My 2011 WBC: Veni Vidi Vindication
Kenneth Horan
United States
Pennsylvania
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This is my slightly belated 2011 WBC geeklist, written on my cell phone while on a business trip in Tennessee. I can't make stuff like this up...

This was by far my most successful WBC yet. While I didn't win an event outright, I managed to take home four plaques. Of all the good moves I made during the week, the best was probably not pushing myself too hard (except on Saturday, when it became necessary). At my last WBC in 2009, I started out very strong but was exhausted by the end of the week and only won one game after Thursday. This year saw me taking breaks to do all sorts of non-gaming related activities such as swimming, eating out with my family, and even heading home briefly to look after the cats. The result was I felt much better at the end of the week and won some games against strong competition. This is why I refer to this as the year of vindication.

Anyway, before I begin, I apologize to anyone whose name I forgot or misspelled. I didn't take notes like I used to, so this'll all be from memory...
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1. Board Game: San Juan [Average Rating:7.28 Overall Rank:234]
Kenneth Horan
United States
Pennsylvania
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Monday, 10:00am:

This is not one of my better games, but I certainly enjoy it. I feel sometimes there's luck involved in the sense that getting the right cards early greatly increases your winning chances. Having said that, it's also a game in which certain players win consistently, which indicates there's a certain amount of skill involved.

My ambitious goal was to win three out of four heats and qualify for the playoff rounds where I would be eaten alive. Realistically though I knew I'd be lucky to go two and two. I knew I was in trouble in round one when I got paired with the GM (this would happen to me three times during the week, and the results were never pretty). I actually felt I played well, only losing by three points 36-33. After four rounds, I had only managed one win, and then only because I got all three libraries early (no, I didn't play them all, it just meant my opponent never saw one until the deck wasshuffled). I still feel the result was respectable, but was still slightly embarrassed that I did worse than my mother in law, who won two and very nearly won a third to move on. And this was her first WBC ever! She attended if only because I told her she was a better player than she thinks and that she would do well at the convention. The cool thing is she proved me right!
 
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2. Board Game: Saint Petersburg [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:239]
Kenneth Horan
United States
Pennsylvania
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Monday, around 4:00pm:

Played a practice game of St. Petersburg in preparation for the heat later on that evening. This is a game I feel I'm OK at but not really a threat to win the event anytime soon. The practice game was a four player game with my good friend and fellow EPGS member Mike Kaltman, another strong game whose first name is Carl, and another person whose name I cannot remember. Mike's name will be appearing a lot in this list, if only because I faced him in two finals! We kinda have had an "arch-nemesis" thing going at the club and it really spilled over into WBC this year...

Mike got the best of me and the rest of the table this time. He got and played the Mistress of Ceremonies in round one. For anyone familiar with the game, that's all you need to know. Mike finished with around 95 points. I ended up in third in the high sixties.
 
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3. Board Game: Saint Petersburg [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:239]
Kenneth Horan
United States
Pennsylvania
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Monday, 8:00pm:

In the actual heat, I got first crack at the aristocrats and was praying for the same good fortune Mike had. My prayers were answered...with a resounding "No!" I forget What I got, but I'm pretty sure it was something lame, like the warehouse manager.

Actually, as far as early events affecting the outcome of the game, it's hard to beat this: I went fourth in the first worker phase. During the second go-around the player ahead of me actually skipped on taking a second worker! After I bought my second worker there was still one left for the player that went first. He passed too! Next in line was a lovely young lady from Australia named Kerrin Addis. Apparently she knew how to play the game, because she snatched up a third worker in round one and didn't look back, winning a nicely played game. Despite the setback at the beginning I must have made a good showing because Kerrin said she thought I was going to win it. Actually, in this game and a few thereafter I have found and have hopefully corrected a flaw in my approach to this game. I constantly have great cash flow but fall behind on points. Last time I played I snatched up some blue cards and got enough points to win. We'll just have to wait and see if my game actually improves...
 
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4. Board Game: Amun-Re [Average Rating:7.34 Overall Rank:269]
Kenneth Horan
United States
Pennsylvania
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Monday, 10:00p,:

This is a game I had only ever won once...at the 2009 WBC. Against the person who eventually won the event no less!

