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The Brosius family attends the 2007 World Boardgaming Championships
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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In 2006, my wife and son joined me in attending the World Boardgaming Championships in Lancaster PA. My wife took 6th place in the Lost Cities tournament, and she was eager to return for 2007. My son was also looking forward to the trip; he played enough games of Lost Cities with the two of us during the year to know that if we could place in the tournament, he could do it too!

Here's a link to last year's tournament GeekList:

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

And here's a link to the later years' GeekLists:

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

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

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

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

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/145611

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


What did we do this year? Here's the scoop!
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1. Board Game: Paths of Glory [Average Rating:8.04 Overall Rank:44]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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The World Boardgaming Championships is described as a Tuesday to Saturday event, but the action actually starts during the preceding weekend, in the "pre-Cons." This year's WBC tournament was scheduled back to back with Historicon at the Lancaster Host hotel. Historicon is a convention for miniatures gamers, with about twice as many attendees as WBC (they had to park cars in a field because Historicon was too big for the parking lot!)

We arrived on Saturday and spent some time walking around from room to room admiring the beautifully painted miniatures and scenery. We couldn't check into the room we had asked for that day, because the Historicon guest didn't check out until Sunday, but they put us in a room with a king and provided a free roll-away bed for our son. After checkout time on Sunday we moved to a better room, non-smoking with two doubles, not too far from the gaming area.

After my first few years at WBC, I knew I had to learn a game to play at the pre-Con. I wound up choosing Paths of Glory, a game I've now played approximately 15 times. In Round 1, the GM seeded the top players in the AREA rating system to make sure they didn't have to play each other, and I was assigned to play Jim Falling, a former WBC Paths of Glory GM and the 7th-ranked AREA player. This made two years in a row I got to play a celebrity in Round 1, though last year I didn't realize that Scott Moll is a podcasting celebrity until I got home and noticed that he's half of the "Point2Point" team.

I won the die roll for the right to make the first bid for sides, and I bid 2 VP to play the AP against Jim. I had lost with the CP twice in 2006, and I know Jim is an outstanding AP player, so I wanted different scenery this year. Jim accepted my bid, explaining that he'd been playing the AP a lot and was also interested in a change. Paths of Glory is a low-luck game in which the better player will almost always win, so I wasn't expecting to prevail, but I wanted to give Jim a good game and learn some things from him.

We shuffled the Mobilization decks and dealt the initial 7-card hands. I looked at my cards and realized I had some challenges in front of me. I had received all four 4 Ops cards (Blockade, Rape of Belgium, BR1 and BR2,) two 3 Ops cards (FR10 and Entrench) and one 2 Op card (Severe Weather, a useless card in August 1914.) These were great cards, but they meant I'd be looking at three 3 Ops cards and four 2 Ops cards in Turn 2. Worse, I could not play either British reinforcement on Turn 1, leaving me at risk for falling behind in the War Status and reinforcement games. I managed to get Blockade and Rape of Belgium played, used BR2 for RPs, and held BR1 to play in Turn 2. Of course, it's easy to see your own problems in Paths of Glory, but it's important to remember that your opponent has problems as well!

We both made it to Limited War in Turn 3. I was hoping to get the Italian entry card right away, before Jim could mass armies on the Italian frontier, but I didn't succeed. Jim brought Bulgaria in on Turn 4, and I didn't get Italy in until Turn 6 or 7, near the bottom of my Limited War deck. I did get the Russian Caucasus army into play and attacked once successfully with it, but I left it in an exposed position and Jim attacked it from two separate spaces using Turkish and Bulgarian corps, flipping it when I had no corps to take the losses. Jim taught me a lesson by using more Ops than I would have used, taking opportunities when I made them available. I tend to focus single-mindedly on War Status and RPs, missing good opportunities at times. When I finally brought Italy into the game, it took Jim only a few turns to capture the entire country, giving him 7 VP and putting him firmly into the lead. I did press the Russian attack on Austria, pushing easily through the Carpathians and taking 4 VP, but he entrenched successfully in Budapest and some surrounding spaces, stopping my attack.

I suffered through the early game from a lack of BRc's. I had played only the BR1 reinforcement, and when I finally saw another BR reinforcement card, I got BR2, BR3 (with the two BRc's) and AUS/CND in the same turn. I decided to play BR2 for the War Status, but this continued the corps shortage, and I hamstrung myself with a foolish SR, allowing Jim to SR three corps down to attack and take Basra from its lone BRc defender, giving him two more VPs. When I entered the MEF, in Gallipoli, Jim SRed three corps to attack in hopes of retreating it. His first try failed, but he continued his efforts and eliminated it on the second attempt.

Jim is a friendly, easy-going, patient and methodical person. He's what a friend of mine once described as the type of person you'd want as a bridge partner. He's obviously a competitor, given his record, but he didn't want to win through a foolish oversight on my part. After a few turns he warned me about an out-of-supply risk in Russia, explaining that it probably wasn't a problem right now, but could become one. I was happy, because I had noticed that risk and also decided I had a little time to spare before addressing it.

In theory, the AP has the edge in the Near East, but the CP can be dangerous, especially in Total War, when the Turks get two armies. I entered the British NE Army in Alexandra and moved to Sinai to attack Beersheba. I realized a favorable roll could cause significant problems for the CP, especially when combined with an Arab attack, but I rolled poorly and lost my BRc's, leaving the NE Army as easy meat for the CP counterattack that soon followed. Again, Jim burned a lot of Ops attacking, but his reward was another 3 VPs for taking Egypt, together with the end of any risk in the Near East.

Most of the games I play involve a defensive stance by the CP on the Western Front, and in fact, Jim stopped at Sedan in his initial attack. I was therefore surprised when he made a move several turns later to take Belgium and Calais. I have in my mind that the answer to this is British and French attacks, but I still didn't have all my reinforcements in play, and Jim responded with this well-timed attack, playing a 5 Ops card and surging westward. I hit Calais at least a dozen times, using armies in London and Amiens, but he kept rolling for trenches and succeeded after about six digging attempts. Even though the GE17 & 18 card was at the bottom of Jim's Total War deck, I was not able to bleed him dry, as he continued to play RPs as needed to stay in business.

By the middle of Turn 15, the CP was up to 20 VPs, an auto-win if I didn't do something. I could probably have staved off the end for another turn (for example, by re-taking Lodz,) but I knew it wouldn't last, and I conceded at that point. It was a pleasure to play Jim, and although I lost, I did learn a lot more about the game.

During the first round of the tournament, my friend Jim McCarthy also played Paths of Glory. I had taught Jim the game during the year and he was eager to get some games in. GM Peter Reese paired brand-new players together in the first round, so as to avoid matching brand-new players against the sharks, and Jim was matched against one of Chris Youse's sons, who is an excellent player for a first-timer. Jim lost the game, and afterward he expressed to me his disappointment that he'd have to play someone from the loser's bracket in Round 2. Jim told me he'd rather play an expert, because you learn more that way. When I saw the Round 2 pairings, I had to laugh. Jim was matched against Marvin Birnbaum, the 5th ranked player on the AREA list! I told Jim that his wish had been fulfilled.

