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2007 WBC Recap
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Just got back from one of the highlights of the gaming year, the World Boardgaming Championships ("WBC") in Lancaster, PA. My sense is that attendance was up this year, with a big bump in first-time attendees, greater attendance by younger folk and families with kids, plus a general increase in both tournament and open gaming by those "Eurogamer types" who are certainly dominant on BoardGameGeek.

For me, it's always a difficult week from the standpoint of how to allocate my time. This year, it was particularly difficult given that I had volunteered to run a second event and help out with a third in addition to my regular duties as GM for Puerto Rico, the #1 rated game here at BGG which always draws 100+ attendees (one year, 2004, it even topped the 200 mark and set the all-time attendance record for one event at WBC). Therefore, I didn't have that much time for open gaming, and even less time once I started winning a few games early in the week, such that I even had to pull out of three different events after qualifying for advancement -- a problem I don't usually have when playing in tournaments.

This list will start with the three games I was involved in running, followed by those I seriously decided to compete in, then a few tournament "fillers" and finally some open gaming entries plus a final reference to the one new purchase from the game vendors area.

The most "fun" part of attending WBC is the friendships you develop with various people over the years, many of whom come from all over the country. A "short list" of some of those folks include, in no particular order, Ted and Steve Simmons, Steve Scott, Tom DeMarco, Anne Norton, Dave Platnick, Chris Moffa, Barb Flaxington, Dave Fritsch, John Welage, Chris Trimmer, Bill Crenshaw, James Pei, Winton Lemoine, Eric Freeman, Jim Freeman, Skip Maloney, Dave Denton, and Dave Bohnenberger, to name a few. For those who attend every year, it's really like a big family reunion.
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1. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.11 Overall Rank:6]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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After an attendance drop every year since the all-time record of 217 in 2004, I was pleased to see a significant jump this year to 157 versus a paltry 136 last year. There were many new names and new faces in this year's field, including Eric Nielsen (a player with a very strong record as "paeanblack" in internet games who was making his debut in face-to-face tournament play) and -- all the way from Japan -- Hide Hisanaga; both Eric and Hide were among the 40-plus group of players to win games and advance to the elimination rounds. We had a total of 23 games in the first heat, 20 games in the second heat, then 15 in the third and final heat. All games were four player, which in my view is the best number for PR.

As for me, I managed a win in the opening heat which enabled me to drop out of the second and third heats to focus on the GM duties. Then I played probably my best tournament game ever in the quarterfinal round, where I bid 1 1/2 VP for the #3 corn seat, and just about everything seemed to fall my way: I had all the key circles covered after every mayor phase, was able to trade/ship at the right times, and, in the end, got a nice shipping VP total that divided by four (32) for 8 more customs house points. I wound up with a raw score of 66 VP, 17 (16 after taking into account the bids) ahead of second place Kevin Walsh, a strong PR player who was runner-up at the PrezCon tournament earlier in the year after beating me quite soundly in the semis.

The win put me in the semis, where I was pleased to match wits with the aforementioned Eric Nielsen, who had advanced with two fairly strong wins in both the the heats and the quarterfinals. The other two players in our game, Vassili Kyrkos and Bob Stribula, had earned byes to the semis with two wins in the heats. This time I got the preferred #3 corn seat for just 1/2 VP but, with three strong opponents, things didn't go quite so smoothly and it was a tough, close game that came down to the wire. I thought about buying a factory but instead tried to go for some shipping with a harbor-warehouse combination but somehow the boats got jammed. The game ended before the shipping could get going and -- bad luck for me -- before I could get my Customs House manned. The final scores showed a 3 VP spread among all four of us, and Vassili advanced to the final game. Our game, top to bottom, was the closest of any of the elimination round games, so I was pleased to be involved in such a close, competitive game despite being a bit disappointed in not winning it. (After the game, Eric suggested to me I may have been hoist on my own pitard by allowing the boats to get jammed, and also I was short a doubloon to buy that large building, something the early factory buy may have helped prevent.)

