Sean's 2014 WBC Geeklist
Sean McCulloch
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Back again to describe all of the games I play at WBC. This year was a little different, partially because I finally had my schedule line up to make the precons, partially because I played a few games in which I advanced pretty far, (but not far enough to win anything) which had unexpected effects on my plans for the week.
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1. Board Game: Road Trip [Average Rating:4.87 Unranked]
Board Game: Road Trip
Sean McCulloch
United States
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We left Friday morning, and got there around dinnertime Friday night. This was the earliest I'd ever gotten to the Host, so it was cool to see it in "not really ready for us mode"- they had wedding receptions going on! But there were enough gamers around for us to stand out (especially with the wedding people around) and to see lots of friends I only see once a year.
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2. Board Game: Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:262]
Board Game: Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage
Sean McCulloch
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The main reason I was excited about going early for the precons was because I've been trying for years to make it in time to play Hannibal, but could never make it work out. So I'm really fortunate that things worked out this year (both at work and at home). Of course I made the best of my opportunity by getting clobbered

I ended up playing 2 games. In my first game, I bid 0 as Carthage and let him have it for 1 (which is probably a mistake- if I think 1 is the right bid, I should just go there myself and let them overbid). Since I was a "rookie" in the tournament, I got paired with someone who had been in the tournament before, but wasn't a top seed. I felt like I played a pretty good game, but had lots of those "Hannibal+10 CU fights Marcellus+10 CU" battles that I'm probably only about 40% to win. But I think I'm supposed to fight those, because I'll win eventually and losing is _way_ more catastrophic for Carthage than it is for Rome. But I lost like 4 of those battles, and eventually the game.

After losing in the first round, I had a bit of an existential crisis-I'm pretty unlikely to advance very far after going 0-1, but the whole reason I wanted to come early (for several years now!) was to play Hannibal. Or maybe I should play War of the Ring instead? I don't really know that game, but always have wanted to figure it out, and there's really nobody at home that will play it with me.

At dinner (IHOP!) Bruce Reiff steps up and offers to learn War of the Ring with me on Sunday, so I can go play Hannibal tonight. Thanks, Bruce!

In the second round, I was expecting to get another 0-1 loser, preferably as bad as myself. Instead, I get paired with the only top seeded player to lose their first round game. Well, now I'm certainly outclassed!

He obviously played a much better game than me- taking advantage of corner cases in the rules that I didn't understand (Did you know that the Truce card also voids naval rolls? Did you know that Hannibal couldn't use a Probe as a Frontal Assault, so it's not really a reserve? I didn't!), showing that I was very, very wrong when I had a choice between 2 cards and it "didn't matter" what order I played them in, and so on. After all of that, I managed to delay things until Scipio Africanus showed up. There was a very even battle in Syracuse that I ended up losing to a Double Envelopment on the last card (masterful battle card play by him) that really hurt, then I tried invading Spain and got thwarted (did you know that "Hanno Counsels Carthage" doesn't stop _generals_ from leaving Africa, just CU? I didn't!), and then time ran out. What a fun, educational game. I'm never "glad I lost", but I am really glad I had such a good experience. Hopefully the stars can align in some future year and I can make it back again.
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3. Board Game: War of the Ring: Second Edition [Average Rating:8.51 Overall Rank:12]
Board Game: War of the Ring: Second Edition
Sean McCulloch
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As promised, Bruce let me teach him this on Sunday. Actually it was more like I showed Bruce the basic moves and bothered the GM and other players in the actual tournament when we were confused. So sorry, everyone!

But I may have found a convert- the second edition that they use is _much_ more readable than the first, and Bruce said we should try to pick up a copy and play it at home. So we're looking.

Also, Kevin W (the GM) has shown me a really cool Java program that lets you play live networked games. I'm playing around with it now, so hopefully I can get some training in that way too.
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4. Board Game: Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization [Average Rating:7.91 Overall Rank:59]
Board Game: Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization
Sean McCulloch
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The main event on precon Sunday is Through the Ages. (The other big one is Virgin Queen, I guess, which is a game I'd like to play, but am not really a fan of the tournament scenario). The last few years some of us have a tradition of playing a "rogue" game that's not part of the actual tournament, with Debbie G the famous photographer. This way, we can all play with each other (some of us haven't played it since last year), and we can take breaks when Debbie needs to run off and take pictures.

