I was at WBC 2011, and all I got was a deck of cards.
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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OK, I got a little more than that.

358 days until WBC 2012, but I feel like I got enough stories from this week alone to last for the year. Many highs, many lows, many games, many semis, many finals ...

... and still no firsts!

I'm reminded of an old Twilight Zone episode: "Shadowplay". A man sentenced to death by the eletric chair insists that he's been through all this before. A pardon comes just too late, and he dies. Next scene, he's sentenced to death again. The faces have changed, and people have different roles, but it's otherwise the same thing. The cycle seems destined to continue forever.

And that's how it is with me. Different semifinals, different finals, different placements in those finals, different opponents. Same results. And same longing to try the whole thing over again in a year's time.

I suppose I should focus on the positives. And the biggest one is, I get to cram in about 6 months' worth of gaming into a solitary week. I also got to know better a number of familiar faces, and met many new ones. And, relative to most, I did have a very successful week ... including perhaps my most improbable piece of wood (as well as my only piece of wood this year).

So without further ado, I revisit the odyssey that was my WBC 2011.


For those interested in my previous exploits, check out the following links:

WBC 2005, WBC 2007, EQ 2007, WBC 2008, WBC 2009, WBC 2010

(Scores in bold are my own.)
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1. Board Game: Car Wars [Average Rating:6.32 Overall Rank:1603]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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I had a rough go at it from the beginning of the week. And by 'from the beginning', I mean before I even got to the Con.

As has been the case every year that I've gone, I shared a room with Alex Bove for the week. This year, we were also sharing the room with Dan Eppolito, a strong gamer from southern California (and last year's winner in Le Havre, one of three games I revolve my WBC schedule around). Dan was at Alex's place, so my driving schedule was the same as always: drive to Alex's, and then to Lancaster.

Somewhere between my place and Alex's, my AC conked out. The light would go on signifying that it was on, but no cold air blowing; just the fan. And with temps in the mid-90s. That made for a warm, 60 minute trip to and from the convention.

Anyway, I pull into Alex's driveway; I get there a bit early, as he and Dan stepped out for a few minutes. While I waited inside the house (his wife was in to let me in), a truck delivering what looked like a shed took up half the street I was on, making it very difficult to pull out of the driveway. (I would have pulled up in front of the house instead, but when I got there, there was a car in front of the house. It was gone and the truck came in the 5 minutes I was in the house.)

Alex and Dan showed up soon after, we loaded up the car, and (with Alex's help) I attempted to squeeze my way out of the driveway and into the street. And I did get by ... but not before dinging the right-front of the car on a metal fence.

(Honestly, I can barely see it. And it's a black car, which I think does a better job of hiding dings than a white car.)

At least we didn't get lost this time (which has happened more than once in the past). We arrived at the Con by midday Monday to partake in the handful of events that took place that day, a first for non-PreCon events.


My newfound financial issues didn't end there, sadly. That night, I learned from my wife that the monitor to our computer blew. Luckily, she dug up the monitor from an older computer (one whose hard drive crashed a couple years ago) and succesfully hooked it up. So for now, one less expense to deal with. As for the AC, it looks like the same thing happened to my Dad earlier this year, and with luck, the cost won't be as much as I originally envisioned.

ADDENDUM: cost me just under $250. Could've been worse, I guess.
 
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2. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:1483]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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UNPLAYED GAMES

Quote:
Scheduling conflicts are nothing new at WBC, but with so many 3-hour games planned, I had to let much of what I liked to play go by the wayside.

No need to change those words from a year ago, but which games I skipped changed greatly:

Automobile: I've only played this game a handful of times, and it was always up against something I felt more comfortable with. And I got a lot of 3-hour games on my docket already. Had to pass. Maybe next year I finally get a game of this in.

Age of Steam: I had planned on at least one heat of this, but I ended up qualifying for semis that ran up against both heats. In any case, I haven't played this game much as of late, though I did win the one game I played about a month ago. So again, maybe next year.

Goa: Hard to play a tourney game when the tourney isn't there. And though I never got higher than 4th, I really miss the chance of playing this.

Ticket to Ride: Included here only because I actually played a heat last year. No such breaks in the schedule this time.

And the most surprising unplayed game?

Ra: For the first time in 6 trips to the WBC, I failed to get in even one of the four heats. And this coming off a year where I finished 2nd to Alex. But Heat 1 conflicted with Le Havre, Heat 2 was up against Agricola, Heat 3 was opposite the El Grande semi (and the 2nd Heat of Caylus, to boot), and Heat 4, the one I thought I would actually play in, ran into the Le Havre final.

Well, no worry about this game coming back next year, at least.


So, on to the games I did play.
 
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3. Board Game: Stone Age [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:48]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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We got to the Con in time for the Monday heat of Stone Age, a game I've played sporadically at most.

I wasn't helped by the fact that (a) I started last, (b) I rolled a lot of low numbers, and (c) the cards that give a resource to each player didn't work in my favor.

On two occasions, the player across from me took one and rolled 6-5-2-2 or something like that, greatly helping my RHO while leaving me little. On the one occasion I got one, I rolled 2-1-1-1.

I focused my card grabs on bonuses for peeps, huts, and farms, and I got one of the 'any resource' huts, but still lagged far behind.

Final score: 172-164-150-143. And with the next tourney game (for me) over two hours away, I got into a 'skittles' game.
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4. Board Game: Saint Petersburg [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:151]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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In chess tourneys, a 'skittles' game is simply one played that's not part of the actual tournament. Basically a fancy term for Open Gaming.

I ran into Ken Horan (a fellow EPGS gamer), who was interested in getting in a game of St Pete. I was up for it, and we were able to get two others for a foursome. It was only after the game was over that I was reminded (again) how bad I am with faces, as one of the 'other' two was Cary Morris. One would think I'd remember the guy who beat me at two final tables just one year earlier.

