The Brosius family attends the 2012 World Boardgaming Championships
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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My family and I have been attending the World Boardgaming Championships for a number of years now. I started out coming by myself, but all three of us look forward to it eagerly each year. In fact, my wife is the GM for the Ticket to Ride tournament, which has drawn more than 200 participants every year, so in many ways she is more involved than I am.

If you want to check out my GeekLists from previous years, here are the links:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/15890

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/23759

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/33864

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/45262

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/57698

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/70767

And the following year(s) can be found here:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/161260


I always enjoy my visit to WBC, and this year was no exception. This GeekList is a report on what we did.
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1. Board Game: 1846 [Average Rating:7.99 Overall Rank:1121]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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We drove from Boston to Lancaster on the Friday before the con and arrived around dinner time---just right for a trip to the Texas Roadhouse. It's my son's favorite place and we always make it across the street for a visit several times during WBC. We went to bed at a reasonable hour and got up Saturday morning ready to play games.

WBC proper starts on Monday morning at 9am (a change for 2012---in prior years it started Tuesday evening at 6pm.) However, there's a pre-Con that begins on Saturday morning, and we make sure we're there for the whole time. Some people complain that there are more games than they can play at WBC. I find it hard to understand their problem. It sounds to me like a kid complaining that there are too many toys to play with on Christmas morning!

Saturday and Sunday had three tournaments in games I would like to play: 18XX, Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage and Paths of Glory. The 18XX tournament started at 10am on Saturday, the Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage tournament at 2pm and the Paths of Glory tournament on Sunday morning. The challenge is that 18XX is listed as a 5-hour game, so if I entered the tournament, I might not finish until 3pm, too late for Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage. I decided to chance it because 1846, my favorite 18XX game, is also one of the shortest, and should finish in well under 4 hours.

There were two tables of 1846 in the first heat, and I believe there were 4 players at each table. I found myself at a table with Rick Northey (who lives near me in Massachusetts, but whom I mostly see at WBC,) Ed Rothenheber from MD, and Kyle Greenwood from HI (obviously Kyle loves WBC, because it's a long trip for him!)

In the initial draft I got the Steamboat Company and the Michigan Central, and then (in a moment of weakness) I also took the Big 4, which was a mistake, at least if I had to pay face value. Kyle had the Mail Contract and started the NYC, but Ed had enough money to take the NYC away from Kyle and proceeded to do so, leaving Kyle as a passive investor in the NYC (not always bad, but less attractive with the Mail Contract sitting fallow in your hand.) Coincidentally, I played in a heat of 1846 last year in which the owner of the Mail Contract started the NYC and had it taken over in SR 1 by someone else (me, in that game.)

On my turn I had a choice between the B&O and the Grand Trunk, both of which can use the Steamboat Company. I would usually be attracted to the B&O if I were playing with my home group, but with the possibility that one fewer corporation would start in SR 1 and with unfamiliar players, I was afraid the green trains might not break early, and I didn't want to be stuck running the B&O for $7 a share. So I started the Grand Trunk, buying 3 shares at $70. It turned out fine, as I was able to run to Holland MI, which was worth $80 with Steamboat, for quite some time.

It was a close game, with Rick building a powerful Pennsylvania RR after a slow-ish start. I managed to get a 6-train for the GT, which was enough for a good Windsor-Chicago run, but Rick was gaining on me every turn. I could have tried for a second permanent train (using the Big 4 token,) but in the end I chose to race for the endgame with what I had. When we added the scores, my net worth was $6,310 compared with Rick's $6,302. I had won my first heat by an $8 margin, or 0.1% (unusually small for this and most other 18XX games.) And, once again, the game was nothing like any other 1846 game I've ever played, even though I've played more than 80 times.
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2. Board Game: Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage [Average Rating:7.83 Overall Rank:69]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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My first game finished in plenty of time for me to enter the Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage tournament, starting with the first heat at 2pm. In this tournament, which features one of the best card-driven wargames, the top-ranked players (using the AREA ratings as shown here: http://wolff.to/area/G_HRC.html#78741.60) are seeded against lower-ranked or new players, to prevent the top players from facing each other in the first round.

I entered the tournament ranked 29th, which is not a bad ranking, given that there are 97 active ranked players, but nothing to boast about either. I was randomly assigned to play Chris Byrd, who was ranked 3rd. In another coincidence, Chris is someone I had played before, back at the 2008 WBC. Here's the link: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/33864/item/718130#item... . In that game, I had managed an upset in an extremely close game, despite the fact that Chris's Carthaginians drew the deadly Messenger Intercepted card three times and I did not draw it at all.

In this game, we played the opposite sides, with me bidding 1 or 2 for the Carthaginians. I moved Hannibal across the Alps, but took significant attrition doing so, and it wasn't long before Hannibal's army was reduced to only 3 CUs. I decided that discretion was the better part of valor and returned Hannibal to Spain to lick his wounds.

One big factor in my favor was the stout defense mounted by the citizens of Syracuse. I played the Syracuse card around Turn 4, and despite Chris's diligent attempts to retake the city, it held out for most of the game, falling only late in Turn 7 or early in Turn 8 and drawing much needed resources away from him. He never moved a single general to Spain or Africa, partly because of timely plays of Cato Counsels Rome, but also because he needed to do other things.

Chris once again outdrew me in the Messenger Intercepted derby by a margin of 3-0, but despite this I did not have the impression that he had better luck. His awful siege rolls at Syracuse made up for it.

In the mid to late game, as Chris was tending to Syracuse, Hannibal, once again leading an army of 10 CUs including 2 newly recruited elephants, headed back across the Alps to Gallia Cisalpina to make trouble. Chris responded energetically in Turn 8, and used a 1-2 punch with Fabius and Scipio to kill Hannibal (and force me to remove a batch of PC markers.) The one consolation I had was that digging Hannibal out of the Alpine foothills and bringing him to Roman justice put these two generals far from the action and far from the nearest port.

As Turn 9 began, I saw that, despite Hannibal's death, I still had 8 provinces, and needed only one more to win (Carthage wins ties.) Sicily was well defended, but Sardinia might be susceptible to a last-minute coup de main. I made a preparatory move or two and then sailed Hasdrubal to southern Sardinia with 10 CUs, knowing that a high die roll would sink him or (just as bad for me) return him to port. I had only one card capable of supporting naval movement, so it was now or never. I rolled the die and---yes!---I was successful.

Chris's general, Flaminius, decided to try to withdraw rather than face Hasdrubal with 10 CUs, and did so successfully to the northwest. I converted the space under Hasdrubal and Chris played a card of little consequence. I then moved northeast, giving Flaminius a chance to intercept, but he failed. I then plowed into him, leaving one 1 CU behind, and won the battle. Chris had a card left---what was it? Unfortunately for him, it was a 1 CP Storms at Sea card, which could not be used by any of his generals except Scipio Africanus (far up in Gallia Cisalpina.) I played my last card, a 2 CP card, to convert my second and third spaces in Sardinia to claim the province and a victory on a 9-9 tie breaker!

