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The Brosius family attends the 2010 World Boardgaming Championships
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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The World Boardgaming Championships are a regular and eagerly awaited event on the Brosius family calendar. My wife, my son and I attended this year for the fifth time. The big news, however is that in 2010, my daughter and son-in-law came with us for the first time.

The title of this GeekList should really be "The Brosius and Chaplin families attend the 2010 World Boardgaming Championships," but that seems a little wordy, so we'll stick with the abridged version.

This will also maintain consistency with the names of my GeekLists from previous years:

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

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

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

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

And here's a list for the following years:

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

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

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


How did things go in 2010?
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1. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:1551]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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The World Boardgaming Championships start Tuesday at 6pm, but if six days of gaming isn't enough, there's a pre-con on the previous weekend. We drive down from Massachusetts to Lancaster PA, six and a half hours if there's no traffic (there's always traffic,) and we want to get the most out of our investment. My wife's parents live in Chambersburg PA, about a two hour's drive away, and the extra time gives us a chance to visit them before the main event starts.

We left on Friday July 30, stopped for lunch at Thatcher McGee's Irish pub in Pompton Lakes NJ, and checked in at the Lancaster Host resort shortly before supper time.

The pre-con starts on Saturday, so we found an area with tables and played a few games on Friday night. My son-in-law Jeremiah brought some prototypes to try out at WBC, so we started with one of his prototypes, a cooperative/competitive game that forces you to work together so the entire group doesn't lose, but awards victory only to one player. In this game, each player is an artillery commander directing fire missions against enemy attackers. If you don't cooperate, the enemy will win and you will all lose, but if the team wins, only one player gets promoted for performing best in the battle.

We enjoyed playing and made a number of suggestions. Jeremiah demonstrated this prototype to quite a few people over the course of the week, and received generally favorable comments.

We also played a game of Innovation, which I had just received in the mail the previous week. Innovation is a somewhat chaotic card game that nevertheless seems to have less chaos every time I play it.
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2. Board Game: 1846 [Average Rating:8.00 Overall Rank:1126]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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The first tournament of the pre-con was the 18XX tournament, which includes a wide variety of games from the "18XX" family of games. Francis Tresham designed the first game in the series, 1829, in 1974, but dozens more have been created since by a variety of designers.

Most 18XX games have no luck except in selecting the initial seating order, so skill is important and the same players tend to do well every year. I'm not a big 18XX fan, and I've never played at WBC before, both because it's hard to find the time and because I didn't want to ruin the game for others by my uninformed play.

For 2010 the tournament was moved to the pre-con, and it was the only thing available on Saturday morning. I've played 1846 several times with local gamers in the past year, so I showed up and asked to play 1846. The GM allowed each player to indicate which game he or she wanted to play, so I found myself at a 4-player table.

1846 is an 18XX game with a luck element: the minor companies are distributed by a drafting mechanism rather than by the auction that is more typical of the series. I was 3rd in turn order (Ken Gutermuth was 1st, Tom McCorry 2nd and Daniel Barnes 4th.) Daniel and I were each dealt six slips, and I was dismayed to see four "number" cards and only two minors: Mail Contract and the Chicago & Western Indiana. There were eight minors dealt to Daniel and me (it was a 4-player game in which the Tunnel Blasting Co. and Ohio & Indiana were not used,) but he got six to choose from and I got only two (the probability of a 6-2 split is about 6%.)

Here's where my lack of experience came in. I didn't know what corporation I'd be able to start (since I would be 3rd to play in the Stock Round,) and I felt that the Mail Contract only went well with some of the corporations. I decided to pick C&WI; the other players seemed to feel I would have been better off with the Mail Contract (when I mention others' comments on my choices, be aware that I was happy for the chance to learn; it was not unwanted advice.)

My second choice of minors was the Michigan Central or the Lake Shore Line, and I chose the Michigan Central for its better income to cost ratio. We paid the cost for our minors and I wound up as the player with the most cash.

In the Stock Round, Ken passed when it was his chance to start a corporation, for fear I might take his corporation away. Tom also passed, and I had to think about whether it would benefit me to have a set of operating rounds in which no corporation started (if Daniel also passed.) I decided that the owners of the Big 4 and Michigan Southern would gain too much from that possibility, so I started the Grand Trunk, thinking that I could use the Michigan Central to build track quickly. After I did this, the others started railroads: Daniel the NYC, Ken the IC and Tom the PA. Daniel soon realized that the Steamboat Company he had bought went better with the B&O than the NYC, so he was running two corporations from early on, a risky play but one that did not result in the loss of a corporation.

In the first OR, I tokened Detroit, built all the way to Holland, and bought three 2 trains. Later, Ken suggested that I might have been better off with just two 2Ts, but it was tempting to get started with a high income. I was the early cash leader, but that doesn't guarantee anything, especially when you're a rookie.

Two key decisions I faced later in the game were whether to sell one of Tom's PA shares to buy a better-yielding share and whether to start the C&O (an uninspiring corporation.) I saw that selling a PA would allow Ken to take over the PA, and I thought letting him have a second Presidency was too big an advantage, so I chose not to do it. I decided to start the C&O because I needed a permanent train for the GT, and by starting at $124 I was able to buy both of the 3rd level trains, selling one to the GT.

