Waterloo V — The Napoleonic Wars Mini-Con
Oct. 29, 2007

French Win at Waterloo!
Three-Player Tournament, October 19-21, 2007

I approached the fifth Waterloo mini-con with dread, expecting it to be the last in the series. With few pre-registrations in hand and only five hotel rooms booked for the weekend, it appeared that Waterloo would be following our D-Day mini-con down the path of cancellation due to lack of participation. Much to my surprise we had a nearly perfect field of 28 enthusiasts walk in the door, pay the higher walk-on rate, and book hotel rooms. They took quite a chance on the last score as this hotel often sells out during our weekend events and their hotel stays came too late to effect our meeting space rental costs, but they were a welcome sight nonetheless!

The majority of players were on-hand by 1 PM and numerous Open Gaming opportunities ensued with Nappy games dominating as the one shared passion of all on hand. At the 6 PM official starting time, and with the last arrivals, the Greenville, SC contingent safely entrenched, we drew lots and began play in earnest with nine 3-player games starting in unison. They would be the first volley in a weekend orgy of Napoleonic warfare which would tally 53 official tournament games encompasing 124 turns. And that excludes a host of pickup games that followed on Sunday and those which preceded the official start of play. Everyone played at least four official games, and most of those on the lower scale of games played were due to being involved in 5-turn marathon games. Scott Fenn played the most games with nine official matches in the books, buoyed primarily by five 1-turn games on the first night! Game length varied as follows:

15 One-Turn Games
17 Two-Turn Games
8 Three-Turn Games
9 Four-Turn Games
3 Five-Turn Games



 Kevin Sudy and Ed Rothenheber watch as Ken Gutermuth rolls some buckets of dice in the Championship game.

Due to the inderterminate length of Nappy games which can be over in one turn or take as many as five, formal rounds are not practical since players don't want to waste the deadtime between rounds waiting for a marathon game to end. Consequently, the emphasis is on playing as many preliminary games as you can manage with new players as they become available. With a large field, it's usually not long before another game finishes and you can start again with different players. This year, we tweaked the format somewhat away from the Greenville version which rewarded large wins (usally at the expense of less experienced players) and which relied on winning games with each nationality - which tended to cause bottlenecks with players wanting to play only the side with which they had yet to record their needed win to advance to the Final. Instead, we instituted a scoring system which emphasized quality of wins over quantity of wins and the nation with which they were accomplished. Players earned points for each win and a lesser amount for each second, but more importantly, they gained a point for each win of an opponent they had defeated. And these points were retroactive - which gave new sincerity to wishing one's opponents well after beating them! You could lose your next game and watch your score rise on the backs of your former defeated opponents' recent success.

This scoring system encouraged players to seek out new opponents rather than getting in a clique of repeated play against the same players since beating the same opponent more than once earned you no additional points for their wins. There was also a disincentive to dodge playing the leaders because those are the ones you wanted to beat to score the most points. To offset, the disadvantage of being in a long game, players were awarded a point for every failed Victory roll - making the longer games ostensibly worth more points. This had some interesting side effects. In one long game, a player finished second after leading for three turns, thus resulting in him outscoring the winner of the game 4-2. Of course, the bonus points for opponent's wins will usually make the win still more advantageous than finishing second. But more importantly, this scoring system did away with the wrangling over what side you would play. Because the French usually have an advantage in gaining the first Victory roll opportunity, the French would be the favored side to gain at least one Victory Point per game and be the optimum selection. Allowing players to choose their side for the next game in reverse order of their current score, ostensibly addressed balance issues both from the aspect of getting to play the "favored" side and allowing those behind in the standings an increased chance to gain on the leaders with the favored side.

Statistics backed this up not only from a viewpoint of bonus points for failed Victory rolls, but also in outright wins with the French prevailing in 24 games, while the Austro-Russians managed 17 wins, and the British but 12.

In a game as loaded with chaos as Napoleonic Wars is, there are always amazing stories of derring do and outrageous fortune so you can well imagine how many such yarns could be spun after so many games played between skilled players. This weekend was no exception and we had our share such as the full Army under Napoleon defeated by a lone Austrian or the capture, albeit temporary, of both Moscow and St Petersburg by the mighty Danes. Suffice it to say that there were many such vicarious feats which will remain untold save for the cardboard history books as we move on to the end of our report. So when the haze of battle lifted on Sunday morning, the top ten standings looked thus:

27 Ken Gutermuth
27 Ed Rothenheber
25 Kevin Sudy
23 AJ Sudy
21 Fred Schachter
21 Rich Shipley
19 Melvin Casselberry
18 Henry Russell
15 Joseph Woolschlegger
14 Scott Fenn

This advanced the top three to the Final with a combined ten wins and the rest of our combatants immediately broke into 4- and 5-player games for more Nappy in another version. Our finalists certainly deserved their spot at the championship table, but with different advancement criteria strong cases could be made for Henry Russell with the most victories (5), or Fred Schachter who won four out of five games, or even Melvin Casselberry, Scott Moll, or Rich Shipley who won three each. But the most deserving of a "I wuz robbed" award would be AJ sudy who won all four of his games - but had the misfortune of being unable to end any of them early. The tie for 5th was broken in favor of Fred over Rich by virtue of his two British wins.

Our finalists rolled for sides with Ed getting the first choice and he immediately threw all the stats out the window by taking the British despite their decidedly third-best performance in the preliminaries. Ken, with the second choice, also shunned the Emperor and opted for the Austro-Russians, leaving Kevin to be gifted with the French in an exact reversal of what most onlookers and the stats of the tournament would have considered to be the likely order of selection. Both Ken and Ed would soon regret their decisions.

