by John Weber
The genesis of EuroQuest was an email exchange between myself, Don Greenwood (Executive Director of BPA) and Keith Levy (founder and President of the Games Club of Maryland) that took place shortly after Thanksgiving in 2002. That year had been the debut year for the highly popular Euro-game, Puerto Rico, at the World Boardgame Championships and, as GM for the event, I had been duly impressed to see over 150 people sign up to play in one of two heats in its first year. Subsequent to the 2002 WBC, Don had solicited interest from WBC GMs about the possibility of a mini-Con or pre-Con event either preceeding or in addition to the WBC competition. I had responded, suggesting Puerto Rico — as a popular new addition (it had the highest attendance of any game at WBC that year — as a possible mini-con event. In response, Don indicated that he thought Puerto Rico — along with several other more popular games — might be sufficient to form the basis for a Euro-games only mini-con, and further encouraged Keith and I to consider putting together such an event. To the best of my knowledge, this would be the first such convention in the US focused on competitive play of the newer, popular genre of games known widely as “Euros.”
Over the next few months, internal discussions occurred within the Games Club of Maryland about the possibility of sponsoring and putting together a Euro-games mini-Con. Given the popularity of many games such as Puerto Rico, Settlers of Catan, Ra, Carcassone, Princes of Florence, Euphrat and Tigris, among others, along with the fact that no such Euro-focused convention existed at the time, everyone seemed to think that adding such a convention could serve to fill a void in the gaming community. Keith, Scott Buckwalter (then Vice President of GCOM), Rich Shipley (then GCOM Treasurer) and J. P. Roberts III (then GCOM Webmaster) were among the group of individuals involved in the early planning stages along with myself, Stan Hilinski and the late Harold Siegelman. An early decision was made by Keith to secure a meeting room at the Days Hotel in Timonium, Maryland, again on the hope that the first convention would be successful.
Stan, Harold and I concentrated on the tournament aspect, in particular devising a tournament structure with the anticipation of establishing a competition for the top individual performer at the Euro-games convention. Unfortunately, while we were still in the early planning stages for the first convention, in March 2003, we received the sad and shocking news that Harold had passed away due to a sudden heart attack. Nonetheless, the group persevered. It was quickly determined that we would procure a permanent trophy, through the efforts of GCOM Treasurer Rich Shipley, who purchased the trophy that I had first seen in the window of a trophy shop on Loch Raven Boulevard in Baltimore. We soon agreed to name the trophy in Harold’s honor, as he had been one of the top Eurogamers within GCOM and a likely contender had he lived to see the first Eurogames convention.
In these initial planning sessions, the working name of the convention was “GameQuest.” After some discussions with Don Greenwood and other members of the Board of the BPA (the organization that runs WBC), we agreed to change the name to “EuroQuest,” which more accurately described the focus of the games to be played at the convention. In the April-May 2003 time frame, a proposal was worked up from GCOM and presented by Keith Levy to the BPA Board, that was eventually accepted. Thus, it was agreed that EuroQuest would be staged as a BPA event, run by volunteers from the Games Club of Maryland.
Game selection for the main event tourneys for the initial EuroQuest was based largely on historical attendance at recent WBCs. For the first EQ, we decided to select three games as the “marquis” events, which meant each would have four qualifying heats, leading into a final, while other events had three heats. Most of the events were scheduled back-to-back, something that created more stress than usual for the event GMs. For the first year, we limited the number of total tournaments to ten. The number of tournaments grew to 11 with the addition of a “Hot New Game” and with the addition of a 12th main event at the eighth EuroQuest in 2010.
One of the new concepts included in the very first EuroQuest was a “Wild Card” event that offered several unique features. First, it allowed for unscheduled, impromptu play of any one of a number of games not featured as main event tournaments (originally there were 10 games on the list, but from the second EuroQuest onward, there were 15 different Wild Card games). The following key features were incorporated into the Wild Card event: (1) games could be played at any time (except for the middle of the night); (2) games could be played with any group of opponents (thus eliminating the need for GM supervision; and (3) the Wild Card points system encouraged the play of a variety of games, as the number of points that could be earned from any one game was capped at an equivalent of two wins.
