2004 BPA Winter Activation Meeting (WAM)

February 5th - February 8th, 2004

Hunt Valley, MD

          

              


Still fun the second time around ...

The second annual Winter Activation Meeting on card-driven games was again a success, drawing 39 players to play 86 official games (and an assortment of unofficial ones) to determine the championships in six events (entrants in parentheses): Paths of Glory (11), Barbarossa to Berlin (11), For The People (12), Wilderness War (18), Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage (18), and the grand daddy of them all, We The People (16). With the longer campaign games slotted for early play, the shorter-length games were offered as "match as you can" open play events in which contenders had deadlines by which to reach the third round of play to ensure sufficient time to finish on Sunday. This allowed players to squeeze in these shorter games between play of formal rounds in the longer games (if they finished their rounds quickly).

Co-organizer Stuart Tucker was often peering around the room asking those players standing why they weren't playing and quickly matching them in another game with anybody else clearly not involved in a game. This kept most players in their seats in competitive play all weekend long (Tucker himself only getting 12 hours of sleep in three nights).

The dominant player of this classic confrontation of minds, will, and physical stamina was James Pei, who managed to lose only one game all weekend, walking away with the honors for Hannibal and For The People, while ending 2-1 in We The People. The championship in the latter went to Michael Ussery (the only player to defeat Pei in competitive play). Wilderness War was won by Bruce Monnin, who had attended the con with little knowledge of the other games--proving that specialization has its advantages. The Paths of Glory/Barbarossa to Berlin joint event soon split into two separate brackets, as the recent year of play has clearly divided the community of players into preferring one or the other, while not playing the second. Tom Gregorio won the BTB bracket while Rob Hassard won the POG side (though he did play one BTB game).

Next year's format will entail a formal split of the POG and BTB events and will probably offer an optional (mulligan) first round on Thursday night. None of this serious play prevented gamers from blowing off steam at the end of each night playing pickup games of multiplayer games like Puerto Rico, Shanghai Trader, Princes of the Renaissance, and The Napoleonic Wars. The con obviously lost a few of last year's players of the latter which branched off to form its own separate October mini-con, but otherwise grew in its participation in the staples remaining. The addition of WTP as a time-filler did not detract, but significantly added to the pleasurable "controlled chaos" of the event.

Once again, the co-organizers, David Dockter and Stuart Tucker are extremely grateful to fellow GMs, Mark Herman and Keith Wixson for their tireless efforts. All of us know how difficult it is to play well while keeping the events going.

Perhaps the most striking matchup of the weekend occurred when David Dockter announced that his "Mount Everest" goal of the weekend was to defeat James Pei at For The People. For the illiterati let me say that Pei is undefeated for the millenium in this game. All of us shook our heads and wished David well, but knew that James was on his game all weekend long--winning FTP in record times (sadly--for the Hannibal and WTP field--giving him plenty of time to go for other wood as well). Rumors of a side pool of betting on the amount of time it would take for James to beat David are completely false, of course. Howls and whines about card deals were heard often from David's side of the board in the FTP championship, but truth be told, that was a common occurence in all of these games, where a campaign card can mean the difference in a well-matched game.

For the most part adjudications and rule questions were rare occurrences. The comradery of this band of brothers only gets better and better. If you have missed this event, you are missing a memorable experience. Put it on your calendar for January 27-30 next year (and you might still be able to obtain the popular "Reap the Harvest of Victory" T-Shirts before they are all bought up).


THE YEAR OF ROMAN REVENGE

In a complete reversal of what occurred at WAM '03, the Romans dominated the field of battle this year (winning 75 percent of the games). Reflecting recent trends of Carthaginian victory, Carthage was the usual side of choice, with bids to choose Carthage outweighing pairs wanting Romans by a margin of 2-1. The average winning bid to play Carthage was 2.0, while the average winning bid to play Rome was 1.0. The highest bid for Carthage was 5 (which had little impact on a game that was resigned early with a turn 2 death of Hannibal). In the end, however, Carthage barely squeaked out tied victories in three games and earned two easy ones. Rome, managed to get two suits for peace, four tight (10-8) victories and eight resignations (three of them very early). Neither capital was sacked in any game. Syracuse allied nine times, but was retaken five times (perhaps most decisively in four card plays when Byrd's Romans were desperate to recover it on turn 9 against Tucker and still have enough plays to counter Hannibal's invasion of Etruria). The up-side of all the resignations was a shortening of average game time.

