agricola   

Updated Nov. 12, 2014

2014 WBC Report  

   2015 Status: pending 2015 GM commitment

Eric Ho, NY

2014 Champion

Event History
2008    Rob Kircher    48
2009    Tedd Mullally    98
2010    Cary Morris    97
2011    Jon Senn    89
2012    Eric Ho    94
2013    Ben Scholl    75
2014    Eric Ho    87

Euro Quest
BPA Event History
2009    Sceadeau D'Tela    37
2010    Mike Turian    26
2011    Ben Scholl    41
2012    Eric Wrobel    26

 Laurels

Rank  Name              From  Last  Total
  1.  Sceadeau D'Tela    NC    14    113
  2.  Eric Ho            NY    14    108
  3.  Mike Kaltman       PA    12     88
  4.  Ben Scholl         PA    13     75
  5.  Tedd Mullally      NJ    10     70
  6.  Cary Morris        NC    13     66
  7.  Jon Senn           PA    11     62
  8.  Rob Kircher        RI    10     53
  9.  Eric Wrobel        MD    14     50
 10.  Bill Crenshaw      VA    11     49
 11.  Dan Eppolito       PA    12     41
 12.  Randy Buehler      WA    12     39
 13.  Haim Hochboim      il    13     34
 14.  Geoffrey Pounder   on    10     30
 15.  Mike Turian        WA    10     30
 16.  Richard J. Shay    MA    09     30
 17.  Winton Lemoine     CA    13     22
 18.  Joshua Cooper      MD    11     21
 19.  David Platnick     VA    08     18
 20.  Steve LeWinter     NC    14     15
 21.  Chris Senhouse     MA    12     15
 22.  Rod Bacigalupo     MD    08     12
 23.  Rob Murray         NJ    14     10
 24.  Matthew Craig      NC    12     10
 25.  Dave Gerson        CA    10     10
 26.  Aran Warszawski    il    11      9
 27.  Jeff Mullet        OH    10      9
 28.  Richard M. Shay    MA    10      9
 29.  Alex Bove          PA    09      9
 30.  Jeff Bowers        UT    08      9
 31.  Benjamin Rosset    DC    11      6
 32.  John Downing       VA    10      6
 33.  Ken Rothstein      NY    14      5
 34.  Steve Koleszar     VA    09      5
 35.  John Corrado       VA    12      3
 36.  Mike Richey        VA    09      3

2014 Laurelists
Repeating Laurelists:

Sceadeau D'Tela, NC
2nd

Eric Wrobel, MD
3rd

Steve LeWinter, NC
4th

Rob Murray, NJ
5th

Ken Rothstein, NY
6th

Past Winners

Rob Kircher, RI
2008

Tedd Mullally, NJ
2009

Cary Morris, NC
2010

Jon Senn, PA
2011

Eric Ho, NY
2012, 2014

Tedd Mullally tries not to be dazzled by Rachel LaDue's hat.

Jessica Finkeldey and Dana Champion - tough surname to live up to.

Sharks and Sheep

With a new GM team for 2014, the format of the event was slightly modified. In previous years, each of the heats were played with a unique deck: an E-deck, an I-deck and a K-deck game. After some analysis of the previous tournaments, it was agreed that this format was faulty for two reasons. First, it provided stronger players with an even bigger advantage due to their knowledge of which cards are in each deck and the increased likelihood of seeing certain cards in the draft. Second, the I deck is much less balanced than either E deck or K deck and has no place being used in a tournament setting. For these reasons, all three heats were run using a shuffle of EIK together. The elimination rounds added the use of the WM deck shuffled into the EIK deck. Last year's Final was played exclusively with the WM deck, which led to a one-day postponement of last year's Final to allow all of the players time to study the cards. While the deck is incredibly well balanced and forces players to focus more on execution, it was decided the best way to implement use of this fabulous deck was to simply shuffle them into the EIK deck, as is popularly done on www.play-agricola.com.