As the game got underway, it became increasingly evident that our co-leaders had turned down the "hand of providence" as Kevin unleashed an impressive selection of cards and backed it with equally hot dice. He turned east immediately, vaporizing both Frederick at Linz and Charles in Venice and broke bread in Vienna before the Allies even had a move. Austria was conquered in Turn 1 and it looked bleak for the Coalition. But these allies were made of sterner stuff and they weren't about to concede defeat. As Ed later revealed, given the quality of the opposition, he chose the British because he expected a long game and cooperation with the Russians - whoever that might be - and he was correct as the two blended their efforts well to avoid a total collapse. Ken pacted Turkey while Ed grabbed the Swedes to offset the huge French card advantage with Austria on the sidelines. Despite their lessened hands, both spent cards to prevent a French victory roll and when the French started Turn 2 with a mulligan and were hit by Malet's Conspiracy it appeared as though they might yet pull back from the brink as they continued to play events to help each other.

Despite these setbacks and having to deal with a British Army in Spain, Napoleon and three armies were poised on the Russian border and this onlooker was hoping to watch the invasion of Russia unfold in a manner reminiscient of history. The Russians had managed to form two large Army Groups for the protection of their capitals at Gomel and Smolensk. After taking Grodno, the French advanced to Borisov. The Russians, running out of cards, moved Kutuzov to Polorsk to cover Kiev, trusting to intercept threats from both Russian Army Groups to protect Smolensk. At this point, Kevin - truly blessed to this point with both dice and cards - proved he was worthy of being the repeat champion by playing Turning Movement to split the Russian Army Groups and move Napoleon through Smolensk to Borodino, This left him with 5 CPs in the form of his last card play with the Imperial Guard which he played to take Moscow from its token defenders and then force marched three spaces to St Petersburg - taking double attrition in the last two spaces and arriving only with Napoleon himself to battle the token garrison. In a two-day battle, the city fell and Napoleon, after surviving yet another Attrition roll had conquered Russia for an automatic victory.

And the critics say it's not possible to duplicate history in this game. Not only is it possible, but this year's finalists proved it can be done at the highest levels of play without relying on incompetent play or errors. It was a very enjoyable game to watch ... I almost got the sense of watching a movie or historical vignette. Well done!

Champion 2006-07
Kevin Sudy, VA

 3rd & Best French
Ken Gutermuth, TX

 4th & Best Austro-Russia
AJ Sudy, VA

Best British
Scott Fenn, MD

Ed Rothenheber, MD

Fred Schachter, NC

Rich Shipley

Rounding out our awards for the weekend were the presentation of the Best Country awards which were based on having achieved multiple wins with that country while defeating players with the most total games won. Ken Gutermuth edged Melvin Casselberry for Best French and is probably still kicking himself for not choosing to play them in the Final. Both Ken and Melvin went 2-0 with the French, but Ken's victims in those two games won one more game than Melvin's did; 7 vs 6. The Best British wood went to Scott Fenn who was 2-1 with the lobsterbacks. His competition was Lane Hess who also went 2-1 and Fred Schacter who was 2-0, but Scott's victims in those two wins generated eight wins on their own while Lane's musted only five and Fred's four. AJ Sudy took top honors with the Austro-Russians with his 2-0 record over opponents with nine wins - topping Henry Russell's 3-0 slate over opponents who could total only five wins.

Lessons Learned: While the new system seemed to be embraced by most, there were some shortcomings which require tweaking going forward. First, the failed Victory Roll system seems inadequate compensation for being involved in longer games since there are generally more scoring opportunities to be gained in playing several shorter games. Consequently, I'm inclined to award the extra point simply for having the lead at the end of each turn rather than requiring a Victory roll opportunity - thus making each game automatically generate an additional point for someone for every turn played. Also, to eliminate any incentive for not playing against the leader, I'm inclined to eliminate the point awarded for finishing second so that there are essentially points awarded only for winning or leading for a turn. Lastly, to further diminish the difference betwen being involved in one long game rather than several short ones, I'm inclined to deduct one point for each game lost so a person who goes 2-7 is less likely to fare well point-wise with someone who goes 3-0.

The second fix isn't really a change to the system, but rather an increased emphasis on what constitutes a concession. To prevent a player with a big lead from nursing a game along without actually winning it so as to keep gaining points for Victory rolls, players were allowed to concede if the two TRAILING players agreed. The leading player should have no say in this decision. Untortunately, we had instances where one player wanted to concede, but another didn't. This usually happens when France is battered beyond reasonable hope of recovery. However, until the VC are actually achieved, it can be very unfair to the third player when the French concede the game prematurely, since the lead could well change hands if played to conclusion. Consequnetly, I'm inclined to impose a penalty point on any game conceded against the wishes of one of the trailing players to lessen the incentive to rush off to play in another game rather than play out the current one to its conclusion.

At least one person wasn't happy with the strength of schedule points, but I am firmly convinced that any format that has some players playing more than twice as many games than others due to their wide duration disparity and which allows players to more or less select their own opponents based on availability at the time, must provide an incentive not to dodge the better players. Going 3-0 against winless opponents is not better than going 2-1 against the creme of the field. The current system reflects that well and has been battle tested as a qualifying device at both D-Day and all the Grognard WBC Free Form events. Waterloo essentially uses Free Form scheduling of preliminary games to qualify finalists for the championship.



 Designer Mark McLaughlin was on hand and managed to win twice himself in between playtest games of Kutuzov.
Boardgame Players Association Last updated 10/29/07by kae.
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