Congress of Gamers, 2012 Edition
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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This was my sixth year participating in a DC area convention, the Congress of Gamers. Most of my participation has been as organizer of a popular Eurogame tournament called the “EuroCaucus,” that features many of the top rated Eurogames. The competition takes place over two days (Saturday and Sunday) with the winner being determined on a points system. The convention is organized by DC area gaming groups and is co-sponsored by the Games Club of Maryland (“GCOM”). GCOM also provides the winner’s prize for the EuroCaucus event. This year produced our fifth different winner, and our second female champion: Marcy Morelli, who came from six points behind after the first day of competition to capture the winner’s prize with two successive wins in Puerto Rico and Power Grid against some high caliber competition on the final day to take the win.

For the second year in a row, the competition came down to the final round of games, with no less than six of us in the running for the overall win. Five (Marcy, Scott Fenn, myself, Laura Dewalt and Perrianne Lurie) were matched in a Power Grid game while 2010 winner Virginia Colin – bidding for a repeat win this year -- played Navegador. Marcy edged Scott (who led by just three points headed into the final round) in Power Grid, Virginia did not win in Navegador, and others moved up the standings with wins in other games, so the final standings at the end of the day looked like this:

1. Marcy Morelli 45 points
2. Scott Fenn 43 points
3. Nathaniel Klein 40 points
4. Matt Lahut 39 points
5. John Weber 38 points
6. Virginia Colin 38 points
7. Josh Drye 35 points
8. Laura Dewalt 35 points
9. Eyal Mozes 33 points
10. Perrianne Lurie 33 points

Congratulations to Marcy and all of the other participants who made this year’s competition a memorable one. This year we had 55 who played in at least one of the rounds, an increase over last year (but still not a record for the event), and there were 13 people who played all seven rounds of the two-day competition. Note: ties in the standings were broken based on (1) head-to-head competition among the tied players and then (2) most points scored in games against the higher placed overall finishers.

This GeekList will chronicle the games I played during the weekend and also track some of the competition, which also included an “America’s First” tournament series (won by Phil Rennert) and a Racing Game series (won by Ken Sheffield). Many thanks to convention director Eric Engelmann and other volunteers, notably Gretchen Verrey (who ran the very popular snack and beverage area), Mark Love and Mark Mitchell (who ran the other two events), Rick Bynaker (computer support), Rodney Bacigalupo (games library), and EuroCaucus gamemasters John Barringer, Rick Bynaker, Virginia Colin, Doug Galullo, Eric Kleist, Ivan Lawson, Perrianne Lurie, Marcy Morelli, Mike Richey, and Amy and Norman Rule, as well as the staff of the Rockville Senior Center which has served as the venue for the event for the past three years.

Anyway, it has been fun for me to be involved in this event since its early years, particularly since this was the first time I had actually been in position to contend for overall first place going into the final game. Winning four games in a row on Saturday (three EuroCaucus games plus one of the racing games) was a personal highlight, although on the downside we had to turn away one player for not having sufficient copies of one game for the first time in memory.

The convention website is:

http://www.congressofgamers.org

Prior GeekLists by me going back to the 2007 event:

http://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/73157/congress-of-gamers-2...
http://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/59708/congress-of-gamers-2...
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/46727/2009-congress-of...
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/35059/2008-congress-of...
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/24541/eurodecathlon-ga...
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1. Board Game: Piece o' Cake [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:1514]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Got over to the convention site in Rockville early on Saturday to garner one of the precious close-in parking spots to set up early. This allowed time for a pick-up game or two before people started arriving in time for the demos and games to start around 10:30 or so. Played this game with John Barringer and his two sons, Joshua and Andrew. Winner was Joshua, I was second, followed by John and Andrew. The finishing position was the same as the seat order with Andrew, who finished last, being the first and then the final divider, so I wonder if there's a seat order advantage in this game?

Anyway, a good quick filler, plays in 15 - 20 minutes with experienced players.
 
