By Fred Manzo
WBC – 2014
The World Boardgaming Championship (WBC) is a gaming convention held in Lancaster, Pennsylvania every summer that a bunch of us from Long Island have been attending for years.
Besides the various tournaments that have made it famous, WBC also presents gamers with any number of other attractions: A huge open gaming hall with a great free lending library, numerous demonstrations of new games, auctions, plenty of Euro and wargames, a dealer area, the opportunity to schmooze with designers and publishers, a pre-convention “convention” for those tournaments that just take up too much time to fit in with everything else that is going on and, most interesting of all from my point of view, the play-testing of upcoming games.
In this article we’ll mainly cover that aspect of the convention.
First, the enter front row of tables in the main tournament hall was set aside by GMT to present new and upcoming games. In particular, such top designers as Herman Luttmann, Volke Ruhnke, Mark Herman, Sal Vasta, John Poniske, Uwe Eickert and Harold Buchanan came by to play games, talk with the public and sometimes show off their latest creations.
For example, here are some of the games they previewed this year:
Fire in the Lake:
The latest COIN (Counter-Insurgency) game from Volko Ruhnke was a top attraction, with a good dozen people clustering around its table at any one time.
It covers the Vietnam war using the same system as appeared in Andean Abyss. (A game I was lucky enough to play-test at WBC in 2011.)
Fire in the Lake, is the game that broke the 500 pre-order barrier at GMT in the unbelievable time of only 4 days. This is a remarkable, almost unbelievable, feat once you realize that many fine games take well over a year to accumulate a similar number of orders.
(By the way, “P500” is GMT – and many other publishers – way of insuring there is enough interest in a game for them to precede with its publication. In these systems a game is accepted by a publisher under the condition that at least 5oo people agree to order it prior to it being printed. When it reaches the magic 500 number it enters into the final art work and development stage, with publication occurring somewhere around the 700 pre-order mark. This system insures that, on one side, gamers obtain a significant discount and, on the other, that publishers produce only those games that have a significant following.)
This year I also had a chance to play “Liberty or Death” with Volko Ruhnke AND Harold Buchanan, its designer.
“Liberty or Death” is a COIN game that will appear on GMT’s P500 list some time this fall. As you might suspect, it covers the American Revolution. The four factions involved (there are always four factions in a COIN game) will be the American Patriots, the British (including the Troys), the French and the native Americans.
Liberty or Death being play-tested at WBC 2014
However, Gallic War, is the newest COIN game to have actually appeared on GMTs’ P500 list.
Andrew Ruhnke is Volko’s son and its co-designer. I talked to him at WBC and he is deeply into the intricacies of its design. We even discussed Julius Caesar’s “Commentaries on the Gallic War” together.
“Gallic War takes 1 to 4 players into the military actions and complex politics of Roman-occupied but not-yet-conquered Gaul. Caesar and his hard-hitting legions cannot be everywhere and will not triumph without powerful allies among local tribes. But each Gallic confederation has its own agenda and must keep its eyes not only on the Romans but also on Celtic, Belgic, and Germanic rivals. Players recruit forces, rally allies, husband resources for war, and balance dispersed action with the effectiveness and risk of concentrated battle…..”
Leveraging GMT’s popular COIN Series system to integrate historical events with wide-ranging strategic options across the gameboard, Gallic War provides accessible and deep historical gaming of war, politics, and diplomacy. A full solitaire system enables solo players to test their skill against an array of game-run factions, each unique. From Britannia to the Rhenus and down to Narbonensis, armies are on the move. Who shall finally subdue Gaul?….”
Gallic War, broke the P500 barrier in only 8 days. That is an outstanding achievement and just additional proof that GMT’s COIN system is the hottest series in our hobby today.
By the way, I also heard rumors that COIN games on the Chinese civil war and World War II Yugoslavia are being talked about.
But these weren’t all the games, or even all the GMT games, being demonstrated. In particular, and right next door “At Any Cost: Metz 1870″ and “Hammerin’ Sickles” (don’t you love that name) were being put through their paces.
At Any Cost is Hermann Luttmand’s new design for the Metz campaign during the Franco-Prussian war. This game recently broke through the 400 pre-order barrier in only 3 1/2 months, which is a remarkable accomplishment in its own right.
Its new play-test map from Rich Barber was also debuted at WBC, along with a new map for Hammerin’ Sickles.
These maps are not really “playtest’ maps in the usual sense of the term seeing that they will be published one way or the other through Rick’s own company “Black Cat Studios.”
Hermann Luttmann in happier times play-testing “At Any Costs“. Let’s Go Metz!
The French III Corps closing in on Mars La Tour during a play-test of “At Any Cost: Metz 1870.”
Hammerin Sickles, recently broke the 350 pre-order barrier. It and At Any Cost:Metz 1870 will probably be published by GMT sometime in mid-2015. Both games are designed by Hermann Luttmann and developed by yours truly. Hammerin’ Sickles: Longstreet Attacks at Gettysburg covers the second day at Gettysburg at the regimental level. It concentrates on the southern half of the battlefield and involves, as if you couldn’t guess, James Longstreet vs. Uncle Dan (“I’m Not Crazy”) Sickles.