As the convention wound its way through POG/BTB, FTP, and WNW tourneys, very few Hannibal "open play" rounds were logged until a flurry occurred on Saturday afternoon and evening, eventually leading to a total of 20 games played--well enough to resolve who deserved the plaque from among the 18 entrants in the four-round tourney.

On Sunday morning with two rounds to play in seven hours, a crucial third-round match between Matt Bacho and Stuart Tucker had to be adjudicated early to ensure that the fourth-round game of the top contenders had sufficient time before the dashes to the airport began. This tight game had Tucker's Hasdrubal holding Sicily and Syracuse, while Bacho's Marcellus had control of W.Numidia. The landing of Africanus at Messania went unnoticed by Carthaginian scouts, allowing Africanus to initiate battle with a safe retreat. The battle was dangerous for both, but in the end Africanus won decisively, driving back Hasdrubal to Syracuse and making the adjudicator's decision a bit easier.

In the fourth-round match among the two players with a shot at the wood, Bach and James Pei, the bid of two for Carthage was conceded by Pei to Bacho. Due to a Turn 2 Messenger Intercepted, Carthage failed to stop the Roman invasion of Africa which pushed Carthage to the depths of nearly suing for peace on Turn 4 for lack of PCs on the board. Then, miraculously Hannibal sailed to Africa in Turn 5 and double-enveloped Marcellus at Zama and sailed back to Spain to crush a 10 CU army all in the same turn, putting Rome back on their heals--hunkering down in Rome to defend against possible siege with what few CUs remained. By the end of Turn 7, Carthage's attempts to keep up the war in the face of an overwhelming province disadvantage seemed hopeless and Bacho
resigned.

This left James Pei undefeated at 4-0 and the Hannibal champion. By virtue of having a 3-1 record, and the same number of tournament points (TPs) as Randall MacInnis, Matt Bacho fell to third on the "c" tiebreaker (TPs of the player most recently defeated by each).

Rankings after five swiss rounds (W-L record and side propensity) tourney pts.:
1. Pei, James (4-0, all RW), 49 pts.
2. MacInnis, Randall (3-1, all RW), 36 pts.
3. Bacho, Matt (3-1, 2xRW, 1xCW, 1xCL), 36 pts.
4. Byrd, Chris (2-1, 1xCW, 1xRW, 1xCL), 25 pts.
5. Gaberson, Paul (1-2, 1xRW, 2xCL), 18 pts.
6. Tucker, Stuart (1-2, all Carthaginian), 16 pts.
7. Wixson, Keith (1-1, all Carthaginian), 13 pts.
8. Ussery, Michael (1-1, all Roman), 13 pts.
9. Mountford, Brian (1-1, 1xRW), 12 pts.
10. Rothenheber, Ed (1-2, 1xCW, 1xCL, 1xRL), 12 pts.
11. Miller, Timothy (1-0, 1xRW), 10 pts.
12. Hickok, Charles (1-0, 1xRW), 10 pts.
13. Mercer, Douglas (0-2, 1 each side), 4 pts.
14. Putnam, Peter (0-2, all Roman), 3 pts.
15. Fedin, Ron (0-1, as Carthage), 3 pts.
16. Thompson, Nels (0-1, as Carthage), 1 pt.
17. Jamelli, Bob (0-1, as Carthage), 1 pt.
18. Dockter, David (0-1, as Carthage), 1 pt.