Some of my fellow EPGSers have played this game hundreds of times because it was available as a play by email game at some point. I have played this so rarely, I know the exact number of times I played it. Including this heat, I have played Amun-Re exactly seven times. I'm actually beginning to feel like I know what I'm doing...

I ended up in a four player game, which probably isn't as good as a five player game but what do I know? The one opponent whose name I do remember is Curt Collins, a very good gamer from the Pittsburgh area with whom I had some great conversations. I actually started out well, earning 20 in income at the end of round one. I have to admit I have a much easier time playing the "positive" side of the sacrifice part of the game, because of getting at least one item after the sacrifice. I still need to be aware of the most pyramid points at the ends of rounds three and six. I think I miss out on a lot there. Plus it seems my opponents always get three triples at the end while I end up with doubles. I think the whole "cash flow vs. points" issue I have in St. Petersburg might also be true of my approach to this game...

The latter part of the game saw me on the "negative" side of the sacrifice game. After a promising start, I finished up in third with 41 points, nine behind Curt. Another game where I am on a steep part of the learning curve and one that I enjoy more and more as I play it. I hope they keep it around...
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5. Board Game: Macao [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:247]
Kenneth Horan
United States
Pennsylvania
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Tuesday, around 1:00pm:

This was a new game for me and as I found out it was a first time event at this year's WBC by Raphael Lehrer, a good gamer and a nice guy I've had the fortune of competing against in the past. This game was simply one to kill time during the Tuesday lull. Opponents were another good friend and fellow EPGSer Alex Bove, and the two Curts mentioned earlier.

This is definitely a game where it takes a few plays to figure out. Despite Curt's helpful advice about not getting overextended, I was forced to take two of the three point penalty markers for having more than five cards on my board. Still, I made some good moves later, making a ten point sacrifice and creating a chain of seven in the city. My score of 45 was enough to look respectable even though I still came in last. Perhaps had I been quicker with the shipping, I could've done even better...

I had a chance to play this later on as a late night event. Because my brain was fried at the time, I opted for a heat of Pirate's Cove, which is definitely a lighter game and one I don't mind losing (which is probably why I ended up winning. You've gotta love irony!).
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6. Board Game: The Princes of Florence [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:125]
Kenneth Horan
United States
Pennsylvania
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Tuesday, around 3:30pm:

This is one of my favorite games which, alas, I didn't get to play any heats of at this year's WBC...

The game I did get to play was a warm-up for some of the other players. Players included Mike Kaltman, Alex Bove, Jason Long (a good player whom I had never met before), and one other player whose name I probably should be able to remember but can't. It was a highly competitive game. I started out buying a builder in round one and I actually did a seven point work in the first turn. Because I was third in the initial turn order, I had the option of still getting a fourth worker during turn two. I did get this worker, but the ensuing turns made me actually wish I stuck with three! The builder strategy flies in the face of conventional POF strategy and probably takes nerves of steel to play. For a while it looked like I wouldn't do all of my works. However, I ended up catching a break and got them all out. Meanwhile, the other players were cutting each other's throats at the auction - exactly the situation the builder needs to succeed! In the end, I finished in a tie for third, two points behind the winner. Definitely a tight finish!
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7. Board Game: Power Grid [Average Rating:7.90 Overall Rank:34]
Kenneth Horan
United States
Pennsylvania
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Tuesday, 6:00pm:

Until this year, this was the only game in which I had advanced to a WBC final. Which is amazing if only I don't think it's one of my best games...

This would be the only heat that I would be able to attend. We played on the Germany map using the newer power plant deck. Boy, does that deck speed the game up! The game took less than two hours. I felt I was doing OK but when it came to crunchtime I had a low powering capacity. I spent 95 on a plant to raise my powering capacity to 13 with the hope the game wouldn't end that turn. Alas, it did. A player named Scott built and power 15 and won the game. Well played, and to all of my opponents in that game I owe an apology. I took charge of upkeep on plants and resources and kept making mistakes which made the game more difficult than it needed to be.

Now for a side story: two years ago when I advanced to the finals I only played in and won one heat. This year my mother in law played all three heats, winning one, placing fourth in another, and came in last in the final heat because she miscounted the number of cities she built. She finished one dollar behind fourth.

