Holding Steady ...
GM Rob Flowers and his five finalists.
For a change, the top-ranked Flowers was not among the laurelists.
Our hearty band of players joined once more for a great El
Grande event. 20 preliminary games were played to advance
25 to the single elimination rounds.
We had no double winners this year, but one triple winner: Greg
Thatcher, who, after a couple years absence from the con, came
back to steamroll the competition with three high-scoring wins,
including one by 150 points. The Jay's Basement crowd was well
represented, as usual, while the GM and his assistants barely
made the cutoffs.
One rule I had written down (but had not used before) was changed
on the fly once we saw how it works in practice. Some special
action cards ask players to remove pieces off the board using
the simultaneous secret action wheel. It is possible for a player
to choose an illegal spot on the board, whereupon it is not clear
from the rulebook how that is resolved.
My tournament rule specified that the player executing the action
gets to then choose another legal region. It became instantly
clear that this would be way too disruptive to the game, and
the rule was changed to allow the executing player to choose
among the legal regions with the least caballeros. This will
be corrected in future tournaments.
With the number games we play each year, it's not uncommon for
there to be tie scores. The official rules do not have any tiebreakers,
so several have been invented for the WBC tournament. Usually
the first one or two are enough. This year, however, the battle
for first in one preliminary game went to the third tiebreaker
(highest unused power cards) where Tim Mossman had his 13 left
while Geoff Pounder had his 12. We have occasionally used this
tiebreaker before, but not for first place in a game.
One note I had from another preliminary game said that during
Round 8, one player got to use the Move the King action after
playing his 1 card! (This is usually one of the first two actions
taken during a turn.)
The semifinals were exciting as usual with a very close couple
of games. Greg Thatcher edged Geoff Pounder on a tiebreaker to
win his advancement (which earned Geoff sixth place for his efforts).
The Final featured previous champions Greg Thatcher and Robb
Effinger, while David Buchholz and Yoel Weiss had both finished
second in prior tournaments. Alex was the relative newcomer to
Round 3 this year.
The game started off with one of the few cards that can dramatically
change the first few turns: Decay of Authority (remove all Caballeros
from your court). Dave, bidding last, was first player with a
6 and executed the card, sending home 7 cabs from each player.
He also set up a Score the Least card which Yoel then used to
score all the current regions and propel both of them to a decent
The other players started building up better board positions;
however, the relative scores remained unchanged as two scoring
cards (the "Dial-a-Score" and a Score the Castillo)
were both burned. During Round 2, Greg used an Intrigue card
to clear out Aragon, much to the dismay of Alex and to a lesser
The next score card came during Round 3, where a Score the Most
helped both Yoel and David again. Yoel was leading David by five
points with others 10-14 points behind. However, Yoel's position
was badly hurt by a King Return's card which cost him three pieces
from the board. By the end of the first scoring round, David's
relatively better board position put him in a 4-point lead over
Yoel, with the rest within 15 points.
Over the next three rounds, both Score the 5 Regions cards were
played, helping Robb to climb out of last place and into a temporary
lead. Greg and David each both used a Score Any Region card to
stay in the pack. Yoel used his 2-1-13 cards to some effect,
but he was still suffering from an inferior board position. Things
really started to even out for the group, and after the second
scoring round, Greg was in the lead, with scores of 69-68-68-67-65.
An early Score the 4 Regions card in Turn 7 helped Greg extend
his lead, especially since his home province of Granada was now
a 4/0/0 thanks to an earlier move by Alex. Then a potentially
game-changing set of moves came up in Round 8 where Robb set
Yoel up to score the firsts, giving each of the 18 points while
the rest got 8-6-4 points. This put Yoel back in the lead with
Robb close behind.
Late in that turn, Alex used a Mobile Scoreboard card to put
the 8/4/0 on the Castillo! Last turn he had gotten a healthy
number of his pieces in there with an Intrigue card, but even
with his pieces from this turn, he barely had a lead.
Then, on Turn 9, the second Score the Castillo card came out.
Alex was third in bidding order, but neither Greg nor Yoel had
their 13 cards left to play. Alex scored the Castillo, which
brought him back to about the middle of the pack. He was heading
into the final round with a large Castillo force, but Greg had
locked up his own home territory and David had a number of pieces
ready to pounce as well.
In the last Castillo drop, David, Alex, and Yoel managed to
each take over each others' home provinces such that none managed
to score their Grande. Robb was left unscathed, as was Greg,
who was protected by the King. However, the couple of scores
of the 8/4/0 Castillo proved decisive, as Alex managed to scrape
into the lead by two points at 108. Greg and Yoel tied at 106,
with Greg winning the tiebreaker. Robb and David were at 103
and 101, respectively. Congratulations to Alex for a well-deserved