The Brosius family attends the 2008 World Boardgaming Championships
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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2008 marked the third year for the Brosius family at the World Boardgaming Championships in Lancaster PA. I attended by myself from 2003 through 2005, but it's been a lot more fun since my wife and son started to come. Here are links to the 2006 and 2007 GeekLists I created:

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

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/23759

and links to the GeekLists for later years:

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


We have two children, and my daughter is also a gamer, but she got married in July, so there were just the three of us. Her husband plays games too, so we may have a party of five one of these years!

Here's how it went this year:
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1. Board Game: War of the Ring (first edition) [Average Rating:7.85 Overall Rank:34]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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If you look the World Boardgaming Championships up on the website (http://www.boardgamers.org/) you'll see it described as a Tuesday through Sunday event. I attended from Tuesday to Sunday my first year, but there are also a number of "pre-cons" and we've been coming a little earlier each year. This year I was thinking we would drive down on Saturday, but my wife had a different idea. A friend of ours is an alumna of Lancaster Bible College, and she needed a ride down for a wedding on Saturday. (Maybe it was partly an excuse; it's great when your wife is crazier about WBC than you are yourself!) We decided to leave on Friday morning, and after we dropped Katie off at LBC, we drove the mile or two to the Lancaster Host and checked in.

The 3 of us played a few practice hands of Race for the Galaxy before we turned in for the night (my wife won one of them as she's starting to get comfortable with it.)

On Saturday morning the first "pre-con" started. War of the Ring (first edition) was featured in the "Middle Earth" pre-con, which began at 9am. It featured a 3-round Swiss format, followed by a single elimination playoff among the top 4 Swiss finishers. I really enjoy War of the Ring (first edition), but I hadn't played it much recently (I got one game in with Andy Young in July, but before that my last game was in 2005. I don't know how I could have avoided this game for three years!)

The tournament featured two formats. Players could opt for the original game, or they could use the expansion, War of the Ring: Battles of the Third Age, which adds new features and corrects a perceived Shadow Player advantage. I haven't yet played the expansion, so I opted for the original game bracket.

In my first game I was matched against Randy Sands, who wanted to play the Free Peoples, as he had little experience with the SP. I was happy to be given the favored side without having to bid for it. We dealt out the first hands and I realized that I was quite rusty. Randy pushed the Fellowship along like a pro, moving them 17 times in 8 turns while never playing Gandalf the White or crowning Aragorn. I had 3 and 4 dice in the hunt box, but I couldn't seem to lay a glove on him, and he won a Ring victory while suffering only 4 corruption as I made it only to 7 VP.

My second game was against John Pack. I've met John Pack at the "Christian Religious Services" event, but this was the first time I faced him across the board. This time he bid two "dwarven dice" to be the SP, and I took the FP. I thought things were going pretty well, but he used the Witch King and the Palantir card to blaze through the character deck, drawing all the hunt cards. I made it to Mordor reasonably quickly, but I was lugging a lot of corruption, and I gave in to the lure of the ring a step away from Mount Doom.

This made my record 0-2. This was in part a tribute to good play by my opponents, but I could see that I was making errors (it's clearer after you've made them than it is as you're making them) and rather than play the third round I decided to have dinner with my wife and son at the Texas Roadhouse, a steak place across the street from the hotel. We bashed off three more Race for the Galaxy games, with Sam winning two of them. Claire and I then played a 2-player game of Empire Builder to tune up for the upcoming tournament, and we went to bed.

Chris Trimmer went on to win the tournament; he's a fine player and deserves congratulations for his achievement.
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2. Board Game: Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage [Average Rating:7.83 Overall Rank:72]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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One pre-con was over (for me, anyway,) but another was starting on Sunday. My wife and I attended the Christian Religious Services with John Pack's family at 8am, and we played another game of Race for the Galaxy with Sam in the morning.

At 2pm I was ready for the first round of Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage. I'm still a relative beginner at the game (though I've had good results in the handful of games I've played with my friends at home) and there are a lot of tough veterans in this tournament. GM Stuart Tucker selected the first round pairings at random, and my name was drawn in the first pair. I was assigned to play Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage veteran Chris Byrd, who is ranked 3rd in all-time WBC success in the game. When you play a game like this, you want to play someone who knows the game, because that's the way you learn.

Chris was selected to make the first bid for sides, and he bid 2 PCs to take Carthage. I had 2 PCs in my mind as the "right" bid, so I passed and let him take Hannibal while I took the Romans. The Romans are the big, plodding force while the Carthaginians are the smaller, nimble force, so I wasn't too unhappy with the opportunity to let Chris do the fast footwork. I placed my 2 PCs up in Gallia Transalpina (near Massilia) and we began play.

Chris placed influence to take control of Iberia as I filled up Gallia Transalpina and the accessible part of Gallia Cisalpina. I also moved my little general to subjugate the Carthaginian sympathizers in southern Italy. Chris played "Messenger Intercepted" to steal a card from my hand in Turn 1, so it took me until Turn 2 to finish the job (and I lost a CU to attrition,) but I was happy to eliminate a haven that might support an adventure by Hannibal in southern Italy. We saw a "Truce" card on Turn 1, so the deck was reshuffled before Turn 2.

In Turn 2, Hannibal moved across the Alps into Gallia Cisalpina, but he rolled a '6' on the Attrition table (a great stroke of luck for me) and lost several CUs, including an elephant. He played "Messenger Intercepted" on me for the second straight turn, and I was feeling pessimistic, as "Messenger Intercepted" is a big card in this game. I placed one of my Consuls in Samnium to block the lowland route into Italy, and I began to pile up stacks of CUs in the area to offset Hannibal's superior combat ability.

In Turn 3 I was fortunate enough to draw Marcellus as a Consul. The Roman generals are far inferior to Hannibal until Turn 7, when Scipio Africanus enters play, and the Romans can be hamstrung by the immobility of their armies if they draw hands without the high-value Ops cards they need to move. Marcellus became my Proconsul on Turn 4 and kept that job until Turn 8, when he was killed defending Sardinia against an invasion. Hasdrubal had wandered far away from his Iberian base, and I tried a naval invasion way down in the southwest, but Chris was concealing a Forced March in his hand and whacked my presumptuous foray. This actually happened twice, as I didn't learn my lesson the first time.

The game settled into a static deadlock, as Chris was loathe to cross the mountains and risk destruction in central Italy while I restricted myself to taking periodic shots at him when I had the forces and cards to do so. He won most of these battles, but I rolled well for retreat losses and neither side was greatly harmed. I got two Numidian revolt cards one turn to threaten him, but on some turns we each discarded our hands out (I even discarded a campaign at one point) because there was nothing we wanted to do.

The turn before Scipio Africanus entered, I got a fortunate Diplomacy card, which I used to carve out a landing spot for him in eastern Spain. I dueled a bit with Hasdrubal, but eventually decided to ship back to Italy to take out the primary threat, Hannibal.

On Turn 7 Chris got his third "Messenger Intercepted" card, but the game turned around on Turn 8. I drew a dream Roman hand, with three Minor Campaigns, three 2 Ops cards and three 3 Ops cards. By this time I had 30 CUs up near Hannibal, and my Consul was Fabius, who can be a liability, but who packs quite a punch if you have the Campaigns and 3 Ops cards to activate him. I started whacking Hannibal, and as his forces melted away (with my 30 CUs I could afford to lose men, but he couldn't) he decided to make a break for it, retreating back across the Alps to save Hannibal's life, hoping for a late Syracuse revolt or takeover of Sicily or Sardinia to give him the win. I took out all but one of the Carthaginian spaces in Gallia Cisalpina and then moved Scipio down to Rome to prepare for naval adventures. Chris countered by shipping Mago to Sardinia, killing Marcellus in a risky battle and preparing to take over the province for the potential win.