At the end of the game, I suffered from the fact that my corporations had 4 shares in the pool, I could not buy more, and as a result, my stock value did not go up. I realize that I should have withheld so as to be able to buy back the shares (or, alternatively, attract fellow investors.) At the end, Daniel won with about $5300, Ken was second with $5050 or so, I was in 3rd place with $4950, and Tom was well back in 4th, having suffered some financial distress as the PA needed to fund a train.

This was an enjoyable and instructive game to play. If 18XX runs again in a slot with no competing tournaments in games I am more interested in, I'd play again, though I do not foresee a situation in which it would be one of my favored tournaments.

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3. Board Game: Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage [Average Rating:7.83 Overall Rank:68]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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At 2pm on Saturday afternoon, the Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage tournament began. It's one of my favorite wargames, and this was my third year in the tournament. Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage is a game with plenty of opportunity for skillful play, but it does have a substantial luck element, so weaker players have a chance against stronger players, and there seems to be a dark horse every year.

There were many people on hand for the first round of this Swiss system event. My first game was against James Terry. I took Carthage for a bid of 1 PC placement, and it was a back-and-forth battle for much of the game. I captured Gallia Cisalpina to even the province count at 9-9, and we made tentative forays into each others' territory, but were not able to make anything stick. Carthage always hopes to draw the "Syracuse Allies with Carthage" card late in the game, for an easy 1-province swing, but I never saw it in this game. Carthage wins ties (such as 9-9,) but the risk is that a last-minute Roman foray can take away one province and lead to a 9-8 Roman win. I was able to invade southern Italy, using a friendly tribe as an anchor, and although James did have the Numidian revolt card, I took one southern province to win by a 9-8 margin.

Since I had won my first game, I was matched against another winner in Round 2. My opponent this time was Larry Luongo, an experienced player who has done well in the tournament in the past. Again I got Carthage for a bid of 1 PC, and this game had more action, with several Spanish invasions that I was able to turn back. Larry tends to be a vocal pessimist, explaining each turn what might happen to lose the game for him. When we got to Turn 9, Larry realized he was almost sure to win unless I got the Syracuse card, and he kept talking about how I must have it. I kept quiet, but I had been fortunate enough to draw it, and with the Messenger Intercepted card in the discard pile, I'd be sure to be able to play it as my last action. It was bad luck for Larry, but that's how the game works, and I was now 2-0.

On Sunday morning as I headed off to Round 3, I told my wife that I would go visit her parents only after I had lost a game of Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage---you never know when your luck is going to go on a streak, and I wasn't going to bow out of the tournament while undefeated! On the other hand, you have to go 5-0 to win, so once I had a loss I was willing to visit the in-laws rather than compete for 2nd or 3rd place.

My opponent was Randy Pippus, who's relatively new to the tournament but a strong player nevertheless---he beat me in Round 3 last year. This time Randy took Carthage for 1 PC (I thought about bidding 2, but decided I wanted to play Rome for a change.)

I had a great start, with a Messenger Intercepted and a Numidian revolt. I invaded Africa early and by Turn 2 I had both Numidian provinces under my control. Randy drew the 3-value Forced March card and brought Hasdrubal with a large army from Spain to Carthage and headed inland to challenge me. Despite my card advantage, he smacked my army hard and eventually forced me to abandon Africa. Even so, I made it to Turn 6 in great shape, with Marcellus and Scipio Africanus sitting on 10-CU armies.

At the start of Turn 7, I sailed Marcellus to Boetica. Randy played an attrition card and rolled a '6', reducing his army to 6 CU. He then played the Syracuse card. I moved Gaius Nero to seige Syracuse, gaining a siege point. He moved to attack Marcellus, but I had a card to cancel his move, and I sailed Marcellus to Syracuse, gaining a second siege point and leaving a 10 CU army sitting on Syracuse. I was able to re-capture Syracuse, and by the end of Turn 7, the province count was 9-9, I had Scipio Africanus ready to go, and I was feeling optimistic.

In Turn 8, I drew no '3' cards, so I was unable to sail. This left me with just one turn to win the game. In Turn 9, I drew only one '3' card, a Minor Campaign, and I used it to sail Scipio to Spain. Randy cancelled the move with an event, and I was dead in the water. Randy won a hard-fought game after fighting back from a significant disadvantage. I was now free to head off to Chambersburg with my wife.
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4. Board Game: San Juan [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:160]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Both Claire and I enjoy playing San Juan, and we practiced the 2-player version (as used at WBC) a number of times in the preceding months. The tournament features a 4-game Swiss round, followed by a single elimination for anyone who wins 3 games in the Swiss portion.

My first game was against Haim Hochboim, whom I had defeated by a narrow margin in a previous year. Both of us had lousy cards---in the first turn, I prospected, he built Coffee, and I built Coffee! I wasn't getting anything that might lead to a good 6-building, so I raced the game along, and I finished it before either of us built a 6-building, winning by a margin of 20-18. This is one of the lowest scores you'll ever see in a 2-player San Juan game.

