Winter Activation Meeting 2009 (WAM VII)
Feb. 18, 2009

WAM VII in Timonium, MD was a rousing success by just about any measure. Despite the recession, we drew 40 players, down only slightly from last year. The new, more structured format appeared to be an improvement over "organized chaos", and almost everyone expressed a strong desire to return next year. The renovations to Days Hotel were a minor inconvenience but no big deal, and the general consensus appears to be that the facility meets our needs nicely. So if the BPA is willing to continue to sponsor us, I personally don't see any reason why we wont be back in 2010.

This year we went with four formal tournaments with scheduled rounds: Paths of Glory (POG), Wilderness War (WNW); Twilight Struggle (TWS); and 1960: The Making of the President (1960). There was also the annual informal March Madness Tournament (AARs of each of the tournaments are linked to their pictures below along with updated Laurels totals). Attendees were asked to enter each tournament just prior to the start of the first round and at the start of each successive round attendance was checked from that list. Each evening, I prominently displayed a detailed schedule of the next day's events on an easel, and that nicely addressed one criticism from last year that the event was confusing. In between tournament games, there was much open gaming. Games that I noticed people playing included Combat Commander, We the People, Hannibal RvC, Empire of the Sun, Unhappy King Charles, Atlantic Storm and many that I did not recognize. Games ran pretty much non-stop from 0800 in the morning to as late as 0300 at night.

And above and beyond the playing of games, it is always great to get together and socialize with the Card Shark gang, which has become a close knit fraternity over the years. There were the usual trips to Andy Nelson and elsewhere for food, much drinking of beer and the usual good natured banter and kidding that marks such occasions.

On Saturday night, we had a short meeting to discuss the future of WAM, and I will do my best to summarize it here. We have had meetings such as this in the past but have gotten away from the practice in recent years. I thought the meeting was very constructive and believe that it should be a regular feature of WAM (we can call it "The Airing of Grievances"). The highlights were as follows:

  • I mentioned that the BPA was not yet committed to having minicons after this one, but that I (Keith Wixson), Dockter and Terry were committed to running WAM if it continues.
  • I explained why we changed formats this year and asked for comments. One person said that he was not too keen on the idea when we first announced it but that he was pleasantly surprised with the end product. That sentiment was echoed by several others. Nobody really had anything bad to say about the new regime.
  • I apologized for this year's selection process for the "fourth" tournament (WNW), which did not work out very well, and opened a discussion on how we should best choose new tournaments in general:
    • It was agreed that POG, TWS and 960 were all solid and should return next year.
    • A majority of the POG players voted that the default game for the POG tournament should be changed to Pursuit of Glory.
    • It was agreed that I would conduct a poll of all of this year's attendees by email this summer to determine the fourth tournament.
    • The poll will list several options and each person will vote for their top choice on the list with the top vote getter getting the nod.
    • I conducted a straw (unofficial) poll for the fourth tournament and the following games (in order of interest expressed) were chosen: Hannibal RvC, Washington's War, Combat Commander and Unhappy King Charles. These four games will be included on the poll this summer as well as anything new that I, Dockter and Terry deem worthy of inclusion, with the proviso that any game on the poll MUST be published before or by WBC (Washington's War would be excepted if it is to be published by early Autumn since it is really an update of We the People and not a completely new game).
  • We then moved to a discussion on what might be done to improve things for next year:
    • It was agreed that since Thursday is a travel day and people cannot necessarily get to the hotel in time for scheduled rounds, that the day should be devoted to "open" first rounds and that nothing should be formally scheduled on that day. Upon arrival, attendees would be allowed to seek out the GMs and have a Round 1 opponent assigned for any tournament (this would NOT be a Mulligan). On Friday and Saturday each of the tournaments would have formal rounds scheduled (including Round 1). Anybody who played a Round 1 game on Thursday would be exempted from playing in the scheduled Round 1 for that tournament. This idea should give people a little more flexibility and allow them to play more tournament games.
    • It was agreed that all Round 5s (if required) should be scheduled on Sunday morning.
    • It was agreed that a blank easel should be set up so that people can express their interest in and arrange for open games and informal tournaments.
  • The meeting was then adjourned and the games continued!