Wilderness War

18 players vied for the WAM II Warclub. Bruce Monnin claimed the prize after going undefeated over four rounds. Originally planned as a five-round Swiss, I decided to call it after four rounds since only three people showed up on Sunday morning at 0800 for Round 4. Inexplicably, several people who had a shot at the title preferred to sleep in rather than play and, unfortunately, defending WAM champ Tom Drueding, who was undefeated after three rounds, had to drive home that morning and could not continue. After staying up until 0330 that morning playing in the We the People Semi-finals, I didn't have much sympathy for the no shows, so, since I had the We the People finals to play, I dropped out and had Bruce and Nels Thompson play for the wood. In any case, Bruce was quite deserving of the title, having defeated Nels, Ron Fedin, Gary Phillips and myself, all experienced players.

There were 21 games played in the tournament. In nine of those the players agreed on sides without having to bid. In nine games the side preferred was France (three games with a bid of 1 VP, six with a bid of 0). In three games the side preferred was Britain (one game with a bid of 2 VPs, two with a bid of 0).

12 games were won by the French, nine by the Brits. Four French wins were sudden death victories. Three British victories were of the "victory space" variety. Ironically, the champ won three games as the Brits. He appears to be one of the few top players of this game who prefers the Brits.

Final Standings:
1. Bruce Monnin
2. Nels Thompson
3. Keith Wixson
4. Tom Drueding
5. Doug Mercer
6. Ron Fedin

Here is Nels Thompson's description of the championship game:

Bruce's Loudoun stopped my Montcalm in his tracks in Early '57 at HCN, and with no early reinforcements for either side, a 2x Small Pox'd (seven steps total) defeated Montcalm's army, and with the VPs below 4, I settled in for a low-risk engagement. I couldn't afford to risk the unit losses in an attempt to score by defeating the less able British leaders on the battlefield. Bruce turned his attention to Ohio Forks, and my luck turned and stayed quite good until the very end.

Vaudreiul interfered in Late '57, and Ticonderoga fell to the British. But a heroic band of CdB managed to stop Monckton's Royal Americans on their advance toward Ohio Forks, and I earned 2 VPs for '57 raids. On the first play of Early 58, Shawnee showed up at the stockade in Raystown and defeated the provincial garrison and burned the stockade to the ground. Things were looking good, but later in the turn Murray advanced all the way to Crown Point on one card play, capturing a stockade along the way and later destroying the fort at Crown Point-- a 3 VP swing. At the end of Early '58, neither side had seen a Regulars/Highlanders card. I held the 2-leader Highlanders card to keep it out of the reshuffled deck. It never made another appearance.

In Late '58, British Ministerial Crisis removed a Regulars card from Bruce's hand. Johnson's newly recruited Mohawks deserted him, and Bruce's "Courier" play failed and Francois Bigot managed to pull only a Stingy Provincial card from my hand. I was able to play "Troop Transports" and French Regulars.

In Early '59, Ohio Forks finally fell, and the VP total narrowed. Levis moved to Louisbourg, but Vaudreuil interfered once again, sending the less able Drucour back to his post there. I responded by moving Montcalm to Louisbourg, but he only had 2 Regulars against Bradstreet's 4 in Halifax. Bradstreet sailed... or would have, if I had not played Foul Weather. Bradstreet sailed again, and this time reached Louisbourg, and defeated Montcalm to lay siege to the fortress.

It was clear that Bruce was holding the Surrender card, and rather than trust the dice that Montcalm would hold out in the siege, I attacked south with Levis through the Finger Lakes, and lost another VP. The situation was now desperate for me, having lost 2 VPs to battles in Late '59. My raiding dice stayed hot, however, and I re-gained the go-ahead VP. And Bradstreet failed to advance the siege at Louisbourg! Bruce didn't have enough cards left to use "Surrender!" On the next to last card play, however, Bruce forced a minor engagement at Oswego with Rangers and Light Infantry under Amherst against one of my Marine Detachments and won, and I failed to earn 2 more raids on my final card play, giving Bruce the wood.


