WBC 2014 Report
Robert Woodham
United States
Phoenix
Arizona
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Get ready for 2015! This year, I’m looking forward to competing in the Paths of Glory, Sekigahara, Here I Stand, 1989, Hammer of the Scots, Twilight Struggle, and Washington’s War tournaments. I’ll see all the sharks there.
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1. Board Game: Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage [Average Rating:7.82 Overall Rank:142]
Robert Woodham
United States
Phoenix
Arizona
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Friday: Arrived, ate at iHop.
Saturday: Slept in due to slight jet lag, lounged around, checked in and waited for about 30 minutes in preparation for the Hannibal tournament. That everyone knew each other on a friendly basis was very reassuring for a first-time player. I got the chance to meet a lot of previously faceless internet people from wargameroom, including the programmer and owner, Bruce Wigdor. I met The Brothers Pei shortly before being assigned to my first round match against Randy Pippus, a laurelist from the previous year. Ironically, I had been told by the tournament organizer that, being a first-timer, I wouldn’t get such a tough opponent. No matter, I was up for the challenge; I had practiced with Randy a number of times on wargameroom, where we had split some wins and losses. I underbid on Carthage, getting Rome with a +2 PC start, which I used to flip Saldae to create a North Africa beachhead.
After offing Hannibal very early on, my strategy was to grab a foothold in either Spain or North Africa, dictate the game through an offensive policy, and coast to a 10-8 win. While I can’t exactly remember which was my 10th province, the ending came down to a last-second adriatic pirates/diplomacy combo in Apulia from Carthage, which I baited and then shut down with a force march, ending the game 9-8 in my favour.
My second game and the last for that day I can hardly remember; I underbid Carthage again so I could get Rome, and won pretty handily, with what I remember being an early concession.
Sunday: After breakfast, I went into my third match 2-0, which meant I was swimming with the sharks. I got some Boeing engineer, who happened to be a very good player, despite not knowing the standard bids. His lack of metagaming knowledge proved to my disadvatage, as I underbid Carthage, expecting him to take the bait. But he didn’t, and so I got stuck with my worse faction. Psychological games can backfire.
Despite some excellent and extremely successful early Hannibal play, I made two major mistakes during the game: first, not consolidating my territory during the various breathers I had, which allowed him to get some big PC isolations later on, and second, not using Hannibal more to dictate the pace of the game. Hindsight is 20/20, but I did not expect him to have two straight hands full of nothing but 3-ops, which allowed him to sail in and out of Spain and North Africa every single time I defeated him or marched to oppose him, not to mention raise troops and make big PC placements. My lack of solid campaign cards also did not help. In short, it was a strategically frustrating game made possible by some very strong, aggressive play by my opponent, who made all the right plays. I tried a last-ditch siege attempt on Rome using Hannibal, but the -2 modifier and the anti-siege card from his hand put that to rest. I lost pretty big, but it was a fun game and a great learning experience.
I went into my second game 2-1, against a veteran player. I underbid Rome, which worked to my advantage this time around. I kicked Hannibal out of the Alps, allowed the natural Roman manpower advantage to escalate, and then launched a major invasion of North Africa with Marcellus and Scipio. Despite Hannibal coming in to help, I double-pronged him with Marcellus and Scipio, burning a ton of CU’s so Scipio could smack Hannibal down a notch. I pushed slowly through Africa, getting both the Numidias while the Carthaginians reinforced from Spain. With the end nigh, I got a little too reckless and pushed Scipio out on a slight limb with 9 CUs, who was then promptly intercepted by Hannibal and massacred with a double envelopment due to my inability to retreat during the battle and a horrible battle card hand. Oops. Sensing victory in the jaws of defeat, Hannibal pushed hard, reclaiming the initiative.
I hoped to buy enough time with Marcellus to stop Hannibal from taking back the rest of North Africa in time, incentivizing Hannibal on the last turn to stretch himself out on a limb attacking Marcellus and his last CU in Western Numidia. After some bad Hannibal command check rolls, Marcellus single-handedly wiped out Hannibal’s entire 4 CU force as it retreated through hostile PCs. At that point, Carthage realistically conceded so we could grab something to eat before the next round. Talk about luck swings.

