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The Brosius family attends the 2011 World Boardgaming Championships
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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My family and I have been attending the World Boardgaming Championships for a number of years now. I think my wife may have been more excited about it than I was this year. It was her sixth year and she has gotten to know the people and the "drill", and when we woke up on Friday morning to leave for our trip, she was almost jumping up and down with anticipation. Unfortunately, although my son came with us, my daughter and son-in-law (who came with us last year for the first time) had a conflict and couldn't come.

If you want to check out my GeekLists from previous years, here are the links:

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

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

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

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

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

And here's a link to the GeekList for the following years:

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

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


I had a great time this year. Even better, for some reason it was less stressful than it usually is.
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1. Board Game: 1865: Sardinia [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:2523]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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We left Needham MA at about 9:05 on the morning of Friday, July 29, just 5 minutes after our planned departure time (my wife Claire is big on timeliness.) Andy Latto, who was riding down to Lancaster PA with us, stayed over at our house Thursday night. It's about a 7-hour drive if the traffic isn't too bad, but we usually add an hour by stopping for food. We got lunch at Thatcher McGee's in Pompton Lakes NJ.

I had just gotten two brand-new games in the mail before we left: A Few Acres of Snow and 1865: Sardinia. Claire and I split up the driving, and when she was driving, I opened them up, looked at the components and read the rules. Andy was interested in A Few Acres of Snow, so we passed the rules back and forth.

The other game, 1865: Sardinia, is a new game in the 18XX series by Italian designer Alessandro Lala. One innovative feature of the game is the elimination of the need to trace routes for your trains. Instead, a railroad corporation receives "traffic" cubes whenever it places a station (and in some other ways,) and purchases trains that have the ability to transport traffic. Your income is $10 for each unit of traffic you transport (calculated as the lesser of your transport capacity and your traffic supply.)

There are some other unique features of the game as well, including "dragon" investors (NPCs that buy and sell shares according to a specified algorithm.)

I'll have to spend more time learning the rules before I can teach the game, but it looks as though it's a reasonably short game for the 18XX series, and I hope to try it soon.
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2. Board Game: 1846 [Average Rating:8.00 Overall Rank:1139]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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We were tired and hungry after a long drive, so the four of us headed over to the Texas Roadhouse across the street (a tradition for us by now.) We had been thinking about finding someone to play games with, but I at least decided to go to bed early to save energy for the coming week. Claire tried to play World of Warcraft, but it wasn't easy because the wifi service at the Lancaster Host was spotty. I don't think they have contemplated the possibility that a thousand guests will all want internet access at the same time!

On Saturday morning, I had breakfast and headed over to the room where the 18XX tournament was starting up at 10am. Last year I entered the first heat and played a game of 1846, coming in 3rd. In the intervening year I played quite a bit more 18XX (mostly 1846,) and I wanted to enter several heats (even though it would cost me the opportunity to play in the Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage tournament.)

The WBC 18XX tournament offers players many different game options: 1830: Railways & Robber Barons, 1856, 1870, 1861: The Railways of the Russian Empire, 1846 and 18EU. Each player chooses the game he or she wants to play, and GM Pierre LeBoeuf arranges tables of 4 (with 3- or 5-player games as needed to make the numbers come out right.) If there aren't enough people to play the game you want, you must play some other game, with 1830: Railways & Robber Barons the default choice. I enjoy 18EU and had played 1830: Railways & Robber Barons back in the 1980s, but 1846 is the game I really wanted to play. It turned out that there were two 1846 games played in the first heat, and I was assigned to one of them.

I was assigned the 4th seat, so I would have first choice in 1846's unique private company draft, but would be last in the initial Stock Round. Since there were only 4 players, we randomly removed the Meat Packing Company, the Ohio & Indiana and the C&O from the game. I drafted the Lake Shore Line and the Michigan Central, two cheap privates, leaving me with $320 in cash. Walt Collins in the 1st seat took the Michigan Southern (and no second private,) Richard Irving in 2nd seat took the Big 4 and the Tunnel Blasting Company, and Michael Panzer in 3rd seat took the Steamboat Company, the Chicago & Western Indiana and the Mail Contract. Walt had $260 left, Richard $240, and Michael only $220.

Since I was going last in the stock round, each of my opponents had to consider the possibility that if he were to start a corporation, I might buy more shares than he could afford, taking away the Presidency before the first Operating Round. Walt decided to pass until he saw what I planned to do. Richard opened the PA cheap (I think at $60,) stating that if I wanted the railroad, he'd sell out and start another instead. Michael went through the same thought process and started the NYC at $60.

On my turn, I could have started a new railroad (presumably the IC or GT) or tried to take over the PA or NYC. With Lake Shore Line in hand, and with no easy way to get the IC to the east, I decided to make a play for the NYC. I bought a share and Walt opened the IC (I think for $80.) We kept buying shares until Michael and I both had 3 NYC shares. This was his opportunity to sell out (only the President can sell shares in a Corporation that has not yet opened.) He said that he had confidence in my ability to run the corporation and held onto his position, letting me buy the fourth share, taking the Presidency from him in exchange for two ordinary certificates.

With only three corporations in play, it would be an unusual set of operating rounds. We ran the privates and the minors, and it was Rich's turn with the PA. He teleported to Ft. Wayne, laid track toward Detroit, and bought one 2-train. Next, I had $450 in cash in the NYC, so I built to Cleveland and bought three 2-trains. Seeing this, Rich wished he had been more aggressive with his train purchases. With two 2-trains left in the bank, Walt needed to buy both of them and a 3/5 train in order to make the green tiles he needed available.