Keith Wixson ... WAM Host


1st: Tom Drueding, MA
2nd: Chris Byrd, CT
Ken Gutermuth, NC
4th: Charlie Hickok, PA
Tim Hall, UT
Bill Pettus, NJ

Write-up  Event Page

1st: Stefan Mecay, TX
2nd: Bill Edwards, VA
3rd: Keith Wixson, NJ
4th: Sean McCulloch, OH
5th: Marvin Birnbaum, NY
6th: John Wetherell, PA

Write-up  Event Page

1st: Stefan Mecay, TX
Terry Coleman, CA
Bill Pettus, NJ
Steven Brooks, FL
Joe Yaure, PA
Marvin Birnbaum, NY

Write-up  Event Page

1st: Sean McCulloch, OH
Paul Gaberson, PA
Tom Drueding, MA
Michael Sosa, FL
Doug Mercer, MD
Bruce Monnin, OH

Write-up  Event Page

Unofficial Tourney

1st: Bill Edwards, VA
Bruce Monnin, OH
Ken Gutermuth, NC
Pete Stein
Jeff Finkeldey
Terry Coleman, CA




Paths of Glory

We had only 12 entrants to the tourney this year. Most conspicuous of the absentees were Herr DR and Pete "Rain Man" Reese. We had the usual format of no draws and the AP winning ties, so players were cautioned to bid accordingly. Again, as usual, the mean bid was just over 2 to play the AP with one player bidding 4 to keep them from Tom Drueding! As it turned out to no avail as Tom worked his way through the ladder to meet up with, who else, Chris Byrd in the Final.  Players were allowed to select either Barbarossa to Berlin (BTB) or Pursuit of Glory (PUG) as alternate games to POG with the default being POG. We had one BTB and one PUG game played. The POG games were very equally split between AP/CP wins. The most notable POG win was Doug Austin as the AP player putting the entire CP force out of supply in an early round!!! This caused attrition for every CP unit on the board, a first for WAM play. The Semi-finals saw Byrd and Charlie Hickok playing and Drueding and Ken Gutermuth paired against one another. Ken's stated goal was to last the entire game!! 

As mentioned above we had a repeat of last year's Final with Tom and Chris. (In fact, the top four Laurelists in 2009 were the same as in 2008.) Tom won the AP with a bid of 3. These two pachyderms went at it Saturday evening. By Turn 5 it was looking bleak for Chris. By Turn 10 he realized that his CP forces were in an untenable position and, being the sportsman that he is, conceded. This allowed them to test drive PUG. I did not get any feedback on their experience. Even given the reduced number of players we all still had a good time and some BBQ!!  Looking forward to next year.


Twilight Struggle

Three-time defending WBC Champ Stefan Mecay made his WAM debut and surprised nobody in besting a field of 28 to win the five-round Swiss tournament with a perfect score. He defeated in order Christopher Yaure (Wargames on Turn 8), Mark Yoshikawa (Autovictory on Turn 8), Keith Wixson (Wargames on Turn 9), Bill Edwards (Final Scoring) and John Wetherell (Autovictory on Turn 6). Mecay played the USSR in all five games, bidding 3 IPs thrice and 4 IPs twice. Perhaps his biggest scare was in his Round 3 match against Wixson. On the first turn of Late War in a close game the US played "Chernobyl" in Europe followed by "Tear Down this Wall" (VPs were at -9 but the Soviet position was vulnerable in several places). Mecay's position had all but collapsed by the end of the turn and Wixson was poised to gain Control of Europe at the start of the next turn. But Stefan drew Wargames and was able to claim victory on the second action round of Turn 9. After both players revealed their remaining cards, Mecay agreed that he probably would have lost otherwise. 