I did not enter Round 2 of the Paths of Glory tournament because I wanted to play in the San Juan tournament, which would be starting at 11am on Monday, and Round 2 would still be in progress at that time.
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2. Board Game: San Juan [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:159]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Although most of the tournaments don't start until Tuesday evening, the WBC schedule contained a Swiss elimination-style San Juan tournament starting on Monday at 11. I enjoy San Juan a great deal, and I think of myself as a contender (I finished 3rd in 2005 and made it to the semis in 2004.) It didn't fit into my schedule in 2006, so I was looking forward to resuming my participation. San Juan was only a Trial event for 2007, but I wanted to demonstrate my support, and perhaps get a shot at the wood.

The 2007 event featured a significant change in format. Instead of the 4-player games used in previous years, this year's games would be 2-player games. This mano-a-mano approach eliminated any complaints that a third party might tilt the game to your opponent by making suboptimal moves (though of course, you can still complain about the cards!) I signed in at the GM table and was amused to see Marvin Birnbaum arrive at the last moment, fresh from a quick victory in the Paths of Glory tournament!

You never know what the cards will bring in San Juan, but you have to play with what you draw. In the first round, my opponent drew nothing but 5 and 6 cost buildings, leaving him unable to build anything useful turn after turn. I never saw a 6-cost building all game, but I built 12 buildings to my opponent's 5, giving me an easy win. It's one of the most extreme set of card draws I've ever seen in San Juan.

In the second round I played Gadoon "Owen" Kyrollos, a young man who is trying to start a game store in northern New Jersey. He's a fine gamer and I wish him the best of luck with his business. We were neck and neck through the whole game, and I was delighted to sneak past him by a score of 27-26. The third round was easier, as I built an early Gold Mine that paid off several times. Of course, those who live by the Gold Mine can die by the Gold Mine, as it's a disappointing building if you never get a card from it.

With my 3-0 record in the first three Swiss rounds, I could skip the final round and still be assured of a spot in the playoffs. I went to get lunch, skipping the in-hotel food to buy a burger at the little snack shop on the golf course. Beth at the snack shop makes a terrific burger, and I visited her establishment numerous times during the week. Sometimes Matt was manning the counter, but it was usually Beth. By the end of the week, Beth would have a burger already grilling by the time I walked in the door; she would see me coming and slap one on.

I returned at 3pm for the elimination rounds. There were 12 qualifiers, and we were randomly assigned to six games. I was matched against Jeff Mullet, GM and former tournament winner. Jeff is an excellent player, and when his first-turn Gold Mine yielded a card on the first try, and then a second one a few turns later, I knew I was in for some trouble. I fought him tooth and nail, but he polished me off by a 40-36 margin. I still think I'm good enough to compete, as long as the cards cooperate, so I'll be back next year if the schedule permits.

I understand that Pete Stein went on to win the tournament. Pete is a Columbus-area gamer who has taken a lot of heat in the past for his lack of wood at WBC, but he won a tournament in 2006, and with his success this year the boot is going to be on the other foot!
 
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3. Board Game: War of the Ring (first edition) [Average Rating:7.86 Overall Rank:34]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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My friend Andy Latto rode the train down from Boston to Lancaster on Sunday, arriving late in the evening. Andy stayed across the street at one of the alternate hotels. We had packed Andy's games in our minivan so he wouldn't have to try to carry them onto the train. One of Andy's games was War of the Ring, a fantasy miniatures/wargame that takes the basic Paths of Glory CDW framework and modifies it brilliantly to produce a wonderfully-themed, tense game about Middle Earth.

Andy has played War of the Ring a number of times, but it's hard to know before playing in a WBC tournament just how competitive you'll be. Sometimes a player who has swept all opposition in his or her local area is an also-ran at WBC, but in other cases you'll find that your local group is composed of good players, so that you go further than you expected at WBC.

In Andy's case, he had success in the early rounds of this Swiss Elimination tournament. Bidding for sides was based on how many corruption the FP could take before losing the game, and Andy played the FP with a bid of 13 corruption twice, winning both times. In one game against Chris Youse, Chris put a boatload of eyes into the Hunt box, slowing the Fellowship down to a crawl and changing the nature of the game entirely. That game was a struggle all the way, but Andy managed to dunk the Ring to prevail. During and after the San Juan tournament, I was able to duck into the Cornwall Room to see how Andy was doing. When the semifinalists were announced, Andy was one of the four, meaning that he'd be playing one and perhaps two games on Tuesday for all the marbles.

In the semis, Andy was paired against Kevin Wojtaszczyk, who bid 15 corruption to play the SP. Kevin played a full-out DEW line rush strategy, pushing the Mordor armies north and placing no dice in the Hunt Box at all. In these circumstances, the FP would like to move the Fellowship as fast as possible, but Andy was not able to roll the Character or Will of the West dice needed to carry this strategy out, and Kevin rolled over Andy's strongholds to win the game, despite never inflicting a single corruption point on the Fellowship. In effect, Kevin could have bid 115 corruption and it would have made no difference. Andy was disappointed not to make the finals, but Kevin is obviously an excellent player, and in fact Kevin went on to win the tournament in a game that was similar to the one he played with Andy. I selected a picture of the dice for this GeekList entry to reflect the key role the dice play in the game.

War of the Ring is an excellent game, and it makes for an excellent tournament, but bidding for sides using corruption may not be best approach. I suggested that one might allow the FP to freely convert a die to a different face some number of times during the game, and one could bid for the number of times the FP can do this. This would allow the FP to generate more character dice, keeping up in the race game.
 
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4. Board Game: Paths of Glory [Average Rating:8.04 Overall Rank:44]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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The San Juan tournament, or at least my involvement in it, was finished in time to allow me to play in the third round of the Paths of Glory tournament. With a record of 0-1, I was out of contention for the elimination rounds, but I'm still in the learning stages of Paths of Glory and this was a ready-made opportunity to play another game.

The GM assigned me to play against Rich Janulis, a first-time Paths of Glory entrant at WBC. In this game Rich won the right to make the first bid, and he bid 2 VP to play the AP. I find that the easiest side to play in Paths of Glory is the side I've just been beaten by, so I was happy to take the CP. Jim had made it look so easy that I just had to give it a shot. Beside, I could use some of the techniques Jim had used so effectively on me!

I started with Guns of August and was delighted when Rich played Moltke on Turn 1, allowing me to respond with Falkenhayn, guaranteeing a speedy entrance to Limited War. I always worry about War Status, as I mentioned above, and this gave me a leg up. I continued to push War Status, spending the Place of Execution Combat Card to hurry things along, and as a result, I made it to Limited War one turn before Rich did. I hammered away at the Western Front enough to limit him to a single French army on the Italian border when Italy entered the war, and by this point I had four armies ready to plunge into Italy. I had a little more trouble taking Italy than Jim had experienced, but I got the 7 VP and entrenched an army in Turin to end the threat in this area.