My second game was less stressful, but I won, bringing me to a third game against ("Little") Lisa Gutermuth, who was also 2-0. She may not be that big, but she sure has game, and she demolished me with a perfect "Big Violet" strategy. I didn't even bother counting the points because she beat me by about 15 VP.

With a 2-1 record, I needed to win the last game to make it to the single elimination round. I was facing Josh Githens, who was elected to the Board of the Boardgame Players Association, the group that runs WBC, this year. I was able to run the Violet strategy (though not as well as Little Lisa had run it,) and my 3-1 record put me into the playoffs. My wife Claire won her first 3 games, so she didn't need to play the 4th and was able to have lunch while I squeaked in.

My first game in single elimination was against Debbie Gutermuth. I've found that it doesn't matter which Gutermuth you're playing; you're in for a tough game no matter what. Debbie and I were even all the way through the game, but she nosed me out by a VP or two. Claire, on the other hand, won her game against Jason Long and went on to the next round. Claire had never made it this far in the San Juan tournament, and was excited about her success. Unfortunately, Bob Wicks defeated her in the next game, leaving her with a 4-1 record overall, but with optimism about next year.
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5. Board Game: Egizia [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:182]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I had no more tournaments Monday evening, so I headed over to "Cafe Jay" (Rio Grande Games' demo area) to try Egizia, a new worker placement game I was interested in. Andy Latto and I played with two people from Ottawa, and we taught ourselves the game by reading the rule book (something I feel comfortable doing.)

I don't enjoy all worker placement games, but Egizia worked well for me. Heny Hebisha won with a nice collection of sphinx cards, but it was clear that more than one strategy is viable. The components are attractive too; that never hurts.
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6. Board Game: Stephensons Rocket [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:685]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Tuesday morning is the time for the big WBC auction. This consists of a traditional auction (run by volunteers in Hawaiian shirts---often very large Hawaiian shirts) together with an "auction store" in which items of lesser value are placed on tables with price tags that allow the prices to drop every two hours.

In past years, I've attended much of the auction, but there wasn't as much I wanted this year. I was amused to see a sign on the way in saying "No tap shoes in the lobby!" The sign might have been needed for the dance competition that shared the Lancaster Host Hotel with us over the weekend, but it seemed superfluous now that boardgamers had taken the whole place over.

Claire enjoys the auction. Last year she sat with Grant LaDue and Tom Dunning, but Tom passed away this spring and the group was down to two. Alex Bove gave away memorial "shark" buttons in memory of Tom; I remarked that you needed to have lost a game to Tom to get one, which pretty much would qualify everyone. She was able to buy a number of games, including a game called "Steps of Faith" that doesn't seem to be listed on BGG.

In the auction store, I found a copy of Stephensons Rocket for $25. I had traded the game away a few years ago as part of a deal to get Outpost (a grail game for me,) but I was happy to be able to replace it at such a reasonable price. There wasn't much I wanted in the regular auction, so I headed off to open gaming.
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7. Board Game: Founding Fathers [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:693]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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When I walked into the open gaming hall, I saw Erik Arneson and 2 other players setting up Founding Fathers, the new release from Jason Matthews and Christian Leonhard. I'm a big fan of Twilight Struggle, but I haven't been as fond of Jason's more recent games, so I was wondering how well I'd like this one.

I was pleasantly surprised. We played a 4-player game, and it moved along smartly, finishing in not much more than an hour even though several of us were first-timers. It was a close game, and although I didn't win, I could see what I might have done differently to improve my score. I don't know whether it will be a keeper, but it's certainly worth a few more plays.
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8. Board Game: Breakout: Normandy [Average Rating:7.70 Overall Rank:563]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Breakout: Normandy is an area-movement game that has a die-hard following at WBC. It's tense and offers luck management together with broad opportunities for skillful play. There's almost no chance I would play in the tournament (unless it were moved to the pre-con,) but I've played a few times and would love to learn it better.

Nels Thompson, one of the game's best players and multiple WBC champion, had offered to teach the game on Monday afternoon, and three of us sat down with him to try Nels's introductory scenario. The game comes with an introductory scenario that's focused on the Cotentin peninsula, but that part of the board is odd, and Nels has chosen instead to focus on the Commonwealth sector on the eastern part of the board. The scenario is just 3 turns long and omits some of the tricky rules, like supply banking and air resupply. To win you need 3 VP and 4 contested.

Nels played against Andy and I played Bill Peeck. I took the 3-3 shot at Merville and obliterated the Coastal landed well at Sword and Juno but got stuffed at Gold, using my re-roll (perhaps unwisely) to get ashore. I had Merville but needed either Caen or Bayeaux and a contest of Caen to win. I took several shots at Bayeaux (and a few at Bretteville) but had uniformly bad luck here, except for one attack that got me the Advantage back. On the other hand, I managed to stick in Caen on the 7th, giving me two chances: take Bayeaux or clear Caen.

I regrouped for the 8th and started with several tries at Bayeaux, but couldn't get in, and my eastern forces were too far out of position to make it over. It was down to Caen. I hit it with the Naval bombardment, then the air strike, then a Corps artillery, but didn't do enough damage. I could use the Advantage (which is not a VP in this scenario) for a +14 assault, and if I rolled really well, I might clear Caen. I did roll +2, but even 16 CPs were not enough (if I could have gotten to +6 or so, it would have worked.)

