Waterloo VI — The Napoleonic Wars Mini-Con
Nov. 11, 2008

To the Last Soldat! or The Real Longest Day!
Three-Player Tournament • October 24-26, 2008

The sixth Waterloo mini-con in many ways was a repeat of the fifth. We were in a different location due to ongoing renovations at the Days Hotel and I had but a handful of pre-regs in hand. It was again looking like the end of the series. But more and more grognards trooped in, and when shortly after the 2 PM starting time, the Greenville Mafia showed six strong, I knew we had survived for another year.

Numerous Open Gaming opportunities began the day, with Nappy games dominating as the one shared passion of all on hand. The majority of players were on hand by 2 PM, and by show of hands, it was decided to play the new 2nd edition. The weekend would see 39 official games and 89 turns played in the tournament with a number of players breaking off to engage in four- and five-player games outside the competition. Ken Gutermuth and John Nestor played the most official games with eight each while Kevin Emery took the Horatio Hornblower award for playing the Brits seven times. Game length varied as follows:

  • 12 One-Turn Games
  • 9 Two-Turn Games
  • 14 Three-Turn Games
  • 3 Four-Turn Games
  • 1 Five-Turn Game

Due to the indeterminate length of Nappy games—which can be over in one turn or take as many as six—formal rounds are not practical, since players don't want to waste time 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 opponents. This year, we tweaked the format somewhat. Players earned two points for each win, one point for each Turn they ended in the lead, and 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 adversaries' recent success. In addition, to counter-balance the advantage of playimg many short games as opposed to fewer long games, a player was penalized a point for each loss.

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. This year, Ken Gutermuth lay claim to the most turns in the lead, with nine. Rich Shipley gained the most points from defeated winners, with 11, while Kevin Sudy and Ken Gutermuth had 10 each.

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 lost after leading for three turns, this meant he outscored the winner of the game 3-2. Of course, the bonus points for opponents' wins 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 leading a Turn, but also in outright wins with the French prevailing in 17 games (44%), while the Austro-Russians managed 14 wins (35%), and the British but eight (21%). The French wins were divided in length as follows: Turn 1: 5, Turn 2: 4, Turn 3: 7, and Turn 4: 1. The Austro-Russians won on Turn 1: 5, Turn 2: 3, Turn 3: 4, Turn 4: 1, and Turn 5: 1. The Britsh wins came on Turn 1: 2, Turn 2: 2, Turn 3: 3, and Turn 4: 1.

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. My particular tale of woe this weekend bemoaned not the outrageous fortune of my infamous dice, but those damn "2" cards, which seemed magnetically drawn to my hand all weekend. The last turn of my last game was particularly memorable in that regard. As Britain, I mulliganed my three-card hand of 3, 2, 2 only to draw a pair of 2's, Thus encouraged, I traded Admiralty for another 2 but took heart when the second pull yielded Council of War. Need I tell you, what that opportunity yielded when I traded those four cards for four more? Needless to say, I once again traded down. The final insult came when I surrendered my resource for—you guessed it—another 2, and ended the turn having owned 12 cards, only one of them higher than a "3". Suffice it to say that there were many such tales of woe and unexpected glee that will remain untold save for the vicarious history books as we move on to the end of our report.

The last preliminary game to count got underway just prior to the midnight deadline and would determine the fate of the last finalist. If Bruce Young or Henry Russell won, they would edge John Emery for the third and last seat in the Final. But at 3:30 AM, Francis Czawlytko won his first game of the weekend, thus denying the two contenders their shot and giving John Emery his. So when the haze of battle lifted on Sunday morning, the preliminary standings looked thus:

Kevin Sudy 21
Rich Shipley 19
John Emery 16
Bruce Young 14
Ken Gutermuth 13
Melvin Casselbury 13
Ben Sternick 12
Roy Gibson 11
Henry Russell 11
Don Greenwood 11
John Nestor 8
Scott Pfeiffer 4
Joe Woolschleger 3
Francis Czawlytko 3
Stan Hilinski 3
Rob Beyma 2
Keith Wixson 1
Ken Richards 1
Bill Burch 0
Mark McLaughlin 0
Kevin Emery -1
Fred Schachter -1
Joe Burch -1
Matt Russell -4

Kevin Sudy, Rich Shipley, and Bruce Young won four games each, while John Emery won three. John's schedule proved the more difficult in that his defeated opponents won more games and he played and lost fewer than Bruce, thus edging him out. This advanced the top three to the Final and the rest of our combatants immediately broke into 4- and 5-player games for more Nappy in another version.