In the Near East, Rich brought the MEF onto the board at MEF 3, and I SRed and walked some GEc's and BUc's into the Near East to contain Yudenitch and provide some firepower. I used Jim's trick, SRing two GEc's and on AHc next to the MEF, attacking it using Sud Army and satisfying the AH MO while eliminating the MEF via retreat. I then waited my time until I could SR three corps down to take Basra, again copying Jim's approach. Finally, I found the right moment to attack Egypt (I was helped by the fact that the BR NE army hadn't yet arrived on the board) for another 3 VP there.

I didn't manage to capture Belgium like Jim did, stopping at Liege, Sedan, Metz and Strasbourg, but on the other hand I held the Carpathians, and after defeating Italy I walked the Austrian armies north and began pushing into Russia, taking Lodz and Warsaw. Halfway through Turn 15 I was up to 22 VP and there was no way for the AP to retake the 3 VP spaces he'd need to prevent an auto-win, so he conceded.

It was remarkable how fundamentally similar my two WBC Paths of Glory games were, even though I played different sides in the two games. I certainly was able to put what I learned in the first game to use in the second. I'm planning to come back next year and keep learning!

At this year's Gathering of Friends, I conducted a Paths of Glory teaching session for six attendees who wanted an introduction to the game. I wrote up a teaching guide for the session, because although the rulebook works very well as a reference once you know the game, it's not the easiest document to learn the game from. The teaching session was a success, and in fact I plan to repeat the experiment next year. A few people asked me whether I would post the teaching guide to BGG, and I replied that I would do so only with permission from GMT. At this year's WBC, I was able to speak with GMT honcho Tony Curtis, and he encouraged me to post it. There are few companies that provide better user support than GMT! I'll be posting the guide as soon as I get a chance to go through it for one more editing pass.
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5. Board Game: Werewolf [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:703]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Not all of the games at WBC are official tournament games. There is also a lot of open gaming. One noteworthy example is Werewolf, a psychological/party game that usually starts late at night as the regularly-scheduled games are ending. There seemed to be two separate Werewolf groups at WBC this year, the teenaged werewolfs and the more "mature" (e.g., older) group. My son Sam was a regular participant in the first group. He'd return to the room each night in the wee hours of the morning, armed with stories of the games he had played.

Near the end of the week, Sam came back with a plaque. This wasn't an official WBC plaque; rather, some thoughtful person had some Werewolf plaques made up to award to those who played the game at WBC. My son was voted "Best Special Character" for 2007; he was a special character (rather than a common villager) an unusually high portion of the time, and he did a good job with this responsibility.
 
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6. Board Game: Punk sucht Lady [Average Rating:5.81 Overall Rank:7490]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Tuesday is the day for the fabulous WBC game auction. This event features two selling formats that operate simultaneously. There is a standard "open outcry" auction for the more valuable items. There is also a fixed price auction in which items are laid out on tables, with three prices marked: one for 10am, one for 12 noon and a third for 2 pm. The prices go down over the course of the day, allowing some reflection of supply and demand.

I was tired from two Paths of Glory games, and there were no games going on Tuesday morning that I wanted to play, so I spent most of the day sitting in the auction hall relaxing (with a few visits to see how Andy was making out in the War of the Ring tournament.) I had printed out the list of auction items from the BPA website, marking items I was interested in with maximum prices for each. Most of the items I was interested in went for far more than I was willing to pay, but there were a few that I thought I might be able to buy. One of these was Punk Sucht Lady, a 1993 release by Kramer and Ulrich. I had marked $11 as my maximum price, and my bid of $10 won the lot. When I walked up to pay for my prize people asked what the game was. "It's a dating game," I explained. The text of this game is in German, but it's an interesting design.

I also picked a few other games up from the tables, as well as a few more in the live auction. The highlight of the day was the auction of a complete set of Avalon Hill General magazines. These were sold in four lots for a total of about $3600 dollars. It seemed like a bargain to me, given how much the early issues go for when sold singly.
 
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7. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:8.00 Overall Rank:11]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Everything that had happened thus far was just a prelude to the formal kick-off of the WBC event at 6pm on Tuesday evening. There were 22 events starting at 6pm, including several that I was interested in. I had to skip El Grande and Empire Builder, two of my favorite games, so I could play in Power Grid (it's great to have so many fine choices!) One of the features of WBC is the Team Tournament, in which teams of four players each choose games (one per player) in which they will attempt to score points. I was a member of the MVGA team, composed of Rich Meyer (playing Empire Builder,) Jeff Meyer (playing Caylus,) Andy Latto (playing Amun Re,) and me playing Power Grid. Since Power Grid was my team game, I resolved to play it at every opportunity until I won a heat to qualify for the semis or ran out of opportunities to do so.

The GM assigned players to tables randomly, and when I sat down at my table, I found Jim Castonguay, who won the tournament in 2005 and 2006. I won the tournament in its first year, 2004, so this one table had all of the former champs. Jim is a great guy, and I was delighted to be able to play with him, but I knew it would be a tough game. We were playing on the US board, and we selected the Northeast as the region to leave out of our 5-player game.

The first plant auctioned was the #04 coal plant. This plant guarantees cheap early fuel for the owner, and I bid $7 for it when my turn came around. Jim bid $8, and I passed to let him have it. I was concerned that the owner of the #04, who has to build early in Turn 1, would find himself surrounded by opponents. Instead I took the #07 oil burner for list price as the other players took the #05 hybrid and the #08 and #10 coal plants. Jim started in St. Louis and Memphis and was soon surrounded by the rest of us (I built in Denver and Cheyenne, giving me free rein in the West.) Jim would be challenged by the lack of room, but the #04 is a money-saving plant that would provide him with options.

In Turn 2, there were no good plants, and I decided not to buy a plant. As a result, I started Turn 3 as dim bulb. After a few purchases of mediocre plants, Jim paid for the very attractive #21 hybrid and the #32 oil plant dropped into the current market. There were only 2 players left to bid, and I dropped out only when the price got up above $50. I was hoping for a good replacement plant, and indeed the #34 nuclear plant fell into my lap for list price. In a 5-player game with only one nuclear plant operating, fuel becomes cheap and the owner has a big cost advantage. If I could lock up the west, I could put the game into a stall, forcing someone to spend big to stop me.

By the following turn, coal and oil were becoming expensive, so I was able to buy the #35 for just $39, leaving me with two big, cheap plants. This allowed me to sit and wait. Jim built west to try to slow me down, but I hung out at the back of the turn order and the #25 coal plant dropped to me for list price, giving me the ability to power 15 cities for just 4 fuel units. At this point the game was almost a forgone conclusion. I was able to power 15 cities to end the game with a win, ahead of my closest opponent, who could power only 13.

The first-heat win gave me a sure pass into the semi-finals, so I played no more Power Grid until Friday afternoon. My semi-final included Patrick Shea, a strong player I've faced in the past. This game was almost a repeat of my heat, except that Patrick had the dominant position this time. We played on the US map again, this time with the Southwest missing. I again bought the #07, and I started in St. Louis and Memphis (the same cities Jim started with in the heat,) but was not as closely pressed as Jim had been. Patrick bid high for the #25 and waited at the back of the turn order. The #26 became available a few turns later when the remaining bidders were out of cash, and he bought it for list price, giving him a huge lead.