(As an aside, I got to see some of the crazy planning and work she does to make sure all of the tournaments- and most of the finals -get photographed. Man, that's a lot of work. I've taken to telling her that she needs minions..)

Anyway, we continued our tradition this year. I wish I'd _remembered_ it was a tradition, or I would have brought my copy of the game. Instead we had to play with the crappy first edition. I'll try to remember next year!
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5. Board Game: Win, Place & Show [Average Rating:6.72 Overall Rank:3151]
Board Game: Win, Place & Show
Sean McCulloch
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Lots of events this year started moving heats to Sunday and Monday. Right now, they don't have a lot of competition, so they draw pretty big crowds. We'll see what happens in future years- will lots of other games move there too?

Anyway, one of the games that moved a heat over this year was Win, Place, and Show. It's a game I only play once a year, where I'm nowhere as good as the "regulars" who know all of the horses, but I enjoy playing it and like to make sure I do it at least once to help their numbers. I'm slowly over the years learning what horses are good, too. In this race I (luckily) got out to a commanding lead in the 4th race. This caused the good people at the table to have to do suboptimal things to try to catch me (since I knew to protect from the "regular" ways you'd try to catch up). In this case, it meant they bet on the second underdog (instead of the "true" underdog) in both races. So at least I kept them from doing what they wanted to do. But they were good (or lucky?) enough to make both of those horses come in, knocking me out.

Fresh off of that learning experience, I also played in the Tuesday night heat, figuring that if I go less than a year between games, I might learn something. In this game, I again jumped out to an early lead (I wish I knew how I did that..) due to lots of unlikely bonus rolls. So many that the good person at the table decided that he was going to just start betting the horse that had the highest bonus number in the remaining races- I believed him, and bet that horse to win, but not for my other 2 bets, so he caught up.

In the last race, I had to make a decision- do I think I'm behind, and try to bet the underdog, or do I think I'm ahead, and just bet the favorite? I decide to try and play it both ways (which is always a mistake) and end up losing when the favorite comes in. One year, I'll make the big board!
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6. Board Game: San Juan [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:305]
Board Game: San Juan
Sean McCulloch
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The traditional Monday morning game- it's quick, gets 100+ people, and you either advance to the single-elim bracket or are done by noon. It's set up as 2-player games, and you need to win 3 of your first 4 games to advance. I ended up winning my first 2, losing my third, but winning my 4th to advance. In the bracket, I played a really good player, and won, and then in the second round of the bracket I played someone who said he'd been trying for years to make the bracket, and had been training and this was the furthest he'd ever been. Boy, was he excited! It was fun to play him, and you could see that his training helped. I had crappy cards in the beginning, and ended up a building behind. He never really let me catch up, drew all of the right 6 point buildings and killed me. I don't know how he did after that (I know he lost sometime before the final though). It was a fun game playing someone so thrilled to do so well.
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7. Board Game: Innovation [Average Rating:7.26 Overall Rank:335]
Board Game: Innovation
Sean McCulloch
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My expectation is that once I lose in San Juan, that I'll go play Manoeuvre at 1:00, which is another game I don't get to play very often. But, since I "did too well" at San Juan, I busted out at around 1:15 and missed the start. So, looking for something to do, I decided to give this a try.

This is a game I really _want_ to like. I like growing more powerful over time, I like managing chaos, it feels like the sort of game that would appeal to me. But I really just don't get it. Maybe that's because I don't understand how the cards work together (or really, what many of the cards do at all- I'm usually perpetually surprised). But most of the games I've seen devolve into "One person gets an awesome combination of cards and milks that until they win". And it seems a little arbitrary as to who gets the awesome combination (outside of knowing what cards to expect). Does that go away once people get more skilled?

Anyway, in my game I played someone who obviously knew what she was doing, and while I managed to score some achievements early, she set up the awesome combination of cards and plowed over me. As expected. And I _still_ don't know if I like this game
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8. Board Game: Football Strategy [Average Rating:6.41 Overall Rank:5468]
Board Game: Football Strategy
Sean McCulloch
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Another game that moved a heat to Monday, and one I was anxious to play because I'm working on an AI program that plays the game. I've learned a lot from the AI, and was ready to put those ideas into practice.