After the final heat the GM does the seeding and my mother in law is 28th. In Power Grid the top 25 advance. I advise her to show up, assuring her she would get in when some people didn't show up. Well apparently, everyone did show up and she ended up drawing a random card to see if she would move on. Alas, she didn't draw the right card. I felt bad because I insisted she would advance. However, the good news is she did qualify for a semi-final in a later event...

Anyway, needless to say I didn't advance either. But that did open up other opportunities...
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8. Board Game: Samarkand: Routes to Riches [Average Rating:6.91 Overall Rank:1280]
Kenneth Horan
United States
Pennsylvania
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Tuesday, 8:00pm:

With Power Grid ending so early, I had time to squeeze this in. I had only played this game once before, but I did that one so I didn't figured I'd embarass myself too much.

This was a five player game. I think it lasted ten minutes. I came in fifth with a score of 28, 22 points behind the winner. It was the board gaming equivalent of a drive-by shooting!

Next was Le Havre. Win or lose, it wouldn't be nearly as quick...
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9. Board Game: Le Havre [Average Rating:7.91 Overall Rank:39]
Kenneth Horan
United States
Pennsylvania
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Tuesday, 9:00pm:

This is one of my better games, perhaps even my best. It is also one of two I feel I have a legitimate chance of winning a championship in, Caylus being the other.

I had only played this game three times during the calendar year leading up to WBC. Twice I came in dead last in a four player game at EPGS and the third time I finished third in a five player game. My confidence was somewhat shaky going into this game.

The game changed that very quickly. Keith Layton, the event's GM (and yet another EPGS member) let the players choose their own opponents. I made it a point not to play anyone I knew (i.e. Mike Kaltman) and paired up with three people I had never met before. I guess it showed how much I was determined to run when I started counting how many actions i had left, if only because one of my opponents said, "seriously?" (Events later on in the week indicated this is the type of effort needed win these events. At least for me anyway...)

All of these efforts resulted in a 39 point victory. I scored exactly 200 points, which is generally a good score for a win a four player game. And with that, I had qualified for my first semi-final.
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10. Board Game: Martian Rails [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:2680]
Kenneth Horan
United States
Pennsylvania
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Wednesday, 9:00am:

Time for my yearly game of Martian Rails, an Empire Builder variant created by Bob Stribula, another good friend and fellow EPGSer (yes, there is a lot of us!). It had been a while since I had played, so I spent a long time finding cities and planning routes. The same could be said for two of my opponents. The third one, however, seemed to know the game better than the guy who wrote it and was the main reason why our game finished so quickly. The player's first name was Dave and he proved to be a formidable opponent.

Having said that, I still gave him a hell of a game. That is, until I made a horrendous mistake and tried to deliver the wrong item at one of my stops. This really set me back, and yet I still only lost by a few turns. If I could stay focused for an entire game I could be really dangerous...

One thing I might want to consider for future games is flushing the route cards when they don't work well together. I tend to be stubborn when it comes to making the cards work. Perhaps it's s manifestation of my philosophy of making the most of the cards you are dealt in life. The difference here is that in this game you can simply get new cards at the cost of skipping one turn...
 
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11. Board Game: Fresco [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:252] [Average Rating:7.32 Unranked]
Kenneth Horan
United States
Pennsylvania
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Wednesday, 1:00pm:

Time for a fun game I had only played once before. I won that game and had some hope that I would have similar luck in this heat.

A random draw would set me up with two new players and the GM Jim Vroom (yes, yet another fellow EPGS member!) I stumbled out of the starting gate, spending a whopping nine coins on paint. I had forgotten how the money worked in this game, and I spent the rest of the game coping with money issues. Still, for a while, I was giving it the old college try.

However, because the game consisted of the GM, who was assisting with questions in other games while playing this one, and three newbies it dragged quite a bit. The problem I had was that Ra was scheduled to start at 3:00 and that's one of my favorite games of all time. It became obvious I wasn't going to win so I just played as quickly as possible. As luck would have it, a nice guy by the name of Carmen happened to be in the room about two minutes to three and I overheard him say he was going to play Ra. I asked him if he could sign me up and he was kind enough to do so (thanks again!). Meanwhile I did end up losing, coming in last in fact, though I felt it was still a respectable finish. Jim won the game.