Our finalists rolled for sides with Rich getting the first choice, and he immediately grabbed the French, whom he had already led to three victories that weekend. John, with the second choice, opted for the Austro-Russians, leaving Kevin to contemplate the English countryside.

As the Final got underway, it appeared that we were in for a rerun of the 2007 Final in which the French vaporized the Austrians on their way to an automatic win with a Turn 2 conquest of Russia. With the British occupied by no less than three Foreign Wars, Napoleon met Kutuzov in a 21-19 Army Group clash in Linz and routed the Coaltion to the tune of ten units. John, gazing at what would be his worst Russian hand of the day, immediately offered Submission and one key. Onlookers raised a few eyebrows as the chances of retaking Vienna seemed far from hopeless with support from Parliament seemingly assured. Surprised by this easy victory and a guaranteed Turn1 lead, Rich accepted—much to his later regret. John later admitted he would have offered better terms, if necessary, and was pleased by the respite, although it committed him to a long term strategy—just how long none of us could appreciate. Austria, safe from French attack, now plied the diplomatic track and soon bought Prussia while Britain consoled itself over the loss of Napoli and Lisbon with a Swedish Pact as Turn 1 ended. Both Allied players committed to the long haul and spent a card to prolong the game and deny Rich his victory roll chance.

It soon became apparent that there was method to John's madness as Subject Neutral Austria equalled the card draws of both Russia and Britain, which had been reduced to Minimum Hands. I had a hard time controlling my expression as I watched him toss a strong Austrian hand away to use the new Subject Neutral Hand option which yielded an even stronger Hand. The cost for this option was to trade his 6 Reserve for an unknown Reserve which became British Subsidies. It's a great comfort to be a skilled player, but nothing beats being a lucky one as well.

Turn 2, as you might expect, was rather uneventful, as Rich declined the chance to invade Russia through docile Austria and settled down to build Fortress Europe instead. Napoleon was dispatched to Spain where he quickly took Gibraltar by siege and all of Italy—down to the last British associate duchy—was put under the French heel. Meanwhile, the British had to deal with their fourth Foreign War as Anglo-American hostilities were declared. With the loss of Gibraltar, Britain was reduced to their Minimum Hand Size and could no longer legally spend a card to avoid Peace. John again bought with Russia so Rich was able to roll for the win at the end of the Turn—needing a 6 to win the game. He came up one pip short with a roll of 5. It was as close as he would come and John's best decision of the game.

Turn 3 brought the Austrians back into the war accompanied by their Prussian allies with a vengeance after several turns of unmolested builds. Russia was even better prepared—thanks to a Russia Mobilizes event and THREE Call Up the Next Class plays in as many turns. Europe was armed to the teeth and the attrition now started in earnest with massive battles and buckets of dice flowing regularly. Towards the end of the Turn, Wellington landed on the Continent and took Paris in what would be the first of many battles on that tortured soil. He was routed out by the still strong French riposte. But the Austrians ended the Turn with the lead and a chance to roll for victory which failed to the groans of the assembled Greenville Mafia waiting to depart for their eight-hour trek back to South Carolina. Instead, they headed to the bar to watch football.