At this point, Chris was bemoaning the fact that he could have used Storms at Sea to interfere with Hasdrubal's naval move, but failed to do so. It's easy to get so involved with the excitement in this game that you forget something critical. But Chris, who is a great opponent and a great gentleman as well, congratulated me on an exciting game.
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3. Board Game: Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage [Average Rating:7.83 Overall Rank:69]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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After a quick dinner, I returned to the Paradise Room for the second round of Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage. The tournament is run in a "Swiss Elimination" format, with several Swiss rounds (matching winners with winners and losers with losers) followed by single elimination to determine the winner.

This time I was matched against Steve Worrel, whom I did not know from previous WBCs. In this game Steve bid 2 for the Carthaginians. On Turn 1, Steve drew and played the Syracuse card. Opinions differ about the wisdom of playing Syracuse (if you are Carthage) on Turn 1, because it gives the Romans so much time to re-take it. Ideally, you play it as your last card on Turn 9, moving the province count in your favor in a way that your opponent can do nothing about.

Fortunately, I had my little general in Sicily already with 8 CUs, so I was able to begin the siege almost immediately. I made a siege roll and it was unsuccessful. This began a long string of unsuccessful sieges for me, and I took an attrition hit at the end of the turn for sitting on an enemy-controlled fortress.

Meanwhile, Steve moved Hannibal toward the Alps, but I hit him with a Hostile tribes card to knock him down, and he decided that discretion was the better part of valor, withdrawing Hannibal to Gallia Transalpina and letting him sit there. In fact, Hannibal sat on the far side of the Alps for nearly the entire game as the rest of Carthage's generals did the work.

In this game, Messenger Intercepted cards were split 1-1, I think, but I sure couldn't roll on the siege table to save my life. I must have rolled at least 20 times against Syracuse, but at the end of the game, Syracuse still belonged to Carthage. To add to the pain, I could not win battles, as Steve always seemed to have the right battle cards to turn me back and the right die roll to seize the initiative. I think I fought more than a dozen battles during the game and won only 1, a minor affair in Sicily.

In the classic siege failure scenario, the defender uses "Enemy Fleet Breaks Siege" cards to remove siege points at the perfect time. Steve did this once, but he came nowhere near depending on it as a defense. Instead, he made multiple journeys from Spain or Africa to sail to Sicily and fight battles against my besieging army, usually risking the loss of the army on a roll of 6 or if I won the battle, but, even though many of the battles were fought at close to even odds, I got shut out.

In Turn 9, I decided to take Scipio and throw him against Hannibal, who had by now returned to Italy and forced his way into Samnium. I no longer had a chance to win, but I just wanted to win a battle, and I wanted to make sure Hannibal got to do some fighting (he fought no battles for the first 7 turns.) Unfortunately, I had only 13 CUs in Italy (I lost a lot of guys in lost battles and in siege losses.) Five of those CUs had to stay with the consuls, so Scipio only attacked with 8. It was a fairly even battle, but I lost that one too, and immediately resigned.

Steve played an excellent game, taking his chances when he needed to and gaining advantages as the offered themselves. As mentioned above, I didn't know him when I sat down to play against him, but I know him now. Steve went on to win all five of the games he played, winning the tournament and taking home the plaque.

Congratulations, Steve!
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4. Board Game: 1846 [Average Rating:7.99 Overall Rank:1121]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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On Sunday morning, I had a choice to make. My wife was off to the west in Fayetteville, visiting her parents, and my son was still sound asleep, but I had three 9am options! I could continue playing Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage (a single loss doesn't prevent you from contending for the championship, as long as all the other players suffer a loss as well,) I could start Paths of Glory, or I could stick with 18XX.

During the year, I had commented on the fact that I dislike 1830, which is generally used for the 18XX semis and finals. I do dislike it, partly because it is highly diplomatic and partly because it has a serious kingmaker problem. But, in another change from last year, the entire 18XX tournament was run on Saturday and Sunday in 2012. This meant I could play 18XX, all the way to the final if I were fortunate, and still be able to play San Juan on Monday morning. Pierre LeBoeuf, the 18XX GM, expressed surprise that I decided to continue, but it was the 2-day schedule that swung me over. Either Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage or Paths of Glory would push into Monday if I kept winning.

And in addition, I could at least play another heat game of 1846, which I love. The ace of WBC 18XX players in recent years has been Bruce Beard, who had won the tournament 7 years in a row. Players get to choose which member of the 18XX family to play in each heat (subject to making even numbers.) Bruce likes 1846 like I do, and he had already stated his intention to play the game Sunday morning, in the final heat. This had the effect of chasing many people away from the game, since they didn't really want to face Bruce. I already had a win, and I wanted to play a game of 1846 with Bruce. That's what I come to WBC to do---play games against the best players in the world!

In this game I drafted the Michigan Southern minor railroad and the Michigan Central private. Bruce drafted the Meat Packing Company and the Ohio & Indiana. He opened the Illinois Central at $100 per share, getting three shares and an extra $100 from the State of Illinois. I opened the New York Central, looking for the option to run two permanent trains, and bought 3 shares at $70. Another player, Herbert Gratz from Austria, who owned the Chicago & Western Indiana private with its Chicago token and the Big 4, opened the Pennsylvania RR, and the fourth player started the Grand Trunk holding the Tunnel Blasting and Mail privates. (the Steamboat Company was not in this game.)

It was once again an unusual game. Herbert used the Pennsylvania's teleport power to drop a $60 token in Fort Wayne and then built to Chicago(E). It appeared that Herbert was planning to start a second railroad, give it the C&WI token, and have two tokens in Chicago (though it wasn't clear where the funds to do this would come from, since the PRR would not be running for much money.) This certainly shook things up! There were only two entries left to Chicago, and the IC seemed to have a lock on Chicago (SW), leaving me and the GT player to fight over Chicago (NE).

I had been hoping for a slower game, in which I could milk the MS for a while, but after the GT owner built to within 2 hexes of Chicago I decided (for good or ill) to make my move. I had the NYC issue one more share (it would have saved me $10 to have issued it in OR 1,) buy in the MS, and connect and token Chicago (unfortunately, I had to go through South Bend.) As you can imagine, this didn't make the Grand Trunk owner happy, but I had to do what I had to do. I bought a 3/5 train to make the run Chicago Connections - Chicago - South Bend gulp - Detroit - Windsor.

This jostling among the eastern railroads was to Bruce's advantage, and he was able to drive the IC forward (running three green trains) even though I bought IC whenever I could in order to share in his success. (Bruce wound up with 6 IC and I had 3; in turn, I had 6 NYC and Bruce had 3, but the NYC wasn't nearly as good.) Herbert got into difficulties and never did manage to convert the C&WI to a second Chicago token; I eventually tokened the spot with the B&O (which I started late in the game.)