It's at this point in the game, when everyone wants a better plant, that things often freeze up. After offering a few big plants early, the market suddenly presented us with 2's and 3's that would not improve our capacity. I bid significant amounts of money for the #30 trash plant and the #20 oil plant, but I could not raise my capacity to more than 14. Patrick had power for 15 cities, and though we tried to hem him in, the Stage 3 card came up during the final auction and he was able to build 15 with $16 to spare for a very impressive victory.

This ended my hopes of scoring for the MVGA team, but ironically my teammate Rich Meyer finished 2nd in the Power Grid finals. It's too bad his team game was Empire Builder and not Power Grid!
 
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8. Board Game: Lunar Rails [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:1755]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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While I was playing Power Grid, my wife Claire was competing in a tournament as well. Claire's favorite games include Empire Builder, Merchant of Venus, McMulti and Settlers of Catan. Three of the four are offered as tournaments at WBC, and she was looking forward to playing in them. She was especially looking forward to the opportunity to play Martian Rails, a map that has not been published, but that Bob Stribula is developing with an eye to possible future publication. Bob is the designer of Lunar Rails, which has been published by Mayfair, so it's not unreasonable to think that Martian Rails could see the light of day at some time in the future.

Most game maps are effectively flat, but Lunar Rails covers the entire Moon, which is a sphere. The map uses two circles that are joined together by connections, so that the Moon is shaped, not like a sphere, but like a Necco wafer (and it does look like a Necco wafer up in the sky, doesn't it?) The map for Martian Rails uses a similar but different connection system, so that Mars is shaped almost like two tetrahedral pyramids glued together along one pair of bases (this shape is like, but different from, an octahedron.) One of the enjoyable challenges about this map is computing the shortest distance from one city to another, and putting track segments together to construct an efficient network.

Claire played in three Empire Builder heats, two of which were played on the Martian Rails prototype map. She also played in a non-tournament game held concurrently on a table next to the Empire Builder semi-finals on Thursday morning. Unfortunately, she did not win a heat to qualify for the semis, but she was delighted to get more chances to play Martian Rails.
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9. Board Game: Ra [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:95]
 
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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One of the larger tournaments at WBC, as measured by number of entrants, is Ra. It's a fairly simple game to play, and it's quick (the official time slot is 2 hours, but it shouldn't take more than one hour unless someone isn't paying attention.) Everyone thinks they have a chance, though oddly enough for a game that's criticized for being luck-ridden, many of the same people seem to finish on top every year.

In my first game, Jean-Francois Gagne took the bull by the horns and bid high for a middling set in a quickly-moving first epoch. Before we knew it, the epoch was over, giving Jean-Francois a strong early lead. I was collecting monuments and earned 16 VP for them, but they were literally my only source of points as I scored a total of 26 VP, far behind Jean-Francois's winning 42 VP.

I played Ra again on Wednesday. This time my game included Bobbi Warczak, a strong player and a pleasant competitor with whom I've played quite a few games at WBC. Bobbi mentioned that Ra is her favorite game, and she backed that claim up with excellent play. In the first epoch I saw time passing and bid high for a decent lot, even though it left me with small suns for Epoch 2. I had finished all my Epoch 1 purchases with just two Ra tiles to go, and I was rooting for an early sunset. Unfortunately, I was forced to watch as my opponents pulled 30 tiles out of the bag in a row without a single Ra. This allowed them to gain decent lots for themselves, and Bobbi played a masterful game to score a victory.

The nice thing about Ra is that it's a bite-sized game that always seems to fit into my schedule. I played a third heat on Thursday. This time everything worked perfectly, as I took the Pharaoh lead in the first epoch and held it all game, chipping away at the other categories, to win by a mile. Sometimes the tiles come out of the bag in just the order you were hoping for, and the game seems easy.

Even though I won one heat, it was only after losing in my first two heats. This left me short of qualifying for the semis. Later I spotted the final tournament results at the kiosk, and I noted that Bobbi Warczak had taken the wood for Ra. Congratulations, Bobbi!
 
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10. Board Game: Elk Fest [Average Rating:6.20 Overall Rank:1863]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Claire and I had already returned to our room when Sam came in wearing a smile. While we were playing Empire Builder and Power Grid and Ra, Sam had been playing in the Elchfest tournament. Elchfest is a dexterity game in which two opponents each try to get their mooses to the other side of the table by flicking wooden disks.

It's a short game, and the entire tournament took place on Tuesday night, from start to finish. Sam let us know that he had finished 6th in Elchfest. He commented on the extra difficulty presented by the fact that the table surfaces differed so much from on game to the next. It's a small tournament, so he may earn just 1 laurel for a 6th place finish, but Sam had made sure the Brosius family would not be shut out at WBC 2007!
 
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11. Board Game: Here I Stand [Average Rating:7.96 Overall Rank:81]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Of course, although Sam's laurel was the first for the Brosius family this year, Andy Latto had already put a 3rd place finish in the bag for War of the Ring. Andy's Tuesday night game was Here I Stand, a multi-player card-driven wargame/diplomatic game designed by WBC regular Ed Beach, who also plays a big role in the Great Campaigns of the American Civil War tournament (though Dave Cross took over the GCACW GMing duties this year.)

Here I Stand is particularly interesting because it is almost two games at once. The wargame part features the Hapsburgs, the Ottomans, the French and the English competing for territory across Europe. The religious part faces the Protestant off against the Papacy. There are certainly interactions between the two games (for example, the Papacy has an army, and the English are seeking permission for Henry to marry as many wives as needed to generate a male heir,) but they are limited.

Andy played the French in this game. He explained that the French have less interaction with other players than any other power, and have little interest at all in the religious game. The French have as a special goal the building of beautiful chateaux, and they build away while strife rages around them.

Toward the end of the 3-player tournament scenario, Andy realized that he needed to coordinate an attack on England. This involved an attack on Calais, a difficult undertaking given England's naval supremacy. One of the other players (I believe it was the Papacy) had made a deal with Andy, promising to play an event to help him take the city, but at the last minute that player did not follow through, and as a result yet another player won the game. It was an exciting game that most of the players had a chance to win at some time (excepting only the Protestants, who had an unusual number of debaters burned at the stake, leaving them without much hope.)

I asked Andy if he still likes the game, and he explained that he is hoping to play a more interesting power next time, but would definitely like to play again.
 
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12. Board Game: Grant Takes Command [Average Rating:7.92 Overall Rank:1638]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I went to bed at a decent hour on Tuesday night and woke up Wednesday morning thinking about Princes of Florence, the tournament I was preparing to GM. The demo for my tournament was at 10am, so I was able to listen in at the 9am demo for the Great Campaigns of the American Civil War ("GCACW") tournament. I'm trying to learn the GCACW system, and have even played one scenario, but it's an innovative system and it doesn't hurt to get more input when I can.

I'd love to play in this tournament at WBC, but it hasn't fit into my schedule, so I've only been able to drop by from time to time to watch bits of games. Ed Beach patiently answers my questions and encourages me to try a game (the GCACW regulars are among the friendliest gamers you'll find anywhere.)