But in my game I played Pirate's Cove GM and all around great guy, Larry Lingle. If you've met Larry, you know he's a fun entertaining guy. You also know that he's insane (and I mean that in the best possible way). So it was just a matter of time before the wackiness ensued. Sure enough, he fake punts on 4th and 15 and makes it, changes his offense to Ariel in the second half (which I don't think I've ever played against) and throws all kinds of crazy plays that I'm not expecting. There's no place for planning and forethought in the face of insanity, and so I end up losing a hugely entertaining game.
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9. Board Game: Auctioneer [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Auctioneer
Sean McCulloch
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The rest of Monday (and most of Tuesday) was spent getting the Auction ready and working it. I now do some of the actual auctioning (I'm the guy who's not Bruce, who has to say all of the foreign named titles. Sorry about that. He's a wuss It was kind of a weird year in a lot of ways- we had lots of duplicate items (6x Age of Renaissance, 4(?)x Magic Realm, 3x Elric, of all things). So there were probably bargains to be had. The store also seemed pretty unexciting to me. Maybe I finally have most of the games I'm looking for. That would be nice.
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10. Board Game: High-Bid [Average Rating:5.80 Overall Rank:11360]
Board Game: High-Bid
Sean McCulloch
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As is traditional, I start the main con by going from working the physical auction, to playing in the Auction tournament. It's a fun quick game that (like Win, Place and Show) I only really play once a year, so I'm not as good as the sharks. In this game, I was basically waiting the whole game for the Jewelry rich collector to come out, which would have given me lots of ways to try for the win, but he never did. Hey, at least I had a plan this time, which is more than I usually do.
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11. Board Game: Lost Cities [Average Rating:7.18 Overall Rank:323]
Board Game: Lost Cities
Sean McCulloch
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Historically, my Tuesday night followed a pretty regular script- Auctionat 6, March Madness at 7, where I will either advance pretty far or bust out in time for Queens Gambit at 9. Last year, though, they moved the 2 player Titan tournament to 8 PM Tuesday night, which seemed weird, and maybe a mistake. But it was back there again this year, so I guess it's a permanent move. Also, the March Madness and Queens Gambit games both moved to 8:00 as well. On top of that, they _also_ placed a heat of Lost cities at 8!. So now there's 4 games I really want to play, all at the same time! Aargh!

So, looking at the schedule in March (I plan all of this out way in advance) I realize that the 2 player Titan tournament is Single Elimination, so I need to play that. March Madness and Queen's Gambit both have other heats, so I theoretically have other chances (though I never did make March Madness this year, which I'm bummed about). And Lost Cities is on a "rolling pairing" system, so if I'm lucky I can get paired early, then run down to Titan, where they'll know I'm coming.

It kind of worked, I got there early and get paired at about 7:40 (along with 10-20 other early folks- Lost Cities is a _hugely_ popular game), and then failed to see the other person I was supposed to play for about 10 minutes. Oops. But we met up, and both agreed to play the world's fastest Lost Cities game. We got 3 rounds done in less than 15 minutes. I remember winning a close game, but not much beyond that.

The way they run the Lost cities tournament is that there are 4 heats (but heats 3 & 4 are back to back on Saturday, and you can only enter heat 4 if you've won heat 3) and everyone who has 2 wins enters the single elim bracket. With my 1 win, I needed just one more to make the bracket. I was expecting to play in the second heat, but read the schedule wrong, showed up an hour early (not on purpose this time and decide to jump into a multiplayer Titan game instead of waiting around. So I miss that heat, meaning I need to win heat 3 on Saturday to advance. I end up playing a really close intense game where all 3 rounds were decided by only a couple of points, and lose by 10 after 3 rounds. Close!

It's a bummer that losing in round 3 meant I couldn't play in the immediately following round 4, but I really like the way they run this tournament in comparison to previous years (when 32 people made the bracket no matter what, and you never were sure how many wins it took) so I won't complain.
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12. Board Game: Titan [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:1130]
Board Game: Titan
Sean McCulloch
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Running downstairs after my fast Lost Cities game, I get paired into the 2 player Titan tournament. Since I won this a bunch of years ago, and they keep past champions apart in the first round, I was hoping to avoid the Titan Sharks. But instead I get someone who's really really good (he's never won the 2 player, but won the multiplayer tournament last year). Well, that's what I get for being late.