In the second OR, Walt connected and tokened Terre Haute so he could use the trains. Rich finished connecting Detroit and ran to it. I built the other Erie-Cleveland route, upgraded Erie and (buying in Lake Shore) Cleveland, and ran for $22. With nine shares already in the Stock Market, I decided a half-cap was in order (especially since I could still move up 2 spaces in value.) Michael groaned at this decision, since he was counting on the income, but this then allowed me to buy a 3/5-train to use in the next set of ORs.

I was feeling good about this start, but the weakness of my position was the fact that all but one of my shares were out, while Walt still had 7 shares in the IC's initial offering, where they would gain value and build cash even as he paid out all his dividends. In addition, I wanted access to Chicago, and it looked as though it could be expensive to achieve. With the $20 I had left over from the first SR, $50 in private company dividends, $66 in dividends and $80 from buying in both privates, I had $216 and decided to start the Erie at $70 on the second SR. It seemed logical that the IC would take the SW entrance to Chicago, Michael would buy in the C&WI with his first company to get the SE entrance, and Rich would take one of the other entrances, leaving me free to share an entrance between the Erie and the NYC. In the second SR, Michael also sold out of his NYC position and floated the B&O, looking to take advantage of his Steamboat Company. This allowed me to buy some NYC shares in during the following set of ORs, improving the capitalization, but the IC kept steaming ahead and I knew it would be close.

As we approached the brown phase there was only one RR left---the GT of all things---but it had a lousy position, since Detroit already had PA and IC tokens and seemed likely to attract another token. Even so, I floated the GT (my third corporation) because I just couldn't afford to have someone else float it and token Chicago. I built a route around Detroit with help from the NYC and Erie and was soon running three different railroads through Chicago E for East-West runs. The IC finally cashed in its shares to buy a 7/8 train that ran for good money, but in the end I won the game by just $78 over Walt.

It was a close game, and it was very different from any other 1846 game I've ever played. I had a late lunch and returned for another heat of 18XX at 5pm.
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3. Board Game: 1846 [Average Rating:8.00 Overall Rank:1139]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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With one win under my belt, I had a guaranteed slot in the semifinals, but I really enjoy 1846, so I put my name in for another play of it. This heat had just one game of 1846, with Walt Collins, who had been in my game in the morning, Daniel Barnes, with whom I had played 1846 at last year's WBC, and Bill Peeck (the guy who beat me last year in Nels Thompson's teaching scenario for Breakout: Normandy.)

In this game, Daniel drew the Priority, I was 2nd seat, and Bill and Walt were 3rd and 4th. I drafted the Steamboat Company and the Ohio & Indiana and (to no one's surprise) was able to start the B&O at $60 a share in SR1, buying five shares. Daniel took the NYC, Bill the PA and Walt once again took the IC. It's rare in my experience for the Grand Trunk not to float in SR 1 of a 4-player game, but in both of my heats, it had failed to do so!

I played the standard B&O opening, buying a pair of 2-trains and laying no track in OR 1, then upgrading Wheeling in OR 2 and paying out $19 a share, giving me $114 and the company $76. Daniel drove the NYC quickly to Detroit, tokening it, and on SR 2 he started the GT cheaply. At the start of the next OR he looked at the board and saw that the B&O would be able to token Detroit unless the NYC did something about it (and a token in Detroit would have been a big problem for the GT.) He asked me to agree not to token Detroit, but I didn't see why I should agree to something that wasn't in my best interests. He threatened to cut my access to Cleveland, but with Ohio & Indiana in hand, it wasn't a credible threat. He decided to put a NYC token in Toledo (TOLEDO = "Trains On Lakes Essentially Don't Operate"---a way to remember one of the tile-laying rules) and I eventually took the B&O into Chicago via the SW entrance.

This game went much more easily for me, as three or four shares sat in the Initial Offering for quite some time, building up cash and pre-funding a big train. On the 3rd OR, I ran for $37 per share (Wheeling to Pittsburgh for $10, Wheeling to Cumberland for $9, and a 4-train running Wheeling to Cleveland to Erie to Buffalo for $18,) paying $222 into my pocket and $111 into the company treasury. I wound up victorious by a margin of over $1000, with Bill coming in 2nd.

I guess the lesson is: if you want to win 1846, run an odd number of corporations.
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4. Board Game: 1830: Railways & Robber Barons [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:110]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I had entered the 18XX tournament just to play games I enjoy for fun, with no real intention of trying to qualify for and play in the semifinals or finals. If you attend WBC, you're welcome to play one or more heat games, then go on to something else if you're bored. But as one of the three people with two wins in the first two heats, I thought I should at least consider competing for the championship.

The problem was that the finals (and most of the semis) are played using 1830: Railways & Robber Barons, a game I hadn't played for over 20 years (in fact, I traded my copy of 1830: Railways & Robber Barons to Jim Carvin at WBC in 2005 for his copy of Up Front.) It made sense to play a heat of 1830: Railways & Robber Barons to remind myself how it plays and see whether it was better than I remembered it. Not all 18XX games are the same; you can love one member of the series and dislike another.

There was no problem getting into a heat of 1830: Railways & Robber Barons, since that's the default. I was matched with Lane Newbury (an experienced 18XX player,) Akihisa Tabei from Japan (who placed 4th in the WBC tournament in 2008,) and Fabio Pellegrino from Italy. WBC has participants from many nations, though most of the attendees are from the US. I met Antero Kuusi from Finland, whose name I know from Empire of the Sun, at this year's 18XX tournament.

I know the general ideas of 1830: Railways & Robber Barons play, though I haven't had any practice implementing them. In the private company auction, Lane to my right took the SVRR. Akihisa to my left bought the C&StL, I took the D&H, and Lane got the M&H, leaving Fabio and Akihisa to fight it out over the C&A. It went to Akihisa for a huge price (at least $260.) It was now my turn, and I passed on the B&O, thinking that Fabio (who had no privates) would have to take it. Somewhat to my surprise, Akihisa bought the B&O private company, leaving him with a share of the unfloated PA and the President's share of the B&O, which he parred at $100.