I decided I needed to take a province in Spain to win. Scipio sailed back to Spain, and another general crossed the Alps to support his effort. Hasdrubal marched up to attack, but I played a card that made his Iberian allies desert to fend him off. I then dropped off enough CUs to guarantee at least one and possibly two province conversions, and Chris had a terrible hand that gave him no options to win. He resigned with one card play to go.

You might say that I had bad luck in this game, since Chris got 3 "Messenger Intercepted" draws and I got none, but this wasn't the case. In addition to my lucky attrition roll early on, I drew all the good Carthage cards: Philip of Macedon, Syracuse Revolts, Sicily Revolts, Sardinia and Corsica Revolt, and so forth. In addition, I got a dream hand when Fabius was my consul, just when I needed it most. And at the same time, he drew almost no cards that allowed naval movement during the final three turns.

I was delighted to have won, but I did not go on to continue in this tournament. I was setting my sights on another tournament that started up at 7pm. However, my friend Andy Latto, who was attending the tournament for the second year, won his first four Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage games to shoot to the head of the class. Andy lost his last game to finish 4-1 in the tournament. This was good for 6th place and a sand plaque, but Andy was also delighted to have done so well in a game he, too, is still learning.
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3. Board Game: Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization [Average Rating:8.21 Overall Rank:4]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I wasn't expecting much success in my first two tournaments (though I thought I'd do better in War of the Ring (first edition) than in Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage) but I believed I had a shot to do well in Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization. I've rated the game a '10' and I had already played it 25 times before I arrived in Lancaster. It's a game whose mechanics are picked up quickly by some people, but there are a lot of tough lessons to learn.

I arrived at the Marietta room at 7pm, and GM Raphael Lehrer matched us up into ten groups of 3. I was surprised at the strong turnout; 30 people is a lot for a long game during the pre-con, especially given that most of the "power gamers" were committed to other games.

In my heat, I was matched against two brand-new players, Greg Thatcher and Amelia Engelmann. I worked hard to teach them how the game works, and they both picked it up well, though young Amelia ran out of steam as midnight approached (this is a game that requires a lot of stamina.) It was a friendly game, and I won by a respectable but not excessively large margin.

One win looked like it would be enough to put me into the semis, so I didn't play in the other heat. There were 6 more 3-player games, making 16 in all. These numbers should put Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization into the Century for 2009.

My semi-final game had more experienced players in it. It featured an interesting shift in fortunes. In the early game, I built Hanging Gardens, took Michelangelo, and then built St. Peter's for the classic harp machine. Then one of my opponents pushed military a bit, and I followed him wholeheartedly. (I didn't want to let someone steal all my lovely harps!) By the middle of Age III I had a strength of 31, the player who started on the military had a strength of 26-ish, and the third guy had only 17. At this point I declared a War over Culture. The weakling had his own nice peaceful harp machine going and was ahead of me by about 20 harps given Michelangelo's death and my subsequent neglect of harp production, but if no one did anything, my War would take 14 harps away from him and add them to my score, putting me ahead.

When we got around to the start of my turn, he sacrificed all 15 strength he had in military units (the other 2 strength were in technologies and thus were not sacrificed.) This raised his strength to 32. He won the war by 1, so he took 1 harp from me. I immediately banged down a second War over Culture and beefed up my military some more. This allowed me to steal 33 of his harps, for a relative harp difference of 66. My pair of wars won the game for me handily. It was a great example for the people that say Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization is multi-player solitaire. War doesn't always work, but when it does, it can be a game changer.

When we scored the final Impact cards, I shot ahead further on the harp track to finish with 299 harps, more than 120 ahead of my closest rival. I was into the finals in a game I consider to be one of my better games! Unfortunately, I wasn't thinking about the dangers of hubris...

The final featured me and 2 people who had learned the game just recently. Don't be fooled, though; Dave Metzger and Jason Ley are both strong gamers. I got a pretty good start, but I didn't manage to grab Iron in Age I, leaving me perpetually short of Ore throughout the game, even though I got Coal late in Age II. Of all the technology cards, Iron may be the one I miss most when I don't get it. I also neglected happiness, but I figured I could take an arena (or at worst build another temple) when I needed it. Other than these problems, my game was going swimmingly. Then the wheels fell off. Age I ended when I wasn't expecting it, and I had no way to solve my happiness problem except by destroying a farm, mine, urban building or military unit. The arena technology I had been looking for, which would have solved my problem, didn't show up. I made the wrong choice, destroying a lab (I should have destroyed a Warrior, but was being paranoid after the military-dominated semi-final.) This threw my whole game into a tailspin.

I made the decision to come back using the military strategy, as I could see my opponents were playing too well for me to just be more efficient in the latter part of the game. I built up a good army, but couldn't draw the right War or Aggression cards while Dave, the weaker of the two, was vulnerable. When I finally got a few aggressions, Dave had the defense cards to stave me off.

At last I drew a War. Dave was weaker, and he was well ahead on the harp track. I could attack Jason, but it was clear that Dave would win if I did that. What I needed to do was win a war against Dave and also complete the First Space Flight wonder to even have a hope to win. I also needed Dave to focus on Jason as his main opponent rather than me (even though I was the one making a provocative attack.) It was folly, but I couldn't come up with any other plan that had even a fool's chance.

Well, it didn't work. With his superior economy, Dave built Modern Infantry and destroyed some farms to send the farmers to War. In one turn, he exceeded my strength, so that I lost 8 harps in the War. Unfortunately for Dave, this cost him far more than that in the harp race, and Jason squeaked out a win over Dave by 2 harps, 123-121. I was far, far back (by 40 or 50 harps,) having played an entirely unsuccessful game. I'll bet 123 is one of the lowest winning scores you'll ever see in a 3-player game, and it's all on account of my military adventuring. I won't apologize, because I was trying to give myself a shot at a win, but I do regret that my course of action had such a distorting effect on the contest between the two leaders.

Congratulations to Jason on a fine win, and to Dave on a close second. I'm not unhappy with my result in this tournament; I got to play one of my favorite games three times. Thanks also to David desJardins for sponsoring this game as a WBC Trial. This'll be a Century game in 2009, and I hope to be back.
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4. Board Game: San Juan [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:163]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I was particularly glad I had qualified for the semifinals of Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization the night before, as this gave me the chance to play in the San Juan tournament, which was held on Monday morning, instead of having to qualify for the Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization semifinals. I even got to sleep in, as San Juan didn't start until 11am.

The tournament featured 4-player games in the early years, but it now features 2-player games in a Swiss-elimination format. There are four Swiss rounds, in which you are paired in each round against someone with the same record, as far as possible. The top players in the Swiss portion of the tournament then meet in single elimination to determine the winner.

I've played San Juan at WBC many times, but this year my wife Claire expressed an interest in playing. She knew Race for the Galaxy, which she'd be playing later in the week, was similar but more complex, so it seemed likely she could learn San Juan as well. We arrived at the location early and I taught her the game, playing through with her twice and explaining how the game works. She even won one of the two learning games, adding to her confidence!

GM Bruce Reiff paired us up for the first round. I was matched against an experienced gamer who hadn't played a lot of San Juan. I drew good cards throughout the game and won by a reasonable but not overwhelming margin. Claire's game took a little longer, but in the end she too won, making use of the Carpenter, Quarry and Library to win a "purple building" victory. We were both 1-0 and feeling good about ourselves! In the second round I won again, but Claire lost a cliff hanger to Bruce Bernard, who used the same "purple building" strategy Claire had used in her first game.

I was now 2-0 and I needed just one more win to make the elimination rounds, but Claire knew that another loss would put her out of contention. I was matched against George Young, an excellent gamer (he's won the We the People tournament several times.) I built a Gold Mine on the first turn, and it was a great investment. It paid off time after time (the first time with a Library.) I must have gotten at least 5 cards from that Gold Mine, and I was apologizing to George for my great luck by the halfway point. My margin of victory was 10 VP or more, and I didn't even have to play the fourth Swiss round to qualify.

