In which Davido returns to PacifiCon 2013 over Labor Day weekend and goes in search of wood.
Davido
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Had the usual good times and great games at Pacificon. Many thanks to Michael Z, Mondo, Kevin, Jackie, Tracy, Richard, and Robert and all the other hard-working 'blue vests' for continuing to put on a great con. Now for the usual self-indulgent list of games played and faces named.

It's hard to know how to count expansions on base games (e.g. Railways), multiple qualifying heats and finals (Puerto Rico, Railways, El Grande), repeated plays (Resistance), and plain ol' multiple plays (Ra). So I'll leave it at 20 games listed over 3 days for a very full Con experience. I do enjoy the tourney experience and the chance to test my game against some of the best players in the area and dream of snagging the ever elusive champion's plaque (the "wood" of the title).
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1. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.04 Overall Rank:20]
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Rolled into Santa Clara around 11am Friday, got my early check-in (in the South Tower near the elevators for quick refreshes during the con). First up was a Puerto Rico qualifier. I was hoping the early start time would catch the hard core en route and off guard. No such luck, as I quickly found myself in the shark tank w/ James Dankin, Tommy (a jr. gamer) and Alon Altmon (who is unbelievably strong in a variety of games). I was in the corn seat, but Tommy also had corn and was before me in the order, so I had to block his corn while getting my shipping in order (via wharf and the VP building). I did get 32 VP in shipping, but James went w/ a building strategy and won going away and I settled for a distant silver.

James-53
Davido-43
Alon-41
Tommy-33
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2. Board Game: The Original Superstar Wrestling [Average Rating:6.33 Unranked]
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My first two attempts at hosting drew no-shows (FITS n BITS and RA), which given the early time slit isn't that much of a surprise. I wandered over to where Dan R. was hosting Superstar Wrestling. This is an old school PnP dice/matrix simulation of classic (and modern wrestling). We gabbed a bit about the NWA and mid-80's WWF and I agreed to give it a whirl. Of the old-schoolers on hand (Dan had just some of the bigger names in his binder), I took the Nature Boy his own bad self, Ric Flair and Dan took Crusher. While a dice-heavy game is a crap shoot, I was able to get off a few Figure 4 leg-locks and a Minnesota Body slam or two. Good wrestlers (in talent, not face/heel sense) will do well, and I eventually got the pin on Crusher and then let out a loud "Whooooooo To be the MAN, you gotta BEAT the man, and since you didn't BEAT THE MAN, I'm still the MAN!".

Dan knows the game inside and out-I'd never wade through the more complex matrices (the basics are easy enough) or do the PnP stuff, but it was a hella lotta fun and my first W of the con.
 
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3. Board Game: The Resistance [Average Rating:7.34 Overall Rank:204]
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With Ra not making a go, I drifted over to where a lively session of the Resistance was underway. I waited for the current game to end, and sidled in to join the next round. This was basic resistance, no plot cards. I prefer Avalon, but this will do. I needed a quick clarification on which color was which (Red spies, blue resistance). I was a Spy in game 1 and we quickly got two points our way. Round 3, one of the spies tried to put all 3 of us (8p game) on the mission. It was a slam dunk, but I worried that if it rejected, those approvals might be a shining beacon of guilt, so I ix-nayed it. We did get a spy on a mission and got a 3-0 sweep. Next round I was resistance and on the wrong end of another sweep in a 9p game. Still, loads of fun. Do coop Wins count? nah, who's keeping count?
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4. Board Game: The Red Dragon Inn [Average Rating:6.57 Overall Rank:1267] [Average Rating:6.57 Unranked]
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Next up was the perennial con favorite, Red Dragon Inn. I took my fave killer bunny-Pooky. I LARPed Pooky's mood changes to the hilt, but ended up going out 2nd. Other characters were Dimli the Dwarf, Eve the Illusionist, Erin the Everchanging, Fleck the Bard, and the gnome mechanic. With several gamblers, gambling proved to be my downfall as Pooky's crazed abilities couldn't keep up with my money losses.
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5. Board Game: Circus Maximus [Average Rating:6.72 Overall Rank:1744]
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I usually do Titan as my old-school fix, but with a big-version of Circus Maximus on the table (actually tables), I couldn't turn down a chance to revisit this classic. The game was a variant that used fixed chariots/stats (to prevent n00b AP in designing/allocating points for custom mods) and a d100 table for driver/lash attacks. Still, the corner straining, endurance and overall crowd-pleasing blood lust were still present. I tried my usual tactics of lashing the horses (less risk) to reduce endurance and wear 'em out. Overall it worked. 4 chariots succumbed to the lash/ram and 4 were still running on the two lap race. I took second and thoroughly enjoyed the race.

