Winter Activation Meeting 2011 (WAM IX)
Feb. 15, 2011

There was a major winter storm along the east coast the night before WAM IX was set to begin in Timonium, Maryland, but the “Card Sharks” dug themselves out and showed up anyway! 38 CDG players made the trek, compared to 37 in 2010 and 40 in 2009.

This year’s four formal tournaments with scheduled rounds were: Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage (HRC), Twilight Struggle (TWS), Combat Commander (COC) and the new kid on the block, Washington’s War (WAW). AARs of each of these tournaments are below. Players were asked to sign up for each tournament just prior to the start of Round 1 and at the start of each successive round attendance was called off of that list. Each evening, I displayed a detailed schedule of the next day’s events. We continued the concept of Open First Rounds on Thursday (because it is a travel day). Fifth round were scheduled on Sunday morning only when required. Only TWS had a Round 5 this year.

Between tournament games there was much open gaming. Games that I noticed people playing included: Labyrinth, Hearts and Minds, Waterloo 20, Spanish Civil War, The Napoleonic Wars, Here I Stand and Barbarossa to Berlin. Games ran pretty much non stop from 0900 in the morning to as late as 0200 at night. The game designer Volko Ruhnke was also on hand to run an informal introductory event for his newly published CDG, Labyrinth, on Saturday. Steve Brooks was the winner of the one round “tournament” that Volko organized. Volko also demonstrated his new game under development, Andean Abyss.

Above and beyond the playing of games, I can’t really adequately describe the social aspect of WAM. We have been doing this for 9 years now, and the core of participants has pretty much stayed intact. Many of us have become very good friends, but we also welcome and encourage new people to attend. I can’t speak for anybody else, but it is easily my favorite weekend of the year.

On Friday afternoon, we had our annual meeting to discuss the future of WAM. Don Greenwood and Keith Levy were on hand and the only real topic of discussion was a proposal to merge WAM into the EuroQuest minicon starting next Fall. Don explained to the group that, while WAM was holding its own and was secure in its present time and location for at least 2012 (if we decided against a merger), there was no guarantee of the future beyond that point. EuroQuest (a much larger event than WAM) is currently considering a move to a larger facility, and a merger with WAM would facilitate such a move and would solidify the future for both events for the next few years. There was some back and forth among the group and the main concerns of many were that (i) a move to November would prevent several regulars from attending, and (ii) there was a danger that the unique character of WAM would be harmed by its ingestion by a larger event. A vote was held and the merger was voted down by a wide margin. For 2012, at least, WAM will continue in its current time, place and format.

Here are a few other business matters that weren’t discussed:

  • I will continue to run WAM with assistance from Dave Dockter (who was missing in action in Pakistan—of all places—this year) and Terry Coleman.
  • This year we had 29 preregistrations and 9 walk-ons. Better than last year, but I will continue to nag people to preregister in the future.
  • We did a much better job of filling our room reservation block this year. Please keep it up next year!
  • Once again, I will conduct a poll of all of this year’s attendees by email this summer to determine the line-up of tournaments for next year. Labyrinth looks like a good possibility, but that remains to be seen. As in the past, any new game will have to be published by the time of WBC to be included in the poll.
  • All tournament winners can pick up their plaques at WBC in August. We have stopped ordering them ahead of time.
  • I have some WAM IX t-shirts left over. They are gold with black and red lettering. This year’s theme was the Cold War. If you would like one, please send me an email. The cost is $13, not including shipping.
  • Next year is the tenth year of WAM! Dave, Terry and I will definitely come up with something special to celebrate the anniversary.

Keith Wixson, WAM Director

14 players

1st: James Pei
2nd: Randall MacInnis
3rd: Stuart Tucker
4th: Bill Pettis
5th: Roderick Lee
6th: Michael Mitchell

Write-up  Event Page

27 players

1st: Stefan Mecay
2nd: Roderick Lee
3rd: Tim Bina
4th: Keith Wixson
5th: James Terry
6th: Bruce Monnin

Write-up  Event Page

28 players

1st: Tim Miller
2nd: Michael Mitchell
3rd: Keith Wixson
4th: James Pei
5th: Paul Gaberson
6th: Terry Coleman

Write-up  Event Page

12 players

1st: Chris Byrd
Chad Mekash
Bob Heinzmann
James Terry
Michael Johnson
Bill Edwards

Write-up  Event Page


Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage
GM: Paul Gaberson

The opening game was played Thursday night and you couldn’t say the two players were trying to dodge tough opponents. In the end, James Pei as the Romans was able to get a late siege result against Chris Byrd to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The official first round got started Friday morning with six more games contested. For these six games there was an even split of three victories each for Rome and Carthage.

The second round started late Friday evening with five more games played. James Pei again brought Rome a victory against Roderick Lee’s Carthage. Bill Pettis defeated Stuart Tucker for another Roman win and in the last battle of undefeated players Randall MacInnis again as Rome took down Charlie Hickok. By luck of the draw, the final Round 1 winner Keith Wixson went up against Michael Mitchell who had lost in Round 1. However, Michael was up to the task and brought Rome its third victory. In the only Round 2 game Hannibal could win, Paul Gaberson defeated Tim Miller.