The tournament attracted 87 participants, many of whom played two or three heats. It took a win and a second to advance to the semifinal. The first player to miss the cut was Keith Dent, who had a first and was tied for second in another heat, but since the two players who tied at second split the points for second and third, it put him just barely below the cut line of 16 players. Most of the participants liked the new seating format that was introduced for the tournament. After signing in, players were given a random card and assigned to a table. This prevented the confusing scramble often seen at sign-in and made bookkeeping very easy for the GMs. The heats had one triple winner, Sceadeau D'Tela, who also posted the high score of the tournament with a 60 in the second heat. All heats were 4-player games, as the number of entrants for each heat thankfully proved to be a multiple of four.

The top 16 entrants were seeded into four 4-player semifinal games using the World Cup bracket method. The top four players (Sceadeau D'Tela, Rob Murray, Daniel Eppolito and Eric Ho) were placed at four different tables. One player was subsequently chosen from each successive group randomly and the farming began. Most of the semifinalists were well known to one another for one reason: Sceadeau. Nobody has been more influential in recent years at WBC than Sceadeau has. He is considered to be the favorite in the field in whatever game he is a part of, and for good reason. In the case of Agricola, Sceadeau has personally taught many of the other semifinalists how to play Agricola at the highest level and most of the semifinalists frequently play one another online on Sceadeau's server. This year's semifinal was the equivalent of the scene in Rounders where the poker crew all ran into each other and played against one another in Atlantic City. It was a shark-filled tank.

Table 1 was the "fast" table comprised of Sceadeau, Ken Rothstein, Ed Fear and Marissa Bianco. Ed was looking to catch his Princes of Florence semifinal that started two hours after the start of the Agricola semifinal, so this game was started quickly. In fact, it moved along at such a brisk pace that they were already in the 12th round by the time Table 2 had finished their first round. This game saw a very interesting draft technique that the other players talked about for the remainder of the night after the conclusion of the event. Ken Rothstein, a Play-Agricola regular, picked Well Builder from his first pack and then proceeded to pass Village Well in his third pack of Minor Improvements! His rationale was that he would either get it back 7th or another player would take it and have a dead card in their hand, while giving him the ability to take another good card for his hand. The gambit paid off as he wheeled Village Well for his final improvement, and therefore he was able to build three Wells in the course of the game. As most games with Sceadeau normally unfold, this game was filled with laughter and good times. Sceadeau was sitting to Marissa's left and told her throughout the game that she was telling him where to make his moves. Marissa made a clay grab, which was Sceadeau's cue to build the Clay Oven out from under her before she would have a chance to get it. Later Marissa played a line which involved her passing on building a room to try to improve her food engine, which meant Sceadeau built his room first and jumped her in the growth cue. After Marissa was finished telling Sceadeau what to do, he was able to beat Ken 44 to 41 with Ed edging Marissa for third on the food tiebreaker, as both players scored 34 points.

Table 2 was a particularly strong table, as the final scores would indicate. Defending WBC champion Ben Scholl, 2012 EuroQuest champion Eric Wrobel, and two-time reigning Le Havre champ Nick Page were seated with one of Sceadeau's top students, Rob Murray. The game started with the normal scramble to acquire room parts and play useful occupations. Ben was able to play Brushwood Collector and leave the competition for reed to the other players. Although Eric was able to capitalize on Turn Order and grab large stacks of resources, Rob decided to push for the first room heading into the first harvest, where he also decided to accept four begging cards and hold onto his food. When Family Growth flipped in Round 5, the early food loan paid off, as Rob grew with Almshouse, a WM card that allows you to discard a begging card at the end of each harvest. After Ben built his room, Eric grabbed Start Player and took six wood after Nick left three wood untaken. Eric would eventually double build his rooms and grow to four workers first. While Nick is new to Agricola, he is certainly not new to tactical gaming. Nick was able to downsize his wooden hut after growing and get his farm up and running in a hurry. He was able to build the Well, Village Well and rebuild the Well in addition to a wealth of other card points. At one point, Nick played Guildmaster, which led Rob to build the Pottery two seconds later. Nick responded by saying, "Well that wasn't very nice." Fortunately, Nick was able to acquire the other two guilds with the use of his Stonecutter, which led to the other three players all perceiving Nick to be the leader. While he had a host of major improvements, his lack of family members to take actions in the late rounds would be enough to leave the door open. Ben was able to get to five stone rooms and play Chief, mitigating a few of his negative scoring categories. As Rob rushed out his Occupations in the midgame to play Quarry, he played Plow Driver for the 4th occupation, which then made the other players block the renovation spot for three rounds, led by Eric who was able to renovate twice in that span. In the end, it was the difference as Eric (47) brought home the win followed by Rob (46), Nick (44) and Ben (42) in the closest game of the tournament.