We play a pretty close game for a while- he puts 3 centaurs and a warbear in the woods above my titan in a place where if I attack it and don't win too convincingly, he can sweep in with his titan and clean up the rest. So I sit and wait for a while until he moves his titan out of the way (heck, if he has to keep his titan _and_ another stack from moving just to keep my titan from moving, I'm coming out ahead, right?) and then make the attack. As it turns out, I do a little badly in the battle and come out a little weak, and then he parks his titan in the desert in front of me. I think he thought I was worse than I was. I don't remember the exact situation, but I think he was {ttn lio lio ran ran ran} and I was {ttn ang tro tro cyc ran}. Something like that. Not the best stack for fighting in the desert, but probably closer than he wants to give me. He said later that he thought if I attacked he'd be 80% to win, but really he was more like 60%, which I think was right (and, still probably a move I have to make, since at that point he had another stack behind me). The battle had a few wild swings of luck on both sides, and in the end his 60% held out in a close one.
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13. Board Game: Ingenious [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:449]
Board Game: Ingenious
Sean McCulloch
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After I lose in Titan I run upstairs to where Pete Stein (who, BTW, couldn't drink till the last Saturday of the convention. Talk about having a tough week!) was running Ingenious. I yelled and asked him if he needed me to run back to my room to get my copy. He said he did, so I ran off and got paired with the other stragglers. Since they were all people who were running between events like me, it ended up being a really strong table.

I think I'm missing something in this game- I understand the basics, but it seems like whenever people are going ingenious in a color, I can't get any of that color (and can't dump it either), and instead am going crazy in some other color. So now the 3 other players, even if they're not doing it intentionally, can band together to score the one color I have, but have no reason to help me get the color I need. Is it just bad luck that I'm not drawing the color I need at the right time? Or is there some deeper strategy I haven't seen?
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14. Board Game: 1989: Dawn of Freedom [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:637]
Board Game: 1989: Dawn of Freedom
Sean McCulloch
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One of the benefits of the 2 player Titan tournament moving to Tuesday night was that my Wednesday morning was free. I could play March Madness (but still -incorrectly- thought there was a chance I could play in the other heats), I could play Wilderness War, which is a game I like but don't play enough. But instead, I decided to give this a try- I've played though it a couple of times with people at home, and wanted to see how I stood against people who knew what they were doing.

The first round is 9 AM, and I get paired up with.. Stefan MeCay. Yes, that Stefan. The one who won 5 out of the first 6 Twilight Struggle tournaments and is one of the best players around. Well, I did want to know how I'd do against the good people.

But! He comes over to my table and says "So, I've never played this before- I read the rules this morning and wanted to check it out". Huh. Maybe I'm actually lucky that I'm playing him in the _first_ round! Anyway, his natural Twilight Struggle awesomeness made him play a good game, but my slight advantage in knowing what cards were coming gave me a lead and then I shut it down with the New Year's Eve Party (the "Hasselhoff") on the first turn of the late year.

In my second game, I get someone who obviously plays a lot. I was the Democrats, and managed to win close scoring rounds in the first few areas. Once I can do that, it means I can focus on the last few areas and just keep the momentum going. Once it got too far out of hand, he conceded. Holy crap, I'm 2-0!

Since it's a 4 round Swiss tournament, I can sort of tell from the standings that there are about 5 of us 2-0 people. So I'm starting to say things like "Boy, if I win my third game, I'm either in a final or playing a 2-1 person and going into some weird tiebreaker! Cool!" Which, as we all know, is cha-chinging, and a sure way to draw the ire of the Fates. Which I did.

In the third round I got someone who was _clearly_ way better than me, and while I'm sure his superior skill had a lot to do with the situation, the fact that he got a ridiculous combo of all of the good Democrat East Germany Cards (send your points in the Church all through Germany, followed by auto-refill of the Church, followed by using your full Church for like 10 support checks) didn't help. Once that turn was over, I looked at him and said "This is hopeless, isn't it?" and he said it was. So, I conceded, ended up going 2-1 and after 9 hours of playing 1989, decided to skip the 4th round.