I did wind up with two permanent trains in the NYC and did well with them, but Bruce wound up winning the heat, beating me by a margin of about 8% as I finished 2nd. It wasn't too wide a gap considering the strength of the opposition. After the game I asked Bruce for comments on how I could have played better, and he gave me some ideas (this is one of the benefits of playing against experts.)

I now had a win and a loss in 18XX, but I had qualified for the semis.
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5. Board Game: 1830: Railways & Robber Barons [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:104]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Now it was time for the 18XX semis. I don't like 1830: Railways & Robber Barons very much, but I seem to be reasonably competent at it (I came in 2nd in a heat last year.) And 18XX is a 6-plaque tournament, so I had a shot at a "sand plaque" (for 6th place in a tournament that awards 6 plaques.) The sand plaque (named after its color) is the rarest plaque given at WBC, since it's only available in the handful of tournaments that award 6 plaques, which are the tournaments that attract the most players for the most hours. Each year the tribe of sand plaque owners wears fezzes and parades through the hotel lobby in an ironic celebration of the dubious honor they have achieved.

There were 21 qualifiers on hand for the semis, but one person graciously dropped out to allow the GM to form five 4-player tables. Each table could play any 18XX game they agreed on, but the default was 1830, and that's what we played in our game (more people know 1830 than any other 18XX game, at least in the US.) The GM assigned tables, and I was once again assigned to a table with Bruce Beard. The other players at my table were Bill Peeck, who I have played with before, and Jeff Tolleson, a New England resident I play with regularly.

In the auction I bought the C&StL for $45 and the D&H for $85, leaving me with $470 out of my initial $600. Bruce took the M&H, the C&A and the SVRR, leaving him with far too little to start a railroad, so he'd be an investor early on. Bill bought the B&O and Jeff did not get a private.

Jeff started the NYNH at $67 and I started the PRR at $67. These were the only two companies to start in SR 1. Bruce pointed out after the game that (since he had a PRR share already) I could have bought 5 PRR and 1 B&O, floating the B&O and gaining Bill's cooperation in developing the area southwest of NYC. This didn't occur to me; it's one drawback of being a relative beginner. It certainly would have been an attractive offer to Bill, who would have gained a whole OR in timing for his company.

I fairly quickly bought in my privates, but then had a PRR with little money and a need for extra capital. I decided to get rid of it (it had done its job buying my privates for double face value) and dumped it on Jeff to start the C&O. (Bruce already had the President's share of the NYC, which hadn't floated.) Jeff was now in a bit of trouble, so he in turn dumped the NYNH on me. This wasn't horrible, because the NYNH was in much better shape, with a NYC token and more cash.

As the train rush proceeded, Jeff opened the Erie as a suitcase (a RR that didn't need a train right away) but after considering his options, decided to see whether he could bankrupt himself, just so he didn't have to play the game out. This is a problematic situation. On the one hand, Jeff (who was almost certain to come in 4th no matter what he did) can't be blamed for not wanting to play another hour or two. On the other hand, if Jeff had gone bankrupt at that point in time, I may have won the game, which would have been tough for Bruce, since it was more or less a random effect of another player's trouble. In the end, Jeff didn't quite go bankrupt. He left orders to just run his company and went off to do something else. The three of us who remained played out his position.

I seem to fail in 1830 through not buying a diesel and seeing other players out-earn me in the late game. That's what happened this time, as Bruce got big money out of his companies and I wasn't able to block him. But I came close, finishing in 2nd place by 5.6% to Bruce. This was close enough to finish 8th in the tournament (alas, Antero Kuusi's 2nd place by a margin of 1.8% in the semis took home the coveted sand plaque, and Mike Coyne finished 4.4% back to take 7th.)

Although I wasn't there, I understand that the 18XX final game was a 5-player 1830 game. Bruce's winning streak was broken as he was forced to buy two diesels largely out of pocket, miring him in 5th. The winner was Spencer Hamblen, a strong player who has finished well in this tournament before.
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6. Board Game: A Few Acres of Snow [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:145]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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One of the new tournaments at WBC this year was A Few Acres of Snow, a recent design by Martin Wallace. Last year Chris Senhouse and I played it in Open Gaming, and people kept coming up to ask what it was (it was funny to explain, "it's kind of a cross between Wilderness War and Dominion" and have wargamers ask, "what's Dominion?")

As people played the game during the past 12 months, a powerful British strategy was developed. It soon took on the name "Halifax Hammer". The designer issued some rule changes to address this strategy, but it appears that the British have an overwhelming edge both with the original rules and with the revised rules. This promised to be problematic for the tournament---at least in games in which one or both players knew how to play the Hammer. GM Roy Gibson (who, as I learned, is originally from Liverpool) introduced a bidding procedure to even things out, but I don't know how well it worked.

I have played the game 8 times, but didn't have time for it at WBC. My wife Claire had also played several times and enjoyed it (she is a big fan of Dominion.) During the trip down, she talked about the possibility of playing it, but wasn't sure. People disagree about whether A Few Acres of Snow is a wargame, but from my wife's viewpoint it was close enough to make her think twice about playing. I mentioned the fact that the British are thought to have an edge, but encouraged her with the thought that many of the other tournament contestants might not know the Hammer either.

Claire returned from her parents' house in plenty of time to enter the tournament, but she was still waffling as we walked through the Host (the convention hotel.) By a stroke of luck, we spotted Kaarin Englmann, the Assistant Convention Director, walking along with a copy of A Few Acres of Snow under her arm. This was just the extra impetus Claire needed to enter the tournament, so off she went with Kaarin to play in the Mulligan Round. I was tired after three 18XX games and two games of Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage in two days, so after taking a spin through all the convention rooms, I went to bed early to save energy for the next day.

Some time around midnight, my wife returned to the room, waking me up, to tell me excitedly that she had won her first heat (against Kaarin, no less!) One of the best things to have your wife wake you up for in the middle of the night is the news that she has just won the first heat of a wargame tournament!

Claire had taken the French in the first game and pushed an expansion strategy, getting all her houses on the board to end the game with a VP edge. She was looking forward to playing the next day, Monday, and would not be required to play in the first round, since she had already won a game in the Mulligan round.
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7. Board Game: San Juan [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:162]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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One fixture of WBC Monday for me is the San Juan tournament. It, like Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage, is a "Swiss Elimination" tournament, starting with four Swiss rounds. Anyone who wins 3 games in the Swiss rounds is then entered into a single elimination stage to determine the winner. Both Claire and I were present with copies of the game under our arms.

Jeff Mullet is the official GM for San Juan, but Bruce Reiff, whose ... voice ... is bigger, serves as the town crier, matching people up for games. Each participant filled out a card and Bruce paired people up. It was a mob scene, with nearly 100 people looking to be paired in 50 games. Your first game is a crap shoot---you can be paired with someone you have never heard of, or with a former champion. There was a lot of cheering and moaning as the process went on. When it came to me, I was paired with Tom Browne, a very strong player and a two-time former WBC San Juan champion. It's important not to get too excited about these pairings---if you want to win the tournament, you'll have to defeat players like Tom at some point. The downside is that being paired with Tom reduces your odds (because you need to play an extra round of Russian Roulette with plenty of bullets in the chamber,) but the upside is that you get an extra game against top flight competition (as I had gotten with the games against Bruce Beard.)

