied. I played later in the week there and it was nice and cool.

Way better lit
- No fighting over getting a table under a light (the exception was the restaurant in the ski lodge where 7 wonders duels was played)

Better parking
- No reason to rush over to the hotel by 8 in order to have a parking spot that isn't 5 miles from the gaming areas.

Hotel is in much better condition
- no mold
- Obviously better taken care of
- I don't feel sick today

Registration is right at the main door, no search needed

On site medical staff was a great benefit to at least 2 people that I know of.

Most areas were roomier and people were less crammed into rooms (Laurel room was bad though)

Just when I thought I'd seen all of the available space I would end up somewhere new. I enjoyed the spread out multi room space of the host, and this place has the same feel, just with bigger, better lit, less moldy rooms.


There were plenty of other positive features that I'm not writing down largely because I didn't do the 'other stuff' like bowling and mini golf.


Cons:

Due to the spread out nature of the location that I like, some events were difficult to make on time.

Rain made it difficult to travel between buildings with games made of cardboard

Food prices
- Even the cheaper faster food was expensive ($10) for chicken and fries?)

Food choices
- Seemed that the pizza place, and first tracks were the most convenient places for food, but they wreaked havoc on me. I did have a chance to try the lunch buffet a couple of times and it was good, but I'm not in a position to spend $15 per meal for 9 days, and $15 was on the low end for most options

Bavarian lounge
- It took almost an hour to get a chicken sandwich.

Overall I like the place. I will personally have to find a way to bring my own healthier food next time though, or suffer the same as this year.
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ewan m
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(Crossposted from CSW)

Driving down, I worried that this might be the last WBC I came to for a long time: the shift from a 4-hour drive (to a location that happens to be close to in-laws, too) to an 8-hour drive is a big change. On the other hand, I knew that I didn't have to go back to the Host - a relief!

Driving home, my son Aidan and I were planning for 2017. The step up in venue is more than large enough to compensate for the trip length - it's really not close, and even my non-gaming wife is considering the trip...

So: the massive upgrade in both physical infrastructure AND staff was the first thing to hit us and remained obvious for the whole week. As Don commented at the wrap-up meeting, if he and we had known of this venue a few years back he might still have hair and be willing to continue.

[To get the negatives up-front: it's isolated, and that also meant that many/most folk had cellular connection issues. That was made worse by poor wifi; we are promised an upgraded system in time for the next year, and it's definitely _needed_. It will likely be a more expensive trip unless you eat from a cooler - other than the longer drive from the NE, that's about it - see coffee comment below for a more minor and personal irritation .]

Some of the issues were probably communication/familiarity. I want coffee in the morning; in-room Keurig and creamer does not cut it, so I went to the onsite Starbucks (of which I was very glad): one, slow (albeit extremely friendly) server. So a 30-minute wait to get coffee prior to a 9 a.m. start. Will that be improved when the hotel realises that *everyone* wants coffee between 8.45 and 9? I would guess so. But also - there's apparently a coffee station in the lobby that's free. That info never got to me or (judging from Qs at wrap-up) to most folk. Similarly, there was a password-locked 'conference wifi' visible in the gaming rooms: apparently that password was known to some of the WBA folks, but when I asked staff I was told they did not have it and were not allowed to give it out.

So what made me happy?

* Large, clean, well-lit, climate-controlled rooms. Universal for me; the first weekend had an hour or so of poor a/c, I'm told, in some space.

* Plenty of high-quality tables and comfortable chairs in good repair.

* Multiple, decent-quality food options. Everything from a $1 'kiddie' scoop of icecream through $16 roast chicken (really very good, even for this food snob, and that's good value with very fresh, well-cooked veg and potatoes). Buffets that were better than I expected, even if not exactly gourmet (count me in the 'pay $4 more to get made-to-order omelettes' camp!). Pizza that was better than mediocre. I am sad to have missed the BBQ place - next time. There's a fine dining place we never made it out to**: overall we ate well, relatively cheaply, and the staff were uniformly helpful, happy, and responsive.