PEI'S IMPERFECTION

As the shortest-playing-time game of this convention, We The People turned out to be a popular time-filler between rounds of longer games. Sixteen players managed to enter, eight of which went on to play additional rounds. Several of these players attended primarily to play the shorter games, bypassing the campaign behemoths, For The People and Paths of Glory/Barbarossa to Berlin.

As usual, the Americans won most of the games (10 out of 17), but in the end, it was the player who managed to win twice as Britain that walked away with the wood. Before, Michael Ussery could accomplish this, however, he had to play a third-round game against James Pei, who was undefeated for the weekend in everything he had played up to that point on Saturday night (having won the FTP championship and being well on his way towards an eventual HRC crown as well). Their semi-final game put Pei as the British (Ussery having won the bid for the Americans at 3). Ussery gained the French Alliance in 1775 and a campaign card in 1776. Pei made a comeback with a 1779 campaign, but when the game ended in 1780, the Americans had conquered Canada and won a tied colony to
earn a tight 9-colony victory over the British 5.

In the other semi-final, Keith Wixson was outbid for the Americans (3 PCs) by Stuart Tucker. The immediate Continental Line Mutiny put Wixson behind the eight ball by preventing the placement of PCs with Ops. Tucker pondered whether the campaign he was dealt could bag Washington as well, but decided to go for a middle states political strategy. By the end of the year, Britain was in great shape in VA, DE, NY, and PA, with armies well positioned to scatter the Continental Congress at the start of 1776. Wixson's game was turned around, however, when he received a 1776 hand of beautiful events: Declaration of Independence, French Alliance, Admiral Suffren. This was followed by two campaign cards in 1777. This presaged a titanic struggle for PA and NY all game long as armies positioned themselves to threaten Washington or block British expansion. The fatigue factor of WAM began to set in late Saturday night (really early Sunday morning) as Wixson and Tucker, both with busy gaming schedules on Sunday, fought on into the dark, ending at 3:45 a.m. in 1780. In the end, Tucker could only manage a 4-4 tie in New York, losing the colony, and therefore a 9-5
count and the game.

The final the next day pitted Wixson as the Americans (3 PC bid) against Ussery as the British. The game went to 1781, but was a bit of a lopsided affair due to the card deals. The British had all the campaigns (,77, ,79, ,79) while the Declaration of Independence and French Alliance were delayed until 1781. The British retained their Regulars bonus and claimed six colonies for the victory. I guess we'll be seeing those bids for the American side go above 3 PCs next year. British victories continue to depend upon late Declarations of Independence. Washington was captured only once--when Tucker's Howe/Cornwallis campaign nailed Tim Miller's Washington in Newport, RI in 1779 in a first-round game.

Rankings after five swiss rounds (W-L record and side propensity) tourney pts.:
1. Ussery, Michael (4-0, 2 wins each side), 46 pts.
2. Wixson, Keith (3-1, all American), 38 pts.
3. Tucker, Stuart (2-1, 1xAW, 1xBW, 1xBL), 25 pts.
4. Pei, James (2-1, 2xAW, 1xBL), 24 pts.
5. Thompson, Nels (2-1, 1xAW, 1xBW), 23 pts.
6. Bacho, Matthew (1-2, all British), 17 pts.
7. Gaberson, Paul (1-2, 1xAW, 1xBL), 14 pts.
8. MacInnis, Randall (1-2, 1xBW, 1xBL), 13 pts.
9. Reese, Pete (1-0, as American), 10 pts.
10. Jamelli, Bob (0-1, as American), 4 pts.
11. Dockter, David (0-1, as British), 2 pts.
12. Byrd, Christ (0-1, as British), 2 pts.
13. Nied, Paul (0-1, as British), 2 pts.
14. Miller, Timothy (0-1, as American), 2 pts.
15. Fedin, Ron (0-1, as British), 1 pt.
16. Phillips, Gary (0-1, as American), 1 pt.