Tom and I sat down and began to play. There aren't many strategies to pursue in San Juan---Tom Lehmann claims there are two and a half---but if you stumble on one of them, you'd better seize it with both hands. In my case, I got a Smithy and a Guild Hall and started playing production buildings for all I was worth, hoping to fill out my 12-card tableau before Tom could get his purple strategy working. It worked in this game, as I got my 12th building down before Tom could get more than 8, and I won by a margin of 25-23 (low scores for San Juan.) I went on to play a winner in the next round, and Tom went on to play another first-round loser (who got a terrible stroke of bad luck in having to play Tom in the loser's bracket!)

My second game was against Patrick Gorman, a nice guy and all-around good game player whom I've faced before in various tournaments. We both started with a Carpenter (he Prospected and I Built, leaving us both with a single card after the first two roles.) I was fortunate in this game to get just the right cards from my Carpenter, but Patrick wasn't so lucky, being stuck with a batch of cards that didn't fit into a strategy, so I won relatively handily.

I now faced another 2-0 player, Nick Ferris. Nick played the production building strategy I had used against Tom in my first game, while I went for the Big Purple strategy. It was an extreme game: I think Nick finished with 7 Indigo plants, a Sugar plant, a Guild Hall, a Smithy, a Gold Mine and one other card. I had City Hall, Triumphal Arch, Palace, and some monuments. One key to my success was a hyperactive Gold Mine, which gave me about 5 cards over the course of the game, including several that I was hoping to draw. The final score was 40-30 in a demonstration of the power Big Purple can bring to bear.
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8. Board Game: A Few Acres of Snow [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:145]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Claire lost two games in the San Juan Swiss rounds, but it wasn't a big problem for her, because she was able to head off to the next round of A Few Acres of Snow. I was 3-0 and did not need to play in the final Swiss round, so I had time for a relaxed lunch (I decided the Italian sub was the best choice in the food line this week, even if they should be calling them "hoagies" and not "subs"---it was Pennsylvania, after all!)

Claire came back to tell me that she had won another round of A Few Acres of Snow and was now 2-0. She had played the French in her second game, and though her opponent knew he was supposed to do something to attack Halifax, it didn't work and she once again built out before he could achieve military domination. She then went away to play in the next round, and at some point in the afternoon came back to tell me that she was 3-0, and in serious contention for laurels. (Laurels are awarded to anyone who finishes in the top 6 in a tournament---even if there's no plaque for the place they achieve because the tournament is small or new, like this one.) I was happier for Claire to be 3-0 in A Few Acres of Snow than I had been for me to be 3-0 in San Juan---it meant more to her than it did for me.

People really got into this game. One player from Quebec was wearing a colorful sash that matched the sash you can see the guy wearing on the French Militia card. It added a lot of atmosphere to the tournament.

Finally, Claire played Nick Henning in the quarter-finals, and Nick knew enough about the Halifax Hammer to defeat her, even though she did stave off the Hammer for some time. Claire played the French (the side with a disadvantage) in all four rounds of the tournament and finished 3-1. She's already talking about learning the Hammer for next year so she'll be better prepared for whatever she faces.
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9. Board Game: San Juan [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:162]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I have a long history with the WBC San Juan tournament. I am traditionally almost unstoppable in the Swiss rounds (I've eaten lunch during the fourth Swiss round more often than I can remember) and flop like a Mafia boxer in the first elimination round. For full style points, I need a Gold Mine that gushes like the Clampett oil well in the third Swiss round followed by a dry hole the next time.

Everything was in place for the traditional Kabuki drama. As mentioned above, I defeated Nick Ferris to go 3-0 with the help of a Gold Mine that was unconscionably productive. I now sat down to play Rodney Bacigalupo in the first elimination round. It was a close game, and for once I didn't get a Gold Mine. I also failed to get a Library, so I had everything I could handle trying to keep a lid on Rodney's Library. We both built a lot of production buildings together with a Guild Hall, but Rodney followed up with a Palace to edge me by a margin of 37-35. I was out of the tournament.

Interestingly, Tom Browne came back from the victory I dealt him initially to win his way straight to the final, where his string ran out. He earned 2nd place in the tournament.
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10. Board Game: Thurn and Taxis [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:257]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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In our car on the trip down from Boston to WBC were three Brosiuses and one other person---Andy Latto, a friend who lives near us. Andy had a ride back to Boston at the end of his stay, but needed a ride down because Cally would not be arriving until late in the week.

Andy is the GM and three-time past champion for Thurn and Taxis, Andreas Seyfarth's "other design". Andy did double duty as a GM in 2012, also GMing Innovation, a new tournament for 2012 that was run in a 2-player format. He asked me to serve as Assistant GM for Thurn and Taxis, and I agreed to do so as I had time available. As it turned out, I was able to play in all three heats.

The first heat featured Jennifer Mongold, Derek Glenn, and David Platnick. It was a close game, but David won with 21 VP as I followed close behind with 19. I went on to lose the second heat to Lauren Shapiro and the third to Anne Norton (who beat me in the final in 2006, the first year for this game at WBC.) Even with two good seconds I was not a candidate for the semis, since there are only 16 slots and there are far more than 16 winners. But I had fun playing in the heats and was happy to help Andy out.
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11. Board Game: Ra [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:95]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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My favorite Reiner Knizia games are Medici, Taj Mahal and Lost Cities, but Ra isn't far behind. It's plainly a game of skill, as Alex Bove's four WBC championships demonstrate, even if I'm not a great player. If you want to play in the semis, you need either multiple heat wins or a win in the first heat you play (possibly together with a good second place.)

I struck it big in my first heat this time, as all the tiles came up almost exactly as I would have wanted them too. The moans of my opponents were clear evidence of this. I finished with 51 VP, ahead of Curt Collins with 41, Henry Dove with 35, Eugene Hourany with 30 and Dave Blisard with 28. Later in the con, on Friday, I played a second heat and came in second to Steve Shambeda by a single point, 35-34. This was enough to get me into the semis.

Unfortunately, I went "on tilt" in the semi, overpaying for a lot with a pair of pharaohs and a civ in the first epoch and setting off a furious pharaoh war that went on for the entire game (but from which I earned 15 VP.) It was enough to earn me 2nd place in the semi, but Steve Scott, the GM and former champion, ended the game 10 VP ahead of me (having prudently accepted last place in the pharaoh war.) Steve Scott went on to win his second Ra tournament at WBC (another eventual tournament winner who knocked me out.)
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12. Board Game: 1824 [Average Rating:7.86 Overall Rank:2544]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Tuesday at WBC is Auction Day. From 9am until about 5pm there is an Auction Store (with less valuable items on tables and price tags) together with a traditional open outcry auction. With very few exceptions (such as the Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization final,) there are no tournament games during this period. Many people complain bitterly about this gap in the schedule, but other people think the Auction is a great idea.

