Fun and Games at the WBC, 2008
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Here is a report on the games I played and some of the people I played with at this past week's World Boardgaming Championships in Lancaster, PA. Events are listed in roughly chronological order, except for tournaments with heats leading to elimination round games (semifinals and finals, etc.) where I actually managed to advance.
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1. Board Game: Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization [Average Rating:8.21 Overall Rank:4]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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This year I decided to go for the whole enchilada and attend the pre-Cons by purchasing the $100 Tribune membership back in December. Fortunately for me, one of my new favorite longer games, Through the Ages, was a late addition to the agenda with a Mulligan round on Sunday evening that fit my schedule (as conflicts on Monday prevented me from playing further).

The event was ably GMed by first-time WBC GM Raphael Lehrer, who excelled last year as a player by winning both WBC tournaments (Puerto Rico and Pillars of the Earth) in which I had served as GM back in 2007, en route to winning the prestigious Caesar award as top gamer at WBC. By luck of the draw I was paired with Raphael and a third player, Joe, who was kind of new to the game. Our game was the mirror image of a two-player game I had played with Raphael last year, where he got Michaelangelo, piled up an early lead in Culture Points but stalled out while I came from behind for a very satisfying but extremely close win. At WBC, I was the one to take Michaelangelo early in Age I and hold him to the end of Age II, compiling a substantial points lead with 10 CPs per turn. As in our previous game, however, the Michaelangelo player (this time me) found it hard to adjust in Age III, and Raphael soon was earning 17 CPs per turn and made up all the difference and then some. Joe trailed throughout to take third, gaining a bit on me by the end.

I was pleasantly surprised that the game drew 30 players (10 3-player games) for the Mulligan round two days before the start of the convention proper, but then again there was nothing much going on but a couple of wargame tournaments, so few conflicts for most of us. Not sure of the final numbers.

I enjoy this game alot, it has the same kind of intensity as Die Macher, my favorite, with perhaps a bit of less player interaction. Its length (and an incremental higher length by a factor of 1/3rd with a fourth player) is one of the main reasons it does not get played more often. No one in our group plays with the shorter two-age version any more, probably due to the fact that there isn't enough time to catch the Michaelangelo player with a strong lead -- something that might have to be fixed for anyone seeking a tournament-like, competitive shorter game.
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2. Board Game: España 1936 [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:1103]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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This is a game I actually didn't play with anyone, but I had bought it a few weeks earlier and set it up in my room to solitaire a turn or two just to learn the rules. Events soon overtook me (including loss of sleep) and I picked up the game after managing one complete turn. Still unsure about this one, looks like the side that moves last each turn should have a tremendous advantage. For the record, after my one turn adventure, the Republicans (Communists) were up, 5 cities to 3 with 4 contested.

As a side note, there seems to be a flurry of activity with regard to two game designs for the Spanish Civil War era. At the convention I spoke with Dave Dockter, whose previously published Triumph of Chaos, a game I had enjoyed (and earned laurels in) at WBC in 2007. Dave is working on a Spanish Civil War game which should have a bit more in the way of the political arena, taking a page from his previous design for the Russian Civil War.
 
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3. Board Game: Container [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:422]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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I had originally planned a leisurely breakfast at the nearby Waffle House, getting back for a game or two of San Juan by 11 before my first GM-ing responsibility, which was to run a demo of Valley Games' Container at 1. However, I overslept, not fully awake until 11:30 after dozing off after initially getting up way too early. So, no San Juan but was on time for the Container demo.

We had three copies of the game, and one player arrived with a fourth, which it turned out we needed. I started going over the rules to the assembled throng of about 15-20 people, starting up one table and then repeating the process for the next. I finally got a chance to sit down and play myself with the third group, consisting of Brownwen, Stephanie, Roger and Matt. I managed to score 99 points for a win (not much to brag about with all new players), but at one of the other tables, the winner had around 140 or so.

I find Container to be one of the most underrated games of recent vintage here on BGG. Sure, there are some color problems with the components (both ships and factories that tend to look alike), but there is virtually no luck in the game and the auction mechanism (reminiscent of Modern Art) is well-conceived as is the endgame card situation. Only concern is whether or not the game is unbalanced with less than five, not because of the difference in starting production, but because the absence of one or more of the endgame cards may cause auction bids to be skewed.
 
