My week that was WBC 2007
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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After missing out on the action a year ago (something about my wife giving birth to our first child), I was able to make it back to the WBC for my 2nd appearance. With me on the trip to Lancaster were Alex (Montu) and Dan (Quinoa); I shared accomodations with the former for the week.

I can't believe how fast 5 days can slip by when you're gaming non-stop from morning to night (and for many, 24-7). A lot of it is already a blur in my rearview mirror ... the dizzying highs, the abysmal lows, the tough choices I had to make (especially on Saturday). And now? Withdrawal. Burnout. A return to my regular life with my wife and kid. Lasting memories. And, something to look forward to ... GenCon in 2 weeks.

What follows is a list of all the games I partook in, with results and personal thoughts. For anyone who was also in attendance, feel free to add your own experiences.
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1. Board Game: El Grande [Average Rating:7.83 Overall Rank:26]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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The first game I played this year (1st heat on Tuesday, 6 PM) was for me a microcosm of the entire week.

I never take EG too seriously, if only because there's so much chaos in the game and the politicking can get out of control. (I'm comvinced that, if the Benedictine Monks played this game, their chants would resemble Gangsta Rap.) That said, I hoped to improve upon my showing from last time (distant middling finishes in 2 games).

First game for me was tight to end, and I ended up 2nd in a near-fourway tie (6 point spread from 1st to 4th).

My second game went poorly, as I got out of the blocks slowly, finished strong (due to everyone else ignoring me entirely), and DFLed (though again, only by 6 points). After this game (and an abbreviated attempt at Can't Stop), I was walking back to my hotel room next door when I got a message on my cell. (I learned early on that my phone can't receive messages from the basement of where the con was.) The message was from my wife, who flew out to Minneapolis to be with her mother for the week. The message: a major bridge collapse in Minneapolis. Fortunately they were home at the time and never in danger, but still, something like this definitely puts one's interests in perspective of what matters in life.

Anyhow, I won my third heat game fairly comfortably (115-106-102-94) and made it to my first of numerous SemiFinal games.

And unfortunately, that's where things tended to go wrong for me.

As luck would have it, Alex and I were put at the same Semi table, along with a nice guy I only knew on SpielByWeb as Coach. The game was well-played on all sides, and when the dust settled, the score was 86-85-84-83-79. I had the 85, a one-point loss to Coach. It would be the first of a number of close losses.
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2. Board Game: Caylus [Average Rating:7.90 Overall Rank:20]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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As my team game, I knew I would have some major conflicts in scheduling if I lost my first heat on Tuesday night. I got into a 4player game with Eric Freeman, a fellow EPGSer and all-around strong gamer. He told me he's only played about 2 or 3 times before.

He sure could've fooled me. About halfway through, I had a comfortable lead (helped by the build track and the tried-and-true 'church-build' combo to get two stone buildings at once for 9 points), then watched as Eric roared back, Birdstone-style, to catch me on the VPs with the point-track. In the end, I eked out a 3-point win, 84-81, over Eric, guaranteeing myself a shot at a T&E heat and the EG Semi match mentioned above. It also meant I made it to the Caylus Semis for Saturday.

That day is a story in and of itself, but more on that later ...
 
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3. Board Game: The Princes of Florence [Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:62]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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I was originally going to play two heats of this, but my 2nd of these would have come during a 14-hour no-break day of gaming. And, as my Goa heat ran overtime a bit, I missed out anyway.

Probably wouldn't have mattered, as the one game I did play didn't go well. I finished 4th, lost by 11, and vow not to try this at the WBC again until I get more practice, either at my regular gaming group or online at BSW.
 
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4. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:7.99 Overall Rank:11]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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Two heats of this conflicted with El Grande, so I had one crack. I played with another fellow EPGSer named Ken, as we dueled in Central Europe.

I got lucky early, snagging the 27-plant (wind for 3) on the second turn at cost and building without much interference in the northeast. I built to 6 and waited for another to trigger Stage 2, then quickly got to 11 with others (who by now were hindering my expansion). I still had a comfortable cash situation as the Stage 3 card got flipped just after the last person got a plant.

At my moment of building, I had the cash and resources to build 6 cities and end the game. However, I only could power 14 cities, and my left-hand opponent (who had 11 built herself) could power 15. In the end, I assumed she would be able to do 4 and win if I did 6, but I feared getting cut off if I stopped at 14 ... so I built to 16 and stopped. It cost me the game.

It turned out, my opponent could only build 3 cities, and as I would have had money to spare, I could have won outright. Worse yet, while I stocked up on coal to avoid a shortage, I failed to do so with oil (which, for this map, did not produce as much as usual). The final auction was fierce, with the 38-plant (3 trash for 7) went for 116, the 46-plant (3 hybrid for 7) went for 100, and I got the Fusion plant for 85. However, as I bought resources last, I ran short of oil while my left-hand opponent (who bought her plant at cost at the end) easily built enough to win.

So I officially came in dead last, though I felt that I played well.
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5. Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates [Average Rating:7.76 Overall Rank:33]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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I skipped Heat 1 so I could eat ... else, it would have been 16 hours straight on Wednesday.