Talking to someone after, they said that they thought the events in 1989 were way more powerful than they were in Twilight Struggle. I thought he was complaining at first, but as I've thought about it since then, I think he was right- there are lots of really crazy events, especially for the Democrats. It seems like if they get those cards at the right time, they win, but if they don't, they're really in trouble.

I wonder if that's really true- that the game is way more decided by the events than by the ops. In Twilight Struggle I know how to play to mitigate most of the really bad events. I wonder if a new kind of strategy is needed here.
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15. Board Game: Titan [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:1130]
Board Game: Titan
Sean McCulloch
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After my crushing defeat in 1989, I decided to run over and jump into the multiplayer Titan tournament. I get placed into a 3 player game with Awesome Titan Player Aaron and a guy I didn't know. Aaron "makes a huge mistake" (keeping in mind that a "huge mistake" for him is still a move that looks totally fine for 90% of us) and almost loses his titan in an early battle. But he pulls out of that battle and eventually hunts down the other guy's titan in the Jungle. Here, I did think the other player did make a mistake- he needed to leave a hole open in the back row for a behemoth recruit to come in, but he did it by leaving the hole next to his titan, and so a bunch of flyers came over and finished him off. At that point, Aaron had a huge amount of points and a crappy Titan stack, and I had a good titan stack but not a lot of points (or other stacks). I tried to chase around after his titan for a while but couldn't get the rolls, until he finally got a good stack of his own behind me and I conceded.

I played another heat game of this on Thursday, where I played a 4-player game. I ended up taking out one player, then going into the tundra and getting a giant in my Titan stack. Another player decided I was too scary to risk getting better attacked into the tundra with his dragon stack- not necessarily to win, but to strip. But a combination of lucky rolls and the good terrain meant that I ended coming out of that battle with 2 giants. At that point, I think he went on tilt a little, and he kept on trying to impale me with more and more stacks, and I kept winning and winning. There were lots of fast, fun battles, with lots of mistakes on both sides (I remember one battle where we _both_ forgot he could summon in an angel in a later round because he hadn't killed something in an earlier round- meaning that I left my units in a very vulnerable position, and he could have done serious damage to me if we'd remembered). Eventually, I ended up with like 1000 points and a huge titan and finally stomped on everyone else for the win.

One win and a second was enough to make the semifinal where there are no soft players. My game had Aaron (again),Mike (who won the 2-player a few years ago) and Pete (who makes the semis most years). It was a really long, greuling game that took over 8 hours- not because anyone was playing slow or badly, but because all of us had real chances all through the game and lots of close battles. All 4 of us ended up over 400 points in the game, which pretty much everyone said they'd never seen happen.

Eventually, Pete gets knocked out (by Aaron, I think), and I look around the board and say "Wow- Aaron has the most points (the only one who can teleport at the time, I think), Mike has the best stack (2 colossi), but I have the best stack with my titan (hydras). We've been playing for 7 hours, and _still_ anyone can win!"

Once I go over 400 points, I manage to roll a 6 and have a decision- do I attack Aaron in the plains, which is next to where Mike's Colossi will be coming down, or do I attack Mike's crappy titan stack in the tower, meaning that if I win I'll be far away from everyone and hopefully will get enough points to take out Aaron on my next 6?

My stack was {ttn10, hyd hyd wlo wlo wlo ran}, and so I figured with all of that rangestriking and all of those warlocks, the tower wouldn't matter that much to me, so I went after Mike {ttn9, tro tro gor wlo ran ran, I think}. My plan was to start dinking the titan with my warlocks to make him come out of the tower after me, which he did, but a combination of unlucky rolls and bad strategy meant I ended up losing the battle outright (and the game). It's frustrating that I don't know what was the bigger factor- my luck or my (lack of) skill. If I can remember the stacks right, I'll try to post the battle details in the Titan topic to see what the people there think.

