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Saturday, July 30, 2011

WBC Day One

A great start to this year's World Boardgaming Championships!

Bronwen and I woke up at 3 am to begin the trek to Lancaster PA, and got out the door around 4:30. We made quick progress as Bronwen caught up on sleep and I listened to wargaming podcasts (Point 2 Point and The Messy Game Room... check them out!). We had a nice, quick lunch at Taco Bell and met up with some friends at the Lancaster Host.

Today's pre-convention event: Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage!

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Hannibal. It's more like a really like-sometimes dislike relationship. I'm good enough to have a chance to win against most of the players I've come across at WBC, but not good enough to necessarily win consistently. I've gone pretty much 50% wins in the few years I've been playing the event... this is my third year, and I believe I went 2-2 my first year, then 1-1 last year and dropped out to play Paths of Glory. I enjoy playing the game, but at some point around a year and a half ago, my conception of the game changed and I don't quite take it as seriously. Mostly it's the wild swings that can happen from a timely Double Envelopment or Messenger Intercepted, but also the way the game sometimes settles into a stalement, or the way Carthage can win with a lucky Syracuse draw on turn 9. All of that said, once I made that mental adjustment to the chaos of the game, I'm actually enjoying the game more. It's like I have built up a resilience to the frustrations the game can provide, and can take it for what it is, without getting annoyed when I lose.

Round 1: Bill Banks. Bill was a great opponent - he was nice, easygoing, and knew Hannibal well, so the play was smooth and the time flew by. I won the dice-off to bid 2 PCs for Carthage and he let me have it. Hannibal made it as far as Mutina, but got whittled down so had to retreat back home. Bill considered following over the Alps to go get him, but decided against it. With a timely Messenger Intercepted and Diplomacy, I was able to move Mago over to Corsica-Sardinia while Bill was out of cards, and early in the following turn sail Hasdrubal there with more troops while Hannibal held down Spain. I used a ton of 3-cards to buy more troops, which is something I have found myself doing more and more as Carthage as I gain more experience with the game. I wonder if that's the right thinking... Anyway, Bill tried a few attacks but I was able to fend them off for a 9-9 tie, which Carthage wins.

After the game, I relaxed, wandered, and finally went to the nearby Asian Bistro with a friend from home, Andy Latto. We had a great conversation about games, poker, and statistics (such as in WBC favorite Can't Stop), and the food was solid - I had a nice, simple chicken stir fry. Fueled up, I was ready for round 2!

Round 2: Andy Latto. I'm not really surprised by this kind of thing any more. If you play enough tournaments, you are bound to play people you know. I was happy to know that one of us would be 2-0 going into tomorrow. It was kind of funny to have this happen since one of the things we talked about during dinner was our bidding strategy for the start of the game. Andy won the die roll and bid 1 for Carthage, so I bumped it to 2 and was once again moving Hannibal over the Alps. This time, however, Hannibal got stopped at the gates to Italy by a Roman superstack. Hannibal's stack was too big for them to take on as well, so a stalemate developed while Andy just waited Hannibal out. I was able to once again get Mago into Corsica, and even did an end of turn Sicily Revolts and led the turn off with a 3 card to take that province (temporarily). Andy is a tough game player though, and he played very well - not rushing into anything too risky until he had Scipio Africanus. At that point Andy had 47 troops on the board due to the build-up, and my stacks all had 13-16.

The amazing part of the game was that we had FOUR 10-round battles between Hannibal and Scipio on turn 6, one more on turn 7, and finally Andy went for the kill with a Campaign... the last one Scipio got Hannibal in an 8 rounder to have a significant drop in force, then came in with P. Scipio to finish off the big man. It was a hard decision the play before that as to whether to run away with Hannibal yet. He had a stack of 11 or 12 troops and I had no way of knowing Andy had a Campaign card.

The other amazing aspect to this game was that I drew Messenger Intercepted FOUR times, including turn 9 during which I plucked Philip of Macedon from his hand, allowing me to send Hasdrubal with 10 troops safely to back up Mago when Scipio A. moved there after finishing up with the tribes in the north. The ending was extremely close, but unfortunately sneaky Varro had enough Ops points left to move into Northern Spain and take four spots to win by 10-8 province count. We debated my gamble to attack Corsica with my last 3 card before waiting for Andy to be out of cards, but if I waited, he would finish off Mago and flip the PCs, making the sailing attempt significantly more risky, not to mention not having Mago's few remaining troops around. Since I rolled exactly 1 less than sinking, I would have sunk on the way and lost either way.

It's time for bed, and I think this year I'm not going to switch the Paths of Glory. I just don't know enough people who play it regularly to ever be truly competitive at the game, and it's very draining to play even a second round of it, much less three. So for tomorrow, I'll be playing round 3 of Hannibal. I'm thinking that if I win, I will keep going on the off chance I can get to 4-1, but if I lose, I might give serious consideration to playing Through the Ages. I rate TTA much lower than most of my friends, as well as the BoardGameGeek rankings, so I feel like I need to play it more and give it a more thorough chance. Two back-to-back round of WBC play would go a long way towards that!


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