Stephen Aslett

Houston
Texas
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Figured that the readership would appreciate the recap of this year's WBC Labyrinth tournament.

After a one-year hiatus, the WBC Labyrinth tournament returned in 2018 to see twenty players compete for victory in the global war on terror. In recognition of the tremendous changes caused by the Arab Spring and the rise of ISIS since Labyrinth’s debut in 2010, all games were played with Trevor Bender’s outstanding expansion, Labyrinth: The Awakening using the basic one-deck Awakening scenario (not the scripted Arab Spring scenario). Mr. Bender himself played in the tournament and served as an assistant GM.

To judge the Awakening expansion’s balance, no bid system was used to determine player sides. In the end, Jihadist players won 60% of the matches. Whether this was due to chance, design imbalance, or U.S. players failing to adapt their playstyles to the expansion deck remains to be seen. Interestingly, GM Stephen Aslett and Mr. Bender obtained all but one (87.5%) of the U.S. wins.

The tournament had many interesting moments. In Trevor Bender’s mulligan round match against Evan Chen, Bender’s U.S. withdrew all troops from the map and relied entirely on militia to protect Chen’s Jihadists from taking over Pakistan and capturing its WMDs. The game ended with a U.S. 12 resource victory with no troops and a whopping twelve militia on the board.

Evan Harris knocked out former third-place winner Michael Kiefte by playing two Reapers on the same turn, killing all four of his cells on the map. In his semifinal match against ex-champion Jessica Brown, Nicholas Benedict advanced to the finals by getting a cell into the U.S. and playing Martyrdom Operation to detonate two WMDs.

The GM barely defeated Trevor Bender’s Jihadists in the other semifinal with 8 Good resources to 3 Islamist Rule resources at deck end. The game came down to the Jihadists failing three plot roles in Good Iraq on the final turn.

The two-deck final between the GM (U.S.) and Nicholas Benedict (Jihadist) was an epic 4+ hour slugfest. The Jihadists got out to a strong start with numerous reaction marker placements and Al Shabaab and Islamic Maghreb giving them a strong presence in Africa that resulted in Nigeria going to Islamist Rule. The U.S. was never able to activate Facebook and, before long, several other countries fell into Islamist Rule due to Polarization and Major Jihad. The U.S. was able to play Fracking shortly afterwards and stop Pakistan’s WMDs from falling into Jihadist hands. Slowly but surely, the U.S. converted Pakistan, the Gulf States, Algeria/Tunisia, and Morocco to Good.

Unfortunately, the U.S.’s momentum was abruptly stopped when the Jihadists got Syria to Islamist Rule and detonated a WMD in a country with troops, causing the U.S.’s prestige to fall to 1. Despite this setback, the game continued into the second deck with the U.S. slowly bumping up its prestige and strategically maneuvering and Regime Changing to ensure that the Jihadists, who at one point had 8 Islamist Rule resources, did not get the country adjacency needed to win.

The second deck saw even more reaction marker placements for the Jihadists, making long-term prospects for the U.S. grim. Nonetheless, towards the end of the second deck, both sides found themselves one country away from victory.

In a last-ditch push for the win, the U.S. converted Iraq to Fair and needed a successful follow-up War of Ideas to turn it to Good, which failed. The Jihadists countered by moving enough cells into Mali to overwhelm the troops stationed there and conducted a successful Major Jihad. With Nigeria already at Islamist Rule, Mali finally gave the Jihadists their much-needed adjacency for the win.

Tournament Statistics

Total games played: 20

U.S. / Jihadist wins: 8/12 (40%/60%)

Types of U.S. wins:

12 good resources = (5/8 = 62.5%)
All cells killed = (1/8 = 12.5%)
More than 2x resources at game end = (2/8 = 25%)

Types of Jihadist wins:

6 adjacent Islamist Rule resources = (6/12 = 50%)
WMD detonated in U.S. = (1/12 = 8.3%)
U.S. resigned = (4/12 = 33%)
Less than 2x resources at game end = (1/12 = 8.3%)
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