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2. Board Game: Can't Stop [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:643]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Played with Tom McCorry, John Barringer and Andrew Barringer. This was part of the "America's First" tournament, organized by Mark Love. Tom shot his numbers up the chart quickly while I couldn't get anything going.
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3. Board Game: Vegas Showdown [Average Rating:7.20 Overall Rank:433]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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First round of the EuroCaucus. Paired in the same time slot were two games: Ticket to Ride and Vegas Showdown. Last year with an abbreviated schedule both games suffered from being matched with Stone Age. This time, attendance improved for both: 23 people played Ticket (6 games) and 15 played Vegas (3 games). 38 was our highest turnout for any single round.

I managed to come on top in a very close game of Vegas Showdown, coming just one point ahead of Mark Love and three in front of Justin Mauger, who was new to the game. This game doubled as an America's First game, since it was designed by an American with a US publisher.
 
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4. Board Game: Village [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:115]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Second round of the EuroCaucus matched a couple of recent games, Eminent Domain (released last fall) and Village (a 2011 Essen release that has won a couple of major game-of-the-year awards and nominations in 2012) with an old favorite of many, Carcassonne. I was the "demo monkey" for Village and was pleasantly surprised to see one of the largest groups ever for a new game demo in the six year history of this event. When we paired people together, we had enough for four full games, which was all the copies we had available. Unfortunately, that meant one person -- Chris Suarez -- had to be turned away, another first as this is the first time I can recall not having enough copies available.

Anyway, with 16 people and 4 games, Village won the time slot, compared to 14 in 3 games for Carcassonne and six in two games for Eminent Domain. I managed to win in my game by pursuing a "big Church" strategy, winning the church five times and sharing the win once, with Jim Henderson (who had learned the game in the demo) edging out an experienced player, Kristina Lynch, for second.
 
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5. Board Game: Ra [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:136]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Next round of games matched Ra with two more recent hits, Dominion and 7 Wonders. 7 Wonders, played three times by a total of 20 people, won the time slot with Dominion, four games (16 players) and Ra, two games (9 players) trailing. Note: The Dominion numbers are inflated a bit because three players were able to work in a second game before the next round started.

I elected to play Ra, a game I have never done well with in tournaments. I got a huge lead in Pharoahs, tried to pick up Civs where possible but largely ignored floods, lands and monuments. Alex Pang had a huge set of monuments, and most of us expected he would win. However, I believe he lost 5 points on the final sun count which was just enough for me to take another one point win, 37 to 36, in a fairly low scoring game.

Well, at this point I had won three of three and was the leader in the EuroCaucus competition, but I took a bit of a pre-planned break to participate in one of my favorite games that was part of the Racing games series.
 
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6. Board Game: The Stock Car Championship Racing Card Game [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:4071]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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There were nine of us for the race this time, the two Marks (Mark Love and Mark Mitchell), Ken, Andy, Mike, Chris, Tom, Vic and myself. The racing series was running behind schedule, and this game started slowly because of some new players unfamiliar with the rules. Then, we got some high lap counts, and things began to move along quicker. I started near the front, managed to stay out of trouble, and was helped when a Slow Traffic car appeared as well as the fact that I wasn't a major target of those contending for the overall racing series win. I came away with my fourth straight win, a definite personal record for me in games at this event! It was a 1-2 finish for GCOM hosts, as Vic Hutcherson (who started in the back) managed to come all the way from the back to take second.

Meanwhile, at the EuroCaucus, the fourth round time slot was dominated by Stone Age, played five times by a total of 18, compared to 7 in two games for Settlers of Catan, and just one five-player game for new addition Airlines Europe.
 
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7. Board Game: Thunder Alley [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:563] [Average Rating:7.38 Unranked]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Hopes of returning to the EuroCaucus to participate in the final round of games were dashed when the McGartlin game ran over time (well, it started late as well) so I hung around with some of the racing guys and five of us (Mark M, Andy, myself, Ken and Ken's wife Lisa) tried this new prototype that Ken had brought. Andy and I were new to the game; the others had played a couple of times before. There were quite a few rules questions to be ironed out, and unfortunately we didn't finish when the closing time of midnight approached. The game had a nice feel of the need to draft with other cars on a superspeedway, but seemed a bit less interactive than McGartlin in that you took your turn, then waited a bit until the turn order came around to you.