Claire was in the 1-1 bracket, and her third game again matched her against a strong opponent. She played well, but lost another close game, eliminating her from contention. With Claire out of it, and with me receiving a bye, we were able to run over to Fuddrucker's for an "out of the hotel" lunch.

When I got back to take part in the elimination round, I found that my first game was against Eric Freeman, another WBC veteran who was new to San Juan. He won the entire The Princes of Florence tournament, which I GM, in 2007, so I know him well. He also leads the effort to coordinate scheduling for Euro games at WBC, increasing participation by reducing overlaps between games. Eric started the game by building a Gold Mine of his own, and while it missed on its first use, it hit on the next two. I was having flashbacks to my game against George Young! I built my own Gold Mine, but it only hit once during the game. Eric's Gold Mine was evidently much better sited, because it gave him four cards, propelling him to the win. The lesson is clear: those who live by the Gold Mine die by the Gold Mine.

My results in this tournament bore an eerie resemblance to those for 2007, when I also won with the Gold Mine in my final Swiss round and lost to one in the first elimination round. I'm going to continue to play San Juan; sooner or later I'll advance further (maybe I should secretly remove the Gold Mines from my deck when the elimination rounds start?)

Eric Freeman went on to finish 2nd in the tournament, losing only to winner Thomas Browne, and I believe he earned me 6th place by doing so. Good going, Eric!
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5. Board Game: Thebes [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:263]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Although the focus of WBC is on the tournaments, there's plenty of open gaming as well. Rio Grande Games operates in "Cafe Jay," where a number of recently published and about-to-be-published games are on display and available for play. Jay Tummelson couldn't be there this year, but Valerie Putman filled in for him, spending a lot of her time demo-ing Dominion, a game she's developing, to hordes of eager acolytes. In addition, Convention Director Don Greenwood brought a large collection of games from the BPA game library to WBC and GCOM (Games Club of Maryland) ran a lending library that allowed people to try new games.

After I was knocked out of the San Juan tournament, I found three others who wanted to do some open gaming. We picked Thebes out of the BPA library, checked it out, and played a game. I'm a big fan of Thebes; it is a remarkably thematic archaeology game, which means it has a lot of luck in it, but I don't mind games with a lot of luck.

This was an unusual game. I spent a lot of effort in this game obtaining specialized knowledge about various geographic areas, and at the end of the game I scored 15 VP for having the most knowledge in three of the five areas. Combined with some decent excavation results and one exhibition, this gave me the points I needed to win.

Every game someone comes up with little more than handfuls of sand at the digging sites, which is usually fatal to your chances, and sometimes that someone is me, but I don't mind because the game is so much fun.
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6. Board Game: Paths of Glory [Average Rating:8.04 Overall Rank:46]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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As I became more committed to attending WBC, I realized that I didn't know any of the games regularly featured in the pre-cons. As a result, I made a special effort to learn Paths of Glory, a big, tough wargame that is played every year before WBC starts. Since then I've also learned Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage, which as I mentioned above I played this year, but Paths of Glory has become a great favorite of mine.

The San Juan and Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization tournaments overlapped with the Paths of Glory tournament this year, but I knew I'd still be able to get a game in as long as I didn't make it to the finals for Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization. Well, as you know, I did make it to the finals, so I had to skip Paths of Glory. Maybe next year! I did stop in to see how Paths of Glory was going from time to time, and newsworthy events took place, to be sure.

A Finnish gamer named Riku Riekkinnen has been an active contributor to the on-line discussion groups for Paths of Glory, and he's a top player on wargameroom.com as well. People have been challenging him for years to come across the Atlantic to WBC and show everyone what he's got. Riku did show up this year, and he not only entered the Paths of Glory tournament; he won the thing. It's not easy to win any WBC tournament, but it's really tough to win a hotly contested tournament like this one. This was big news!
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7. Board Game: Sicily: Triumph and Folly [Average Rating:7.82 Overall Rank:2290]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Tuesday at WBC is a day of transition. The pre-cons are finishing up (several are running semifinals and finals,) but WBC proper doesn't start until 6pm. One option is the WBC game auction, which begins at 9:30am and runs until 5pm. Attendees register lots for auction, and the auctioning is done by the dynamic trio of Ken Gutermuth, Keith Hunsinger and Bruce Reiff, who are all dressed in loud Hawaiian shirts. It's an auction and entertainment in one!

If you're a gamer who brings your wife to WBC, take a tip from me. Peruse the on-line list of auction items and make out a list of the ones you especially want and the most you're willing to pay. Bring a big stack of $20 bills to WBC, hand it to your wife, and tell her to have at it! My wife Claire had a ball at the auction (someone told her they thought she was out to win the auction, and I'm not sure she didn't!) She managed to get seven out of the nine items I wanted, and from the size of the stack it looks like she bid on her own initiative on some things she wanted as well. I'm not sure whether it's unfair stereotyping to link women with shopping, but it sure worked for Claire and me.

I've recently been learning the Operational Combat Series (OCS) from The Gamers/MMP. This is a WWII operational level series of games that puts a heavy focus on supply. I traded for a copy of Tunisia, and I've had a great time playing the "Race to Tunis" scenario. The OCS games come in two flavors: the giant East Front monsters with thousands of counters, and the more manageable games like Tunisia, Sicily: Triumph and Folly, Burma and Korea: The Forgotten War. I'd been bidding for the latter three from time to time on eBay, but the prices seemed to shoot skyward as I bid. When I looked at the WBC auction list on line, I saw that all three of them were on offer in a single lot. I was willing to pay good money for them; it would save the trouble of entering all those auctions on eBay, and it would save me three shipping fees as well.

As it turned out, Claire was able to buy them, and the price was less than the limit I had given her. The other lot I really wanted, a single game of This Hallowed Ground, went for a little more than I was willing to pay. If I'm lucky, maybe MMP will reprint it one of these years.

I was hoping to see some experienced players playing OCS at WBC in the Monster Game open gaming room, but no OCS games were going on at any of the times I stopped by.
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8. Board Game: Empire Builder [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:673]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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The auction was over, we ate a quick supper, and at long last it was time for WBC to start for real. Claire and I had both filled out customized schedules that overlaid the times for the games we wanted to play on a daily grid. There are often several games of interest at the same time; when this happens, we decide between them based on which will be available later in the week and which ones have semifinals we're able to attend. I wanted to play Empire Builder, El Grande and Power Grid, all of which started at 6pm. I realized that it made sense to start with Empire Builder, which is the longest of the three. I'd be able to play Power Grid on Wednesday afternoon after GMing The Princes of Florence, and I could play El Grande on Thursday morning as long as I didn't make it to the semifinals of Empire Builder.

We squeezed into a small room, Host A, to start the first heat of Empire Builder. There are many different variants, and I joined a table that was preparing to play China Rails, which is (not surprisingly) set in China. I had played four times on this map (mostly with Claire,) so I had a reasonably good idea about what contracts were available, but I noticed that the person who owned the map had already worn the cards down, so I knew he had played it many more times than that.

We sat down and studied our initial contract cards. At WBC, each player gets four contracts at the start and discards one. This gives you choices at the start and reduces the chance of bad luck. I had a contract for Porcelain to Hami, out in the northwest, and another for Cotton to the east coast. I had just enough money to run the first load, and I almost immediately upgraded to a fast freight for the return voyage. I built a spur into Manchuria and got a series of good runs along the north and east edges of the board. I didn't get a spec run until my very last load, when I picked up the Cotton to Guangzhou card as I was sitting in the ferry port south of Shanghai, but my planned deliveries were steady and large, and I won the heat by a comfortable margin.