Table 3 had its share of strong gamers too with 2012 WBC runner-up Daniel Eppolito, 2013 EuroQuest winner Steve LeWinter, 2012 WBC finalist Chris Senhouse and impressive newcomer Richard Miller. In one of the highlights of the entire tournament, Eppolito's starting hand of Occupations to choose from can only be described as a one-in-a-million hand... perhaps one-in-a-billion, as there were no fewer than seven cards that could easily have been drafted first: Master Cook, Charcoal Burner, Berry Picker, Sheep Farmer, Hill Farmer, Reed Collector and Head of the Family. Daniel's choice would certainly set the tone for the game, as three players were all guaranteed two excellent cards. A big portion of the skill involved in Agricola is in drafting, and Daniel went with what he felt was both a safe and powerful move by keeping Head of the Family. Many top players disagree on the relative strength of this card, as it eases the tension for room building and growing for the other players, but it gives the bearer of the card the ability to take better first actions and use their last actions for the key moves. Daniel's hope was to wheel Master Cook and pass his first action every round for 2 food, which would combine quite nicely with being able to take great actions with the final action that couldn't be blocked via Head of the Family. In a surprising twist, Chris Senhouse took Master Cook fourth before giving Daniel back the pack for his wheel pick. So while everyone did take good cards, the power combination didn't come to pass. The only card out of the pack that was left unplayed was Hill Farmer (7th pick, which went to Steve), which can be argued amongst the top players as being one of the five best cards in EIKWm. Relatively speaking, the players at this table collectively had the least knowledge of the WM deck, with Daniel having some knowledge and small amount of experience and the other three players largely new to the cards. This made for many interesting circumstances throughout the game, which included Steve being passed Grain Elevator, another WM card and a rather powerful one (the best improvement in all of WM). Steve also happened to select Cash Crop (another WM card) with his first pick and his synergy was simply too much for the other players to overcome. Steve cruised to a win with 50 points, followed by the other players, who were separated by just one point. Chris (42) edged Daniel (42) for second by the first tiebreaker (leftover food) followed by Richard (41).

Table 4 seated the 2012 WBC champion, Eric Ho, with perennial Agricola powerhouse Bill Crenshaw, 2011 WBC champion Jon Senn, and dark horse Ian Streeb. Ian was a player to watch out for this year, as his game has tremendously improved due to his close proximity to Sceadeau and their years of Agricola lessons paying big dividends. Ian played Bargaining Baker early, a very strong WM card that supplements a baking strategy. Unfortunately for Ian, Jon was sitting to his right and played Grocer. After Jon made a clay grab, he was able to buy the grain off his Grocer and build the Clay Oven before Ian could get a chance to do so himself. Ian spent too much time afterwards trying to recover to challenge for the win. Meanwhile, Family Growth came early in Round 5. Eric took two separate build room actions, aided by Jon baking at a key moment and allowing Eric to maintain the Starting Player for the following round. Therefore, Eric built another room and grew again, jumping Ian in the growth cue and putting Ian even farther behind. After reaching 4 workers, Eric then played Farm Steward to grow to a fifth family member before the fourth harvest. His strategy was supplemented by building the first Fireplace, a timely use of Shepherd's Crook, an Almshouse food boost similar to Rob's strategy at Table 2 and a Sunday Worker that doubled the Reed, Stone, Food action in Round 7 and clay in Round 14 prior to building the Pottery. Bill attempted to catch up to Eric's lead in family members by playing a late Clay Supports, building to five rooms and renovating them to stone. A war for the renovation actions developed late in the game, and rather than getting involved, Eric used his stone on a Paved Road. Wood was also tight in the game, particularly on Jon, who needed to take three separate "3 wood" actions in order to get enough wood for his fences. Eric went on to win (43) followed by Bill (38), Jon (36) and Ian (33). The low scores for an early Family Growth game speak to the amount of blocking and jockeying for position that occurred in this game.

