Sean McCulloch's 2011 WBC
Sean McCulloch
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I've been going to WBC for a while now (I think this is my tenth year), and it's always a week I look forward to, and always a week I have a great time during. This year I tried to make a special effort to play some things that don't make my "normal rotation", with mixed success, I think.
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1. Board Game: Atlantic Storm [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:2238]
Sean McCulloch
United States
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We drove up on Saturday, in time to join the annual "several games of Atlantic Storm" that take place in the bar throughout the week. I think I played in at least 2 games at various times, but there were people who played a lot more.
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2. Board Game: Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization [Average Rating:8.21 Overall Rank:4]
Sean McCulloch
United States
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Sunday morning I promised Nicole Reiff (the famous Brice Reiff's daughter, who you'll see again in this list) that I'd teach her this game. So I corralled picture-taker extraordinaire Debbie Gutermuth and got a game going. We didn't finish in time to make the actual tournament that started at noon, which was fine by me because I had other things I wanted to do during the semifinals anyway.
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3. Board Game: Fortress America [Average Rating:6.72 Overall Rank:950]
Sean McCulloch
United States
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I haven't played this game since high school, but it seems every year there's a game of this going on Sunday night. I played the Far East invaders, and we were doing pretty good for a while until a miscommunication between my allies and myself (apparently they left a city undefended hoping I'd jump in and defend it for them- I don't think I got the memo) led to a hole in our defenses, wrecking our chances. Oops.
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4. Board Game: San Juan [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:162]
Sean McCulloch
United States
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The first actual tournament I played, on Monday morning. Since there's not much else going on, this always draws a huge crowd. I went 2-2 in the 4 preliminary rounds, and you needed 3 wins to make the single-elimination bracket. Which was fine, because I had other things I wanted to do Monday afternoon anyway.
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5. Board Game: Wilderness War [Average Rating:7.72 Overall Rank:372]
Sean McCulloch
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...namely, this. I've always liked this game, probably because it was the CDW that came out right around the time I moved to Ohio, joined CABS, and got really into gaming. I've never been able to play it at WBC though, because they usually do it Wednesday morning, which I reserve for the 2-player Titan tournament. This year, though, they moved it to Monday afternoon, so I made it a point to play in it.

In the first round, I was seeded as one of the top players (from WAM or from email tournaments, I guess), and got someone unseeded. He was the Brits, and played a good game, but ran out of time before he could finish me off.

In the second round, I played a _real_ top player and was the French again. His first turn was apparently horrible for him, but I didn't realize it early enough to take too much advantage. Eventually, his cards caught up, and he took Louisburg, and built a huge stack in Albany, and another huge stack going towards Ohio Forks. At this point, I panicked and made several mistakes:
1) I wasted several Indians impaling myself on his small stack that was waiting for the huge stack to catch up (even if I kill something, who cares? 9 million troops are just a move away)
2) I sent Montcalm and his giant stack around towards Ohio forks, leaving the Hudson valley undefended
3) I miscounted how long it would take Montcalm to reach Ohio Forks and be a factor, meaning he ended up in a very non-helpful space after 2 moves. (Yes, I did the second move anyway, even after realizing I miscounted)
4) I wasted a Coehorns card to delay the siege of Ohio Forks (to give Montcalm time to get there)
5) Since I went to all of this effort, I then _attack_ Wolfe in Ohio Forks with Montcalm with no retreat route secured. This I knew was stupid, but I said "well, I've come this far". I lose the battle, and my army, and concede the game.

Panic: Don't give in to it, kids.
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6. Board Game: Giganten [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:1019]
Sean McCulloch
United States
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After that, and learning that going 1-1 in the first 2 rounds meant I was not likely to make the semifinals even with another win, I went downstairs to help put together the Auction. This year they moved it to the Lampeter (aka "wargaming") room, leaving the auditorium as a place for Open Gaming from Monday through the rest of the week. Lots of cool stuff there. I picked up a bunch of games for the students in the games group at school, and managed to find Giganten, a game my lovely wife has been looking for for 7 or 8 years now, after playing it once. I hope it holds up to her memories

I was also drafted as "auctioneer in training" for a while, so they have an extra person who can take over in case something happens to the real auctioneers (or, I guess, if games get scheduled during the auction and one of them wants to play). That was fun, but I'm nowhere near as knowledgeable about those games as they are.
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7. Board Game: High-Bid [Average Rating:5.72 Overall Rank:6883]
Sean McCulloch
United States
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Once the real auction was over, I was ready to jump into the WBC proper, which I usually start with the game Auction. I'm not very good at it, but lots of my friends play it, so I want to support it. In this game, the whole table fell asleep a bit and let the eventual winner get a set too easily, which led to a quick win.
 