* Facilities outside gaming. The pools were good; the exercise room was small but functional. There's a lot of stuff for non-gamers to do - I was amazed to hear that we sold out the spa for the week, and also the horse-riding! Not a huge deal for my elder son and I, who will happily play games 24h, but a big deal for other family members and other families.

* Infrastructure. It's worth repeating: the Host looks even worse in hindsight. Having a hotel that I am willing to stay at so that I don't have to walk up and down Rt 30! I liked the size of the place - it's still only a 5-10 min walk between the far extremities of the property, but that's just enough (and with enough stairs) to feel as though I'm a bit less of a slug for the week. My one wheelchair gamer friend was VERY happy with the ease of access to all rooms. And it was never crowded, never very loud... all good stuff.

**Minor kvetch: it's not possible to pay corkage anywhere on property, apparently. One of the highlights of the week for me is an annual wine-focussed meal with half a dozen food-minded Britannia players: Lancaster was good for that, but 7S less so. The group found a decent place 20 min away, but is there any reason this is not possible at (say) Helen's? Something to raise, maybe - a minority issue I expect but we could at least ask the Q.

The gaming itself was excellent, but that's almost a given. I came home with a brand new 7S Centurion shirt for Merchant of Venus, but scheduling seemed worse than usual (what was up with having almost nothing on the final Sunday, so that the conflicts on Sat were worse than ever?) so that I could only play one other final and in that my Twonky committed RoboRally suicide courtesy of a rare and embarrassing turn-1 'oops, I meant the other right' error... - so no Consul repeat possible, as I couldn't fit in the finals of Ingenious, Britannia, nor even play more than one heat of e.g. Lost Cities or War at Sea. I *did* fill a gap with March Madness, which was new to me and fun - there's a silver lining for sure - and I don't expect sympathy here anyway :-).

This is long enough. The tl; dr is that the new site is, honestly, great; we took a hit on attendance, but y'all should come on back now.
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Andrew E
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saccenti wrote:
For those in the over-flow housing, the condos way up on the hill... You will be taking a shuttle. But. If you want, you can ride down on the ski lift (it starts rolling around 10:00am). I bet it is much quicker. Takes you straight down the hill. Right from where you are to where you want to be, straight line. I was on it a bunch today, doing activities. But I asked the guys running it, and they said any guests can use it, no pass needed or anything.

Huh. I took a look at Google maps to see how reasonable that looks, and I must say that makes the condos and chalets seem a lot more workable. They'd still be more walking distance than even my maximum-distance room in the tower, but not being at the mercy of a shuttle is a big deal, plus it sounded like they were working out some kind of deal to make the condos less expensive than the hotel rooms next year, rather than equal as they were this time around.

Edit: Oops, missed the part about starting at 10am. If it is a reasonable transportation option, and I'm not being misled by the map, I bet we'd be able to get them to open it 2 hours early for us.
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Grant LaDue
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I'll do a more thorough report later, but some quick thoughts:

The place had a few issues, as one must expect from a new place, but was a *massive* upgrade from the host of ten years ago, let alone the host today.

I found that the cellphone reception at Seven Springs to be excellent. Many Host internal rooms were no reception, but I had exactly zero issues here.

Holy cow, the staff at Seven Springs are *tremendous*. Very pleasant, very responsive, and very well trained. Major major reason to attend here folks. These people *want* to make you comfortable and happy. If you want new towels, more chairs, more tables, etc, expect to get them in less than 15 minutes. I can't speak highly enough about the service. This is the kind of place that will be actively working all year to make next year better. Bank on it.

Huge upgrades in the lighting, tables, and the chairs. I don't think people tend to notice, but the chairs were very comfortable for a convention center.
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Eric Brosius
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Claire and I ate at Helen's (the fanciest restaurant) on Sunday night and we both thought the food was outstanding. We'd go there from time to time if it were local. The entrees ran about $30 to $40, so it wasn't cheap, but (unlike some of the cheaper options at 7S) I didn't feel it was overpriced because that's what you expect to pay for fine dining.