It turned out to be a tough tournament for the four former champions who entered the event, as none of them reached the final table. Bill Murdock, 2005 WBC winner, was back after missing the event in 2006. Bill tried hard, contesting all three heats, but could managed two seconds and a tie for second alternate spot -- not good enough to advance as it turned out we needed only one alternate for the quarterfinals. Arthur Field, 2002 WBC champ and a two-time EQ PR champ, was defeated by Marc Berenbach in the first heat, recovered to win in a later heat, but could not continue due to schedule conflicts during the packed Saturday evening program of events. Defending champ Chris Moffa started strongly, but his five-game WBC winning streak was snapped when he finished last in his quarterfinal round game. Chris' wife, Barb, was the only ex-Champ to come close to making the final four as she reached the semifinals by finishing second by a narrow two-point margin to the eventual winner, Raphael Lehrer, and her close second was good enough to snag the fifth place plaque for the second year in a row.

Another big surprise was the performance of David Platnick, whom I had drafted into my assistant GM corps this year. Dave has had a tremendour record in PR games at WBC, finishing second the last three years and winning plaques for the past four years -- a streak that did not continue in 2007. Dave started well, with two wins, then lost by two to Bob Stribula in his third game to earn a direct bye to the semis. There his luck ran out, as he finished fourth in a game won by Malinda Kyrkos (formerly Malinda Barnes), who happened to be Vassili's spouse and teammate. The fourth finalist, in addition to Malinda, Raphael, and Vassili, turned out to be Davyd Field, Arthur's son, who would be earning his second plaque in the event after winning the coveted sixth place (sand) plaque in 2005.

The final game was somewhat anti-climatic. Raphael bid just 1/2 VP for the #3 corn seat while Malinda got the #4 corn seat for free, and the two of them finished one-two. I was busy taking notes for a series replay so can't offer much commentary now, but Raphael seemed to cope with the pressure and perform a bit better with the #3 seat than I did in the semis, and he registered a solid win. Final VPs (including bids) were 56.5 for Raphael, Malinda 51, Davyd 45, Vassili 41. Raphael (who will turn up in my next report) is part of our large contingent of Games Club of Maryland ("GCOM") players. Malinda, along with husband Vassili, is part of the Barnes clan that has had success at PR tourneys at WBC going back to 2004; after a tough year in 2006, she finished one spot higher than 2005 -- plus she had the foresight to select PR as her team event.

I was pleased and relieved about the upturn in the turnout, with many new faces in the event and was not too disappointed in the result in the semifinal game, as my sense was that, after the QF game where everything went smoothly, I was due for a reversal, so coming just 2-3 pts short was not too disappointing.

Running such a huge event would not be possible without good help; I want to thank my official assistant GMs, Barb Flaxington and Dave Platnick, as well as three others (Eric Freeman, Jim Freeman and Greg Thatcher) who helped me manage the very hectic third heat when we had to send several groups of players to a separate room when space became tight in the main ballroom due to competition from popular events with overlapping schedules such as Goa, Ra, Settlers, Carcassone, Tikal, etc.
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2. Board Game: The Pillars of the Earth [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:187]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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I was tapped to GM this new game that was a vendor-sponsored trial event this year, courtesy of Mayfair Games, publishers of the English edition in the spring of 2007. When I first became aware of the game last fall, I put together a home-made English edition, rather than rushing to buy a German game, as the substantial amount of German on the cards proved to be a problem.

The total attendance for this event was 34, and there were 20 players (five games) in each of two heats. Because of the newness of the game, there was a big turnout for the initial demo on Tuesday (first day of the convention) and unfortunately, a shortage of games for the second heat on Wednesday night. We had to scrounge around to come up with two more games and, as a result, a few players were left standing around and those two games started almost an hour late.

I also agonized as to whether to set a two or three hour time block for this game. Convention director Don Greenwood encouraged me to round up, as half-hour blocks for games at WBC are generally discouraged. As it turned out, just about all the games were completed in two hours and even less, only a couple ran past two hours even including the time for set up and making the initial pairings.

The event unfolded with 10 winners and two alternates contesting four three-player semifinal games. I had won one of the games in the initial heat, and in the semis I was matched with the aforementioned Raphael Lehrer and a player who had advanced with two second places (and whom I had defeated in the first heat). Raphael adopted a strategy of going for the "first next turn" spot which, unfortunately for me, meant I went last in five of the six rounds. Last is where I wound up as Raphael went on the final. I was left scratching my head, wondering if he had come up with a new strategy for the game.

The final was a four-player affair with a negotiated time that unfortunately was started even later due to the fact that one of the players had advanced in the final of another event. Raphael got the money carpenter on the first turn and executed the strategy he had used against me in the semifinals. He won the game with Greg Thatcher coming home second ahead of Marvin Birnbaum and then Alex Bove in fourth. I took notes during the final and am hopeful that a series replay could lead to some insights about how to play the game well.

