All the craziness, half the time: My WBC 2013
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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I should not be here.

That thought went through my head many times, along with some rather loud playing of Metallica CDs, as I made my first-ever solo journey to the Lancaster Host for the WBC.

It was also the first time I found myself coming on the Friday, well after a number of events had come and gone. But the fact is, for much of June I had no plans to come at all.

I just got a new job, and while I probably could have taken a week off for a vacation scheduled prior to being hired, I felt it would have shown a lack of respect towards my new employers.

In addition, my wife is now in her 8th month of pregnancy, and preferred that I stick around in case of complications. The WBC is located about 80 miles away from my house, so it wasn't as if I'd have to hop a plane to come back, but it's still a good 90 minutes to get back.

I had already pre-regged for the week, but was willing to consider the $50 as a 'sunk cost' and pass.

Then the urgings began.

"Dude, you gotta come! You gotta play Agricola and make the final table again! We want to see you break down when you win!"

"I can't make it. I have a new job and a 2nd child on the way."

"Dude, at least play ONE heat! Come Friday! You gotta do it!"

Eventually ... my resolve broke down. I started hinting to my wife that I'd like to at least go for the last three days of the Con. And, over more time, she eventually gave me her permission (if not her outright blessing). As a show of affection, I took her out for dinner every night for about a week.

(Of course, our kitchen was being remodeled at the time and we didn't get our new kitchen sink installed until after I left. But I digress.)


It was a strange trip, to say the least, but in the end I'm glad I went. I may only have an abbreviated set of memories to take from this year, but I had all the highs and lows that I've had in years' past. More successes. More failures (of course!). More insanity. And, for the first time ever, less time to reflect on things, as I no longer have the luxury of having the next three weeks off before reporting to work.

What follows are the chronicles of my 48+ hours at WBC 2013. As always I offer links to previous Con trips (because my life is just too interesting not to peruse):

WBC 2012
WBC 2011
WBC 2010
WBC 2009
WBC 2008
EQ 2007
WBC 2007
WBC 2005
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1. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:1562]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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Scheduling conflicts are nothing new, but this was the first time that I came late in the Con, and as a result, there were many games whose heats (if not the whole tourney) were completed as of Thursday night:

Le Havre: I got to the Lancaster Host in time to see who made the Final table, no sooner. I could have helped Ken out with recording stuff, as I was originally set to assist-GM this event, but I had missed a lot of gaming time by then and was eager to play a heat at 9am Friday. (Ken was unable to repeat his triumph from a year ago, but was able to handle his business quite well without me.)

Automobile: Perhaps my biggest disappointment was that I was unable to make another run at the final table that I improbably made a year ago. I still wish this game would hit the table more often at the club.

Vegas Showdown: I bombed out a year ago (and missed the SF when a round number of winners showed up), but I still greatly enjoy this game and really wanted to play it again.

Amun Re: I still like this game (and still own an autographed copy), but I'm not as sad to miss this game as I am about the above three. Still, I wouldn't mind a shot or two next year.

Goa: Really, this game has fallen off the radar for me. I'd play it if there were no other games on the docket, but by now this would lose out to a number of conflicting schedules. Surprising, I guess, since I did make the finals some time ago.


Then there were the game that I could have played, but chose not to (mostly due to scheduling conflicts with games I did play):

Stone Age: I played the one heat a year ago because I could. Even with a win in that game, there wasn't much desire (and no time) to try it this year.

Race for the Galaxy: Heat 3 coincided with Ra, and Heat 4 went beyond the 'basic' game, into territory I'm mostly unfamiliar with. It was still tempting to try the 4th heat, but I passed.

Ingenious: Three heats were in the books by Friday morning, and the 4th conflicted with a number of games on my schedule.

(Quick aside: this was the first time that my cousin Matt made the trip. He ended up ferrying Alex to and from the Con this year, and they shared accommodations for the week. They were nice enough to let me crash on the couch for the two nights I was around. Anyway, Matt played two heats of Ingenious, won both [including an 'all-18' game], and was the #1 seed heading into the semis. Unfortunately, he got edged out in his SF game.)


Can't Stop and Liar's Dice: Two late-night funfests that I had to pass on. CS took place on Wednesday night, while LD conflicted with other games.

