$10.00
2011 WBC Week
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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I have been a regular attendee of WBC and its prior incarnation (Avaloncon) for close to 20 years. It is one of the gaming highlights of the year, although it can be a bit of a marathon as you get through a full week or so of gaming, often going from one event to another with little food or sleep.

Anyway, as in the past, this GeekList will recap the games I played and the people I played with. Here are links to other prior WBC GeekLists by me:

http://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/57547/2010-wbc-diary

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/45090/2009-wbc-diary

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/33774/fun-and-games-at...

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/23588/2007-wbc-recap

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/15837/games-played-at-...

For this year, the final entry on this Geek List will include some stats and final comments and observations.
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26. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.15 Overall Rank:5]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Second heat of Puerto Rico, the easiest one to run because (1) it wasn’t back to back with any other games, (2) there was no need to turn around the results afterwards, (3) table space wasn’t a real concern, and (4) I didn’t play. We got set up relatively quickly using the card-pairing system, there was sufficient table space this time, and the games got done in time. When the results came in, the one thing I noticed was that all four past winners playing this year had yet to win a game with just one heat remaining, making the final heat a bit more interesting.
 
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27. Board Game: Navegador [Average Rating:7.61 Overall Rank:98]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Friday night there were just a couple of games on the agenda that interested me – Princes of Florence (which I had already played and won, guaranteeing advancement) and Mac Gerdts’ latest Rondel game. For me, picking Navegador in this situation was a no-brainer, plus before the Con I had told Anni, the GM, that I would play to help her keep her numbers up. To my surprise, her numbers were much greater than those of Imperial, a game that was back for the fourth year as a Century event.

For my game, I was paired with David Platnick (an avid Puerto Rico player who is a threat to win at just about any Euro game), Andy and a third guy whose name I can’t recall. Anyway, Dave ran away with game, and I was lucky to finish second. This was OK with me, as my schedule just would not permit me to play more than one game. Glad to help Anni get her numbers up.

Brief thoughts on the game: played it a lot in the Dec.-Jan. time frame when it first came out, a lot less now. Think it’s the second best of the Rondel games – better than Hamburgum – but far below Imperial which in my opinion has many unique aspects to it that make each game different. With Navegador, I think the replay value may be a lot less because there are only a couple of ways to victory, maybe one or two more interesting aspects than Hamburgum, but that’s about it. Will be looking forward to the next Rondel game by Gerdts to see if it pushes the envelope even further.
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28. Board Game: Coyote [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:1437]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Friday night, and for me it meant catching up on my GM paperwork which meant having cards made up for every player (over 100 at this point) in the Puerto Rico tournament to make sure things went as smoothly as possible in the final Saturday heat. However, in the open gaming area, I hooked up with gaming buddies Ben (who moved to the Seattle area in the last year but came to WBC), Nick (who had been a co-host at my local Laurel club before moving away – but not as far away as Ben) and Pete Putnam, who lives fairly close to Lancaster. Called in Doug (von Epp on BGG) and were joined by two other guys I had not met before – Andy and Mark – for a seven-player game of Coyote. Of course, the game only has components for six, but Mark figured out a way to put some hand-made headband on so he could join in.

Now, there was a lot of drinking during this game – I even -- rare for me -- had a few sips of whatever beer Pete had on him – and it came down to a three-way contest between Ben, Pete and me after I had knocked out Nick and Doug, Andy and Mark (the three new players) had been knocked out either because they hadn’t got the strategy down or were maybe a bit too drunk to do the necessary math calculations required. Anyway, Ben and Pete conspired to give me my last two coyotes (which Ben seemed to enjoy to no end), but Pete had the last laugh, taking out Ben in the last two rounds.

Coyote is a real hoot, in my opinion it could be as successful as a late-night event at WBC as the very popular Slapshot, Can’t Stop and Liar’s Dice tournaments.
 
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29. Board Game: The Princes of Florence [Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:61]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Had to go for another early AM wake-up call to make it to the Princes of Florence semi at 9. The GM for this event, Eric Brosius, had meticulously specified the conditions for the semifinals, and this year it turned out to be five four-player games with winners advancing to a five-player final. I was randomly paired with Ed Fear (the same guy I had faced in the heat), Chris Senhouse and Jason Levine. Chris had taken me out in the Princes semi a couple of years ago, so I knew him to be strong player. Jason was someone I had not played in Princes before, although I recall when I was GM-ing the game for the second year he claimed to have “solved” the game. Going in, I knew the schedule called for back-to-back games, semis and final, something that would be impossible for me with the Puerto Rico heat coming up at noon, although – based on my prior track record of always losing in the semis at WBC – that was a problem that I was unlikely to have.

