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Monday, August 1, 2011

WBC Day Three

This will be a bit of a shorter update, but I wanted to blog every day of WBC, so here it is!

I wanted to sleep in today a little, but woke up early for no good reason other than overall excitement for the WBC. I did a little work on one of my new projects, which is to try to get good at some of the CDGs by reading some ACTS logs and following the plays on VASSAL. For those of you who don't know them, ACTS is a website that manages cards and dice to enable competitive play of a number of games. The earlier mentioned Twilight Struggle ladder uses ACTS. VASSAL is a program that does the boards, pieces, etc. for tons and tons of games. It has the ability to play live, or you can have it log what you do and then send the logs via email to each other, but it doesn't enforce the rules and if you aren't playing live, you could re-do a log if you didn't like the dice rolls you got. So it's great for fun games where nothing is at stake, and also good for soloing games.

Anyway, I decided to play the San Juan tournament in the morning. I liked the fact that it was 4 rounds of 2-player games, and the GM, Bruce Reiff, is the GM for a bunch of tournaments and knows how to get them going fast and efficiently. Also, he has the perfect voice and presence for a GM. San Juan is a game I like, but don't love, but it was the only thing going at that hour. I hadn't ever played it before at the WBC, but apparently I'm not terrible at it, since I ended up going 3-1. I would have to say that was a pretty satisfying experience since it took about 2.5 hours. That actually qualified me for the playoffs, but I figured the chance to get laurels was still pretty low since the competition would start to be better... and it conflicted with Wilderness War.

Last year I took a break from wargames at WBC and skipped Wilderness War and Washington's War in favor of Euros. I still played Hannibal and Paths of Glory, and was going to play Twilight Struggle but it conflicted with the Power Grid semifinals. I decided to take the 1 in 5 chance of getting a plaque in Power Grid, but ended up taking second in my semifinal.

Wilderness War, for some reason, is still hard for me to wrap my mind around, especially when I'm playing the British side. I haven't played it face to face often enough to have a good feel for the tone of the game, since which cards come up when really affect how you should approach it. I faced a really great opponent in the first round this time, who was willing to talk through some implications of rules I had forgotten about since I've only played it maybe twice in the last two years. Sadly at this hour I am blanking on his name, but he said it was his favorite game and he certainly knew it well and played it well. I was the French and he was able to build a huge stack with Wolfe and come straight up the gut, using Johnson as a distraction in the Mohawk Valley.

In round 2 I played Bill Peeck, who I had played in Twilight Struggle three years ago and he took me out as the USSR. My Americans watched from the ground as the Soviets were colonizing Mars or something... The GM of this tournament is trying something very cool - making players switch sides every round as much as he can make it happen. So I got to play the British this time... and try some of what I had seen in round 1. However, I only got one reinforcement in the first two turns, and only one in the next two turns (out of the six turns in the game!) and Wolfe didn't show up. I don't know how to win at WW in the situations that are tougher for each side, although I'm sure it's possible by adjusting ones approach. Otherwise there is no way the top players could win as consistently as they seem to. Maybe I'll decide to really learn this game over the next year... I like the theme, the art, and enjoy playing it. The subtle tricks you seem to know to win still elude me, and I've even won a few games at the WBC in the past.

After all of that, I decided I didn't want to play another round of Wilderness War so I jumped into the first heat of Saint Petersburg! Here's another game where luck seems to be huge, but gamers I respect like Randy Buehler insist theres skill. I ended up at a table with a friend of mine, Richard Shay, and guess what - the guy on my right dropped a turn 1 Mistress and a turn 2 Observatory, the guy on his right got turn 2 Observatory. I got something slightly better than average, and Richard never saw a good card early. Guess what the score was at the end? Yep - Mistress/Observatory on my right was first, Observatory was second, and I was third. I find games where I can predict the exact score order at the end of the first 3/4ths of the first turn accurately regularly often to be somewhat suspect... but I am now accepting Saint Petersburg for what it is, and I enjoyed playing it despite knowing I had no chance.

I ended the night deciding to bail on playing in the Amun-Re tournament. I don't know the game well enough and just wanted to relax, so Richard and I found another friend Joel and we went to the open gaming room and borrowed the new Airlines Europe from the library. The WBC library is an amazing thing! This game was a cool, light, interesting game. Very easy to learn but seemed to have some good skill involved. I think I like almost any game involving stock certificates... I want to play the game it's a re-theme of, Union Pacific, at some point. I won the game with something like 81-68-63.

I guess I had more energy for blogging left than I thought! Tomorrow there is the auction, which I might visit but don't usually pay a lot of attention to. I'll try to hit the supermarket or Walmart for some supplies for the mini-fridge in our room. I think I just decided to not play the Labyrinth tournament because I don't know the Jihadist side well enough, and instead to play Le Havre. So tomorrow will be open gaming, then the official WBC starts with 6 pm Power Grid, 9 pm Le Havre!


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