Andy did better on his board, grabbing the needed VPs and winning on his board. Andy and I have plans to play back here in the Boston area; if you like this game, let us know.
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9. Board Game: Eurorails [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:719]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Finally 6pm on Tuesday arrived and the tournament proper got underway. Tuesday evening always presents a tough decision: I had to choose among Empire Builder, El Grande and Power Grid, three games I love to play.

One semi-serious feature of WBC is the team tournament, in which teams of 4 people each pick a game they think they will do well in and score "team points" for success in their chosen games. It's often funny to see how a player who wins a tournament wins in something other than the team game. I had chosen Empire Builder this year, so I played it on Tuesday night. Actually, I played Eurorails, another member of the "crayon rails" series of games. Christy Hunnefield had set up the new edition of the game, which makes Scandinavia slightly less unattractive, and we were joined by Michael Holmquist and David Finberg.

It was a close game. I started with Labor to Holland and Wood to Paris, so I built from Holland through Ruhr and Wien to Sarajevo for a double run. Michael had a Cork run to Italy and built west from Milano. Early in the game, Michael got stuck in Spain when the Ebro flooded (it doesn't flood in the earlier version of Eurorails, but it does in the new one) and he had only $2, not enough to rebuild the bridge. He thought he was out of it, but Christy deliberately rode his track for a turn to give him a chance.

I was able to build remarkably little track, so that my network was mainly Beograd-Wien-Ruhr/Holland-Paris-Madrid-Lisboa, with spurs to Berlin/Kaliningrad, Nantes, Valencia, and (for the connection) London. David and I were racing to complete deliveries, and when I (as first player) got to $260 million, he got to $253 million on the same turn, leaving me with a win on the tiebreaker.

This was an extremely pleasant game. It had good sportsmanship and finished in 2 hours and 40 minutes, allowing me plenty of time to make a 9pm game even though Empire Builder was scheduled to last till 10pm. A win in my first heat also more or less guaranteed my entry into the semifinals, so I could play other games rather than more games of Empire Builder.
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10. Board Game: Ra [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:94]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I always try to get one or two heats of Ra in at WBC, even though experience has demonstrated I'm not much better than an average player. In some of the games, the GMs submit results to the AREA rating system year after year, providing players with an evaluation of their records, but the Ra GM doesn't do this, so I'm left in happy ignorance.

One of my opponents in this game was Rich Meyer, a strong player who is on my team (though it was not a team game for either of us.) I play games on many Thursday nights at MVGA, our local gaming group.

This game went astray from the start, and I finished well behind Rich, who won the game. Later in the week I played another heat and came in 2nd by 2 VP to Gunner Parauda.
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11. Board Game: Elk Fest [Average Rating:6.20 Overall Rank:1880]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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One of the tournaments my son Sam looks forward to every year is Elk Fest, a single-elimination tournament in a dexterity game. Sam often points out that Elk Fest is "the only game of pure skill at WBC," though I think 18XX and perhaps a few other games also qualify.

Our friend John Riendeau was also at WBC for the first time, and he entered the tournament as well. I watched him play, and he's pretty good at the game. This game attracts a lot of younger players, and the atmosphere is livelier than it is at some of the other games.

Unfortunately, neither Sam nor John made it further than a round or two, but it was fun to watch them.
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12. Board Game: Yspahan [Average Rating:7.17 Overall Rank:288]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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We often attend WBC with Andy Latto and Cally Perry, friends from the Boston area. Last year Cally won the Yspahan tournament, but she wasn't able to come this year (friends had a wedding in California.) Yspahan is a "Trial" tournament, not one of the 100 "Century" events, but it has a 1-hour playing time and a "Mulligan" round on Tuesday evening at 11pm.

Andy and I entered the "Mulligan" round and he won, but I lost to Matt Peterson, making it necessary to come back on Wednesday morning at 9 for another try. I won by a broad margin on my second try, sending many cubes to the camel track and earning cards with the use of the building that gives cards for the camel track.

This put my into the semifinals, but Alfred ("Reedy") Smith absolutely blew us out of the water by getting cubes into the spaces that allowed him to send two cubes to the camel track at a time. I had a score of 93 and came in 2nd, but Reedy won with 131. (It's not an accident that I chose a picture of the camel track for this GeekList item!)

Andy also won his semi, and in a contest of crack players, Andy out-cameled his opposition to win this year's tournament, keeping the championship in the family. Cally will surely want to return for 2011 to show Andy who's the best Yspahan player!
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13. Board Game: Power Grid: Benelux/Central Europe [Average Rating:8.07 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.07 Unranked]
 
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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We play a lot of Power Grid at MVGA, and I've had success at the game, so I usually try to play. This year the semifinals conflicted with The Princes of Florence tournament I run, so I had no hope of winning, but WBC attendees vote with their feet (or, perhaps, another part of their anatomy) and I wanted to play at least one game to signify my support.

