EUROQUEST 2007: The Agony and the (near-)Ecstasy
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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This year, EuroQuest took place over Veteran's Day weekend, Friday to Monday. As public schools are closed that Monday, this meant I would have the opportunity ... once I begged and pleaded with my wife to let me go ... to spend the better part of 4 straight days boardgaming, competing against many of the best players in the area (and well-beyond). And, as I expect not to get to another gaming con for a long long time, this would also be my last chance to win a plaque to hang somewhere in my house (or, failing that, keep in a bottom drawer somewhere, to be found some sixty years later and passed to my grandchildren).

To say the least, this con had it all for me. Highs, lows, blasé middles (I just wanted an excuse to type a 'é') ... I had 'em all, and then some. And now, I wish to share with all who are interested or have little else to do for the next 15 minutes, the story that is my EuroQuest experience.

Enjoy ...
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1. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:7.99 Overall Rank:11]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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As was the case for both my WBC trips, I shared accomodations and the cartrip to Baltimore with Alex Bove (a.k.a., Montu). Though I did not take the day off from my teaching duties, my fortuitous schedule (which, this semester, includes a final block 'prep' period) allowed me to get out by 1:20 on Friday. The plan was for me to pick Alex up at 30th Street Station, a major transportation hub for Philly and within easy access to the interstate, and get to Baltimore as soon as possible. My personal hope was to (somehow) make it by 3:30, which was the start of the first heat for Caylus.

So what happens? I get to the station (and get Alex), only to run smack dab into a major backup. It turned out that the 'funnel' part of the roadway was down to a single lane for whatever reason, and the jam caused us a 15-minute delay in getting out. It may not sound like much, but to make a long story short, we got to Baltimore just in time for me to learn that I missed the start time by five minutes!

To say the least, I was bummed. As a consolation, I had time to check in our stuff and played in the 4:30 first heat of Ra.


So, why am I telling you all this under the heading for Power Grid? Frankly, I didn't have much to say about the game, so I figured this was as good a place as any to stick that info.

For what it's worth, I did play in the first Power Grid heat, winning a 5-player game on the Benelux board. What made my win strange (at least to me) was that I basically 'front-ran' my way to the end, getting to 8 cities while everyone else was on 6. I never got out of the lead spot from there, but was able to use a sizable cash advantage to expand fairly easily with a predominantly oil-rich basis. (For those who don't know, the coal and oil are, in essence, switched for the Benelux map in terms of availability.) I sealed the win by getting the 3_trash-for-6 plant for 52 at the end while trash was (literally) selling for a buck a pop, though I was just shy of building to 16 on that turn, and won on the cash-tiebreak with a fellow who was playing only his 2nd game (I think). I was impressed, to say the least.

Scheduling conflicts precluded me from playing another heat, so that was my one and only PG game.
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2. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.14 Overall Rank:5]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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Since I came to the con right from work, I decided not to change out of my work clothes. Thus, I played all three of my games on that day dressed in a collared shirt, tie, and dress shoes. I may have looked out of place at such a convention (though I was complimented by some friends for my attire), but I jokingly attributed it to the fact that I was 'going to work' in my games. Getting down to business, as it were.

By Saturday, I was back to my usual comfort zone: T-shirt, jeans, and dilapidated sneakers.

By Saturday night, I vowed to treat all future gaming conventions as business meetings, and to pack nothing but dress shirts and ties.

That will happen when you (a) win every game you play on Friday, and (b) lose, in every way imaginable, every game you play on Saturday.

Puerto Rico was a typical example. The last game I played on Friday, I racked up a 54-47-41-40 win with a strong building strategy, grabbing the Guild Hall and all the production buildings, while using the Harbor to get enough shipping VPs to scrape by. I was helped greatly by the fact that no one attempted to stop my coffee monopoly, which gave me tons of points, and later, my own ship. (One of my opponents used a heavy-corn strategy but was never able to get a 'big' building at the end; that player ended with the 41.)

Move ahead to late-morning Saturday, where I got bulldozed from the second-seat position en route to a 3rd-place finish, 43-36-35-27. By now I forget most of the details, but I think the winner got 3 manned 'big' buildings by the end.

The final heat conflicted with Caylus, and my 1st and 3rd were insufficient to advance to the final.
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3. Board Game: Ra [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:95]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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In many aspects, my Ra games epitomized my overall weekend.

