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The Highland Handicap Last updated 7186/2018.

By Stuart “The Happy Handicapper” Tucker


Part 4 — July 17, 2018

Germantown, MD—All right, the horses are at the gate, loading for the race. We have a couple of late scratches from our field of 71 teams, but the field is very strong. I think this year is a time to be brutally honest. In past years, I have given out too many hugs to middling teams. The convention is full of sharks, and apparently they are keen enough to realize their free agency is valuable. I’m thrilled to see that solid wood contenders are forming new teams and upsetting the status quo. So, here’s my first two predictions:  (1) the champs (what is left of them) will not repeat, and (2) the defection of Bruce Reiff from the now-misnamed Harry B’s is their demise. I can’t fault who they got to replace him, but Reiff’s new team, The Western PA Social Club is a high favorite that I believe will outscore the Harry B’s. I’m sure Bruce already has a side bet going on that matter; I’d like a piece of that action. I’m so certain of this, that there is no point in putting the Harry B’s into my Pick Ten. Let us stick to contenders who have a chance to beat Reiff’s new juggernaut. I like The Siegelmen and Wabbit’s Wevenge a lot. I also like Nest of Spies, with the qualification that I will be doing everything I legally can in order to stop Byrd from scoring for them (sorry, Chris, this year is MINE in HRC). And I’ll take Band of Fools to round out my top five choices.

Now, as you all know, I usually advocate breaking from the betting crowd and picking underrated teams that can upset the apple cart. However, I am not going to reward mediocrity that isn’t showing signs of brilliance. I also can’t go for the extreme long shots no matter how interesting it would be for Robo Dobby or Dominant Pieces to win. I look across the field this year and see many a team that is better than average (better than 70-1 odds). So, I’m going with them. And, yes, I have to reward those dice-loving Canucks for concentrating together a super-team:  Alphas indeed. Robbing Peter was a good move by Paul. I just HAVE to go with The Flying Circus (even if none of their games have fighter planes). The economic cycle is right for MIT SGS. And Gang Greene is hitting their stride. This rounds out my Pick Ten. I will certainly have a lot of egg on my face if some gang of lesser-knowns steal a bunch of Euro Wood, but this is still a bettor’s card to win the Bracket Challenge. Go with it. Thank me later. (Ken will be punching me at his first opportunity, so keep him busy with convention business …)

Tucker’s Pick Ten:

  1. Nest of Spies (21-1)
  2. The Western PA Social Club (26-1)
  3. The Siegelmen (28-1)
  4. Band of Fools (30-1)
  5. Wabbit’s Wevenge (33-1)
  6. Robbing Peter to Pay Paul (40-1)
  7. MIT SGS (41-1)
  8. Gang Greene (43-1)
  9. The Flying Circus (58-1)
  10. Canucks:  Alphas (60-1)
RankEntryTeam Power Rating*Odds
11The Harry B's49221-1
255Nest of Spies48821-1
360The Western PA Social Club40526-1
434The Siegelmen36628-1
510Band of Fools35330-1
630Hold on to yer butts35230-1
721Greenville Mafia: Tattaglia31134-1
840Wabbit's Wevenge31134-1
916Uncivil Servants30434-1
1052Me & Three Stiffs29735-1
1148Robbing Peter to Pay Paul26140-1
1233MIT SGS25641-1
1370No Maly25441-1
1420Greenville Mafia: Corleone24543-1
1518Mantis Shrimp23445-1
1649Rage Quit23245-1
175Gaming Speed Bumps23146-1
1838Iron Meeples21749-1
1912Gang Greene21150-1
2043ACTS Whisperers21050-1
2171Fight of the Concords19554-1
2235Beach Bums18757-1
239The Flying Circus18358-1
2425Dice Monkeys18059-1
2539Team Delaware XXV17860-1
2656Canucks: Alphas17760-1
2741We win our teammate's game15768-1
28673 Brits & A Yank15768-1
2968Too Many Hugs15369-1
3053Four Random Dudes15270-1
3146Ghost Division12486-1
3211Pardon My French11990-1
333ADMW Warriors11890-1
3458Canucks: Astronauts11593-1
3561Sgt. Pepper's11593-1
3662Bigger on the Inside11593-1
3713The Redscape Formula11295-1
3831Lion in Winter FIRE11295-1
3927Naps Are Underrated10998-1
4024Greenville Mafia: Cuneo10899-1
4150School of Sharks106101-1
4264LOL Gamerz99110-1
4351The Other Shea Family93110-1
4459Local Yokels85130-1
456Mighty Dice84130-1
4647Train Conductors83130-1
4719The Carlisle Conspiracy81130-1
4863Too Shea81130-1
4932Lion in Winter ICE79140-1
5065Mountin' Laurels78140-1
5136Only on the Weekends75140-1
5342Sweep the Leg69160-1
5466I Like Waffles66160-1
558The Philly Special (Plus Brad)65160-1
5629Epic Fail!63170-1
5715Princess & the Frogs61180-1
5822Greenville Mafia: Barzini61180-1
607Let the Fest begin!56190-1
6117Los Lobos Locos55190-1
6228Pixel Juice54200-1
6345Wheat, Chit and Die51210-1
6444The Pro-Crastinators48220-1
6526Enumerated Powers36300-1
6669Robo Dobby35300-1
6757Canucks: Team Werewolf28400-1
6837Dominant Pieces27400-1
694Two Off the Top17600-1
7023Greenville Mafia: Stracchi34000-1
712RPI Gaming Club25000-1
*A team's Power Rating is the sum of its players' Baton Ratings.

Part 3 — July 9, 2018

Germantown, MD—The big jaw dropper is that our defending champions are not returning intact. Four Random Dudes (81-1) retain two champs, but are otherwise a random prospect in the middle of the pack. Let’s give a warm welcome back to The Siegelmen (33-1), who had an outstanding year, placing them now as the current third favorite. Wabbit’s Wevenge (39-1) sticks together; can they call their shots this year? We have a new team of ringers, Robbing Peter to Pay Paul (47-1) who just may steal the Belt. Rage Quit (53-1) is back, but I think we need to split up these Arrakeens for them to see success. Roll One Die lost Mullet to become ACTS Whisperers (59-1), with a significant drop in their chances. Also dropping in value are the Train Conductors (150-1) who lost two key engines. Angela’s Assets beefs up with the addition of Hitchings, but their new name may be a suitable warning:  Only on the Weekends (170-1). A Eurogamer longshot is the new team of Dominant Pieces (500-1) which shows some solid potential. Note that Mantis Shrimp (53-1) has been upgraded by a swap of a couple of players. Flying Circus (99-1) also makes a change.

A few of these teams have provisional odds, as they scramble to find legitimate (registered) teammates. Don’t be like The Pro-Crastinators (98-1). Get your valid team together before the fast-approaching deadline arrives.

Tucker’s Pick Ten:

  1. Nest of Spies (21-1)
  2. The Western PA Social Club (26-1)
  3. The Siegelmen (28-1)
  4. Band of Fools (30-1)
  5. Wabbit’s Wevenge (33-1)
  6. Robbing Peter to Pay Paul (40-1)
  7. MIT SGS (41-1)
  8. Gang Greene (43-1)
  9. The Flying Circus (58-1)
  10. Canucks:  Alphas (60-1)
RankEntryTeamPower Rating*Odds
11The Harry B's49224-1
255Nest of Spies48825-1
334The Siegelmen36633-1
410Band of Fools35334-1
530Hold on to yer butts35235-1
621Greenville Mafia: Tattaglia31139-1
740Wabbit's Wevenge31139-1
816Uncivil Servants30440-1
952Me & Three Stiffs29741-1
1048Robbing Peter to Pay Paul26147-1
1133MIT SGS25648-1
1220Greenville Mafia: Corleone24550-1
1318Mantis Shrimp23452-1
1449Rage Quit23253-1
155Gaming Speed Bumps23153-1
1638Iron Meeples21757-1
1712Gang Greene21158-1
1843ACTS Whisperers21059-1
193ADMW Warriors19563-1
2035Beach Bums18766-1
2125Dice Monkeys18069-1
2239Team Delaware XXV17869-1
2341We win our teammate's game15779-1
2453Four Random Dudes15281-1
2544The Pro-Crastinators12698-1
269The Flying Circus12599-1
2746Ghost Division124100-1
2811Pardon My French119104-1
2950School of Sharks116107-1
3013The Redscape Formula112111-1
3131Lion in Winter FIRE112111-1
3227Naps Are Underrated109114-1
3324Greenville Mafia: Cuneo108115-1
3451The Other Shea Family93130-1
356Mighty Dice84150-1
3647Train Conductors83150-1
3719The Carlisle Conspiracy81150-1
3832Lion in Winter ICE79160-1
3936Only on the Weekends75170-1
4142Sweep the Leg69180-1
428The Philly Special (Plus Brad)65190-1
4329Epic Fail!63200-1
4415Princess & the Frogs61200-1
4522Greenville Mafia: Barzini61200-1
477Let the Fest begin!56220-1
4817Los Lobos Locos55230-1
4928Pixel Juice54230-1
5045Wheat, Chit and Die51240-1
5126Enumerated Powers36300-1
5237Dominant Pieces27500-1
534Two Off the Top17700-1
5423Greenville Mafia: Stracchi34000-1
552RPI Gaming Club26000-1
*A team's Power Rating is the sum of its players' Baton Ratings.

Part 1 — July 1, 2018

Germantown, MD—If it is July, it must be time to scramble to get together your team for the Team Tournament at the World Boardgame Championships. The events start in less than three weeks. With registration running high, this year could be a crowded field of contenders. Before launching into this year’s predictions, let us take a look at last year’s effort.

While I may have fallen short in bracket busting the competition with my Top Ten, at least I had the winner:  Four Random Dudes (a 57-1 shot in an 82-team field that indeed proved to be better than average).  Four of my picks made the top ten. One (Wabbit’s Wevenge) barely missed (being one of the six teams tied for 8th with eleven points, but losing out due to the number-of-entrants tiebreaker). Two other picks scored in the top 25. My congratulations go out to the eight Bracket Buster contestants who outpicked me in 2017.

Tucker’s 2017 Pick Ten (result):

  1. The Harry B’s (3rd)
  2. Nest of Spies (7th)
  3. The Siegelmen (25th)
  4. Department of Agriculture (2nd)
  5. Roll One Die
  6. GM:  Old Ironsides
  7. Wabbit’s Wevenge (12th)
  8. Four Random Dudes (1st)
  9. School of Sharks
  10. The Carlisle Conspiracy (22nd)

As for the longshots which made the top ten this year, they only serve to prove that winning it all takes more than a single anchor and a sidekick. In a normal year, 11-13 points won’t win, so broaden your team recruitment plan and get together teams that have a good chance in 3-4 events. The favorites this year again will be those teams with no significant weak links among their four members. Your team needs to show mastery of four events to be among the blue bloods of the sport. So, unless there is a scattering of personnel, this handicapper will be making these five teams the favorites:

  1. The Harry B’s
  2. Nest of Spies
  3. The Siegelmen
  4. Band of Fools
  5. Department of Agriculture

Don’t count out some of the recent contenders who may have what it takes to get to (stay at) the top:

  1. Uncivil Servants
  2. Gang Greene
  3. Four Random Dudes
  4. Lion in Winter
  5. Dice Loving Canucks:  Boys
  6. The Carlisle Conspiracy

If you know what is good for you, stay away from Pixel Juice. Tune back in a few days to see the odds for teams entered this year.