It was the second heat, and our 5-player game was on the Central Europe map. Tim Packwood, a member of the illustrious Packwood family, bid high for some large early plants, and the investment paid off as the rest of us were stranded by a shortage of good plants, allowing Tim to connect 15 cities and outpower us, even though we all had plenty of cash on hand.
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14. Board Game: El Grande [Average Rating:7.84 Overall Rank:26]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Next on the docket while others were still playing Empire Builder was El Grande, the grandfather of "area influence" games. El Grande is one of my three favorite games, but it really shines only when all of the players are thinking carefully about the game and making good decisions. If you can make it into the semis and finals at WBC, you'll be rewarded with an experience totally different from the run-of-the-mill El Grande games you may experience when you play at home.

There were two locals, Andy Latto and Jeff Meyer, in my game, and I know both of them are strong players. I was chosen to be first in Round 1 and played my '12' power card to grab a good early action and leap out ahead in the scoring. I had a terrific first three rounds and won by a comfortable margin, putting me into the semis on Thursday (unless I made the Empire Builder finals, which conflicted with the El Grande semis.)

My semi was a close game. Former champion Geoff Pounder was in the game, and everyone played well. My grande started in Aragon, a region I dislike because its central position and high scoring for 2nd always attracts a crowd. Give me a grande in Galicia, Sevilla or Catalonia any day! I didn't think I had much of a chance, as I was forced to use my '13' to prevent an event that would have ruined me. Nevertheless, I set up to play the 1-13 combination in Rounds 8 and 9 and was delighted to be able to reclaim my '13' using the "reclaim a power card" action in Round 8. I moved the king to an isolated area in which I was first and dumped a bunch of cubes into the castillo. I then parachuted my caballeros into Aragon, winning by 1 and regaining my grande bonus as two others finished in a tie for 2nd. This gave me the victory by a few VPs and put me into the finals.

When you sit down at a final table in a game like El Grande, you'll probably see familiar faces. My game featured former champ Robb Effinger and former champ Greg Thatcher. The other three were Eric Freeman, Curt Collins and I, all of whom had been at the final table in the past.

Eric was first in Round 1, and the "score the region(s) with the fewest caballeros" card was visible. Eric played his '13' to take the king and scatter single cubes. Robb played his '12' to place single cubes of his own and activate the card. This scored big points for Eric and Robb, smaller points for Curt and me, and nothing for Greg, who simply had his grande in the wrong place in New Castile. "Coopetition" is often a feature of El Grande, and Eric and Robb took advantage of it in the early rounds to pull well out in front of us.

In a game with weaker players, the trailers might start infighting to squabble over 3rd place, but I was pleased to see that we chased the leaders. I managed to close to within about 10 VP after Round 3, with Curt a little further back but Greg still far in the rear. After Round 6, Curt had made up a remarkably large amount of ground, I was still within reach, and Greg still had a long way to go. Greg's game was hurt on Round 7 when he took "score 1st place in all regions" not noticing that I still had the Veto that I took as the last card in Round 6, before the scoring. I would have lost 15 VP to the leaders if that action took place, so I had to play it, ruining Greg's chances.

Once again I set myself up for the 1-13, and once again I got it, but there were 3 cards left in the '4' deck, and one of them was Royal Advisor, which makes the "move the King" action far less valuable. Sure enough, the Royal Advisor was turned up for Round 9. I still moved the king just to get the cubes, Curt used Royal Advisor, and Curt stormed into first place at the final scoring, winning the tournament with Eric and Robb close behind. I don't believe I would have won even if Royal advisor hadn't been chose, but I would have been closer. I finished 4th (slightly better than my 5th place in 2003) and Greg, victim of a lot of collateral damage, was in 5th.

El Grande is not a game in which you can count on making the finals every year---there's too much uncertainty and too many good players. GM Rob Flowers, an excellent player who has won the tournament twice, made it to the semis but was edged out and failed to make the finals.
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15. Board Game: Lost Cities [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:260]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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People often recommend Lost Cities as a "couples game," ideal when one spouse is not really a gamer, but at WBC the Lost Cities tournament is an event, drawing nearly 200 people, many of whom are highly skilled. I had some tough games in the heats, going 2-2 after losing to Randy Buehler and Natalie Beach (who beat me 168-167), but my win in the first heat allowed me to make the 32-player single elimination stage.

I usually wear clothing in subdued colors, but when I changed out of my GM polo shirt after the The Princes of Florence tournament was over, I put on a Hawaiian shirt with colors of bright red, yellow, green and blue. Several people commented on it and I told them with the Lost Cities elimination rounds coming up, I was wearing my "Five Expedition Shirt"! It's a fair cop, as I often find myself starting every color.

Unfortunately, I was summarily knocked out in the first round by Jon Corrado. Claire did better, going 3-1 in the heats and winning her first elimination round game against Assistant Convention Director Kaarin Engelmann before being knocked out in the round of 16.

People often say there's not much skill in Lost Cities, but it's odd how the same people keep showing up in the later rounds. This year's final featured Sean McCullough, who won in 2006, and Rebecca Hebner, who won in 2004 and 2009. Sean won this year, leaving both of them as 2-time tournament winners.

