Four for the Family ...
Alan Arvold, Stuart Tucker and Quinn
Jacob Dyer and Aidan Powers
I was terribly disappointed to have missed the 2015 tournament due to kidney transplant surgery, but everything has gone well for me so far, and I’m home and comfortably recuperating. Many thanks to everyone for the well wishes and all of the help keeping the tournament running in my absence.
This year saw a few changes in the tournament rules. Most notably, finalists were permitted to select their Final faction assignments in order of qualification. This seems to have been a well-received change. Second, the qualification round scoring was simplified to two points for any solo win and one point for any shared win. However, it seems there may be some support for awarding less value to default and adjudicated wins. This will be considered for next year.
The average game this year lasted 8.0 turns (over 6.4 last year), which was the primary cause of increase in game duration to 4.4 hours. (Duration per turn remains very steady at 0.6 hours per game turn.) Five of nine games had to be adjudicated after the full 5 hours of play, which is much more than we should have. There seem to be two factors contributing to this trend.
First, I strongly believe that overall quality of play continues to improve over the years. With fewer player mistakes being made, it seems that forcing stalemates by negotiating the blocking of strongholds becomes a relatively easy proposition. This means that games run for more turns on average, which not only increases game time but also makes default victories “too easy” and tends to make for more stagnant, boring games.
Second, Dune players love their diplomacy. Time spent away from the table negotiating is important to many, but is a significant eroder of game time This becomes an issue if one or two players chronically delay the game with excessive negotiation.
To address these issues, I will be considering one or more adjustments to the rules for next year. I believe that reducing the ability to block strongholds may be all that is needed to decrease game duration and reduce default victories and adjudications. There are a number of ways this could be approached, including activating the Shield Wall sooner or selectively eliminating blocking of some strongholds, perhaps the two cities. It is noted that this may make for a more dynamic game, but it’s also likely to have a non-trivial effect on game strategy.
Additionally, I am examining possible limitations to private negotiations. Providing chess clocks to each player is impractical, but other options include giving each player a limited number of diplomacy markers to spend for away-from-table time, or instituting a set Diplomacy Phase once per turn and once per Nexus which would be the only time players could consult in private. As a side effect, I believe that limiting negotiation in this way would also increase overall difficulty level of play, since players would not be able to coordinate and cross-check every action they take. This would in turn lead to increased player error, opening the door for more standard victories.
One other change will definitely be making an appearance next year: With the Fremen returning to a miserable showing of zero wins, it seems that the existing house rule to give them some additional power has been insifficient. A player poll taken this year shows almost unanimous support for increasing this ability further to the following: “The Fremen may count their tokens at full strength for no cost in ALL battles. Additionally, the Fremen may permit their ally to do the same in their own battles.” It is hoped that this will not only make the Fremen into the fearsome warriors they are meant to be, but will also make them more attractive allies.
Division of wins by faction spread out quite a bit in 2015 over 2014. House Atreides took top spot this year, with the Bene Gesserit and Guild also making good showings. The Emperor held steady in the middle, but House Harkonnen plummeted to just one win, and the aforementioned Fremen returned to the cellar. We saw three solo wins, including a solo Guild default win (adjudicated) by Carl Krosnick and an absolutely amazing set of two solo standard victories by Stephane Dorais! The other six qualifiers shared 2-player wins of various types.
Best Faction plaques were awarded to Bill Dyer for best Atreides; Phil Barcafer, best BG; Ty Hansen, best Emperor; Joe Harrison, best Fremen; Stephane Dorais, best Guild; and Steve Cuccaro, best Harkonnen.
For the Final, Stephane chose the Atreides. Carl chose to try to repeat his qualifying solo default win by selecting the Guild. Lee, in his fourth consecutive Final, chose Emperor. 2012 champion Jake was hoping to keep the Dyer dynasty winning streak alive and chose the Harkonnen. 1997 Champion Matt Fagan chose BG, leaving Michael with the unloved Fremen.
In the first turn, the Harkonnen thought briefly about going for the solo, but ultimately backed off. The Shield Wall was also blown in the first turn, significantly increasing the importance of the Weather Control card for the rest of the game. The first Nexus appeared in Turn 3 with the Harkonnen and Emperor appearing to be in the strongest position. However, because of a weak card hand, the Emperor offered the Atreides an alliance, hoping to take advantage of peeking at the cards. On the next Nexus, Harkonnen and Emperor allied and immediately plotted for the win. However, four consecutive worms appeared allowing the Fremen to position units for both spice collection and defense. The Fremen triumphed in Habbanya Ridge Sietch against the Emperor, to save the game—however the overall strength of both combatants was severely impacted. Harkonnen was left virtually unscathed and was hoping for a quick Nexus so that he could switch allies. With the very strong combination of Voice and Prescience, the Atreides/BG alliance threatened a win on Turn 6.
The Harkonnen finally got his wish in Turn 7 and quickly allied with the BG. This also brought in the Shield Wall as a sixth stronghold. For the next four turns the Harkonnen and BG alliance dominated. In Turns 7 and 8 the other alliances, through many precarious and sometimes complicated deals, managed to block any win attempt. Although one of those "deals", between the Guild and Emperor unceremoniously fell apart casting an even tenser than normal shadow over the rest of the game. The Harkonnen and BG remained allied during the next Nexus, with the Guild allying with the Atreides, and the Fremen ironically joining with the Emperor.
In Turn 9, the Harkonnen/BG alliance was finally able to attempt a win and would have done so but for the blocking of the Voice in the deciding battle. During the collection round, the spice-strapped Atreides agreed to remain allied with the Guild for the rest of the game. The still-dominant Harkonnen/BG alliance tried again in Turn 10 with the BG strongly battling in three strongholds. Only a last minute play of a Truthtrance prevented Matt from recording the first BG non-prediction win in a Final.
In Turn 11, Harkonnen battled Atreides in Tuek's Sietch for the win. Atreides was confident, knowing that the only way he could lose was if the Harkonnen had managed to pick up a shield as their bonus card in the last card auction phase. The Harkonnen’s Voice question made it clear that the Baron had indeed secured the shield and the win. Congratulations to Jake Dyer on securing his second Dune shield (and the fourth Dyer family consecutive title) and to Matt Fagan on his participation in the winning alliance.
The six finalists in the battle
for spice. |