End of the Road? ...
Tom Demarco, Michael Kaltman
and Eric Grondin in a qualifying game in the first heat.
Dana Champion, Ken Horan and Kevin
Waalsh in a qualifying game during the first heat.
A mix of the old and the new at perhaps the last WBC Caylus
"Is Caylus showing its age?" I posed this
question a year ago, when attendance dipped to a new low (34)
for its two heats. Despite my personal pessimism, the game did
indeed return, as a Century event, for WBC 2012.
Whatever optimism I may have had for future runs may have
been dashed when 'the bottom fell out' for this year's attendance.
Only 23 players participated in at least one game, with a total
of eight games played in the two heats. Six players participated
in both heats; I myself sat out Heat 2 to enable 4-player games.
Perhaps most striking was the lack of past champions; in fact,
none of the previous six winners entered the field ... including
defending champion, Jefferson Meyer, who like so many had conflicts
with other games. What this did guarantee was that we would have
yet another new champion ... and there was a good mix of the
old- and new-school participating.
One heat winner, David Duncan, was unable to make the semifinal.
The six remaining winners (including Rich Atwater, the only double
winner) were joined by two alternates. Mathieu Paré-Paquin
with two seconds and Jason Long, the closest second edged Ken
Horan, third in 2011, for the right to advance.
The top two from each semifinal table would advance, with the
winners claiming the first two spots on the initial turn order.
The other two 2011 finalists, Rich Meyer and Mike Kaltman, both
have made multiple Caylus Finals, and were able to win
to advance ... but through very different circumstances.
At one table, buildings came early and often. By game's end,
every wood and stone building was built, in addition to a Prestige
building. Along the way, Matt spent many turns hitting the Gate
and Guild to wreak havoc on other, unsuspecting players. This
proved costly to Rich Atwater, who lost eight workers to the
Provost. (Matt did not fare much better; by game's end, he edged
Rich for third, 66-64.) With help from the Building Track and
the opportunity to build all three 'stone farms', Mike racked
up 113 for the win; newcomer Otis Comorau weathered the storm
to finish with a solid 78 points, locking up a Final spot.
While a 'building boom' was going on at this table, the other
game (which included perennial strong players Kevin Walsh and
Alex Bove) experienced a 'building bust'. The lack of resource
cubes got so serious that Rich Meyer found himself hitting the
usually-weak Resource Favor track numerous times to complement
the Building Favor track. In fact: just prior to the end of the
Walls phase, only a handful of buildings (and no 'stone farms')
had been actually built. Rich was able to pull away by the end,
scoring 95 to best his nearest competitor by more than 20. Jason
Long would prove to be 'that competitor', holding off Kevin and
Alex at the end for second place and another life at the Final,
73-68-66. (One turn before the end, Kevin put enough batches
in the castle to leave Alex only three slots, depriving him of
a crucial endgame favor.)
Those who would like a move-by-move replay of the Final can
find the Session Report at BoardGameGeek; here, though, is a
summary of how the final game went:
Rich and Mike both went for the Building Track early, while
Otis and Jason opted for early Carpenter plays (getting out the
'cloth-cloth' and 'stone-stone' producers during the first couple
of turns). Rich would get two castle batches in early (gaining
one immediate favor and one at the end of the Dungeon phase),
while Mike opted to get just one castle batch (gaining one immediate
favor) and one trip to the Joust to get to level 2 on the Building
track; Mike's Marketplace hit the table before Rich's Peddler.
Mike would go on to build the first 'stone farm' (the Farm, which
produces 'food-food-cloth'), while Rich would build the Park
('wood-wood-food') shortly thereafter.
The turning point came when, during the last round of the
Walls phase, Rich and Otis (and later Jason) beat Mike to the
castle. Mike had only gotten in a single castle batch for the
phase, and was shut out from end-of-round favors while Rich deposited
four batches and used favors to construct two more stone buildings
(the Alchemist and an Architect) to open up a commanding lead
that he would never relinquish. The Tower phase would only last
two rounds; on the second round, Rich and Mike combined to deposit
11 batches in the castle; Otis (who sensed some danger) put in
two himself that round to complete the Tower and end the game.
Mike was able to pass Jason and Otis on the scoring track during
this final round, but fell short of Rich (who kept the #1 Plaque
in the family, as his son won it all one year earlier).
Final scores: Rich 76, Mike 67, Otis 60, Jason 44. Rich proved
to be the seventh different winner in as many years. Will there
be a chance for eight winners? We'll have to wait and see.
* * *
Personal thoughts ...
As has been the case every year I've been GMing this game, I
strove to avoid conflicts with two other 'heavy Euros': Agricola
and Le Havre. I also tried to avoid Puerto Rico,
after losing a finalist to the PRO semis. Unfortunately,
this meant running Caylus against the likes of El Grande,
Goa, Egizia, 7 Wonders, and other popular games. This certainly
helped to account for the low turnout.
I actually referred to the Final as "the Last Shuffleboard
Tournament on the Titanic" when I posted my experiences
from this year's WBC on BGG. I sincerely hope that Caylus
finds a way to sneak back in, though I fear that, if it does
return, it will only do so as a 'Trial' event. For what it's
worth, I've heard from a number of people who would be saddened
to see this game go.
Once again, I must give thanks to Ken Horan for assisting
with attendance and taking copious notes for the Final. Will
I return as GM for Caylus if it returns? If it somehow
makes it back as a Century event, then by all means I will give
it another go. If it returns as a Trial event, I'll have to think
about it. (There's a good chance that Rich Meyer would take over
if it returns.)
If it does return, I would likely add a heat on Monday and
make all heats two hours in length; the 3-hour duration likely
kept many otherwise interested participants from competing. I
will admit to being very disappointed this year that I couldn't
pull this one out, especially considering the circumstances regarding
its uncertain future. This may have been my last chance; I hope
it was not so. Regardless, I'll be back for WBC 2013. Thank you
for this GMing opportunity!
Kevin Walsh, Eric Grondin, Jason Ley
and Daniel Speyer in the second heat.
Ass't GM Ken Horan oversees his finalists
while subbing for finalist Mike Kaltman.