The Auction staff publishes a list of items before WBC. I had looked at the items and determined that there was nothing I really wanted to buy. I walked through the Auction Store at 9am, and came back to walk through it again near the end of the day, but for the most part, I was determined to do some open gaming on Tuesday.

Every day at WBC I walked through the Open Gaming room at least once or twice to see what was happening, but on this day I was looking for a game to play. One group was starting up a game of 1817, but although I enjoy the game, it was longer than I was looking for. The Texas Roadhouse was running a promotion that donated 10% of each check to the WBC game library on Tuesday afternoon, and I wanted to go over with Sam.

Near the 1817 table I spotted a copy of 1824 set up with three people gathered around it, going over the rules. This was a happy coincidence, because 1824 was on my "want to play" list. I had even borrowed a copy of the game from my friend Michael and read through the rules, but I had never played. As I stopped by the table and looked at the game, I was invited to join the group for a 4-player game, and I was delighted to accept. The other players were Peter Eldridge and Barrington Beavis from England and Herbert Gratz from Austria (with whom I had played 1846 earlier in the week.)

1824, which was designed by Lonny Orgler and Helmut Ohley, is set in the Austro-Hungarian Empire of the 1800's. It is a modification of Lonny's earlier game 1837, which shares a common geographic area but is a larger game. It is a shortish game, as 18XX games go, and features coal companies and coal trains, which run to coal mines and score dits without counting them, and put money into the company treasury without requiring dividend withholding. It also features a number of traditional minor railways (analogous to those in 1835 or 18EU) that combine into larger railways later in the game.

I was selected to have the Priority Deal, so in the switchback minor drafting procedure I had both the 4th and 5th choices. The double size minors Sd1, KK1 and Ug1 were chosen by the 4th, 3rd and 2nd players, so I took Coal Company 2 and the KK2, which I thought could work nicely together. I parred the coal company at 100 (paying 200 for it) because that was the amount that would make my $680 in starting cash come out equal. I also drafted the Sd2 and two of the Mountain Railroads. The Sd2 is based in Graz, so I apologized to Herbert for taking the company in the city that matches his last name!

I was making good money in the early going, and soon started the BH railroad (which I thought I could help with Sd2.) It bought a 3T and ran at least once, but before long it was time for me to convert Coal Company 2 into a regular railroad, so I sold a share of the BH to raise money. If I had thought I would lose the BH directorship I would have sold all my shares, but I thought the BH a bit of a dog and didn't think it was a risk. Barry, however, bought up the BH, and I wound up losing $60 I could have had if I had just sold all my shares right from the start (chalk up one error in a new game.) I'm not sure Barry helped himself by buying the BH, a fixer-upper, even though he wound up running it for good money.

One trick in 1824 is properly managing the conversion of a coal company into a major. I was working toward that end, but flubbed up by failing to upgrade a 2g train to a 3g train at the right moment, and as a result I lost an important income turn (in this game, you can trade in a train for half its face value against the next larger train of the same type.)

Another important task in any 18XX game is getting the right trains into the right companies. Herbert spent quite a few ORs juggling trains back and forth between his two companies before he was finally satisfied. This led to some discontent among minority shareholders, who were counting on dividends that were (in their opinions) unreasonably deferred.

Peter played a steady game, converting Coal Company #3 into the black corporation and driving its value relentlessly toward the end of the stock price chart. This, together with other wise investment decisions, gave him a comfortable victory with $10,628. I was well back in 2nd place with $9,572, followed closely by Barry with $9,415 and then Herbert with $6,800 exactly.

I enjoyed this game and would like to get a copy and play again (or play with Michael's copy.) It has a number of interesting new ideas. It does get a bit repetitive in the final ORs, but my group plays quickly and could finish a 4-player game in no more than 3 1/2 hours.
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13. Board Game: Empire Builder [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:671]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I have stated in the past that, of all the games at WBC, the tournament I am most interested in winning is Empire Builder (see, for example, the following: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/23759/item/471599#item...) It's a 6-plaque tournament, hotly contested, with many strong players. Last year I played in 2 heats, came in 2nd in both, and squeaked into the semis, where I came in 2nd for a third time. This year I decided to start playing right at the start: 6pm on Tuesday. (This more or less ruled me out of the tournament for Power Grid, another game I love, but one must make choices in life.)

My first heat featured Tedd Mullally, a former winner of this tournament, together with Dave Finberg and John Clarke, both good players with whom I've played before. We were using the "with Mexico" version of Empire Builder, which introduces a new big payoff load, Coffee, to challenge the dominance of Sugar.

My initial cards were good ones. I love starting in Mexico City with Coffee for someplace I can reach, like Omaha. In this game I was dealt Coffee to Chicago and Imports to Houston. Veracruz, the sole source of Coffee, is also a source of Imports, so I could make the two pickups at once. Even better, Houston is almost directly on the way from Veracruz to Chicago. I thought about buying a Fast Freight right away, but decided it was a bigger risk than I wanted to run and stayed slow for a few turns.

I picked up Rice in Houston and headed for Chicago. When I delivered the Coffee there, I saw that I had a card for Rice to one of the Canadian cities together with two good Uranium cards coming back, so I built to Regina and Calgary, delivered the Rice, and brought 2 loads of Uranium back with me. It was one of those dream games where the cards always work in your favor and you already have the track you need for them. The city I did not build to was Los Angeles, and I really didn't build to it---the closest I came to Los Angeles was Seattle!

We finished this game in a little over 2 hours. I finished my turn with $258 million and 6 major cities connected, almost $100 million ahead of my closest competitor. This would probably give me a berth in the semis and allow me to play other games on Wednesday, when the second and third heats were scheduled.
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14. Board Game: Medici [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:356]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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My favorite game is probably Medici, a brilliant auction game by Reiner Knizia from his "gamer's game" period. I try to play in at least one heat every year, though I have never won the tournament (I came away from my one entry into the finals with a 2nd place finish, behind Gary Noe.) My 6pm tournament, Empire Builder, was scheduled to run 4 hours, and Medici started at 9pm, but we finished in plenty of time for me to make it. One thing that complicates schedule planning is the possibility that you will finish games early, allowing you to play in games that appear based on the schedule to overlap. I had already done this with 1846 and Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage on Saturday, and I did it again on Tuesday.

I was seated at a table with 4 eager bidders, so that on every voyage I found myself the only player with 3 empty spaces on my boat. This presents a golden opportunity: if you can turn over a great set of 3 cards, you can buy them for $1 because no one else has room on the boat to take them. Unfortunately for me, I was able to turn over nothing but trash when this happened. On one voyage I even got two chances to get three cards for $1, but busted both times.