All in all a fun game. If it comes back next year I will try to squeeze in a round.
 
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12. Board Game: Ra [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:136]
Kenneth Horan
United States
Pennsylvania
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Wednesday, 3:00pm:

This is a game I have had a ridiculous amount of good luck with when it comes to the gaming conventions. Up until this point, I had played in seven heats between WBC and Euroquest with a record of six wins and one second place finish.

In my last WBC I player one heat of Ra and ran away with it. This was partly because I was paired up with relatively inexperienced players. This time around, all my Ra games would be against opponents who knew how to play the game. This round was a four player game against Carmen, the nice guy who got me into the heat in the first place, and two players whose names I can't recall. Because the Ra tiles came out slowly during the first epoch, I played the later epochs aggressively, hoping my opponents would draw Ra tiles instead of, for example, floods. Alas, luck was not on my side, as my opponents got the tiles they needed before Ra showed up. The result was I barely came in third.

Playing later heats was contingent on how I did in other games, such as Caylus. A win in the first heat (occurring later on Wednesday) would free me up later on for heat three. As for now, I had a rare break in my schedule, which I filled with a trip to Texas Roadhouse for an early dinner for which ten percent of the bill went to the WBC open gaming fund. Rested and refueled, I came back early and eager for the next event...
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13. Board Game: Caylus [Average Rating:7.82 Overall Rank:46]
Kenneth Horan
United States
Pennsylvania
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Wednesday, around 6:15pm:

This is one of my better games, and one where I felt I had an outside chance at winning outright. A rare lull in gaming action actually allowed me to attend the demo. Mike seemed to be doing a good job when I was informed that a young lady was trying to start a game early to try and finish by 8:00 in time for another event. I volunteered and we managed to get a group relatively quickly. Besides myself, there wad Pei Hsin, the young lady in question, Andrew Gerb, a very good gamer and former WBC Caylus champion, and one other guy I think was named Steve.

At first I didn't particularly care if we finished by 8:00, but then Mr. Gerb informed me that there was a heat of Princes of Florence at this time, so then I was like, "let's make this happen!" The game actually finished later than other games that started at the normal time. Ironically, it was Pei Hsin who took the most time analyzing moves and such...

Everything would go my way this game. Two of my opponents would try to utilize the builder track. To counter this, I built the mason and used the money track which allowed me to be aggressive with placing my workers late in a round. I think I managed to get at least two of the stone production buildings. In the end I won by over 20 points. I was beginning to feel as if I was going to win the event without much effort. This would later prove to be my undoing...

Meanwhile, my mother in law went home to take care of the cats and would be bringing my wife back tomorrow. I decided I was done for the night and would return to the hotel (I was in the Continental across the street) if only to give my wife peace of mind and not make her stay up late worrying about me. But these plans were about to be changed...
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14. Board Game: Pirate's Cove [Average Rating:6.58 Overall Rank:1061]
Kenneth Horan
United States
Pennsylvania
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Wednesday, 10:00pm:

So the original plan was for me to go to bed, then tomorrow morning my wife and her mother would head out and we would meet up at some point. Turns out my mother in law was so pumped up from the gaming activity that she decided to come back that night! It's worth noting we don't exactly live close to Lancaster. It why we stay at a hotel to begin with...

Anyway, the change in plans allowed me to play another game that evening. My choices were the aforementioned Macao and Pirate's Cove. By this time of day I was somewhat fried mentally so I opted for the easier Pirate's Cove. Boy, what a fun crowd that turned out to be! The GM's table had all sorts of pirate themes items such as a parrot and a treasure chest. "Pirates of the Caribbean" toys were used as prizes for various accomplishments throughout the tournament. And every once in a while, when a player decided to run from combat, the whole room, on the count of three, shouted, "WALK THE PLANK!"

Luckily enough, this shout was never directed at me. One of the changes for the tournament was that you could use multiple "master craft" cards. By turn two, I had three of these, and was able to gradually improve my ship throughout the game. My usual tactic of improving my hull and grabbing treasure worked wonderfully, and I ended up winning by a decent margin.