Chris Withers is the reigning champion of GCACW. He won the tournament seven years in a row, from 2000 to 2006 (I guess he's the Apollo Creed of GCACW,) so everyone is hoping for a shot to knock him off. I understand that he faced dire circumstances in one of his games, almost eliminating him from contention, but in the end Chris won his eighth straight tournament this year. Congratulations, Chris, but these guys are going to be gunning for you again in 2008!
 
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13. Board Game: Merchant of Venus [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:432]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Claire's Wednesday morning activity was a heat of Merchant of Venus, another one of her favorite games. Last year she lost by a wide margin, and she had been wondering whether she had any hope of victory in 2007. This year she was thrilled to win her heat! As she recounted the story to me, she found the relic Yellow Drive, which doesn't use up hold space in your ship. On the strength of this valuable discovery, together with a well-placed set of spaceports, she squeaked over the $2000 winning condition. When she delivered the winning set of goods, she had the good sense to count her money and assets before she made any purchases, and realized that she had done it!

Given her earlier doubts, Claire's victory was especially sweet. She also commented to me on how friendly the players at her table were. This made the game a joy to play. Thanks to Richard Irving for a great GMing job (he's run the tournament 6 years in a row now.)

Claire didn't win her semi to advance to the final, but she has built a good base for more success in the future.
 
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14. Board Game: The Princes of Florence [Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:59]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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The WBC offers three classes of tournaments. "A" tournaments are only open to players who already know the game (you don't have to be an expert, but you must know the rules.) "C" tournaments are open to anyone; if you don't know the game, you will be taught as you play (this class is used in particular for the late-night mass games like Slapshot or Liar's Dice.) In the middle is class "B", where you must either know the rules or attend a one-hour demo that is held prior to the tournament.

I GM Princes of Florence, a Class B tournament, and my demo was held at 10am on Wednesday. Six or seven players attended, and I ran through an explanation of the game, followed by a sample turn. I not only explained the rules, but also provided some strategy hints that would help new players compete with more experienced rivals. One of the demo attendees was Boaz Gura, who we'll hear about later in this report. I kept forgetting Boaz's name, so I had to ask him four or five times. By the last time, he was laughing when he told me. I'm sorry, Boaz; I'll try to do better next year.

The first heat of the tournament was scheduled for Wednesday at 11am. It's quite a task as a GM to sign up 50 people for a tournament, most of whom show up only 5 minutes before 11 as they rush in from their previous tournaments. I'd like to express my special thanks to Katherine McCorry, who served as my primary Assistant GM and made my job a lot easier.

I'm firmly of the belief that Princes of Florence is best with 5 players, so I arrange players in groups of 5 whenever I can. There were 49 people signed up at 11am, so I joined them as a 50th player to make 10 tables of 5. When I arrived at my table, there was a slight look of discouragement, as people may feel when playing the GM, an experienced player, that their chances of winning are less. The WBC rules allow GMs to play as long as Assistant GMs are appointed to make rulings in games that involve the GM.

There was no need for any of them to worry in this game. I was first player, and I spent the whole game off balance, with just the wrong starting cards, just the wrong landscape, just the wrong freedom and just the wrong everything else. Many of us seemed to be encountering problems. Princes of Florence is like a road race on a winding mountain road; if you drive too slowly, you'll never win, but if you drive too fast, you'll plunge to your doom. I did a lot of hard braking. When you get stuck, the purchase of a Bonus Card will often solve your problem, and in fact there were only about 7 Bonus Cards left in the deck at the end of the game. The player in 5th position at the start is often thought to be in the worst situation, but Albert Schwartz, who was in 5th position in our game, used a Builder strategy, paying fairly high prices to gather the first three builders, building a lot of free buildings, getting Best Work several times, and scoring a few Prestige cards to win comfortably. It was an excellent performance by Albert. I finished in 4th (so much for the GM threat!)

The second heat of Princes of Florence was held on Thursday at 5pm. This time 40 people showed up not counting me, making 8 tables of 5. I certainly wasn't going to play if it meant turning three 5-player tables into four 4-player tables, so I simply acted as GM for this heat. I'll write up a more complete tournament report for the WBC website, but all 18 heat games ran smoothly, with the exception of one game in which one of the Profession cards was accidentally shuffled into the Recruitment deck. The player in 2nd seat in that game, Cally Perry, was surprised when there was no Profession card for her to buy in Turn 2, but she shrugged it off and carried on without one. When the missing card was discovered, I had to make a GM ruling. I took the orphan card and turned it face up on the table, where I ruled it could not be bought, but could be recruited by any player with a recruitment card. Despite this handicap, Cally went on to win her game handily.

Having played in only one heat, and having come in fourth in that heat, I was out of the running for wood in Princes of Florence. If you watch the BPA website for the Event Report later this year, you'll be able to read the whole story, but for me, the tournament was over. On the whole, though, the event was a success; we increased our attendance from 57 players in 2006 to 72 in 2007, despite the fact that we reduced the number of heats from three to two. Eric Freeman won the event, and Boaz Gura (remember him?) finished second. It was Eric Freeman who did a lot of work to coordinate the Euro game scheduling this year, minimizing conflicts and allowing GMs to make informed decisions about when to run their tournaments, and I believe his efforts were largely responsible for the increase in attendance.
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15. Board Game: Empire Builder [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:664]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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When I first came to WBC, back in 2003, the game I felt most competent in playing was Empire Builder, a game I've been playing for almost twenty years. I entered the tournament that year and played in several heats, but I didn't win a game. This surprised me. Rich Meyer, who belongs to MVGA, the weekly game club I attend, is a strong Empire Builder player who has beaten me in most of the games I've played there. Rich won the WBC Empire Builder tournament last year and has placed well in previous years, so he knows what he's talking about. He even selected it as his team event. In watching the better players at WBC, and in talking with Rich, I realized that I was over-building track. You need track to win the game, but the game is won by accumulating money, not by building more and more track. I've continued to practice the game in recent years, and I've been trying to kick the track-building habit.

I've told people for several years that the WBC event I most wanted to win was Empire Builder, but given my relatively weak past performance, I had little hope of doing so. When I won my first Power Grid heat, however, it allowed me to skip the second heat, which began at 1pm on Wednesday, and gave me the opportunity to play in the Empire Builder heat starting at the same time. Our game was played on the Empire Builder map with Mexico (like cheese steaks, Empire Builder comes "wit" and "wit-out", as they used to say back home in Philadelphia when I was a boy.)

The WBC tournament provides that each player will be dealt four cards in the initial deal, and will discard one and keep three. This improves the initial card draws and makes for a slightly faster game. I saw three cards that worked well together: Coal to San Francisco, Sugar to Detroit and Sheep to Buffalo. I built from Kansas City through Salt Lake City to San Francisco. I then started my train in SLC, took Coal to San Francisco, picked up Sugar, grabbed Sheep on the way back through SLC, and extended my line to Detroit to deliver the Sugar. I built almost all the way to Buffalo, blocking an opponent who was trying to build west from that city; we got in each other's way, but I made it to Buffalo to complete my initial set of deliveries, putting me in excellent shape. All through the game I had reasonably good cards, though I did have to dump cards once for a better set. I didn't hit any huge "spec loads," but my network was good and I earned steadily. My track went nowhere near Mexico, so as far as I was concerned, I may as well have been playing on the "wit-out" map. Before long I delivered a load to make my cash total $267 million, and as I had connected all my major cities, I had a long-coveted win in my first heat!