For us, the best "affordable" food options were Emo's Pit, the cafeteria in the Foggy Goggle, and the ice cream place (where you could get 3 scoops for $3.75 if you had people to share with (I am not going to eat that much by myself!)

Claire was thrilled with the space; she called it "a GM's Christmas". She said Seasons 1-5 was the size of a 747; it would have fit TTR even if attendance hadn't been slightly down.

But, as mentioned above, the biggest plus was the willingness and ability of both hotel staff and management to make changes quickly. Claire asked whether they could have the in-room sound system available for her first TTR heat and they did it almost immediately.
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Doug Faust
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For the most part I agree with everything above, but one thing I'm surprised no one has mentioned is the flies. There were a lot of house flies in the inside areas, to the extent where it became annoying when I was trying to play games. I'm sure it wouldn't be too hard to do something about this--I hope someone mentions it to management so they can take care of it for next year.
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Kurt R
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Phrim wrote:
For the most part I agree with everything above, but one thing I'm surprised no one has mentioned is the flies. There were a lot of house flies in the inside areas, to the extent where it became annoying when I was trying to play games. I'm sure it wouldn't be too hard to do something about this--I hope someone mentions it to management so they can take care of it for next year.

They did -- they released a bat which we saw flying around. But they're only good for mosquitoes.
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Kevin Shaud
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enzo622 wrote:
Phrim wrote:
For the most part I agree with everything above, but one thing I'm surprised no one has mentioned is the flies. There were a lot of house flies in the inside areas, to the extent where it became annoying when I was trying to play games. I'm sure it wouldn't be too hard to do something about this--I hope someone mentions it to management so they can take care of it for next year.

They did -- they released a bat which we saw flying around. But they're only good for mosquitoes.


Whoever threw up the signal is to blame for that - na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na...
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Tom Cannon
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enzo622 wrote:
Phrim wrote:
For the most part I agree with everything above, but one thing I'm surprised no one has mentioned is the flies. There were a lot of house flies in the inside areas, to the extent where it became annoying when I was trying to play games. I'm sure it wouldn't be too hard to do something about this--I hope someone mentions it to management so they can take care of it for next year.

They did -- they released a bat which we saw flying around. But they're only good for mosquitoes.


Wrong Kurt. That bat was a result of your repeated plays of Fury of Dracula in open gaming. Did you not think their would be a cost to playing with the dark arts?
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Marc Nelson Jr.
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saccenti wrote:
Also, did anyone try out any of the semi-local area eating spots? I checked out Yelp and there appeared to be some interesting (if very local-color) options in both Somerset and Jones Mills.


Frank's Old Fashion Pizzeria in downtown Somerset is awesome. We went twice, and we heard other diners talking about how they adjust their travel plans to end up in Somerset for lunch!
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W. Craig Trader
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Spleen wrote:

On site medical staff was a great benefit to at least 2 people that I know of.


I don't know if I was one of the people you were thinking of,
but the medical staff did a great job of bandaging me up after
a spill on the Alpine Slide. Friday, after the fall, and then
Saturday morning and Sunday morning. Their staff was quick to
respond, friendly, and efficient. I couldn't have asked for more
or better assistance.
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Henry Richardson
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I've attended AvalonCons and then WBCs since 1994. (I think I've missed 3 or 4 in all that time, none by choice!)

Seven Springs is a better facility than we've ever had. It's more family-friendly than anywhere else we've gone. I got more exercise this year than ever, due to sleeping in the tower and playing games on the other side of the property!

It's a little more expensive, and I'll budget better for next year, but I don't see staying away.

One of the best-kept secrets of Seven Springs wasn't really a secret, but nobody's mentioned it yet: The hotel hosts two Catholic masses each Sunday in the conference center! In twenty years of annual gaming, this was the first time I didn't have to find a church in the vicinity to meet my weekly obligation.

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Michael Powers
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Wish we'd known since we left early Sunday to make it to Mass back home!
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Max Jamelli
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Mass was rather odd -- we were in a forum in desk chairs. It felt more like a college lecture on theology than a mass since the priest was kind of explaining what he was about to do and why. Henry's right through - being on site was more convenient, even if I do wish the hours were a little earlier.
 