To add to my misery, I started the game by collecting gray cards, hoping to benefit from the lack of competition in this color, but suffered from the fact that many gray cards were buried at the start of each voyage (you remove 6 random cards from play at the start of each voyage in a 5-player game.) It just wasn't my game, as Cary Morris went on to win an impressive victory. And I never managed to play another heat of Medici, so I failed to make much of a ripple in the tournament this year.
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15. Board Game: Elk Fest [Average Rating:6.20 Overall Rank:1885]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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One of the lighter tournaments at WBC is the Elk Fest tournament. It's a flicking game, and though it is (together with 18XX) one of the only tournaments with no luck at WBC (and I must admit that 1846 has luck in the private company draft,) it attracts a lot of young people, together with older people who come for the experience as well as for the competition.

Last year I surprised myself by winning several games to make it to the quarterfinals. This year, things were different. I faced a young man named Zvi Mowshowitz in my first game. If you remember the scene from the Indiana Jones movie in which the martial arts artist puts on an amazing display of acrobatics only to be shot dead by our hero, that's pretty much what happened to me here.

I'll say it as clearly as I can: No amount of Elk Fest strategy and cunning can make up for the fact that your opponent can flick discs where he or she wants them to go and you can't! And Zvi had that ability, making short work of me.

My son is a big fan of Elk Fest as well, but unfortunately he had a migraine Tuesday night and was not able to participate.
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16. Board Game: Race for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:24]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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The game I've played most often since I started recording my plays at the start of 2002 is Race for the Galaxy (I count face-to-face plays only, not on-line plays.) I still seem to want to play it more often than most of my friends, so the WBC tournament is a great way to get extra plays in.

My first heat game demonstrated the value of experience. It was a 3-player game in which I started with Ancient Race (the green windfall that reduces your starting hand to 3 cards,) Gal Fed and two weak cards. I traded and used the proceeds to play Gal Fed. I leeched a world here and there, but for the most part I did nothing but Develop for most of the game, ending with a tableau that could be best described as "Gal Fed and a bucket of crap." Fortunately, by racing to 12 cards I prevented my opponents from gaining much momentum and won 36-34-31. This game demonstrated the value of experience, as a less seasoned player might have panicked at the poor cards I drew and tried something foolish.

For my second heat game, which was played immediately after the first, I was asked to join a table at which one player had asked not to be paired with Mike Kaltman, who had just beaten him soundly in the first heat, and had been randomly assigned to his table again. I swapped in for the former victor at the table and we dealt cards. This time I managed to build several production worlds including Lost Species Ark World, a brown world that gave me a card when I produced a good on it, and a blue world that gave me a card when I produced on it, together with Diversified Economy and Merchant Guild. My actions this game were just as easy to predict as those in the last game: Produce, Consume x 2, Produce, Consume x 2, etc. Every time I produced I got 9 cards, fully re-stocking my hand. This game was a comfortable victory as I only had to follow my nose to rake in a huge pile of VPs.

I played a third heat on Friday, losing to Henry Allen (remember that name!) by a substantial margin, but my first and second heat wins were enough to qualify me for the quarters. As I did last year, I won my quarter-final game by a big margin (ending with 50 VPs, ahead of Rob Kircher who had 42.) But once again it all came apart in the semis, as Nick Kiswanto had a strategy and I didn't (Nick got a bunch of Rebel worlds and Rebel 6-developments to win by about 10 VP.)

I think I am a strong enough player to make the finals in Race for the Galaxy at WBC, but I need a little bit of luck to do it.
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17. Board Game: Saint Petersburg [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:157]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Saint Petersburg, like Race for the Galaxy, is a game I love, and that I don't get to play as often as I'd like because other people aren't as fond of it. At WBC, though, you're guaranteed to be able to play a game if you show up with a copy at the scheduled time. In the first heat, I was facing a real Race for the Galaxy shark at my table---Cliff Ackman, who is 3rd in the AREA ratings out of 44 (I'm 16th.) I even had a big lucky break, as the Mistress of Ceremonies came out on the first turn and I was able to build her, having saved $18. Cliff fought back, though, using a blue card strategy, and when I was unable to find an orange upgrade near the end of the game, he edged me out by 2 VP, 80-78.

I played a second game on Thursday night, and this was an easier win. It was a stubborn table, reluctant to open spaces for others, so scores were low. I pulled ahead steadily on the strength of some good orange cards, and on the last turn I was sure I was going to win. I was so excited that I literally forgot to play an orange card during the last upgrade phase, costing me 6 VP for the missing orange card and 5 VP for ending the game with a card in my hand (and gaining me 1 VP from the $10 I failed to spend)! What a boneheaded move! Fortunately, I had a big enough lead that I still won by about 10 VP.

One 2nd place and one win was not enough to make the semis in Saint Petersburg. I've played in this tournament almost every year, but I haven't had the success I've been hoping for.
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18. Board Game: Eurorails [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:725]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I didn't really need another win to make the Empire Builder semis, but I had a few hours open in my schedule and the third heat was there waiting to be entered. Winning tournaments is a thrill, but the main reason to come to WBC is to play great games against great opponents.

In this heat I played Eurorails in a 3-player game against Mark Giddings (who also made the finals in For the People) and Brian Smith. It was an unusual game. Mark was the first player, and he built southwest from Paris, intending to connect up to Bilbao. I had two turns in a row, since the building turns use a switchback start, and I had contracts for Sheep to Lisboa and Cork to Lyon and Newcastle. I built from Madrid to Bilbao and out into the Garonne plain, seriously interfering with Mark's plans. He adjusted, though, and even though I had a great start (taking the Sheep to Lisboa and then taking 2 Cork loads,) he came back to beat me by a margin of £260 to £200 as my cards dried up a bit and I started building a lot of track in an attempt to get deliveries. My unconnected city was Wien, which tells you something right there, and I also built to Napoli, Newcastle and Zagreb. I'm sure I earned more than Mark from contracts, but I spent way too much on track.

Despite all my building, this game moved fast. We had only 3 players, which helps, but we finished the game in 1 hour and 50 minutes. People play the crayon rails games at vastly different speeds, and it's a lot more fun when it takes under 2 hours than when it takes 4.
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19. Board Game: Lost Cities [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:261]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I've been chronicling the adventures of the Brosius family in the WBC Lost Cities tournament for years. It's probably the one tournament that the whole family anticipates most. Ivan Lawson, the GM, gives out his own "LC" numbers to help him track the results, and my son Sam usually gets LC 1 because he's first in line, having arrived early. This year was no different.

In the first heat I was matched against Yoni Weiss, the son of Yoel Weiss, whom I've played many games with at WBC. Yoni may be young, but he knows how to play Lost Cities, and he beat me by a margin of 64-45. It may sound like a dull game, but it wasn't---I had a negative score in the first hand and Yoni had a negative score in the second, but we were just 1 point apart going into the third and deciding hand. Unfortunately, his strategy worked better than mine and he was 1-0.