This game, the jesters got bid up to the 1100-1200 range, and I went for a jester-builder-two recruiters but no landscapes in the early turns. Heading into turn six, I had four works left to play, two of which had forests on them and two recruiting cards. Since no profession cards with buildings I had built had yet to hit the table (indicating a likely flaw with my game strategy right there), I desperately needed a forest to get one or both those cards down. However, Chris also saw that forest fitting into his plans – an unhappy situation for me as he had more money, so I dropped when the price was 300 more than what I have, saying “I never squeeze more than 3 for a forest.” I went for a prestige card which Ed let me have for 300 – hey, I was just trying to bid him up – and they were all blanks except possibly a tie for the most forests if I got one the final turn – overlooking the fact that Jason had two down already.

Anyway, the rest of the game was a nightmare although I did manage a respectable score, still fourth of four, but over 50 points and well ahead of my all-time low of 31 in a disasterous semi some three-four years back. The spot in the final went to Jason, which came as a bit of a shocker as I had been more worried about Ed and Chris. Ed came in a close second which may have been enough to clinch in 6th place laurels, pending the results of the other games.

While I still enjoy Princes and am able to be competitive and sometimes win an occasional tournament game (as I did here), I doubt have what it takes to contend for the top prize or even a final table. That being said, I enjoyed both my games at WBC this year, perhaps because they were both four-player games which are a bit less predictable than the more standard five. I am actually beginning to doubt my original assumption that five is the optimum number for Princes games based on this recent experience.
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30. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.15 Overall Rank:5]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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At noon it was the final heat of Puerto Rico, with the first elimination (quarterfinal) set to start an hour after the final heat was to be concluded at three. To add to the challenge of turning the results around quickly, the last heat was in an unfamiliar room with fewer tables that turned out to be a bit stuffy with just one entrance exit and other doors closed. The final heat is also more challenging because I like to pair winners with winners to give those players a shot at a direct bye into the semis, while other players seeking their first win don’t have to play with other players who have already secured a first win. Still, the fact that four former Champions were still on the outside looking in meant a tense situation for some quality players. As it turned out, two (defending Champ Luke Koleszar and 2004 winner Barb Flaxington) made it through – although Barb, by the skin of her teeth in a rare “double win” situation – tie and absolute tie on the tiebreak while Raphael Lehrer (2007 winner) and Chris Moffa (2006) fell short. I couldn’t happen to notice that the young man I taught the game to the day before – Alan – wound up paired with Chris, tough draw for someone playing their third PR game ever! By contrast, all was fine with the winners’ group as Ed Fear (the same guy I had placed twice in Princes) made it three for three in the heats, joining three two-game winners with byes to the semifinals.

The quarterfinal round saw 10 four-player games as exactly 40 one-game winners showed up, meaning some alternates (notably Chris and the always helpful Craig Trader) missed out. It was time for me to settle in for my second game, and with Eric Freeman (a strong player at all Euros, including Puerto Rico) at my table, I knew it was going to be no picnic. Others were Ryan (the same guy I played in the first game at Princes) and Felix Goodson, who had just played and won his first PR game at WBC just an hour before in the final heat. In the bidding for seat position, I wound up paying 2 VP for #3 seat while Eric got #1 for ½ VP. Early in the game it seemed Eric and I both did well in the money game, allowing us to purchase good production buildings. I got a tobacco and then got to 7 during a builder phase. Tough call, whether to go for coffee or the factory. It was early enough that I thought the factory could be of some use, so I spent all my doubloons on it. As it turned out, the game became a shipping game. I compounded my situation by failing to remember to take my first factory doubloon the first craftsman after it got manned, something Eric was willing to allow but, as GM, I felt the rules needed to apply to everyone, especially me. As the game turned out, that dollar didn’t really make much difference as Eric romped to a lopsided 12-point win, 11 ½ over Ryan in second after factoring in the bids with me third on a tiebreak over Felix. Not my best game by far, as I felt I made several miscalculations and the game even started with the wrong set of boats in play, something none of us noticed until the second or third Captain phase.

Anyway, as it turned out, all of the other games were closer, one being decided by a tiebreak and two by ½ VP (obviously based on a bid for seat position by someone). We posted the 16 qualifiers noting that the final position in the semis (assuming everyone showed) would come down to a coin flip, something that had never happened before.
 