The Marathoners

What has this tortured artist wrought? Ted Racier, creator of the award winning PoG (Paths of Glory) and BtB (Barbarossa to Berlin) game titles, was on had to join 22 participants in the WAM II PoG/BtB tourney. While we intended to keep the two titles combined in one tourney, in the end, we split it into two when the winner of the BtB bracket (Tom Gregorio) and the PoG bracket (Rob Hassard) would have been mismatched in either a BtB or PoG game. At WAM III, we will have separate tournies. For the first time, we utilized chess clocks in a BtB WBC tourney. It is now clear, that chess clocks are the only way to conduct a BtB tourney. We found that we need between 3:30 or 3:45 for each side.

Eleven participants (:Gregorio, Hickok, Wetherall, Heinzman, Brooks, Neid, Hassard, Austin, Jamelli, Racier (the MAN), Zuckerman played 14 BtB games, racking up 224 player hours. Tom Gregorio won the gold, Steve Brooks grabbed the silver and Bob Heinzman took the bronze. Tom won both his final games as the Axis. Games went down to the last turn. With the game between Bob and Tom (pictured below; Bob on the left, commanding the Allies, and Tom on the right, leading the Reich), I believe it came down to a die roll. Tom provided the following summary of the BtB finals:

Steve (Brooks) and I (Tom Gregorio) had just finished a 9 hour match when we discovered we were to play again in the finals. To ensure that clock usage was fair and consistent, we agreed to each go with 3:45 and the first flag to fall marked the loser. My bid was, again, +1 for the Axis.

I used a variant opening of the one Andrew Harding has used on me. (Steve's buddy, Bob, capitalized on the base opening by crushing the Rumanians and Ge11(A) with a sharp counterattack so I tweaked it against Steve.) The main feature of this Axis opening assault is that it is efficient and features a 12L+1 assault on the Bialystok defender who otherwise would die through attrition. I pushed hard, my cards were mediocre. I did not get Taifun by my Fall draw but, luckily, pushed hard enough to induce the Soviets to withdraw from Moscow. I think I ended up with 13 consecutive OPS plays.

With Uncle Joe safely tucked away in the Urals, Steve built up the Red Army. The Germans started playing events and replacements. I tried to get clever in Africa but, to my dismay, learned that playing Herkules as an event really doesn't accomplish much. PAA got to Tripoli just in time to be destroyed. Avalanche (or was it Shingle) saw the WAllies land at Salonika where they slowly proceeded to make their way inland. The Americans landed with Husky but, fortuitously, I had Aache (sic?) in hand and quickly rushed two Panzer Armies into Italy where they pretty much stalled the American push up the boot. With the defection of Italy, I was forced back into the Alps but corked the entrance to Munich for the rest of the game. Tito was placed and he beat up on some Hungarians but otherwise didn't do much. I played Speer, unlike my prior game, and thus was well positioned for Total War with all my big German units on the board and at full strength.

The Wallies in the Balkans pushed hard and captured Poelesti and threatened Vienna to start the end game but I was able to counterattack/cut supply and keep these forces out of the Greater Reich. The Russians pushed hard in the Ukraine and breached the German eastern border but never really posed a threat. I feel that I effectively retreated my guys, unlike my prior match against Steve when his Russians spanked me as if I were a red-headed stepchild. The Soviet mechanized fronts were late in arriving and just took too long to get to the front. The Allies used Overlord but never really threatened on that front, probably because I overcommitted my reinforcements there.

Summary: This game was grueling. It went to the last turn and we were both out of 'gaming gas'. (2:30 AM at this point.) I had ~fifteen minutes on the clock when the game ended while Steve had about forty minutes. The Germans had 11 VP on the last turn and we went to action round 4 or 5. It was clear at that point that the Allies wouldn't make it.

Regarding game balance; Round 1: 3 Axis/1 Allied victories, Round 2: 4 Axis/1 Allied victories, Round 3: 1 Axis/3 Allied victories , Round 4: 1 Axis victory.
So, nine Axis and five Allied - which looks like an Axis edge, BUT - I found the same thing as happened at WAM 1 and WBC 2003 - IF opponents are equally strong players, it is a very close affair. Allies continue to have a LONNNNNNG learning curve - as I and others have been saying from day one.

