Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

WBC 2014 Thursday: TPA and a day of not winning

Last week I conducted my fourth annual pilgrimage to the World Boardgaming Championships in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the summer highlight of my gaming year.  I had a fairly loose schedule in mind, with only a few key tournaments that I specifically wanted to hit.

Stone Age
Keith Ferguson and I arrived a little after 10:00 a.m. Thursday morning, and my first event turned out to be Stone Age, a fun worker placement game with a little dice luck thrown in for resource accumulation.  My opponents were Ian, Rachel, and Elissa, all of whom seemed a little more familiar with the game than I.  My strategy was to go heavy on tools and civilizations.  Ian won the game walking away with a strong building strategy and finished with 163 points to my 109 in second place.  Rachel was right behind me at 103, and Elissa, who had the largest family with her frequent visits to the birthing hut, had a final score of 85.  I was reminded how much I enjoy this game, and although I don't call it a must-have (given how much Kathy and I already enjoy Agricola and Lords of Waterdeep for the worker-placement genre), I wouldn't mind picking this one up if an opportunity to grab it at discount appeared.

7 Wonders
Eric and Erik, the latter of whom ended up winning with
a strong science strategy
I always enjoy a friendly round of 7 Wonders, and this year was no exception.  Carter, Eric, and Erik were my opponents in two consecutive four-player sessions.  I drew the Colossus at Rhodes for the first game and the Pyramids at Giza in the second.  I think in both cases I preoccupied myself with accumulating resources at the expense of building a tree to gain point-generating buildings, with the result that I came in third for the first game and last for the second.  Regardless, the game was a lot of fun, as it always is.

Keith and I left the venue briefly to check into our hotel, but the room wasn't ready, so we played a game of Targi in the lobby while we waited.  Kathy and I have played this two-player mini-worker-placement game several times, and I really like its clever method of making three decisions to determine five actions (and block five actions from your opponent each time).  Despite that this was Keith's first game, he won by two points.

Wooden Ships & Iron Men
This Avalon Hill classic has long been my favorite wargame of all, and this WBC tournament has been something of a grail quest for me ever since I started playing there.  I'd qualified for the semifinals the previous three years, and even made it to the finals two years ago, only to lose against Dale Long.  When I checked in with Tim Hitchings the GM, he was the only player around (although I'd seen many more earlier in the day), so he agreed to play a one-on-one match with me.  I chose a duel between 38-gun frigates, preferring the maneuverability and close range of lighter craft to a ship-of-the-line slugfest.  After the initial salvos, we both loaded chain shot to take down a mast on the other's ship.  We then switched to roundshot until we closed the range and brought the carronades to bear.  I loaded grapeshot over my doubleshot when we got to point blank range, hoping to decimate his crew and reduce his ability to man the guns, but after about four turns of exchanging fire I realized that straight doubleshot was more effective against hull than the grape was against the personnel.  So I switched to doubleshot, and we danced around each other, seeking an advantage but neither finding it.  We obliterated each other's hulls, until the game came down to one square of hull damage remaining on each ship.  Once more we exchanged broadsides; if either of us rolled a '1' and the other did not, the higher roll would win the game.  If both rolled '1,' neither would damage the other, and we'd play another turn.  We stood on either side of the dice tower and fired away.  Each of us rolled a '5,' which forced both ships to strike colors, and the game ended in a draw.  It was a noble battle if disappointing result.

Trains Planes and Automobiles
The time came for me to do the pleasant duty of running the Trains Planes and Automobiles tournament in the Juniors Room.  This year I had 15 entrants, but unfortunately the Juniors Room library copy was missing, so we had only my two copies to play for the tournament.  The rules provide for up to eight players with some accommodations, so I was able to make the game work with a little crowding around the tables.  Two players from each table advanced to a four-player final, and young Alex, in his first year at WBC, won the tournament.

Greg, Tom, and William schooling me in Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg
I got a chance to play a late-evening heat of Saint Petersburg, a game in which I feel competent but not masterful.  My opponents Greg, Tom, and William were as friendly as they were skilled.  I pursued more of a building strategy, with a few of the heavier nobles, though not many, and finished third with 49 points.  Tom won with 61, and William was not far behind him at 55.

Open gaming
Jerry, Peter, and Keith in an open-gaming round of Tobago
I always look forward to late-night open gaming, when Keith and I hook up with convention acquaintances and play all kinds of games over beers for laughs.  We hooked up with Peter Gousis of MVP Boardgames and a fellow named Jerry for a game of Tobago, which Kathy and I had played once with our friends the Heaneys some time ago.  I really like this reverse-deduction game in which the players narrow down the location of the treasures by card play.  I have to admit that I was playing largely by the seat of my pants, and I think it showed in the final score.  Again, I finished third out of four with 24 points to Peter's 30+ and Keith's 29.

Peter, Keith, Steve, Tim, and Mario panicking on Wall Street
At midnight, the four of us joined T.C. Petty III, Tim Hing, Steve, and Mario for one of my favorite economic games, Panic on Wall Street.  I'd played this last year at WBC as an investor, and this time I tried my hand as a manager, selling company shares to investors.  Somehow my competition commanded better prices from the investors than I did, and I think Keith did a nice job of dominating the speculative high-risk investment market to win the game.  I really love that free-wheeling negotiation game, and I wish I had the opportunity to play more often.  It really requires a larger group of people in the right trading-floor frame of mind.

We finished with Coup: Reformation, the expansion to Coup that adds religious affiliation to the roles.  Every player is either Catholic or Protestant, and players may not take hostile action or challenge the truthfulness of opponents of the same affiliation.  Players may pay money to the almshouse to convert themselves or others; and players may take all the money from the almshouse, as long as they claim to have no influence with the Duke.  I really like this new twist, so I'm glad I Kickstarted the expansion for the Indie Boards and Cards edition of the game.

Next post:  A recap of Friday, when the vendors' hall opened, a lunch turned into an ad hoc game history seminar, prototype demonstrations proved the order of the day, and I enjoyed an unexpected tournament victory.

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