For Round 3 on Saturday, three undefeated players remained, but as is often the case at WAM, the player attending from home couldn't return to continue his streak, so Bill Pettis dropped out. Therefore, the two remaining 2-0 players MacInnis and Pei went head to head. A quick series of battles and some bad luck yielded a very quick victory as MacInnis’s Romans conceded early. One other game was played with Stuart Tucker besting Doug Mercer.

This left one undefeated player and two with 2-1 records, so for Round 4, the 2-1 players were matched. Rome again was taken to victory by Randall MacInnis as Stuart Tucker lost Hannibal could see that he wasn’t going to be able to hold Syracuse against a determined assault. This meant that after four rounds and 15 total games there was one 3-0 player, one 3-1 player and the rest. Since James had already beaten Randall in head-to-head play, he was declared the champion. Out of 15 total games, it was nine Roman wins to six for Carthage, with only one siege victory. Hannibal was killed in at least three games, all of which lead to concessions.


Twilight Struggle
GM: Terry Coleman

There were a lot of entertaining games in the early rounds. Bill Burch showed his sense of humor by being able to chuckle when he lost his second straight game to an opponent's play of the Wargames card late in the game. Amanda Mecay was happy to reach Late War in a game for the first time at WAM—though once she got there, her cards didn't exactly cooperate...and Bob Jamelli missed his first four coup rolls in a game versus Terry Coleman, but he still took the game to the final turn before succumbing. James Terry managed to score OPEC no less than three times in a win against Roderick Lee, which gave him a fast two-hour win. Bruce Monnin broke open a close game against Steve Brooks with Double Terrorism during Turn 10. And of course, there were also a handful of games where someone would be tired enough to forget that if they play CIA as the USSR at DEFCON 2, that the US player could simply coup and end the game with Thermonuclear War...and a technical win.

Running Twilight Struggle at WAM (and other events) for many years, I had never seen a draw in tournament competition before. But this year, there were three draws, all involving top players. In the first round, Tim Bina and Kirk Harris missed critical dice rolls toward the end of the game, only to find themselves in a tie. Then, in Round 2, Keith Wixson and Chris Byrd went after each other like heavyweight boxers, yet both managed to survive for a draw at the end of final scoring. Amazingly, Chris (who at one stage was behind by 15), then had another draw with Kirk in Round 3. As a result, there were no less than eight players who had a legitimate shot at the title with just two rounds to go.

When the penultimate round results were in, however, the mists began to clear. For my money, the best game of the tournament was Keith Wixson going all-out against Stefan Mecay, to see who would make it to the championship game. Keith opened up with Red Scare and fell just short of overrunning all of Europe. Stefan held on to Italy for dear life, and won a key Brush War victory in Pakistan, which kept him in the game. Other key war wins, along with some good hands for the US, gave Stefan the counterplay he needed to build a dominating position. In a wonderful demonstration of finesse, Stefan was able to Space Race the Decolonization card no less than four times. Although Keith managed to max out in the Space Race for the first time, it wasn't enough to overcome Stefan in final scoring.

With this win, it was no surprise that Stefan Mecay (who had already defeated Doug Austin, Randy MacInnis and Michael Mitchell) was within reach of another TWS title at WAM, to go with his five others, from online and WBC. Stefan's opponent would be Tim Bina, who after his draw with Kirk in Round 1, had won three straight over veterans Bill Edwards, Justin Rice and James Terry. This loss, though only by a scant margin, dropped James from the unbeaten ranks, and put Tim in his first WAM Final.

Meanwhile, Roderick Lee had a well-earned fourth-round victory over Michael Mitchell, and Jeff Finkeldey beat Mark Yoshikawa, which meant that Rod and Jeff would match up in the final round. Having failed all three of his Space Race rolls, Roderick knew he had to shake things up a bit. So, he played Central America Scoring during the headline phase, resulting in a 7-point swing in his favor. That gave him the edge he needed for a close 3-point victory over Jeff in final scoring. Rod's impressive 4-1 record would loom larger as more of the contenders went down in the final round. Keith used a well-timed play of Wargames to close out a 6-point win in Turn 10 over Bruce Monnin, and Michael Mitchell fell to Chris Byrd, who managed an auto victory on Turn 6.

Tim Bina had already showed that his online expertise translated well to face-to-face play, and he kept the pressure up in the Final. Mecay had Asia early, but Bina countered with domination in both Europe and Middle East. De-Stalinization gave Stefan South America in mid-game, but Central America went back and forth. Tim built a double-digit lead by Turn 9, and both players agree that he probably would have won in final scoring. But Stefan followed Aldritch Ames redux with Terrorism, and as the US, Tim was stuck with having to play Lone Gunman, with no way to stop blowing up the world, along with his chance at a title. Both players were understandably gracious after such a hard-fought game, and it's a safe bet we'll hear more from Tim in the future—hopefully, we convinced him to try for WBC this summer.