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31. Board Game: Stock Car Championship Racing Card Game [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:2663]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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After getting the PR results posted, I rushed to the final of this at 6 PM, which for me is always one of the highlights of the convention, particularly this year as both co-designers, Mike Garton and John McLaughlin, were on hand as was Mike’s son, Josh, who had won the earlier heat to make the field. They had some kind of a new system where you drew three cards from a deck for qualifying, which did not work too well for me as I started way back in something like 19th out of 21 cars. The cars were aligned on a big oval with Mike in the middle moving things along. Even so, a bunch of low lap counts meant the race seemed to drag a bit for the first half. A lot of maneuvering and even a fast pit did me no good as I was still near the back with a third of the race yet to run. On a high lap count, I elected to play a draft card, showed my remaining cards to Josh (who had the misfortune to be knocked out early), since I had no reaction cards and would be stuck in the back, rushing to the food service to get a beef brisket and mashed potatoes before things shut down there at nine.

The short break brought me some luck as I finally began to pass some cars and move up. Also got some extra spots through the “slingshot draft” maneuver that Mike had added for this WBC final race. Going into the final turn I still had around 9-10 cars ahead of me, but was closer to the front than just about any time in the race. I saved a Pull Away and a couple of Pass Outsides in addition to the more useful Inside Advantage and moved up to the third row of cars as I was the last to move, given I had the lowest possible initiative, a 105. I lost the random flip for fifth place, though, but sixth meant laurels.

The winner was Luke Koleszar, who ironically had been the Puerto Rico Champ at WBC in 2010 and was still in the running in 2011 – I joked with Luke that he and I were about the only two people in the room who really liked to play both games in WBC tournaments. Second went to a guy from Italy known as Prezinsky on BGG. Since there was a runner-up from Israel a couple of years back, that means this event has taken on a truly international flavor.
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32. Board Game: Black Friday [Average Rating:6.62 Overall Rank:1377]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Since I was out of the PR tournament but still had to GM the final two rounds on Sunday, that meant no more tournaments for me, but it also meant there was still some time for open gaming. After getting a bit of a head start on my PR GM paperwork, I went to the open gaming area and played Black Friday with Beth, Kevin, Josh and Tim, who attends my local game club in Laurel. Despite the game having been played a few times in the past few months at Laurel, Tim had not played it before and neither had Josh. Josh seemed to pick up the game quickly and seemed to enjoy the thought of more subsidies. In this game, I sold my shares kind of early to convert to silver, hoping enough black suitcases would come out of the bag to end the game. They did not. Josh went on to take the win after buying five silver bars with his remaining cash at the game end. Still, the winning margin was fairly close.
 
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33. Board Game: Cloud 9 [Average Rating:6.48 Overall Rank:1240]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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At this point, Tim departed but we were joined by Bill for a game of Cloud Nine. Once again, Josh won. Bill grumbled about his poor card draws most of the game, he and Kevin were in the bottom two with Beth and I pushing Josh for the win.
 
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34. Board Game: Cheeky Monkey [Average Rating:6.64 Overall Rank:1568]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Final game of the convention for me, and this one attracted a bit of a crowd despite the lateness of the hour. Even though the box says no more than six, we had seven: Roderick, Josh, Beth, Kevin, Bill and then Ben who asked to join after we had started, with Alex sitting on the sidelines as a spectator. For this game, I was determined to stop Josh’s winning streak at two. And I did, helped by the fact that there were so many players. That meant all but one of the bonuses were shared – no friendly ties in this game – so I won with a very, very low score of something like 16. Great fun, particularly with Ben egging everyone on although by this time he was planning for his flight for the West Coast which left for Seattle. As I was heading to my room after moving some stuff to the car, I got invited to a late-night trip to the Waffle House (my third, having gone once by myself on Tuesday AM and a second time with Alex) by Ben and Pete. Said good-bye to Ben, hopefully see him again next year if not at EuroQuest in the fall. The fact that I did not have to worry about playing a Puerto Rico semi the next morning at 9 made it worth my while to miss some sleep.
 
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35. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.15 Overall Rank:5]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Puerto Rico semis, random pairing of 16 players in four games to see who reaches the final. 2010 runner-up Greg Thatcher (who reached the final of another event) was the only no-show, which meant both guys involved in the coin flip situation got in. One of them, Sceadeau, won his game to reach the final, meaning he was in line for his second plaque in four years (he got fifth in 2008 after I beat him in the semis in a close enough game, he got revenge by eliminating me in the semis in 2010). Two other semifinal winners were Dave Platnick and Jason Ley, I guy I had taught PR in a “coached game” back in the very first PR tourney at WBC in 2002, was a surprising finalist, winning the game that included Barb (one of two former winners and the only female gamer left in the semis) and Eric Brosius, who took second, albeit a distant second, to Jason.