Here's a link to the AREA ratings for Lost Cities:

http://wolff.to/area/G_LST.html

After going 2-3 in this year's tournament, my rating will certainly be going down. I'll be back next year.
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16. Board Game: The Princes of Florence [Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:61]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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For most of the tournaments at WBC, my responsibility is to show up (with a copy of the game if I can) and play, but for The Princes of Florence I am the GM. This year's tournament featured two heats followed by semifinal and final rounds and preceded by a demo to help new players learn the game. There are three classes of tournament at WBC: "A" tournaments for which you must know the rules before you enter, "B" tournaments for which you may attend the demo if you don't know the rules, and "C" tournaments where you may just show up and play. The Princes of Florence is a "B" tournament, and I had six people at the demo, though I'm not sure any of them went on to play in the tournament, in contrast with last year, when some demo attendees did well.

For the first heat we had 33 people, which allowed us to play five 5-player games and two 4-player games. At one table, Rod Spade and Raphael Lehrer finished in a tie at 53 VP each, but Rod had 100 florins left over to beat Raphael on the tie breaker. Another table featured three former champions---Eric Brosius, Alex Bove and Thomas Browne---together with David Platnick, who leads the AREA ratings and is the Guild Master for The Princes of Florence on Brettspielwelt. Of course, the fifth player, Rob Flowers, won the game, buying items at relatively cheap prices and staying out of trouble, even though he drew the supposedly weak 5th seat. The second heat had another close game, with Stu Hendrickson defeating Chris Senhouse by 200 florins on the tie breaker, and Rob Flowers won a second heat, the only player to do so this year. Rob was vacillating about playing in the semis, since the finals for The Princes of Florence conflicted with the semis for Brass, a game he thought he had a better chance to win. I told him "when you're on a streak, you should keep playing," and he decided to stick with The Princes of Florence.

Attendance for this event was down to 47 people, less than ideal for a game that works best with 5 players. Perhaps the upcoming reprint from Rio Grande Games will spark more interest in this wonderful, competitive game. Only 19 people showed up for the semifinal, which, according to the rules published on the website, meant we would play four 4-player semis followed by a 4-player final. It may be just as well this happened, since if we had had one more qualifier show up, two people whose best finish was 4th place (including me) would have made the semis. Ideally I'd prefer not to have people make the semis on 4th place finishes.

Because there's a perception that 2nd seat has a big advantage in a 5-player game, we bid for seating position in the semis and finals. Here, with only 4 players, no one knew what to bid (and one would expect lower bids in a 4-player game since position matters less.) The average bids in the five games were 40 for 1st seat, 60 for 2nd seat, 100 for 3rd seat and 20 for 4th seat (clearly there was no consensus on what seat was worst!)

The players in general are much less experienced in 4-player games and there were some groans as people realized they had overbid for an item or played actions in the wrong order, but when the dust had settled, victories were awarded to Rod Spade (on the tie breaker over Andrew Gerb,) Eric Freeman, Aran Warszawski (who finished 3rd in 2008) and Rob Flowers, who won his third game in a row for 2010. Andrew earned 5th place in the tournament on the basis of his tie with Rod in VPs, and Tom Johnston earned 6th place with a close 2nd in his semi.

The final was a close, well-played game with four strong, experienced players. I took detailed notes, and you can read the session report here:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/553168

As you can see, Rob Flowers won the final by a margin of 1 VP over Aran Warszawski, ending the tournament with four wins and no losses. He had by far the best result over the course of the event and truly deserved to take home the plaque.
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17. Board Game: Empire Builder [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:666]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Thursday morning marked the start of the semis for Empire Builder, my team game. I enjoy Empire Builder a great deal and always look forward to playing in the WBC tournament. We all missed Tom Dunning, who won the tournament in back-to-back years in 2004 and 2005 and would certainly have been here if he could have been.

My semifinal featured good players, but it was marred by slow play. I was first player and drew two Tourist cards: Tourists to Chihuahua and Tourists to Las Vegas. Harald Henning also had two Tourist cards, but he knew that I would pick up two of the three loads of Tourists that are available, leaving him one short, so he built to deliver Sugar to Mexico City instead. Kyle Greenwood also had great runs, with Cattle and Sheep to the northeast.

In last year's Empire Builder final, I was hamstrung by awful cards, but in this game I had reasonably good cards. Unfortunately, Kyle had better cards, consistently out-earning me, and I needed better luck to catch up. I carried Cars to the west coast and Sugar to the east coast on multiple occasions, but not until the very end of the game did I get a big payoff on a spec load (Cars to Las Vegas.)

The game was crawling along, and as we approached the 4 hour time limit, we could see that we might not finish. The Rail Tax card was drawn near the end of the deck, and GM Robert Stribula had to end the game early. I could not stay to find out how I did, because I had another event starting at 1pm, but it didn't matter: you win or you don't.

Empire Builder, like El Grande, is a game in which a good player will frequently make it to the final, but not always. Once you're in the final, any good player has a chance to win. I didn't make it this year, but I intend to be back for 2011.
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18. Board Game: Medici [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:351]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Medici is probably my favorite game, even though many of its editions have been marred by poor graphics decisions. It's quick (taking just 1 hour at WBC) and involves fascinating choices. Because of its short playing time, it has had a hard time staying in the Century at WBC, and I always try to play a heat, even when (as in 2010) the finals were impossible for me to attend.