This success earned me a berth in the semifinals on Thursday morning. I didn't know any of my 4 opponents, but then again, they didn't know me either, so we were on common ground. Rich was playing at another table, as was Donna Balkan, another good friend and former champ. We couldn't find enough copies of the "wit" map to play with, but one player unearthed a copy of the old "North American Rails" game in the roll-up tube. This map bears superficial resemblance to the "wit" map we had used for the heat, but there are important differences---in particular, Sugar is available not only in San Francisco, but also in Culiacan on this map. Again I drew a strong 3-card starting set: Oil to Los Angeles and Copper to Oklahoma City and Miami. I built from LA to OKC via Phoenix, started in OKC with Oil and Wheat, and delivered Oil to LA. I then picked up 2 Copper in Phoenix and took one to OKC and built to Miami to deliver the other. When I built from LA to OKC, I ran my track southeast and turned northeast just one milepost out of Juarez, Mexico. I was slow to upgrade my train to a Fast Freight, but I had a good line. Unlike in the heat, we all seemed to be in Mexico in this game, and I made good money there even though I was the fourth player to actually build into Mexico. Our table moved slowly, and in fact I would miss the semis for El Grande before I could get out, but I didn't care, as I had a strong chance to win with my solid track network. I finally delivered a load to put me at $262 million, ahead of three players in the $220's. I was in the Empire Builder finals! It's too bad that Rich didn't win his semi---I made the finals in his team game and he made the finals in mine, but we'd earn no points for the MVGA team.

There was one big obstacle to my participation in the finals---they began partway through the semis for Princes of Florence, the game for which I GM. This is where my Assistant GM came to the rescue. I got the POF semis started, and Katherine McCorry assured me that she could finish GMing the semis and handle the finals that followed immediately thereafter. I knew she could do it, and my wife Claire offered to help with any organizational tasks, so I went off to play Empire Builder, knowing that Princes of Florence was in safe hands.

The Empire Builder finals were held on the Eurorails map. This is perhaps the best, most balanced map in the whole series. It offers both north/south and east/west runs, though the east/west routes are better on average. Donna Balkan is particularly strong in Eurorails, and since she too had lost her semi, I had asked her for some last-minute advice earlier in the day. I drew my initial cards, and I saw a third set of three great starting cards: Machinery to Madrid, Cattle to Madrid and Cork to Ruhr. Both Machinery and Cattle can be obtained in the French city of Nantes, which is within convenient building distance of Madrid, and I built that line. I started my train in Nantes with both goods and high-tailed it to Madrid to sell the pair for good money. I then extended my line to Seville to pick up two loads of Cork and built to Ruhr to deliver it. Although I was off to a great start, I was being matched load for load by Dave Steiner, a strong player who was also getting good cards. I didn't hit too many terrific sets, but I was always in business, carrying Cork or Oranges from Spain to central Europe, then Tourists or some other load back to Spain. I extended to Berlin, Wien and Beograd, taking Labor and Oil north for more good payouts. Then, as Dave and I hit the $140 million mark, he hit the wall, coming up dry on the card draws while I continued to reel in the money. I powered to the win, delivering Cork to Ruhr for the second time as my winning load (we had just run through the deck and re-shuffled when I fished this "corker" of a load out of the deck!)

I was ecstatic to have won the Empire Builder tournament. Randy Cox may claim it's not as prestigious as Facts in Five, but I'll take it. The final was unusual in that I was never derailed, I never had a bridge wash out (the Loire flood came out in the initial draw, giving me immunity almost the whole game,) I never rode a ferry, and I used every single piece of track I built except for the brief stretch from Holland to London. I was very fortunate in this game, but sometimes it takes a bit of fortune to win.
 
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16. Board Game: El Grande [Average Rating:7.84 Overall Rank:26]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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The WBC is so full of great games that you can't possibly play them all. El Grande is another game I rate as a '10,' and though I had to skip the Tuesday heat, I made it for Wednesday evening. Rob Flowers GMs this game faithfully, and it deserves more players than it has been drawing in recent years.

It's always hard to predict how you'll finish in El Grande; although people claim that it's a balance of power game, somehow the other players and cards make it hard to achieve your goals. In this game I didn't come anywhere near the lead during the first six turns, but I did get an awful lot of cubes on the board. More than once I managed to take the "move the king" action despite the fact that I had played a relatively low power card. This kept me from being a target. In the final set of rounds, however, I played the "2-1-13" sequence to put the king in Baskenland (my home) for the final scoring and win with 82 VP, ahead of the second place player by 12 VP. I had managed to put all but one of my cubes onto the board by the end of the game.

The Empire Builder semis went a bit over time, so I didn't make the El Grande semis, but it's a trade-off whose results I am pleased with. I'll be back next year for more El Grande!
 
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17. Board Game: Can't Stop [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:476]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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There's a big group game almost every night at WBC, starting at 11pm. Wednesday's game was Can't Stop, a brilliant die-rolling game designed by Sid Sackson. So many people participate in this game that the GM doesn't even try to randomize tables; he just asks everyone to sit down at a table. There were 104 participants in 2006, and I wouldn't be surprised if that number was exceeded in 2007.

I joined a table with card-driven wargame whiz Chris Byrd and his wife, as well as a fourth player whose name I don't recall. On his first roll, Chris rolled 5-6-6-6 and said, "that's not a tough decision" and placed his towers in the 11 and 12 columns. He rolled again and got 5-6-6-6 again, moving his towers up a space each. Thus far Chris hadn't made a single decision. On his third roll, Chris rolled 2-2-5-6, entered the 4 column and moved up a third time on the 11 column, and stopped. I managed to get the 5 and 6 columns, but there was no stopping Chris, who finished the 4, 11 and 12 columns to win our game. I got to go back to the room for some much-needed sleep!
 
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18. Board Game: Medici [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:348]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Following the second Princes of Florence heat, I crossed Ballroom B to sign up for Medici. I currently have the game listed as my #1-ranked game out of 668 games ranked on BoardGameGeek, and this year's tournament reminded me again why I enjoy it so much.

In my first heat, I fell behind in the first voyage, but I bided my time during the second voyage and earned a free shot at 3 random cards for just $1 (I was the only player who had room to bid on this lot.) It came up roses, and I shot ahead. Tom Dunning knew he needed a lucky break to win, and he got the 3 cards for $1 chance in the third voyage. It came in for him as well, and he edged me out by 1 VP to win the game by a margin of 95-94.

In the second heat, on Friday, I faced another good player, Peter Staab, who has won the tournament in the past. It was a close game all the way, but again I set myself for a 3-for-$1 shot. This time it was a horrible failure; I drew a pair of 1's and a 2 in useless suits. Pete beat me by 8 VP, 105-97.