1-Clay C
2-Davido
3-???
4-Scott B
were the drivers still running. Knocked out in order (although 2 drivers were still alive and attempted to jump the chariots/grapple drivers at the finish). In order:

David Brandon (the GM!!)
Marcus W
Scott D
Mark E
 
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6. Board Game: Railways of North America [Average Rating:7.68 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.68 Unranked]
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I almost went 0-3 on my hosted games. Chris Larson prevented the shutout by agreeing to try out the new RotW Canada Map which is able to accomodate 2p. Chris had played Railways before, but I explained some of the pitfalls that make Canada an 'expert map' and off we went. Since I had experienced a playtest version of the map, I had some idea of what to expect and pretty much waltzed through. Chris was a quick study, however, and managed to make a close game of it.

I did botch the Snow Line rules, by using a 'unicorns and rainbows' version that applied Government Land Grant and Tunnel Engineering rules to snow hexes (e.g. total all costs and take the discounts).

I asked Rick about the snow line (and got an autograph for my rules book, thanks!!!) and Rick was emphatic that just like in Galaxy Trucker where the "Alien won't get out and push":

[quote]"The laborers will lay the track for free, or blow up the mountains and dig tunnels at a discount, but they will NOT get out and shovel the snow for you!".[/quote]

Long story short-you take all appropriate discounts and costs (e.g. water) and THEN you pay 1/hex for hexes above the snow line. ALWAYS! The only exception is the clearly indicated ferry cards.

Still, it was a great game and I was impressed with the meaty decisions and in-game valuations offered by the 2p version. Can't wait for the knife fight in a phone booth challenge of the 4p version of this excellent map

Davido-107
Chris L-92
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7. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.04 Overall Rank:20]
Davido
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My second PR qualifier was 3p match with veteran WCBC players Eric Cheatham and Bill Zurn. I Did a combo of shipping and building. My chances were hosed when Bill and Eric both bought 2 big buildings to my 1. I tried to end the game via building and hoping to avoid a mayor phase that would man their buildings, but Bill squashed that. scoring Matrix of chips, buildings and bonus VP and total:

Bill: 19-20-10-49
Eric: 11-23-14-48
David:12-20-6-38

The game came down to Bill's shipping and keeping close elsewhere. My downfall was not enough shipping and only 1 big building. I get another and they don't it's another ball game-shouldas, wouldas, couldas' and all that. Still, Bill and Eric and class acts all the way and it was easy to wish them well as qualifier and alternate. My scores were close enough to be tied for 3rd alternate. Still, too many people would have to die to seriously consider a finals appearance.
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8. Board Game: El Grande [Average Rating:7.78 Overall Rank:57]
Davido
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Binky Time as I settled in for the El Grand qualifier. This event always attracts a strong field, starting with Richard Irving and including my PR game-mate Bill Zurn (who would appear in other WCBC finals), Jeff Glasson and another long-time El Grande aficionado Robert Stetler. I had mixed feelings about champ Alon Altmon taking a 'been there, done that' approach and forgoing the tourney. One the one hand, it made my chances that much better (Alon is probably one of the strongest players I've experienced in my limited (e.g. Pacificon) tourney experience. OTOH, I like to measure myself against the best available competition. Still, this table was plenty formidable. It was a very tight game with the following splits and scores:

Richard: 36-66-105
Jeff: 41-73-99
Robert: 29-48-94
Davido: 32-58-92

I managed to ease back into contention, but the outcome was really between Richard and Jeff. Richard definitely hearts the King, dubbing him King Richard and we were once again treated to the "There were 3 King Richards of England and they ALL sucked" soliloquy -it's part of the whole El Grande experience-kind of like how Robert Earl Keen, Jr. always sets up the '5 pound bass song' Speaking of which, I mostly avoided the dreaded "Richard's glare of Death" (tm) only getting a quizzical look as I manipulated the King late-game to try to position some cubes. I played an ok, but not great game, and of course against good competition, that is pretty weak sauce indeed.
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9. Board Game: Railways of Europe [Average Rating:8.10 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.10 Unranked]
Davido
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Next up, the Railways qualifier. Walter really wanted the Europe map. I HATE this map, to the point that it is the only official map that I no longer own. Still, walter insisted and I didn't want the generic Eastern Map and couldn't lobby hard enough for the Western map.

I knew enough that the fringes were death traps and it was center or die. Throughout the weekend we used the "Only high bidder pays, turn order is clockwise from high bidder" rule. I managed to duel Walter (including 1rst delivery and 3 link bonuses)while the other players (new or novice) took the fringes. I was able to poach some cubes and then urbanized Copenhagen to Purple to slam 5 3 link deliveries both ways plus the Marseilles service bounty. I also got the Paris-Constantinople bonus and some nice meaty deliveries.

This was a tight board with many x-over tracks and Walter tightened it up with a couple of charter/exclusions. Joel came on strong with the Russia-Vienna tycoon and a couple of bonuses. In the end though, I punched my finals ticket. And yes, this was my second railways game of the day. W00t

Davido-67
Joel-61
Walter-50
Andrew-47
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10. Board Game: Last Will [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:369] [Average Rating:7.21 Unranked]
Davido
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With tourneys ongoing and starting while Railways was in progress, I was at loose ends for a bit. Richard suggested Last Will. I'm not a huge Worker placement/actions fan, but the theme (which works) of maximizing burn rate was intriguing. As expected, I really missed the key optimization engines of actions + minions/companions and focused too much on buildings. Still, I managed to get through most of the cash before selling buildings for too much profit.

RichardI--12
RodF-7
Davido-25

Dunno-nothing WRONG w/ the game, but WP just ain't my thang. Still, it was a good end to a great day.
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11. Board Game: Love Letter [Average Rating:7.26 Overall Rank:241]
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Check that-not quite done yet. On the way through the outside tables, I stopped by some junior gamers playing Love Letter. They invited me and MichaelP and off we went to get the letter to the Princess. Accusations were fast, furious, and mostly wrong, but sometimes right. 3 of us got to 3 cubes (of 4) before Michael won the 4th game.

I've thought about a record sheet to mark off ousted characters and played cards, but I think the 'on the fly' deductions are part of the game's charm and methodical record keeping would suck much of the joy out of it-so I accept I'm too lazy to really think about logical deductions and just enjoy the game as a 10-15 minute yuck-fest of a filler. NOW, I can call it a night.
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12. Board Game: Rapa Nui [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:2185]
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Sunday morning coming down found me in open gaming. First up was this Kosmos square box card game. It works, but is quite fiddly. I sorta got it, and the final scoring it clicked (control the offerings to score multipliers). Still, I'd place it in the TLFWII (too long for what it is) category.