Age of Steam: Where'd it go? I was very saddened to see that AoS didn't make the cut from a year ago. Speaking of which ...

Caylus: It was inevitable, what with only 23 participants a year ago. Ironically, it worked out in my favor, as there was no way I'd've been able to GM the event this year. I still have fellow gamers ask me if it will return, and maybe I'd make a push for 2014. For now, though, memories are all I got for this.


So considering what I didn't play this year, ya gotta wonder what I did play. Well, let's start with the main reason I bothered to come at all ...
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2. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:8.12 Overall Rank:6]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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Four straight final tables. Four straight losses.

Verily, I am the Buffalo Bills of Agricola.

In general, I've had success in the heats leading up to the SF round. I had also hoped that, with the strong players likely having won earlier in the Con, I wouldn't have too tough a table to get by. Fact is, I only got one shot to make it to the next round.

So who do I get at my table? Well let's see ...

Sitting across from me is Nick Vayn, who I remember from our Le Havre semifinal from a year ago. Strong gamer. Going to be a test already.

To my right? Sceadeau D'Tela, one of the biggest sharks in the Con.

And to my left? Eric Ho. You know, the guy who won it all last year???

Wonderful ... I get one shot to advance, and I draw the Group of Death! (To be fair, Alex was quick to point out that my appearance at the table contributed to this being a 'Group of Death' table as much as anything.)


I build the first room of the game, but Sceadeau gets the first Family Growth. I do grow in Round 7, but would not grow again for the entire game, focusing instead on getting a stone house early enough to make use of the Scholar. I also use the Manufacturer to get two of the three 'manu' imps (Eric got the Pottery), use the Magician to get grain, the Swing Plow to get fields, and the Turnip Field to sow it all. I end up with 40 points, not bad for a 3-peep game and good enough for 2nd (after the tie-break), but Sceadeau steamrolls the table with solid farming (helped out by my passing him the Sawhorse in favor of keeping the Duck Pond as my 2nd minor) and no leaks.

Final scores: 51-40-40-36. My streak of post-heat play at Agricola was over about 4 hours after I got in.
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3. Board Game: Ra [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:95]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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Agricola wasn't the first game of the Con for me. That honors goes to a game I hadn't played in the previous two years of the WBC, despite making the final table twice.

My choices for 9am Friday were either this, the aforementioned RftG, or Castles of Burgundy, a game I'm not that fond of anyway, and whose SF round conflicted with the Agricola heat. (By the way ... looks like I picked the wrong year to make 'Gric my team game.) There was no guarantee I'd make the SF round even with a win, but I still enjoy playing, and it has been a while, after all.

And karma was more than on my side in my game! I somehow racked up 15 points in the first epoch with several monuments to boot, kept the pharaoh lead for most of the game, and cruised to a 55-37-37-33-13 victory. First game of the Con, first win of the Con.


The SF was later that day, and I was listed as tied for 28th in the standings (the Top 25 moved on). After some tense moments, I end up being the second-to-last one in and make the semis. The last one in, one Mikko Raimi, ends up at my table, as does a familiar foe: Rich Meyer, who bested me in the Caylus final a year ago.

Luck wasn't with me this game, as I ended numerous rounds with a bid in hand. Rich gets the better of me again, as he pulls out a 46-36-31-23-18 win and moves on to the finals.

Still, it felt good to play some tourney Ra.


(Epilogue: it could have been worse ... for what I believe to be the first time in all the years I've attended, Alex failed to win a single heat and missed the Ra semis. Just one of those crazy years, I guess.)
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4. Board Game: Ra: The Dice Game [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:814]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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I was able to squeeze in a very quick game of this in between Ra and Agricola (specifically, about 20 minutes from beginning to end), but swiftness would not equate to greatness for me; I lose, 35-31-26-16.

I would play another heat Friday morning, and lose a heartbreaker, 28-28-27-25. To add insult to injury, the GM's rules dictated that both the players who tied would advance to the semifinal round.

As I would have had a conflict with the later rounds anyway, it wasn't so bad that I didn't make the cut ... but I still hate to lose.
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5. Board Game: Tikal [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:154]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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6pm Friday was a quiet time for me. As I had little desire to play a heat of either St Pete or Last Will, I went nostalgic and opted for a game that, some time ago, I made a semi in. (That experience wasn't so pleasant, to be fair; then again, it seems that I would be very unlikely to have that experience again in the foreseeable future.)