Claire also played in this heat, playing on the India Rails map, which is one of our favorites. She played well, but finished second. It's one of her favorite games, so she played in a second heat, this time on Bob Stribula's prototype "Martian Rails" map, but she wasn't able to win that one either.

My win on Tuesday night freed me from the need to play any more heats. It also meant I wouldn't be playing El Grande. On Thursday morning we gathered once again in Host A for five 5-player semifinal games. These games all took place on the Empire Builder map with Mexico. GM Tom Dunning had published an event preview on the website that informed us the semifinals would be on this map, so Claire and I had been practicing regularly with it and I felt comfortable with the game. In the semifinal, I selected three starting contract cards that included Nickel to Dallas, Nickel to Mexico City and Swine to Veracruz. This was a great starting set. I built from Chicago to Sudbury and started my train with two Nickels (is that a Dime?) I then built through Des Moines and Kansas City to Dallas, took Nickel to Dallas, returned to Des Moines for Swine, and took the remaining Nickel and the Swine down to Mexico City and Veracruz. One of my opponents also got a strong set of opening cards, but I had a great track network. I never connected Los Angeles, but at one point I got three contract cards worth $118 million for Seattle. I'm usually a bit reluctant to go to Seattle unless the cards speak to me loudly, but $118 million counts as shouting! My good luck in drawing the right cards allowed me to win handily, putting me in the finals.

WBC features a Team Tournament. Players can band together in groups of 4 to form teams. Each team member selects a WBC event as his or her Team Event (no two team members can choose the same Team Event.) You score for finishing in the top 6 in your Team Event, and your team score is the sum of the four resulting scores. It's hard for a team to do well, because it's not enough to do well in a tournament; you must predict ahead of time which tournament you'll do well in. Last year, there were 3 of us at WBC from the MVGA gaming club (me, Rich Meyer and his son Jeff Meyer,) and we recruited Andy Latto, who's visited MVGA from time to time, as our fourth. This year we had a fourth regular MVGA member, Ian Miller, at WBC, and we added him to our team, booting Andy out. Andy formed a new team, the Triple Crossers, with his partner Cally Perry, my wife Claire and my son Sam. This added a little tension; which of these two teams would finish with the most points?

Rich's team game for the MVGA team was Empire Builder, and he made it into the semis as usual. Unfortunately, he drew lousy cards in his semifinal game and was beaten by Harald Henning, an excellent Empire Builder player who draws extremely efficient track. That meant we would have a big goose egg for one of our team scores. I was in the finals, but even though I won the tournament last year, Empire Builder wasn't my team game, so I wouldn't score any team points for this tournament.

In the finals, which were played on the Empire Builder map without Mexico, I faced Harald Henning, Debbie Gutermuth and two other experienced players. My initial four cards were much less attractive. It's not that I didn't have some good runs. I had Steel to Fargo, Oats to Norfolk and Sheep to Washington. These worked together nicely, but the track I had to build in order to complete them (from Chicago northwest through Fargo and on to Billings, and then southeast through Pittsburgh to the east coast) was too far north to support runs to the south central US. I thought for some time and decided to keep them rather than dumping. If I was lucky with my card draws, I could win with this set, and in a final against strong players, all you can ask for is a chance to win. If I had dumped on my first turn, I could easily have drawn a set of cards that was far worse than these.

I kept moving along reasonably well, but I never got the killer contract set I needed to take the lead. I didn't build a single bridge until late in the game, saving me some money when floods occurred, but too often I was delivering one load going east and one load going west. I built to Portland, and then through Boise to Los Angeles and San Francisco, but I just couldn't draw the Sugar contracts that would pay off big for me. Every player must connect all but one major city, and just to show how odd my track was, the city I didn't connect was Kansas City! Harald was saddled all game with short runs, but he built the track he needed to deliver them quickly, and he demonstrated impressive technique in winning the game by a margin of more than $40 million. I finished 2nd with $219 million, with two others close behind in 3rd and 4th.
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9. Board Game: Elk Fest [Average Rating:6.20 Overall Rank:1899]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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As I mentioned above, members of the Brosius family made up parts of two different teams in the WBC Team Tournament. My son's team game was Elk Fest, a 2-player dexterity game in which you flick wooden discs to allow your moose to cross the table before your opponent's moose can do so. Sam is good at dexterity games, and he took 6th place last year. He was hoping to do better in 2008.

Elk Fest is played using a single elimination format at WBC, so there's a lot of tension in every match. Players are paired up, and each pair plays best 2 out of 3 games for the right to advance. The GM, Dan Dolan Jr., drew names out of a hat for the initial pairings, and Sam's name didn't come out until near the end. When his name was finally announced, Sam was matched against---Dan Dolan Jr., the GM! Dan is an excellent player who has finished well in previous years, though he has never won the tournament, so Sam knew he had a battle on his hands.

Dan won the first game; he's a notorious fast starter who aims to knock opponents out before they are mentally ready, and he got his moose across the table first. It wasn't so easy for him in the second game, though, as Sam was in fine flicking form, winning the second game while Dan's moose was still only partway across.

The tension was high as the third and deciding game began, and spectators were crowded around the table---Sam thinks there may have been 30 people watching. The moose began to inch their way across, and it was extremely close during the early stages. They passed each other, moving in opposite directions, right at the halfway point, but Dan's moose began to gain ground, millimeter by millimeter, gradually opening up a gap. With Sam's moose less than 10 centimeters from the goal, Dan's moose completed its journey, winning his second game and knocking Sam out of the tournament.

Sam was disappointed to see his tournament chances ended so quickly, but he'll be back next year with more practice under his belt!
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10. Board Game: The Princes of Florence [Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:62]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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It was Wednesday morning, time to begin work on The Princes of Florence, the tournament I run as GM. I put on my GM shirt (WBC provides special shirts for GMs) and headed downstairs. Before the games began, Claire and I attended a special GM breakfast put on by Don Greenwood and the WBC staff, partly to express their appreciation to the volunteer GM staff and partly to provide a forum for communication to GMs. Kaarin Engelmann gave a short video presentation which was both instructive and funny---her main goal at WBC seems to be making sure Don doesn't get too grumpy. I'm not sure how well it works; a lot of people were wearing buttons that said "IJADG", which I am guessing must mean "I Just Annoyed Don Greenwood."

After the breakfast, I headed up to the Terrace demo area, where I had a The Princes of Florence demo scheduled at 11am, just prior to the noon start of my first heat. I was early, so I sat once more through the demo for the "Great Campaigns of the American Civil War" tournament. I own some of the games in this series and would love to play them more, but I can never fit them into my schedule during WBC, so I only attend the demos. This tournament is remarkable because one single player, Chris Withers, won it eight years in a row, from 2000 through 2007. Every year people aim to take him out, but he has always managed to slip out of their grasp. This year it was a different story; Chris didn't make it to the semifinals, and the tournament was won by Ed Beach, who last won it back in 1993 (when it was AvalonCon and not WBC.) Ed's a great guy who has championed the GCACW series for years and is currently designing and developing the next game in the series, Battle Above the Clouds. Maybe I can play this series at some other con, since it never seems to fit at WBC.

During the latter portions of the GCACW demo I set up my copy of The Princes of Florence on the table that was assigned to me, and by 11am a number of people had arrived for the demo. I had 6 or 7 learners this year, and at least a few of them went on to take part in the tournament.

I greatly prefer to play The Princes of Florence with 5 players at a table. I name assistant GMs so I can play if there's an opening, but I will only play if it will convert a 4-player table to a 5-player table. Cally Perry, one of my assistant GMs, helped me sign people up, and my wife Claire helped as well, and when we counted the names we had 50. One person dropped out at the last minute, making 49, and I inserted myself to bring the numbers back to 50. We set up 10 tables with 5 at each table and began to play. Once the players are seated the games ran smoothly, as there are many experienced players who provide answers as needed at the tables. I had no more than 5 rules questions during the entire tournament.