JohnM ('splainer) 56
JeffR-52
Davido-30
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13. Board Game: Trains [Average Rating:7.20 Overall Rank:409] [Average Rating:7.20 Unranked]
Davido
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While waiting for El Grande, Jeff Glasson taught me Trains. It is a pretty transparent Dominion-deck builder manque. I sorta got it, and I like the mechanics and theme, but nothing too special. Still, it was a quick game that filled time between games.
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14. Board Game: El Grande [Average Rating:7.78 Overall Rank:57]
Davido
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This El Grande qualifier was a 4p match (I agree El Grande is ok/good w/ 4, but totally rocks the 10 score with 5) with Jeff Glasson, Ted Marshall, and Roman Shaposhnik. Jeff had already qualified from Saturday's matchup, so was just helping us play a meaningful 4p game (3p is possible but really only under dire circumstances). Despite playing with 'house money', I started in one of the 5 provinces with the King adjacent to the other two. Up first was a 'score the 5s' which I managed to snag and zip off to a 17 point lead off the top. I'd need every point of that. Despite essentially playing w/ house money, Jeff proved to be a ferocious opponent and stormed back to a slim 1 point lead at the 2nd scoring interval.

The key to the game came when the Score the 6 and 7 regions. Jeff was stacked with his grande, king, and control of both available regions for a potential 17 points and the chance to do it again in final scoring. At that point, it was between Jeff and I and I was a point behind. I saw Jeff had played his 13, but had a 12 out and the only other 13 would never allow (or should never allow, you never know) the card to be scored. I had no cubes in the court and playing the 12 meant I would not be placing to the board at all. So I played the 12, got the first action, took the card, and in a purely defensive maneuver turned the card over and simply declined the action. It seems like an obvious decision, but it sucked not being able to actually do anything other than a defensive block.

The others had played their 1 cards, so I was able to do the 1-13 combo and thus deploy my pieces to the board, and lock down the king. Meanwhile, the others managed to whittle Jeff down to 12 points from those regions and little anywhere else. Final scoring found me punching my ticket to the finals. I probably would have qualified due to Jeff's already being in, but it was nice to earn my place at the final table by playing my way in.

Davido-51-87-124
JeffG-46-88-119
Ted Marshall-41-66-97
Roman S-35-58-88
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15. Board Game: Railways of the Western U.S. [Average Rating:7.97 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.97 Unranked]
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My turn to play with house money. There was a small (e.g. 2p in the form of Roman Shopashnik and daughter Anna) sign up for the 2nd Railways qualifier. Tracy asked if I would help 'make the game' and like Gumby, my arm can always be twisted to take on for the team. Roman had played railways a couple of times and Anna just once. So I decided that brutally traumatizing them with Canada would not be a way to retain Railways fans. Thus I decided upon the England/Wales map. As I was setting up, Jeffrey R (from Rapa Nui) and Martin Bell came along to make us a nice beefy fivesome. I wanted a new map and wanted to stay away from Eastern US, so I selected Western US. Martin had considerable Railways experience, so he 'splained while I set up shop. Martin and I agreed to sh*tcan the fuel depots (I never use 'em) and the rotors (which I like, but agree is one more layer of complexity despite encouraging more/easier deliveries) for n00bs to grok.

The Ft. Worth bounty came out in the opening tableau and I got first player to cash it in. I had plenty of company in the SE and Anna was in the SW and Martin in the NW. I stalled out w/ the competition and Martin stayed in the NW, but Anna was able to control enough of the corridor to stall him out. With nothing at stake, I did put forth my best effort, but I tried riffs I normally don't do. I did get the Grand Junction-OKC and Promontory-Omaha major lines. Roman won with a dominating run through the Cheyenne(?)-Tuscon run and some great deliveries and bounties.

RomanS-50
Jeffrey-49
Davido-38
Martin-37
Anna-29
Still, this was my 3rd game on 3 maps over the weekend.
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16. Board Game: Ra [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:143]
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My hosted session of Ra was a no-show a no-go, but I did get to play Ra after all. I saw someone 'splainin' Ra and asked to join in. Staci G also heard my soft, plaintive plea for another player or two to make a quartet along w/ GregP and Candy.