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Kevin Wojtaszczyk
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I think the Masses are for the surrounding area as a number of parishioners seemed to know each other. On the first Sunday it was in the sunburst room and pretty full, probably over 100 people. Much less on the 2nd Sunday, but there were a couple weddings that first weekend so a number of people from there might have attended.

Mass times were 10am and 11:30am. So that was the only draw back if you had events starting at 9am. If not, then it was a huge bonus as the closest church I found was in somerset area with an 8am Mass, so a 9am event start would still be tight and would require getting up extra early like previous WBCs which had a 7:30am Mass.

Definitely was a welcome surprise to have a Catholic Mass on-site and a wonderful bonus feature of 7-Springs!



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Michael Hyland

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I thought the facility was really good.

I never saw the open gaming room hit max capacity which was good. There always seems space enough to set up a game. If it did hit max capacity I didn't see it.

I never felt lighting was an issue in any of the rooms I gamed in.

As noted the food prices were more expensive and the isolation of the place makes it harder to avoid paying the prices. We stocked up a bit at Walmart in Samorset and ate at the Rey Azteca a really good authentic Mexican restaurant that was cheap and filled with locals. I think Samorset is about 1/2 hour away.

There was such a huge gain in space. No more worrying about room for scheduled gaming, or things like that. Hopefully that should allow games to be scheduled more liberally without as much rush to get a session over because something else is coming in right away.

They had a lot of staff everywhere manning different stores. Though the food may be more expensive there were places selling it everywhere and good coffee at Starbucks in the morning is a bonus. The management worked to correct problems that came up with the AC quickly.

I wanted to access internet at some point but couldn't get in. Maybe I needed a password or maybe it was just slow? Anyway I was too lazy to figure it out, and I didn't really need to get in while on site anyway.

The activity badge prices were also a bit expensive. I'd like to see a decent full week price for one. We just bought one for 2 days for the kid which was fine but we might have paid more for a whole week pass just so the kids could bowl and swim a few more times.

The bathrooms were very clean and well supplied.

Things were more spread out but the payoff was more space so I'll take it.

I had cell reception on site everywhere.

I was worried about the AC but every room I went in was fine in temp.

The State Park down the road had a nice swimming/ picnic area.

It was an excellent facility. It did add 4 hours drive time. It now takes me 12 hours to get there.

I do plan to attend next year if all goes well though. The organizers did a great job making a smooth move.

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Michael Sosa
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Everyone acknowledges that the food is more expensive and that there are less options because of the isolation. This would not be such an issue if the convention didn't run for 9 days. For the last few years I've been at Lancaster for those 9 days and loved it, even if the hotel left something to be desired. Honestly I found the 9 days at 7 Springs tough, primarily because of the food. Its expensive and I quickly got tired of all of the obvious options. I'm Hispanic and it was tough to eat American food every day- specially the breakfast! I miss my Lancaster options, such as the excellent Chinese restaurant, Panera, suhsi, etc.

I don't see myself doing 9 days again.

I'm one of the folks that voted against the move. I'm not going to defend the Lancaster Host quality issues but the practicalities of it were so high that I could overlook all of it: 45 minutes vs 4 hours, lots of food options. Attendance dropped in 2016, let's wait and see if there is a pattern. I will always go to WBC, but that type of isolation is too much for the length of the convention.

And anecdotal evidence is that the majority of the attendees drive further. I didn't think the resort was a bad idea at first but now I don't like it. I just want to play boardgames, I don't really care to pay resort prices nor do I need the glitzy accommodations. And I do take my kids and enjoyed some of the activities but even they were tired. At the Host home was a short drive away, not so at this resort.

Oh and I had a nasty spill on that stupid Alpine slide as well. I could have used the onsite medial facilities. I've never been injured at a boardgame convention before! (alright, alright, it was my own recklessness)
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David desJardins
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Belisarius88 wrote:
At the Host home was a short drive away, not so at this resort.


Obviously, everyone who was 45 minute drive from the Host is going to prefer the Host, despite all of its shortcomings.