We were reminded once again with the one problem with St Pete: if anyone gets the Mistress out in Round One, that's pretty much it. I was the lucky one this game; the six bucks per turn helped me get out a number of Customs Houses, which (along with the 3 for the Mistress) added greatly to my point total for the game. I won comfortably, 95-82-68-51. It would be my only game of St Pete (I had no plans for playing a tourney game of this), but not my last game against Cary.
 
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5. Board Game: Asara [Average Rating:7.07 Overall Rank:553]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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There were a number of games available for play as always, and a number caught my eye. I know that Pantheon is now on BSW, and I was especially intrigued by Olympos ... but the only new game I actually played once was this one.

I was walking through the Open Gaming and ran across Bronwen Heap (who I remembered from a heat of Ra: Dice a year ago) playing this with some others. I picked up the rules fairly quickly, then later convinced Alex and Curt Collins to try a game before the Amun Re heat. It was a close finish; I think I won by three over both of them, but really none of us knew a lot about how to play. It's an interesting tower-building game to be sure, but I wish I had gotten in at least one game of Olympos before the Con ended.
 
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6. Board Game: Amun-Re [Average Rating:7.39 Overall Rank:169]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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The only heat that didn't conflict with anything else I had in mind was the Monday nighter. I thought I got off to a good start this game, even with only three cards through the first three rounds. (Two were bonus cards that I made that first half.) I hoarded a lot of cash (stealing each sacrifice, even with Damanhur), built up only one pyramid in each of my provinces, and still ended up with 14 points at the halfway point, only 2 and 4 points behind the leaders (who I 'knew' were cash-poor by now). With 41 bucks to spend, I was ready for the second half.

The extra cash wasn't too helpful early. Every province had one, and the only two that had more didn't show up until the last round. I used my cash to build up all my provinces to the 3 pyramid level, but missed out on the double-pyramid provinces at the end when the two players behind me on the scoring track bidded them up high. I finished the game with the cash lead, a triple-triple, but not the most on a side and (more importantly) no bonuses; the one I got at the end, I couldn't use.

I racked up a lot of points at the end, but Doug Smith (to my right, the leader at the halfway point) got two bonus cards down at the end (one drawn very late in the game), ended up 3rd with cash after another player blew all his cash on the last sacrifice (which I found odd, as he had a camel and no temples), and edged me by 3 at the end.

Final scores: 46-43-40-33-28. I never played another heat, and while I was still listed as an alternate to the semi, I was only 8th alternate. I don't think they got beyond 2nd alternate when the roll call came; there aren't many conflicts with an 11pm start time. One and done, which has become the norm for me at this game.


Here's a quote from last year's WBC report:
Quote:
In any event, my luck with Amun Re remains nonexistant. That game (my 5th at the Con) was my 4th loss in 5 games. By now, my confidence that I would even come close to my success from a year ago was shaken.

While this was only my 3rd tourney game at the time (I played a heat of Vegas Showdown before this), it was still eerily similar to my start from last year. Including this game, I lost 6 of my first 7 tourney games this year. And while I didn't bounce back as strongly as I did last year, I fared much better as the week progressed.
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7. Board Game: The Princes of Florence [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:56]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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Tuesday was very much a quiet day for gaming, with the first tourney action not starting before 6pm. I spent much of the morning with Dan at a local Pep Boys, hoping that the AC problem could be fixed by a simple relay switch (no luck). When we got back, Alex got into a game of Macao with Curt Collins, Carey, and Ken (who hadn't played before), while I scoped out the final of Through the Ages.


Side note: if there's one part of me that got a lot of notoriety, it was my choice of T-shirt for Tuesday. Several years ago, I was surprised by all the attention to my '3 wolf moon' shirt. (It wasn't until after returning home and Googling the subject that I learned. And it's not even the same shirt; the wolves on mine aren't howling.) This year, I wore a shirt my wife made. It was a black shirt with yellow writing.

What did she write? The math expression that I first saw on this thread. In brown (underneath) are the two choices: 2 and 288.

While I was watching the TTA final, some of players were watching me; a brief discussion ensued, similar to the one on the BGG thread. (For the record, I didn't mean to disrupt the proceedings. My bad.) Later, while standing outside the hotel to call my wife, I noticed three strangers staring at me. "I gotta go honey, people are staring at my shirt."

Honestly, I thought it was hilarious how much discussion I caused. Definitely a keeper for future years.


Anyhow, once the Macao game finished, Alex was interested in getting in a 5-player game of Princes. While I'm not a huge fan (even with my successful run a year ago), I was ok for a game of something by then. We ended up playing against Ken, Jason L (honestly, I forget if it was Jason Long or Jason Levine; I apologize for that), and Chris Senhouse (two more familiar names that would become more familiar over the course of the Con). I was in 5th seat and decided to experiment: when Ken (in 3rd seat) foregoed a worker in Round 1 to build and work for 7, I decided to do the same, figuring that Ken would go for a total Build strategy and not get another worker the next round (which would leave me one for Round 2). But when Ken failed to get a 2nd builder in that auction, he reverted to a more normal strategy and took the worker he passed the first round ... meaning I never got my 4th. (I did get a single recruit card late, but the damage was done.)

I took a Prestige card in Round 1, but had to settle for Most Lakes (I had a bad draw, to say the least); later on I got the Most Landscapes one. This led to me bidding up Lakes in Round 6 to get a second, which crushed Alex (who needed one late); he was further hurt in Round 7 when Jason battled both of us for the last lake! Jason got that one, and I only got a share for each of my two Prestige cards. I was a very distant 5th, while the others (when all was said and done) were extremely tight at the end. Chris eked out a win over Alex, who eked out 2nd over both the others (who tied).

Final scores: 57-56-55-55-43. Not that I minded; I wanted to experiment, and saw what a 'laboratory explosion' looked like.

After a trip to a local Vietnamese eatery for some takeout (the only food I ate that wasn't gotten at the Host), I was ready for some more tourney action.
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8. Board Game: El Grande [Average Rating:7.84 Overall Rank:23]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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El Grande always seems to bring out the worst in metagaming, as nearly every game involves a number of players (something all players) discussing what ought to be done on any given turn, or who ought to be winning at the moment (i.e., who to screw over). And the first heat proved to be rather heated. Among my opponents for this game were Curt Collins (who I've seen a lot of at the Con over the years) and JR Geronimo, who can prove to be rather ... uh ... manipulative. (My opinion; I suspect he thinks the same of me.)