Bill Edwards won the book "From the Shadows" by Robert Gates, a history of the Cold War, for finishing in second. The Best Soviet Player award went to Mecay (no additional prize since he won the plaque)and the Best American Player award (Robert Kennedy's "Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis") went to Sean McCulloch. The tiebreakers used to determine the final standingswere (i) strength of schedule, (ii) head to head results, (iii) most US wins and (iv) most WAM t-shirts bought from the GM. The first criteria proved sufficient in all cases.

There were a total of 59 games played with the USSR winning 32. The Soviet wins broke down as follows: 15 autovictories (20+ VPs), five by nuclear war, seven by Wargames and five at Final Scoring. The American wins were 12 autovictories, four by nuclear war, five by Wargames and six at Final Scoring. Players bid influence points to be added to the US setup before the start of play for the right to be the USSR. There were four bids of 4 IPs (two of these by the champ), forty bids of 3 IPs, fourteen bids of 2 IPs and one bid of 1 IP.


1960: The Making of the President

After a strong debut last year, it was reasonable to wonder whether 1960: The Making of the President would continue to draw at WAM, now that the historic real-world election of 2008 had passed. Attendance did drop slightly, but there were plenty of newcomers among the 17 campaign managers, a trend which bodes well for the future.

The early rounds on Saturday showed the tension this game can produce among well-matched opponents, with several games going down to the last contested state. Veteran James Terry had a chance to turn New York for Nixon, but failed three support checks, allowing a relieved Jeff Finkeldey to escape with a 289-248 electoral victory. Bill Pettus, on the other hand, won a similarly close game with Nixon over Marvin Birnbaum due to Nixon's superior endorsements.

Chris Yaure held off Don Chappell, 274-234, as the long-time We the People GM couldn't find an answer to Nixon's Momentum cards in the West, South and East. Don would play an even more memorable game in the following round. After all the states had been counted, he and Bob Jamelli had tied, sending the election to Congress! Nixon had won more states, so Don emerged triumphant, in the only game to go "overtime" in the history of the event.

Terry Coleman defeated Chris Yaure in a rare game that had no debate or electoral events played (another first for the tournament). Meanwhile, Sean McCulloch squeaked past Mike Mitchell in a contest which saw a number of states change hands late, 273-246.

In what turned out to be probably the event's wildest game, Bill Pettus had built up a huge lead early on versus Steven Brooks. Steve had a strong debate performance with Kennedy (sound familiar?) to get back into the game late, and managed to eke out almost all of the big states at the end for a very hard-fought victory. It turned out to be a big loss for Bill, as he finished just behind the 4-0 records of Texan Stefan Mecay and Terry Coleman, who would play for the title.

After the excitement of the prelims, however, the Final unfortunately couldn't live up to the hype. Terry's strategy of shutting down his opponent's mobility failed miserably when Stefan was able to utilize both the Kenn-Air and Bobby Kennedy card for bonuses and free movement on the critical late turns. As a result, Terry's considerable endorsements over most of the board made little difference, and Stefan won going away, 394-114. After Chris Byrd last year, Stefan becomes the second 1960 winner to win multiple WAM titles in the same year (also winning Twilight Struggle this year).

26 games were played in all, and overall, the Nixon side bucked history, emerging victorious 16-10. This 61% margin of victory was almost identical to last year's WAM results. Yet the bidding for sides was slightly higher for playing from the Kennedy side, at about 58%. The average bid for playing Kennedy was 1, while the typical bid for Nixon was less than 1 (players were allowed to start bidding at zero). Similar to last year, about a third of the games were played with no preference shown by either player (and thus no bids).