If you look at the AREA ratings for Medici, it looks like I've been a successful player, but Medici is scored as a "race game" for AREA, and a lot of my "success" has been comprised of 2nd place finishes in 5-player games. That won't get you into the semi-finals, and, to my regret, my Medici aspirations ended there.
 
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19. Board Game: Thurn and Taxis [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:253]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I finished my Medici heat in plenty of time to enter another tournament. I played Thurn and Taxis last year, finishing second to Anne Norton, a friend of mine who won three tournaments in 2006. I enjoy Thurn and Taxis, but it's not one of my favorite games, so it's a tournament I'll enter only if I have a gap in my schedule. Fortunately, thanks to Eric Freeman's Euro schedule coordination, the gaps fell into place very nicely this year. A lot of other people must have felt the same way, because the Marietta room was crowded with people as the heat began.

Unfortunately for me, the cards didn't cooperate with my aspirations in this game. I completed a number of routes, but I never seemed to get the cards to make long routes. I chipped away with length 3 and 4 routes, and even upgraded my carriage with the help of the cartwright, but you can't win that way, and I didn't. Bruce Rae won on the tie-breaker with 24 VP, and I was far behind with only 10 VP.

I didn't pay any more attention to this tournament, as the heat I played in was the last one before the semis, but my friend Andy Latto was far more successful than I was. Andy made it to the finals, where he completed a single route that was worth a whopping 24 VP, giving him the win and the wood! That's two years in a row that one of my friends has won this tournament. No wonder I have so much trouble winning when I play with my friends!
 
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20. Board Game: Saint Petersburg [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:153]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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It was 11pm on Thursday night, and I skipped the Pro Golf and Lost Cities tournaments to enter my first heat of Saint Petersburg. I consider myself to be a strong Saint Petersburg player, but you never know how you'll fare in a tournament that has people from so many different places. In my first game, I was faced with Aaron Fuegi on my right. Aaron is a strong player in almost any game, and to make it worse, he got a first-turn Mistress of Ceremonies. Searching the BGG image archives, I'm amazed to see that the only picture of this notorious person is on a birthday cake, but it's appropriate in a way---it certainly feels like your birthday when you get the chance to take her in Turn 1. The blow was softened by the fact that I and the player on my left got Judges---you read that right; three nobles were turned over, and they were a Mistress and two Judges.

I felt that my Judge gave me a chance to come back, but Aaron got Potemkin's Village and the Bank on Turn 2, and he's far too good a player to lose with that set of cards.

I entered two more Saint Petersburg heats during the week, and lost those as well. I can console myself with the fact that opponents got first-turn Mistresses in both of those games as well, but I realize that I didn't play my best games. I need to keep improving my game if I want to do better in this tournament. Some people have been complaining recently about games in which one of your opponents doesn't play as you expected, perhaps costing you the win. In my opinion, adapting to this is one of the challenges you must face if you want to do well at a tournament like WBC---and in fact, it's an enjoyable challenge if you are willing to accept it as such. I play quite a bit of Saint Petersburg on BrettSpielWelt, but the game as played at WBC is a far different animal. You see a wider array of strategies, as you'd expect given a more heterogeneous group. This makes the game more interesting and less predictable.
 
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21. Board Game: Facts in Five [Average Rating:6.05 Overall Rank:2982]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Every tournament at WBC offers competition, but the Facts in Five tournament offers competition and theater at the same time. Last year I entered this tournament because I had a free spot in my schedule, but this year I was looking forward to it, and especially to Arthur Field's performance as GM. In most tournaments, the GM gets the game started, answers a few player questions, and collects the results at the end of each heat. In Facts in Five, the GM is on center stage the entire time, issuing instructions and providing answers in front of a room full of eager competitors who have the self-discipline of five-year-olds. Of course, center stage is just where Arthur belongs (he has conducted a symphony orchestra back home in South Carolina,) and it's impossible to keep a straight face while he struggles manfully to keep us all in check.

I had learned about Facts in Five from Rich Meyer, who's been playing it for many years, but last year was my first effort in the tournament. I found that the format fits my way of thinking very well, and I was actually in first place last year until I crashed in the final (who knows the names of cruise ship lines? Not me!) This year I contemplated selecting Facts in Five as my team tournament, but in the end I made the more traditional choice of Power Grid.

I got off to a good start this year, recalling Gettysburg generals, horseracing Triple Crown winners and New Testament books, though I struck out on Jethro Tull albums and Tony Award-winning musicals. For the New Testament book question, I even had time to think about the fact that "Titus" is shorter than "Thessalonians" or even "Timothy," and that "Philemon" is shorter than "Philippians." Many players slapped their heads repeatedly when they heard the answers, but I found that most of the answers I missed were ones I didn't know, so I got the most out of the knowledge I have. Andy Latto and I both missed "Sound of Music," but he felt worse about it than I did, because he's more of a Broadway expert.

After four rounds the GM took all the answer sheets for final tabulation, and we had to wait until the results were posted to see how we placed. I thought I had a good chance for laurels, but didn't think I had done well enough to win. I finally learned who had won on Sunday morning, when I ran into Arthur early in the morning. As it turns out, I came in second by one single answer to Winton Lemoine; he answered 45 questions correctly and I answered 44. I saw Winton later in the day, and he was delighted to have won wood.

Randy Cox explained to me last year that Facts in Five is one of the most prestigious tournaments at WBC. Randy, I'm here to let you know that I now have a 4th place finish and a 2nd place finish in consecutive years, and I'm coming back next year if at all possible. In 2008, I think I will make it my team game!
 
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22. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.15 Overall Rank:5]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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One of the largest and most ardently contested tournaments at WBC is the Puerto Rico tournament. I've played in this tournament several times, even though I'm not a strong enough player to have a realistic chance of winning. I do enjoy the game, though, and it often seems to fit nicely into my schedule. This year I was able to fit two games in, one on Friday at 6pm and the other on Saturday at 11am. In both games we drew for starting positions, and in both games I received the dreaded second indigo seat. The perceived downside of this seat is that, once the first player takes Settler for a Quarry, your options are not as attractive as those of your opponents. This isn't what happened in my games, though; both times the first player took Builder, allowing me to grab the Quarry. It didn't do me any good, though, as I lost both times, once to Cary Morris and once to Vassily Kyrkos, a player I know from the Princes of Florence tournament. I finished with a close second in at least one of those games, so I was competitive, and I'll continue to play in this tournament when it doesn't conflict with something else I want to play (like Facts in Five!)
 
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23. Board Game: Lost Cities [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:259]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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No WBC tournament was more eagerly anticipated in the Brosius household this year than the Lost Cities tournament. We've been playing this game regularly for many years, but after I took 5th place in 2005 and my wife Claire took 6th place in 2006, the level of interest rose to a new level. My son Sam plays Lost Cities with us at home, and he's just as strong as either of us. He may even be a little better than his parents. Our friend Andy Latto is also a big fan of the game, and, given the fact that the four of us would be driving home in the same car, we joked that, if things broke right, we might be able to play the finals in the car!