Fabio now proceeded to buy up six shares of the B&O, taking the Presidency away from Akhisa. Lane started the PA at $82, and I opened the NYNH at $82. Fabio bought two 2-trains, bridged the Delaware River and connected Lancaster. Lane built east and bought one 2-train. I laid the #1 double-dit and bought three 2-trains and a 3-train, then bought in the D&H for $140. I'm not sure whether this was the right move, but I wanted dividends to spend on more shares.

Then the really odd things started to happen. Fabio did an enormous amount of withholding in this game. I'd estimate that he withheld at least half of his dividend opportunities. As a result, his share prices dropped into the yellow and even orange and brown zones, but he was able to buy an enormous number of certificates, so that the certificates all ran out. This also hurt Akihisa, who was a significant minority shareholder in Fabio's corporations.

I started the NYC but misplayed the track laying and wound up running a 5-train from NYC to Montreal for just $18/share all game (the NYNH never withheld once and ran a 6-train from NYC(S) to Boston for $27 a share.) Lane started the C&O, which worked together nicely with his PA, and Akihisa started the Erie, which he used as a "suitcase" (buying no train because he had no route and using the capital to help the B&M, his lead corporation.)

I think I would have had a chance to win in a game of the length I was expecting, but it went on much longer than I was hoping. The NYNH smacked up against the right-hand edge of the stock market one full set of ORs before the end, so I got no stock appreciation from it as Lane's PA and C&O (the second- and third-highest priced lines) crept steadily rightward. And of course, other companies were paying much larger dividends than mine were.

Fabio built west with the CP and forced a connection for the Erie, which couldn't afford a train. Akihisa juggled a single diesel back and forth between the Erie and the B&M, losing stock value each time. Finally Fabio (who had been running a 5-train in the CP and a 6-train and a Diesel in the B&O) traded the 5-train for a Diesel and Akihisa was able to fund a 5-train purchase for the Erie out of pocket. The Erie ran for $10 a share for the rest of the game.

The final scores were widely spread out: Lane won with $9,462, I was second with $8,237, Akihisa was third with $7,755 and Fabio (who suffered from low stock prices and a paucity of dividends) finished with $5,977. I should note, however, that Fabio's strategy worked well in some of the other games---he won at least one heat using it, and he also won his semi-final and was able to play in the final.

After the game, I remembered why I didn't care for 1830: Railways & Robber Barons back in the 1980s. It has important decisions and rewards skill, but I just don't like the kind of decisions one must make. I'm sure I would have played better in a semi (had I entered one) than I did in this heat, but I didn't think I'd enjoy it. I decided to go on to other games, and Claire and I played two games of San Juan and two games of Lost Cities to warm up for the upcoming tournaments.

Despite my critical opinion, I want to commend the GM, Pierre LeBoeuf, for doing a great job with this event. He runs a tournament that welcomes beginners and gives the players a variety of gaming options. I fully understand why 1830: Railways & Robber Barons is the game used for the finals; I'd do the same if I were he. But it's not for me.

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5. Board Game: San Juan [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:160]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Race for the Galaxy is one of my favorite games, but for some reason its little brother San Juan still appeals to me. I play almost 20 games of it each year, many of them with Claire. The tournament uses the 2-player version (with the Governor getting to choose two roles each turn,) so playing with Claire is excellent practice.

The tournament starts on Monday morning (during the "pre-Con".) You have the opportunity to play in a 4-round Swiss, where you play people who have achieved similar records, and the 16 people with 3 wins go on to play four rounds of single elimination. My history in this event has been to do well in the heats (often milking a productive Gold Mine) and then flame out in the first elimination game.

This year was different. My first game was against a player who had just learned the game in the demo that was run by the GM. (WBC has "A" events, for which you must know the game before you arrive, "C" events, which allow you to learn as you play, and "B" events, for which you must attend a demo before playing if you don't know the game.) He played well for a first-timer, but I was able to beat him. I then won games against George Young (a strong gamer who is particularly known for his success in We the People) and Ken Richards. With a 3-0 record, I was free to eat my lunch while the 4th set of heat games was played.

In the elimination rounds, I was awarded a bye, so I had even more time to relax before playing Jeff Meyer, who belongs to my local group, MVGA. I should have apologized to Jeff for how many cards I got from my Gold Mine; they made the game an easy win. Next I played Gadoon Kyrollos, whom I remembered from his visit to WBC four years ago, when I played him in this same tournament.

I was now in the semifinals, and I was matched against Rob Kircher from Rhode Island, another player I've faced in the WBC San Juan tournament in the past. It was an odd game as Rob and I both struggled. He built a City Hall for his 4th card, as he had nothing better in his hand. This was a big hit to his card flow, but it would yield good VPs at the end. As for me, I was getting reasonable card flow but couldn't draw a 6-building. Even worse, Rob had a Prefecture and I couldn't get one, so he was not only benefiting from an extra card in the Councillor phase, but was discouraging me from fishing for my own large building. I would have won easily with the other City Hall or a Guild Hall, but Rob had a Chapel and may well have buried these cards so I couldn't get them. I did get a Triumphal Arch, but I had only one monument: the Victory Column.

Finally, after a turn of delay when I didn't build, I ended the game, building a Statue for a second monument and hoping he didn't have the right cards to keep up. Unfortunately, he built a lowly Crane to prevail by a score of 32-30. Rob then went on to lose in the finals to Greg Thatcher, and I as semifinal loser to the final loser was awarded 4th place (and a small plaque.)