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4. Board Game: Die Macher [Average Rating:7.68 Overall Rank:97]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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My all-time favorite, probably the main reason for attending the pre-Con. First round was Monday night, we had 18 for two five-player games and two four-player. I was in one of the four-player games with Tom Browne, with whom I had played Die Macher before, and two gents from the UK (Barrington Beavis, a veteran 18xx player, and Nicky Palmer, a Labour MP who had placed third in the 2007 tourney). Tom scored a solid win as I and the others had difficulty drawing the right party platform cards at the right time. Nonetheless, I got second, and was ready to turn in for the night when another player did some quick calculations that showed I was at 20.00% of total board score versus 19.92% for the next player, giving me a spot in the finals as "best second" against the other three winners.

The final was contested the next day, and my opponents included two past winners, GM Steve Simmons and Chris Trimmer, as well as Tom, who had defeated me in the previous round. The game did not go well for me as I never seemed to find the right coalition partners, plus the trend of poor party platform draws continued. The end for me came when I made a poor and uninformed decision about which of the three leaders (Chris, Steve or a third player, Jim) to bring down with a Shadow Cabinet card that could marginally help myself. I initially targeted Steve but withdrew after he offered me a coalition. Then I decided to go after Jim, not fully realizing the implications. As first player, Jim was first to go in forming coalitions and he retaliated by forcing an unwanted coalition on me. We both lost out, and the game played out with Chris coming out as the repeat winner and Steve a close second.

I really enjoy Die Macher, but this is another game that is difficult to find the time to play because of its length. Fortunately, there are other devotees of the game nearby, although we usually pre-arrange our games well in advance so everyone looks forward to playing. The Die Macher event at WBC was on the endangered species list for awhile, until it was moved to a pre-Con slot where folks had fewer time conflicts and, under the able tutelage of GM Steve Simmons, the event has prospered.
 
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5. Board Game: Kingsburg [Average Rating:7.26 Overall Rank:199]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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This was my second assignment of the week, to run a 10 AM Kingsburg demo on Tuesday. However, that conflicted with the Die Macher final for which I was expecting (based on prior history) not to qualify. No problem though, Tom McCorry, a fellow GM who is always among the first to chip in and volunteer to help teach a new game, agreed to run the demo in my stead. Tom had three tables of games going at once, as the game proved popular even while competing with the BPA run Auction going on at the same time.

I was sorry I missed out on playing and teaching Kingsburg, as it is probably the best of the recent wave of dice-based games (of which I might include Airships/Giganten, To Court the King, Yspahan, etc). I have enjoyed it the most with some of the variants that make the cards in the enemies deck have a bit more bite to them.
 
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6. Board Game: Tribune: Primus Inter Pares [Average Rating:7.28 Overall Rank:301]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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This was played Tuesday afternoon, after the Die Macher final. Steve Simmons and his son, Ted, were eager to learn the game as it shared the same designer, Karl-Heinz Schmiel, as Die Macher. We initially set up for a three-player but were joined by Dave Platnick, who was new to the game and KingPut, Pete Putnam, who was not.

In the interest of time, we played with the shorter three of six victory conditions card which I barely managed to complete in just three turns. Dave did the best of the new players, but was a laurel or two short of reaching the target.

In my view, the 2007 Essen Fairplay poll had it right when Tribune topped the list of new games there, ahead of the much ballyhooed Agricola. Tribune has some strategy to it and combines various game mechanisms (placements, auctions, etc) much in the same way as Schmiel's masterpiece, Die Macher. Only possible downside is the Mandatory Tribune victory condition card, which could be unbalanced if one gets the right set of cards for that rare Turn 1 Tribune (control the Plebes and Patricians with the Plebeian leader). Of course, this is easily solved by playing with one of the other victory condition cards, which is what our group does most of the time.
 
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7. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:7.99 Overall Rank:11]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Tuesday at 6 PM is the traditional starting time for WBC tournaments at the main convention, so the first event on my schedule was Power Grid, and the large smaller ballroom (Marietta) was packed with something like 16 games going on at once. My opponents for this heat on the German map were David Avins, Tom Wade and Greg Berry, and I am fairly certain the winner was David who built to 17 while I was playing for another turn. (Had I known he was going to end it, I could have made a successful play for second place.)