The tournament featured four qualifying heats, with the 32 players who scored best in the heats advancing to a 5-round single elimination stage. We all entered the first heat, on Wednesday evening, and we all won. Eric missed the second heat, passing it up to play Saint Petersburg on Thursday night, but Sam and Claire each scored their second win. In the third heat, I found myself matched against Rich Meyer, who assured me that it would be an easy match. Rich loses all the time to his son Jeff at home. Unfortunately, Rich won this game, giving me a win and a loss and threatening me with failure to qualify for the elimination rounds. It would be critical that I win my last heat if I was to have any chance to go on, as it takes two wins to be considered even as an alternate. I played a well-fought game against Kate Taillon and came out victorious to earn a record of 2-1 in the heats. Claire was also 2-1, but she won her first two heats and lost her third, qualifying her for sure, while I was only the second alternate with a win in my first and third heats. Sam sailed into the elimination rounds with a 4-0 record. Andy shared my dilemma, with a win, a loss and a win to be third alternate.

When we arrived in the Paradise room for the elimination rounds, Andy and I were fortunate. Several qualifiers did not show up, so I as second alternate and Andy as third alternate were in. With Sam, Claire, Andy and I all in the round of 32, our dream of all making it to the semis was still possible! In the first elimination round Sam, Andy and I all won. I was matched against GM Ivan Lawson for my game. Ivan is a good player, but I drew great cards, laid down some 8-card expeditions and scored 231 points against him. I seem to play all five colors as often as not; I can resist anything but temptation!

Claire lost her game to Jarett Weintraub, a confident young man with a solid Lost Cities game. Jarett plays quickly and well, but he's also a lot of fun to play with---he doesn't take himself or the game too seriously. The round of 16 turned up roses for Sam, Andy and me, and for Jarett as well, putting the four of us into the round of 8.

Once you make the round of 8, you have a good shot of coming home with laurels, so we were pumped for the next round. I played Winton Lemoine, who had beaten me in Facts in Five, and I won a close game. Sam was matched against Jarett in this round, and he scored big in the first two hands, leading by 65 points with just a hand to go. Then the roof caved in. Jarett drew a fistful of green and yellow cards, and he came back in dramatic fashion from a huge deficit, scoring 140 points in the final hand and knocking Sam out of the tournament.

I had been watching the end of the game between Sam and Jarett, and my first line of defense for the semi-finals was to hope Jarett played someone else. Unfortunately for me, I was the next prospective victim in Jarett's Lost Cities roll. We joked about Jarett being the Brosius killer, and that's how it turned out. The first hand was very close, with Jarett besting me by the slimmest of margins. This left him as first player for the second hand, a position he would have preferred to have avoided. One of my psychological edges in Lost Cities is that I don't care whether I play first or second; when you play five suits as often as I do, you need to play a lot of cards in a hurry! Unfortunately, that was the end of my good fortune, as Jarett easily squeezed me out and the gambles I took in my efforts to catch up didn't pay off.

Andy Latto won his semi-final game to earn his way in to the final, against Jarett Weintraub. Jarett had now run out of Brosiuses to eliminate, so he had to settle for second-best: trying to eliminate someone who'd be riding home in the Brosius minivan. Jarett continued his bone-crushing run, knocking Andy out to win the Lost Cities wood in a spectacular performance. I won the consolation round against John Conlon to take 3rd place behind Andy in 2nd, and Sam was awarded 5th place in recognition of the fact that he achieved the highest losing score in the quarter-finals.

After the tournament, we congratulated Jarett and assured him that we'd be making up anti-Jarett songs in the car all the way home!

I have enjoyed every moment of my many Lost Cities tournament experiences at WBC. I'd like to thank Ivan for GMing this monster tournament, and I encourage all of you readers to come and check it out for yourself next year!
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24. Board Game: The Devil's To Pay [Average Rating:7.42 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.42 Unranked]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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One added benefit of the WBC is the opportunity to check out the vendor area which is open during the final Friday and Saturday of the con. The vendors sell Euros, wargames, shirts, videos, dice, and a variety of other game-related items.

I spent an unscheduled hour this year walking through the area, talking to the vendors and checking out the merchandise. One item I spotted at the Clash of Arms booth was The Devil's to Pay, an expansion module for Summer Storm that asks what would have happened if the Battle of Gettysburg had been fought further north, between Gettysburg and Harrisburg. I'm a sucker for anything that's Gettysburg related, as my wife's parents live just west of Gettysburg, between Cashtown and Chambersburg, and I've made many visits to the battlefield. I already own a copy of Summer Storm, but The Devil's to Pay map covers the area in which my wife lived when she attended college, and I splurged on a copy. I'm not sure I'll ever get to play the game, but Rick Barber sure draws a gorgeous map!
 
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25. Board Game: Ticket to Ride [Average Rating:7.51 Overall Rank:83]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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For most of the week the WBC schedule starts at 9am, but on Sunday it starts at 7am, with the Christian Religious Services event. This event is unique in another way as well---it's the only event at WBC in which every participant can go home with a win! I couldn't find an entry for it on BGG, so I'm pre-pending the report to my Ticket to Ride report.

The usual officiant, Keith Hunsinger, was not able to attend this year, as he had to leave on Saturday to attend a denominational conference. That's not to say WBC wasn't a success for Keith; he brought his new bride with him to Lancaster, and he took the Pro Golf wood home in his suitcase!

The substitute officiant this year was lay minister John Poniske, and he did an excellent job. I played the piano for the service and my wife Claire played the flute. I counted 25 people in attendance, which should be enough to bring the event back next year.



Following the BPA after-action meeting at 8am, I moved on to the Ticket to Ride tournament, which is GMed by young Katie McCorry. Katie, her father Tom and her mother Katherine all do great work at WBC, making them a prime contender for the Family Service award (though they have stiff competition from the Gutermuth family, among others!) The Sunday morning heat was an especially big one, since little else is happening if you didn't qualify for a semi-finals or finals, but the degree of organization in this tournament was amazing. In short order I was seated at a table with Winton Lemoine (again,) Rebecca Hebner and Angela Collinson. We had a pleasant time playing. It's hard to know who's winning in Ticket to Ride because you don't know who's making their tickets and who's getting stuffed, and this takes some of the overt tension out of the game.

Winton shot ahead on the score track, completing many of the length-6 links, but I had six good tickets in the bank and was headed for longest route. Winton ended the game, and I used my very last turn to link to Miami, completing two tickets and using all but two of my trains and all but one card. I thought it would be close. Rebecca revealed her tickets, and they were catastrophic. A failure to connect Los Angeles had cost her 90 VP and left her with a final score of only 33. I scored 139, a respectable number, but Winton had also connected all his tickets and won by a narrow margin. I wished him the best for the next round.

Before leaving, I went on to play one heat of TransAmerica. Rebecca was also in this game, and her fortunes were dramatically better, as she went out four times in a row to score a perfect zero.

Claire and Sam had already packed the minivan and checked out of the hotel, so we climbed aboard and headed back to Massachusetts. We spent quite a bit of time talking about Lost Cities strategy for 2008 (you'll have to ask us whether we composed any anti-Jarett songs during the trip!)
 
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