This tournament format (Swiss followed by single elimination) is a lot of fun. Even though San Juan is only an '8' for me, I really enjoy playing in the tournament.
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6. Board Game: Saint Petersburg [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:154]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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You can tell from my BGG avatar that I'm a Saint Petersburg fan! Of course, it's not easy to play all the games you want to play in only 9 days at WBC, so I was delighted when I received the 2011 schedule and saw that there was a "mulligan round" scheduled for Monday evening. I had nothing else going on at that time, so I showed up in Ballroom B and played in a 4-player game.

One opponent focused heavily on building blue buildings, rushing out to a big lead in VPs but leaving himself short on money and orange nobles (which are worth bonus points at the end.) The other two opponents built Observatories and worked on getting a lot of different nobles. I took a more balanced strategy, getting good blue scoring (though not as good as that of the blue building player) combined with a reasonable number of nobles.

I was able to buy a Mistress of Ceremonies, but I didn't get her until Round 5 of 6, which is not nearly as significant as if one gets her in Round 1 or 2. I believe I finished with 70 VPs, about 8 VPs ahead of my nearest competitor. This was a good start, but one win was not enough to ensure entry into the semis.
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7. Board Game: A Few Acres of Snow [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:141]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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As I mentioned earlier, I had a brand-new copy of Martin Wallace's A Few Acres of Snow with me at WBC. Tuesday morning and afternoon feature the WBC auction, where gamers have the opportunity to sell games (and game-related items) to each other, with a small fee from each sale going to help fund the Boardgame Players Association, the group that runs WBC under the leadership of Convention Director Don Greenwood.

Claire soon found herself drafted to help organize items (did I mention that she loves to organize things?) but I mainly sat and bid unsuccessfully on items I was interested in. After a while I decided to look for someone to play games with in the open gaming area, and I spotted Chris Senhouse, a fellow Boston-area gamer with whom I play games fairly often at home. He asked me whether I wanted to play a game, and I said yes, I'd like to try A Few Acres of Snow.

A Few Acres of Snow is a relatively light wargame about the French and Indian War built on the chassis of Dominion. Although this seems surprising, the game is actually quite thematic. In this conflict, both sides depended on home countries far away across the Atlantic for troops, funding, and other things they needed. A colonial governor who needed troops couldn't expect to get them quickly---he'd have to send a letter, wait for the government to decide to grant his request, and wait for the troops to embark and sail to America. In A Few Acres of Snow, you buy a card (a troop card, for example) and place it in your discard pile. Eventually you will draw it---possibly exactly when you need it, but possibly at a point in time when it is useless dead weight in your hand. Of course, a real-life governor would have found troops invaluable during times of war, but they were just mouths to feed during peacetime. I don't find Dominion very thematic, but the system works very well to represent this conflict!

We set the game up, selected Chris to play the English (he had played a few turns as the French earlier with Andy Latto) and went through the rules. Chris started off by purchasing a Settler card and expanding his empire, but I went on the offensive immediately. I performed some piracy to take money from the English, bought a second regular infantry, and successfully sieged Pemaquid (in Maine,) taking the location together with an English village marker that would be worth 2 VP for me at the end of the game. I also settled fur trapping locations westward across lakes Ontario, Erie and Huron; the cards I gained by doing so would fuel a money engine when I played my Fur Trading card.

Chris doggedly kept expanding, but I gobbled up several of his newly-built locations, and as a result his deck was seeded with location cards he could not use (when the opponent takes a location for which you have a card, it does not come out of your deck, but simply takes up useless space.)

It wasn't long before Chris's deck started grinding to a halt, and he conceded before the game was technically over, but it was only a matter of time. I should mention, however, that we got one rule wrong. If you lose a siege, the card you lose must be an empire card---you cannot lose a location card as a result of a siege loss. I believe we had Chris discard his New York or Boston card late in the game as a result of a siege loss, and this was unfairly punitive to his position.

I told a lot of people during the week how much I enjoyed this game. The oddest reaction was from the pure wargamers (I'm a wargamer too, but I also enjoy Euros and railroad games.) They would come up and see the game set up, and when I would say "this is a game about the French & Indian War that's based on Dominion," they would say "what's Dominion?" I suspect many of them are going to learn!
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8. Board Game: Empire Builder [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:666]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Finally, at 6pm on Tuesday, it was time for the Convention proper to begin. (Claire and I had been in Lancaster for four days, and I had already played 10 tournament games, including three 18XX games, but these were all part of the "pre-Con".) I always have tough choices to make on Tuesday evening, because Empire Builder, El Grande and Power Grid all traditionally have heats at 6pm.

As I do every year, I had created a custom schedule showing all the games I was interested in playing, and after analyzing my options, I decided that Empire Builder was the optimal choice for me. It's a long game, and I couldn't attend the second heat because of the demo I had to do as GM, so I wanted to make sure I could play in two heats.

None of the four players had a great start, so we had to scratch and claw for the first part of the game. I started with contracts for Lead and Cattle to Kansas City and Des Moines and for Swine to Regina. I was able to buy a Fast Freight on my second building turn, giving me accelerated movement right from the start. Unfortunately, the cards continued to be only mediocre, and Vien played very well, steadily pulling out to a small but meaningful lead. One player (I'm sorry, but I don't remember his name) had horrible luck, suffering from every one of the first five disasters, but he soldiered on and turned in a score that was at least respectable. In the end, Vien delivered a contract to put himself over $250 million while I was still about $40 million short. I would need to play in another heat if I wanted a chance to play in the semis.
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9. Board Game: Medici [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:352]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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My Empire Builder heat finished in under 3 hours, even though it was scheduled for 4, so I was able to rush over to join another tournament. I love many games, but when someone asks me what game is my very favorite, I usually answer "Medici". It's quick and brutal, especially when played by players who think carefully about their decisions.