The fifth round of the EuroCaucus saw three games with somewhat lesser attendance: Agricola (2 games, 9 players); Egizia (2 games, 8 players); and Age of Empires III (2 games, 7 players).

I was a bit bummed about missing Age of Empires but pleased with the win in McGartlin plus having the opportunity to try this new game, which I believe is due to be listed on the GMT P500 (if not there already).
 
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8. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.05 Overall Rank:15]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Second day of the convention, sixth round of games and the first round where we paired the leaders together (while still allowing players the freedom to select from a choice of games). Despite missing two rounds, my score of 30 was high enough to leave me tied for second, one point behind the overnight leader, Laura Dewalt. I was paired with Laura, Scott Fenn and Nathaniel Klein, all of whom were high placed in the standings -- Laura had 31 points, I had 30, Nathaniel 29 and Scott 28). Scott and Laura drew corn seats and I started with indigo as first Governor. Laura passed a couple of early builds, saving up to take the first Harbor. Then Scott got to 8 the same time I did and snapped up the second Harbor. I got the Factory and got all five goods, but it wasn't enough once Scott added the Customs House as it was more of a shipping game (the VP chits ran out) than a Builder game. I was pleased to nip Laura for second by a point after falling behind her big-shipping strategy in the early going. The win put Scott in the lead in the overall competition as two other players who entered day 2 tied for second (Virginia and Perrianne) lost in their respective games, Castles of Burgundy for Virginia and Lords of Waterdeep for Perrianne.

Player counts: Puerto Rico (16 players, 4 games) dominated the time slot, with one game (5 players) for Lords of Waterdeep and two games (7 players) for Castles of Burgundy. The Burgundy games ran a little long, indicating that it should have been placed in a different time slot with some longer games.

Leaderboard headed into the final round of games: Scott 38 Marcy, John W and Virginia 35 Laura 33 Perrianne 31. A win in the final round of games could give any one of the six the overall title, although there were some scenarios where Scott could win the overall with a second place result in the final game.
 
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9. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:7.90 Overall Rank:34]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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The games for the final round were Power Grid and two newer games: Navegador and Trajan. Power Grid was played four times by a total of 17 people, then it was one game (5 players) for Navegador and Trajan (four players). Five of the six leaders (all but Virginia) were matched together in Power Grid, while Virginia (who was also the demo teacher) was in a Navegador game with three newbies and one experienced player.

The Power Grid game used the basic plant deck with the Germany map. The Eastern side of the map was the excluded region. Scott started up North, I was in the middle, Laura in the middle South, while it looked like Marcy and Perrianne might be trapped on the Western edge. It was a game where few Nuke and Trash plants came out, which was bad news for me as I had nothing but Oil, Coal and Hybrid plants. A key moment of the game was when Marcy got a 30 trash plant at face value (after everyone else was out), and on the final turn of the game she built out to 15 when no one else could match her plant capacity of 13. Nice win by Marcy! I tied Scott with 12 for second but he had lots more money than I did, obviously hoping for another turn.

We stuck around to check on the results of the Navegador game, as a win there by Virginia would have tied her with Marcy for first. As it turns out, Virginia came third behind Josh Drye, the one experienced player, and one of the newbies. (Had it been tied, I had worked out that the tiebreaker -- better results against the next highest ranked player, Scott -- would have favored Marcy.)
 
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10. Board Game: Can't Stop [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:643]
John Weber
United States
Ellicott City
Maryland
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Time for one final game of Can't Stop, played while waiting for the Navegador game to finish while things were winding down in general. My opponents this game were John Barringer, his son Andrew, and Helen Powell. This time luck was with me as I got two numbers to the top (6 and 8) on a single roll! I added the third a couple of rounds later.
 
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