Regarding some of the recent BtB rules changes, I believe they have adequately addressed the issues created by the 13 straight Op attack and some of the late game Allied challenges.


Paths of Glory

Within the PoG bracket, Ussery, Doughan, Byrd, Zuckerman, Anner, Hasey, Jamelli, Drueding, Golding, Ruthenheber, and Hassard slugged it out for the PoG champion title. In the winners circle, Rob Hassard (AP) beat Anner (CP) in the final, and Drueding finished 3rd. Hassard and Drueding are pictured above in their semi-final game ­ two proven PoG sharks.

15 PoG games netted 210 hours of playing time racked up this weekend. Regarding play balance: Round 1: 2 AP/2 CP wins , Round 2: 0 AP/5 CP wins , Round 3: 3 AP/2 CP wins, Finals: AP wins. In summary, we had six AP wins and nine CP wins. Average bid continues to fall between 1 and 3 VPs to play the AP.

Nic Anner provided the following summary of the championship match:

I let Hassard have the AP for 1 since he's beaten me with defend the rhein in the last two Guns of August conferences with me bidding 2 as the AP. So I played the CP with a Western attack mode this time. The Russians came in hard in the east, and the serbs were left alone. Limited War came on turn 3. No Yud or med stuff the first pass through the deck. Italy was sealed off but not pressed. AP won the race to total war, with Rath left unplayed due to an OOS threat. CP chose to keep rath and go to TW with place of execution (a terrible 1 was rolled on the 15 chart +2!!! vs. a 6 roll on the 9!). The russians got some big rolls in the east, keeping RP's and ops flowing there instead of the west for the CP. The 14th & 17th/18th German reinforcements waited until the final hand of the first pass of TW so the western offensive was pretty much delayed until the second half of the game. Some good trench rolls got a handful of Brits to hold cambrai up until that point so the west was a pile of allied trenches and all 14 french/british/belgian armies.

The second pass through total war saw an 'over the top' in the west with 12 german armies beating the allies to a pulp. Lots of rps, yudenitch, allenby, and some more good Russian combat rolls stalled the offensive and all became quiet on the western front. Attention passed to the east, with yudi being very aggressive: too agressive. In a move designed to outflank and OOS Turky, the Russians got themselves cut off. The Turkish ops sink turned into a net-zero vp situation with ANA holding Medina & AoI in Persia pushing unsuccessfully at Basra. The Russians got a bunch of trenches in the last few turns and only west prussia and west poland were taken back. Final vps were at 8 with the bid."



For The People

WAM II's FtP tourney had 12 participants, playing 18 games, for 252 participant hours. In the end, James Pei successfully defended his title against David Dockter despite Dockter and Reese's best efforts to unseat the king. Rounding out the top six were Tim Miller 3rd, Taylor Golding 4th, Pete Reese 5th, and Doug Mercer 6th.

The tourney began Friday morning with six games and proceeded through three more rounds. Version 2.6 of the rules were used, with almost an equal split of USA and CSA victories. Participants included: Gary Phillips, Mike Hodgkills, Jeff King, Pete Reese, Taylor Golding, Mark Herman, Nels Thompson, James Pei, Doug Mercer, Brad Merrill, Tim Miller and David Dockter. In the Semi round, Pei's USA forces quickly dispatched Golding's rebels. In the other Semi round match, Dockter's raiding CSA troops overran Reese's northern blue boys. In the Final round, Pei's CSA forces rode six campaign cards to a turn 6 victory over the no-campaign-card stuck-in-the-mud USA forces.


Resources
GMT Games: publishes all titles except Hannibal: www.gmtgames.com
BPA: The Boardgame Players Association, which is sponsoring the event: www.boardgamers.org
Consimworld: The website that hosts the primary discussion boards for these games: www.consimworld.com
ACTS: The site where 500 of these card games are currently being played: acts.wizard.com.hk/index.asp

For the most recent updated info on WAM, see www.wamconvention.com.