My heat featured Charlie Faella, a strong player, and two less-experienced players. I gave it my best shot, but Charlie maneuvered himself into position to draw three cards and buy them for $1 during the second voyage, and he drew the '10' and two other cards. I got lucky (by a smaller factor) in the third voyage, but lost by about 5 VP.
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19. Board Game: Merchant of Venus [Average Rating:7.20 Overall Rank:440]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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My daughter Joanna was attending WBC for the first time, and one game she was eager to play was Merchant of Venus, an out-of-print and hard-to-find Avalon Hill game from 1988 that's one of her favorites. Do you know how hard it is to organize a game of Merchant of Venus in your local group (even if you own a copy)? The great thing about WBC is that you can show up at the scheduled time (even, as it usually turns out, if you don't own a copy,) and find a few dozen other people who know and love the game and have come all the way to Lancaster PA to play it. GM Richard Irving signs you up, assigns you to a table, and you're off.

This year I had room in my schedule for one heat of Merchant of Venus, and although it's not a favorite, I enjoy the game. My game was notable for the way Robert Woodson picked up artifacts: first the Relic Yellow Drive, then Jump Start, then the Mulligan Gear. Telegates were sprinkled around in useful places, so he saved for a Freighter (in a game to just $2000) and then won the game in just two deliveries. Normally a Freighter doesn't pay off in a short game, but with the right equipment, it's a killer.

Joanna didn't win a heat, but she was happy to have had the chance to play several times.
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20. Board Game: Chicago Express [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:257]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Several years ago I told Joanna that she might enjoy Chicago Express, or, as it was then titled, "Wabash Cannonball". She remembered that advice and attended the game demo. She did quite well in her first heat and went on to win her second, scoring $99 as her nearest competitor had only $65. It's great to advance in your first year at WBC, and although she didn't win the semi to make it to the finals, her success in this game gave her confidence.
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21. Board Game: Pro Golf [Average Rating:5.40 Overall Rank:9540]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Some of the WBC tournaments are high-level games of skill. Pro Golf is not one of them. It's a die-rolling game in which the only aspect of skill comes when you're asked "do you want to lay up short or go for the green?" At WBC, the answer is almost always "go for the green!" I won the tournament last year, and when my wife asked me "how come you won a game of pure luck and I didn't?" I replied "I was still up at midnight and you were in bed." She wasn't going to make that mistake again!

Rich Irving was still finishing GMing his Merchant of Venus tournament, with a few tables left, so we went up to the Wheatland room to play with him. Joining us were Rich Meyer, Bob Menzel and John Riendeau. By this point in the week John had decided that the competitive aspect of WBC wasn't for him, but he did have some good experiences in open gaming and I think he had fun playing in this Pro Golf game.

Last year I drew Phil Mickelson, but this year I drew some chump with bad numbers all over the card. My only consolation was that Rich Meyer's golfer was even worse. Amazingly enough, I rolled well on the front nine, leaving me four under par at the turn. This made me the clear leader, as no one else at the table was better than -1 (and let's not talk about Rich Irving's golfer, who didn't get a par until the 6th or 7th hole!)

We were playing on the Augusta National course, home of the Masters, and my critical decision came on the 15th hole---the hole where Gene Sarazen holed out a fairway wood for a double eagle in 1935 to erase Craig Wood's 3-stroke lead, winning the tournament for Sarazen. I was presented with the same decision as Sarazen. I hit a decent tee shot and had to decide whether to lay up short or go for the green. Now, with a score of -4, you might think I'd be better off playing it safe, but I suspected it would take a score of -6 or -7 to make the finals, and my golfer wasn't good enough to birdie many holes. "Go for the green!" I cried, and I rolled the dice.

Into the water.

Drop, taking a penalty stroke.

Bogie.

Oh, well. There was that one brief moment when it could have worked. None of us came close to making the finals; a score of -7 was indeed needed to make it in. But we did have a lot of fun rolling dice in what (okay; I'll admit it) is a luck-fest.
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22. Board Game: Ticket to Ride [Average Rating:7.51 Overall Rank:84]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I run a tournament that got 47 entries this year, but my wife does a lot better than that. She is the GM for the Ticket to Ride tournament, which draws more than 200 people each year. I'm fortunate to have a wife who enjoys playing games (she often suggests a 2-player game of Empire Builder after dinner,) but what she really enjoys is organizing things. During the school year she's the Commander for the AWANA Bible club at our church, which draws over 100 children and leaders, but in August she runs Ticket to Ride at WBC.

The tournaments I play in often conflict with Ticket to Ride, though I try to play in at least one heat, but Claire has two fabulous volunteers (Sarah Beach and Nikki Bradford (I hope I spelled your name right, Nikki)) who help her run the event like clockwork. This year, Claire went to Kinko's and got a giant poster to place at the front of the sign-up line, telling people to go left or right depending on whether they played in Claire's event before. She has a card file with a card for everyone who has ever played in her event, and one helper just pulls cards (saving the need to write.) If you're new, you go the other way and the other helper fills out a new card. Some large tournaments suffer from short delays while the GM sorts out the crowds, but Claire's games almost all start within 5 minutes of the official starting time.