With Tim's loss, his earlier drawn game dropped him to 3rd place behind Roderick Lee, the only 4-1 finisher. Keith Wixson took 4th, and James Terry and Bruce Monnin were 5th and 6th respectively. Defending WAM champ Chris Byrd and Jeff Finkeldey came just out of the running. Finishing with two wins were Kirk Harris, Mark Yoshikawa, Michael Mitchell, Terry Coleman and Larry Fryer.

There were 48 total games played: 23 Soviet wins, 22 US wins and 3 draws. While the preference was again greater to play the Soviets (average bid of just under 3 VPs), the results were about as close as you can get, with one more Soviet win (and three drawn games). Best Soviet players were Stefan Mecay and Bruce Monnin, while the best US players were Roderick Lee and Keith Wixson. About one-third of the games used the optional cards from the Deluxe Edition, and two games even used the Chinese Civil War rules. All in all, a well-balanced tournament that shows how Twilight Struggle continues to engender inspired play years after its initial release. It's certainly become a cornerstone of WAM.


Washington’s War
GM: Keith Wixson

In the biggest upset of WAM IX, Tim Miller went unbeaten, besting a field that included defending WBC Champ Keith Wixson, the "Master" Pei, and several other sharks to win the 4-round tournament. He defeated, in order, Charlie Hickok (as the British), John Wetherell (as the Americans), Wixson (as the Americans), and Michael Mitchell (as the British). His biggest scare was in his Round 3 match against Wixson when he drew Western Offensive twice and was able to pull out an 8-5 victory with a Minor Campaign on the final card play of the game.

There were three undefeated players after three rounds. In Round 4, Miller defeated Mitchell in a battle of 3-0 players and avoided a Round 5 showdown when the other undefeated player, James “the Master” Pei was defeated by Wixson. Wixson’s Americans pulled out an 8-5 win with a Major Campaign on the final card play of the game.

There were a total of 38 games played with the Americans winning 23 and the Brits 15. The Americans went 6-0 in Round 4. Sides were random with the exception that each player was required to play both sides an even number of times.


Combat Commander
GM: James Terry

As usual, a tribute to the excellent rule book, rules questions were almost non existent. Chris Byrd went 4-0, defeating last years champion Bob Heinzmann in Round 3. By Round 4 just Chris and Chad Mekash were left undefeated, and they played for the title.

Here is Chad’s write up of the final:

We played Hold The Line from the base CC:E box. Looking it over, I thought I'd rather play the Germans but rolling for sides stuck me with the Americans. My lack of interest in the scenario stemmed from its small size and the terrain/setup. The Germans attack with four SS squads and a HMG team. Two public objectives put 4 VPs on a hex near the American side and a single level 2 hill hex in the middle of a larger level 1 hill toward the German side of the map. But this was all skewed when both of our random objectives ended up being public as well, adding 10 VP to the level 2 hex and doubling elimination points.

The notable thing about the scenario is an immobilized Sherman, represented by a bunker with a team manning a pack howitzer and a leader manning a .50 cal MG. The team could not leave the bunker. The bunker had to set up in an open ground, non-hill hex which did not allow it to fully guard any attack path up the hill by the Germans. I set it up near the hill with a Line team adjacent. I set up the rest of my non-bunker guys (a squad, a team, a leader, and two satchel charges) on a level 1 hill hex adjacent to the level 2 but not on the crest. So I allowed his units a path up to the hill rather than set them up on the level 2 objective hex and get chewed up by his HMG sooner or later (without recourse since my hill guys had no MGs).

As expected, he came for the hill, out of sight of the bunker. So I had my leader and his HMG exit the bunker into the adjacent hex and pass the HMG to the waiting Line team. On the next turn they advanced onto the hill into a waiting foxhole, adjacent to the level 2 objective hex with the hex where my other guys were in another foxhole on the opposite side.

On the first turn Chris had a squad and leader on his right flank intending to go up the side opposite the hill, likely to go for the other objective hex and possibly board edge exit. But he set them up on a hill hex along his board edge, not realizing they were in view of the bunker. I quickly killed the squad with fire from the bunker and the leader wandered forward a bit but was otherwise out of the game, as was the pack howitzer in the bunker.

Back on the hill, Chris edged his guys onto the hill, out of LOS of my HMG. He recovered from any breaking and then proceeded to pound my initial hill guys for three turns, breaking them all, I'd recover them all, then rinse and repeat until he finally killed them all. He smoked the level 2 hex and moved onto it but my HMG hex broke all of his guys there. He then tried a gutsy move by advancing his broken leader, squad, and team onto my leader and HMG team. He played two ambushes, killing my leader, and then my team killed all of his guys. In the meantime, time was marching along, bringing with it a new reinforcement squad for me each turn. One had been killed by fire from his HMG. A second got onto the hill but was killed by his remaining squad after the melee described above.

So I was one unit away from surrendering, and he was two away. On the hill, on opposite sides of the level 2 hex which was worth 14 VPs and currently in his control, was my HMG team and his LMG team. I smoked the level 2 effectively and moved in. He advanced in and played an ambush card. He was up by 4 firepower but I had the Initiative card. I rolled a 4. Arghh. Tossed him the Initiative. Turned over the next card. I rolled a 3! Game over! My team died and my surrender level was reached.

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