So, in what's becoming a theme, lots of long good games, lots of time spent playing against good people, some success, but not enough to have anything to show for it.
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16. Board Game: Star Wars: The Queen's Gambit [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:828]
Board Game: Star Wars: The Queen's Gambit
Sean McCulloch
United States
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I really like this game, and can't really play it at home, so I'm glad I found the time to get it in. It's the perfect mindless smashing to do after a long Thursday (which up till this point had my three 1989 games and my one titan loss). I ended up playing as the Naboo, getting Maul down to 2 hits left with both Jedi alive (one at full health), and then having Maul kill both Jedi. Sigh.

Thinking about the game afterwards, I wonder if my strategy for this is a little _too_ braindead as the Naboo. I mean, I pretty clearly want to play all of the anakin/Jedi cards I get, but maybe I don't want to play them as soon as I get them. Maybe spending some time setting up good postions on the battlefield or in the palace will make my opponent burn a lot of energy later trying to fix problems. Usually I just do those things when I have nothing better to do. Hmm.

Also, as a side note, we had 2 copies of this in the auction. The punched copy went for over $200, I think, and the shrink copy went for about $250. So if you have this game or want to pick it up, plan accordingly.
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17. Board Game: Can't Stop [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:758]
Board Game: Can't Stop
Sean McCulloch
United States
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From brain dead to "Brainer-Dead". The late night games are a WBC staple and are always popular fun ways to burn off steam after a long day. Here, I rolled the 6-7-8 combo twice and busted out both times. Meanwhile, other people were claiming columns on the end, and took the win. Which is fine, since I could go to bed

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18. Board Game: Paydirt [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:3907]
Board Game: Paydirt
Sean McCulloch
United States
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Thursday is the day I would have liked to play March Madness, but I guess the Thursday heat doesn't usually get people, so he moved it to Friday night (when I'll be playing Battle Line). So instead, I played Paydirt and tried to repeat my crazy run of last year. It's a pretty small heat, which means that the teams won't get auctioned off 2-3 times like you'll usually see. Looking at the charts (since you only get a quick look, what I'm looking for are teams that have some way of stopping most plays on defense, so you won't have someone running all over you), there are only a few teams that I'm really interested in. In the auction phase, they all go for lots larger than I'm willing to pay (possibly a mistake on my part) and end up with the Cowboys as one of the last picks. Not the best team, but Tony Romo on paper is probably better than Tony Romo is in real pressure situations, so I'll give it a shot.

In my first game, I'm up against a team that found my weakness- I don't have a good defense against the short pass. I don't have much _help_ for you either, so you need to complete your own passes. (Some defenses say "Override your result into a 10 yard completion" or something, which is what I was really trying to avoid). Luckily my first opponent had a few ways to roll an interception on _his_ chart, and found it 3-4 times, which was enough to give me the win.

In my second game, I played Ron, the guy who designs the charts, in a rematch of our crazy game from last year. It was another fun epic game that luckily this time didn't turn on a field goal his defense game me. Instead, his QB made a bunch of incomplete passes on his own chart, and Tony Romo was able to build enough drives to take home the win.

Now I'm in the semis of the heat, and I'm playing Harry, the GM. He's got the Saints (another good passing team), which means I need help from him to miss his passes. But his defense is a little spottier too- it has a lot of "guessing games", where if I guess the right offense against his defense I have lots of good chances for long gains, but if I guess wrong, mad things happen.

It ends up being a tight close game that came down him making a 45 yard touchdown pass as the game was about to go into overtime. So close! But I can't complain after my lucky run last year. This tournament is always a lot of fun and may be moving up in my priorities from "Oh cool, this is a fun game to play when I have a hole in my schedule" to "Boy, I need to find a way to fit this in!"

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19. Board Game: Kremlin [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:1243]
Board Game: Kremlin (Third Edition)
Sean McCulloch
United States
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Another game I try to make time for each year, since I don't get to play it much at home. There's a new version out, that apparently has some pretty substantial rules changes. So the GM, in typical Kremlin fashion, gave us a survey about what version of the game we want to use in future years, "So he can pretend he's got our opinions when he decides to do whatever he wants anyway", which was awesome.