The only reason I even played the first heat of Ra was that Alex and I didn't get to the motel until around 3:45. It worked out well for me, as I cruised through my first game (which was also the first game I played at the con altogether) with a 50-31-24-12 victory. I believe I was able to win 'most pharaohs' a couple times, got Civs when I needed them, and accumulated a lot of monuments by game's end; not bad when you can get all that.

I had two more chances for Saturday, and figured I needed another win to make the finals. (At Euroquest, most tournaments have three heats, and when possible, only those with multiple wins qualify for the final table. If there aren't enough players, those with a win and 'best second' fill up said table. Only when there are more multiple-win players than can fill a game is there a semifinal round.) Considering how I went 3-for-3 on Friday night, I liked my chances.

That feeling didn't last long.

In both heats (which sandwiched the aforementioned 2nd heat of PR), I came 2nd but lost by double-digits; the final scores for the two 5-player games were 49-38-37-34-22 and 62-46-44-30-30. In both games, the winner had an astounding number of monuments at the end to seal the win. (In particular, the wnner of my 2nd game had 45 points from monuments alone: two quadruples, two triples, and all eight different structures.) What can I say? Anyone who has played Ra enough times knows that long streaks of monuments (or pharaohs, Niles, or whatever) can occur; in both games, the first round featured a streak of 5+ monuments before someone claimed.

Despite my 1st-2nd-2nd finishes, I didn't believe I had enough to advance. However, I overestimated the turnout at Euroquest (which, when compared to the WBC, is comparatively smaller and more compact), and with so many players (including Alex) winning multiple games, I was able to sneak in to the 5-player finale.


My two WBC experiences had many similarities, including this: in both cases I made it to one final, and in both cases I DFLed (i.e., finished last) in the final while Alex won it all. Well, here I was again with Alex sitting to my right at the final table of Ra (which, with Goa, were the two games from the WBC where that happpened).

The first round dragged on a long time, as the Ra tiles remained mostly hidden. By the time the rest of us had gone out, leaving Tom Dunning (who was on my left) with the last bid, there were still 5 empty Ra spaces. Even then, only one came out while Tom procured a myriad of 8 goodies for his last bid, giving him a strong start. That said, I was able to hold my own over the next couple epochs, and ended up 2nd to Tom, who was by a 42-38-35-29-26 score.

So why am I still a bit bitter about that game? Because towards the end of the second and third epochs, Tom and I were tied for the pharaoh lead. In both epochs, Tom went out while I still had a bid left. Both times a pharaoh came out virtually on its own (I believe there may have been a Nile attached to it for the third epoch.) with one Ra space left. Both times I called Ra, hoping to grab the pharaoh and knock Tom down 5 points. And both times the same 'other' opponent, Sam (whose last name I will keep private, but who I will say I have a history with going back to GenCon from two years ago) outbid me for the pharaoh, even though it did not do any more for him than perhaps improve his suns.

I can't fault Sam for his play, as he did believe that taking those bids were in his best interests ... but I can't help but have a small part of me feel that I got robbed. And, considering that this game was in the middle of a day where I lost every game I touched, I was in a foul mood afterwards. (I have much more to mention about Sam later on. Please hold your thoughts about me being a petty, sniveling sore-@$$ loser until later.)

Oh, and congrats again to Tom Dunning for winning a hard-fought 5-player game.
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4. Board Game: Caylus [Average Rating:7.90 Overall Rank:20]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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Going in, I felt that my best chance to win a tournament would be in Caylus. I played well at the WBC, winning the only game I played and missing the semifinals only because it conflicted with the Goa finals. I was disappointed that I missed the first heat (though I was happy to win the Ra game that I played instead), since I knew I probably had to win both the remaining Caylus heats to advance.

Heat #2 was sandwiched between my last Ra tuneup and the Ra final, and I eschewed my usual building-track strategy to take advantage of someone else's early mason to build two of the three stone production buildings (the Workshop and the Farm ... I finally got down pat the names of those buildings). I went without going to the castle in the first third, but made up ground in the middle and late portions of the game with the VP and cash tracks. My closest opponent, meanwhile, went with the buiding track in spite of the mason, stockpiled gold while building other greys, and built the cathedral on the last turn for 25 points. When all the score were tallied, the final verdict was 85-84-60-59.

I lost by a point. (I told you Saturday was rough for me.)