So the Final was set. Sceadeau was forced to drop his Brass final, as it occurred at the same time, no compromise being made available. The starting Occupation packs for each player were as follows:

Sceadeau: Hill Farmer, Clay Plasterer, Midwife, Bread Seller, Humble Farmboy, Food Connoisseur, Wood Buyer

Steve: Social Climber, Animal Breeder, Slaughterman, Hoarder, Resource Lender, Milking Hand, Stonecutter

Eric W.: Master Baker, Chief, Stablemaster, Sheep Whisperer, Bee Keeper, Wood Worker, Puppeteer

Eric H.: Chief's Daughter, Guildmaster, Hide Farmer, Covetous Farmer, Amazon, Wooden Hut Builder, Pig Breeder

Sceadeau enjoys a late growth game with early farming and unconventional means of feeding. Therefore, he drafted Hill Farmer and planned to plow a lot of early fields as his food engine. Steve's starting hand was by far the strongest, as there were goodies for everyone. Steve chose Stonecutter and wheeled Hoarder (nearly an auto-five points), leaving Eric W. with Resource Lender, Eric H. with the underrated Animal Breeder and Sceadeau with Social Climber, a card he loved to see getting to him fourth. Eric W. would take and play Puppeteer from his opening pack, which is a card that has variable value depending on the skill level of the players and the quality of their food engines. Eric H. took Guildmaster first, a strong card that would never see the table in this game. The reason can be found in the players opening Improvement packs:

Sceadeau: Changing Plans, Ram, Tavern, Drained Pond, Planter Box, Windmill, Clay Pit

Steve: Undisturbed Pond, Horse, Millstone, Basket, Riding Plow, Private Forest, Bakehouse

Eric W.: Broom, Lettuce Patch, Field, Turnip Field, Stone Exchange, Boundary Stones, Clay Hut Extension

Eric H.: Clay Supports, Fruitcake, Baking Tray, Clapper, Mini Pasture, Corn Scoop, Rake

Eric H. passed on Clay Supports, widely regarded as a top 5 card, in favor of Mini Pasture since he drafted Animal Breeder. It was a move that took a tremendous amount of restraint and discipline. He would also wheel Ram, which plays well into an animal strategy. With Sceadeau sitting to Eric's left, it meant he would likely be passed an early Mini Pasture, which also goes well with Hill Farmer. Judging from the draft and the fact that Mini Pasture should see at least two plays, if not more, fencing was unlikely going to be a problem for the finalists. Eric W. had a decent minor improvement draft as well, after selecting Turnip Field first and wheeling the Broom. Turnip Field would allow him to sow when taking start player, as sowing is typically a weak action unless a baking strategy is being employed. The random draw of seven new cards from Broom is usually good enough to find one or two useful bits to improve one's game.

The final drafted hands of each player (in order) were as follows:

Sceadeau: Hill Farmer ­ Chief's Daughter ­ Chief ­ Social Climber ­ Wood Buyer ­ Wooden Hut Builder ­ Stablemaster; Clay Pit ­ Private Forest ­ Field ­ Corn Scoop ­ Windmill ­ Millstone ­ Stone Exchange

Steve: Stonecutter ­ Food Connoisseur ­ Hide Farmer ­ Wood Worker ­ Hoarder ­ Midwife ­ Covetous Farmer; Riding Plow ­ Lettuce Patch ­ Baking Tray ­ Planter Box ­ Bakehouse ­ Boundary Stones ­ Clapper

Eric W.: Puppeteer ­ Resource Lender ­ Humble Farmboy ­ Pig Breeder ­ Sheep Whisperer ­ Milking Hand ­ Bread Seller; Turnip Field ­ Clay Supports ­ Drained Pond ­ Horse ­ Broom ­ Fruitcake ­ Tavern

Eric H.: Guildmaster ­ Bee Keeper ­ Animal Breeder ­ Clay Plasterer ­ Amazon ­ Master Baker ­ Slaughterman; Mini Pasture ­ Changing Plans ­ Basket ­ Clay Hut Extension ­ Rake ­ Ram ­ Undisturbed Pond

The Final

Stage 1:

