Back for Six ...
It's Saturday, and WBC is winding down. Maybe it's the lack
of sleep, or the sometimes questionable food choices. Whatever
the proximate cause, it results in brains incapable of sifting
through complex rules, arcane scenarios, and the various exceptions
that create opportunities for folks who normally wouldn't dream
of playing rules lawyers on TV. All of which is why I hatched
a plan a few years ago to bring A House Divided back from
the dead. In many ways, it is the perfect Saturday tournament
game: simple to learn, straightforward to play, but filled with
a wide range of strategic choices for would-be Civil War generals.
All without making your head hurt (and leaving you plenty of
energy to stay up late for Slapshot, but that's another
year, A House Divided failed to break 30 in attendance,
nor 20 for that matter. But it did stay basically stable with
the past couple of years -- not a bad thing, especially considering
that strategy fare on Saturday has opened up a bit from previous
years. In addition to the usual core group, we had some new blood
this year. And as some of the wise old veterans were to discover,
some of the more recent graduates of the AHD military
school had learned their lessons well.
What I've discovered works best for AHD is to play
the basic game rules, 2nd edition (essentially unchanged for
the past 20+ years). We stick to the 10-turn Short Game scenario,
which can be completed in under three hours. It is practically
a tradition now, that for the vast majority of the participants,
they only get to play AHD at WBC; even so, more than half
the field was able to knock off the rust in Friday night's well-attended
mulligan round, which catered to 16 players (more than the entire
attendance in some of the early WBC years). The mulligan winners
were able to get a couple of hours of well-needed sleep, since
they were thus excused from Round 1 on Saturday morning.
Unfortunately, reigning champ John Sutcliffe was among the
missing, having prior commitments that required his return to
the UK. The European contingent, however, was well-served by
Mikaela Kumlander -- the first female contestant we've had in
AHD since it returned to WBC competition. Although Mikaela
didn't win, she was a good sport, and picked up the gameplay
quickly, even though it appears she hadn't seen the game before
attending the demo.
The competition was even tougher than the past couple of years,
as evidenced by Bryan Eshleman (sixth place in 2013) going out
in the first round to Phil Rennert. Carl Adamec had a well-earned
win over Steven Raszewski, only to run headlong into five-time
champion David Metzger. Johnny Wilson fell to Steve Koleszar,
Huston Johnson lost to Brad Raszewski, and Jim Eliason showed
his old dice still have some life, as he edged Eric Filipkowski.
Meanwhile, perennial bridesmaid Terry Coleman beat James Kramer
and Steve Koleszar, Scott Sirianna knocked off Chris Bauch, and
Phil's Rebel forces took care of Jim.
With only a few minor upsets, it looked as if things would
be going per usual AHD history. Despite a good event,
Scott fell again to his nemesis, David, in the money rounds.
But Terry was beaten by Brad in a tight game, as Brad's Union
defense was just too tough for Coleman's Confederates to overcome.
But the GM was also grudgingly happy to see a good player finally
achieve his breakthrough, after Brad's narrow loss to David last
In the semifinals, Phil's experience in big games gave him
the edge against Brad's sound Union play. After Phil won an auto-victory,
he was once again in the Final, of a tournament he last won in
2001. The problem for Phil was that David, after a 2013 loss
in the semis, was once again in the Final for the sixth time
in the past seven years, a record unlikely to be broken anytime
soon unless you frequent 8XX or FTP environs. And
David had only been denied once in the last round.
Both players stayed with what got them there: David played
Union every single game, likewise for Phil and the Confederates,
so both were in their comfort zone. Due to a combination of mediocre
march dice and excellent defense, Phil was unable to break through
on either the western or eastern fronts. Although there were
a couple of big battles late, Phil was never able to land a decisive
blow. David beat Phil for the fourth time in as many meetings
to earned his 6th AHD crown. Regardless of what the AREA
ratings might show at any given time, David is by far the most
decorated AHD player in the history of WBC.
Congrats to David, and to Phil for making it to the last round
after a few years away. I'll say it every year: this is a great
group of gamers, and I really enjoy running this event. I was
happy to see some new faces, as well as the old guard, who acquitted
themselves well. As usual, I kept the format simple: No ad hoc
modifications for marching or recruiting die rolls, and no advanced
or optional rules. The format seemed to work well, and the well-attended
demo cut down on rules questions.
People seem to finally be getting a handle on the bidding.
Counting the mulligan, bids for sides were only 1.5 in favor
of playing the Union, but that included a number of new players.
When the field was trimmed to the more experienced, bids increased
to 2.3 to play the Union side. In 2013, the number of Union victories
doubled that of Confederate; Union wins comprised only 60% of
the total this year, more what one would expect from such a balanced
Will this new balanced trend hold up? Will David, like Roger
Federer or Tiger Woods, start looking over his shoulder at the
young stars coming up, like Brad? We'll need your votes in December
to find out, in the swan song for AHD in Lancaster. And
maybe one last side trip to Gettysburg...
David Metzger adds Chris Bauch to
2001 champ Phil Rennert returns to