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8. Board Game: Star Wars: The Queen's Gambit [Average Rating:7.53 Overall Rank:351]
Sean McCulloch
United States
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After that, I ran to get a game of Queen's Gambit in. This is a game I make sure to play every year, because it's hard to get people to play it at home. Unfortunately, they moved the heat an hour earlier this year which means my normal plan of "Play March Madness at 7, lose in the first round, play Queens Gambit at 8" wouldn't work.

In my game here, I got lucky cards and lucky dice and my opponent got neither. Since my win was in the "first heat entered" (man, I hate that rule), it meant I got into the semifinal bracket. In the round of 16, I got a kid and managed to kill Maul without losing a Jedi, making it very hard for him to win.

In the round of 8, I played a teenage girl. Teenage girls are my kryptonite. She was the dark side, and made every roll, and I missed every block. The game was over in about 20 minutes, which is probably a record for a dark side win, since they can only win by killing virtually all of the good guys on the board (I've lost to the light side in 10 minutes. In a final no less). One year, I'll take this down..
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9. Board Game: Le Havre [Average Rating:7.99 Overall Rank:15]
Sean McCulloch
United States
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Another game I don't normally play, but one that I play at home with my wife a lot. I wanted to see how the good people play this game. Unfortunately, since it was a heat, there was only one good player, and 2 people who were pretty new. The good player went after a loan strategy (which I guess works, but I'm morally opposed to), managed to build a ton of buildings, and then built some steel ships (which I always considered a waste) to ship a bunch of stuff. I ended with a score in the 160s (building 2 luxury liners), which I think was respectable, but nowhere near the winner's 200. I may have to give those steel ships a try..
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10. Board Game: Titan [Average Rating:6.99 Overall Rank:536]
 
Sean McCulloch
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Wednesday I played in the 2-player Titan tournament, which I always try to get in, because I usually do well in it. This year, though, I starting thinking "you know, I'm due for a first round loss in this- it hasn't happened in a while". Sure enough.. I have {ttn uni wbe wbe wlo} in the marsh, get attacked by {cen cen cen wbe wbe} (with an angel to bring in), and lose the battle and the game. I may have made a couple of small mistakes in the battle, but still..

The good news is that instead of advancing in the 2-player tournament (which is single-elimination), I now had time to play a few games in the 4-player tournament (which isn't, and you usually need something like 2 wins or a win and a second to make the semifinals). My first 2 games I got 3 warlocks, and proceeded to not be able to catch anyone. Instead I tried to project an aura of control around a part of the board, basically saying "I'm going to recruit what I want here, get in my way at your own peril", which mainly worked. In the first game, someone attacked me anyway, and probably could have had a mutual if not for bad dice. After I won and got teleportation, the rest of the table conceded. In my second game I got enough power with one of my other stacke to take out someone else's titan, giving me teleportation, leading to the other person conceding.

In the third game, I got 2 warlocks (again!) but this time caught someone on the third turn. I got lucky with the dice, but so did he I think. I may have made some mistakes in the battle (I actually don't like getting tons of warlocks, one of the reasons is that I don't have a lot of experience fighting those kinds of battles), and came out with {ttn ang cen} to rebuild with. I spend a good chunk of the rest of the game not able to recruit much (I think I got a lion after like 10 turns), and conceded when the eventual winner took out the person in 3rd place.

Two wins and a second was enough to make the semifinals, where I was probably the weakest person at the table. Luck was with me for a while though, and I got a hydra in my titan stack and a serpent in my other stack on the same turn. Then I made the fatal mistake of thinking myself immortal with that hydra and let myself get attacked by a bunch of lions and rangers in the hills. I got a little lucky to win the battle (and take out a player), but then I was just {ttn ang} for the rest of the game. Even with teleportation, it was too hard to be chased around, and eventually I was caught and eliminated by the player who won the whole tournament.
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11. Board Game: Paydirt [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:2078]
Sean McCulloch
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Since I lost so early in the 2-player Titan tournament (the game itself took about a half hour), I had lots of time to kill, and over 2 hours before the next thing I actually wanted to do, which was the Paydirt heat. We'd been practicing this during the year, but we were expecting to play the NFC heat, and the heat I was going to enter was the AFC heat.

