The Spice of Life
Quinn Dyer and Matt Fagan still sporting
his Avaloncon shirt. Would that I could say the same.
2005 champ Phil Barcafer, Paul Saunders
(our first Dune champ) and Stephane Dorais
Still in the Family ...
We started the 2013 tournament with only one significant change:
the elimination of 3-player alliances. There was some uncertainty
as to whether that might lead to longer or shorter games, but
those fears were apparently unfounded. The average game this
year lasted 7.0 game turns over 4.3 hours, actually slightly
under the overall 13-year average. Only two games were required
to be adjudicated; the majority were able to finish within the
allotted 5 hours.
However, this year we saw the greatest disparity in win percentages
among factions that we have ever had. The Emperor, normally a
mid-tier faction, led the way with a 73% win rate, the second-highest
recorded. (Behind the BG at 75% in 2008.) On the other end of
the scale, the Atreides, also frequently a mid-tier faction,
recorded the second-lowest win rate of all time at 8%. (That's
only one win out of 12, beating only the Fremen in 2001 when
they were shut out.) The BG, Guild, Harkonnen, and Fremen were
spread fairly evenly, in that order, across the span in between.
year by year, there is quite variance in individual faction performance.
One year, one faction may be at the top, and the next year it's
at the bottom. However, some distinctive trends have emerged.
The overall average win rates (taking into account equally wins
of all types) of the various factions show some definite disparities:
The middle four factions (Harkonnen, Emperor, Guild, and Atreides)
are really not that far apart statistically. But the BG appear
to have a fairly significant advantage, and the Fremen, despite
our addition of the "free full-strength combat in desert"
house rule, have an obvious disadvantage. Naturally, this has
led to many discussions about potentially "nerfing"
the BG somehow, probably by weakening the Voice, at least when
used by allies, and/or "buffing" the Fremen further,
ideally by giving them an alliance power that will actually make
them an attractive ally. However, I am also considering introducing
a bidding system to replace random faction assignment, if I can
find one that will work well for us. Rather than endlessly trying
to balance the inherently asymmetric faction powers (and further
departing from standard Dune rules), it may be best to just acknowledge
the imbalance and let players bid for their favorite factions.
I am open to comments and suggestions for the coming year.
At times, it seemed the theme for this year's tournament had
become "youth vs. experience". Eighth grader Rachael
Day waded into the shark-infested waters for the first time and
ended up registering wins in all three heats, the only person
to do so this year. She took on the full gauntlet of experienced
players and four former champions and managed to negotiate alliance
wins as the Emperor (twice) and as the Atreides (the only Atreides
win of the tournament). And our youngest-ever newcomer, sixth
grader Aidan Powers, soon to have his Battle Cry hopes by that
dastardly villain Pete Stein, single-handedly demolished yours
truly with a frightening display of diplomatic ability, deploying
his Emperor's ample supply of spice and cards to wipe my Harkonnen
from the board.
Best Faction plaques returned this year, with a set being retroactively
distributed to last year's winners, as well as this year's: Rachael
Day, both best Atreides and best Emperor; Michael Day (Rachael's
father), best BG; Matt Fagan, best Fremen (working on his second
set of plaques); Phil Barcafer, best Guild; and Wray Ferrell,
The championship game shaped up to be another great match, with
six players recording parts of two or more wins apiece to advance.
Carl Krosnick, a relative newcomer in the tournament, but an
expert in Dune rules, drew the Atreides (his first time playing
them,or so he claimed). Wray Ferrell returned for the third time
in four years to take the BG. Lee Proctor returned for the second
year running to get the Emperor. Two-time champion Bill Dyer
drew the Fremen and received a number of condolences on his upcoming
loss. Up-and-coming star Rachael Day took the Guild, and her
father, Michael, stepped in as first alternate for the absent
Ty Hansen to play the Harkonnen. At the start, it was agreed
that the game would be terminated after the scheduled eight hours,
rather than playing to the bitter end if it went long.
Three worms in Turn 3 saw an interesting development: The
Emperor and BG, the two strongest factions of the year, allied
and looked like an immediate threat. The Atreides and Fremen
responded with an alliance also in very good position, leaving
the Guild and Harkonnen together. However, a second worm gave
the Fremen a free ride and apparently the extra momentum needed
to try for a solo win, because he dropped the Atreides. Then,
the third worm caused the Fremen to run back to the Atreides,
after he heard fragments of the other players' plans to block
his solo win attempt, to the Atreides' visible glee. Even with
a close eye on the clock, gameplay became much more involved
and slowed down significantly at this point. In an amazing twist,
the Atreides and the BG each decided to abandon their current
allies and publicly agreed to ally with each other at the next
Nexus. They then proceeded to deny their current allies all aid
and essentially played as if they were already allied, leading
to some very interesting board dynamics. (For example, the Atreides,
sitting to his ally's left, repeatedly moved to spice blows first,
denying his Fremen soon-to-not-be-ally access.) When the next
worm appeared on Turn 5, the Atreides and BG consummated their
new alliance, putting the Emperor and Fremen together and leaving
the Guild-Harkonnen alliance intact. This arrangement would persist
until the last turn of the game. For five turns, crucial blocks
and narrowly-won battles kept the game going with no real clear
winner emerging -- the advantage shifted back and forth turn-by-turn
among the three alliances. Finally, in Turn 10, with the time
limit fast approaching, the Fremen were able to take and hold
three strongholds (including thehouse-rule Shield Wall), combined
with the one held by their Emperor ally, and the game was able
to conclude with a legitimate victory just in time!
Congratulations to Bill Dyer for his 3rd Dune championship,
and with the underdog Fremen to boot! Bill likes to claim that
any faction can be a winner, and maybe he's right. But in the
end, all six players said they had a great time, and that's what's
Opposite ends of the experience spectrum:
Brad Johnson 13 years as a Dune GM and Aidan Powers 11
years of life.
GM Brad Johnson and his finalists.
Rachael and Michael Day are mugging with their best faction awards.