In my first heat game there were two people pursuing Builder strategies: Andy Latto and Josh Cooper. Josh used a full-fledged Builder strategy, while Andy used a hybrid strategy. I had the Physicist in my hand, and was planning to build a Laboratory to earn 3 VP and help the Physicist put on a solid work. I did not hurry to build it, and before I knew it, all three Laboratories had been built (one of them by a player who didn't need it for a Profession, but who was only building it as part of the Builder strategy.) This unexpected problem put a big dent in my game, but it wasn't the deciding factor, as Alex Bove won the game with 61 PP, ahead of Josh's Builder strategy by 2 PP and ahead of me in 5th place by 14. Alex is a strong player who has won a number of tournaments at WBC, though he had never made it to the finals for The Princes of Florence.

The second heat of The Princes of Florence was held on Thursday at 5pm. This heat drew exactly 35 players, so there was no need for me to play. The seven tables yielded 6 new winners and one repeat winner, Bill Murdock (there's no need to introduce Bill, who won the Puerto Rico tournament a few years ago.)

Some people complain that The Princes of Florence is heavily slanted toward the player who is second in the player order, with the 1st and 3rd positions being next most desirable, and this may perhaps be true, but there was no evidence for it in this year's tournament. Out of the 17 heat games, 6 were won by the 4th player, 4 by the 2nd player, 3 by the 1st player, 3 by the 5th player and just one by the 3rd player.

The "bad luck" award in the heats goes to Winton Lemoine. In his first heat he scored 53 PP, but he finished 2nd to Brian Kowal, who also scored 53 PP but had more cash at the end. Then in his second heat the scores were a remarkable 52-52-52-51-49. Jason Levine and Cally Perry each had 52 PP and 200 florins while Winton had only 100 to come in 3rd. The winner was decided by the "lowest numbered Profession" criterion---Jason had the #4 Botanist while Cally's lowest Profession was the #8 Goldsmith, so Jason was the winner. A 3-way tie at 50 PP in another heat was resolved based on florins, with Eric Eshleman edging out Cheryl Meek and Brad Sherwood for the win.

I crunched the results on the spreadsheet I had previously prepared, and I printed out a list of 25 qualifiers and 17 alternates for posting on the "kiosk" (a cardboard stand, one for each tournament, that serves as a gathering point for players and a posting point for information.) Fortunately for Winton, his strong 2nd and strong 3rd were enough to qualify him. The semifinals were held at 8pm on Friday, with the finals immediately following. 23 of the 25 qualifiers showed up for the semis, and I added in the top two alternates to make five 5-player games.

In the semis and finals I allow players to bid for player order, paying florins to get their choice of seats. This year, the average bids were as follows:

1st: 117 florins
2nd: 317 florins
3rd: 17 florins
4th: zero
5th: zero

Winton Lemoine continued his cliffhanger results in the semifinal, tying for first in Prestige Points for the third consecutive game, this time with David Platnick at 61. This time Winton had the upper hand, with 700 florins left compared with David's 200, and it was this one that mattered most as Winton advanced to the finals while David had to settle for 6th place in the tournament. Winton was joined by Alex Bove, Aran Warszawski, Chris Senhouse and last year's champ Eric Freeman for the final.

As the semifinals were winding down, a helpful soul pointed out that halfway through our final game, the Liar's Dice tournament would be starting in Ballroom B, the room our final was scheduled to be in. I don't know about you, but I find it hard to play my best when 1000 dice are being shaken simultaneously in their plastic cups. We made our escape to the Vista area where the noise level was more manageable.

As we arrived, Alex mentioned to me that he was exhausted. It seems that time he had planned for rest was eaten up by semifinals and finals, so that he was working on just a few hours of sleep. I knew what he meant, but it's impossible to get any sympathy when you can't get your sleep because you're in too many finals! He'd just have to see how well he could play while half asleep.

The players bid for seating order, and Alex took the 2nd seat with a bid of 300. Eric paid 100 for 1st seat, Winton paid 100 for 3rd seat, and Chris and Aran took the 4th and 5th seats at no cost. Winton told us that he was determined not to finish in 2nd place. He had finished in 2nd place too often recently, and if he couldn't win, he'd rather have 3rd, 4th or 5th.

It was a tense game. Only Eric had been in the finals before, but all 5 players were experienced and watchful. Alex bought the first Jester for 1200 florins (you didn't expect him to get a bargain at this table) and Winton earned the Best Work bonus with a 10 WV Bell Maker on Turn 1. Things went along normally until Turn 2, when Aran realized that he had built a Laboratory in Turn 1 rather than the Library he meant to build. He was greatly disappointed at this error, but I could not allow him to take it back, as many actions had gone by since the build. He built the Library in Turn 2 and thought long and hard about how to recover from this error.

Just as in last year's final, Eric earned several Best Work bonuses, but it was an extremely close game as we headed into the final turn. Alex bought a Prestige card for 200 and selected his card carefully. Eric won yet another Best Work, and it was all down to the Prestige cards. Chris and Winton, who trailed on the prestige track, had two Prestige cards each, and both scored 14 PP as a result. Alex turned over one Prestige card, the one he had drawn on Turn 7, and it gave him 7 PP for Most Works. Alex suspected that card was still in the deck, because it was worthless to anyone else, but he was relieved to have drawn it in the 5 cards he had to choose from. With the help of this card he had just barely enough to beat Winton. The final scores:

Alex 58, Winton 57, Aran 55, Chris 53, Eric 51.

I took notes during the final and I have posted a detailed report (see the following link) for those who want the play-by-play:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/336950

Congratulations to Alex, who comes away with a victory in his first trip to the The Princes of Florence finals at WBC. Winton finished in 2nd, just where he didn't want to be. What really bugged him is that he finished with an unusually large bank of 900 florins. If he had taken just 200 florins less during the game in cash, he would have won the tournament. Aran came back nicely from his early slip, finishing only 3 PP behind, and relative newcomer Chris also performed well. Eric dropped from 1st place in 2007 to 5th in 2008, and I was surprised because I didn't notice any substantial errors in his play. It's simply a tough game in which the actions of your opponents have a significant influence on your success. Some people call it "multi-player solitaire," but I can't disagree more.

If you have an interest in The Princes of Florence, come to WBC next year and give it a shot. I'll be happy to explain the game during the demo. While you're there, you can try your hand at dozens of other favorite games. Come over and say "hi"!
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11. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:7.99 Overall Rank:11]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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As soon as the first The Princes of Florence heat was over, I raced over to the Marietta room to play in the second heat of Power Grid (my first in 2008.) This is another favorite game of mine, and it's one we play often at MVGA. I was fortunate enough to have won the Power Grid tournament back in its inaugural year of 2004, back when it was just a trial event, and the finals that year had two other MVGA members, Rich Meyer and Evan Tannheimer. I've played more than 50 games, and over half of them have been at MVGA.

There was only one heat I could play in this year, so I knew I would have to win if I was to advance. My first game was a 4-player game on the original US map. We eliminated the two western regions and played on the cheap eastern part of the map. I wound up taking the #10 coal plant as my first plant, which made me last to buy fuel and build cities in Round 1. The first two players started in Philadelphia and Knoxville. The third player was Gerald Lientz, who I knew from previous WBC games. Gerald placed his cities in Savannah and Atlanta, and I built my cities right next to him in Birmingham and Memphis, staking out the entire central part of the country for myself. Gerald asked why I moved in so close, and I explained that "more for me and less for everyone else" seemed good to me.