In addition, I also stopped by to watch Sal Vasta put on a demonstration of his “Unconditional Surrender! World War II in Europe in the GMT designers area. I have the game itself, but I’ve haven’t had the opportunity to give it a try. Maybe, next year I’ll sit down and learn it directly from its designer. So many games, so little time.
As for upcoming re-prints
Panzergruppe Guderian, and old and much-loved game from SPI, is getting a new lease on life through Academy Games. I believe its not just being re-printed, but upgraded as well. I’ve also heard that the old “egg defense” will no longer work for the Soviets. Is nothing sacred?
A better view of the PGG play-test map.
Panzergruppe Guderian was published in two editions, by two different companies: The original SPI edition, seen on the left below) and the later Avalon Hill edition (on the right). For all practical purposes they were identical, although the old “Long Island Railroad” gambit was outlawed in the Avalon Hill version. (It was my favorite move in all of gaming.)
In addition, Uwe showed off samples of his latest project: Conflict of Heroes: Guadalcanal. He also brought along the overlays that will come in this addition to his very popular “Conflict of Heroes” line. They were beautiful.
A few of the overlays for Academy Games upcoming Conflict of Heroes: Guadalcanal.
In related news, Academy Games had their 1775: Rebellion and Freedom- The Underground Railroad games picked up by a educational publishing house. So both of these games will be seen shortly in High Schools across the United States. Perhaps their use (along with the lesson plans they come with) will spark an interested in other strategy games.
We also had the opportunity to play a number of older games, such as 1812: The Invasion of Canada (also from Academy games).
This one wasn’t picked up by their educational publisher. Though that is mainly due to there being no classroom time blocked out for the “War of 1812” in the U.S. High School curriculum.
At right, Dr. Harvey Mossman played the America forces, while Dr. Gary Andrews and I played the British/Canadian/Native Americans. It was a hard fought game, but the British won by one or two points. Maybe we’ll challenge Uwe to another game next year.
Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage, and old, old favorite with our group, also saw action. Gary and I played one night until we had to call a hard fought game a draw due to shear exhaustion.
I also picked up my copy of the new game “War Stories – Liberty Road” from Conquistador Games.
I haven’t had time to give it a try either, but by the weight of the box alone it was a good buy.
Though I would not want to give anyone the impression that WBC is an exclusively wargaming convention. Far from it, as at least 50 percent of all the games on display and perhaps as much as 80 percent of the games being checked out of their game liberty were some form of Euro.
Two of the more unusual were The Quilt Show and The Doge Ship, both from Rio Grande Games. And, NO, its not pronounced The “Doggie” Ship. The “Doge” was the elected “Duke” of Venice and his title is pronounced “Doe- G – as in “Just” or the “G” sound in “Gee” (But, please, NO “e” sound at the end.)
The Doge Ship is a game in which the players co-operate in building a ship for the Doge before the raising sea level swamps their attempt. But its not a wholly co-operative game, in that each player also has his own goals, including making as much money as possible through a side business. So, in order to win, the ship must be completed, the sea must be held back and the winner must make more money than anyone else.
From Rio Grande Games:
“Venice, five centuries ago – In order to celebrate the glory of Venice, the Doge, the maximum authority of the Republic, ordered the construction of a new state ship.
In The Doge Ship, the players play the role of the most skilled shipbuilders of Venice who are called by the Doge to cooperate on the construction of the new ship. Each player has to build parts of the Ship in order to earn victory points, but also Gondolas to get money, and Barriers for the protection of the shipyard and the city. The task is not easy: At the beginning of each round, the cost of the actions might change, as well as the demands of the Doge. When the construction of the ship is finished, only one will be the winner and will gain the favour of the Doge.
In this game players have to manage their five actions per round competing with other players…. Players can work on a part of the Doge Ship to gain VP, on Gondolas to make money, or on Barriers to protect Venice from High Water effects and save their shipyard. Manage money is fundamental as all materials costs something. The game ends when the Doge Ship is complete…..”
Quilt Show, also from Rio Grande Games, qualifies an unusual game, I’d say.
From Rio Grande games:
“….In Quilt Show, “quilters” collect fabric cards, which can be exchanged for block tiles. The quilters race the clock as they amass block tiles that they can combine into one or more quilts at a time. They can mix block tiles of a single color or a single pattern to make a quilt. Three times during the game, when the clock reveals it is time for a quilt show, quilts are entered and prize money is awarded. At game’s end, the quilter with the most prize money wins!….”
So, once again, a good time was had by all and I, at least, would recommend stopping by next year. After that, WBC is moving to Pittsburgh or to be more precise about 70 miles to its southeast. As that’s a good 8+ hour trip from Long Island by car we might have to give it a pass, which would be a shame.
But next year for certain. WBC is just about the finest gaming convention one can attend. Especially if you are interested in wargames. (It, along with Consimworld in Tempe and FatDog on Long Island that is.)