Which lead to the pistol duel. Apparently, all winners are required to take toy pistols, walk three paces, and SHOOT! The winners would all be paired up until there was one winner, who would them help him or herself to some "Pirate's of the Caribbean" swag.

I lasted about three and a half seconds. My combination of middle-aged reflexes and speed completely underwhelmed my opponent.

But the victory put me in a good position to advance. A decent result in a second game could guarantee me a spot in the semis. And so, I altered my Thursday morning gaming plans...
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15. Board Game: Pirate's Cove [Average Rating:6.58 Overall Rank:1061]
Kenneth Horan
United States
Pennsylvania
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Thursday, 9:00am:

ARRRRRRGH!!!

Because of last might's success, I decide I'm playing this instead of Power Grid, which is what my wife and her mother decided to play. The game would show that I still had a few things to learn, even if I ended up doing well anyway. The most controversial thing is did this game was that I apparently made an enemy...

I hear about this sort if thing all the time, but I'm usually so easy-going it's just something that generally doesn't happen to me. However, during round one I faced off with this player and defeated him. Straightforward enough, nothing seems to be a problem yet. Round two is where things started getting edgy. I mistakenly send out the royal navy to an island I am at using the card that allows you to send it to the outer island of your choice. It was pointed out to me I couldn't do this and someone suggested I send it to another island since everyone now knew I had the card. So I sent it out to the island where my last round opponent and one other player was at. Now, because, like Herman Edwards, I play to win the game ("Hello?!"), I start to go after the stronger ships cannons, and it just so happens this ship is the same one I fought in round one. My opponent basically said something to the effect of, "I don't understand the strategy," insinuating that I had a personal vendetta against him. To his credit, he was 25% right: I have a personal vendetta against all of my opponents...

A round or two later on, we meet up at the same island again, and I am outgunned. He beats me easily, and he was happy to announce to everyone playing the game that he went there simply because he knew I was going there. As the movie sequel about the shark put it, this time it's personal...

I could almost live with this. However, this player finally proved to be a poor sport after all during turn six. He went to bury treasure on the center island, forgetting the legendary pirate was there too. Instead of cutting his loses, he fights to the bitter end and then...quits the game! The GM had to step in and finish out the game. Needless to say, he wasn't very happy.

Meanwhile, I make a tactical error. I had the good fortune to get the parrot that allows you to fire all of your cannons. Instead of getting more cannons, I went for more men under the mistaken belief that I could fire my full capacity of men each turn. This did set me back a bit. Later on, I would get the parrot that allows you too shoot six cannons - easily my favorite card in the game. After a valiant effort I come in second by one point. It is worth mentioning that the woman who won (I believe her name was Vanity or something similar) won because of a brave decision to attack a rather tough legendary pirate. Her victory in that battle gave her six victory points plus the spoils of the island she conquered. It was a well deserved victory. I never mind losing games like that.

My second place finish vitally guaranteed me a spot in the semis. This was one of many pleasant surprises in store for me during the week...
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16. Board Game: Acquire [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:212]
Kenneth Horan
United States
Pennsylvania
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Thursday, 1:00pm:

As I am getting ready for Ra, I meet a familiar face in the "Cafe Jay" area. A woman formerly known as Cheryl Meek. I say "formerly" because it turns out she got married last year! (Congrats again!) As I ask her if she is looking forward to the Ra heat, I notice she is holding a copy of Acquire. It turns out that while Cheryl enjoys Ra (and is quite good at it), Acquire is her all time favorite game.

I didn't play in the Acquire event at WBC. I am writing about it because my wife "encouraged" her mother to give it a try. Plead note: it is often difficult to resist my wife's encouragement as she is quite insistent...

So my mother in law plays..and wins her heat! My wife played too, and came in a respectable third in a game won by Cheryl. Anyway, this puts my mother in law in a good position to make a semi. A decent showing in the final heat should just about clinch it...

