No Longer a Bridesmaid ...
Eric Eshleman, Robert Cranshaw and
Winton Lemoine, Jeff Cornett and Rich
45 3-player preliminary games generated four triple-winners
and eight double-winners, so it once again took a 1st and a close
second to advance to the semifinals. Two-time champion Jason
Ley returned to the Final by virtue of a 16-point semifinal win
over Andrew Emerick, who seemed quite content to have lost by
just enough to earn the much-coveted 6th place sand plaque. The
other two-time champion, Randy Buehler, won his semi by a comfortable
63 points. Aran Warszawski had the most talked about semifinal
win because he deployed the little-used Age 1 champion Frederick
Barbarosa to tremendous effect and leveraged his early military
advantage into a 57-point win over triple-heat-winner Sceadeau
D'Tela. Joel Lytle, who had twice finished second in this event
twice, had the closest semi but his patented come-from-behind
strategy was just enough to edge Haim Hochboim by 5 points.
The Final started with all focused on military. By the end
of the Age 1 arms race players had combined to build nine Swordsmen,
five Warriors, two Knights, and a Great Wall (not to mention
two Bread and Circuses). Like any good arms race, this one ended
in a détente where no one gained a meaningful advantage
but no one managed to build much infrastructure either as all
resources got funneled into military.
Aran pulled ahead early in Age 2 when Columbus discovered
an Inhabited Territory 2 and then on his next turn he was able
to upgrade his Legion tactic to a Classic Army. However, his
Robespierre didn't find a government until an early Age 3 Republic
so he wasn't able to forge an insurmountable lead. Randy had
the culture lead for most of the game, but Jason defensively
drafted Michaelangelo away from him so the lead was minimal.
Between a continued focus on military by everyone and an early
Age 3 Rats event that ate a total of 20 food (7+7+3+3), no one
managed to develop a good infrastructure or a meaningful culture
Aran used Einstein to good effect in Age 3, and when he followed
up with First Space Flight (for 26), he seemed to be in position
to win. Randy was sitting a close second on culture with two
turns to go, but he had never managed to upgrade his mines above
Bronze so his rock supply was very low. Meanwhile, Jason was
in third, and Joel trailied by about fifty (84-82-71-30). Randy
could have built military to lock up 2nd by making sure nothing
could go wrong, but he decided instead to play to maximize his
chances of winning and thus on the last turn of Age 3 he sank
his last rocks into culture in an effort to catch Aran.
Joel was sitting in the 4th seat and as Age 4 began, he was
able to declare a War on Culture against Randy plus use the rocks
he had previously plundered from Jason to build an Air Force
to supplement his two Napoleonic Armies. Randy was prepared for
aggressions with a handful of defense cards, but he had no answer
to the war. It wasn't a huge war - only 18 points - but the game
was so close, and so low scoring, that losing 18 culture was
enough to drop Randy from 1st all the way down to 4th. More importantly,
gaining 18 culture pulled Joel into a tie for 2nd going into
the Impacts (90-79-79-73).
With so little separation, the game was clearly going to come
down to the Impacts. Joel spent some time on his last turn trying
to anticipate which Impacts other players had seeded, and he
built just enough military strength to move 1 point ahead of
Aran (who he guessed had probably seeded Impact of Strength).
Aran had in fact seeded Impact of Strength so that last point
of strength turned into a 10-point culture swing in Joel's favor,
and Joel was able to come all the way back to win by 6!
After two runner-up finishes in previous years, Joel finally
got the shield he really wanted. His come-from-behind strategy
had worked for him in a heat win over Aran, in the semifinals
against Haim, and once again in the Final. It was a very well-played
game all around, and Joel had to do everything right down the
stretch to win it, but that's exactly what he did. Congratulations
to a very worthy champion!
Bonus section: Here are stats for all the wonders that
were built during the 3-player heats. Popularity shows what percentage
of games each wonder was built in, and average finish is what
you think it is (so 2.0 is par and smaller numbers are better).
Pyramids 84% /1.76
Hanging Gardens 70% /2.13
Library of Alexandria 43%/2.00
St. Peter's Basilica 50%/1.77
Universitas Carolinas 34%/2.07
Great Wall 25%/1.91
Taj Mahal 9% /2.25
Transcontinental Railroad 80%/1.83
Eiffel Tower 43% / 2.11
Ocean Liner 18% /2.13
Kremlin 9% /2.25
First Space Flight 61% /1.19
Fast Food Chains 52%/1.96
Internet 20% /1.78
Hollywood 0% / n/a
When you consider that Pyramids doesn't always come out of
the deck, it is by far the most popular Wonder, and its finishes
would seem to justify that. Speaking of finishes, First Space
Flight winning 23 of the 27 games it was built in is pretty absurd,
though (to be fair) building FSF is sometimes a symptom of a
game that has gone well rather than a cause. Meanwhile, on the
other end of the spectrum, you should probably think twice before
you build Colossus, Taj Mahal, or Kremlin.
The finalists, including two past
champs, gather for one more romp through the ages.