My fuel costs were less than those of my opponents, so I was in no rush to build the 7th city that would push us into Phase 2. Gerald finally made a move, paying dearly to jump past New Orleans to Houston and Dallas. We had all been able to buy the power plants we needed (something that doesn't always happen,) but my lower operating costs gave me a relatively comfortable win. I wasn't sure whether a single win would get me into the semis, even though it was in my first and only heat, but as it turned out, I made it in, even though there were approximately 125 players in the tournament.

The Power Grid semis were held on Friday morning, using the Italy map. There are a lot of experienced players in this tournament, and you can almost guarantee that you'll face strong opposition in the semis. My game had Patrick Shea in it. Patrick knocked me out of the Power Grid tournament last year and went on to win the tournament, so I watched him even more closely than I watched the others. I view Patrick as a patient player who likes to hang out at the dim end of the turn order in an attempt to get bargains on plants. Despite my good intentions, I found it hard to resist overbuilding (I'm a charger, not a waiter.) Once I was at the bright end of the order, I couldn't get big plants without paying through the nose for them, so I conserved my cash and hoped for good luck in the plant draw. It's one thing to say your opponents are overpaying for those big plants, but you can't win without big plants!

Late in Phase 2, while my capacity was one or two cities less than that of two competitors, I thought about which plants were left in the Phase 2 deck. I realized that there were no plants left but the #11 and the #12. Since we had already built past 12 cities, these plants would be instantly removed from the game and Phase 3 would start next turn. There was little time to waste. When the auction began, many good plants were up for auction, and the bidding was fierce. I calculated carefully and realized that I could only afford to build a certain number of cities, so the largest plants were of no more value to me than the capacity-5 plants. I happily watched the bidding rocket skyward for the bigger plants and took a capacity-5 plant at list price late in the auction. I then built what I could afford and waited to see whether someone with a larger capacity could afford to build more. To my great relief, this didn't happen, and I won my semi on the tiebreaker (most money.)

When we finished our semi, there was one semi still underway, and it was obviously closely fought. One of the contestants was Ian Miller, my MVGA teammate. Ian was attending his first WBC, but he's played many games of Power Grid and I knew he had at least a shot. After many frowns and headscratches, the game ended, and Ian was pronounced the winner! Two MVGA-ers would be seated at the final table! It was too bad neither of us chose Power Grid as our team game, but that's how it goes.

The finals were played on the Germany map. In addition to Ian and me, the finalists were 2-time WBC champ Jim Castonguay, who's also the GM, the aforementioned Bill Murdock and Barb Flaxington, another Puerto Rico winner. Jim's assistant GM took detailed notes, so I won't give a blow-by-blow, but it was a thrilling game. Bill started in the cheap Rheinland area, and I jumped in right next to him (I can never resist a fight in the Rheinland on this map.) My first plant was the #08 coal plant, and my next plant was the #06 trash plant, one I rarely buy. I noticed that there were a lot of smoky coal plants on offer early on, and I was worried about coal depletion, so I bid less aggressively than I normally would, again creating a capacity problem for myself. In a game with less skilled players, this would have been fatal, but the players in this game were experienced enough to bid high, giving me a shot at winning with a "thrift" strategy. In the end that's how it turned out, but I edged out Bill for the win by a mere $2. It was a game that could have ended differently given just slightly different circumstances.

My first Power Grid championship was in a trial event, earning me a smaller plaque, but this year it was a real Century event, earning me a large plaque and a "Centurion" T-shirt! When we got home from WBC, my wife got out her hammer and hung all our plaques on the rec room wall. She told me she was leaving room for future plaques, so the pressure will be on!

Ian was somewhat disappointed to have finished 5th, but I reminded him that it was 5th among 125 players. He'll be back next year (maybe Power Grid will be his team game!)
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12. Board Game: El Grande [Average Rating:7.83 Overall Rank:26]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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The casualty in all this activity was El Grande, a game I truly love. Rob Flowers has been the GM for many years, and he does a great job with it. I made the finals way back in 2003, coming in 5th as Rob ran away with the game, and I played at least one heat in every year since. Unfortunately, I was not able to play even a single heat this year, as my good results in Empire Builder used up the time I would have used to play El Grande. I'm including this entry to let Rob and the other El Grande players know I was thinking about you during WBC, even though I didn't stop by to play!
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13. Board Game: Saint Petersburg [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:156]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I've only played three games more than 100 times since I started recording stats in 2002. One of them is Saint Petersburg (the others are Race for the Galaxy and Lost Cities, both of which I also played at WBC this year.) I've entered the tournament from time to time in the past, but the schedule rarely seems to fit with the other games I want to play. This year I had time for two heats, though the semis had a partial conflict with my team game.

One aspect of WBC some people miss is this: You're welcome to enter heats of most tournaments even if you cannot play in the semis. If you enjoy a game, show up at the listed time and the GM will put you into a game. If you win and you know you can't attend the semis, it's nice to let the GM know, but you're under no obligation to continue (there may be some exceptions, but I've never played in a tournament where this was an issue.)

I sat down to my first heat game of Saint Petersburg in an extremely crowded room. It was evident that attendance for this tournament and for Colossal Arena, which was being held in the same room, exceeded the expectations of the convention planners. We fit in somehow and began play. On the first turn I was last to buy green cards, and I spent $9, leaving my cash at $22. I was first up in the blue phase, and after thinking for some time, I built an Observatory (something I rarely do,) dropping my cash to $16. I used the Observatory to observe a green card and was fortunate to draw a cheap Woodcutter, which I stashed for future play. It was now the orange phase, and the person to my right had first choice. We dealt the orange cards and there was a Mistress of Ceremonies, a card that's a potential game-winner if you can build her on Turn 1. I looked closely at my right-hand opponent and thought to myself "oh, well, it's just as well he got her, because I couldn't afford her anyway with only $16 in hand." He built and I took a card, and I looked down to see the Mistress still sitting there! I had already resigned myself to not getting her, so I failed to pick her up. You'll have to play a lot of games before you see a first-turn Mistress passed over not only by the first orange player, but by the second as well. I couldn't have played her, but I would have taken her into my hand for the following turn if I hadn't turned my brain off. Needless to say, my left-hand opponent was delighted to receive such a boon. It was a long and tough game, but in the end I won the game by a 1 VP margin over my left-hand opponent. I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

My second game of Saint Petersburg was far less eventful. I won comfortably, giving me two wins in two heats and guaranteeing a seat in the semis. The question was whether I could play in the semis. My team game was Facts in Five, which started at 4pm on Saturday, and the Saint Petersburg semis started at 3pm and lasted until 5pm. I asked the GM, Steven Quade (who is one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet and an excellent game teacher) whether I could be in a "fast" semi. He wasn't sure, but when we arrived for the semis, we found that the Facts in Five GM Arthur Field was another semifinalist. Arthur had to be done by 4pm even more urgently than I did, and we recruited two more willing players for an accelerated semi. When semis are arranged other than randomly, one might wonder whether the process is unfair, but I can assure you that this was an unusually tough table (Arthur won the whole tournament in 2005) and everyone at it was there voluntarily.

I thought I had a chance to win this game early on after drawing a Judge on the first turn, but I lost ground steadily and Arthur won with the help of a productive Observatory. I made some poor choices in the orange derby; I need to brush up on my play. We finished in plenty of time to go off to Facts in Five; I never learned how the final turned out, but I was happy to have the chance to play one of my favorite games three times.
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14. Board Game: Alhambra [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:311]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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My first Saint Petersburg heat was over in less than an hour, and I had some open space on my schedule, so I headed over to Ballroom B for a heat of Alhambra. This isn't one of my very favorite games, though I enjoy it more than most other recent Spiel des Jahres winners and have played it 47 times, but it was a bonus to be able to play a game in what otherwise would have been an unused Wednesday night slot.