Turn 4 opened with France pacting Turkey and thereby threatening Austria and Russia's denuded rear which lay open before hordes of Turks. Undeterred, Kutuzov took Paris in the game's second major battle on the banks of the Seine. Britain broke the Austrian Pact with Prussia - depriving the Austrians of much of their power both at the Front near Paris and in the rear fending off the Turks. Napoleon arrived and retook the city in the third Battle of Paris, but not before committing the Guard to rout Kutuzov. Charles then retook the French capital in the 4th Battle of Paris. Meanwhile, the Turks took Vienna but lacked a CP to flag it and were driven out by Ferdinand, who returned from the center to deal with the threat. As the turn drew to a close, Napoleon retook Paris in the 5th Battle of Paris and then routed Kutuzov who tried to retake it in the 6th Battle of Paris. The turn ended with the British re-established in Italy after a turn of stellar card play and with a card to be carried over to Turn 5. Neither player now felt they could afford to spend a card to deny John the Peace roll so the game was his on a roll of 4 or better. Hope was high amongst the Mafia, who had returned from the football game. He rolled a 3, and the Mafia dejectedly sat down to start a 5-player game while our finalists set up for Turn 5.

By Turn 5 the French had been bled white fighting battles large and small all over the continent and their chances seemed slim and none. The question was which of the two jackals picking at the French carcass would come out ahead. To his credit, Rich never conceded and launcheds attack after attack in search of a miracle—and he got a couple to keep things interesting. As he turned in his last Resource for a card, I fervently prayed he wouldn't draw Napoleon Abdicates, thus enabling a Turn 6. John began Turn 5 by rebuying Prussia. Britain responded by playing House of Rothschild for the second turn in a row and followed that with Admiralty to gain pre-emption. The Prussians enabled John to retake Paris in the seventh battle for that space, but Britain continued his super card collection by breaking the Prussian Pact yet again, and Napoleon retook the weakened city for the 8th time. Britain landed Wellington on the continent to grab keys from the defenseless French countryside and another army under Hill landed in Spain, which is likewise barren of defenses, save for three leaderless Spaniards in Madrid. Yet, Hill opted to lay siege rather than go for Madrid and failed several attempts. The card played to fund this was none other than Capitulation which has been in the British hand for two turns waiting for the opportunity to play it when doing so would end the game with Britain in the lead. The Brits are down to one card now, which is—of course—Extended Campaign. The assembled Mafia now returned from their completed 5-player game started as this Turn began to witness the end. Wellington now took Paris in the ninth major battle fought there on the last play of the game. On the entire board, France was down to one unit and Napoleon. Kevin rolled a 5 for the maximum amount of French keys in the conquest.

This led to a quick count and recount of the VPs to find that John had won, with 8 VPs to Kevin's 7. It was a remarkable game, although the result seemed pre-ordained since the moment Rich agreed to the Austrian submission. John's position seemed insurmountable in the end game, yet Kevin came extremely close to stealing his victory. Had he won that Spanish siege, thus freeing him to go for Madrid, he could easily have scored enough in Spain to overtake John's lead. I knew both of these players to be highly skilled and enjoyed watching them play. However, I've got to say that as impressed as I am by their skills, I admire their card draws even more. Each drew more 6's in this one game than I saw combined in all five of the games I played. Sudy's last two hands, in particular, were the stuff of legend. You couldn't script a better set of tools.

Champion 2008
John Emery, SC

 3rd & Best French
Rich Shipley, MD

 4th & Best Austro-Russia
Bruce Young, SC

7th & Best British
Ben Sterdick, SC

Kevin Sudy, VA

Ken Gutermuth, NC

Melvin Casselbury

Rounding out our awards for the weekend were the presentation of the Best Country awards which were based on having the best record with each nation. Rich Shipley took top honors with the French for going unbeaten in three games until dropping the Final. Bruce Young claimed top Austro-Russian with wins in both of his games in command of Kutuzov. Kevin Sudy and newcomer Ben Sternick tied with 1-0 records as the best British player but Kevin broke that tie in a bad way when he failed to win the Final so the Greenville rookie came away from his first gaming convention with some lumber after having played the game only four times prior to this weekend. They teach 'em good in Greenville.

Boardgame Players Association Last updated 11/13/08 by kae.
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