2nd Belgian 18xx Convention – Winter 2018

Date & Venue
30 November – 2 December 2018 – Saint Rumbold’s College, Mechelen
1840: Das Wiener Tramwayspiel (Prototype Lonny Orgler)
18Zoo (Prototype Paolo and Carlo Russo)
1849: The Game of Sicilian Railways
1889: History of Shikoku Railways
1822: The Railways of Great Britain
Steam over Holland
1846: The Race for the Midwest
18OE: On the Rails of the Orient Express
1830: Railways & Robber Barons
1895 Namibia
Number of sessions:
We were nervous, David and I, for our second 18xx convention. The convention of August was a modest success, with 17 attendees from Belgium and the Netherlands. But that was only for one day. Excited by the buzz on the internet about our first convention, we decided to organize an entire weekend of 18xx, hoping for an international audience, dreaming of a lively community of 18xx fans. We started from scratch, looking for a venue, building a website, thinking about catering and, of course, playing a lot of 18xx. We also wanted to have some “additional value”, something “worthy” to come to Mechelen. A prototype should do the trick. In Summer we already had a prototype of 18Lilliput, while the Kickstarter campaign was still running. Could it be possible to have another prototype? Lonny Orgler is a wonderful guy, open, kind and ready to help, so 25 October 2018, David and I drove home from Spiel with a prototype of 1840.
David and I are relatively new to 18xx, having played our first game only one year ago, so we did not know about all 18xx groups, platforms and communities. Facebook and Boardgamegeek were our main promotion channels. The community should do (or better: had to do) the rest. So yes, we were nervous. Because 35 attendees with different nationalities had registered. The accessibility of Mechelen, close to Brussels’ international railway stations and airport, is definitely a strength. Eventually we were 38 (during the weekend), with one last-minute registration and David and I. We thought of everything (at least, we hoped so), but were our standards high enough for 18xx veterans? Again, we were nervous, but excited.
Friday 30 November 2018, 19:00. The convention room in Saint Rumbold’s College (where I studied, (day)dreamed and had exams more than 20 years ago) counted 26 attendees, silently waiting. And then I did what I always do: I went on automatic pilot. Some nice welcome words (were they?), a brief communication of convention rules, a short explanation of the catering and -hey, a first question of Martin- if we could make a quick round introducing ourselves? Of course we could. And so it all started: we learned names, we saw the faces behind the names, we listened to small (18xx) anecdotes, we were surprised that some played their first 18xx already in 1979 (I was born that year!) while others were only introduced at our first convention. The temperature was already nice, but now also the atmosphere was rising. And with that excellent kickoff, game sessions were started. We had our schedule, though not strictly binding. It was a mere suggestion, enough to avoid spending hours discussing which game to play.
Six tables: 1840, the prototype of Lonny, 1889, 1849 (instead of Steam over Holland), 1830 (hosted by Martin, using Lemmi as a moderator to speed up the game [excellent, I dare say, with a total time of only 3h20] (we’d love to see you again, Martin), 1846 (introducing two new players) and 18Lilliput, followed by 18Zoo. Tough games, nice drinks and interesting discussions, it was the first evening I hoped for, the one I dreamed of, and you made it all come true. Alas, curfew at 01:00, I will try to change that, I know, I promise!
Saturday morning, about 30 18xx fans were eager to start the heavier and longer stuff, ready to use all their meanest and most cunning plans, looking forward to play against experienced 18xx players, other than their standard group, than their common friends. The tension mounts! Again six tables, 1840, 1880, 1822, 18Cz, 1830 (without Lemmi) and a “fasten your seatbelts” 18OE. What can I say? Nothing, absolutely nothing! I am stunned, speechless. You should simply come and see. In the afternoon, when the first sessions were ending, the real spirit of a convention started to show. Groups were rearranged and reformed, some started chatting and discussing, while having a drink. Others started another short session. From a distance, (i.e. behind the counter) I saw for instance 18Zoo, 18Lilliput and 1895 Namibia, just before I had some work to do in the kitchen, serving burgers to all of you. It is a hard job to run a convention, but someone has to do it. The evening brought 1889, Steam over Holland, two sessions of 1849 and another round of 18Lilliput and 18Zoo. But more important, the evening was full of laughter, an excellent atmosphere to share a drink, for me an excellent opportunity to enjoy, to sit back and relax… and to start thinking about the Summer edition.
Sunday morning, most of the attendees had to leave on Saturday, so only four tables. Notwithstanding we had a schedule, sessions were launched by the principle “first come, first serve”, mainly because some attendees had to catch a plane, train or ferry. So we had sessions of 1822, 1849, 18Ireland and 18Mex. All sessions were excellent, at least from what I saw and heard. While we were transforming the convention room back into the college study room, a small group (I think they did not want to leave yet) played a small 18xx-like game: North American Railways, a beautiful game released at Spiel this year. And there are many other gems like this, so we will keep this in mind for our next conventions.
17:00… and so it ends. We have to leave the college. I am tired, but happy! Happy to meet such nice people, happy to have run such a wonderful convention, happy to participate in the charming 18xx community. David and I will be back in Summer, we hope many of you too!
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