The final heat came Sunday morning, and fresh off a complete 0-fer on Saturday, I felt I had nothing left to play for than pure pride. I turned in my best showing of the con, crushing everyone at the table (including Sam, who was in my game) by a final score of 123-92-75-72. In that game, I bought the wood Quarry and Mason early while everyone else went for the building track. In addition, I grabbed the Inn and watched as numerous rounds saw quick passing by my opponents, leaving me ample opportunity to stock up on cubes, cash, and whatever else I liked. While one opponent did build the Cathedral, I in turn used Sam's Lawyer to get a Residence, and built the University for 19 (14 plus the 5-point VP favor). I think my opponents were impressed.

It turned out that my win, combined with my one-point loss the day before, was just enough to squeak into the 5-player final table. (Ironically, I knocked Sam out of the Caylus final with that win; he had a 1st and strong 2nd to his credit before our game.)

The 5-player final proved tough and chaotic. In retrospect, I have no idea how I competed with the others.

The first two neutrals were the Forest and Carpenter, and the last two neutral were the Farm and Quarry (i.e., the stone and cloth buildings). Seeing that, I opted for early wood buildings. I built three of the first four wood buildings: the wood Quarry, Marketplace, and Peddler, while another opponent built the Mason in between. Other than that, though, I built no batches in the castle for the first third, built no other buildings for the entire game (save for a single Residence, built with the Lawyer), got my first favors at the end of the second third of the game (when I built four batches at once to keep another player, Raphael Lehrer ... another strong gamer whose path I would cross again and again ... from getting his second batch in that section), and only got to the castle again near the end of the game ... and still managed to stay competitive throughout. In retrospect, I'm amazed I did that well.

At one point near the beginning of the final third, there were 12 spaces (out of 14) left in the castle. Many players had cubes, including myself, and I had thoughts of taking the stables to go first next turn, hop in the castle then, and end the game with a ton of batches. However, two events crossed me up: first, Raphael took the stables before I did; second, all three other players went for the castle this turn. I did take the stable for 2nd spot, but found myself in a bind: if I don't go in to the castle now, I could be shut-out altogether, but if I went in now, I'd be 4th to go.

In the end, I chose the latter to be safe. The four of us who went in (Raphael, who had done two batches prior, was the odd man out) had enough for 11 batches, one shy of ending the game. To add insult to injury, I used up all my money the previous round in anticipation of game's end. Thus, I started that last round in 2nd turn, with 3 coins.

Then I got lucky. Raphael, who was also off the building track (only one player was on said track, and he did not fare well, finishing a distant 4th), went for the recently-built Architect first, allowing me to grab the castle (which I did with risk, as I had only gold in hand when I went). I was able to scrape up enough cubes with my last two bucks to down that last batch for 8 (3 + 5 for the VP favor), and had 3 gold in tow to add to my final score. And here was the verdict:

77-76-76-68-54

Raphael and I tied for second, but his spot in the turn order gave him second. So, in summary:

I lost by a point, and came in 3rd.

Ouch.

What could I say. It was an incredible game, well-played by everyone at the table. It was an honor to be in that one.

Congrats to Peter Putnam, who actually won the game.

(Oh, and Sam? With no Caylus final to play, he entered another Puerto Rico heat. He won that game, made the final table ... and won the Puerto Rico Fianl! To boot, he beat Alex at that table, as well as Barb Flaxington, a former PR champion and incredible gamer. Just goes to show, you never know.)
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5. Board Game: Goa [Average Rating:7.70 Overall Rank:56]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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Heat #1 took place opposite Puerto Rico on Friday night, so I only had two cracks at this game as well. And, like Caylus, I played once late-Saturday night and once early-Sunday.

By now, you know how my Saturday went; this game was the culmination of what was, simply put, one bad day. I got stuck playing against Alex, who at least in my mind is the greatest Goa player on the face of the Earth at the present time. (Just ask him ... or any of the number of players he's beaten.)

This is all you need to know about my ineptitude: after the third auction, I had one plantation (the double-red), one colony (the green-red), no colonists, and only two columns developed: the spice track down to Level 3, and the card track down to Level 2. I also had tons of ships, 17 bucks, and 4 cards: 2 'advance with spices', and 2 '5 bucks'.

So ... I had no reason to take boats, couldn't take spices, had no reason to take cash, couldn't take cards, couldn't found a colony, and couldn't advance a column. Did I mention that this was the last game I played on Saturday? Did I mention that I lost every game of everything I played going into this game?