I played a solid game, but Greg was en fuego and won easily.
GregP-55
Davido-41
StaciG-33 (first game)
Candy-24
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17. Board Game: Mykerinos [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:876]
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I noticed that Greg had a copy of this nice little tweener and asked if we could play and Staci remained to join us. A LOT of Browns came out in the first draw. Even though I tried to harness the power of the museum, I was thwarted at every turn. The museum ended up fully packed. I ended up w/ 3 blacks and 2 brown and one other piece. weak sauce indeed.

GregP-59
Candy-57
Staci-43
Davido-22

Along with Citadels, Mykerinos joins the ranks of 'games I love, but hate me back'. sigh.
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18. Board Game: Ra [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:143]
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Wait, what? ANOTHER game of Ra? Well, Eric was 'splainin' to Tom and Tommy Flynn. Both are hard-core gamers and frequent residents of the WCBC finals board. Turns out neither had EVER played Ra. I mean, Ra is the Sara Lee Banana Cake of Euros-EVERYONE plays and likes Ra fercryinoutloudalready :O So, the game was pretty slapstick with heavy-handed hints and guffaws as the n00bs tried to figure the game out. I wish to say my savvy insights and experienced acumen paid off, but exactly the opposite. At the end of the first epoch, I managed to have a civ and a pharaoh to stave off negative points, but no actual scoring. I managed a flood and 3 niles and avoid negatives in round 2, but no actual endgame progress beyond a monument. In round 3 I managed to parlay my sucky suns into the winning trifecta and a couple of more monuments, but it was a pretty dismal showing. At least I beat out Tom Sr, but Tommy jr. did well.

Eric-48
TommyF jr-27
GeorgeP-24
Davido-16
Tom F sr-13

I actually CAN play a good game of Ra from time to time.
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19. Board Game: Railways of the World [Average Rating:7.69 Overall Rank:102] [Average Rating:7.69 Unranked]
Davido
United States
California
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Monday a.m. found me eager to set up for my first final-Railways of the world. Somehow I had wound up as defacto host/gm-which is ok w/ me-happy to facilitate the play of a fantastic game. Reasonably assured of a full house, I decided (along w/ Kevin Ellingson's agreement) to go w/ good ol' Eastern US: This way all players would know the map and it wouldn't be a puzzle to figure out, so they could concentrate on their own best game. Finalists were Qualifiers Davido, Roman S, Jeff R, Walter W, and alternates Anna S (Roman's daughter) and Martin B.

Two Railroad Executives came out first, and one got shuffled in. Out on the tableau were 2 perfect engineerings, 2 government land grants (Kevin shuffled, don't blame me) and the Duluth service bounty (with a yellow cube down in Milwaukee). I went all in and made a play for start player. The others chickened out and I was delighted to snag first player for a mere 10 bucks. At home, such a tableau (and a very delivery-friendly board) would go for 20-25 easily. I thought it over, and decided to get a leg up on deliveries and took the NE corridor and slammed home the first cube. I was able to build/deliver my way to 4 cube bonus and then snuck in the Richmond-Atlanta and Boston-Washington lines, pretty much having my way with the field w/o actually doing much. Meanwhile, Martin was playing a patient game carving out the upper NE and eventually expanding out to the great lakes.

Elsewhere, Anna had the SE and the others were carving up the mid-west/chicago area (Jeff had the Pittsburg-Wheeling corner). Martin played a patient game and revealed the first to 6 baron and cranked off deliveries to come roaring back. He had a slight lead at the end, but a revealed Baron. I had 4 fewer shares. My baron was the obscure 'links from Mobile' and thought it was easy peasy. Anna, not knowing this, still had other ideas and built from mobile to expand her SE network. Martin got into the act (he would build NO-Minny) and I was stuck w/ 2 baron points. Anna then delivered a Yellow from Mobile that I desperately needed.

I knew I couldn't compete w/ 6 link deliveries (I was at 4 engine and stalling out on cubes), so I tried to end the game by emptying out cities (and I had an El Grande final), but a rash of urbanizations kept the game going 2-3 rounds longer than I would have liked. Still, I kept emptying 1 city to their rebuilds to try to keep pace in points and end game.

