A Gnome's Ponderings

I'm a gamer. I love me some games and I like to ramble about games and gaming. So, more than anything else, this blog is a place for me to keep track of my ramblings. If anyone finds this helpful or even (good heavens) insightful, so much the better.
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Winning Tournaments: How does he do that?

Lowell Kempf
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A friend of mine just let me know that he will be going to Essen to take part in the Dominion tournament there. He had placed second at GenCon but the first place guy apparently was not able to go. This is the second time he’s been to Essen, the other time being for a Settlers tournament a few years back.

I know it’s kind of funny for me to leave his name blank since it would be really easy to figure out who he is. Despite that fact, I’m going to stick to my paper-thin confidentiality and leave him anonymous. I think it would be rude for me to do otherwise. I’m going to call him Gamer-X just so I can hum the Speed Racer theme song while I write this.

I know a lot of people who take part in tournaments. However, with the exception of a Settlers tournament winner who I met because of the tournament connection, Gamer-X is the only one I know who’s managed to get to Essen through tournaments. More than that, he’s done it twice with two different games, which I think is more impressive than going twice with the same game.

So, what makes Gamer-X different? What makes him a winner?

Well, let’s be honest. Luck does play a part in it. Heck, he placed second at GenCon and is just lucky that the first guy can’t go. So luck clearly plays a part in the mysterious equation. However, luck usually isn’t everything. In fact, luck is usually just what tips the balance after you’ve done everything you can to set things up in your favor.

The two things that stand out, at least to me, is competitiveness and versatility.

Gamer-X is one of the most aggressive while competitive gamers I know. He is focused on winning and is never going to pull his punches. At the same time, unless directly attacking the other players is the name of the game, Gamer-X doesn’t do that unless it improves his position. I have seen some players let their aggressiveness get the better of them, losing sight of victory conditions or essentially giving the game to a third party. Knowing when to pick your fights and knowing how to win them is a clearly an important skill.

However, I think the real key is versatility. Let’s be honest, the whole aggressive-competitive thing is just knowing how to play a game well. Let’s hope that being able to that is just a given when it comes to winning tournaments.

I am willing to bet that most of us play with the same group of players most of the time. It might not always be the exact same people who show up every Friday night but most of us probably have the same pool of players we play against most of the time. And you get to know people’s quirks, how they play and what the over-all group think is. Over time, you can get to know how to beat all the other fish in your own little pond.

However, when you start swimming in the bigger sea, all those unwritten rules that you thought were part of the game go away. You thought they were part of the game when they were really just part of the group. Suddenly, the little tricks and quirks that made you a winner back home can be just what make you trip and fall.

As an example, someone else I know, um, Gamer-Y, makes it a point in Settlers to always build towards two cities as fast as possible to create steady resource flow and shuns development cards. While in theory, it’s not a bad idea but in tournament play, he not only becomes a bandit magnet (as well he should), he also is embargoed and shut out of trades at four points.

Gamer-X is able to read strangers very well (possibly his strongest skill) and he also has a knack for adjusting his plans on the fly. The usual things that tend trip folks up when playing with new folks are things that he is able to let go of.

Mind you, it could be that I’m totally wrong and none of these things have anything to do with his past success. After all, when it comes to tournaments, I keep on losing
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