My experience in running the Pillars event was a bit disappointing on two different levels: (1) the time commitment -- including the two late starts for the second heat and the final -- cut significantly into the time I had available to play other games, making it much less likely I will be enthusiastic about taking on a second game in 2008 and (2) substantively, I am possibly revising my opinion of the game given the ease with which Raphael executed his winning strategy. Can't say yet whether the game may be "broken" like St. Pete if certain things happen on turn one, but this possibility (plus the so-so attendance) led me to recommend another game as "Hot New Game" for this year's EuroQuest convention, which is co-sponsored by BPA (BoardGame Players Association which runs WBC) and GCOM (Games Club of Maryland).

Thanks are due to Assistant GMs Jim Carvin and Chris Moffa who helped me run the event.
 
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3. Board Game: Stock Car Championship Racing Card Game [Average Rating:6.81 Overall Rank:3159]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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This is a game I have been playing periodically since 1996 or so that still remains a top favorite, despite the ridiculously low ratings here at BGG. When I saw the GM spot was listed as open in early Feb., I contacted both Don Greenwood and Mike Garton, the game's co-designer and learned that John McLaughlin, the other co-designer, was going to be standing in as GM for Mike. I helped John complete the required paperwork and also helped him pick convenient times on the schedule. In doing so, I had a couple of objectives in mind: (1) avoid conflicts with other similar car racing games (notably Speed Circuit and Formula De) and (2) a very personal objective, to eliminate any and all conflicts with Puerto Rico, something that had limited the times I could play the game in past WBCs.

A few weeks before the Con, GCOM gaming buddy Rich Shipley was looking for a teammate, so I decided to join up and selected SCC (short name for this game) given my lack of confidence in my ability to score team points in Puerto Rico. The fact that I had worked with John to schedule the event in non-conflicting time slots had alot to do with this decision, as I knew there would be three chances to advance to the final.

First heat, we had a large turnout so it was three races, each with 10-11 participants. I ran one heat with John and another experienced player running the others. We used two lane racing rules which made the races even more exciting. Highlight of the first heat for me (in addition to finishing second, good enough to make the final) was sitting at the end of the table and having the lead car "Pull Away" so many times it actually dropped off the table -- this happened twice with the same car, something that's fairly unusual since there are only so many such cards in the deck. (Of course we rolled the cars back to create more room and keep the race going.) Only downside for me was that the race ran a bit long so I was late getting to the Pillars heat, which unfortunately proved to be the problem one where we didn't have enough games.

I ran one of the second heats without incident, and John excused me from further duty for the third heat so I could play in the semifinal of another of my favorite games, Power Grid (see report below). For the final race on Sunday, John brought the huge circular track and a set of individual player mats to track stuff like tire wear and fuel mileage for pit stops. The final race was a great deal of fun, even though I wound up 15th in the field of 15 as some bad luck (less than 200 on a draw) put me out of the race with some mechanical problems. I stayed to help John run the event and to watch the tension grow as the race neared completion. A key moment occurred when the pit window opened for the second and final round of pit stops, and three of the 14 remaining cars elected to adopt the dangerous strategy of staying out while the others took the more conservative approach and coming in -- those that stayed out gained a lap due to the green flag stops, but they risked running out of fuel and perhaps tire wear as the race due to a close--and significantly, not making the lap count to the end of the race as they could draw no new cards to their hands. A four-car pile up brought out the yellow flag, and there was a complete re-shuffling of the leaderboard as a result. Only one of the cars that elected to stay out avoided the carnage, and three other cars got back on the lead lap (two by becoming unlapped, and one through the real-life NASCAR "lucky dog" rule). Thus, only four of the remaining 10 cars had a realistic shot at winning going into the final series of action rounds. In the end, the surprise winner was a female champion (sorry can't remember the name) from Richmond VA who topped all her male counterparts (she was the only woman in the race). I also believe the second place driver may have been related to her, perhaps her son or something although the two of them had different last names.

This year's winner was not the first female driver to win, as everyone who has raced the event going back to its inception will remember Rebekkah Garton, the game designer's daughter, who won the initial WBC event back in 1999 driving the famous Vermont Teddy Bear car. I happen to remember Rebekkah quite well since I finished one spot behind her in that race, after thinking I might have had the winning hand going into the last turn.