She places third in the final heat and qualifies for the semis. Not bad for a first timer! In the semi-final she is the victim of a bad break: she got paired up with Cheryl. Cheryl would win the semi, with my mother in law placing a respectable third. Cheryl would ultimately finish second overall behind a fellow club member of her's. All I can say is, "Well done ladies!"
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17. Board Game: Ra [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:136]
Kenneth Horan
United States
Pennsylvania
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Thursday, 1:00pm:

Meanwhile, my victory in Caylus yesterday meant I could take another crack at this. There is only one more heat of this after today, and it is up against the Le Havre final. I was actually hoping to be unable to play in the final heat...

So I really needed to win this one if I wanted to have a shot of moving on. Fortunately, the table seemed to tilt my way. In epoch one I got the pharoh lead and a triple monument. In fact, a fourth one of this particular monument would show up before the round ends. I have the second highest sun remaining. My opponents were playing well enough to seem like they knew what they were doing. This explains why when I invoked Ra I immediately turn to the opponent with the highest sun and say, "feel like throwing yourself on a sword?!"

She did so, but it didn't slow me down. I relinquish the pharoh lead in epoch two in favor of other opportunities, and in round three I get it back. I won by quite a bit. At the time I felt there was a decent chance my one win and one third place finish would get me into the semis. I would just have to wait and see...
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18. Board Game: Le Havre [Average Rating:7.91 Overall Rank:39]
Kenneth Horan
United States
Pennsylvania
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Thursday, 3:00pm:

Even though I had clinched a spot in the semis, I decided to do another heat of Le Havre. As I've mentioned I really like the game and besides this would allow me to experiment with ideas.

My opponents were Dan, a finalist from last year, Kerrin Addis, and one other person whose name I can't recall. It turned out to be a great opportunity to learn some new things. One of the special buildings that came out was the harbor watch, which basically allows a player to enter buildings that are already occupied. Talk about a game changer! It prevented me from blocking other players from doing stuff, so it kinda short-circuited some of my strategies. I think at the very least the next time I'm in a game involving that building I'll make an effort to buy it because it's a building that could see a lot of use...

Another special building I never seen before allows the owner to pay three energy less when performing an action. It look like it should be very useful, but the player that got it paid a steep price to do so and never really recovered.

Dan played well and ran away with the game. The best move I saw, however, came from Kerrin who had the ability to build some if the critical later game buildings, but held off as long as she could. She realized that putting those buildings in play would greatly benefit her opponents, so she waited until the buildings were about to be built by the town. Play like this explains why she beat me out for second by a point.

With the "risk free" game out of the way, it was time to head to a different room for the semi. Now it would be a case of "win or go home!"
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19. Board Game: Le Havre [Average Rating:7.91 Overall Rank:39]
Kenneth Horan
United States
Pennsylvania
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Thursday, 6:00pm:

Let the insanity begin!

Ten people showed up for the semis. It took slightly less than one second for everyone to reject two five player games with the top two players from each game advancing. Instead, the semis were set up in a "three-three-four" format with the best second place finishes based on percentage of winning player's score advancing along with the three winners.

Players were assigned to tables by random card draws. I got lucky twice in one shot. First, I got assigned to the four player table...I feel more comfortable in four player games. Secondly, I avoided a superstrong table consisting of three of last year's finalists (Dan, from my previous game, Dan Ippolito, and Nick Page).

It was mentioned by the GM that using the expansion special building would be permitted only if everyone in the game agreed to do so. I warned everyone up front I would not agree to this...some of those buildings can really unbalance the game! Fortunately, everyone else wasn't interested in using them. In fact, I don't think anyone at my table had the expansion deck.

The game itself turned out to be an exercise in how to stand on one another's toes. There was no harbor watch this game: instead the early special building was the one that allows you to convert one clay into three bricks. This was much to the chagrin of David Duncan, who had built the brickworks just before this building came out. There was also a lot of debt this game: I remember feeling good to only have seven loans at one point! I consider it a success of my blocking strategy that one of my opponents scored a total of three points for his steel and coke by storing it in the storehouse...

Not only was the game cutthroat, it was LONG. My opponents spent so much time on their moves, I was able to get up and walk around and have conversations out in the hall. I had no problem with this. Let's face it, Le Havre is a complicated game. My only concern was that Keith started talking about a possible need to adjudicate the game. By the end of the game I felt like I was beginning to run away with it and it might have put Keith in an awkward position because we know each other outside of WBC. Fortunately the game ended on time.