The game was marred somewhat when, in Round 4, someone leaned over to place some caballeros and had his badge smack three of the scoring markers. (We could only guess as to what 2nd through 4th place at the time really had.)

Numerous times, bickering ensued as to who was winning, but down the stretch it was between me and JR. (JR's marker was first during the accident and went untouched; mine was one of the hit ones.) When all the scoring was completed, I earned a close victory over him.

Final scores: 94-92-87-79-71. My first tourney win of the Con, and my only one before 1pm the next day.


With nothing else to do, I played the third heat Thursday morning. It felt like all the Special Scoring Cards (Score the 4s, Score the 5s, Score the 6/7s) came out at just the wrong time the whole game, and I suffered my first tourney DFL of the Con, 118-108-104-102. From there, we went right to the semi.

My semifinal featured an opponent that I've seen a lot of in Cons past, and would see much of this year: Jefferson Meyer. The game went back and forth for a long time; it seemed that any time someone left the table for a moment, everyone else discussed how far ahead he was and how to slow him down. I got hurt myself down the stretch, and faded to a battle for 3rd; at the end, it was down to Drew DuBoff (whose brother I beat in Heat 1) and Jeff. And honestly, I wanted Jeff to advance.

Which made the last Castillo placement rather painful for me in retrospect. Simply put, I overthought things.

New Castillo (where my Grande was) was led by Drew at the time, while I had a single guy there scoring nothing. I had 7 guys in the castle, enough to take over the lead. But I thought that Rob McFadden (my LHO) had as many guys as me in the castle and would go to the same province for the 7 points. So I attacked Basque County, led by the guy in last (and where Drew was nowhere to be seen). I did it for a 'guaranteed' 5 points, as I figured no one else would go there. And no one else did. But there were two problems with that move.

First, NO ONE went to New Castillo. This let Drew keep his first-place there, which was huge. Second, I miscalculated how many guys were in the castle; I actually did have the most, and would not have been caught had Rob gone there. (I could have just counted all the caballeros on the board and in the provinces, but I know that's frowned upon in general and, I think, not permitted.)

Going to NC instead of Basque would have netted me 4 more points, which would have earned me 3rd over Rob. Also, I would have slowed down Drew (and helped Jeff in the process). Instead, the game ended in a tie for first between Jeff and Drew. With no one other than Rob with count guys (the last card played was a 'Decay of Authority' card), it came down to guys in the provinces ... and Drew had more. So he advanced over Jeff to the final. And I lost the tie for 3rd with Rob (due to the aforementioned Decay card).

Final scores: 97-97-88-88-79. A wild game, as games of this tend to go.

The winner of the event this year? None other than Curt Collins, who bounced back from that Heat 1 game to win his way into the semis, and eventually the final table. (He finished the Con with multiple 1sts. Well done!)
 
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9. Board Game: Le Havre [Average Rating:8.00 Overall Rank:13]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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For the second straight year, Keith Layton ran this event and refrained from playing, while I assisted and did play. And the similarities didn't end there.

Usually, seats are determined by random draw ... but Keith didn't have a deck of cards handy. Before I was able to tell him that I had a deck ready to go, he made the command decision that everyone who didn't have a game should just sit somewhere and get started, as long as teammates/friends were separated. Most of the other games got their players in quickly (mostly the newer players, I suspect); here's who I ended up with at my table:

Rob Effinger, a perennially strong gamer. Rob Flowers, another very strong gamer. And last year's Le Havre champ, Dan Eppolito. (Exceptionally strong, and exceptionally insane; this table was the 'life of the party' table by a wide margin.)

Well, to be the best you gotta beat the best. And I got into a building war with Rob F for most of the game; I really felt that it was between us for most of the game. But Dan just quietly went for loans, boats, steel, coal/coke, and more boats ... and he beat both of us at the end.

Final scores: 193-178-157-128. 3rd place wasn't going to be enough to make the semis, so I had to forego the final heats of Amun Re and Vegas Showdown to play the 2nd heat. (I also felt obligated to be around for Keith, though he said he would've been fine without me. And he's probably right about that.)

Despite playing some tough hombres in the 2nd heat (Pei-Hsin Lin, Steve Koleszar, Martin Villeneuve), I was able to have my way halfway through. (I wasn't helped by Pei-Hsin refusing to build the first Wharf in front of me; I ended up building one myself.) Not exactly sure what I did right (I think I got the Bank, though), but I racked up over 200 on the way to a comfortable win, 226-162-139-131.

The SF started right after the heat, in another room, on another floor (just like El Grande, actually). And I had some familiar foes in the 3-player semi: Chris Senhouse to my right (who went first) and John Panagotopulos, who's been to EPGS before, to my left.

I like boats more in 3pl than 4 or 5, and when possible, I go for the Sawmill to sell off to help pay for the boat. And I actually got the boat before the end of Round 2. I felt very smart.

It was only then that I noticed that the Wharf was 2nd from the top in one building pile. Rather a distributional freak, honestly.

We all ended up getting boats early and often; loans were unheard of, and frankly, so was any feeding difficulty. Yet the whole affair was low-scoring anyway; no one got either the Town Hall or the Bank, though shipping was fierce (so I was glad to own the Shipping Line). In the end, I beat Chris and John by a score of 229-196-193. I was joined by Ken, who crushed his SF table (which was a brutal 4-player affair where everyone was deep into loans) and two from the 'table of death'. Randomnization yielded a 3-player game that doubled as last year's final table (minus Nick Henning). Dan Speyer was the odd man out, finishing 3rd in his game but still had a higher percentage of 1st than either second-place finisher at the other tables. Nick Page beat out Dan Eppolito, but both moved on to the final table.