I was real pleased with the event, and in particular the attendance (50) which was the highest in several years, which is pretty good for a game that has been out of print for several years. After the race John talked about some ideas for some rules changes for next year, and I am looking forward to seeing him and Mike at the WBC for many years -- also hoping that he and Mike may collaborate on a third edition of the game, which I believe would sell quite well and make many fans of the game very happy.
 
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4. Board Game: The Princes of Florence [Average Rating:7.61 Overall Rank:83]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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This was one of four of my top 10 all-time favorite games I had the chance to play at WBC, and it was one of the few I had a fairly good record at. I served as GM for the event in its first few years (2001 and 2002), and in the first five years (2001-2005) I did well enough to win games here and there, reaching the semis. Then I seemed to hit a plateau and could never do well enough to reach the final. (My best result was a narrow three-point loss in the semi in 2004, but that was followed by a disaster in the 2005 semis, where I finished dead last with just 31 PPs, probably my worst game ever).

This year, I found the time to play in only one of the heats but did well enough to advance to the semis on Friday night (a time that, it turned out, did not conflict with Puerto Rico due to the efforts of Eric Freeman, who spearheaded this year's effort to de-conflict the schedules of many of the Eurogames). In the semis, I was paired with Eric and Dan Eppolito, another strong player. I was in trouble pretty early when I overspent for two jesters and tried to switch my strategy and go for a low cost Prestige card once I saw I was in position to gain all three freedoms. The strategy (a 5/12 shot) backfired as I missed on two successive Prestige card draws and then I was in a proverbial straight jacket as I was forced to deviate from my earlier "Big Jester" strategy. I even had to go for a builder after paying full price for two buildings -- never a good move. The funniest part of the game came during the last turn when Eric (who won the game and had taken his actions before me) came within three spaces of lapping me on the Prestige chart!! Of course, I had three bonus cards to play to score my fourth and final work for something like 31 with best work bonus to go with the two prestige cards to pull to a respectable final score of 46 (still last, however).

Eric then went on to repeat his success at the final table, taking the first place prize. Rod Spade, another strong player and a GCOM gaming buddy who actually lives near the Con in Lancaster, PA, finished third. I believe Eric Brosius, the GM, told me the numbers were up for this event after a couple of down years, which is good as it's still one of my favorite games.
 
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5. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:7.96 Overall Rank:17]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Another favorite game which, although I had won games in the past, I had not been playing alot recently; thus, heading into WBC, I did not like my chances, given that I was only going to be playing in one heat which I pretty much had to win to guarantee advancement. It turned out I did win that game, played on the Benelux map, a map which all but insures a quick game as the power plants turn over quite quickly. One of my opponents was the aforementioned Raphael Lehrer, so I was pleased to do well enough to qualify for the semis in my one and only shot.

For the semis, I was paired once again with Raphael and a third GCOMer, Tom McCorry (who actually lives in VA but hosts a GCOM-linked games club there). The other players were Barry Barnes (Malinda's dad) and Lou Gehring. We played on the France map, and it turned out to be one of those games where the big plants came out early and then the market got jammed up during Phase 2 with a bunch of plants that no one wanted. All the passing up new plants meant everyone had a load of cash with which to build cities and/or new plants once Phase 3 hit. Tom seemed to be in position to win as he had the greater plant capacity, but he was building last and Raphael pointed out how the other players could conspire to keep him from building his last city as long as the game remained in Phase 2. Sure enough, that's what happened and Tom made a really surprising move -- one I have never seen before -- when he bought a plant with less capacity (turning in a 4 to buy a 3) just to move the game along. However, the Phase 3 card still did not fall and the game continued one more turn. On the critical final round of Power Plant buys, Tom bid three of us (including me) to over 100 on power plants that we could not let him have. It came down to whether or not the final power plant drop was the 7 capacity plant that would give him the game -- and it was. I was fortunate enough to finish second, and I believe Raphael was third for a 1-2-3 GCOM sweep.

Don't recall hearing who won the final, but I chatted a bit with Tom who told me he could have won the final if the game had lasted another turn. Timing is obviously critical in this game which, although it has dramatically different mechanics, has the tactical nuances similar to Puerto Rico. Didn't get any numbers, but my sense was the attendance was up for this event as well.
 