It's not often when a score of 144 constitutes a blowout, but it seems appropriate in this case. Two other players didn't even break 100, including David at 63. Ouch! My right hand opponent finished with 113, respectable given the circumstances. I emerged with a 31 point margin of victory, a birth in the finals, and a brain that was beyond fried. With this, I wonder down the hall for Ticket to Ride...
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20. Board Game: Ticket to Ride [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:130] [Average Rating:7.46 Unranked]
Kenneth Horan
United States
Pennsylvania
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Thursday, 9:00pm:

Ticket to Ride is one if the more popular WBC games, and I was not surprised to end up in a long line for registration. While there, I text my wife, who was back in the hotel at this point. As it turns out, she had been trying to contact me for a while, but the cell phone signal couldn't penetrate the kryptonite-lined walls of the room my previous game took place in. A brief phone conversation ensued in which she asked me to return to the hotel. I did so, and it turned out to be a good decision because we actually got to go swimming! A great way to unwind after the madness of a Le Havre semi-final.

So I was done gaming for the night. As for Ticket to Ride, I would not play it at all this WBC. Which is a shame because I really like the game. Can't play them all, I suppose...
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21. Board Game: Le Havre [Average Rating:7.91 Overall Rank:39]
Kenneth Horan
United States
Pennsylvania
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Friday, 9:00am:

Fate can be funny sometimes. Because I skipped out on Ticket to Ride on the previous night, this would be my third consecutive game of Le Havre.

My opponents would be Mike Kaltman, Nick Page, and last year's champ Dan Ippolito. For a finals table, it was a fairly laid back crowd. I lost track of the number of "your mama" jokes Dan fired Mike's way...

I would learn a lot this game. For instance, I now feel it's pointless to try to avoid going into debt in a four player Le Havre. I tried for a while and eventually gave in. Meanwhile, Dan and Nick seemed to dive in head first! I think it was a good indication how cutthroat the game was when, on several occasions, we ran out of loan cards! I think I had as many as ten loans out at one point. Everyone else had a similar number. Early in the game, I took an iron offer of one. I had good reason to: I didn't want Nick, my left hand opponent, to get two on his turn. I felt really clever about this move...until Dan did the same exact thing to me during the next round!

On and on this went. I eventually settled into my usual build and stock up for steel ships strategy. Part of the reason I had so many loans is that I never built a boat until the steel ships became available. The good news is that I did get two of them. When this happens, it's usually a good sign.

I did make some mistakes, however. Like announcing to the table I would have a "very interesting manoeuvre" coming up on my next turn. It involved selling a building to buy the construction firm out from under Mike and use it to build two buildings, including the cokery. The problem was I didn't realize it was Dan, and not the town, that owned the building. Oops! On his next turn, Nick shipped goods and used the money to buy the cokery. So much for that plan!

The game showed four people perfecting the art of cash flow through taking on more debt. The act of using the interest space to obtain another loan and three francs was repeated early and often. It got to the point where I was looking at opportunities to enter other player's building just so I could pay them an entry fee and deny them the ability to generate cash flow from an inability to pay interest...

Towards to end of the game I started going senile and made some mistakes. Like grabbing material for a building and realizing I didn't have what I needed, or attempting to ship on my final two turns...can't do this unless I own the shipping line and sell it on my final turn! These decisions set me back quite a bit, but I did have to admit baking bread during round 19 and earning 9 francs for it was kind of cool...

At the end of the game, Mike says he has about 140 points. At first I thought I wasn't even close to this, but after a quick count I find I'm a little over this. Keith counts up Mike's score and then mine, as it appears we are battling for third. I edge him out 151-146. Then Nick's score us added up, and it turns out, he has less than me! Wow, second! In fact, a voice in the back of my head starts saying, if Dan didn't do as well as I thought...

Alas, Dan scored 191 and successfully defended his title. One finesse I am going to catalog for future reference: towards the end he gathered up coal and turned it into coke. Since he already had steel boats, he doesn't make more steel for shipping but instead simply ships the coke, which is worth a decent amount itself. This takes much less time and avoids the hassle of getting into the steel mill which is never easy to do late in the game.