This turned out to be the only Power Grid game for me, and I was somewhat disheartened by the GM's decision not to allow the new Power Plant deck, which I believe speeds up the game tremendously. For the tournament, we actually used my game with someone else's deck, as I had misplaced mine but don't mind as my group likes to play with the newer deck anyway.

Later on in the week, I ducked in on the Power Grid final and was pleased to see that two of my former Puerto Rico tournament winners (Barb Flaxington and Bill Murdock) made it to the final, but neither managed to win (Bill got second).
 
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8. Board Game: Vegas Showdown [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:275]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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This was the first of two events where I would be center-stage as the GM. After conducting a demo on Tuesday at 9 PM, we moved to a fairly small side room in an out-of-the way part of the hotel (a room not used by WBC in previous years) so I didn't know what to expect. Fortunately, it was a good crowd as we packed 43 people onto nine tables after scrounging around for a couple of games at the last minute. Attendance suffered a bit at the second heat on Wednesday -- at a worse time slot that was moved at the last minute -- with the change not being noted on the event kiosk -- but our overall total of 56 will hopefully be enough to justify a return as a WBC Century event without the necessity of going to a revote.

I played in my first heat and won, allowing me to concentrate on GM duties for the second heat. There, one of the players to whom I had taught the game pointed out that the winner, one Sceadeau (pronounced like "Shadow") D'Tela, was someone who had been involved with on a computer iteration of the game in some capacity, and thus really, really knew this apparently simple little fun game really, really well. I found out how well when I faced Sceadeau in the semifinals the next day. He won, using a strategy of building up a war chest of money although he trailed on the VP track for the first two-thirds of the game. The game end took a weird twist with one stack completely running out while the other two stacks had one "A" tile each, including the Nightclub. I was hoping to get a shot at the Nightclub, which would have given me the win, but the game ended when one of two of the 15 or so remaining event cards was flipped and I was pleased to only lose by four points or so when it could have been more. Actually, since Sceadeau had more cash than me, probably the only thing that would have worked was a fortuitous Lounge Lizard card, which didn't come up.

For the final, I took copious notes in the hopes of generating a Series replay of the final game, same as I do for Puerto Rico every year. Not sure how it will work out, as I couldn't think of an easy way to track where everyone placed their tiles without slowing the game down tremendously. I expected to see Sceadeau waltz through to another win, but no, a player from our Maryland Games Club, Andy Gerb -- whom I had taught the game to -- came through, beating Sceadeau by seven. Nice going, Andy. (Look for me to post something more after reviewing the replay at the BPA website and also under the Vegas Showdown entry here at BGG after running through the notes.)

Again, one of the high points of the Con was to see how successful this game was in its first time here. Its overall attendance of 56 topped both Agricola and Caylus, two top 10 games on BGG while Vegas is still struggling to reach the top 100. What is interesting, however, is that its ranking is still climbing some 2 1/2 to 3 years after its initial release, indicating more and more people are discovering how good this game really is. It's in my all-time top five and likely to stay there for awhile.
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9. Board Game: The Princes of Florence [Average Rating:7.63 Overall Rank:62]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Prior to the release of Puerto Rico, this game was one of my top favorites but it has faded a bit over the time. I was the initial GM for the event at WBC in its first two years (back in 2001 and 2002) but now the event is run by Eric Brosius, who does a fine job with it. In the past I have done well enough to make the semis just about every time, but have yet to crack through to reach the final table. I played only one heat this year, and was paired with some fellow GCOMers which made the game more fun than usual. I played fairly well in the #1 seat, following the usual strategy of getting a couple of recruiters to take advantage of the fact that I would get to recruit last -- after all cards had hit the table in the final turn. Unfortunately, the one Profession card I needed to produce a 20-point work was the only one that didn't get played. As a consequence, my final work was only a 17, causing me to lose by one instead of winning by one.

While a close second place like that would have got me into the semis, schedule conflicts with another of my top five games prevented me from playing further in the tournament. Later I learned that the winner was Alex Bove, whose victories in both Princes and Ra this year made up for his loss to Chris Moffa in Goa, a game at which he has a very strong track record.
 
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10. Board Game: The Pillars of the Earth [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:178]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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This was a game that I had GMed last year and was down for assisting the new GM, Raphael Lehrer, who had won the event as well. (Tip for recruiting new GMs when you need to hand off the event to someone else -- start with the prior year's winner and tell them the event will be axed if they don't step up to the plate.) Not much I can recall about the game, except I didn't play very well and finished something like third or fourth. This one was one and done, as the other heat conflicted with Vegas Showdown where I was the GM.