Sceadeau was the start player and opened the game by playing Hill Farmer. After Steve took RSF, Eric W. played his Resource Lender and took the standard 1 reed Resource Lender second action, which became 2 reed after being distributed on the following rounds. It's an interesting technique as it both puts more reed into the game and denies the other players a large reed grab in Round 2. Sceadeau maintained the Start Player by playing Private Forest, which would net him 7 wood in the game. In the second round, Sceadeau hit the RSF spot and then plowed a field to get back 2 food. Things looked good for Steve early too, as he got RSF and 2 wood in the first round and followed that with a free Stonecutter in Round 2 and a Start Player action with a Baking Tray. Eric W. made a questionable play in Round 2 by taking 1 reed and distributing again with his first action, as it would likely have been available with his second action. With his second action, he played Puppeteer ­ a gambit that only time would tell whether or not was worth the risk. Eric H. played quietly from the 4th seat, acquiring 8 wood and 2 clay in the first two rounds. The remaining two rounds of Stage 1 would see Eric H. play Bee Keeper, which is essentially a House Goat that allows you to still keep an animal in the house, but burns a stable to do so, as well as build the first Fireplace when Major/Minor flipped in Round 4, followed by a 4 sheep grab. The other players grabbed food and room parts, with Sceadeau plowing another field to get his food.

Stage 2:

Steve built the first room, but ran into a problem because Sceadeau had reclaimed Start Player at the end of Stage 1 by playing Corn Scoop, and after taking RSF and then 2 Grain, Steve was in danger of losing the Clay Oven, since Sceadeau also acquired 4 clay in Round 3. This forced Steve to take the Start Player back in Round 5 and play Clay Oven as a Minor Improvement without a grain to bake. It was an unfortunate circumstance that would take Steve a few rounds to recover from due to the loss of the potential 5 food he could've had if he had a grain in his possession. Therefore, after growing in Round 6, he was forced to take a grain and then take Start Player again with the Stone Oven and baking the grain for 5 food in the Clay Oven. So while he had good card points and first growth, he lost a lot of tempo on his way to trying to develop a sustainable food engine. Meanwhile, Sceadeau was happy to continue farming, getting a 6 wood grab (his only wood action of the game!) and playing Social Climber. Eric W. build the second room and grew second, playing Horse, building the Basketmaker's Workshop and also taking Traveling Players at 5 food, thus shutting the door on a one food Puppeteer action for at least a few more rounds. Eric H. played a Round 5 Animal Breeder, finally got his first 2 reed in Round 6 once Eric W. stopped taking it early and "Lending" it, and then played his Start Player / Mini Pasture action to fence a square and buy 2 cattle. While the move left him with two food, it was a move that put into motion his sustainable food engine. He would then build a room and two stables in Round 7 to temporarily give room for more animals if needed. He ate a sheep to pay for his feeding at harvest, but bred a very important third cattle.

Stage 3:

The board was juiced with resources throughout Stage 3. Eric H. opened Stage 3 with another strong move by growing and Changing Plans, placing his two built stables back into his supply in order to plow two fields. His remaining actions of the third stage would also be very strong which included 3 reed, 6 clay and a 5 sheep grab that he immediately converted to 10 food. This was a pivotal point in the game, and Eric H. was lucky that there was 6 wood on the board for Eric W. to take because otherwise a sheep sweep was likely Eric W.'s move. Sceadeau continued to farm, renovating and building the Well, powered by his Social Climber. He would also take a vegetable and sow his three fields with 2 grain and 1 vegetable in Round 9 before finishing Stage 3 by taking the Start Player and playing the Field minor improvement for a net gain of one food. Steve grabbed more resources (4 wood, 4 clay), fenced 3 pastures for 10 wood and took Traveling Players at 4 food, which activated Eric W.'s Puppeteer. He decided to play Bread Seller, since it was likely that Steve would need to bake bread for the remainder of the game. After taking a vegetable, Eric W. played Turnip Field with his family growth action at the end of Round 9 and used it to sow his new vegetable.