Anyway, Congrats and well earned Dan! Meanwhile, I take second and still feel like I can improve my game considerably. I am so looking forward to next year...
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22. Board Game: Ra: The Dice Game [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:1144]
Kenneth Horan
United States
Pennsylvania
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Friday, 3:00pm:

After collecting my plaque for Le Havre, I went with the family to lunch at Olive Garden. Again, like swimming the previous night, it was a great way to unwind after a taxing game. I would not play any games until mid-afternoon, and then it would be a light game.

Ra - The Dice Game is a fun, quick game, and since it's governed by dice rolls it is also one I don't mind losing. Having said that, I actually did rather well in this heat. Not good enough to win though. I finished in second place about five points behind a nice young lady whom I think was named Heather. She spent most of the game in last place, but looks can be deceiving: she also had a ton of monuments and scored big in the final epoch. Like Pirate's Cove, a nice diversion from the heavier games...
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23. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.05 Overall Rank:15]
Kenneth Horan
United States
Pennsylvania
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Friday, 4:00pm:

Finally! Puerto Rico! I missed the first heat due to a conflict with the Le Havre semi. Two years ago, this was my team game, but because of success in other events I only got to play in one heat. In that game I was paired up with two relative inexperienced players and a strong player. Puerto Rico is a game where a weaker player can inadvertently throw a game in someone else's favor. I've have both benefited and been hurt by this.

In the game in 2009, my strong opponent was the beneficiary. In fact, he ended up making the finals. This heat was a repeat performance. I sat to the left of Eric Raymond. Eric played very well, sticking it to me while benefiting from the choices made by the other players. He also was quite adept at the table talk element of the game, making suggestions to the other players which actually did help them but also benefited himself as well (i.e. suggesting an opponent trade his sugar, opening up the opportunity to trade his own coffee). I made an effort to overcome these odds but had to settle for a tie for second.

The lesson from 2009 was that I need to play in multiple heats to improve my chances of advancing. Fortunately, I had one more shot on Saturday...

After Puerto Rico was another long break from gaming. This is when I would go home to check on the cats. I would not get back until late Friday night. I still managed to get one more game in this day...
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24. Board Game: Ivanhoe [Average Rating:6.54 Overall Rank:1738]
Kenneth Horan
United States
Pennsylvania
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Friday, 11:00pm:

Here is my anti-Ra: a game where I have decent luck outside of WBC but am snakebitten at when playing here. And I got paired up with the person running the event. Three times in one WBC!

I would only win one tournament, the yellow one. The GM cleverly ended the game by initiating a yellow tourney (a tourney he had already won) and switching to a green tourney by playing the drop weapon card after all but one opponent dropped out.

But the best story from this event was the one game involving a player who had never played before and in fact he had just learned the game about ten minutes before the round started. It wasn't bad enough that he won, but he shut out the entire table in a game that lasted maybe five minutes! I wonder if he won the entire event?!

Anyway, off to bed. Saturday would prove to be busy and eventful...and for all the right reasons!
 
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25. Board Game: Caylus [Average Rating:7.82 Overall Rank:46]
Kenneth Horan
United States
Pennsylvania
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Saturday, 9:00am:

The semi-final round involved 12 players and consisted of three four-player games. The winners and best second place finishes would advance.

For the most part my game starts off normally. The one difference is when I went to build a building: I didn't have the food needed for the mason but I did have a cloth. Because of this, I instead build the lawyer.

This would prove to work out nicely. The first building built during the game was the double cloth producer and so these two buildings worked very well together. It wasn't too long before I had an income of five. Because of that, I was able to ignore the money favor track in favor of just getting points. Meanwhile, I'm sure I built at least one stone production building. At the end I was hoarding gold, being able to buy large quantities at the bank. I had five gold at the end and finished with 107 points, 17 points ahead the nearest competitor. This also meant Mike Kaltman, who was GMing the event, would also advance after finishing a close second in his game.

I was still feeling really good at this point and that I would win my first WBC event by the end of the day. I was really setting myself up for a fall...
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