Back to a strong record of 3-1, I got Keith Wixson, last year’s champion, for my 5th game. My opponent draws! I underbid Carthage again, getting Rome for the 4th time. This was definitely the best game I played in the tournament, heightened by the fact that we were playing for a laurel. All those hours of no-lifing Hannibal on wargameroom with Hungarians and Poles paid off, as I recognized the Brutium tribe in the south of Italy as a serious threat in such a high-skill game. After tons of op-investments on turns 1 and 2, I managed to barely avert, by one whole card, what would have been a southern Italy invasion, as Wixon had drawn a near-perfect southern Italian blitz hand. Doing my usual Northern Italian shenanigans, I managed to boot Hannibal out of Italy, almost killing him in the process. Sadly, Hannibal would live to fight a defensive campaign elsewhere. In an attempt to even the score, Wixson immediately dumped Hasdrubal and a ten-force on Sardinia on turn 3, forcing me to come to him the rest of the game.
Fortunately, that’s the way I like my Romans. Sadly, some bad card hands meant I had to delay my invasion and just build up my legions and PC marker count. By the time I got a decent hand, I had 40 CUs ready to compensate for Hannibal’s genius. On turn 5 I managed to get a beach-head in Spain at the last minute, deploying Scipio and reinforcing him with 10 more CU’s on turn 6. Using my obese army, I managed to make incremental gains until I had one Spanish province and a massive army at Scipio’s command, facing off against Hannibal’s smaller stack.
I had to wait another turn as I got another junk hand. I kept Marcellus around, and finally got a good hand on turn 8. Marcellus initiated the second pincer of my Spanish invasion, sieging Gades and getting 2 siege points for his troubles. Hannibal was pinned by Scipio and unable to respond, and Mago got bad weathered, opening up the door for another invasion fleet to reinforce Marcellus. Treachery in city finished off Gades, and I spent the rest fo the turn securing 3 out of 5 spaces in the province. Unfortunately, I could not win a single fight against Mago despite numerous advantages, the only thing keeping me in the fight being constant reinforcements. Unfortunately, at the end of turn 8, Syracuse came out, and it was 9-9 once again going into turn 9.
I figured I would have an advantage, given that I only had a single revolt province, while he had four. That’s the problem with holding Sardinia. Unfortunately, some atrocious siege rolls from Nero at Syracuse stopped me from taking it early on in the turn. With 3 cards left I only had 1 siege point, which forced me to spend another to get up to 2. I considered covering Sicily from revolt, but since I had taken such heavy casualties from sieging, and had the disadvantage of having to reinforce the siege with Varro (who had 50/50 chance of taking command if attacked), I decided it wasn’t worth the risk, what with the -2 Carthaginian naval modifier. Unfortunately, he got the turn 9 Messenger, stealing my 3 ops Celtiberia Revolts from my hand. I again didn’t bother covering Sicily, afraid of a bad weather, and played against the odds that he had drawn the other perfect card that would get him the game. Unfortunately, despite a succesfully completed siege, he revolted Sicily and took control with my Celtiberia Revolts card for the win.
Despite the unlucky ending, it was a great game filled with many tense moments. Fortunately, I still had my best games yet to come…
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2. Board Game: Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan [Average Rating:8.05 Overall Rank:144]
Robert Woodham
United States
Phoenix
Arizona
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Monday:
This was a casual day, filled with learning Sekigahara. The first round, I learned the rules the hard way by being beat by a vet. The second round I redeemed myself by beating a 15 year old, which says everything about my skill level. The third round I got James Pei, which went as well as one might expect, given that he ended up winning the tournament.

It was a nice breather from the intensity of Hannibal.
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3. Board Game: Britannia [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:553]
Robert Woodham
United States
Phoenix
Arizona
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That night, I played my first game of Britannia, drawing Red. I thought I was a decent Britannia player, but the skill level of the competition was much greater than mine, and not knowing the newest edition of the game very well did not help matters. It probably didn’t help that the median age of my competition was three times mine, and that much more experienced.
I soured a bit on Britannia this convention, given how the meta-game tends to favour it turning into a team game of green and yellow versus blue and red. Not being familiar with the dominant strategies, I tried to chart my own way, which didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped, landing me last at the table. Unfortunately, in this first game I allowed Blue to convince me to back out of my attempt to neuter the Angles in my bid to become late-game king, which would have worked out a lot better had I followed through and ignored the complaining.
After playing it thoroughly, I still like the game a lot, but it is somewhat inferior to games like Here I Stand, which have numerous dominant strategies and more structured negotiation.
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4. Board Game: Hammer of the Scots [Average Rating:7.57 Overall Rank:307]
Robert Woodham
United States
Phoenix
Arizona
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Speaking of Here I Stand, that was the only competitive deal I had on the ballot the next day, which was otherwise open gaming. While I missed learning Sword of Rome, I did get to learn Hammer of the Scots...