What goes around comes around, as my Heat 2 game found me playing against Eric in his team game. I scored 9-9-11-12 and beat Eric (who had all 9s), but lost to another who got 10-11-11-11. I thought he was well-off on red, green and black, but I missed that he stocked up early on blue.

I didn't bother to check to see if my one 2nd would have made the Semis, but it turned out I was an alternate and (considering only 8 played in the Semis) might have actually snuck in if I checked in. Just goes to show, you never know.
 
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6. Board Game: Alhambra [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:312]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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I played one heat of this on Friday, more because I had nothing better to play at that time. I fared poorly, running far behind 4th place (out of 5) after two scoring rounds. I did do well enough at the end to finish 4th, but still wound up far behind everyone else. And, to qoute a popular movie character, "That's all I got to say about that."
 
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7. Board Game: Ra [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:95]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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With so many schedule conflicts, I could only play in one heat of Ra this year. Though it was my set, I swear I must have forgot to add all the Ra tiles to the bag. I went out fairly early in the first epoch, which killed me when two of my opponents stayed around to clean up. In the end I earned 2nd but finished 13 points off the pace. Thus, I failed to make the Semis at the game I made Final table at two years ago.
 
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8. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.14 Overall Rank:5]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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I got into two heats of this, finishing a distant 2nd in my first (67-55-51-37) ... the person to my right perceived me as more of a threat than the guy to my right, so at a key shipping moment late in the game, he blocked my corn with tobacco, allowing my L.H.O. to ship three times (all with a Harbor).

My 2nd game with a classic builder-shipper duel against Raphael, a known kick-ass gamer. I built two big buildings for 14 extra points while he shipped a boatload of corn and tobacco with a harbor/wharf combo. It was another close call, but I lost 52 to 51 (with the other scores in the 30s and low 40s). Though the GM thought I had a good shot as an alternate, I had no chance with the QF format: alternates would only be used to fill enough tables for 4pl, so at most 3 alternates could make it. I was the 2nd alternate, but only one made it. Close, but no sugar.
 
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9. Board Game: Age of Steam [Average Rating:7.73 Overall Rank:61]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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I had one shot, and got buried in a 4player match. My undoing came early; I won the first auction for 4 and took Loco, but considering that the entire left side of destination cities were blue and black, I should have Urbanized instead. I got into a battle on a side of the board with nothing but red and blue cities, never made it to Berlin, and finished a distant 4th with 69 points. (The top two had it close, 95 to 94, with 3rd getting to 77.)
 
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10. Board Game: Amun-Re [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:175]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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Now for my biggest successes ... and toughest failures.

My Heat One Amun-Re game, featuring the likes of David Platnick and Coach, went similar to game I played on SbW a few weeks ago. I started off slow with the points, having only 8 at the halfway point. I hoarded cash, though, and built a lot for the 2nd half. In the end, I won a close one (39-37-36-31-27) and punched my ticket for the Semifinal.

Another EPGSer (Keith) greeted me in my Semi game, which started well for me as I got Sawu and Dakhla with a pyramid each. I got Memphis cheap in Round 3, and then I got greedy.

I saw that one opp. (on the East side) was one brick shy of a set, with no extra bricks. I decided that I could save 4 bucks (at the cost of a point) by buying one brick in Memphis (completing a set) and 2 bricks in Sawu to get the most in the East.

What I missed was that Keith (who had Buto & Mendes and sac'd often) already have an entire set and an extra pyramid in Buto. While I stole, he made the biggest sac, placed another pyramid in Mendes (claiming the most on both sides), and effectively crippled my game. I ended up with a scant 9 points at the half (tied with another, and 4 behind a third) while Keith soared ahead with 20 points.

Amazingly, I still had a chance. I did save money, to the point of getting a triple-triple (with one extra brick) in Round 2, and made 2 Power cards to score 31 more points, a total of 40 for the game. Keith, who got into a land war in the West, made only one set while coming up shy for most in the West, and ended with only 36. However, the guy who had 13 the first round made 9 points on temples, won the 'most in the West' bonus, tied me witn 40, and won by a single pyramid on the tie-break. (To boot, I had him beat for money even after the big sac killed both my camels.)

I will be ruing my niggardliness for a long time. It cost me a spot in the Final.
 
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11. Board Game: Medici [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:357]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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As a small consolation, my failure in the Amun-Re Semis meant I could play a heat of Medici. And what do you know ... I won my heat to make the Semis!

I lucked out in Round Two, snagging the 10-boat on the cheap after three others were filled up and a 4th had one slot left. That, combined with getting to a '10' spot on the green pyramid, let me coast to a 22-point win.

My Semi game, I honestly believe, I played better in. It wasn't enough, as I finished 2nd by 9 points. The winner scored 5 in the last round with an 11-boat, and tied for 2nd on the red pyramid for 2 points, while another opponent tied me on the brown pyramid to cost me 3 points. (All of that happened at the tail end of the round.) Little things add up.
 