So, I borrowed the charts and studied them over lunch, and found a few good teams that I thought would be ok. The problem with the AFC is that the Patriots are _so_ good, you need to make sure that whatever team you pick has a chance against them. I picked 4 "might possibly beat the Patriots" teams at different quality levels: The Jets (good), Chargers (decent), Dolphins (ok), and Browns (bad, but not terrible for a bad team). All of the games are played against the point spread, which is set to the difference between the ratings of the teams plus whatever extra points people want to bid to get the team they want.

When the bidding started, there were so many players there that we knew that most teams would be bid on 3 times. So the first time through all of the teams, I resolved not to bid too high since I had lots of options and more chances. The second time through, I did the same thing. The third time through, I started worrying a bit, and bid high on the Jets and Chargers, but stopped before bidding _really_ high. With not many teams (and not many players) left, I finally get the Dolphins for just 1 point over.

My first game was against someone with Jacksonville, who had a _horrible_ defense against the long pass. Basically, whenever I threw a long pass, they had a 1/4 chance of giving me a 20+ yard gain, no matter what defense they called. And if that 1/4 chance didn't happen, I could still complete the pass on my own chart. So that game was a blowout.

My second round game, I faced the dreaded Patriots. I went in as a 16 point underdog (meaning he had to beat me by more than 16 to win), feeling pretty good about my ability to at least slow down the crazy-good Patriots offense. And I did a good job of it. In the actual play-calling and normal plays of the game, I think I came out ahead. Unfortunately, I had to deal with:

1) An 80-yard interception return for a touchdown
2) A 70-yard punt return for a touchdown
3) Me rolling a 1/36 "automatically give you a touchdown" on my defense
4) Him rolling his most unlikely offensive number for an automatic touchdown of his own.

Some of that happening is fine- he's the better team, and it shows up in all kinds of ways. But I had all of that happen and still only lost by 8 (and was driving for the tie when I threw a game-ending interception). It felt a little excessive. But he went on to win the bracket (beating another Patriots team in the regional finals), which makes me think I did my scouting job right, at least.
 
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12. Board Game: Lost Cities [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:261]
Sean McCulloch
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Another thing that filled a hole in my schedule, I made sure to play several heats of Lost Cities, to defend my (lucky) championship from last year. It's a good thing I did too, because apparently winning 2 of your 4 games wasn't enough to guarantee a spot in the 32-person bracket. I wish they'd expend the bracket to 48 or 64 next year, but I gather that a) Don would be sad for some reason if that happened, and b) it's a lot of work for the GM, so I won't push it.

Anyway, I won the 3 heat games I played in (luckily I found time for them, I didn't think I would when I was doing my pre-convention planning) and made the bracket. In the bracket, I continued to get lucky and made the final 4, where my luck ran out- I sat back and watched my opponent make a huge 8-card run while I went negative for the round. I did win the "neither one of us wants to be here" consolation round for 3rd place, making my record in the bracket in the last 2 years 9-1, which I guess is pretty good. Maybe I should make _this_ my team event next year
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13. Board Game: The Princes of Florence [Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:62]
Sean McCulloch
United States
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After one of my 4-player Titan games ended early, I decided to take another shot at playing a game I don't normally get to fit at WBC, but one that I like a lot. It's been overshadowed by new Euros nowadays, and lots of people don't like it because it's multiplayer solitaire, but I don't mind multiplayer solitaire games. My rust showed in this game though, because I think I did everything I wanted (built all my works, got 2 jesters and a builder, drew a (crappy) prestige card and got the points from it), only wasted 1 action on a bonus card, ...) and _still_ came in last. I don't even know how
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14. Board Game: Can't Stop [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:486]
Sean McCulloch
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Wednesday night's crazy late-night game. I showed up with a copy I bought in this year's auction store and proceeded to beat the Gutermuth family aided in large part by closing off the 2's in 2 rolls. They seemed happy to go to bed, so I moved on to the quarterfinals. In this round, the other 2 players couldn't get anything going, so I slowly built up and beat them.

In the semifinals there was an adorable little girl playing, with her whole family as a cheering section. Whenever it was her turn, they'd all run over and cheer her on and yell out how good her rolls were. She had horrible luck, though, and kept busting. On everyone else's turn, they'd boo us and say things like "You don't want to make this cute little girl cry, would you?"