Only two hours to play? One would not think this possible, but the GM included cube-shaped chess clocks to keep the pace going. Each player had 20 minutes to complete all their moves for the game, or would have to pass subsequent actions from then on.

No one ever accused me of suffering from AP: I finished my whole game in 5 minutes! Probably should have taken another 5 to play smarter, as the GM crushed our table, 135-109-98-96.

One player in that game was Ken's wife, Jen. She would later qualify for the semifinal, but had to pass up on it.
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6. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.14 Overall Rank:5]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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Somehow, I didn't get a game of this in a year ago. Not this year: I had time to play in two heats, and needed that second chance.

Despite starting in 4th seat and getting coffee going early, I ended up in a dogfight with the players in 2nd and 3rd seat. My ATBO opponent won a tight one, 53-50-50-41, thanks to a tobacco monopoly.

My 2nd attempt would not be easy, as I drew former champion and fellow EPGSer Barb Flaxington. This time I had first seat, and my ATBO (not Barb) ended up with an early coffee play. But I was able to match him quickly (the others went for Tobacco), shipped a ton with a Harbor-Wharf combo, and pulled out a 50-45-41-38 win. I was back in the QF round.

The seat auction saw both corn seats go for 2.5 and 2 VPs, and I took 1st seat for 0.5 VPs. Unfortunately, I remember little about the gameplay; I do remember the ridiculously close finish, though: 44.5-41-40.5-39. First place went to the guy who bid the most, second place to the guy who bid the second-most, and so on.

Here's what really hurt: with one more point, I would've been second-alternate to the semifinal round.

Here's what could have REALLY hurt: actually being the second alternate. As it turned out, one alternate made the SF round: Alex.


Sunday morning at 9am was really a quiet time for me, as everyone else I was keeping in touch with (Alex, Matt, Ken, Jen) was in a QF or SF round at that time, while I cooled my heels for an hour before my last game of the Con. More on that one later.
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7. Board Game: Yspahan [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:292]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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Here was a case where a major scheduling change worked in my favor. In previous years, this game was played Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. This year, the non-mulligan round was played Saturday night, and I was able to get a game of this in.

One player jumped out to a huge lead, thanks to numerous cubes in the caravan ... but he never built a building the whole game, and faded down the stretch. I got all my buildings built halfway through, and thought I had the game won ... but my ATBO got a similar push of caravan points late in the game, and made more souk points at the end to pass me and win, 81-77-73-63.
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8. Board Game: Navegador [Average Rating:7.61 Overall Rank:99]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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My plan was to play two heats of this, as I did with PR ... but unexpected conflicts meant I had one shot to win a game and move on.

I have long thought about what 'e4' would be for this game. By this, I mean the 'book' first move of the game. After all, the gameboard is set up the same every game, so there ought to be a definitely 'first' move.

My belief now is that the first move should be to sail to the first gold colonies. I had the opportunity to do that in second seat in my heat, and used the early influx of cash to grab sugar factories. Meanwhile, everyone else was grabbing sugar colonies.

Those who know the game probably don't need to read more about this one.

I went primarily for factories and churches (in addition to the three gold colonies where my one boat was) and contributed greatly to an early building-induced end to the game. I racked up a 103-81-66-61 triumph and earned a spot in the semis, which followed the PR QFs.

I was in 2nd seat in my SF game as well, but this time first seat did go right for gold. I think the next-best move is to sail to the first sugar colonies, which I do. 4th seat takes a worker, and I learn a valuable lesson two moves later.

The lesson: if you plan on grabbing a colony, don't waste time grabbing a worker. I did, and 4th seat spent his Navegador to snipe the cheapest TWO sugar colonies!

OK, not a good move on my part, but OK then ... I'll just go for factories again. I would later grab the first sugar factory ... and the guy after me grabs the next one[/b]. Later still, the guy [i]before me gets sugar factories.

Again, there's not much to say after that. This was a complete reversal of my last game.

I would eventually get a dozen factories in total (mostly the gold ones), and broke 100 for the second straight game. My ATBO, however, ended up with a virtual sugar monopoly with the colonies, and made money hand over fist. I still contend that he didn't spend his money wisely ... he never used the building space once, and ended the game with a whopping 2600 in coinage ... but he did get to 13 colonies, and comboed them with a handful of navigation tokens to hold me off for the win, 111-102-87-83.