It should be noted that the overall edge for Nixon was offset by a sweep of four Kennedy victories at the end of the event, including the Final. The average game time was about 1 hour 45 minutes, with only one game going over 2 hours. The Final was played as a virtual sprint, finishing in 1 hour and 8 minutes. The best Kennedy player was-no surprise-tournament winner Stefan Mecay at 4-0, followed by Terry Coleman at 2-0. Among the best Nixon players was teenager Joe Yaure—who finished fifth overall—along with Bill Pettus, Terry Coleman, and Marvin Birnbaum, all 2-1 with Tricky Dick.

Although quick to play, it seems that the WAM crowd hasn't discovered all of the electoral mysteries of 1960: The Making of the President quite yet. So, even though the next couple of years won't tie in to an election year in the real world, it seems likely that 1960 will continue to be a WAM staple for years to come.


Wilderness War

The WNW tournament was a disappointment as 14 players (not bad) played only 12 games (sad). I called it after three rounds in favor of Ohio's Cabbie Sean McCulloch, who was the only unbeaten player. Despite the paucity of games played, his title has some merit atached to it because he defeated two former WBC champs, Paul Gaberson and Keith Wixson.

It was obvious during the general meeting on Saturday that this game was a poor choice for the last tournament. The interest was just not there and our methodology for choosing this was flawed. So this was the final year for WNW at WAM. It had a good run and it should live on at WBC for another year or two at least. Next year's WAM will have a new fourth tournament.

On the bright side I was able to test a new rule for WBC that I hope will address the play balance issue. Instead of having the players bid VPs to play the French, sides were determined randomly and the British player, starting with the Late Season 1757 turn, was given the option to retrieve one British Regulars or Highlanders card from the discard pile (at the beginning of EVERY turn—after the cards had been dealt and examined but before the first Action Phase) and place it in his hand after RANDOMLY discarding one card from his hand. Despite the usual lopsided win totals for the French, which I ascribe for the most part to several brand new players and rustiness by a few vets, I was pleased with how the test went and expect to adopt the new rule for WBC this year.


March Madness

The annual unofficial Saturday night hoops-a-thon saw 11 participants fight it out for the coveted winter hoops title in the tournament of perhaps the all-time best card-driven sports game: March Madness. The field consisted of 16 teams all with identical 92 ratings to choose from, plus one 90 ranked team, David Dockter's beloved 1997 Minnesota squad.  Alas, a repeat of the Gopher's run to the Final in 2008 was not repeated when Dockter failed to show and his designated replacement was so wrapped up in his Pursuit Of Glory game that the Golden Gophers never reached the court.

As one of the first round victors also fell victim to the joys of Pursuit of Glory, only two players emerged from second round play with undefeated records.  Bill Edward's top-seeded 1956 San Francisco squad defeated Mark Yoshikawa's 1981 Indiana Hoosiers and Pete Stein's 1966 Texas Western squad.  Meanwhile, Bruce Monnin chose his favorite 1959 Cincinnati team and defeated Paul Gaberson's 1984 Georgetown Hoyas and Jeff Finkeldey's 1999 Connecticut Huskies.

Bill and Bruce became deeply involved in an Atlantic Storm game late Saturday night and in Twilight Struggle games early Sunday morning, so the championship game was delayed and completed over the Internet using ACTS.  Bill jumped out to the early first half lead, which grew to 21 points midway through the second half.  Bill slapped down the Four Corner Stall in an attempt to ice the game, but Bruce countered with the Run and Gun to keep things moving. The game came down to Bill having a 20-point lead, while Bruce had AA Oscar Robertson left to score.  On the resolutions, Oscar outscored Bill's player 25-4, for a 1-point victory.  But Edwards had wisely saved a Timeout and the dice had to be rerolled.  The next results were better for Bill, as his player held Robertson to just 10 points and secured the 105-85 victory and the unofficial (for fun only—no Laurels) WAM Championship.

Top Players:

1. Bill Edwards, 3-0
2. Bruce Monnin,  2-1
3. Ken Gutermuth, 1-0
4. Pete Stein, 1-1
5. Jeff Finkeldey, 1-1
6. Terry Coleman,  1-1

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