It was close. At the end of the day, Martin is the 2013 WCBC Railways champion by 2 points. Any one of those don't happen (someone else to six engine, I get more links out of mobile, I deliver that yellow cube) and I win.

Still, how can I be mad or disappointed. FOUR FREAKING GAMES OF RAILWAYS on FOUR FREAKING DIFFERENT MAPS for FOUR EPIC GAMING EXPERIENCES in one weekend. Wow. When is THAT ever going to happen again (next year, please?) It was a total blast. Anna is a force of nature to be reckoned with.

Aside: Pacificon parents know their kids well, and overall, I have had nothing but positive experiences with junior gamers knowing the games and showing solid gamesmanship and sportsmanship. The future of the hobby is in very good young hands.

Martin Bell-62
Davido-60
AnnaS-59
RomanS-44
Walter= Willis-40
Jeffrey Raglan-38

Edit: Over the weekend, others commented how they so rarely get to play Railways and that it is a Con highlight for them. I am fortunate enough to have been able to measure and purchase a dining table SPECIFICALLY large enough to accommodate Railways (Transcontinental will be a stretch, though) and to have a local play group that plays Railways on an at least monthly basis (of which I join in every other month or so and am probably the 4th best player amongst the regulars in the 'shark tank').
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20. Board Game: El Grande [Average Rating:7.78 Overall Rank:57]
Davido
United States
California
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As the con was winding down, we had a final four of Richard Irving, Bill Zorn, and Robert Stetler and moi. The former 3 were all over the finals board, so despite being 4p, I knew this was going to be a knuckle-duster of a match-as it well should be.

Richard did the king thang, but Robert had the lead at the first pole. The early draw had lots of maneuver/intrigue cards that are about as useful as tits on a bull in the early game. There were also lots of denial plays (e.g. taking the cards to deny scoring ops to others). The second round was brutal and found a really tight cluster with 7 points separating leader Bill from moi caboose. Still, I soldiered on, and avoided any misplays that would incur Richard's 'Glare of Death' (tm). In the closing rounds, Bill dropped the 4 ought mobile scoreboard on Granada to neuter my Grande stronghold. I was able to move my Grande to Valenica where I had solid control.

Then everyone got greedy. Bill removed the mobile board on Granada in a ploy to try to snag 6 points. I had the castillo advantage and enough of a cube advantage that I knew I could keep Granada. At worst I'd get the second place points and pray for the best. Richard made a rare gut-play that backfired. If he had chosen to airdrop Galicia in the NE corner he could have won. Instead, he and everyone chose granada and he lost out. For some reason, Robert chose not to 1-13 an i was able to 1-13 to position the king and my pieces and lock down Valencia.
It was another nut-buster, but at the end of the day (and the con), I did end up on top to 'get the wood' and my first ever WCBC plaque and champion's ribbon.

Davido-33-68-98
Bill Zurn-29-70-96
Richard Irving-28-63-96
Robert Stetler-44-69-93
------------------------------------------
A HUGE shout-out to Kevin Ellingson, Richard Irving, the El Grande and Tigris & Euphrates qualifiers. Railways final was at 9 a.m. Monday and El Grande Final at 11am. I knew 6p railways was NOT a 2 hour game (2.5-3 at home, but not here and not under the A.P. of a finals match and certainly not if there was a rash of urbanizations prolonging the game). Still, everyone from Kevin to the players recognizes the chance to compete and ALWAYS bends over backwards and moves heaven and earth to get as many people into their finals match as possible. So El Grande and Tigris and Euphrates got moved up an hour and I was able to sit at the final El Grande table.I honestly thought my best shot at a title was Railways (and I wasn't too far off), but am glad that I got to play in two finals.

People, I played two of my 10-rated games SEVEN times over the weekend. All games were epic and fully satisfying. More, please. Alas, I won't make the new Conquest Avalon, but will be back on my home stomping grounds at Conquest Sacramento in late March.
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