I learned a lot with that game, and hope to put these lessons to good use next year.
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9. Board Game: The Princes of Florence [Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:62]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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I really have never had much desire to play this game.

I never considered myself that good at it. I never play it at the club. It's not like I memorized the minutae about which professions require which landscapes or freedoms, or what all the Bonus or Prestige cards are.

It's probably the kind of game I ought to love, but it never really did it for me.

And maybe if I had read the rules to Copycat ahead of time, I'd've played the mulligan round of that at 3pm on Friday. Instead, with nothing else interesting me (sorry, Alhambra), I decide to get a game in of this in between my Agricola flameout and my hopeful Ra semi.

(Oh, and one favor for those who informed me as such: please don't tell me a game is 'broken', and how to win, before I get a chance to play even ONE LOUSY GAME!!!

Please don't take the above as an insult; I like ya very much and all. But I still want to formulate my own opinion before hearing such.)

Anyway ...


Considering who I drew in my heat ... Chris Senhouse, and the immortal David Platnick ... and considering my starting '4th' seat (supposedly not so good), I expected a quick end to my 'PoF' run. But I somehow get a Recruit card for only 600 in auctions one AND two, get two of the six non-starting professions (unusual in 4th seat, but aided by David's builder strategy), get a third recruit late, get lucky with a Prestige draw near the end ('Most Works'), and eke out a win with what I believe to be a personal best score: 67-64-59-57-52.

So I qualify for the semifinal ... which runs against a heat of Navegador. The fact is, I did consider blowing off the semifinal of 'PoF' to play in that heat.

Why not? I think I was more than fortunate to get those early Recruits so cheap; I doubt I'd do so well in a semifinal. And I remember my one and only other semi at this, when Aran Warszawski smoked me. So why bother here, when I have a better chance at advancement with the other game?

In the end, the tourney-junkie in me won out. If I just want to play Navegador, I could just as well stay home and play with my son. (Next year he'll be 8, and I'm planning on bringing him along.) Semis are semis, and not even trying would be a greater insult to myself than crashing and burning.

My Friday night at 10pm was set.


The GM opted for a 'snakeback' system of filling the tables. As I was seeded #11 (out of 20), I got in a 4-player game with the #1 seed, Jason Long (who won both his heats).

Oh, and #10? Aran! And he must have a thing for men who juggle!

After 5 rounds of auctions, Aran sat with 4 Jesters! I didn't really think he was getting them that cheap: he paid 1100-1200 for each. But his belief is that, with 4 players, they should go for at least 1500. Considering his position after 6 rounds, I'm inclined to agree; he seemed to have the game locked up.

I went for a strategy I use in many games involving money: 'tightwad'. I went for bargains, getting early landscapes and two mid-game builders. I never got a 3rd builder, but still got 5 buildings squeezed in (along with one of each landscape) and kept close by. Then the final auction started ...


To anyone who's actually read all my previous reports ... Thank You!!!

Also, you may have noticed a particular theme with many of my games: the blunder at a key moment that kills my chances at winning. (Last year, it was the Automobile Final, where I placed a new Dealer in the 'cheap' section instead of the standard 'midsize' area ... which crushed me when I couldn't fight for 'luxury'.) One bad move is all it takes, and it happened here.

The difference? It happened in my favor.

The previous round, Aran maxxed out VPs on his works and left himself with only 100 florins. After the first two people grab their auction stuff, Aran has to choose ... and he passes. I bid 200 for another Prestige card, and he passes. He then tries to buy a forest for 200.

The rules are clear about this: you can't hop back in when everyone else is done. It was a blunder, and it cost him.

Thanks to a timely Bonus card (6 work-points for having all three landscape types), I get the Mathematician down for a 23-value work. I score 11 VPs, 3 more for 'best work', make 2 Prestige cards at the end, and edge Aran, 65-63-52-50.

I'm in the finals for Princes of Florence! (Maybe I need to give this game another chance, after all.)


Familiarity does not breed contempt to me, but it does breed a nervousness as to who I'm facing at this table:

I get a rematch with David Platnick. I also play Lyman Moquin, who I don't know personally but (I've been told) is an absolute beast at this game.