Yes, yes I would

So, after send her off to bed (not actually crying, I hope) I made it to the finals, where one person jumped to a commanding lead, closing 2 numbers and being 1 spot away from closing a third (a 10, I think) when I have only closed out 1 number. On what turned out to be my last turn, I close out a second number, and have my third number (a 2, I think) just 1 spot away from the top. If I roll again and roll a 2, I win. If I roll again and bust, I lose my long run to close out my second number and there's probably no hope. I decide to play it safe and hope he doesn't roll a 10. Sadly, he gets it on his second roll and wins the tournament. Second place in Can't Stop isn't bad- I'll never get that close again.
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15. Board Game: March Madness [Average Rating:6.25 Overall Rank:5372]
Sean McCulloch
United States
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I usually try to get in 2-3 heats of March Madness a year, but because of some other games changing their schedule, and me trying to get lots of other games in this year, I could only fit in the Thursday morning heat.

I get the 12th pick, end up with virtually the same team as my opponent (who picked way earlier), and proceed to get extremely outrolled. As we get to the last roll of the game, I'm losing by like 12 and say "my only hope is to roll a 6 and have you roll a 1".

He rolls a 1. Uh-oh!
I roll a 6. Holy crap!

Turns out it's just enough to tie the game and send it to overtime. If there was any justice to this story, I'd say I'd rally my team and use the momentum to crush him in overtime. But no, he continued to outroll me and all I did was delay the inevitable.
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16. Board Game: Britannia [Average Rating:7.26 Overall Rank:353]
Sean McCulloch
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This I think was the game I was watching last year at WBC that made me want to try this "play lots of different games" schedule. (Also, Republic of Rome, which didn't make the cut this year). I waver between liking that you can play lots of different countries as each color (so you have several chances to make up points) vs not liking how scripted the VP system is (you're really encouraged to go certain places at certain times). There's also a (relatively) new edition out that people like, so I figured I'd give it a try and be the person who throws the game in a random direction for once.

It didn't take long. Turn 1, I'm the Welsh. I look at my card and see I get 6 points for destroying a Roman fort. I see an undefended Roman fort right outside of Wales. "Cool!" I say, and attack it. The whole table looks at me like I'm nuts. Apparently you're not supposed to do that . Turn 2, the Romans come back, chew through the Welsh units I thoughtfully left out in the plains for him, submit, and end up losing a big chunk of Wales long-term to the Irish. Oops.

Playing with the good people, I'm struck by how the game is even _more_ scripted. There's lots of things you "have" to do at certain times to set yourself up for later (strategically submitting to Rome, clearing a path for some later nation, that sort of thing). I'm not sure whether I like that or not. I do know that it's not something I can pick up by just playing it once every few years.
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17. Board Game: Merchant of Venus [Average Rating:7.20 Overall Rank:446]
Sean McCulloch
United States
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After Britannia, I went and found another game I don't get to play very often. I can't decide where I'd place this vs the crayon rails games (especially Iron Dragon), but I like the random demands and picking up cool relics. In this game, I picked up the Jump Start, which I probably got too enamored with. But it's fun! I also build spaceports when I probably should have build factories (or nothing) instead. Meanwhile, the eventual winner forged this giant loop around the board, selling factory goods as he went to get the clear win.

One thing I don't like about the WBC version of this game is that it's only to $2000, when I think $3000 is a better game. It's longer (which is why they only go to $2000), but it gives you more time to get something going and more reason to get a larger ship.
 
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18. Board Game: Ingenious [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:222]
Sean McCulloch
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Another filler game. I was sad when all of the green tiles were being scored when I didn't have any greens of my own (and it wasn't my lowest score, so I couldn't dump my tiles). Luckily I did pick a few points in it up later, while blocking everyone else. Towards the end, I starting playing more to block other people than to score myself, and it was enough to just eke out a win.