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5. Board Game: Twilight Struggle [Average Rating:8.34 Overall Rank:5]
Robert Woodham
United States
Phoenix
Arizona
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...as well as do a few practice games of Twilight Struggle, which greased my practice wheels a bit.
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6. Board Game: Here I Stand [Average Rating:7.94 Overall Rank:173]
Robert Woodham
United States
Phoenix
Arizona
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The first round of Here I Stand was probably the most unpleasant game I had all week. Getting stuck with France, an openly underpowered faction in the tournament scenario, did not help. What also did not help was the Papacy getting Andrea Doria on round one and activating it despite my declaration of war during the diplomacy phase. After bunch of mediocre siege rolls and lucky mercenary-killer cards from the Papacy, the game ended turn 2 with me banging on Genoa’s gates for 2 turns to no avail. The worst part was England, who had been my ally the entire game, refusing to help my siege against the Papacy despite them being enemies the entire game. It was also at no cost whatsoever to him, which made his betrayal that much worse.
Even so, I finished at 19 VPs, a decent VP chunk, though a ways from qualifying for the semis.
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7. Board Game: 1989: Dawn of Freedom [Average Rating:7.85 Overall Rank:419]
Robert Woodham
United States
Phoenix
Arizona
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Wednesday:
After getting severely beat at mainly games I wasn’t any good at, I finally got to play 1989, my forte and also my team game. I figured that combined with high attendance numbers but low practice across the board, I could do the best in this event. My first match was pretty tough at first, as I was slightly rusty due to not having played much that summer. As communists, I lost Poland and East Germany, pulling VPs to +18 at one point, before my southern investments asserted themselves, titling VPs back in my favour. Romania Scoring ended things on turn 10, before we hit final scoring.

My second game was against Bruce Wigdor, the developer for the game. I had lately played a lot more 1989 than him, and my favourable dice and cards exacerbated his mistakes, ending the game on turn 5.

Unfortunately, my 3rd game saw luck going against me as Democrats. While it was unfortunate that my opponent got all the 4op cards (some of them, twice) and most of the 3’s, I made a mistake on turn 3 by forgetting that he by necessity had drawn a turn 3 deutsche marks. After he played a 3op on the first action round, I did not dump my only 4op as I should have, and he stole it from my hand. I made bad matters worse by not gambling and consolidating in a few of the countries, which allowed his high-ops hands to beat me in every country. A turn 4 Czech scoring ended the game early, before I could even get a solid foothold in there. It was a very unlucky game that I could have pulled out in the long run had I formulated some better strategy and remembered Deutsche Marks.
My 4th game was against Paul Sampson, whom I had played against many times on wargameroom. He had improved a lot, but not quite enough to win, so I closed it before turn 10.
In the end, I got a 4th place finish, earning a couple points for my team, as well as my first laurel.
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8. Board Game: Brass: Lancashire [Average Rating:8.01 Overall Rank:35]
Robert Woodham
United States
Phoenix
Arizona
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That night, I played a heat of Brass for relaxation, my only euro in all of the 8 days. Ironically, I got Paul Sampson at my table, and he flipped said table on me by winning the game by a huge margin. No surprise, considering that he had won the Brass tournament the previous year.
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9. Board Game: Britannia [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:553]
Robert Woodham
United States
Phoenix
Arizona
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Thursday:
I had two large negotiation-based games Thursday, the first of which was Britannia. It went about as well as the first time, with all the very good players running circles around me. Despite a strong Roman score, Red and Green kept on getting in the way of my later factions. In combination with my inability to gauge the long-term consequences of some of my moves in the new edition, Blue ran roughshod over everyone.
Well, that was the last game I had to play where I was totally outmatched.
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10. Board Game: Here I Stand [Average Rating:7.94 Overall Rank:173]
Robert Woodham
United States
Phoenix
Arizona
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Next up was the second heat of Here I Stand, where I needed to get about 23 points to advance into the semis. I drew 2nd pick at the 5-player table. Since I hate 5-player HIS, I looked for somebody to trade with, and lo and behold Ed Beach himself was looking to trade his 6th pick draw at a 6 player table. Expecting to get stuck with France, I got… Protestants???
