Wednesday, August 1, 2012
More WBC 2012
Tuesday is always an interesting day at WBC because the pre-con tournaments are wrapping up and the auction is the main event. I always avoid the auction because I know it might get me into financial troubles!
After hitting Target for some supplies (cherries, bananas, turkey slices, and some socks), Bronwen and I hit the open gaming room. Pretty quickly we found Alex, an amazing game player who has won tons of tournaments, including winning Ra three times, which impresses the hell out of me. The thing I like about Alex in this context is that he loves to analyze games and talk about what each player might have done differently, so I always learn a great deal by playing with him.
Bronwen of course suggested Agricola (it's her favorite game by a lot) and we found Peter, a nice guy from the UK who was looking for a game. I asked if we could do an E draft to prepare for the first round of the tournament, and all were agreeable. My first pick was Charcoal Burner, who I'm a big fan of. I got Reed Collector second, who is a very solid pick. I believe I had a meaningless third pick, but then a fourth pick Hut Builder, who I'm pretty sure I've never had before! In my original pack, Wooden Hut Builder came back to me, so I thought it would be good to just use him and Hut Builder and not bother upgrading my house at all in the game. It means you don't have to spend two renovation actions or any resources, and only miss out on 4-5 points instead of 8-10 for not having a nice house, but that would mean that I could focus on making sure my board was covered with fencing and fields. It worked out well because I was able to grab Axe in the Minor Improvement draft, and a Reed Pond to go with my good occupations (it requires 3 of them to be in play).
My game played out perfectly as I was able to drop Charcoal Burner and Reed Collector early, take Reed-Stone-Food a few times, and build the Basketmaker's Workshop. On turn 4, I barely remembered that Hut Builder needed to be played in Stage I! Alex had built a room and Head of the Family, and on turn 6 Family Growth still hadn't appeared, so I took Start Player with my first action, and built two rooms with the Axe with my second action so as to be able to take Family Growth right away before Alex could, although with Head of the Family, he could grow as well. I was able to grow to 4 the very next turn, and I was pretty much set up so I focused on collecting wood for one big fences drop. Then it was just a matter of collecting points the rest of the way. I had 53 points, Alex had 49, Bronwen was in the high 30s, and Peter had around 16.
While we were playing, Derek whom I had played in Through the Ages came and watched the end of our game. Afterwards, he wanted in on a game, and Alex suggested Princes of Florence since we had five if Peter still wanted in.
It was a tight, low-scoring game. I don't remember the last time I've seen someone win with 54 points, but Alex did it. I was in second with 50, Bronwen had 48, and Derek and Peter were right behind that. I was in seat two, but our friend Shane was arriving, so I was looking out for him entering the room and totally spaced on taking the extra Profession in turn 2. That's something that I would never do in a tournament! I ended up playing a mixed strategy of getting things opportunistically, so I ended up with 1 Jester, 1 Builder, and 2 Recruiting cards. I was able to build all six of my works but it wasn't easy!
Shane showed up and Bronwen and I went with him to possibly my favorite sit-down restaurant, Texas Roadhouse. I pretty much order the same thing every time: Texas Filet with broccoli (no butter!) and a house salad (no cheese!). We saw Randy and Andrew there, along with Zvi (who I haven't seen in a decade or so, a long-time Magic pro). I asked them what happened in the Through the Ages final. Randy took it down again, Zvi was second, Andrew third, and Sceadeau fourth. Sceadeau and I have been talking a lot of gaming online lately, and we had played two games of Agricola online last week. Apparently Through the Ages is a much more skill-based game than I would have expected.
Finally, the real tournament began! In Power Grid at WBC, you get to choose from one of two map options each heat. One of them always chooses the alternate plant deck, which I didn't really love, so I chose to play Korea regular rather than Germany with the alternate. Unfortunately, I drew the GM, Jim, who is a super nice guy but a really tough Power Grid player. He's one of those people that can keep track of a lot more information in his head, so he often knows to pretty good accuracy how much money you have. Last year he gave the finalists playing-card style money decks to replace the paper money in the game, so I proudly showed him that I brought my decks back to utilize this year, which I know was something he was hoping for.
We had a very tough, tight knife fight of a game. The Korea map is pretty darn brutal. People were hopping over each other left and right for board positioning. Jim had a great start with an early 25 plant, but because of that the coal markets (Korea has two markets!) dried up significantly. After getting blocked off early, I bid 21 for the 18 wind plant because I knew I would have to save money for connection costs as much as possible. I was stuck on 6 capacity for quite a while, and the plant market was awful. After the game, Jim thought I should have bought the 17 nuclear plant to replace the 11 nuclear I had just to churn through the market, even if it costs me some money. In the last turn of the game, it was up to me to end the game or not. I had been holding back a ton of money so I decided to go for it, even though it would be a 13-13-13 tie for first. I went for it and showed my 15 Electros. The opponent on my left showed 14! Then... the guy opposite us showed 17 Electros! First through third, all separated by 3 Electro. Well, at least it secured me a second place, and I can go for a win in the remaining two heats. Usually a first and a second is in...
At this point, the room we were in had multiple different tournaments at once, including a very excitable crowd of people for Elchfest, a dexterity game about moose trying to cross each other's paths. The room was getting muggy and uncomfortable, so Le Havre was going to be a challenge. Continuing with the theme of hard matchups, I drew Kerrin, a regular WBC friend of ours who comes all the way from Australia, Mike., a consistently strong gamer who beat me in the semifinals of Le Havre last year, and Rob, another strong gamer who has won many tournaments and is the GM for El Grande. Mike was able to get the Business Office going, make a lot of steel, build some steel ships and ship a bunch of things, all while not taking a loan. He had 180 while the rest of us were close. Kerrin was surprised to find herself in second with 140, Rob had 137, and I had 136. Considering the tight binds the dynamics of the game put me in, I was happy to be in that tight of a band.
After that, Shane and I met up and went to one of my favorite places in Lancaster: Waffle House! Simple, cheap food that gets the job done. I ordered 2 eggs, hash browns and toast for $4. I think in Boston that probably costs double.
Today should be a long, draining, fun day. The agenda: Brass, Power Grid, Agricola, Egizia, Stone Age, and Princes of Florence. Luckily the two most computationally heavy are the first two! I'm skipping the second heat of Brass which coincides with Stone Age and Princes of Florence. It was going to be a hard choice, but having already won the first heat of Stone Age means that Stone Age/Princes is two chances to make a semifinal, since Princes just needs a win and Stone Age typically needs two wins (due to the much bigger turnout for Stone Age); while Brass is only one chance. Maybe I'll make it a guaranteed choice by winning Brass in the first heat!