One of the consequences on not playing this game enough is that I perpetually over-worry about revealing which people I care about. In a 5 player game, the odds that people will both remember who it was I was trying to do things for _and_ will not think they have enough points on him themselves to beat me are low enough to take the risk. It came out in this game when my 9 point guy became KGB head in time for the second add influence phase (at the time, nobody had declared points on him). I ended up going first in the add influence phase and put 2 points on him (enough to make it 10+ if I wanted), but _not_ declaring the 10+. The stuipidness of this play was made apparent when the very next player did the exact same thing- add 2 points, but _did_ declare a 10+ on him. Sigh. Good for him for having the guts I didn't have.
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20. Board Game: Pro Golf [Average Rating:5.61 Overall Rank:16835]
Board Game: Pro Golf
Sean McCulloch
United States
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Yes, there is an email tournament of this, and yes, somehow I won it. (Now I understand what everyone was saying about this being a game of skill!) So on Thursday night I was on hand to be presented with the Green Jacket. As I said then, it's not a coincidence that the last few winners come from Pete Stein's foursome. I think there's a fixed amount of luck in the universe, and I'd like to thank Pete for giving his share of luck to me this year. Maybe one year you'd like to hang on to it and be lucky yourself?

(Or would that just destroy the space time continuum?)

Anyway, not being in Pete's group and having to roll _physical_ dice meant I had no chance. But someone else at our table managed a triple bogey, so at least I beat him!
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21. Board Game: Alhambra [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:488]
Board Game: Alhambra
Sean McCulloch
United States
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Friday morning/afternoon was the long Titan semi, and so by the time I busted out it was close to 5:00 and I wanted a brain-cleaner before Battle Line at 7:00. So, I chose Alhambra- it's a fun game, but since they play it with 5 player boards, you really can't plan too much between turns. In this game, I thought I screwed myself by taking too many walls and limiting my building options too much, but some desperate reserving combined with those large walls scoring 3 times added up to enough for me to taken down a close win.

No semi for me though, since I have to go play my team game..
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22. Board Game: Battle Line [Average Rating:7.41 Overall Rank:236]
Board Game: Battle Line
Sean McCulloch
United States
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So, since I've somehow won this 3 times in a row, I decided to make it my team game this year, thus guaranteeing that there was no way I'd win it a fourth time I almost didn't make it out of my pod! In my first game, I played someone who got 2 flags in a row really fast and was driving for a third, forcing me to spend a lot of tactics cards and crazy moves to not lose to the breakthrough. As a result, spending so much time on defense there led me to screw up enough other columns for him to take 5 flags total.

(And so, you can hear everyone in the room going "Yay, Sean's losing!")

So now I have to really crack down and win my next 2 games, and hope I get lucky in the tiebreaker. I win my second game by breakthrough (yay!) but the guy who beat me also won, to go 2-0 (boo!). This means that going into the last round, 3 of us are theoretically alive. If the person who beat me wins, he'll be 3-0. If he loses, then his opponent will be 2-1. If that happens and I win, we'll have three 2-1 players and go to the second tiebreaker. If the person who beat me loses _and_ I lose, then the third person wins (there will be two 2-1 people, but the third player will win the head to head tiebreaker).

I start my third game with really crappy cards, and end up starting all 9 flags early, mostly out of desperation. Finally, I get lucky and combinations start coming in and I pull off a 5-flag win. Meanwhile, in the other game, the perfect outcome happens- the player who beat me loses, but by enough flags to give me the tiebreaker. Whew!

(And so, you can hear everyone in the room going "Oh No, Sean escaped somehow! Rats!")

In the bracket, my first game is against the player I had a really long, intense game in the semifinals last year with. Last year it went down to whoever drew the "correct" tactics card at the bottom of the deck, and it was me. This year, I had to do crazy things like redeploying my leader to stop a breakthrough. I think all of my practice flailing around in the first game gave me the ability to stay alive here until I drew the cards I needed and escaped with a win. Whew!

In the next round, I played another really close game where basically if my opponent draws the green 7 at any point, he'll win the game and there's nothing I can do about it. Lucky for me, the green 7 was towards the bottom of the deck, and I found it, and he spent so much time waiting for it that he had to screw up enough other flags that I could win. Very lucky on my part.

And now, because I'm a past champion, I get a bye into the finals, where it turns out I'll be playing the _previous_ 4 time champion, Bruce Reiff.