I played in one heat and was seated with three other people, including a woman named Lori who was attending her first WBC. Lori was grinning from ear to ear, and when I asked her why she was smiling, she commented on how wonderful it is to walk into a room with 100 other Ticket to Ride players, be handed a card that says "Table 4, Seat 3", and sit down with opponents who know the game, like the game, and play well. We played quickly, with no rules confusion and not much hemming and hawing. I started with a ticket from Las Vegas to Miami and ran into trouble when everyone in the world seemed to want to go to Miami (I finally made it via the pink/purple route, or "pinkle" as Amy Rule called it, but only made the 3 tickets I started with.) Lori took 8 tickets and made them all, but Amy made 6 tickets and took longest train to win by a comfortable margin, with Lori second and me third.

I was delighted to hear that Lori made it all the way to the final on Sunday morning, along with Anni Foasberg, Jay Fox and Grant LaDue (Claire's friend from the auction.) I won't write about the outcome, since that news belongs to Claire, but I will say that many people came up to me during the convention and told me what a great job Claire did running Ticket to Ride.
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23. Board Game: Empire of the Sun [Average Rating:7.73 Overall Rank:674]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I started playing wargames way back in 1964, when I got a copy of Avalon Hill's D-Day (first edition) from a neighbor who got something different than she expected when she bought the game in a local store, but I had never done anything with "card-driven wargames" until I started attending WBC. The pre-cons feature several CDWs, including Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage and Paths of Glory, and when I decided that I may as well attend the pre-cons if I was going to drive to Lancaster, I learned both games. I haven't played Paths of Glory at WBC for the past two years, because I haven't had time to learn the new variant rules used in the tournament, but it's one of my favorites.

The CDW genre was invented by Mark Herman with his seminal design We the People (recently revised and re-issued as a brand-new game under the name Washington's War.) Another Mark Herman game played at WBC is Empire of the Sun, a fascinating but puzzling game on World War II in the Pacific. Many Pacific theater games suffer from time mismatch issues. It's hard to represent an air strike lasting just a few hours in a game that lasts for several years, and many games introduce unrealistic move/countermove mechanisms in which an admiral in Honolulu or Tokyo also directs the detailed actions of individual air strikes. Mark believes this doesn't make sense, and has designed Empire of the Sun differently (though some people are critical of the choices he made.) Even if you don't like every Mark Herman game, it's hard to deny the thoughtful approach he takes to his games.

I've been following the demonstration game of Empire of the Sun on Consimworld:

http://talk.consimworld.com/WebX?13@771.7An9e4pDbR8.120@.1dc...

and while I did not feel I knew the game well enough to play in the tournament, I did decide to take Mark (the GM as well as the designer) up on his offer to teach the game once the first heat games had started. I showed up at 11am on Friday morning and had the privilege of sitting across the board from Mark while we walked through the first few moves of the 1943 scenario (the one used in the WBC tournament.)

Not only is Mark a great designer; he also provides great support for his games. Thanks, Mark! I'm going to see if I can start a game with a local gamer in the next week or two.
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24. Board Game: Alhambra [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:308]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I'm thankful for the existence of the German Spiel des Jahres award for best game of the year, because it has led to the development of the modern boardgaming hobby as we know it, but I don't tend to enjoy the games that win, at least not since the golden age of the 1990's.

Alhambra, while not a favorite, is an exception: a SdJ winner that I enjoy quite a bit. I don't always get the chance to play at WBC, but this year I had time to play on Friday afternoon. It was a close game, but I grew my wall steadily and came from the back of the pack to tie for the VP lead at the end, 79-79. We went to ask the GM what the tie breaker was, and she said it was longest wall. I had a longer wall (at 14) than the person who was tied with me, giving me the win and qualifying me for the semis.

In the semis I faced four experienced opponents, including Luke Koleszar. As far as I can see, the Koleszar family is to Alhambra as the Potvin family used to be to hockey---they're all good at it. Luke and his father Steve were both in the tournament, but Luke's mother Marilyn was the second qualifier, ahead of the men in the family.

I have to say that I learned some valuable lessons about good play in the two games I played this year (maybe I'll improve my results at MVGA,) but I wasn't surprised when Luke won the semi, scoring 89 and beating two people who had 88. I was a few spaces back in 4th place.
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25. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.15 Overall Rank:5]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I played a lot of Puerto Rico when it first came out, but I haven't played much recently. I had not played since the 2009 WBC, but I always play a game or two if I can. In my first heat Jason Long won (I ran into Jason several times during the week,) but in my second heat I got a Factory, Harbor and Wharf and won by a margin of 69-57 over the nearest competitor (an excellent score for me.)

This earned me a berth in the quarterfinals, where we bid for starting seat. I wound up getting first indigo for 0.5 VP. I had chances in the game, but Marc Berenbach, a strong Boston-area player who has done well at WBC in the past, finished in first and went to the semis.

People play enough games of Puerto Rico at WBC and Euroquest that it would be instructive to see the games entered into the AREA system. I think I'd be just slightly above average (in a game where skillful players can earn high ratings.)
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