The last game to finish was the one that, on paper, had the toughest pairing. It included Ed Fear, the guy who had swept three-for-three in the heats; Luke, the defending Champ; Eric Freeman, the guy who knocked me out and a former finalist; and Kevin Walsh, a finalist at both EuroQuest and PrezCon who was in the WBC semis for the fourth time. Waiting patiently was Ken Horan, whose 7.5-point loss to David was the best second; a closer finish in this game meant Ken would get the coveted sand plaque, but if the last semi was a blowout, Ken would be fifth. As it turned out, Ed won by a wide margin with Eric in second, 10 points down. Ken was fifth overall and Eric, despite the large loss margin, was sixth because the other games each had a margin of 10.5 points between first and second. Thus, no close semifinal games, an almost unprecedented occurrence.

After a brief break, the four finalists (Dave, Ed, Jason and Sceadeau) contested the final using Jason’s set. Dave started the game with Builder-Con. Hut, a somewhat off-beat opening but one which Dave prefers when there were, as in this game, two corn in the opening draw. Ed then made a surprising move as #2, taking Prospector, meaning the game was “out of the book” after just a couple of plays. Will present a more detailed analysis some time soon as I kept the play-by-record for posterity and for the GM write-up due next month. To make a long story short, Dave Platnick was the winner with Ed nosing out Sceadeau for second using a special second-level tiebreak rule (most colonists); the rule has been in place for about five years now and never before needed at WBC although it was used once to determine a finalist at EuroQuest.

Congratulations to Dave Platnick, who in my opinion has been one of the best PR players on the planet since the game debuted in 2002. His stellar resume includes three tournament wins at PrezCon, one at GenCon or Origins, but at WBC until this year he has been snakebit, including three straight runner-up results in 2004-05-06, four straight top sixes, and always a spot at or near the top of the laurels list. He’s played about 2000 games on-line and is one of the sharpest players out there. He’s also served as Assistant GM at WBC for the past five years. I can think of no more deserving Champion for the 10th PR tournament at WBC, and would also like to point out that Dave is the 10th different winner in 10 years.
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36. Board Game: Mermaid Rain [Average Rating:6.37 Overall Rank:3172]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Final entry in this Geek list is for a game I did not play, but it was my only purchase in the dealers’ area. It’s a game I have owned for several years already, so why did I buy it? Because Z-Man was there with a new English edition that has a much larger board and better quality components than the less accessible original Japanese edition. I sincerely hope that the release of the new edition by Z-Man causes many to try this excellent game for the first time, as its ridiculously low BGG rating (somewhere in the 2000s) is way below where it should be.

Well, that’s it for this year’s recap. This year’s WBC was an enjoyable one and I didn’t get too much stressed out, except for that string of back-to-back games on Thursday’s schedule and also the quick turnaround after the last PR heat on Saturday. High points? A top six in Automobile, the two wins in Founding Fathers (totally unexpected and both games were very enjoyable), a win against high quality opponents in both the Power Grid and Princes heats, also enjoyed the new games like Lords of Baseball as well as the open gaming (particularly that Coyote game with Ben and Nick) along with the always exciting McGartlin final race, something I had missed out on a couple of times in recent years. Also, winning the McGartlin heat with no cards left in my hand was kind of special, something I don’t think I have experienced in the 15 years or so since I started playing the game.

Quantity-wise, here’s a few stats for the week.

Tournaments entered: 10
Tournament games played: 17
Wins: 7 (not bad, considering all were multi-player games).
Plaques: none
Laurels (i.e. top 6 placings): 2 (6th in both Automobile and McGartlin)

Open gaming:

Games played: 11 (including Rails of New England in Showcase Sampler)
Games won: 2
Number of different games played: 9

Most played: Automobile, McGartlin, Black Friday (3 plays each)
(Note: despite being the Puerto Rico GM, I only played the game twice, once in the first heat, and again in the quarterfinals. I did help set up two teaching demos which are not included in the totals).

Now, here’s the cool part:

Number of different people played with: 70 (!)
(and note that this does not include any of the three McGartlin games, for which you should probably add at least 20 to that total)
Played most games with: Kevin Walsh (7), Josh and Beth (3)

Finally, allow me to get on the soapbox and express one strong opinion: when I read negative stuff posted here on BGG about how hyper-competitive tournaments are, etc.: One of the big things I like about going to conventions like WBC is the ability to meet people from all over (different parts of the US, even different countries). Most of these acquaintances come through people I met by being randomly paired in tournaments, a few through games where I was the GM (like Puerto Rico over the year). Many of these folks then greet me later in the convention and year after year when I see them again. Some of them have become gaming buddies whom I actively seek out in late night open gaming or in breaks in the tournament schedule. Had I taken the attitude that, because of a few bad eggs, I avoid tournaments altogether and stick to open gaming, I would probably wind up playing with a narrower range of opponents and not had the opportunity to meet many of these fine people.
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