(And so, you can hear everyone in the room, and throughout the convention, going "Oh man, Sean's in the finals again. Dang. Wait, what, he's playing Bruce? Screw that- go Sean!")

Now, I've said consistently for years that the only reason I've won any of my 3 plaques in Battle Line is because someone else along the way takes Bruce out before I have to play him. I don't know what it is, but I don't think I've ever beaten Bruce in this game- tournament, pickup game, home game, whatever- in at least 5 years. It's getting creepy. We move the final to Sunday morning so we can both play Liar's Dice. So, right after the car gets packed, we sit down and deal out the cards. I again get a giant pile of crappy cards and start all 9 flags way too early, putting me in the hole. So I draw a tactics card- get the Shield Bearers (wild 1/2/3). He, apparently, draws the Traitor. Sigh. Later on, I draw the wild 8 (useless to me) and he draws the Fog, which wins him the game. I don't know if he's better than me (probably), but I do know that I don't have much hope not getting worse troop cards _and_ worse tactics cards. Congrats, Bruce!
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23. Board Game: Carcassonne [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:182] [Average Rating:7.42 Unranked]
Board Game: Carcassonne
Sean McCulloch
United States
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If you're not in a semi, and don't want to spend all day playing Settlers, there's not a lot to do on Saturday. I could have gotten up early and played Battle Cry, but instead decided to sleep in for a while. Which was nice, and meant the first game that even looked remotely interesting to me that day was this, starting at 11.

Last year, I somehow made the final of this. I'm starting to wonder if it's because other people are overthinking it. I _still_ don't really understand the farmer scoring, so I mostly give up on it except to make the people who want to be farmers spend a lot of time worrying about it. Instead, I get a bunch of cities going. Many of them got shared with other people, but they were mainly _different_ people, so it worked out for me. I ended up getting killed on the farms, but my city points was enough to give me the win.

The way I know I'm not very good at this game (despite stumbling into wins lately) is that when one of the other players made a move to screw me, he said he did it because I was "clearly ahead", and I was pretty bummed because I was sure I was in third place, at best. Turns out, not, he was right, and I was winning. Oops. Good play!

This year (unlike last year), one win in only one heat didn't look like enough to advance, and the semi was dangerously close to Slapshot anyway, so this was the only game of it that I played.
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24. Board Game: Ra: The Dice Game [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:1523]
Board Game: Ra: The Dice Game
Sean McCulloch
United States
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I've never played this before, but this event started in the same room as Carcassone right after it ended, and a friend started teaching people at the table next to me as my game was finishing up. I wandered over to listen, learned the game in 10 minutes, and since I had nothing to do at noon, signed up and played.

It's.. well, a dice game. I'm sure there's some strategy there (I had some tough decisions on what to disaster, and probably chose wrong). But in the end, if the dice are telling you that you're rolling one of each symbol, even after 2 rerolls, then, yeah, that's what you're rolling. It's not a horrible game, and I'd play it again, but I don't know that I'd be suggesting it to anyone.

After that, I got invited up to the Gutermuth lair for some Five Guys and some pickup games of titan (Because the 8 hour game the previous day hadn't tired me out, apparently). I played a quick 2 player with Ken, and then a 3 player with Ken and Lisa. One year, I'll convince them to play in the tournaments..
 
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25. Board Game: Facts in Five [Average Rating:6.11 Overall Rank:5145]
Board Game: Facts in Five
Sean McCulloch
United States
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Saturday evening was the last 2 heats of Lost Cities, which I lost and didn't make the bracket. The saving grace of that was that I had no conflicts for this event for the first time since John Corrado took it over. I've snuck in on parts of it in the past, but was really excited to see the whole thing from beginning to end.

And man, he does a _fantastic_ job! A great range of categories, just the right amount of humor and snark (mocking the people who couldn't think of "Dragon" for "Dungeons and Dragons monster" was the best), questions that (mostly) you feel like you _should_ know, even when you don't.

I messed up one round by writing "S" instead of "U" for one of my letters for some stupid reason, and spent a ton of time trying to find S answers (all the while saying "Boy, if U was the letter, I'd have tons of possibilities!"), but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have made it into the top 6 anyway.

What a great time. If you haven't gone, it's something to experience. Even (or especially) if you don't think you're good at trivia.
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