I can't say that Dan had a good draw for the finale; he started first, and with food/grain being the first offer disc revealed, he had a tough decision (or so I thought). He opted for 2 wood and built the Marketplace early. Nick (in 3rd seat) hit the Marketplace for Clay and Iron, but didn't build the Sawmill for a long time. That hurt me (in 4th seat), as I was waiting to pounce on it for my first building. He didn't build it until after I grabbed an iron. Grabbing iron turned out to be hard; in multiple instances, someone grabbed one iron right before a second would hit the table.

Compounding our issues was that one pile contained both Wharfs, the Clay Mound, the Black Market, the Shipping Line, the Grocery Market, and the Cokery ... but the Smokehouse blocked all of them, and it wasn't until Round 7 that the town finally built it. By then, both Nick and Dan had bought Wood Boats; Nick would later be the first to actually build one (an Iron Boat).

My late-game strategy involved the Haulage Firm and Storehouse; I also owned the Hardware Store and Colliery. But I was blocked often from getting into the Ironworks and Steel Mill, and only got a single Iron Boat before the late-game stages, as all the Steel Ships got snapped up. I did get the 34-point Luxury Liner, but I just had too much of a food issue to overcome down the stretch. I DFLed, but missed 2nd by only 6 points ... and 1st by 46 points!

Dan never took grain or cattle (even with an early Diner showing up), focused on building materials and late-game ships, got the Town Hall (and built the Church to boot), and rolled to a convinging win and a repeat championship. Ken edged Nick for 2nd, while Nick edged me for 3rd.

Final scores: 191-151-148-145. Something to remember for future plays of this down at the club.
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10. Board Game: Brass [Average Rating:8.03 Overall Rank:15]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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For the first time at the Con, I was able to play a heat of this Martin Wallace gem. As I really wanted to play Vegas Showdown in two hours (Brass is a 3-hour game), I requested to start a game early and get experienced players. The GM allowed it, and I drew Rob Flowers again, as well as Martin Villeneuve (who I mentioned before with the Le Havre heat; this game took place first).

I got good income early but probably shouldn't've competed on Mills with two others since I was 4th in the initial turn order ... but I had Macclesfield and liked the strategy of two early Mills shipped to a Distant Market by Turn 4. I was also able to build 3 Shipyards by game's end without competition. My problem was the competition for rails early into the Rail phase.

Rob F (to distinguish from Rob Buccheri, our 4th) built a ton of rail links in the early going (particularly around Manchester), and other players started competing as well. I wasn't going to, but I wanted to get Shipyards in both Liverpool and Birkenhead; to get to the latter, I had to build the link from Ellesmere Port to Warrington & Runcorn. The key was to get the link from W & R to Wigan, and I used a double-action build to get into Wigan ... but the player right before me sniped that link and slowed me way down. I ended up having to use another double-action build to get into Ellesmere Port, and while I did get my Shipyards in (and even got my Port used), I was a little late in keeping up with VPs. Rob F won the game by a decent, if not wide, margin over Martin.

Final scores: 134-125-121-104. While I had the time to play another heat, I really didn't have it in me to try again. I was glad to play a game of it, but probably won't try it in the future.
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11. Board Game: Vegas Showdown [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:265]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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If there's one game that I'd really like to see hit the table more often at EPGS, it's this one. I'd been able to play this one time in 2011, so it's one of the few games that I play at the WBC more because I like the game than because I'm really good at it. (Not that I don't want to win, mind you.)

I got two heats in, one on Monday and one on Wednesday. And I thought I played well in both, though perhaps I reached by paying 25 for a Turn One Sports Book in the first game. In both heats, I had problems getting Fancy Lounges down the stretch, and finished a close 2nd in both games:

Heat 1 scores: 64-60-54-53.
Heat 2 scores: 68-62-57-48. (Winner of that game? Randy Buehler. I hear he's pretty good at gaming.)

Eric Freeman (the Vegas GM) told me that my two 2nds put me in line as a top alternate, IF the number of winners that showed up was an odd number. Thus, I was out if exactly 16, 20, or 25 (or 26, as there were 26 winners) showed up. But fortune was with me on this one: 21 winners showed up, and 4 alternates filled out a 25-player semi. And wouldn't you know who'd be at my table: Alex, for the first (and only) time the whole Con. (We also had Steve LeWinter, Rod Spade, and Bob Wicks Jr. Fun table.)

Funny thing is, I got an early Sports Book again ... in Round 2, for 18 (and at the same time as Alex). I also grabbed an early Table Games, later getting the High Roller room (but eschewing Slots for the most part; I think I got one for the whole game). I also got a Lounge before a Restaurant (and later, Buffet), and used a Fancy Lounge to fill my last Casino section. But despite a decent money and population level, I was well behind the points that Steve racked up during the mid-game. I needed a large building to come out, and saved up to snag one. But the small buildings were all gone, and the game could end on the next pull. (I actually somehow ended up drawing every 'Pull Strings' card in the deck; I think I pulled a large and two mediums during the game, but I don't remember exactly.)

I fished my wish when the Space Age Sports Book came out, and grabbed it for 52. Another special building got taken that round, and the game ended before another round could begin. The extra prestige and boosts to my money and population markers (and diamonds, to boot) got me to 2nd, but still not enough to catch Steve.

Final scores: 58-53-48-47-45. Well played on all sides, I thought.


In regards to my GeekList title: Eric Freeman was giving out to all participants free used decks of casino cards. During the semi, I also received a T-shirt; I could've had more of each, but didn't want to be greedy.
 
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12. Board Game: Fresco [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:172]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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I sampled this for the first time a year ago; by now, I'm very hooked on the game. My heat involved players who weren't as well-versed in the expansions, so I had an advantage there. I went for early red and blue cubes, mixed some purples, and went to work snapping up purple pieces. Once I got to three, I exchanged for a free purple each turn (and 10 points); I would eventually get three more purple pieces, including the purple-pink and purple-brown ones, and finished the game by snagging the pink-brown one.

Final scores: 123-89-73-72. At the least, I think everyone at the table enjoyed the game.