It wasn’t all silver lining; I had to contend with a strong Hapsburg player, the 2nd placer from last year. The game went 3 full turns, till 1am, but was the 2nd best game I played at WBC (in contrast to my first heat game). There were a couple of new players, which slowed the game down a bit, but most importantly, they were all a pleasure to play with for 6 full hours. All told, that is probably the most important thing about a game of HIS. I did what any good Protestant player does, and got everyone to attack the Hapsburgs on the second turn. His shark status definitely didn’t hurt my efforts.
On turn 2, I narrowly managed to take the last electorate, but the Pope narrowly managed to break through my French line into Germany and neutralize two of my electorates, cutting me out of the win. On turn 3, I managed to hold on to my electorates and completed two out of my three bibles, giving me the win with 28 VPs and easily securing me a seeded place in the semis. I also pulled England along with me, having completely converted it on the last turn.
Sadly, the semifinal was early the next morning.

Friday:
After an adequate amount of sleep, I headed into my semi-final, which was filled with people from my previous two heats. This game turned out to be an abbreviated two-turn version of the second heat, and I pulled it out with 26 VPs on turn 2, pulling England along with me once again. Fortunately, because everyone at the table was experienced, we finished quickly, in 1.5 hours. This meant I had only missed the first heat of Twilight Struggle, and so I jumped into the second heat.
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11. Board Game: Twilight Struggle [Average Rating:8.34 Overall Rank:5]
Robert Woodham
United States
Phoenix
Arizona
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After the excitement of winning my semi-final, my lack of sleep finally caught up to me in my first TS heat game, where I made a ton of mistakes. Fortunately, the guy I was playing against did as well, so I managed to eke out a win with a ton of passive-aggressive US play. With the first-round default I had incurred by playing HIS instead, I was now 1-1.
My second game I got USSR, and boy was this game skewed. I drew every single 4op, almost every 3op, Decolonization turn 2 and destalinization turn 3, etc. The game was over turn 4. There was literally nothing my opponent could have done, given his complete lack of ops and luck.
This is the first game where I really started to dislike the game without optional cards. It really doesn’t matter if you give the US +3 starting influence instead of +2, the simple fact is that the deck is horribly stacked against them. The optional cards adds 3 new cards, one of which is a virtually toothless USSR event, Cambridge 5, another a slightly annoying US event, Special Relationship, and the last being a fantastic US event, NORAD. Drawing NORAD means the USSR player has to slow down his early war barrage to space it, while the US drawing it gives them yet another safe haven 3op card, which is a big deal in a deck filled with dead 3ops for the US like socialist governments or Suez crisis, etc. NORAD is the only seriously threatening US event in the early war deck, and it shows. Had we been using optional cards, the odds of me drawing so many imbalanced hands would have lessened significantly, and NORAD would have slowed down my barrage while Special Relationship would have provided an irritation. I sincerely hope they change the rules for next year to +2 US IP and optional cards, because the game is very unbalanced without them.
In the 4th round (my 3rd game), I got a rematch against Keith Wixson, who got USSR. As bad as that faction draw sounds, I hoped my experience as a US player would overcome the no optional cards. This turned out to be the best match I played all WBC.
Unfortunately, the game started out very, very rough. I only held Europe, and the scoring card came out on turn 3 after the reshuffle, at a point when Wixson was able to score it neutrally. Asia and the Middle East went heavily for him, and coming out on turns 1 and 2, continued to score big for him. Against an evenly matched player, I was definitely feeling the heat of no optional cards, and decolonization and destalinization in his hand did not help matters at all. Fortunately, I saved two big 4op cards for realignments, which due to mediocre die rolls only partially booted him out of South America.
In the mid-war, the increasingly thinned USSR cards began to swing things slightly in my direction, though he remained dominant in Africa and Central America. Thanks to a small mistake on his part, I managed to neutralize what had once been a USSR-controlled Central America. Using Panama Canal Returned, I also managed to tie up South America. This allowed me to stay just at around -15vps throughout the Mid-war as Asia and Middle East Scoring came out once again. On turn 5, I drew Ask Not and held it until turn 7, where I drew and dumped 3 scoring cards, keeping me in the game a bit longer. Unfortunately, Destal and Decol combined with Middle East and Asia repeatedly scoring big in his favour meant I wouldn’t win in a race to the finish. Despite pulling vps to -9, I had to go for the jugular.
Turn 8, I had a very uneasy feeling about Wixson’s hand. Nothing in my hand, even Soviets shoot down Kal 007, would pull me outside a Soviet Wargames win. Kal 007 would give me 2 VPs, but just give him the game with Wargames, while my other vp cards were just 1 and 2 vp cards.