This was the only heat of it I played, and you needed at least a win and a second to make the semifinals. Another game I wish they'd expand the bracket for.
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19. Board Game: Pro Golf [Average Rating:5.40 Overall Rank:9648]
Sean McCulloch
United States
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Thursday night's late night crazy game. I was looking to defend my finals appearance from 2010, but couldn't even go under par. The best part was that someone brought a giant box of dice for everyone to borrow, so we took a bunch and "auditioned" them each hole. None of my dice wanted the part though I rolled 10 dice, determined to take the top 2 rolls, and got a bunch of 3's and 4's. This happened several times. Maybe the dice were telling me to go to be early
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20. Board Game: Kremlin [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:574]
Sean McCulloch
United States
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Another game I don't get much chance to play in Ohio, so I make sure I get it in at WBC. This time, Natasha Nogoodnik was my 9 but was someone else's 10 (of course). He got 2 waves out of her, but during the turn 3 add influence phase, she was double sick, and I got to add points first. I decided to make her a 10+ despite it being unlikely she'd survive the health roll.

She didn't even make it that far, as they decided it would be a good idea to put her on trial even though the replacement candidates for party chief were young and healthy. Sure enough, I get sent to Siberia, a fresh young party chief makes it to the top, owned by the person with 2 waves for a cheap third wave and a win.
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21. Board Game: Galaxy: The Dark Ages [Average Rating:6.21 Overall Rank:2652]
Sean McCulloch
United States
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I didn't get a chance to play Galaxy last year (too many wins in Titan and Lost Cities but I made sure to get it in this year. This year, I was sitting to Pete Stein's right, so I picked the planet he had a big bet on as my secret bet. It's my own fault for expecting Pete to be competent as that planet died early, removing most of the hope I had for winning the game.
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22. Board Game: Battle Line [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:132]
Sean McCulloch
United States
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Another game I missed last year because of Titan, but I made sure to get it in this year. They put you in pods of 4, where you play everyone in the pod and the best player makes a single-elimination bracket. I won my pod (with a very close game against last year's runner up) to make the bracket.

In the first round of the bracket, I played someone who kept digging for Tactics cards. I guess they all stunk because eventually he had 4 in his hand and only 3 real cards. I used my larger hand size to win without playing many special cards (yes, his tactics cards stunk).

The next round was the semifinal, and I had a terrific start. 6-7 of green, 6-7 of blue, drew 5-6 of red after the first turn. I went for straight flushes, which may have been wrong, since he was putting out low 3 of a kinds to start with. But I got enough cards to fill them and went on to the finals.

My opponent in the finals, Barrington Beavis, took out 4-time defending champion Bruce Reiff in the first bracket round (Thanks!). He also beat perennial awesome player Arthur Field last year. So I knew I was up against someone tough. What I wasn't expecting was for him to play the traitor card on an incomplete column instead of dumping a card on a flag that was about to be claimed by me. I further wasn't expecting it to be a bluff! He really messed me up with that move, and it almost cost me the game. Luckily, the extra turns he gave me there and elsewhere came back to haunt him, and he ran out of places to play on the board, and I could freely play for my 5th flag and the plaque.
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23. Board Game: Liar's Dice [Average Rating:6.94 Overall Rank:417]
Sean McCulloch
United States
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Friday Night's crazy late night event. Not much to say here- I picked the wrong time to bluff-raise a large bid, got called, lost 4 dice, and lost my last one soon after. At least I got to bed early.
 
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24. Board Game: Facts in Five [Average Rating:6.05 Overall Rank:3022]
Sean McCulloch
United States
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Usually run by Arthur Field, but he couldn't make it this year, so I took over while he was away. Boy, it's hard to make categories! I even farmed out the work to some fellow CABS members (Pete Stein, Bruce Reiff, and Jeff Mullet), so I only had to make 2 rounds. I still messed it up (giving answers for the wrong letter in the final round, and running about 20 minutes too long). Sorry about that. In my defense, we had a _ton_ of people (73, when 50 was the previous all-time high), with lots of new players. So it was a little crazy. Thanks to everyone who put up with me and the event. Congrats to Matt Beach for winning!
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25. Board Game: Slapshot [Average Rating:6.33 Overall Rank:2056]
Sean McCulloch
United States
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Speaking of crazy...

This is Saturday night's crazy late night event, and lots of people use it as a chance to blow off steam after a long week. It's nuts.

I'm the power behind the scenes in this one, meaning I let the loud people (can you guess who?) do all of the talking, but I stay up, get the finals set up, and do the writeup.

This year, in an interesting twist, Nicole Reiff (the famous Bruce Reiff's daughter) took down the tournament at 2:30 AM, mainly by picking up the superstar after losing a player to a bruiser in the championship series. What's even more interesting is that Nicole's father didn't win _anything_ this week! Talk about an awkward car ride home. I guess the "family" plaque streak is alive though..
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