So my first two actions that round were the same: I cashed out the two '5 bucks' cards, and took two single colonists. To add insult to injury, my second founding draw gave me two 3s which went wasted.

I was basically very quiet and moody the rest of the game; think Eeyore on downers.

And yet, in spite of all that ... I someone didn't end up in last. The next auction, I got a lot of cinnamon. I shot striaght through the middle column, like jamming a knife through my board, and got down to level 4 quickly on the money track. later on, I built evenly, got an ending Vice-King, and somehow ended the game with all my tracks at at least Level 3 and two tracks at the bottom. I finished with 37 points, edging out last-place but well-behind Alex, who won by a score of 53-46-37-35.

Sunday morning was another story; after winning my Caylus heat by a landslide, I played in the final Goa heat (against Sam again, as it turned out). I failed in both my first attempts to found a colony (though my second attempt was for the 8-spot: I really needed black, and both the red-black and black-white colonies were gone, while a number of low numbers came out early). My third attempt (again for the 8-spot) got me a '1' on the first card, and I was ready to resign ... until a '3' showed up on the second card. And after that, things were downhill fast ... for my opponents.

Like my last game, I got the double-red early. This time, with the black obtained from the 8-colony, I got down the card track quickly. I got some very useful cards throughout, and eventually brought home a whooping 54 points, which even then barely held off Sam's 49. (The others had 39 and 34 points.) Furthermore, turnout for Goa was surprising small; only 8 games were played in total, and 5 were won by the same two guys: Alex and Raphael. Even more incredibly, it turned out that the game I won came against both the other two winners (neither of which was Sam). Thus, two out of the three of us would move on ... and the numbers said that I was one of them.


And so, history repeated itself again; not only did I make another Goa final, but it was against Alex (and Raphael, who was also at the WBC final table this year). Unlike the Ra final, this game went as the WBC final went: I came in last while Alex won (by a scant one point, 51-50-45-40). Considering how bad I seem to do against Alex at Goa, I wonder how I make so many final tables at this!

(As for how the game itself went, all I remember is getting quickly down to Level 4 in cards but being flat-broke throughout the game. I got saddled with cruddy tiles to auction off early, overpaid dearly for a plantation, and never recovered.)

Stop me if you've heard this before: Congrats to Alex Bove for winning the Goa final. Again!
 
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6. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:165]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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By now, I was all set to call it a con. Alex and I had talked about leaving early on Monday morning to beat the rush-hour Baltimore and Philly traffic. But now a new wrinkle emerged.

I never heard of one Harold L. Siegelman before Euroquest, and only found out there that he was a GCOM member who passed away before the first such event. In memory, the GCOM people named the 'overall gamer' trophy after him. This 'HLS' trphoy has gone to Arthur Field every year, but for whatever reason he did not make it this year, so someone new had to win.

What did I care? After all, I wasn't winning anything. But I learned late-Sunday that I was actually doing rather well. Turns out, you earn 2 points for winning at least one game of any tournament. For those keeping trach, that meant I already earned 10 points for winning in heats of Ra, Power Grid, Puerto Rico, Caylus, and Goa. In addition, I earned 4 more points for my 2nd in the Ra final, and 2 more points for my 3rd in the Caylus final. (I earned nothing more for my DFL at the Goa final.)

That came to 16 points, which put me near the top of the leaderboard for the HLS trophy. But what did that matter to me? I never did play in Imperial, Thurn Und Taxis, or Ticket To Ride. And the only games left were two that I never played much: Settlers of Catan, and St. Petersburg.

Still, Alex and I were in Baltimore at the con, so I figured, why not? I played in the 2nd heats of both (missing the first heats from, of course, scheduling conflicts). And wouldn't you know it: I won both heats that Sunday night!

(I'll get to my St. Pete games later.)

The tournament rules we were using included a wrinkle I had not seen before: in addition to your second building being a castle, you would receive two resource cards per hex around that building. Also, all 7s would be rerolled for the first two go-arounds of the board.