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6. Board Game: Imperial [Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:107]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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This is probably my choice for the best new game from last year's Essen crop, although there are a few others (Leonardo da Vinci and Through the Ages) that are also very good. It was added to the WBC agenda this year by Rio Grande Games as a vendor-sponsored trial event (about the only way to get a new game in these days as the voting for new games is 6-7 months in advance, before new Euros have had a chance to cycle their way into the US market). Dave Bohnenberger, a gaming buddy from the Philadelphia area, was the GM, and since I had some free time when the first heat on Friday morning was scheduled, I looked forward to playing the game.

The game was a five player, and my opponents included Ted Simmons of NJ, Jim McDanold from the East Tennessee gamers group, and Ken Rothstein (aka "Rico Suave" on BSW). Dave used the basic setup where you get a 4 bond in one nation and a 2 bond in another. I started with Russia and briefly took control of Italy just before taxation -- a nice tactic if there's going to be a big jump in the chart. Italy eventually returned to its original owner, and Russia was pushed to the end of the chart. I had a late purchasing decision and went with a country that was in the "3" area even though, with two pushes, another country would make it to the "4" chart. I feared this might cost me the game as Ted had several bonds in the "4" range. However, when we tallied up the final scores, it turned out my competition was not Ted, but Jim, who wound up with the same point total as me. We checked the rules and since I had more points in the "5" country, I took the win.

I was unable to play in the semis of Imperial because of conflicts with the Stock Car game, which was unfortunate because I really like the game and think it's one I had a decent shot at winning its first year out. The one thing alot of people who don't get about the game is while it does have nice little wooden cannons and ships, it's not a wargame -- it's an economic game. If you play it as a wargame, you are likely to lose. In pushing Russia to the end of the chart, I don't think I touched a single military unit the last couple of laps around the rondel.

Imperial was announced as the Hot New Game for this year's EuroQuest V convention in the fall, ahead of several other strong contenders such as Age of Empires III, Pillars of the Earth and Notre Dame. The GM slot is still open right now despite my best efforts to draft Dave B. into the role -- he did an excellent job running the event, although I think most players (like me) would prefer the version where you can choose your starting bonds out of a pool of funds available at the start.
 
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7. Board Game: Triumph of Chaos [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:1775]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Every year at the WBC I try to do something different, a couple of years back it was Manifest Destiny, last year it was Twilight Struggle. This time up it was Triumph of Chaos.

First of all, the learning curve on this one is a bear. It's made a bit easier if you are familiar with Paths of Glory upon which much of the game engine is based, and also at the tournament they were using the shorter and simpler three-turn 1918 scenario, which leaves out what for me are the most complex part of the rules regarding the Poland and Ukraine forces which are out of play in this scenario. To prepare myself for the WBC, a week or so earlier I took on a gaming friend, Alex Brown, in a practice game. He was the Whites and I was the Reds. My big mistake was opening up a route where he was able to surround the forces led by Trotsky, costing me 4 extra VPs (ouch!) and the game. Although we messed up a couple of rules, getting the one game with Alex under my belt made me a bit more comfortable trying it at the WBC.

The event was ably GM-ed by Bob Heinzmann, who was standing in for game designer Dave Dockter who was apparently overseas and unable to attend this year. Bob was very patient with newbies and less experienced players and answered all questions. My opponent, Steve Kelley, also seemed a bit unfamiliar with the game, and I took advantage to gain an early lead as Red in the first political phase. (I think the 1918 game favors Red in this regard as you have a good shot at gaining 1-2 VP from controlling countries like Belarus that are occupied by the Central Powers in the regular game.) I was determined not to repeat my earlier blunders, and I kept my Trotsky stack intact by retreating out of that "M" city and took a 4 VP lead into the third and final turn. By then Steve had got the hang of it, and I took a more defensive posture, sat on my lead, and managed to pull out the game.

I am sorry my schedule did not permit continuing in the tournament -- I was really hoping to learn the game by having my butt kicked by someone who really knows the game! Looked like a small field, perhaps because Dave D. was not there to run it. Dave is a good guy despite his baiting of "EuroWeenies" -- he has competed in my PR tournaments from time to time and done reasonably well for a wargamer.

The tournament for me was over by midday Thursday, and the next day in the vendors area I picked up the new "Comrades Guide" with plenty of variants and strategy tips -- tips that came a bit too late to help anyone in this year's tourney, however.
 