I play this game less frequently today than I did a year ago, and there are some who say the Money Woodworker is broken in a similar manner to the first turn Mistress in St. Petersburg. Not sure I agree with this, but there is hope as the new expansion to the game may address some of these balance issues.
 
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11. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.14 Overall Rank:5]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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OK, this was my second event to GM and by far the largest. Surprisingly, even though the game has been out over six years, there was still fairly good attendance at the demo which I scheduled well in advance of the first heat. Raphael, the defending Champ, was on hand for part of the demo to offer some strategy advice to the new players, which I greatly appreciated.

I played in the first two heats and barely advanced to the quarterfinals with a narrow one-point win in my second game which featured a player from Israel. We also had a player this year from Japan who actually won two games but unfortunately his plane left around the time of the semifinal/final rounds on Sunday. I got indigo seats both games and resolved to bid some for a corn seat once we reached the elimination rounds where people could bid VPs for starting seat position. In the quarterfinals, I faced a familiar opponent, Kevin Walsh, who is a really great guy whom I often choose to open game with at conventions like WBC, PrezCon and EuroQuest. Unfortunately for both of us, we always seem to get paired together at Puerto Rico. In the quarters, I outbid Kevin and the other players for first corn, and midway through the game I had a strong cash position. However, as the game wore on, I was barely able to maintain my advantage, perhaps because one of the other players -- Francis -- did something weird, taking a fifth quarry. The final scores showed me winning over Kevin by a point -- but then we had to factor in the 1.5 VPs I bid for the corn versus Kevin's zero for the undesirable #2 indigo -- and Kevin won, leaving me 1/2 VP behind in second.

This close second meant I was high on the alternate list but couldn't assume anything as historically we have had very few no-shows for the semis. However, this year, things were different, and not only was there space for me, but a second quarterfinal loser plus one player with just one win in the preliminary heats were need to fill to four tables of four. Another random draw for seat position, and I was once again paired with Kevin, along with Sceadeau, the player who had knocked me out of the Vegas Showdown tournament. As in the quarters, I successfully bid for the #1 corn seat (getting it for just 1 VP this time) and had a nice game going while Kevin was not in it at the end. Sceadeau was well positioned shipping-wise, while I went Factory-Guild Hall, got down three large buildings and actually ended the game with a last turn Small Indigo buy -- a very unusual move but frankly I always had so much money on other people's builds that the free Small Indigo was never an option.

This put me in the final and gave me some measure of revenge against Sceadeau, who put me out of the Vegas tournament earlier in the week. Nonetheless, because he was the closest second, I was pleased to prevent him with the fifth place plaque.

I won't give much detail on the final game, except to say that -- pending detailed analysis of the replay -- I felt I might have had a shot at winning but fell short. We had two players new to WBC PR tournaments in the final, myself, and Chris Moffa, the 2006 Champ going for his second title. Based on past results, you would have to say Chris and I were favorites, but we both finished behind the new guys, myself in third, Chris fourth. The winner was Nick Page, a Canadian from Ontario, who bid 2 VP for the #1 corn seat, who won by just one VP (after factoring in the bid) from Matt Peterson, a Minnesotan who was attending WBC for the first time. In retrospect, maybe my mistake was not sucking it up and bidding 2.5 VP for the #1 corn, but instead I bid 1/2 VP for the #1 indigo to go first. (And start out with Builder-Construction Hut, a strategy that had worked well for me in the PrezCon tournament, where I came in first back in February).

Overall attendance for the event was up a bit from last year (164) but still well below the all-time high attendance record of 217. Speaking of attendance, there was a strong assault on that record in 2008, as I learned that several other events reported attendance in the 200 range, but as of the time I left on Sunday, the latest I heard was that Lost Cities fell just two short, with 215. (Good for me that I refused when the Lost Cities GM tried to rope me into a game!)

The tourney was fun, but also alot of work from a GM standpoint, as there always seemed to be a new problem crop up each heat, such as two people at one side of the room and two people on another, all assigned to the same table and thinking they were in the right place. Then there was a table captain not turning in a scoresheet (instead taking it to his room), and then another player whose name and badge number were either illegible or not correctly reported, leading to confusion about his status on the alternate list. Nonetheless, I was pleased to reach the final table, pleased to have help from a new Assistant GM, Malinda Kyrkos, who had been runner-up last year. I am already predicting Malinda for the 2009 title, because -- while she has struggled in even-numbered years -- she was third in 2005, second in 2007, and well, you can fill in the blanks for 2009.
 