I would have loved to see how I would have fared in the semi, but I ended up qualifying for a final that conflicted with it, so I had to let it go. Not the first time I've been forced to do so, but unfortunate nonetheless.
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13. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:8.13 Overall Rank:6]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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I was eager to put the memories of last year's final table debacle well behind me ... but fate intervened in one regard: I drew Cary for my Heat 1 game. I also drew Steve Simmons for my game; he's another regular at my gaming club, and we were actually using his set.

I had the fortune of passing into Cary, so I could guess most of the cards in his hand. I thought this would prove advantageous. I also had some tough choices for occs and imps. My first occ set in particular had the Braggart and Mushroom Collector, and I passed the latter to Cary, who played it quickly. I also had a tough choice for first imp: Axe or Quarry?

Now I've spent most of my Agricola time playing 4pl games, but the heats went to 5pl games, where I were relatively inexperienced. For one thing, food is much tighter in 5pl (with 'rsf' becoming 'rsw' and having an extra player who needs 4 food early); this made the MC much more vital than usual, IMHO. Of greater note, as Cary pointed out after the game, was this: though it's easier to grow your family, it's less important to do so (since the board is stretched very thin with 5 playing). At the same time, stone takes on added significance, since one will be more likely to feed using a manufacturing major. Thus, the realization that I probably should've kept the Quarry over the Axe. I kept the Axe and built up to 4 rooms easily enough, getting my family to 4 by the end of Round 7 ... but I had major food issues, as I didn't get a Fireplace (and no one got a Cooking Hearth, incredibly enough) and resorted to Fishing with the Rod for much of the second half. The final mistake was renovating in Round 13 instead of waiting to block Cary in Round 14. He had his fences in place, but I couldn't think of a minor that he could have that would really make a difference, and I wanted to take other actions for that round.

I forgot that I had passed him (during the draft) the Stone House Extension! He got that out with his Round 14 ren, and took FG at the end to edge me and my 7-point Braggart.

Final scores: 54-51-38-34-34. And I couldn't play the 2nd heat due to another conflict. I would have to win the 3rd heat (and finish the Le Havre in three hours just to have the opportunity).

Well, we finished the Le Havre final in time ... and the guy who just mopped the floor with our carcasses in that one ended up at my table for the 3rd heat! I also had to deal with Andy Gerb (best known by me for his excellence in Caylus, but strong at pretty much anything) and another EPGSer, Jason Wagner. (Herbert Gratz rounded out our table.) Oh, and one more thing: we were using the 'K' deck, and before game's end, I saw Andy play the Lover (in Round 2!), Dan play the Wet Nurse, and Dan (off the Broom) getting out the Reed Hut near the end.

I did have some things in my favor. I was 2nd in turn order (my favorite spot), and by the end of Round 2 had accumulated 11 wood and 3 clay. I also learned my lessons from Heat 1 about the lack of emphasis on Family Growth, and used my wood to get stables out with my first room. I grabbed a Fireplace early, the Joinery later (and upgraded to the Sawmill later still), used the Ox Team (a powerful card in 5-player) for 3 Fields shortly after the halfway point, filled my farm up while renovating to stone before the end, and won by a relatively comfortable margin.

Final scores: 49-42-40-38-18. (Jason went for the Mansion late, but ended up taking 3 Begging cards to offset that bonus.)


My semifinal match was a 4pl affair, where I started in 4th seat against Rich Miller, Raphael Lehrer, and Jason Long. The Magician and Storehouse Keeper helped me get a lot of grain early, and the Stone Oven helped me convert it to plentiful food. I also got my house up to the four-level before too long, built my fences before Round 12, and netted a veggie to go with a couple grains (and Acreage to boot). Raphael and Jason had difficulty keeping up, but I felt Rich, who got out the Swing Plow in Round 11, could pose a real threat. So I went into blocking mode.

In Round 12, I took Plow over Plow/Sow to stop him. I could afford that because (a) I was the only one who could do FG that round, and (b) I had the Turnip Field, which gave me my Sow action. The following round, I did it again (since I had nothing to sow by then), rendering his Swing Plow as, well, Crooked. He did use it once in Round 14, but the damage was done as I won comfortably.

Final scores: 55-41-28-16. For the third straight year, I was in the finals. But I wouldn't face Ted Mullally or Cary Morris this time; both were beaten in their semis by Jon Senn and Sceadeau D'Tela, respectively. Josh Cooper, this year's GM, also made the final table. The last spot would prove to be controversial.

Dan finished 4th in our Heat 3 game but must've won before then, as he was at a table with Chris Deotte (who set up the online site) and Bill Crenshaw. I noticed that Dan had a six-room stone house and had earned the House Steward bonus, so I was surprised to learn that he still lost by 3 to Bill, 46 to 43. Congratulations were made, and Dan headed back to the room for some needed rest. I stepped out myself for some food, but returned to learn that, due to a clerical error, Dan's HS bonus was awarded to the wrong person. He actually scored 46, which tied Bill, but the game was already put away before it could be determined who won on tiebreaks.

I called Dan to inform him of the news, and he returned to sort things out. He actually took a picture of his board before it was put away, but it was decided that Bill had more resources on his board at the end. We'll never know for sure, but Bill was officially in.


For those interested, the turn-by-turn summary can be found here. Here're my thoughts on how the final became such a blowout.

After the draft, I found myself with the Storehouse Keeper, Acreage, Brewery, Lumber, and Sleeping Corner, as well as the Clay Hut Extension. I planned my strategy around the SHK, despite knowing how hard it is to get the 'rsf' space in a 4-player game. (I reasoned that 'rsw' wasn't as strong, and that 4wood and 3clay might go faster on an average turn.) I figured on two 'rsw' hits early, sowing the grain to the Acreage, then getting the Brewery out for a food engine and 2 points, later getting the Sleeping Corner out and netting wood from Lumber. I also had the Sawhorse, so I wouldn't need as much wood for fences. My plan was to get one room, renovate, use the CHE, and eventually ren again.