But that's a pretty small fraction of the total attendance. And we couldn't remain at the Host anyway. There's got to be a 25% chance per year that we'd find out weeks or months before the convention that it's closed and we'd have to cancel the whole thing. Wherever we moved wasn't likely to be 45 minutes from your house.
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Michael Sosa
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My main issue isn't the drive, it's the isolation from restaurants. I drive 4 hours to Charlottesville every February for PrezCon. Next year I'll need to pay more attention to the eating options because I was tired halfway through the 9 days I spend at WBC every year. In retrospect I enjoyed many food options around the Lancaster Host.
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Kevin C.
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I stayed in Somerset with my two kids for 8 days. There were tons of food options there. It was about a 25 min drive, so even if you stay onsite, it might be worth thinking about taking a break and driving to Somerset to get something to eat.

I was a bit stuck in this in trying to satisfy three different gaming schedules, and I couldn't just leave my kids there or take one and leave the other, so we ate a lot at the resort. But if I were just with other adults, I would have tried to coordinate eating trips back to Somerset or just driven back myself to eat.

I did do the cooler thing later in the week and I'll do that again next year.

So, like you, my biggest gripe was the food prices, but there are ways to mitigate it next year. I made rookie mistakes my first year at Seven Springs that I won't repeat next year.

Kevin
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Daniel Blumentritt
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Quote:
So, like you, my biggest gripe was the food prices, but there are ways to mitigate it next year


If you can bring a car. If not, what you save in food prices you make up for in a week of a rental car.
 
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Kevin C.
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Quote:
If you can bring a car. If not, what you save in food prices you make up for in a week of a rental car.


Sure. As you said, it's a different deal than Lancaster and what worked there to save money won't work here.

Without a car, you are pretty much stranded. Depending on the deal you get from a rental car company, whatever money you save in food will be a wash.

I thought you had a car coming from just 45 min away.

Kevin


 
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Bert Schoose
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The gamer that was 45 minutes away (Michael) is not the one commenting about 'if you bring a car' (Daniel).

I'll add a couple of points:

1. Lancaster was condemned and not an option. If the Board had not made the choice to move, I'm pretty sure the con would have been cancelled in 2016.

2. There were several restaurants closer than Somerset but that had a number of options available as was mentioned.

3. I find the conventions are a social gathering quite often and as a result, I've enjoyed meals with other gamers off site when they drove their car even though I didn't have one. At the risk of coming across as harsh, I suggest folks take advantage of cultivating friendships at the convention and you'll likely have opportunities to be driven offsite if that's what you seek.

4. I was at the convention site the full 9 days and I failed to make it to all the restaurants that are at Seven Springs. Obviously, others made it to all of them and have determined there aren't enough... YMMV.

I don't normally take on the defender position but Seven Springs was so much better than the Host that I couldn't let this pass without the alternate opinion. We are looking forward to next year and hopefully, many more after that. It was a superb choice to move the con to.

One last point, if I had drove there from Florida, interesting enough, Google maps indicates a 14 mile difference between the trip to Seven Springs versus the drive to Lancaster. No worries, we flew. cool
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Marc Nelson Jr.
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Belisarius88 wrote:
My main issue isn't the drive, it's the isolation from restaurants. I drive 4 hours to Charlottesville every February for PrezCon. Next year I'll need to pay more attention to the eating options because I was tired halfway through the 9 days I spend at WBC every year. In retrospect I enjoyed many food options around the Lancaster Host.


Have you considered staying in a condo and cooking?
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Marty Sample
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marcnelsonjr wrote:
Belisarius88 wrote:
My main issue isn't the drive, it's the isolation from restaurants. I drive 4 hours to Charlottesville every February for PrezCon. Next year I'll need to pay more attention to the eating options because I was tired halfway through the 9 days I spend at WBC every year. In retrospect I enjoyed many food options around the Lancaster Host.


Have you considered staying in a condo and cooking?


While final pricing has not been announced, there was talk of a price break for longer condo stays possibly - something like book five nights and get two free. If this comes to pass, the condos will become a more attractive option for some folks I think.
 
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