At least, I need to trust Alex on these opinions. Speaking of which ... Alex is in the final, too! (For the record: we have met in 3 previous final tables at the WBC ... and he's won every time.)

Oh, and my last opponent? Ken! (Weren't we supposed to be in the Le Havre final again? Or maybe Ra? Not this game!)

The game was scheduled for Saturday night at 10pm, and despite the hopes of some to push up the time, 10pm is when we start.


There's no need for me to go into play-by-play details, as Eric Brosius is quite conscientious about keeping a gamelog. He posts a summary of the final table every year, and I doubt this year will be any exception.

Here's what I do remember: I get 4th seat for free (David gets 5th for free), which Alex pays 300 for 2nd and the other spots go for 200 each (I think!). I get a Prestige card to start the game: 'All 3 Freedoms', and plan my strategy around Lake-based works. I also get two Jesters, before getting my first of what would be 3 lakes. My first work (for 13) gets edged by Lyman (for 14) in the second round. By midgame, I'm well behind the others ... but I would actually garner at least a tie for 'best work' in three of the final four rounds. It's not nearly enough, as this time David works the builder strategy to perfection. He also makes 2 Prestige cards (he didn't need his 2nd one) and coasts to 63 points and the win. Lyman, who seemed to know where all the Prestige cards were, ended up with a respectable 51.

As for me, Alex and Ken?

55-55-54.

Ken, who have a bit of money left over and the '1' profession (Mathematician), had 54 and would've been 2nd with one more point. Alex and I had 55.

He had 100 florins left over.

I had 0.

Alex fails to get a win in a final I'm in for the first time in four plays, but he still finishes ahead of me. Just barely.

My third-place finish, though, is enough to earn a plaque. For my WBC career, I now have around 10 pieces of wood, with no firsts among them. I don't know if that's a record, but I gotta be at least in the Top Ten, right?

I got no regrets about how I played. Honestly, I've never played so well at this game in my life.

Will I give it a go next year? We'll see. (But don't expect me to make this my team game any time soon.)
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10. Board Game: TransAmerica [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:716]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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Last year, I made the semis, got knocked out, and went home.

This year? I made the semis, got knocked out, and went home.


(Maybe I can be a bit more specific.)

In my first game, I got very fortunate with the West-coast and East-coast cards. In 5 rounds, I never got San Diego, L.A., Seattle, or Boston. I never got worse than a '2' in any round, went out first in the final two, and coasted to a win.

My SF match was a 4-player affair where I start out with a '0' when being first to place. Then my RHO goes out first in each of the next three rounds to win. I was only behind by two going into the final round, but my card luck ran out when I drew Boston and no one else had Buffalo. I got hit with a '6' in that round, which knocked me back to 3rd. I was behind 2nd place by two points.

That was as far behind 2nd I ever finished in any game of the Con.


Another personal surprise: not a single DFL on the record this year.

(Do I need to change my avatar now? Nah, I like it.)
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11. Board Game: Jumping to Conclusions [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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"In Conclusion"

So what to make of a crazy 3-day weekend?

5 more tourneys where I make it out of the 'heat' stage, 4 more semifinals, and yet another final table in a game where I've never gotten so far. Over the years, I've now made a final table in each of the following games:

Ra (2)
Goa
Cuba*
Caylus (4)
El Grande
Vegas Showdown
Agricola (4)
Le Havre
Macao
Automobile
Princes of Florence

(* - no SF round)

18 final tables. And enough 2nd- and 3rd-place plaques to build a fort.

And somehow ... no wins.


I've been told enough times now that my day is coming ... which probably made it all the more ironic as to which song happened to be first on my playlist for the trip home:

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12. Board Game: Would You Believe? [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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Oh I'm sorry, is that too depressing. How about this song (which I heard in the car today on the way to work):




All things considered, I regret nothing. I had a blast. I caught up with some old friends. I ate ... poorly, I guess. But I did have some ice cream on Saturday, which was very tasty!

I got a job that I love, even if it means going to work the day after the Con. And I got a daughter on the way.

Next year? Family Vacation Time!

Bringin' the whole family to Lancaster next year. Plan on doing the PreCons, getting my boy some gaming time, maybe take in Dutch Wonderland, who knows.


Until next year ...
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