I was assigned to a table with 4 players, including Steve Koleszar, and all I can say is that he plays a game with which I am not familiar (as Bobby Jones said about Jack Nicklaus in 1965.) Perhaps the fact that the components in Steve's set are worn like fine leather should have been a clue. Steve overpaid early to take almost unassailable leads in the red and blue colors, and he went on to win 134-95-80-65 (I was the 80.) Anyone who thinks Alhambra is a game of luck should play a game with Steve and see how it works out.
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15. Board Game: Can't Stop [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:483]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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You may think WBC is all about serious games of strategy, but there's another aspect as well. Every night at 11pm from Wednesday to Saturday there is a tournament in a quick-playing game that draws high attendance. This year we had Can't Stop on Wednesday, Pro Golf on Thursday, Liar's Dice on Friday and Slapshot on Saturday. These tournaments draw large crowds and are usually run in a single elimination format so you can go to bed once you're eliminated. Of course, if you make the finals you'll be up late, but who wouldn't stay up till 2am to be in a finals?

I played in only one of these tournaments this year: Can't Stop on Wednesday night. I had early success, completing two columns and running up near the top of the 4 and 5 columns. It was my turn again, and I was determined not to stop until I won the game or busted. My first roll was 1-1-1-6: a 2 and a 7. I looked up and saw that the 2 and the 7 columns were both locked up. I had busted without making a single decision! What a disappointment! I prefer to lose this game based on my poor decisions, not just on bad luck.

Ted Drozd went on to win my heat. He went on to the next round and I went to bed.

My wife and son also played in this tournament; Sam went on the next round before busting in Round 2, but Claire lost a close game of her own in the first round.
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16. Board Game: Werewolf [Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:735]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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One unofficial WBC event is Werewolf. This event starts at around midnight and ends when the sun rises (naturally.) I have no first-hand knowledge of its existence other than through the piles of empty soda cans one finds in some of the rooms at 8am, but my son Sam is a regular. He arrived back in the room well after Claire and I were sound asleep.

I can't provide any description of the Werewolf games that were played, but it is an additional draw for the younger crowd at WBC.
 
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17. Board Game: Merchant of Venus [Average Rating:7.20 Overall Rank:445]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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One of my daughter's favorite games is Merchant of Venus, an old Avalon Hill game about trading in space. The game features a random, hidden setup, so you never know where the most lucrative trade routes will be until you go out exploring. We bought an extra copy a few years ago at the WBC auction and gave it to my daughter as a gift (every new household should have a set of games to start with.) I've played this game more than a dozen times, but as a '7' that takes quite a long time to play, I never have time for it at WBC.

My wife enjoys the game more than I do, and she entered a heat of Merchant of Venus this year at WBC. Unfortunately, she rolled the dice poorly and trailed far behind the leaders. This can be a discouraging game if you roll poorly; Claire feels she needs good rolls to have winning chances, because many of the other players are more experienced than she is, and it's tough when things go against you.


 
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18. Board Game: Ra [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:95]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Another MVGA favorite is Ra, a quick-playing auction game. I enjoy the game, but I'm not quite as good at it as some people, so I keep my expectations in check when I play at WBC. A few years back I was in a game with eventual tournament winner Chris Terrell, and it was clear that he was a better player (though I try to learn from people who are better than me, so I'm better now than before I played him.)

This time I had an impressive stash and thought I had a chance to win my Friday morning heat, but Steve Shambeda made a nice comeback and beat me by a few points as I had to settle for 2nd place. This was the only heat I was able to play this year, so my WBC Ra efforts will have to wait until 2009.
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19. Board Game: Medici [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:357]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Medici may possibly be my very favorite game. It's a long-time WBC fixture, but it fell on hard times a few years ago. It was demoted to a Trial and had to work its way back into the Century. I've had one successful year in this tournament, back in 2005 when I took 2nd place behind Gary Noe, but I've made an effort to enter it every year.

This year John Pack took over running this tournament. John is a GM who has done a terrific job with the Gangsters tournament at WBC, and I can't imagine better news than when I heard John had signed up to do Medici as well. One of the good points about Medici is the quick playing time. It should never take more than an hour if the players are paying attention. In past years it was scheduled into 2-hour WBC time slots, but John put his foot down and opted for 1-hour slots, warning players that overly slow games would be penalized. This great decision made it much easier for people to fit Medici heats in, and I myself was able to play in two heats this year.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to win either of my heats. Curt Collins won by a mile in my first heat, and Steve Shambeda (there he is again) won the second by a more modest margin. This is another game I'll be back for in 2009, especially if John Pack continues as GM.
 
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20. Board Game: Race for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:24]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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As far as I'm concerned, Race for the Galaxy is the hottest new game of the past few years (yes, I know all about Agricola, but it's only an okay game for me.) I've already played 184 games, more than any other game. I truly enjoy the decision-making process (I'm a sucker for "card flow" games and Race for the Galaxy outdoes San Juan in this respect.)

There are many people who have played the game to death (my 184 games is only tied for 12th on BGG,) and experience matters a lot in Race for the Galaxy. Claire and Sam were planning to enter this tournament as well, and Ian selected it as his team game. My first heat was held on Friday night, just before the The Princes of Florence semis, and I won easily at a table that had less experienced players. I played a second heat on Saturday morning and scored 51 points to win by a fairly close margin over 2 people tied at 46 (normally you'd expect to win with 46, but I had a huge score using Pan-Galactic League.)

My two wins put me in the semis, but there the roof caved in. I started with Epsilon Eridani, perhaps my least favorite of the starting worlds, and my initial draw was what is known as a "train wreck". When I was deciding on which two cards to discard, I wanted to discard all six of them! I explored for my first five turns and wound up losing by a mile. Aaron Fuegi, an excellent player, won going away (I think he may have beaten me by 20 VP) using a pure military strategy. Aaron went on to the finals and lost to a player I didn't recognize.

Claire and Sam entered this tournament as well, but both of them lost their heats. Claire actually tied for first in VPs in her heat, but her opponent had a card in hand to win on the tiebreaker.

Race for the Galaxy will surely be a Century game next year, based on the attendance, and I'm aiming to continue playing it (so many games, so little time!)

 
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21. Board Game: Lost Cities [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:261]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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If you've been reading my WBC GeekLists for a while, you'll recognize that the 2007 Lost Cities tournament was the highlight of our convention. We arrived this year raring to go. Claire, Sam, Andy Latto and I were joined by Cally Perry, Andy's partner. Claire had chosen Lost Cities as her team game, and she liked her chances. Jarett Weintraub had destroyed our chances last year, but he wasn't able to attend WBC this year (we were disappointed, as we were hoping for revenge!)

I played my first heat against Rob Kilroy, an experienced gamer, who was not used to my style of play (I don't discard very often, preferring to take chances by playing cards.) He overcame his surprise very well, sticking me with a -23 score for the second hand and winning by a comfortable margin. I won my second heat, but with only one win I had no chance whatsoever to advance to the elimination rounds. Sam also had tough luck this year, but Claire went a perfect 4-0 in the heats to become one of the top two seeds in the elimination round. Cally also went 4-0 in the heats, so Claire and Cally were at the top of the heap. Andy, who came in 2nd last year, didn't do quite so well, but he also qualified, making three of our group who were going on.

The elimination round started at 7pm Saturday night in the Paradise ballroom. GM Ivan Lawson, who won GM of the Year in 2007 for his stellar work with Lost Cities, called out the names of the qualifiers, and Claire was nowhere to be seen! After a year of anticipation and a perfect 4-0 record in the heats, was she going to be absent for the playoffs? It was like one of those nightmares in which you're late for a test at school but you can't find the room it's being given in. I called her on my cell phone (I wasn't in the playoffs, but I was there to soak up the excitement and gather journalistic information) and told her to run down right away. She had become distracted working out stats for the tournament she was GMing, and she had to drop everything and race to the Paradise room. She arrived huffing and puffing and without her copy of the game.

