Back for Seven ...
As you get older, your thoughts tend to lean toward certain dates and anniversaries. Some of them carry special significance, either historically, personally or both. (And if you are married, you know exactly what I mean.) And so I note that 2015 marks 150 years since the end of the American Civil War. It also marks the last time that A House Divided, that classic of Civil War boardgames, will be played at WBC in Lancaster (at least for the foreseeable future). Going into this year, I have to admit I was a little worried about the event. There were several veteran players—including former champs Phil Rennert and John Sutcliffe—who I knew wouldn’t be able to attend this time around, due to conflicts with other WBC tourneys, or the intrusion of real-life events that prevented them from being here. And that’s a shame, because House Divided is a great way to wind down the week. You can fight a pitched battle near Gettysburg, and after you’ve put up your dice, travel the following day to the actual battlefield, and visit the stellar Visitor’s Center there. It’s a combo I’ve become rather fond of over the past few years, and I was afraid that this might be AHD’s swan song in more ways than one.
As it turned out, I need not have worried. Despite missing a number of familiar faces, we actually increased attendance slightly. Part of this was the enthusiastic response to the demo, almost all of whom played in the mulligan round. Some of these are folks I’ve known and seen at WBC for years, while other faces were entirely new to me. One thing all of them had in common was the desire to try a game with not too many rules, and plenty of strategy. The momentum carried on from the demo into the Mulligan round, where 14 players got a fresh taste of this classic. I’ve always felt that Mulligans are a great way to ease players into wargames, especially for lighter fare such as AHD. Even new players, if they are committed, are guaranteed at least two games. And with the number of enthusiastic rookies in this year’s field, a few of them were able to rack up at least one win. That can only provide them valuable experience for future years. In fact, the biggest splashes in the 2015 tournament were made by players who have honed their craft over the past few years. Steve Kolesar had a terrific run, beating Dewayne Curry, Ray Freeman, and perennial runner-up Terry Coleman to set up a semifinal showdown with Brad Raszewski. Brad, for his part, had quality wins over Scott Sirianna and Carl Adamec, who finished sixth.
The struggle between Brad and Steve for a place in the Final was the best game of the tournament. Both were among the only players to win with both sides. However, in the semi, Brad decided to stick with the Union, and bid slightly higher than usual for the privilege. That ended up being the difference, as Steve barely won on points. Steve’s reward was to face defending champ David Metzger in the Final.
David is a very versatile player—he’s won the event with either side. But deep down, he prefers the Union, and he has a terrific feel for how to put pressure on his opponent. While things were relatively close early, David built a commanding position during the mid-game, and rolled to his 28th title—seven of them in AHD. As I’ve said before, AREA rankings are important (and I hope that all of my fellow GMs turned their tournament games in to AREA for ratings), but in the end, it’s about titles. Even though the field seems to get tougher every year, David almost always wins. David is simply, hands-down, the best AHD player of his generation.
Bidding was slightly different from last year, as bids averaged 1.33 in favor of playing the Union (down from 1.5 last year). When you consider the number of new players we had this year, the bids seem about right to me. More significant is that Union wins comprised only 52% of the total, which is the lowest since I instituted bidding a few years back. Moreover, the ratio of Union wins stayed roughly the same even during the money rounds, which would seem to show the balance is just fine for a tournament.
Congrats to David on his seventh win, and to Steve Kolesar for making his first final. My thanks also go to all of the folks who participated so enthusiastically during the demo, and to our new players, who acquitted themselves well. Will the improved field be able to finally deny David a title next year? Will AHD attendance fare as well in the new venue in 2016? My guess is we will, even though next year won’t be a Civil War anniversary—but we will need your votes in December to find out.