Stage 4:

Sceadeau opened the stage by building his room and playing Windmill with his Family Growth action, which was his back-up plan in case he was unable to acquire an oven to complement his farming strategy. This allowed Steve to take 4 stone and Eric W. to plow a field. Eric H. renovated to clay and played Clay Hut Extension to be able to grow with a Ram the following round. Steve would also renovate in stage 4 and build the Bakehouse, baking two grain for ten food and giving Eric W. a very timely two food that he needed for the next harvest. Eric W. built 13 fences in this stage and also built a Cooking Hearth to supplement his food engine with the ability to take animals off the board from other players and feed his family. Sceadeau grabbed the Start Player with a Mini Pasture in order to take the first action in Round 12, which is when Plow / Sow and Family Growth without Room flip. The fourth harvest would see Eric H. begin to breed both Sheep and Cattle.

Stage 5:

Plow / Sow hit in Round 12, which was good for Sceadeau as he plowed another field and sowed another 2 grain and 1 vegetable. After taking 3 sheep and 4 clay, he was also set to build another room with his Clay Hut Extension in the following round. Although there were 2 boar on the board, Steve already had 3, so he elected to play Hide Farmer to help mitigate his largely empty board. Eric W. got the 2 boar and Eric H. plowed another field. Steve would get a 4 wood grab with his second action and then put his stone to use by renovating with a Joinery to boot. Eric W. took the Start Player this round and Broomed away his remaining Minor Improvements. After a moment of anticipation as the GM shuffled the cards, Eric W. essentially struck out on his Broom deal: Kindling, Raft, Reed Nursery, Granary, Crooked Plow, Clay Path and Manure. Eric was one clay short of playing the Clay Path, and most of the remaining cards were no longer useful this late in the game. Sadly, he played Manure, which was indicative of the quality of his Broom. Eric H. ramped up for the end of the game by taking more stone, more wood and a vegetable in Round 12. Round 13 saw Eric W. open by Plow / Sowing his vegetable and giving Eric H. the Family Growth without Room action. Steve put more of his stone to use by building the Pottery, which would help him reserve food for his Hide Farmer. Eric W. continued to round out his farm by plowing another field and grabbing a boar. He also snuck another boar in before harvest by playing Pig Breeder when Eric H. took the Traveling Players action for 4 food.

Stage 6:

The last round saw Sceadeau open with Reno / Fence, which filled his remaining open spaces. Steve began the first of his three final actions by taking a grain. Eric W. jumped on the Family Growth without Room and Eric H. was also happy to plow / sow a vegetable. The plow / sow for Eric completed his Rake, which was worth two bonus points. So even though Eric went 4th in Round 14, he was able to get this action mainly because Steve had no fields and was able to better maximize his score through other actions and Eric W. had already filled his board. Sceadeau then took the Sow / Bake action one last time to multiply his grain and vegetables and power a Windmill that he would need since he was completely out of food. Steve fished for 3 food, which was essentially three points for his Hide Farmer. Eric W. grabbed a cattle and Eric H. took 6 wood, which gave him materials to build 3 late stables. Sceadeau took a 2-point boar and Steve then took another 3-point action ­ Reed, Stone, Food! He would later hoard the reed and fill a board spot with the food. Eric grabbed one reed to end his game for another bonus point. Eric H. built his three stables, Sceadeau ended by playing Chief's Daughter and Eric H. renovated and upgraded to a much needed Hearth. After final feeding and breeding, Eric H.'s Animal Breeder and late completion of a two-point Rake proved to be slightly stronger than Sceadeau's early farming / late growth strategy. The final scores were Eric Ho (46), Sceadeau D'Tela (43), Eric Wrobel (40) and Steve LeWinter (37).

The victory by Eric is significant in that he became the first two-time WBC Agricola champion, winning his second title in three years and solidifying his rating among the sharks. He also becomes the only player to score Agricola laurels in each of the last three years. The key point in Eric's game proved to be the 5 sheep grab in Round 9, which followed his 4 sheep from Round 4. Ironically, sheep were also key to Eric's 2012 victory, as Daniel Eppolito had a tough decision to make heading into the late game and decided not to sweep sheep on Eric with his first action in that round. Eric didn't hesitate to take the sheep with his own first action and use the food to carry him to victory.

GM Rob Murray and his four co-finalists.

No fair ... Sceadeau brought a sheep dog with him.

 GM     Rob Murray (1st Year)  NA 
   zenvedev@hotmail.com   NA

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