These basic premises of the Wild Card have continued forward to the present EuroQuest, with some minor adjustments over the years to the points system and, in the seventh edition of EQ in 2009, Dominion became the first game to be featured as both a Wild Card game and a main event tourney. Over the years, there have been some close competition for the top Wild Card honors, and all Wild Card champions over the years (Anne Norton, Tom McCorry and Eric Freeman) have excelled at a variety of Euro games, each taking titles in multiple WBC events as well. In years where plaques have also been offered for second and third-place finishes, the competition for those positions has also been tight.These basic premises of the Wild Card have continued forward to the present EuroQuest, with some minor adjustments over the years to the points system and, in the seventh edition of EQ in 2009, Dominion became the first game to be featured as both a Wild Card game and a main event tourney. Over the years, there have been some close competition for the top Wild Card honors, and all Wild Card champions over the years (Anne Norton, Tom McCorry and Eric Freeman) have excelled at a variety of Euro games, each taking titles in multiple WBC events as well. In years where plaques have also been offered for second and third-place finishes, the competition for those positions has also been tight.
Another “first” at EuroQuest was the introduction of a computerized scoring system to track results. The first year we used a rather basic spreadsheet program, but by the second EuroQuest, we introduced a new system designed by Scott Buckwalter that emphasized the user-friendly nature by tying the data entry to badge numbers. Not only did it help in generating accurate results, data entry was a snap as entering in one game took about 30 seconds or less. Later, Scott added a scrolling program. At first, the results were hand-posted on a board but later we simply used computer printouts that were posted, with the assistance of a projector that tracked overall point competitions such as the HLS Trophy, the Wild Card, as well as the scrolling schedule.
Because of the proximity of EuroQuest on the gaming calendar to the big international gaming convention in Essen, Germany (which generally has taken place from two to four weeks before EuroQuest), EuroQuest has represented the first opportunity for many state-side gamers to try the new Essen games. Of course, the existence of an Essen games program has depended on having people associated with the convention going to Essen to bring back the games. For many years, Tom McCorry was the key person who agreed to do this and, starting with the third EuroQuest in 2005, he was responsible for introducing convention goers to the very popular Caylus, which began a tradition of adding a “hot new Essen game” as part of the Wild Card fare that has continued through the 2010 EuroQuest. At the most recent EuroQuest, several of the new Essen games were offered as prizes after being rated by convention goers.
EuroQuest has also tried to include vendors who are willing to go the extra mile as an added attraction to convention goers. In the early years, the main EuroQuest vendor was a relatively unknown on-line retailer, GameSurplus, based in Pennsylvania. GameSurplus, like the convention itself, has grown in size and prominence. A few years later, we added a new US game retailer, Z-Man Games, which has also increased its profile, particularly after it added the highly popular Agricola which was one of the more popular new Essen games demoed in 2007. Our Game Table, a Delaware-based retailer which specialized in gaming accessories also had a vendor booth for several years. More recently, Baltimore-based Canton Games, a successful local game retailer, has been the main vendor for EuroQuest.
Overall attendance at EuroQuest has grown significantly over the years, from around 150 at the first three EuroQuests to almost 300 in 2010. Once attendance surpassed the 200 mark, organizers began looking for a new location. The Hilton in Parkville, Maryland, which offered a larger sized ballroom with about 60% more gaming space was selected, and the move to the new location was successfully completed in 2010. The second year at the new location (2011) saw EQ attendance set an all-time record of 340, leaving organizers scrambling to add additional table space at the last minute. In 2012, however, there was a noticeable decline for the first time ever, mainly due to the fact that a major storm, Hurricane Sandy, hit the area just hours before the convention start.
The most recent chapter in the history of EuroQuest commenced in December 2012 when BPA decided to end its ten-year relationship with EuroQuest. As a result, the ownership as well as the management of the convention was turned over to GCOM. Since that time Rodney Bacigulapo has served as the seventh convention director in the history of EuroQuest, and the same level of tournaments and prizes have been offered. New emphasis has been placed on bringing in game designers and demoing new games. GCOM has continued to host the convention at the Hilton (now Doubletree) in Pikesville. In 2014, two small rooms were added on Friday and Saturday to increase the amount of space available on our most crowded days.