The pairings were announced, and Claire, Andy and Cally began play. Claire was flustered and wound up losing her game, much to her disappointment, but Andy and Cally went on to the next round. All three of them were on the same team, but Claire was the one who had selected it as her team game, so there'd be no points for the Triple Crossers from Lost Cities this year. Andy had won his team tournament, Thurn and Taxis, for 9 team points.

As the evening went by, Andy and Cally won game after game, and eventually there were only 2 people left unbeaten: Andy and Cally! Last year we joked that it might have been possible to play the finals in the car on the way home. This year they could have played the finals in the car! Of course, that would have been unfair to the GM and all the spectators that were gathered around. They sat down to play, just as they would have done at their dining room table, and when it was over, Andy had won the tournament by a small margin, with Cally in 2nd place!

Normally the loser of a tournament congratulates the winner with a sportsmanlike handshake, but Cally introduced a new tradition. She stood up from the table, walked over, and kissed the winner firmly on the lips! Convention photographer Debbie Gutermuth recorded everything for posterity, so be watching the WBC website to see the picture she took.

Andy had stellar results this year, winning four tournaments at WBC (Thurn and Taxis, Ivanhoe, Lost Cities and Ingenious,) tying a WBC record. It's easier to guess which game to choose as your team tournament when you win four tournaments! He was the only member of the Triple Crossers to score team points, so they finished with a team score of 9.
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22. Board Game: Facts in Five [Average Rating:6.05 Overall Rank:3033]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I started attending the Facts in Five tournament several years ago because it fit into a hole in my schedule. Now it's one of the highlights of the convention. Arthur Field serves as GM, and he works all year to develop categories and lists of answers. I even made it my team game this year, as after a 4th place finish in 2006 and a 2nd place finish in 2007 I felt it was the game I had the best chance to score points in.

Arthur and I rushed over from our Saint Petersburg semifinal to take part in Facts in Five; he as GM and I as contestant. The game features a number of rounds (we played five rounds this year.) In each round you are given five categories (e.g., Capital Cities in Asia) and five letters (e.g., C, H, L, P, T.) You write items from the categories and starting with the letters in a 5 by 5 grid on a paper supplied by the GM, and you score based on the number you get right. Once the time is up (Arthur provides only 5 minutes to write answers, which makes the game a heart-pounding race rather than a slow slog,) you hand your paper to a neighbor and grade that person's paper as Arthur reads the list of legal answers. Of course, everyone always wants to appeal his answers, which leads to hilarious banter.

The categories were tough this year, as always, and in the end I got 62 correct answers out of 130 (the last paper had one bonus letter, but Arthur only gave us 4 minutes.) The tournament winner was Paul Bean, who lives near me in Melrose MA. Paul scored 69 correct answers. My score was enough to earn my 3rd place in the tournament and 3 team points. Jeff Meyer scored another 3 points for our team with a 4th place finish in Caylus, so the MVGA team finished with 6 points, behind the Triple Crossers at 9. It'll be a tough year for me in the Brosius household, as both of my housemates were on a team that outscored mine. (We'll get 'em next year!)
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23. Board Game: For the People [Average Rating:7.63 Overall Rank:490]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Earlier in this GeekList I mentioned Riku Riekkinen's stunning arrival on the WBC scene and his victory in the prestigious Paths of Glory tournament. That wasn't the only "card-driven wargame" tournament he was to enter. He is also an excellent For the People player, and he was out to challenge James Pei's 7-year run of victories in this tournament at WBC.

As one would have hoped in order to achieve maximum drama, Riku and James were on opposite sides of the bracket, and the two of them won all their preliminary games to earn their way into the final. Riku was assigned the CSA and James the USA. Civil War games in general, and For the People in particular, often feature a tense face-off in the East combined with sweeping maneuvers in the west (after all, the actual war turned out that way.) Riku didn't follow that plan. He abandoned the East and his capital, Richmond, to pursue extensive raids into Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. James sacked Richmond, gaining a substantial advantage in Political Will, but Riku's raids clawed back some of that Political Will and cut into the USA reinforcements, allowing the CSA to negate the numerical advantage the USA usually enjoys. James needed some decent cards in the midgame to fight back, but he drew several poor hands that allowed Riku to continue the party.

James fought and fought and tried every tactic he could think of to defeat Riku's gambit, but in the end it wasn't enough. Riku had ended James's reign atop the For the People world and added a second prestigious WBC plaque to his collection. He had also provided fodder for extensive discussions over the upcoming months on how a heavy CSA raiding strategy can be prosecuted and countered.

People have been speculating for years about whether anyone would ever end Chris Withers' run in Great Campaigns of the American Civil War or James' run in For the People, and both were toppled in the same year. I'm sure they'll be back for more in 2009, and players and spectators will have fresh interest in the results. I wouldn't be surprised if Riku makes another trip across the Atlantic next year, either!
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24. Board Game: Slapshot [Average Rating:6.33 Overall Rank:2056]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I've played in the Slapshot tournament in the past, but I skipped it this year to play in a second Medici heat. The Slapshot tournament is a spectacle, with players arriving in authentic hockey jerseys or bare chested with letters painted on their chests (David Dockter, whose weight must be in the double digits even when he's dripping wet, always seems to be assigned the "!")

The tournament features Keith Hunsinger as announcer (I wonder whether his congregation at the church he pastors is as large as the Slapshot field, but I'm almost certain it isn't as enthusiastic!) It also features Mark Yoshikawa as referee. Mark's main job is to put whiners in the penalty box. There's no whining in Slapshot, with four exceptions. You may whine if (1) Tiny Tim scores on your goalie, (2) Superstar gets bruised out of your team, (3) you lose to Andy Lewis' team and (4) you voted for Dan Dolan to be on the BPA Board of Directors.

Sam joined a table for Slapshot, and he won the first round, putting him through to the semis. The semis featured three 6-player tables, and Sam won again in the semi-finals. This put him into the 6-player final with a chance to win a tournament with nearly 200 people!

Sam had a strong team that included Superstar, but no one would play against him. As a result, he failed to make the playoffs and finished in 6th place. Still, it was a great finish for a relatively new player. He'll be back for another try on Saturday night next year.
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25. Board Game: Ticket to Ride [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:84]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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My wife Claire came to WBC only as a tourist in 2005, but she's gotten more involved each year since. One of the largest WBC tournaments is Ticket to Ride. It was GMed by young Katie McCorry last year, but Katie was only able to attend a part of WBC this year and a new GM was needed. Claire wrote to Don and volunteered to take over GMing Ticket to Ride, a tournament that drew 191 people last year, as a rookie GM. (Did I ever mention that deep down, Claire is even crazier than I am?)

Of course, Claire is far more organized than I am. At our church, Countryside Bible Chapel in Lexington Massachusetts, she is the Commander of our AWANA club, a Bible program that attracts more than 100 children every Friday night during the Fall, Winter and Spring, together with dozens of teen and adult leaders. She assured me that after keeping 100 grade-schoolers in line, adults would be no problem! And you know what? She was right! She did a great job organizing the tournament, arranging people at tables, recording the results, and helping people feel good about the experience.

I modified the spreadsheet I use for The Princes of Florence so it would work for Ticket to Ride. I drew 67 people this year and Claire drew 201---exactly three times as many. I was not able to help with either Heat 1 or Heat 2 (I was in the Power Grid final during Heat 1 and I was in Facts in Five during Heat 2,) but I was on hand Sunday morning at 9am for Heat 3. Claire recruited several helpers for every heat (their service is greatly appreciated,) and I entered stats as they came in for Heat 3 so that we were able to announce the semifinal groupings by 11am. The semis and finals went smoothly, and Claire was able to hand the winner's plaque to the champion by 2:15 in the afternoon. We got into the car as quickly as we could and were back in Boston by 10pm.

Only 50 weeks until WBC 2009! See you there!
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