I didn't think I'd get to play in all 4 heats, so I had no chance to make the elimination rounds, even if I were to win all my games. As it turned out, I played in one more heat, the fourth, on Saturday evening. I made it to the check-in table before my wife or son, and I received a playing card that would determine my opponent. It was the King of Hearts. I chose a table near the check-in line, and as my wife got closer, I held up my card. "Hey, sweetie! I'm the King of Hearts!" I said loudly as everyone in the room (except my wife) chuckled.

My opponent for this heat was Alyssa Mills, another good player whom I'd faced in this tournament in the past. It was a close game, but I won by a 69-63 margin to end with a 1-1 record.

Sam and Claire both made it into the elimination rounds with 3-1 records, but alas, they both went down to defeat in their next games.
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20. Board Game: El Grande [Average Rating:7.83 Overall Rank:26]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Another favorite game of mine is El Grande. I still remember the joy we felt when this game came out and we finally had a great 5-player game that we could finish in a reasonable amount of time.

I try to enter at least one heat at WBC each year, and on Wednesday afternoon I got my opportunity. My table included Doug Faust, whom I've played with a number of times before, Chris Gnech, one of the Finns who joined Riku for another trip to WBC (either Juhana Keskinen or Mikko Raimi, but I'm afraid I didn't record his name,) and Thomas Morris, a young man who displayed maturity and gaming ability well above what one would expect from a typical adult.

It was an unusual game. I started in Galicia, a low-scoring province that I like because it doesn't tend to attract much attention. Early in the game, both of the Move a Mobile Scoreboard cards came out, and Sevilla received the "fat" 8-4-0 scoreboard while Aragon got the "thin" 4-0-0, making it a Galicia clone. I usually hate Aragon, but once it was 4-0-0 I went in and kept it for most of the game. On the other hand, my presence was extremely light in the big provinces of Granada, Old Seville and New Seville, with my opponents' cabs crammed in like sardines in search of the big payouts.

One of your big decisions in El Grande is how to use your '13' power card. I decided to step up early and use it to take the "Score all 6 and 7 Regions" card and not use it, eliminating what would have been a huge scoring opportunity for all my opponents (sometimes what you want not to happen is more important than what you want to happen!)

Thomas was clearly setting himself up for the 2-1-13 trick in the final three rounds, and I took the opportunity presented by an "Evict all Cabs to Another Region" card to pile about half a dozen cabs into his home province, Catalonia, in an attempt to slow him down. This proved to be a great decision when the "Score all 4 Regions" card appeared. Now, I didn't have the ability to gain first choice, but other people had things to do, so I played my '9' power card and wound up choosing third. The highest power card took "Move the King" and the second took "Score a Region of Your Choice". I leapt on the "Score all 4 Regions" card and scored it. I was first in Galicia, first in Catalonia, and first in Aragon. This took my opponents by surprise. Someone said, "Aragon isn't a 4 region", and I pointed out that, with the "thin" mobile scoreboard, it was. Then someone said, "you forgot Sevilla", and I pointed out that, with the "fat" scoreboard there, it wasn't. The card gained me 14 VPs, Thomas 2 VPs, and no one else anything, leaving me far ahead.

It looked like a close battle between Thomas, Doug and I, with the other two having little chance to catch up. When the "Each Player Chooses a Region to Score" card came up, I selected Galicia with hardly a thought, since I'd score 6 VP there and no one else would score anything. Unfortunately for me, one of the trailing players also chose Galicia, reasoning that he had no chance and could possibly push the young player to victory, something he thought was better than allowing me to win (if two people choose the same region to score, it does not score.) I can't complain, as my policy in El Grande is usually to try to bring the leader back to the pack, rather than to try to gain a higher place for myself if I can't win. The game does have a bit of a kingmaker problem sometimes when people can't win.

It wasn't quite enough, though, as I ended with 93 VP, just 3 ahead of Thomas at 90 and 4 ahead of Doug at 89. One win qualified me for the semis, but unfortunately, I had a conflict and was not able to play in the semis.
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21. Board Game: The Princes of Florence [Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:62]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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The tournament for which I am GM, The Princes of Florence, had its first heat late on Wednesday evening. Exactly 40 people showed up, allowing me to create eight tables of 5 people each. I'm able to play in the tournament I run because I designate two Assistant GMs who make any rulings that are needed at my table.

I played a nice calm game, buying things inexpensively. As Player 5, I was delighted to get a Recruiter for $200 at the end of the Round 1 auction. I also bought two Lakes and two Forests rather than bid high for the more coveted items (I did pay $1000 for a Jester to give me flexibility in playing works.) I also bought one inexpensive Prestige Card, the one that awards PPs for 4 Buildings, 2 Freedoms and 4 Works (an easy goal to hit.)

In the last round, I bid up a Forest and got it, earning me 3 PP and groans from around the table. During the Action round I built my fourth Building and put on a Work (not a big one, but good for PP,) eliciting more groans. As it turns out, Bruce had the "Fewest Empty Spaces" Prestige Card, and my Forest buy and Building build had given me fewer empty spaces than he had, costing him a whopping 8 PP as the Prestige Card was now worthless. Furthermore, one of the other players had the "Most Landscapes" Prestige Card, which he was hoping to at least tie for, and by building my fourth Landscape, I wiped that one out too. (Killing two opponent's Prestige Cards in a single round is impressive, especially when, like me in this case, you aren't explicitly thinking about doing so.)

I ended the game with 60 PP, not a huge score, but my closest opponent was Bruce Rae at 53. If Bruce had scored the 8 PP for Fewest Empty Spaces, he would have finished ahead of me by 1 PP.
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22. Board Game: Empire Builder [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:671]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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It was Thursday morning, and it was time for the Empire Builder semis. Whereas players can choose what game they want to play during the heats (which are therefore not randomly seeded,) everyone played Empire Builder (with Mexico) in the semis. Once again I had a great hand of starting cards. We were dealt 4 cards and had to discard one before building. I came away with Tourists to Salt Lake City, Cattle to Las Vegas and Sugar to Knoxville. What a set!

I built from Chicago through Kansas City to Cheyenne and Salt Lake City (Salt Lake City is a useful though unappreciated city in this game.) I took two Tourists in Chicago, exchanged one for Cattle in Cheyenne, and sold the Tourists in Salt Lake City. I hit the jackpot, as my replacement contract had Sugar to Raleigh. One of my opponents had a great start, with Sugar to Kansas City and St. Louis, but my start was now even better.

I built to Las Vegas, where I sold the Cattle, and built into San Francisco to pick up two Sugar for the trip east. Just like my first heat, this was a game of going where the cards told me to go, and they were saying what I wanted to hear. You may recall that in my first Empire Builder I never came closer to Los Angeles than Seattle. Well, in this game, I never built further south than Oklahoma City. I like to build to Mexico City on this map, but in this game I didn't need to do so and I didn't. I never broke into a sweat, delivering a contract to reach $267 million as my closest opponent was at $167 million. I was into the Finals.
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23. Board Game: Eurorails [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:725]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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The winners of the 5 semi-final games met to play the final on the Eurorails map (Ken Gutermuth had the closest 2nd in the semis to take the sand plaque.) It was a tough table (as is usually the case for the final in this tournament.) There were three former champions (Rich Meyer, Harald Henning and me) together with Mark Giddings, who had spanked me pretty well in my second heat game on this map despite getting off to a tough start. The fifth player was Bart Pisarik, who had never attended WBC because it has always conflicted with another convention, but who is a highly experienced and skillful crayon rails player.