I had bad luck with turn order, starting 4th and watching my first three choices (free occ, 4w, rsw) go bye-bye. I decided to pay the food for the SHK and hoped to take advantage. Then Sceadeau (who started 2nd) played Start Player with the Landing Net. When he took 'rsw' (over 2r +2f), I knew I was in trouble.

I took SP in Round 3, getting the Acreage out. When Bill (sitting behind me) took SP the next round I had hopes of getting the 'rsw' space in Round 5 ... but he took it first, and I took SP again to guarantee that spot in Round 6. The problem with all these SP actions was that Jon (sitting right after me) was gobbling up great choices that I was passing up, in addition to getting to go 2nd-3rd-2nd in three straight rounds.

But what really iced things was that, during the draft, I passed the Wood Distributor. Now I knew that most wood-based occs were E cards (Mushroom Collector, Berry Picker, Woodcutter, Basket ... all of those hit the table in my Heat 1 game), and I also saw 6 of the cards that he ended up with. His first occ? Clay Worker.

He racked up a ton of wood and clay in the early going, and got 4 pastures at around the halfway point. He also beat me to a crucial 3 sheep grab in Round 6 (my own mistake, as I forget he had 3 peeps and I should've taken the sheep over Building my Room and 4 stables; that probably iced the game right there). Once he got the Ox Team out, the handwriting was on the wall; he cruised to a 55-point farm and an easy victory.

The real drama came with who would finish 2nd.

During the latter stages, I was jawing with Bill over which of us would finish worse. Bill had something of a barren farm, to be sure, but going into Round 13 I still had only 1 field, no pastures, a four-room clay hut, 3 sheep, and about 7 wood and a reed (as well as some grain and a veg). I did get my family up to 5 in Round 12, but food was still tight for me.

Well I got to 10 wood and, with a 3 stone and 2 stone option still available and me with 2 peeps to play, I went for 3 stone and hoped to get that 4th stone in time for Ren+Fence (I had already taken SP for the final round.), but Josh blocked me while I still had an action to go. And though I think I could have been blocked by Bill for Ren+Fence, I gambled that it'd be there for me ... so I broke out the Organic Farmer. And after I took 'rsw'+g to start the final round, Bill opted not to ren, eventually getting to a 6-room clay hut with the Strongbox (4 points to him). The Ren+Fence action gave me 3 pastures, filled 4 empty spaces, fenced all my stables, and got me 3 bonus points for the OF ... as well as the 4 points for the actual renovation. When the time came for final scores, Bill went first ... and came to 25. Sceadeau went next (I thought either he or Josh had 2nd) and got to 37. Then I went, and including the fenced stables and OF, ended up with 38!

I remember thinking, I can't believe it, I getting 3rd! Then Josh scored his farm, and got up to 37 as well.

Wait a second, did I just get 2nd? HOW THE @#%$ DID I GET TO 2ND??? (I may have actually said that, instead of just thinking it.)

Despite my errors (particularly not taking 3 sheep in Round 6), I somehow came away with my best finish ever at Agricola. I still want to win an event (someday!), but this 2nd really feels special to me. It's one I'll cherish for some time, particularly since it was the only wood I would go home with for the year.
 
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14. Board Game: Ra: The Dice Game [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:778]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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I got in one game of this, in between Puerto Rico games on Saturday. And I was lucky to even get that game in, as my table was one of two not to have a set handy to start the heat. But Rich Meyer was nice enough to allow Sceadeau and me to run to his room to grab his copy. 15 minutes in, and we were on our way.

If there's any game where DFLing doesn't phase me, it's this one. It also didn't phase me that THREE disasters got rolled during the game: the first knocked down monuments (I had 5 different ones at the time), the second took out civs (everyone who had one lost it), and the third (that I rolled) took out a pair of floods. The brutality led to a low-scoring affair, which Sceadeau took thanks to a pair of triple-monuments.

Final scores: 35-28-25-22.

Better luck next year, I guess hope.
 
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15. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.15 Overall Rank:5]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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Last year, I lost a number of strong players for Caylus because of the conflicts with this game. I was able to avoid those conflicts this year (at the expense of new conflicts, particularly with Egizia) and was able to play at least the final preliminary heat. My table was a very fun, social one (Cissi Astrom, Barry Barnes, Tim Hall), and I had a fortunate first corn seat. I was able to get a max-factory (producing all 5 resources) and Guild Hall, as well as the Fortress (over the Customs House, which could have come back to haunt me), all while being able to keep up with shipping (since I was producing all five goods) and edging Barry (who shipped heavily and got the Customs House) for the win.

Final scores: 60-54-49-39. And this time, I was able to play in the QF.

No one said it'd be easy: I drew Bill Zurn and Eric Brosius for my next game, along with Mike Backstrom (who got first corn for 1 VP). Eric bid 1.5 for second corn, and as Bill had already bid 0 for second indigo (my least favorite), I went for free first indigo. Then we saw the starting plantation, and two corn flipped over.

I steadfastly went Settler-Quarry, passed the first Build phase, and soon ended up with Tobacco and lots of Indigo (after going right for Large Indigo). After seeing Mike B (with his corn) going all out for shipping, I went for shipping too. I was able to get a Wharf, and later a Harbor, while in between getting one Tobacco on the big boat for control. Problem was, Eric had Coffee going (with a Small Market to boot) and was able to match my Wharf-Harbor combo, in addition to grabbing a Factory that by game's end was producing 3 bucks per Craft phase. All this time, Bill is going all out for a Builder win.

The moment of truth came on a turn that I was Governor and saw a Prospector with 3 bucks on it (4 for whoever took it). I had goods to ship (some Indigo, a Sugar, and Tobacco) and good boat control (the 5 boat had an Indigo while the 7 boat had plenty of Tobacco room), but I only had 2 bucks to my name, wanted to get at least one big building, and didn't want to pass 4 bucks to the Builder (who already had the Guild Hall by then). So I took the cash, Bill and Mike B make their choices, and Eric Crafts. Suddenly I'm overflowing with Indigo, have extra Sugar, and am facing spoilage while Eric (who had nothing) gets first crack at the Indigo boat. Captain falls to him next round, and he ships more than me while I spoil some goods.