I went 4th in both the heats I played. In the first game, I saw a 9-6-2 intersection that game ore (6), wheat (2) and sheep (9). I made that my city, grabbing two of each to start the game, and also took one 11-6-3 intersection. I got an early city, built only one additional building for the whole game, got a lot of luck with the 6s (which were eventually getting me 3 ore and 2 wood with a wood port per roll), and won with the largest army, 3 cities, and 2 VP cards. (Final score: 10-6-5-5)

My Monday morning heat didn't offer me as much luck. I was very much tempted to take a 5-8-10 all-wood intersection in combo with the wood port (which, this game, was in a corner with a brick 5), but decided against it. Had I known that most of the game would feature 5s, 8s, and 10s (and 9s, which I also never got to), I would have reconsidered. I still got the largest army, but only got to 8 before another won. (Final score: 10-9-8-6) My 1st and 3rd were not enough to reach the 8-player semis.

Still, I got the 2 points for the one win, putting my total at 18, just behind Alex (who by now was just starting the Puerto Rico final).
 
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7. Board Game: Saint Petersburg [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:157]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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My last game of Sunday night was St Pete; as luck would have it, that heat was the solo 3-player game. I had incredible luck that game, starting with the worker and noble tokens AND getting the Mistress right off the bat. Still, one opponent kept beating me to nobles, so near the end I went for the two 6-point theaters (which earned me 18 points for the game). That was enough to squeak out a 91-87-60 win.

As of 10:36 PM on Sunday night (after the St. Pete results were in, but just before the Puerto Rico final result came in), I was in first place for the HLS trophy with 20 points.

Cool!


My last 'heat' game was another St Pete game, against Raphael once more. Again I got the Mistress early, and again I got two theaters ... but it should not have been enough. I say it 'should' not have been enough, but I won by a single point. And, really, there should be an asterisk for this game.

Early in the game, one opponent overpaid by one for a building that she had a match of on the table. She already paid, and we continued for a player or two before she noticed ... but she insisted that she would not take back the mistake. That set a precedent for our game.

Later on, Raphael made the same mistake, not once but twice; he forgot he had the worker that allowed for a reduced noble cost. Again, he insisted on not taking back those two coins, a decision I did respect.

Come game's end, the final score is 90-89-78-52. I had 90, Raphael had 89. And here was the kicker: I had $13, he had $18.

Give him $2 more, and he (a) gains a point for endgame cash, and (b) beats me on the tiebreak with more cash.

That said, I was declared the winner and advanced to my 4th final table of the con.


Now for the weird part.

At this point, Alex had 24 points and was leading the HLS standings. The problem was that the two people who could catch him (each with 20 points) were both in final tables: myself for St Pete, and Rob Kirchner for Settlers. If either one of us would win, or if Rob came in 2nd, Alex would lose the lead.

My final game saw Tom Browne get some incredible luck himself, getting both the Mistress and Judge early on, as well as an early observatory. Of luck, good players will know how to put good luck to use, and Tom had no problem converting his advantage. Though I did well with (again) my two theaters, I was a distant second in a 75-52-42-22 result.

(Before I forget: congrats again to Tom Browne for his win.)

My second gave me 4 more points, putting me in a tie with Alex. He beat me on the tiebreak, as he won a tourney (Goa) while I did not.

Unfortunately for him, Rob scored a 2nd-place finish at Settlers, earned 5 more points (as Settlers had a large turnout), and beat both of us for top honors! (Here's all I know about that game: Eric Freeman was one roll away from winning with his third soldier, which would have given him 10 points. Instead, the player before him won with a VP card. Eric only finished with 8 points, and lost the tiebreak for 2nd to Rob.)


(One final aside about the HLS standings: earlier in the day on Sunday, I played a quick 3-player game of Can't Stop with Alex, a game that I won. At the time, I thought nothing of it. It turned out, the Wild Card event was such that a win in any WC game gives the winner 2 points, as long as the result is verified. That said, I'm sure I wasn't the only one who won a WC game without mentioning it. Oh well.)

And yes, one final congrats to Rob Kirchner for taking home the HLS trophy!


In the end, I think I set one record of sorts: I probably had the best overall showing of anyone who left empty-handed. More tangibly, I did have one distinction: I won at least one game in the greatest number of different tournaments, winning at least one heat in each of 7 different games.

Jack of all games, master of none.


And so, I come to the end of my report a little after midnight on a schoolnight. If I have omitted anyone, I apologize. If I have made any errors, I will get to correcting them at a later time.

For those who read this whole report, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed reminiscing about it. Until the next con I get to, however far into the future it may be, I bid you, farewell.
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