We dealt out the cards and the groaning began. Four of us (all but Bart) had horrible starting hands. It took longer than usual to get started, but people finally began drawing track. When my turn came around, I just couldn't get excited about any of my options, so I dumped cards on the first building turn, drawing startled looks from around the table (as well as from the GM, Bob Stribula.) I'm sure it was the right thing to do---I gave up one turn, but I also gave myself a chance at much better cards. Bart was the one player who had good cards, and he set up for the usual Spain run strategy (my favorite, too, if I get the cards for it.)

My gamble was rewarded, as my new cards included Labor to Holland and Labor to Antwerp. I built Wien to Zagreb and began to build north, and delivering these two loads gave me a good start. I was first to upgrade to Fast Freight, and this allowed me to quickly complete a few more contracts and build the Chunnel for $20 million. I built the Chunnel before any player had built a ferry to England---something I've never seen before.

This gave rise to a lot of chatter around the table. People talked about whether my strategy was a good one, and warned the other players not to help me out too much by paying me rentals. But an early Chunnel is hard not to use; it saves so much critical time and benefits both the person who uses it and the person (me) who collects the rent. I'll bet I got paid nearly 10 times for rentals as a result.

It's hard to play at a high level when you've already been playing hard for five days, and a lot of mistakes were made (I sure made some.) We all got more or less back into things, though Bart was clearly the leader from the start. At one point Rich rented track for a long trip to Sevilla, and when he arrived, he picked up one Oranges and headed back. Now, there was also a Cork available, but because of the order in which I had arranged the load chips (they were between Rich and me,) he didn't see it. He obviously would have taken the Cork had he seen it. To add insult to injury, when he delivered the Oranges, he drew a great Cork card and couldn't take advantage. Even worse, Bart made it to Spain shortly after, drew two big Cork cards, and found two Corks available (one of which would not have been there if Rich had picked one up.) I certainly didn't hurt Rich's chances on purpose---Rich is even on my team, and Empire Builder is his team game, so although I would not deliberately throw him the game, tricking him into missing a load is the last thing I'd want to do. It was an unfortunate oversight.

It was clear that the game would be over as soon as Bart made it back from Spain to the other side of the board to finish his Cork deliveries. I tossed cards and got a little hope, but I was only able to make it to $221 million when Bart went over. My total was good enough for 2nd place, with the other three all clustered in the $170 to $180 million range.

Bart got good cards, but I have to give him credit. He played an excellent game, and he didn't seem to make the mistakes that the rest of us were making. I hope he's able to come back to WBC in the future.
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24. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.14 Overall Rank:5]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I'm obviously a fan of the game Puerto Rico. I've played it 114 times, including 23 plays in 2002, the year it was published, and another 50 plays in 2003. This doesn't count on-line plays using BSW. It's natural that we play games more often when they're new, but I've still played the game another 41 times face-to-face since 1/1/2004. But there was a time when I rated Puerto Rico a '10'. It's a game I don't tend to request any more, unlike Race for the Galaxy or Saint Petersburg, which I've played more often than Puerto Rico and still can't get enough of. Games like this present a bit of a dilemma when I rate them, and I've settled on '8', which is a bit of a compromise rating.

My WBC schedule tends to be jam-packed at the start, but it opens up toward the end of the week, just as the Puerto Rico tournament is getting underway. So I play in a few heats every year, and from time to time I make it into the elimination rounds (last year I came in second in my semi, losing to Jason Ley by a wide margin---too wide for any chance at a sand plaque!)

My first heat in 2012 was late on Friday afternoon. I drew the second Indigo seat, which is generally considered worst, and I did nothing to improve my position. Cathy Raymond, however, played an excellent game, winning with 40 VP as two other opponents finished with 35 and I languished in 4th place with 30.
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25. Board Game: Ticket to Ride [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:84]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I've already mentioned that I GM the The Princes of Florence tournament. This year it drew 57 people, a good solid number (though I would love to have 75 or more.) My wife also GMs a tournament, and hers is in another league altogether. She took over as GM for Ticket to Ride in 2008, and in her five years, attendance has been over 200 every year. Claire works to prepare for the event all through the year and goes the extra mile in many ways to make her tournament an event. She is supported by two fabulous assistant GMs, Sarah Beach and Nikki Bradford (though Nikki unfortunately had to cancel her WBC trip this year at the last minute as a result of a family emergency.)

In past years, I had conflicts that prevented me from helping out with most of the work, but this year my schedule was free for all three heats, and I was able to help. Claire has a great system that takes 128 gamers (the number we had for the first heat) and gets them all seated and playing within 10 minutes of the starting time. She has signs printed up, table stands to hold the signs, index cards for people who have played in the tournament before---the works. She also has a really cool wooden whistle to blow to get people's attention before play starts, and a batch of cute little trains to give out to all the heat winners.

In addition to Sarah and me, Claire recruited Curt Collins and Deb Yaure to help keep the process moving. We appreciate all the people who helped out. Once most of the people were checked in, Claire needed one more person to play at a table and I volunteered.

We were playing the Ticket to Ride: USA 1910 version, with its much wider assortment of tickets. I drew tickets and got a bunch of short ones, so I kept three tickets that connected New York, Chicago and Miami. I'd generally prefer to draw a few long tickets that worked together, but that wasn't to be in this game. I resolved to draw tickets often later in the game---sometimes completing a lot of tickets can score higher than completing a few long ones.

Almost immediately, the Northeast turned into a bloodbath. Three of us were fighting over the area, expending cards, while one player, Mark Geary, simply collected train cards in blissful isolation. Evidently, he had tickets for the west where we weren't bothering him. I think he played one train car on the Portland - Seattle route and nothing else for a dozen turns or so. Eventually I was within reach of finishing my tickets, so I drew more. You draw four and must keep at least one. I was hoping for several good ones, but I got just one, and that was one I needed to work for. I drew again, and once again I got a marginal one. Later in the game I drew again, and got one more ticket that would take me the rest of my train cars to finish.

Eventually Mark started playing routes, and when he did, he played a lot of long routes, ending the game quickly. He had a ticket from Seattle to Houston and one from Portland to somewhere in the East North Central area, and scored only about 28 from tickets, but he got the longest route bonus and a lot of route scoring. I came in second with my 6 for 6 ticket scoring (all small) and the Globetrotter bonus for completing the most tickets, but I was not close to Mark. The other players were caught off guard by Mark's sudden burst of building and were not able to complete their building plans.
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