I shipped for 28 that game, but Eric shipped for 31. He also built just a bit more than me, and his City Hall (7 VPs) edged my Fortress (6 VPs). Though I had Bill (who blocked with the Customs House but shipped for little), I was too far behind Eric even after deducting his bid.

Final scores: 57.5-51-44-38. With 10 games in the QF to fill 12 slots, the closest 2nds would advance. But I picked a bad time to lose by 6.5, as more than half the games ended as 2-point affairs or less (with a couple games coming down to tiebreaks). Had this been the SF round, 6.5 would have been the closest margin of defeat; instead, I was out of the tourney (officially tied for 6th alternate; it didn't get past 2nd).


I gotta give a quick shout-out to Ken Horan for winning his QF game; he lost by 6.5 in his SF too, but that was enough for closest 2nd and he took home 5th! (Dude, even Alex doesn't have a 5th place plaque! And that marble sure looks snazzy!)
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16. Board Game: Caylus [Average Rating:7.91 Overall Rank:19]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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I've heard that, for professional poker players, the single worst day of the year is the day they get knocked out of the Main Event in the WSOP. For me, it's probably the game where I get knocked out of the Caylus tournament.

Two of the last three years, that didn't happen until the final table, when I earned a 2nd but didn't have enough to get the win. I had hopes that this would be my year ... but right off the bat, I had worries.

Due to winning my first heat of El Grande, I could no longer play the 2nd heat of Caylus. Thus, I had to win (or at least come really close and in 2nd) or I wouldn't even be around to play in the semis. And I wasn't alone in that predicament.


The Demo went well (I think), and Keith was great in signing people up before I got to Ballroom B. We had 7 games (2 ended up as 3-player), and those without sets drew for games. And who did I get as an opponent? Jefferson Meyer, who's been in the last three finals and, like me, won his way into the El Grande semi. We couldn't both win this first heat, and anything less than a close 2nd would knock the loser out for good.

Jeff went for the Build Track, while I opted for the Build-Point hybrid (Build early, Points later). I built a huge lead which Jeff chipped into near the end with the Monument ... but he couldn't catch me after I finished off the castle batches near the end. I won, 105-93-68-56, leaving Jeff with a tenuous 88.6% second. I told him to show up anyway for the semi on Saturday morning, as there was a good chance that we'd need alternates (which had certainly been the case in years past).

I didn't play in the 2nd heat, watching over the proceedings for the first hour before turning things over to Tom DeMarco, who was in a game himself and agreed to get me the scoresheets once everyone was finished. (I owe you again, Tom!) We ended up with 12 winners in 12 games, so I set the semi as 3 games of 4, with the winners and closest 2nds advancing to the 4-player final.

Only 8 winners showed up on Saturday morning for the semi, and I could have decreed that we would have 2 games of 4, with the top two in each advancing. But I would have hated that had I been an alternate, and in any case, I had already announced 12 advancing. So I took the top 4 alternates who showed up. As it happened, the top alternate wasn't there but the next five were; I had to let one go, and we had our final 12.

Last one in? Jeff Meyer, who I ended up drawing for the 2nd time in Caylus and the 3rd time this year. We were joined by Kevin Walsh (best showing in the heats, with a 1st and a 2nd) and Tim Horne. This game, I went for early trips to the Carpenter, later hitting the castle for the Point track. Jeff used his usual Building track but fell behind early as wood building after wood building hit the table. The Mason would come out relatively early, and I got one of the stone production buildings (I think the Farm, but not exactly sure). Near the end of the Wall phase, I had what seemed an insurmountable lead (around 20); I was aided by one devious provost push back by Jeff against Tim, costing Jeff 3 bucks but robbing Tim of a gold, six cubes AND the ability to make even one batch in the castle (minus 2 more points). That move ended Tim's chances, and at the time I thought he was the only one who could've caught me.

But even as everyone else at the table was congratulating me early, I kept saying the same thing: "I never count out anyone with gold, stone, and the Building track." And as Jeff built stone building after stone building, he crept closer and closer. On the last round of the game, he lept passed me with the Hotel and held on even after I finished off two more castle batches with the 5 points that came with the favor. He edged me, 75 to 72. Kevin finished with 66 (3rd-closest to the lead, so good enough for 6th place overall), while Tim, who probably deserved better, ended up with 50. Our game was the second to end; Rich Meyer had beaten Andy Gerb, Tom DeMarco, and Keith Layton by a score of 81-73-64-51. Andy's finish was good enough for 5th, but my close loss put me into the final after Ken Horan crushed his table by 20 (helped by holding 5 gold at the end of the game).

This year's final was scheduled for 8pm, but all of us wanted to start earlier to avoid various conflicts. And we would have ... except that everyone else in the final had played a game of Ra and, it seemed, that was all that was needed to make the semi! (OK, I think all three did win their way in, but I know that Steve Scott had to dig deep into the alternate pool to fill out the 25 slots.) If that weren't enough, two of them, Rich and Ken, won their semis and got to the final table.


Gotta offer major congratulations to Rich for winning the Ra tourney, and to Ken for earning 3rd place.


The game ended at around 7:40pm, and I was off to set up my game for the Caylus final. We started on time, and by 10pm it was all over.

So how did it go? Well ... not well for me. Here's a quick microcosm of my play:

Next morning was checkout day. So I showered, brushed my teeth, got my clothes on, grabbed my bin of games, walked down a flight of stairs, got to my car ... and it was only when I got there that I realized that I forgot my car keys.

Here is a link to a summary of how the final went. Suffice to say, Jeff Meyer ran away with the win, his Dad finished in 2nd, and Ken edged me for 3rd, which was his 4th plaque of the year. It was my second 4th at an event with only 3 plaques, but I felt no loss in regards to a lack of wood.