We played a 5-player game. One of my opponents was the famous card-driven wargame player James Pei, who was in the Medici final game I played back in 2005 (won by Gary Noe.) I tried to give myself options, but Chris Gnech maneuvered himself into a position to buy three cards for $1 with no opposing bidding (because we had all used up too much boat space) and flipped a terrific set to put himself into position to win. Chris won with a score of 130, and I finished 3rd with 114.

The game took less than an hour, despite the fact that it was in a 2-hour slot, so once again I was able to join a tournament I could not have entered based on the information in the WBC schedule.

I went on to play a second Medici heat on Thursday, but I wasn't any more successful the second time.
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10. Board Game: Elk Fest [Average Rating:6.20 Overall Rank:1882]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Many of the games at WBC involve deep thinking or judicious risk management. There's one game, however, that also involves physical dexterity: Elk Fest, the 2-player flicking game that involves moose ("mooses"? "meece"?) In Elk Fest, there are two small wooden "islands" on each side of a table, and each player has a moose that he or she is attempting to move successfully from one island to the other (each moose starts on a different island, so the moose are going in opposite directions.) Once you get your moose across, you win a round, and best of 3 rounds wins the game.

The game uses six small wooden discs, each less than 1" in diameter, and you move your moose by flicking the discs into such positions that your moose can move its front and/or back feet from one position to another, always resting on the discs (or on one of the islands.) You get two flicks, and then you may move your moose (if you put the discs in the right place.) My son Sam finished 6th in the 2007 tournament, whereas I, with little dexterity, have never even entered the tournament.

No matter! There was a tournament I could enter, and nothing else in the 10pm slot that I wanted to play. I sat down across from a (much younger) competitor, and to my surprise, I was actually able to flick the discs reasonably close to where I was trying to flick them. It was a close game for a while, but I pulled ahead and won one and then two rounds in succession.

Next I was matched against Katie McCorry, daughter of Tom and Katherine McCorry. Even when she was still a child, Katie was a dangerous competitor in any game, but she's now of college age (time flies.) She held an edge early in the first round, but I came back and was victorious again. I was surprised by my success, and realized that there were only about 16 people left.

My third game was against Yoel Weiss, whom I've faced across many WBC tables. This time, though, it was mano a mano ("mooso a mooso") as we two fathers faced each other amid a sea of teens and children. Once again, I came back from a small disadvantage to win my game.

In my fourth game I was matched against Rebecca Hebner, who has finished near the top of the standings multiple times. I was actually ahead of her in the first round, with my moose only inches from the goal island, when my dexterity seemed to desert me. I knocked my moose off its discs with an errant flick, giving Rebecca three unanswered flicks, and this proved to be my downfall. The second round was no contest, as her moose finished its transit while my moose was still in the middle of the table. One more win would have put me into the semis, but as they say, "Elk Fest is a game of skill"!
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11. Board Game: Race for the Galaxy: Rebel vs Imperium [Average Rating:7.98 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.98 Unranked]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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If I was eager to enter the San Juan tournament, I was even more eager to enter the Race for the Galaxy tournament. Now, one player---Robert Renaud---had won the tournament three years running, so my chances of winning may not have been high, but WBC is not only about winning, but also about playing strong players in games you love.

On Wednesday morning I had a demo for The Princes of Florence, which I GM, at 9am. The heat for Race for the Galaxy started at 9am, but two games were scheduled into a 3-hour slot, so I knew I'd be able to play the second game of the slot if I came over immediately after my demo (the GM had said we could play just the second slot.) Unfortunately, the first games went so quickly that when I arrived at 10:05, everyone was playing. I figured that others would be in the same situation I was in, so I hung around until 3 opponents showed up. None of us had a copy of the game, but Dana Champion was kind enough to lend us her copy once she finished her game.

I was in a game, but it wasn't going to be easy. My opponents were Rob Kircher (who had knocked me out of San Juan,) Lynda Lexi Shea and Lyman Moquin. We were using the first two expansions, including Race for the Galaxy: Rebel vs Imperium, with goals but without takeovers, and with a choice of two home worlds for each of us. Race for the Galaxy is about finding synergies among your cards, and both Rob and I found them. He started with Alpha Centauri and got a big brown world strategy going, augmented by Prospecting Guild. If he could have drawn Mining League we would all have been toast, but fortunately for me, he didn't. For my part, I got Terraforming Guild and Improved Logistics, together with a small amount of military. This allowed me to spam small windfalls. It was close, but when we counted our scores, I had edged out Rob by a margin of 59-56.

One win was enough to qualify me for the semis, but I love Race for the Galaxy and planned to play again if I could fit it into my schedule.
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12. 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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Next on my agenda was Power Grid, one of the games I had to pass up on Tuesday evening. This is a big tournament, and we filled one room and spilled into another. My game was a 5-player game on the Central Europe map. We left out the purple region (Hungary) and played with the other five regions.

In the initial bidding, Chris Gnech (who won my first Medici game) paid $7 for the #04 coal plant. I was a bit leery of bidding any higher for this plant, because the #04 is likely to place first, and risks being surrounded with little room for expansion. Instead I paid list price for the #07 oil plant, with the other three players taking the #05, #08 and #10.

Chris bought 4 coal for $5, as one normally does, and then built three cities: Wien, Bratislava and Trnava. Chris was making sure it would be unappealing to surround him, but by building 3 cities when he could only power 1, he was almost guaranteeing that he would be brightest bulb for Round 2 (and perhaps Round 3) even though his income would be just $22. The rest of us crowded in just north and east of Chris, but no one built the expensive cities in Austria we would have needed to build in order to hem him in.