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12. Board Game: Tikal [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:155]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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And now, for the madness that was Saturday, August 4th. I could probably write a book about my accounts for that day alone, with all I went through.

First a reminder that my Caylus win on Tuesday qualified me for the 4 PM Semifinal. (The 'team' effort was moot; by Saturday, all my teammates were out before their Finals.) That turned out to be the beginning.

On Wednesday I entered a Tikal heat. I know that I am not a strong player, and had no expectations. That said, I more than held my own, and won a 122-117-105-104 decision to qualify for the Tikal Semis.

The problem was, that Semi starts at 1 PM on Saturday. If I would win that, I would have to choose between the Tikal Final and the Caylus Semi.

But that was only the beginning ...
 
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13. Board Game: Goa [Average Rating:7.70 Overall Rank:56]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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On Thursday, I played in a Heat of Goa. I actually recognized the guy across from me as a guy I played Goa against two years ago at GenCon. (This same guy also with the Amun-Re Final, for what it's worth.)

In this game, I snagged both the double-red and double-black plantations while another guy bought his own auction for 9. I hit the expedition track early and often, and ran up a score of 55 for a convincing win.

And now I had another conflict: the Goa Semi was slated for a 12 PM start on Saturday. Playing that, I would miss the Tikal Semi.

So, back to Saturday ...


Another Goa heat started at 9 AM, and I was able to convince three winners (including Dan) to start a Semifinal game at 11 AM.

That way, I figured, I would at least know if I made the Goa final before the Tikal Semi started. Or so I thought.

As it happened, I lost by two points, 44-42. So, I'm out of the Final, right? Well, not exactly ...

Only 12 players made it to the Goa Semis, so the GM decided on 3 games (the one I finished, and two others that started at noon), where the final table would be the three winners and the top second-place finisher, decided by who came closest to the winner of his or her own game.

See the problem I had? The other two games would not finish before Tikal started, so I had to judge whether my loss was close enough to earn the 4th seat. I had two choices:

(A) Play Tikal, and give up the chance of finishing 'Top 2nd' for the Goa final.
(B) Skip Tikal, but then I'd be out of both if I didn't finish 'Top 2nd'.

In the end, I felt the numbers made my decision for me. Tikal had exactly 11 people show up for the Semis, so I made it an even 12 and gave up on Goa.

As for the Tikal game, two players beat the crud out of each other while I and another player had good early positions. I made some bad choices halfway through and came back to the others, but no one caught the 4th, who finished with 116 without even making a final move. I came in 3rd with 100, two ahead of another while one point back of 2nd.

(On a personal note ... and I deliberately withhold all names ... I knew that I was not a strong Tikal player, and I said as much to my opponents before we started. I know I may have made some mistakes, and possibly I 'let' another player win the game. That said, I do not feel I deserve the scorn that one particular player showed me, both during and after the game. If you can't deal with players making mistakes, you shouldn't play.)

Anyway, I learned about halfway through that one Goa game ended in a landslide, an 11-point win. Later still, at about 2:40 PM, the other game ended with a 7-point spread from 1st to 2nd. So it turns out I would have qualified for the Goa final.

I started thinking ahead to Caylus, but was quickly informed that, if our Tikal game ended at 3, they would wait for me to finish.

I gladly accepted, and darted out quickly after Tikal ended to take my spot in what would prove to be my only Finals table.


A little history here. Two years ago, I made one Finals table (for Ra). I came in last, missing a plaque by one place, while my friend (and weeklong roommate) Alex took home his first-ever Finals victory at the WBC.

So who are my opponents for the Goa final? Jim, the guy who beat me in the Semi; Raphael, the guy who beat me in the 52-51 Puerto Rico game ... and Alex.

My game started off badly. Sitting 2nd, I bid 7 for the starter that Alex put up. Jim bid 8 and won the flag; for the rest of the game, he and Alex passed the flag back-and-forth for nearly the entire game. (Raphael got it once, and I never saw it.) We all quickly got to the third row of the card track, but I was the only one not to get to the bottom. I did finish with a full house after winning three cards in the last auction, but it wasn't enough.

I finished with 39 points. (I could have had 40, but used a non-pairing card in a futile attempt at most cash.) Jim ended with 41, Raph got 44 ... and Alex won with 46. Thus, history repeated itself: I made one Finals table, came in last, missed 'wood' by one position, and watched as Alex took home his second-ever Finals victory at the WBC.

(To be fair, he did win the Goa championship at Euroquest as well.)


To say the least, Saturday was eventful.
 
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14. Board Game: Industria [Average Rating:6.55 Overall Rank:1223]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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A couple asides:

- I did try Can't Stop, Bluff, and Facts in Five ... all with no success. Oh well.

- I got my first taste of Werewolf on Saturday night, playing until morning. Had a blast!

- I picked up a copy of Industria for $23. Money well-spent. BRILLIANT!


And so, another WBC comes to an end. While I suspect I will be unable to attend next year, I keep the possibility open that I'll make it back eventually. Maybe next time, I'll break through.

Until then, back to the real world.
 
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