Basically, my Caylus and Agricola results were flip-flopped from a year ago. In Agricola, I went from a dismal 4th at the final to a respectable 2nd. In Caylus, I went from a respectable 2nd to a dismal 4th. (By 'dismal', I merely mean that I absolutely brain-farted and threw away my game. Which sucks, but what can I do.)

Normally, this would be the end of my Con. But I actually qualified for one more final. And considering how I felt going in, it was easily my most improbable final.
 
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17. Board Game: Macao [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:154]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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Little history here. I first played this game at my gaming club, EPGS. The game owner forgot the rule that everyone gets a card before deciding on your first cubes, choosing in reverse turn order. And I was last in turn order to start that game. I didn't fare well, and dismissed the game as too luck-based.

A couple months ago, Alex got the game and all but insisted that I try again. Playing with the 'correct' rules (so you have two cards before the first dice roll) made me like it more ... and I somehow won despite hanging back on the wall the whole game. Still not enamored, but certainly better than the first time I played.

I think I got two more games in before coming to the WBC; the last one, an opponent got Lady Black out on the 2nd turn of the game and coasted to a win.

While I no longer disliked the game, I didn't even put it on my personal itinerary for playing this week. When others got a quick game in on Tuesday, I spent most of that time watching the TTA finale.

So how did I come to play a game of this in a heat? On Wednesday night, after the Caylus heat, I had a choice of games to play at 10pm or 11pm.

Can't Stop? Just wasn't in the mood for it that night. My first choice was Brass, but I also wasn't up for a 3-hour game that wouldn't end before 1am. And I had already fared poorly once with Stone Age, and wasn't up for another game of it. So I figured, what the hey, I'll give this a go.

Considering who was at my table that heat ... Mike Gibbs, Rich Meyer (I had just played Jeff at Caylus), and the GM, Raphael Lehrer ... I certainly didn't expect to do well. But I remember Sceadeau (or maybe it was Cary; maybe both) advising what Alex had been preaching before: just go for the wall. And I made sure to stay ahead of the others for much of the game.

I got Lady Gray (or whatever her name is) out in Round 5, and also got out the Healer (save a cube when activating a person) and a number of bonus peeps (Governor, Vice-Governor, and Midwife). I lucked out early by getting the Hospital (costs a red, gives cash for activating peeps) and the right color to fill in early gaps; others were taking penalties while I was getting out useful cards. I scored 19 in bonuses and won handily, 100-85-71-55, and qualified for the semis.

So, OK then. On house money with this game. The semi round started after the Agricola final, and was a 3-player affair. I was pitted against Rick Bynaker and John Wetherell, and my game went very similar to my heat game. I got another Lady early (Purple, I think), stayed ahead on the wall, got the 2-card combo that let me move my ship twice for free & gave me a point for doing so, as well as the card that gave me a buck for every 4 occupied quarters (good for 2 bucks per turn down the stretch). I shocked myself by winning again, 102-84-62.

I made the Macao final? Wow ... OK then. Wow!

The Macao final was set for 10pm Saturday night, my 4th final table of the Con (a personal best). Unlike Caylus, I have no preconceptions of doing particularly well here; considering who else made the final (Jason Levine, Dennis Mishler, Sceadeau D'Tela), this was more than prudent.

The final started for me the same as the other two games: I got Lady Green right off the bat and got her out in Turn 5; I would later get Lady Blue too, as well as the Healer, Gate, and Sail Loft. I hit the wall early again, too ... but this time I had competition, as Jason battled me tooth and nail to race up it. At around Turn 8, he paid 5 cubes to tie me and, next turn, iced the top spot, killing my gate. His own game didn't fare as well, though, as we both spent too much time on the wall instead of getting more quarters.

Sceadeau and Dennis (who never budged from the bottom of the wall) used their cubes to get more shipping goods, and did well with the cards that fell to them. (One thing I need to learn is how to block when taking cards; this would prove costly late.) Though I had a ton of cubes late, I had little to take with them near the end, and ended up sailing around aimlessly down the stretch. (I did have one bit of fun: on my last move, I sent my ship all the way back to start.)

I had one bad break late. On turn 11, I had the Lacquer Storeage card (needing a purple and two black). I had black for Turn 11 but not Turn 12 and, holding a joker tile, needed the purple die to be anything but a 2 to build it. You can guess what showed up that turn. (I had to burn the joker for that purple, and as a result I missed the final tribute, costing me 9 points.)

As for learning to block? My last card pick involved either the Governor (7 points) or a building that scored for each quarter on the board. Both were 7 to me, and the Governor was a bit cheaper ... but Sceadeau scored a whopping 10 points for getting the other one. That iced the win for him, though he won by more than the 10 I 'gave' him, so at least I didn't 'kingmake' on that move.

Final scores: 94-79-66-33. 3rd place is more than I ever could have imagined for this game. And you win, Alex: I like the game now. Happy?
 
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18. Board Game: TransAmerica [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:700]
Mike K
United States
Fairless Hills
Pennsylvania
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With Dan leaving with others on Sunday, Alex was all set to leave the WBC on Sunday morning ... but I was determined to play TA this year, if only because I like the game and rarely play it outside of BSW.

I was in a 5-player game and only took 1 point the first round ... and 12 points the next two rounds combined. (In Round 3, me and my RHO had Seattle/Portland; neither of us built towards it when the round ended abruptly.) At least I finished strong, taking 2 in Round 4 and going out in Round 5 ... but there was no overcoming the sluggish middle rounds.

I bid congratulations for that game, went to see how Ken fared in PR (high-2nd in the SF for 5th overall), had a few more goodbyes, and was done for WBC 2011.


My best finishes this year made for a great distribution at No-Trump: 4th-4th-3rd-2nd. I qualified for 3 other semifinals (missing one) and the PR quarters. I felt that (with one notable exception) I played well in all games, many with stiff competition. And once again, I leave without that elusive first tournament win. And yes, it still stings.

But like every 80s cartoon villain, "I may not have won this time, but I'll be back. Mark my words!"

Only about 350 more days until WBC 2012. Time to start counting the days ...
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