In the second round, several plants were bought (at least, as I remember, the #13 and the #16,) but I didn't see anything that appealed to me, so I went into Round 3 as dim bulb. This paid off big time. I kept my mouth shut in the auction, allowing opponents to get decent plants, until the penultimate player bought a plant (the #21 hybrid?) and dropped the #26 oil plant into the current market, where I was able to buy it for $26. Now, I'd expect to pay about $40 for this plant in a contested auction, so it was a great opportunity, obtained by hanging at the back of the turn order and accepting substandard income in Round 2.

These plants did the job for me for a while, but eventually I needed a new plant. The #30 trash plant came out---a plant that was ideal for Chris given his trash-buying discount and the low trash prices---but he had to pay through the roof for it. Just when I needed it, the #20 coal plant became available (this time with other people able to bid.) Most of them had no plant with as much capacity as my #26, so the #20 didn't look as good to them as it did to me, and I was once again able to get it for just list price. I had 12 cities of capacity with the #07, #20 and #26, and I had paid only $53 for the lot of them.

Before long Step 3 hove into sight, and with a lot of money sloshing around in the game, it was sure to be a fight for the big plants. My main competition for capacity leader was Andrew Arconti, who had two plants that would power 10 cities, and only the two of us were left in the auction. One of us put the #32, a capacity-6 oil plant, up for auction. I had $196 in hand, and I needed to buy a plant, buy fuel and build 4 cities. Andrew had less money, though I didn't know how much less. The bidding went up and up until he bid $80. I thought I needed about $12 for fuel and $100 for city connections, so it seemed like it would be cutting it too close to keep bidding. I passed and he got the plant. I hoped for a capacity-5 plant, but the best I could do was the #33 windmill, which powers 4 cities. I bought it and hoped.

When it was my turn to build, I knew that my first priority was not saving money, but making sure Andrew couldn't build to 15. I found some builds that cut off his easy builds while bringing me to 15 (one more than I needed, but enough to end the game.) He looked but couldn't build more than 14. The other players had capacities of 13 or less, so were out of the picture.

At the end of the game, I built 15 cities and could power 14, while Andrew built 14 and could power 15. We both scored 14 cities, so it came down to the tie-breaker. Here his lavish spending for the #32 plant cost him the victory, as I ended with about $50 to his (approximately) $15.

Even though I had one Power Grid win, a single win isn't enough to advance in this tournament. I never made it to another heat, so I didn't qualify for the semis.
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13. Board Game: Eurorails [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:723]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Once again I benefited from "schedule acceleration" as my Power Grid finished in under 2 hours (as a game of Power Grid should,) allowing me to make the final heat of Empire Builder. In this heat, I sat down at one table, but a few late entrants came in and the GM asked whether someone would move to a different table, so I volunteered.

The game at this table was Eurorails, the second of a set of three "crayon rails" games to which I give a rating of '10' (the third is India Rails.) There were three of us, but Paul Von Bloem, who together with Claire is an assistant GM supporting Bob Stribula, the GM, joined us to make 4.

This game also started off reasonably well, with contracts for Labor and Oil to Stuttgart and Holland. I was the last player to build, and when I built one milepost out from Holland to secure my connections, several players let out sounds of frustration---I guess they had been hoping to build it on their second building turns.

This was another game in which I caught few breaks. I always had a run, but when I made it to Spain with Steel or Tourists, or when I made it back to Central Europe with Cork or Oranges, I never drew the big contract I needed to make my move. It was a close game, but Paul finished ahead of me, once again by a small but significant margin.

I had two good second places, but there are a lot of players in the Empire Builder tournament, and you must win to guarantee a semifinal slot. I'd have to depend on some of the people who had qualified not to show up.
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14. Board Game: Lost Cities [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:261]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Of all the WBC tournaments, the one that has the most drama for me is probably the Lost Cities tournament. There are a number of reasons for this. First of all, everyone knows how to play Lost Cities, and many of us think we're pretty good at the game. Secondly, each of the four heats is a madhouse, with what seems like 50 games going on at once. Thirdly, the population of entrants is more diverse than that in any other tournament I know of---there are kids, teens and adults, men, women, boys and girls. It wouldn't surprise me if you told me that half of the competitors are women. Many of the teens and young adults who attend WBC seem to avoid the tournaments in favor of late-night Werewolf games, but they show up to play Lost Cities. And finally, my family has a lot of history in this tournament, starting with the 2007 tournament in which Jarett Weintraub knocked all four passengers in our car out, one after the other, in the elimination rounds.

Just as for San Juan, there are four heats, and practically speaking you must win at least three heats to qualify for the elimination rounds (GM Ivan Lawson actually takes the top 32 heat finishers, but about 32 triple winners usually show up.) Fortunately, all four heats fit into my schedule this year, so I could afford one loss and still be one of the 32.

For my first heat, early on Wednesday evening, I was paired with a young man named Cody Zimmerman. Cody explained that he had learned the game only 30 minutes earlier, and that he had never played a full game, since there was only time for him to play one hand during the teach. This was about the best news I could have received---instead of playing a battle-hardened veteran, I would be playing a beginner.

It didn't turn out the way one might have guessed, though! Cody is an excellent game player, as I could see from the way he played his very first game of Lost Cities. Of course he got good cards (you cannot win if your cards are much worse than those your opponent gets,) but he played them well and showed far more skill than I'd expect from a first-timer. Cody beat me by a few dozen points and I was now 0-1 in the heats, with no room for error in the next three rounds.