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12. Board Game: Detroit-Cleveland Grand Prix [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:1201]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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This was a pickup game I played with Ben Stephenson and some others while taking a break in between games. Only played one race (which I won) while begging off to relax and prepare for other events -- typical of the rest of the week.
 
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13. Board Game: Formula Motor Racing [Average Rating:6.39 Overall Rank:1488]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Another light "filler" game, played late night with Kevin, Beth and Seth, who brought the game. I am fairly sure Seth won this one, as he was the last player to play, probably a big advantage.
 
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14. Board Game: Dream Factory [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:382]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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After the Formula Motor Racing, it was my turn to propose a game and we played Hollywood Blockbuster -- the newer edition -- aka Traumfabrik. Can't recall who won, only that it was a really close game, something like 6 points top to bottom. Same group of four players: Beth, Seth, Kevin and myself.

Of the many games of Reiner Knizia, Hollywood/Traum is my favorite and ranked among my all-time top ten. I was pleased to get it in at WBC this year, even though it was very late at night (close to 3 AM) and we were all pretty tired.
 
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15. Board Game: Thurn and Taxis [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:258]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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This was a tournament game, but for me it was a "filler" -- I played mainly because the GM, Jim Vroom, is a really good guy, dedicated to supporting the hobby and always willing to step in and GM a game. All games (and there were close to 20 going on at once) used the basic map and since I have been using the purple box expansion, I forgot to count my carriage points so I wound up third but still well behind the leader.

I much prefer the Power and Glory/purple box expansion as you have to find a way to get all cities on the board and requirement of using cards as horses adds an extra strategic element to the game. Even so, I play this game alot less often than when it first came out two years ago.
 
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16. Board Game: Imperial [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:81]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Finally, the opportunity came to play the one game in which I felt I had the best chance of winning -- a game that I have played alot in the past two years with around a 75% win percentage and a win at this year's PrezCon tournament, plus two wins at EQ last fall (where I lost in the final) and a narrow win on the tiebreaker at the 2007 WBC but where it could not continue due to schedule conflicts. Anticipating scheduling issues again in 2008, I requested that my GM-ed events not conflict with Imperial although that did not prevent having back-to-back situations (more on that later).

My first game was Thursday afternoon, and I controlled Italy for most of the game while the player to my right had A-H. Late in the game, when if looked like A-H would get to be the 5 country, I bought the 8 bond, but was still 7 power points behind, meaning I had 35 VP to make up. I held my breath at one point when, after investing big-time in Italy, I saw an invasion opportunity for my A-H adversary that could have shut down two Italian factories. But he was interested in pushing the game to an end, so I dodged a bullet. Still, I felt I was behind when we headed to final scoring. The A-H player surprised me with his last bond buy, though, upgrading from a 4 to a 6 in a country that wound up at 2 when he could have done an outright buy in a country that went to 3. When we tallied the scores, I was pleasantly surprised to squeak out a narrow two-point win. So, on to the semifinals on Saturday.

The semis on Saturday where scheduled right after the final heat of Puerto Rico, and I rushed over to the room for Imperial only to find out we had to sit around for awhile for two of the semifinalists to finish an Agricola final. My opponents in the semis included Greg Berry from the Power Grid game and Rob Kircher, who spent the first few minutes of the game focused more on Agricola, where they were tallying up the final scores. (With good reason, as Rob won the game and a nice prize -- free copy of the recently released English edition.) These players were known quantities, as I had read Greg's strategy advice here on BGG and faced off with Rob at the EuroQuest final (he finished third and I fourth in an extremely close game, 8 points top to bottom). The other two opponents, Ed from the UK and Romain from Quebec, were definitely unknown quantities. I started the game and bought the 4 A-H bond, varying from my usual strategy of going for Italy. Then when Rob started Germany for 4 mil, I refused to go with him and the others were out of money, leaving Germany undercapitalized. This gave me the Russian 4 and off we were. Romain and Ed pursued similar strategies, building up in their starting countries while Greg pursued the "investor only" strategy. Rob also built up a diverse portfolio, and was flagless for awhile later in the game also. Greg, however, jumped in at the right time and controlled UK, A-H and Russia at various times. I was 2 mil short for the last Russian bond, the 8, and then made what proved to be a crucial mistake in my final bond buy, taking control of A-H instead of Italy. This left the same player (Ed) in control of Russia and Italy, and he proceeded to invade with both, shutting down two factories, crippling A-H's chances to advance. Greg played well to win the game with Romain in second, and both advanced to a four-player final . Ed's play ensured I finished last but Ed himself didn't fare much better, coming in fourth.