Fortunately, I had been pushing the Space Race track pretty heavily, using the VPs from it to keep myself in the game. I had Star Wars, which would let me play one card of my choosing. I also had Red Scare, but that wouldn’t help versus Wargames. Since I had the China card and Red Scare, and he was at the 3ops part of the space race track, I decided to mess with his hand and force him to Defcon suicide. There were 3 possible defcon suicide cards left in the deck, one of which, Star Wars, I had in my hand. I just needed him to not have Wargames and draw one of those two cards, and I had a chance to win. Though I could have waited for his headline and first card play before he played Wargames, I decided not to risk him playing a DEFCON degrading headline and headlined Star Wars myself, using it to retrieve and play Grain Sales.
I guessed out of 8 cards, and pulled Wargames. He had been extremely lucky to get that on turn 8 on top of Destal and Decol in the early war, so I was happy to see the luck swinging the other way around. I took Africa domination by using the Wargames card for a coup. After some Middle east/Asia play on his part, my next play I Red Scare/Purged him, at which point he tried to play Tear Down that wall for ops. Realizing that I had won, I reminded him that it was a defcon suicide card he could no longer space. Since he now had to play all the cards in his hand because of the grain sales strip, he conceded, since there was no way he could get to 20 vps before the game ended. Interestingly enough, he had drawn both Duck and Cover and Tear Down This Wall along with Wargames, so even if he had spaced in his first AR, he would have lost unless he managed to win on that very turn.
The moral of the story is to never say never, especially in a game like TS where there are instant-victory conditions.
My final round was as USSR against a 14 year-old, albeit a very good one, but Destalinization and some mistakes on his part led to a turn 7 USSR victory for me. In the end, I got 3rd place due to being the only 4-1 player outside of the 2nd place finisher, who didn’t have a default.
And so, in one day, I had acquired 2 laurels. Unfortunately, it was 1:00 am when I finished, and I had an early morning HIS final the next day.
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12. Board Game: Here I Stand [Average Rating:7.94 Overall Rank:173]
Robert Woodham
United States
Phoenix
Arizona
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Saturday:
I slept through my alarm, getting to the final 13 minutes late, which was barely enough to save my place; thankfully, I had sprinted straight from my hotel to the room, as soon as I woke up. That’s what happens when you come for the pre-con and play in tardy tournaments all week long.
Thankfully, I drafted Protestants. The board was a handcrafted enlargement, the pieces cut being from styrofoam. It was nice to play on.
Unfortunately, this was the second-most unpleasant game of my time at WBC. After converting all of Germany by the end of turn 3, my luck went rotten, as the Hapsburgs drew schmalkaldic league and protected to vaporize my electorates. Unfortunately, the Ottomans had agreed to annex a Hapsburg home territory space, which allowed the Hapsburgs to sue them for peace and beat me up the entire following turn. According to another HIS player, this particular Hapsburg player is known for getting lucky , which is never a good thing for Protestants. Not only did the bad luck reduce my VP count by a wide margin, but one anonymous player pointlessly backstabbed me on a big card deal for what turned out in the end to be zero gain. Ah, well.
While I did finish in last place, I was happy with my play in the final and tournament in general. While I have always preferred the 1532 scenario over the 1517 scenario because the former is much faster paced and covers more interesting events, this was the first of a couple of 1517 games to cement my belief that 1517 has a few balance issues. In this case, it was the Schmalkaldic League card that proved to be a huge swing. Since, WBC, I have come to realize just how broken the alternate effect of Haley’s Comet is. The ability to discard a card from any player’s hand is extremely unfair toward the French and English players; the Hapsburgs can annihilate any turn to turn planning the French/English do by killing their valuable card they are planning to hold till next turn.
In the end, I did learn a few things about trust in finals and semi-finals from this finals game, even in games such as HIS where backstabbing is generally discouraged. And I felt that 6th overall was a very respectable conclusion. So, there was my third and final laurel.
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13. Board Game: Diplomacy [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:511]
Robert Woodham
United States
Phoenix
Arizona
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Ironically, after all the backstabbing, I went to go play a Diplomacy heat to round out my WBC week. This time, at least, the stabbing was expected, and I achieved a solid 4th-place finish as Germany with 6? supply centers.

In the end, it was a fun WBC; I’d definitely encourage everyone to make it this year, also because they are moving to a less convenient, more expensive location for the next 5 years, beginning in 2016. This should be the biggest, best year for quite some time.
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