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8. Board Game: Attika [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:449]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Attika is one game I enjoy but at this year's WBC I could only play it as a "filler" since its elimination rounds were scheduled against Pillars of the Earth. The GM, Jeff Mullet, is one of the CABS group from Columbus, Ohio, and an all around good guy as well as being competitive at a diverse group of games, including San Juan and Attika, which he was won previously.

My game was a four-player in which a couple of players were observed as being close to shrine connection wins. The blocking was dutifully performed, and I managed to add a new tile to a virgin territory at a time when my opponents were short a few cards. No one seemed to notice I had about 4-5 cards, and next turn I was able to play from the mat the buildings I needed for a shrine connection win. unfortunately, the schedule conflicts with the one event I had agreed to run prevented me from continuing in the event although I was happy to play and help boost the attendance.

This year Attika was moved off the pre-Con schedule and also back to the multi-player format from the two-player, Swiss elim style format used last year. This probably increased the numbers, but from a competitive standpoint I prefer the two-player game as you have no one but yourself to block your opponent when those shrine connections are threatened.
 
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9. Board Game: Caylus [Average Rating:7.88 Overall Rank:29]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Hadn't played a game of this in almost a year, and never before in a tournament, but when I saw a three-hour time game on the first night of the Con, I decided to give it a shot. I organized a warmup game in early July with two players who had finished in the top three at last year's WBC, Pete Putnam and Rod Spade, and I was pleased to finish second so that boosted my confidence somewhat although I really have never done that well in the game.

My confidence took a bit of a nosedive when the pairings were announced and I was placed in a five-player game (always have preferred Caylus with four or less as five seems way too chaotic) with Arthur Field (Arthur is a very serious player who has been hugely successful in a variety of games, and he's the four-time winner of the Siegelman trophy at EuroQuest -- not someone you want to draw in the initial round or indeed any round of a WBC event). As it turned out, two of the other players (one of which was Marc Berenbach, who managed to defeat Arthur at PR later in the week) really seemed to know the game well so I was destined to battle it out for fourth place, at best. I got going on the building favor track but a bit too late, and in retrospect I would have been better off on the VP tracks. I build one early wood building but found it difficult to keep up as the game moved along. Arthur timed his cathedral build precisely to take the game, and he almost doubled my score as I limped home in last place, only one point out of fourth.

Although I understand the comments about very little luck involved in Caylus, I also think the favor tracks are extremely unbalanced and, for me, right now it's not a game I enjoy playing all that much. (At #4 on BGG, I believe this game is way overrated.) May play again but only with four or less, and probably not in tournaments. The new Magna Carta is a bit more interesting, and it's quicker, so that's probably what I will be focusing on from now on.
 
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10. Board Game: Facts in Five [Average Rating:6.05 Overall Rank:3363]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Had some free time Friday afternoon after losing the Power Grid semi, so I checked out (for the first time) the Facts in Five competition, run by none other than the aforementioned Arthur Field. This a quick, one hour mental exercise that tests a broad range of trivia where you have to match up letters of the alphabet with the topics on a 5x5 grid. You do five such puzzles in a hour.

I sat next to Ted Simmons, so we scored each other's puzzles. When the topic of Olympic figure skating singles gold medalists came up, I boasted to Ted I was going to run the table. Of course, I got stuck on one letter (G) for about four of the five minutes which nixed my chances of doing much with the rest of the puzzle. My mind finally unfroze and I came up with Gillis Grafstrom, allowing me to take some measure of pride in wrapping up a part of the puzzle I am sure no one else came close to completing.

Forgot to check the kiosk to see the final results, but I heard from Winton Lemoine of California that he was the surprise winner.
 
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11. Board Game: Lost Cities [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:280]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Another quick filler, and one game that has averaged in the triple digits at WBC the past few years. The GM, Ivan Lawson, has an interesting mechanism for pairing people up and assigning each player a unique number (not the convention badge number, but a "LC" number for Lost Cities competitor number).

I had some time to try again this year but, like last year, had no thought of advancing. I was paired with a woman named Bonnie Tyler, and I was wondering what she was thinking by opening with all five colors in the first hand. Well, she managed to complete them all for positive points, and after that the rest of the game was fairly hopeless although I managed to close the gap slightly by winning the final hand.