Congratulations, Cody! You played a great game!
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15. Board Game: El Grande [Average Rating:7.84 Overall Rank:26]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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The other game I was forced to skip on Tuesday evening was El Grande, the first Euro game I remember that was designed for 5 players. I've played in the El Grande tournament annually (or at least almost annually) since I first attended WBC back in 2003. I made the finals in 2003 (and came in 5th,) but following that strong start, I failed to make them in every succeeding year until last year, when I made the finals again and come in 4th. (Based on this pattern, I should win the tournament in 2043...)

For one reason or another, though, this heat wasn't my day to win. I wasn't too far from the lead even near the end of the game, but I was never a threat to win, either, and the game was won by Dominic Duschenes, from Quebec province near Ottawa. I had some hopes of playing another heat of El Grande, but they never came to fruition. I do like to play at least one heat of each of my favorite games though, to help the GM with players counts, and I'm glad I was able to do this for Rob Flowers, who runs a great tournament.
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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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It was now 8pm on Wednesday evening, time for the first heat of The Princes of Florence, the tournament for which I am GM. Claire helped me set up the room, and she also helped find a table in another room for a player using a wheelchair (the designated room was accessible only via a small flight of stairs---this is an exception, as the vast majority of the rooms are accessible.)

We signed up the 42 people who showed up for the tournament, with me included in the 42 (a GM can play in his or her own tournament as long as he/she designates two Assistant GMs to rule in any game in which the GM is playing.) I don't play if there is an even multiple of 5 players without me, since the game is best with 5, but this wasn't the case with 42, so I set up nine tables---3 tables of 4 and 6 tables of 5.

To my surprise, when we sat down, we had 4 tables of 4 and only 5 tables of 5. One player had signed up for the tournament and then withdrawn before we started to play! By this time everyone was at their tables, so I left the situation as it was instead of withdrawing from the heat and trying to collapse 4 tables into 3. But then one more player showed up, so we were back to 42 players for the first heat. One of the most demanding jobs of the GM is making sure you have the player count right for each heat.

Once the game started, things went pretty smoothly for me. I was randomly selected to be the 5th player, but I'm usually most successful when I buy things that seem to be reasonably priced, letting others overbid for items, and that's how it worked here. One player was determined to buy Jesters, buying 5 of them during the course of the game and paying close to 7000 florins for the set! Another player tried a modified Builder strategy, but Builder prices were high throughout the game, and he was hurt badly when his "fewest empty spaces" Prestige Card failed to score as he finished with 4 empty spaces, but an opponent finished with only 3 after a Round 7 Forest purchase. Despite this drama, it was a reasonably close game, but I won by a few points.

One heat win in The Princes of Florence guarantees entry into the semis (unless attendance suddenly soars,) and I was happy to have made it after flaming out in the heats several years in a row.
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17. Board Game: Can't Stop [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:481]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Each night at WBC there's a "fun" game that starts at 11pm (on Tuesday, Elk Fest starts at 10pm.) I enjoy some of them more than others, and one of the ones I enjoy is Can't Stop, a press-your-luck die-rolling game by the incomparable Sid Sackson.

I had some early hopes in this game, but I wiped out early several times in situations in which it would have been stupid to stop, so I lost with no regrets. Paul Skrabut got the right rolls and played wisely, winning our game and heading off to the next round. I headed off to bed.
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18. Board Game: Empire Builder [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:666]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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The Empire Builder semis were scheduled for Thursday morning. I had no wins---only two second place finishes---so I wasn't sure I would make it. GM Bob Stribula checked people in, laying an index card for each player on the table. When he got to 26 cards, I expressed my thanks to him for running the tournament and ran off to my next game---a second heat of Saint Petersburg. No sooner was I seated for Saint Petersburg than my cell phone rang. It was Claire calling, saying that Bob had only 24 people for Empire Builder and would I please come back and play to make 25? I guess Bob must have had a player disappear just like I had in the first heat for The Princes of Florence.

I expressed my apologies to the other players at my table and to Tom DeMarco, the Saint Petersburg GM, and ran back to the original room, where I was placed in a 5-player game of Empire Builder on the "with Mexico" map.

For once in this year's tournament, I got great cards in my initial draw. I had contracts for Wood to Houston, Wood to Juarez and Textiles to Atlanta. I built a straight route from Portland ME to Houston, picked up two Wood, and headed for the Gulf Coast. I delivered the Wood in Houston and drew a contract for Wood to Culiacan---even better! I built across the Rio Grande and through Durango to Culiacan to deliver the second wood. On the way back, I took Textiles and Silver and brought the Textiles to Atlanta.

My next cards weren't good, so I dumped cards once or twice, and finally drew three Tobacco cards: Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Mexico City. Bingo! I built through northwestern Mexico to LA and LV and delivered my two Tobacco to become the clear leader at this stage in the game.

Unfortunately, I was paying for a lot of track (there never seemed to be someone I could rent track from) and my card luck dried up. It looked like Ken Gutermuth might catch me, and then the Rail Tax card came up, costing us each $30 million. The problem was that Ken had another big load on one of his cards, and I had run dry. I ended the game with about $220 million as Ken won to earn his way to the finals.

I played three crayon rails games, and finished second three times. It wasn't entirely a loss, though, as I rate both of the games I played in this tournament '10's.
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19. Board Game: Ra [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:95]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Another game I always try to play at least once at WBC is Ra. People claim it's a luck-dominated game, but Alex Bove's 4 wins in six years (all in fields of more than 100 players) belie that claim. My skills are much more modest, and in fact I don't think I'm any better than average.

In my first heat, on Thursday, I was placed at a table with Alex himself. Some people groan when they're placed with an expert, but it's a great opportunity to see how an expert plays. I started with the 15-7-3 suns and rose early in the first era with the 15 to take a load with 2 pharaohs in it. This would eventually allow me to score 5 VPs for pharaohs in every era.

