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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Day of Improbable Victory!

I have a ton to report on today. I played five games yesterday, and they were all interesting and tense. I kicked it off with a 9 am heat of Brass, and ended up at the same table as the GM Ed, Elaine (who I had played Through the Ages with earlier in the week and was new to Brass), and at the last minute Eugene, who I had played some game with my first year at WBC but haven't seen him often here since. My impression of him in the past was that he was a bit mercurial, but he was in a good mood and our game was polite and good-spirited.

Eugene played really well: he developed cotton mills away for 18 on the second turn and never looked back from a pure cotton rush strategy. He got all of his level 3 mills out and one level 4 during the canal era, which is pretty much game ending. I tried to counter with a coal-iron strategy but I got beat to my first two iron locations! I did manage to get the level 4 out eventually, and use the income along with well timed loans to end up placing all of my rails on the board. Eugene took it down with a score in the 180s, while Ed and I were a few points apart in the 150s. Unfortunately noone else really fought Eugene for the mill spots, so I ended up with a second.

Power Grid heat 2 was up next, and the board was Central Europe. Last year I won my first game on this map in the semifinals, so I was curious to see how it felt this time. I don't remember a lot about last year's game, but I remember playing really well. One of the players from that game was once again at my table, a really nice player named Jen. This game was really interesting. I put my house out first after getting the 4 plant in what I thought was a pretty safe location, putting a few cheap cities in a pocket behind me. Surprisingly, one of the other players put two houses down behind me, which barricaded himself in... Jen put her red houses down a little bit south of ours, and on turn 2 I put down 2 more houses, and then Jen moved north and blockaded us completely. I figured I was going to be totally hosed by having only 3 cities entirely surrounded, but ended up bidding up the 22 plant a tiny bit, figuring that I would have to save as much money as I could to explode with houses once someone bust into step 2. Once I was freed, my strategy worked perfectly and I won another game of WBC Power Grid. I don't feel like I'm that great at the game and find all kinds of mistakes in my play, yet I am consistently winning or coming in second.

I always have an irrational fear that this year is going to be the year that I don't win a single tournament game, so it felt great to get a very tricky, well-played win in. Our friend Shane, who has just moved to Baltimore, made his first trip to the WBC and played two heats of Dominant Species and won one - he's going to come back on Saturday for that semifinal game. I had a nice, relaxing lunch with him, which was great.

I was really looking forward to Agricola, so I gladly set up a copy of my game. The GM forgot his deck of cards to randomize the seats, so he decided to say "just sit wherever you want". I know the WBC isn't that serious, but... really? So of course there aren't enough players, no one sits at my table, and I look over to see the last seat at another table has a former Agricola champion, Cary. Well, if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best, right? I managed to do just that, winning a really close game 46-44-42-25 or so. Kerrin from Australia who I had already played Le Havre with was the 42!

The start of the game was interesting. In the draft I took Hut Builder first, then got Charcoal Burner and Wooden Hut Builder. After the other player on my right played an Occupation, I took Reed-Stone-Food, Kerrin took 2 clay, which was surprising, and Cary played Berry Picker (1 food when you take a wood). Because Kerrin had the clay, I took start player so I could drop Charcoal Burner in case she was thinking about taking the first Fireplace. It turns out she had some bread baking cards that she wanted to play. Since we were all playing cards, the resource piles got surprisingly big.

Somehow, I just couldn't get the timing down to build my house, as I was busy getting the Basketmaker's Workshop going and making sure my Hut Builder got played in Stage I. Cary used the Axe to build out to four, the guy on my right built a third room, and Kerrin got her third before me as well. So I just bided my time and saved up wood, then built two rooms at once. I was able to grow my family in rounds 9 and 10 with that, and then 11 with the Hut Builder. So even though I was the last to grow, I ended up as the second with four people after Cary and the first with 5. The Wooden Hut Builder meant I didn't need to waste actions getting clay or stone to renovate, so I was able to spend the rest of the game collecting animals and wood to finally make a big fence move. I also used Fruit Tree and Pottery to get the food I would need to feed everyone.

I should also mention that after the game Kerrin said I should be especially proud of my win, not just because I grew my family last, but because her and Cary took Start Player a lot of the game, so I was going third or fourth all the time.

I decided to play Stone Age and intentionally relax and have a nice milk stout beer. I had a fun game starving again, but the end result was pretty different because I was in the 4th seat instead of the 3rd, a lot of 6s came up on the "magic dice", and two of the other players knew how to react to my starvation. I ended up in fourth place with 99 points.

By that time, I was sobered up a bit, and ready for a late night Princes of Florence. It's one of my favorite WBC games (especially since I've made the finals twice), but it seems to slowly be slipping in popularity, so who knows how long it will last. Somehow, I ended up winning with 54 points by grabbing a Prestige Card at the second to last turn for 4 points (Most Landscapes) and bidding up John W., the old Puerto Rico GM on Forests, when it turned out he had the Most Forests Prestige Card! The guy on my right, who played a great game, had three failed Prestige Cards!

I will add more about other fun things about yesterday later, but for now I need to go play in Le Havre heat 2!


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