Lost Cities is an easy-to-teach, easy-to-understand game that is one of the more popular games at our local games club, given that people often come in pairs and might be waiting for several multi-player games to break up.
 
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12. Board Game: Thebes [Average Rating:7.20 Overall Rank:311]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Lost Cities concludes the list of tournament games in which I participated; next is the list of games I played in open gaming at this year's WBC. First up is Thebes, a game which I was introduced to a couple of years back with gaming friend Scott Fisher (who regularly goes to Essen) loaned me his copy of the original version, which was in German and went by the name Jenseits von Theben. I recall finding parts of the game somewhat interesting, but the rather drab components made me not want to rush out and buy it.

Thebes is the English version of the game, with improved components, and Kevin Walsh invited to join me, Ted Simmons and David Fritsch in the game. I recall ribbing Kevin about not "getting his hands dirty" and doing much excavating the first year when he collected one "speaking tour" card after another. I focused on two particular colors and got bonuses on each of them, but it looked to me like Ted was really running away with the game. A couple of lucky excavation tile draws right near the end brought me within a point of Ted. Without those draws, I would have been behind David and possibly behind Kevin as well, which would have forced me to eat those words about his not digging enough.

It will be interesting to see how well the English edition of this game will be received, given that many are already familiar with the German edition from a couple of years back. I enjoyed the game but did not rush out to buy it although it was available in the vendor area at WBC, may consider it though if I find a couple of other titles that I might bundle with it on the next GameSurplus order.
 
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13. Board Game: Zooloretto [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:502] [Average Rating:6.88 Unranked]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Played this game in the open gaming room (called Wheatland) with Eric, Beth, Kevin and Mike. It was entertaining and, to me, a bit more interesting than its counterpart, Coloretto, given the placement and cost aspect of the game. A bit lower on the list that Thebes, more of a "might buy" game at this point for me.

Incidentally, the Wheatland open gaming area was jampacked for much of the time, particularly from Friday on when the vendors area took over a big ballroom that had been primarily open gaming for the first three days. While space allocation appears to be getting better than the first two years, a further increase in the open gaming area may be a necessity if WBC hopes to grow its numbers.
 
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14. Board Game: Liebrary [Average Rating:6.10 Overall Rank:7561]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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This is one of those party games that I joined in just to spend some time with the people playing -- I actually left to go to a tournament while the game was still going on. Not much to say about the game, except that its designer, Darryl Hannah, was a real hottie about 15-20 years ago. Much rather be thinking about her than this game, which frankly I don't care for all that much.
 
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15. Board Game: Coyote [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:1582]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Played with a group of four on the final day of the convention, after most of the crowd had packed their bags and left. Always a hoot to see people trying to figure out what's on their forehead. Strategy tip -- start low, even if someone's got a high number. Then stick it to them if they challenge early. Have only played with the optional rules once, as the basic game is fine for what it is -- comic relief at the end of the day or end of a energy-draining con like WBC.
 
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16. Board Game: Tour [Average Rating:6.93 Unranked]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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This privately-produced, limited first edition game is one of my favorite prized possessions, as I have autographed copy 9 of 20 and I think only 10 have actually been produced and sold. Played a three-player race which was abbreviated as one of the players left early. This created a gap in the field, and my Capitala riders excelled on both the sprint and the mountains to dominate the race. We abandoned when it was clear what the end result would be, as people were getting ready to head for home. Also, it looked like one team would be stuck with zero points, so perhaps an early end prevented some embarrassment on his part.

I have given more detailed descriptions of the first two plays in the BGG entry for this game. For my next game, I am eager to try it with the Team Trial rules, as it appears to require a bit of skill in trying to coordinate your cyclists of various abilities.
 
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17. Board Game: Phoenicia [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:1255]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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This one is on the list not because I actually played it, but it was the only game I bought while at WBC. I have heard it described as "Outpost-lite," and while I enjoy Outpost (and own its successor game, Zavendor), game length is an issue so this one has a chance of hitting the table more often.
 
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18. Board Game: Los Mampfos [Average Rating:6.14 Overall Rank:4022]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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One more game to add to the list, courtesy of Mike Marshall. Mike was eager to show me this "Donkey Poop" game. It was cute but, from playability standpoint, it was one of those memory games (much like Mamma Mia) that I don't care for. And I this time I really didn't care for it as it made my head hurt quite a bit coming at the end of a six-day convention. Not one I could recommend or want to play again.
 
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