Unfortunately, I made an error in era 3 when a monument that was critical to Alex came up. I should have called Ra, knowing he had to bid, but I drew a tile, and it was a Flood, giving him the chance to buy two great tiles with a single high sun. He saw his chance and took it.

I played a second Ra heat on Friday morning and lost again, this time to Stu Hendrickson. I do win a game at WBC every so often, but I'm nowhere near consistent enough to do well in the tournament.

In the end, my friend Rich Meyer won the tournament. He also won the Empire Builder tournament and came in second in the Caylus tournament to his son Jeff. That's what you call a great year!
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20. Board Game: DAK [Average Rating:8.10 Overall Rank:2178]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Once the tournaments start for real on Tuesday, I don't do much open gaming. Sure, I'd do it if there weren't tournaments to enter, but I'm fortunate enough to have opportunities for open gaming every week. WBC is special for me because of the tournaments. Every so often, though, there's a gap in my schedule that lets me check out the open gaming room.

There was open gaming last year, in the same room, but this year took the concept to a new level. There were more players on more tables for more hours. There was a lending library of games at the front of the theater, and there were mini-kiosks you could place on a table to attract other gamers.

I walked through the room and found two guys just starting to play a game of DAK covering the North African campaign in WWII. The scenario they chose recreated the situation just as Rommel arrived on the scene before his dash across the desert. They had obviously studied the game, but I don't think either of them were experts, so I sat down and talked about the game with them. We looked at various situations and rules questions together as the Axis vanguard flowed around the Allied picket line and tried to cut them off.

I was only able to stick around for a turn or two, but it was great to see this "playable monster game" set up and in use. I returned several times during the week to see how they were coming along.
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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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It was time for the second heat of Lost Cities, and this time I was matched against a far more experienced opponent than the one who beat me in Heat 1. I was facing David Meyaard, who placed 4th in the tournament in 2008 (David is also a 3-time Elk Fest champion, for what it's worth.)

We started off quietly, but then I drew a monster green suit: HH23456789T, giving me every card but a single handshake. This suit was worth 122 VP, and it gave me a comfortable win, bringing my record to 1-1. It doesn't take a lot of skill to play a hand like that, but I was happy to get it.
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22. Board Game: Saint Petersburg [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:154]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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With just one win, I needed a second heat of Saint Petersburg to seal my place in the semis. This time, my opponents were Lee Mewshaw, Patrick Gorman and Anni Foasberg (who won the Ticket to Ride tournament last year and is now the GM for Navegador, which I'm still looking to try for the first time.)

In this game I got an early Mistress of Ceremonies, but Patrick bought a boatload of Markets early and upgraded them, opening up a big lead. Anni went full-bore into the orange noble strategy, while Lee played a more balanced game. With the early Mistress you'd think I should win by a mile, but Patrick played a great game, and I was only able to achieve a small edge in the noble count. It was a tense game as we counted the VPs, but I snuck past him by a margin of 95 to 94, giving me two wins and a clear slot in the semis.
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23. Board Game: Pro Golf [Average Rating:5.40 Overall Rank:9559]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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Another late-night game, this time the Thursday night game, is Pro Golf, a sports-oriented die-rolling game from the old Avalon Hill Game Company. It's hard to argue that there's much skill in the game (even if you've won the tournament,) but although I wouldn't play it at home, I always enjoy playing at WBC.

Claire and I assembled a table of players, adding Grant LaDue, Derek Pulhamus and Glen Pearce to make a fivesome. We started rolling on an imaginary Augusta National course, and it was grim. You know you're in for a tough day when you draw a golfer you've never heard of, but after three holes we were all over par. It didn't get much better either, as Derek and Glen tied for the best scores at our table at 2 over par. That wasn't nearly enough to make the playoff, so we were able to go to bed at a decent hour.
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24. Board Game: Ticket to Ride [Average Rating:7.51 Overall Rank:84]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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I enjoy GMing The Princes of Florence, but my task pales in comparison to that undertaken by my wife, who runs the Ticket to Ride tournament. She gets more than 200 competitors every year, with more than two dozen 4-player tables at each heat. She has recruited two able volunteers, Nikki Bradford and Sarah Beach, to help her, and they can get 100+ players seated and playing faster than you would believe possible.

I try to play in Claire's tournament when I can, and I started Friday with a heat of Ticket to Ride. I didn't draw great tickets, and I liked them even less when I saw my opponents also building in the east. It was so tight that Marci Morelli, a good player, couldn't connect her lines through the mid-Atlantic states and had to go around the long way through the Midwest.

I was pretty happy about completing 7 out of 7 tickets, but Jim Fry completed 8 out of 8 and outscored me on the board as well to win by a few dozen VPs.
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25. Board Game: Saint Petersburg [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:154]
Eric Brosius
United States
Needham Heights
Massachusetts
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After lunch on Friday it was time for the Saint Petersburg semifinals. I consider myself a strong Saint Petersburg player, but there were some other good players at the table as well. I drew the chair, with the onion on my right, and I was already worried about my chances.

It just wasn't my game. I got a slow start and lagged behind for most of the game, and it's not clear to me that there was ever an option that would have given me a chance to win. In some ways, this is less stressful than a game in which I made a big error that cost me the chance to win; there's nothing to second-guess.

It was different for Randy Buehler and Jason Levine, though, as they battled neck and neck. We completed the final scoring and they tied, 96-96. Jason ended with $1 in cash, edging out Randy, who ended with $0. Randy had a superb week of tournament success, though; he earned himself a lot of good finishes even if you don't count the 5th place he (I assume) earned in Saint Petersburg.
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