One thing I learned from the game was that -- especially in a five-player game -- the A-H player often has to wait a long time for that crucial first bond buy, plus I witnessed the effect of seeing a new opening for Italy, starting on investor and then importing navies to the Adriatic. Of course, there has to be a good stockpile of cash in the treasury to accomplish this.

I think Imperial is an innovative, excellent game. It is #4 on my all-time list, and probably the best game to come along since Puerto Rico in 2002. Dave Bohnenberger has done an excellent job in running the event the past two years at WBC. (Heard from Dave that the numbers were up versus 2007, which should assure a return trip in 2009).
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17. Board Game: Catan Dice Game [Average Rating:5.69 Overall Rank:4243]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Played this a couple of times during the course of the week, it's a light filler that is OK as long as you don't have too many people. Not alot of interaction except when one player puts pressure on by scoring a huge city die roll. You can compare your scores from one game to the next, and in one game at WBC I got the 20 point city to wind up somewhere in the 80s.
 
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18. Board Game: Hamburgum [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:463]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Another one of those "filler" tournament games that fit nicely into my schedule on Friday after I knew I wasn't going to need to play in the second Imperial heat. This third game in the rondel trilogy, by the same designer, is OK but not as good as Imperial, IMHO. I own the game and have played it maybe 3-4 times but not recently, so I was a bit rusty. Thus, it was good to be paired with the GM, Chris Trimmer, so the game moved along. I noticed Chris played a strategy I had not seen in my limited experience with the game, basically he stayed away from the Guild Hall and Church locations while picking up as much early cash as possible. Then he buys enough to make the final four donations to finish off a church, gaining VPs for the first one but not having to flip any tiles.

Since Chris went on to win our game, the strategy seemed to work. A possible counter might be a Captain strategy, pushing the boats to limit his ability to raise cash.
 
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19. Board Game: Stock Car Championship Racing Card Game [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:2695]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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One of the attractions of this year's WBC was the ability to play all of my top five games and this was one of them. Unfortunately, I could only make the Friday night heat, which meant not playing another top 10 (but not top five) favorite game, Adel Verfplichtet, a tournament in which I have had some success. But the allure of the large cars and track sections brought by GM and Co-Designer John McLaughlin was too much. Unfortunately for me, I came home last in a field of 10 as the passing gaps just didn't open up at the right time. Congrats to this year's winner, Steve Caler, who I remember from a Louis 14th final where I was the GM back in 2005.
 
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20. Board Game: R-Eco [Average Rating:6.67 Overall Rank:1004]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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A solid favorite "filler" that should take only about 20-30 minutes to play. Played with Neil, Keith and Chris. I am fairly certain Keith won.
 
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21. Board Game: Sticheln [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:560]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Only got in one hand of this with some new players before people had to rush off to other events. Beth, Neil and Mike were in this game. This is my favorite trick-taking game, another good "filler" game although if you play one hand per player with 5-6 players, it can take some time.
 
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22. Board Game: The Pillars of the Earth: Expansion Set [Average Rating:7.66 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.66 Unranked]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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I was ready for one last game on Sunday after the Puerto Rico tournament finished and we selected the new Pillars of the Earth expansion, which none of us had played before (I solitaired it once and was up on the rules). Played with Greg Thatcher, Dave B (the Imperial GM), Beth and Mike.

While everyone had played the basic game before, three of us were a bit rusty plus there was a learning curve for the new cards and areas. Then, after everyone had caught on, it was time for Greg to leave for his plane. So we picked the game up after 2-3 turns.

Still looking forward to trying this one to see if it cures some of the balance issues with the Money Woodworker in the regular game. I think that locations like the Coast (sell for one extra) and the card that lets you use another Craftsman for one less might help in this regard.
 
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