The Master .... again
Chris Byrd and Mark Giddings cross
Master schools Mark Popofsky in the background.
GM Mark Herman checks whether
or Dockter will be Pei's next victim.
Having "won" his way into
Bill gets a four-turn lesson from the Master.
Wishful thinking or whistling in the
The psych lesson failed to unseat the Master.
As the saying goes, if it was a fight, they'd have stopped
it. For the 14th time in 16 years, James Pei has won again. They
don't call him "the Master" for nothing. Our reigning
champion James Pei and the opposition share their thoughts from
the 16th running of the FTP tournament.
We had another solid turnout with 28 ACW aficionados crossing
swords, including several new faces. After being MIA for several
years, the ever popular WBC cheerleader, sandman and four-time
FTP finalist, David Dockter, returned to battle. Many
strong players were also in attendance, including Byrd, Pettus,
Ussery, Young, Giddings, Donald and Pei the younger. Geoff Allbutt,
who got married last year just before the tourney and rushed
back to play also came back for more "lessons". He
is shown putting them to work against Michael Ussery at right.
Some highlights from this year's "reinactments":
- A new player, Tom Stewart, who I met playing in his gaming
group in Ashburn, played a very aggressive CSA. He formed four
CSA armies by 1862! It looked impressive and menacing, but without
any real punch as each army only had 4 or 5 SP. I told him later
that it's better to have one strong army than four weak ones.
- Another new player, Fred Finkenbinder, played a Rd 2 marathon
game against the much improved Lucas Rhodes. Lucas' Rebels used
FTR card to force AOP forward, isolated it, then destroyed it.
The rebels also got off five raids. The Union resigned on T10
with a SW of 17 vs the CSA's 119!
- Another new player, Jeff Cornett, a top player in many block
games, made his first appearance on my turf. He told me he is
tired of watching me winning, that somebody needs to end the
dynasty. I said welcome and good luck, the "beating"
line forms to the right! Well, Jeff's Rebels put up a good fight
against the now veteran, Jeff Donald. But by T8, the Union had
taken AR, TX, LA, and the entire Mississippi River region.
- Mark Popofsky, the now 3-time EOS champ, met James
Pei in Round 2. Unlike EOS where defensive units can react
to any offensive force within range, Mark's Union learned a painful
lesson in not building an early fort defense. CSA used the FTR
card to destroy AOP, blew through Frederick and captured DC.
- A very tight Round 3 game occurred between Nick Pei's Union
and the returning Sandman marshall. From Nick's own words...
Payback is a bitch. Several years ago, I held out as CSA on the
last card of the last turn defending Richmond against Dockter.
This year, my 9+ hours quarterfinal against him ended with another
CSA holdout, when on the last card of the last turn, I played
a Minor Campaign for one last assault on Richmond. The dice failed
me as I was unable to bring CSA SW down from 17 to 0, or burn
Richmond. By this time, all Rebel non-blockade runner resource
spaces were destroyed except for Richmond. Blockade was 0, with
only 1 CSA raid late in 1864. Richmond was closed off in Fall
'64 three times, but reopened three times by fierce CSA counterattacks
on 50% rolls to resupply Richmond. Game end saw depleted armies
on both sides, with AoNV  defending in a OOS Richmond with
+7 modifier (win medium battle ties on resource space), even
though Jackon & Lee's armies were destroyed by Sherman &
- Another quarterfinal game pit Jeff Donald's USA against
the Master. Jeff played a Major Campaign to isolate and surround
all Rebel forces in N VA. Unfortunately, he left a small gap
in WV. James promptly pulled out his own Major Campaign to turn
the tables. James flanked around WV to re-establish supply, then
blew through the defense at Pittsburgh, and raided all the way
to Philly. This caused massive isolation and attrition from which
the Union was unable to recover.
In the semifinals game to determine Pei's final victim, Bill
Pettus' Union atried to save the Dockter from another Jedi mindtrick.
The CSA army under Jackson and Forrest failed to dislodge Union
corps in Bloomington defended by Curtis and a fort, three times!
On Turn 8, Bill then used a brilliant Campaign card to launch
Grant's army from Paducah to AA into Dover. This totally unhinged
Rebel positions in KY and TN. By this time, blockade level was
at 4, CSA SW was at 17 and USA SW was very high at 115. The Union
resigned and Pei-Dockter IV was relegated to wishful thinking
and returned to Dave's hope chest.
The Final pit Pettus' Union against ... well, you know. Suffice
to say that Pei had strong hands that he played to perfection.
With the Northern states under the grip of CSA armies the Union
resigned on Turn 4 and James carved another notch in his belt.
See you all next year for the finale at the Host. Can the
Amish raise a corps to stop Pei's rebels in Lancaster? Not likely
Grant LaDue, having recently bested
the Master in WNW is emboldened to try again on his own
turf if he can get by Bill Peeck.
By Email 2014
By all accounts, the 2012 World Boardgaming Championships
were a great success, if a bit uncomfortable due to a 6:1 die
split that resulted in a HVAC failure. Once again, James Pei
successfully defended his FTP title. Of course, and not to take
ANYTHING away from James, it was undoubtedly easier due Don Chappell's
unfortunate absence (and maybe David Dockter's). Seriously, congratulations
to James and our thanks to him for giving us all something to
shoot at... I mean shoot for! Shortly after WBC, the results
of James' PBeM match against previously undefeated newcomer Alberto
Molina were reported. Alberto's CSA conceded to James' Union
after the Summer of '63 with the SW at 75:42. The Union had closed
three Blockade Zones and had a 35:16 edge in SPs.
In a second battle of the undefeated, Herr Dockter's Union
downed third ranked Michael Mitchell's CSA in the Fall of '63
with the SW at 90:38. As of this writing, Nick Pei and Gary Kirk,
both previously undefeated, are enjoying a battle for the ages
in a game found on ACTS under the handle BPA 4-1. It is the Spring
of '64 and the SW is 31:24 (USA:CSA). This is a donnybrook well
worth the effort of looking through the journal. Doug Pratto,
the other previously undefeated player is locked with newcomer
Jeff Donald in yet another masterful game.
James Pei and David Dockter are guaranteed their positions
in the Single Elimination bracket games to begin at the end of
September, and as befits their AREA ratings (first and second
respectively) they will anchor the brackets. The winner of the
Pei/Kirk game will also be seeded as will Pratto should he prevail
against Donald. Known to have qualified for the drawing to complete
the bracket are: Michael Mitchell, Alberto Molina, Grant LaDue,
Tom Thornsen, Sean Dolbee, Tim Tow and Jean Louis Dirion. Possibly
qualifying, depending upon the outcome of their current games
are: Jeff Donald, Mike Pacheco, George Young, Steve Likevich
and Mustafa Corapci. Round 4 officially began on May 25th and
ended on September 28th 2012.
The fourth round ended on schedule with one adjudication.
Things only got tougher thereby, however, as there were 13 players
with 3-1 records and only five slots available in the Single
Elimination bracket. Five of the 13 were randomly selected to
participate in the championship bracket. With exactly eight remaining,
a special "Trans Mississippi" bracket was created for
fun, honor and "I coulda been a contender!" bragging
rights. While disappointment was clearly evident, all accepted
this invitation in the spirit of good sportsmanship that is the
hallmark of BPA members.
The Championship Quarterfinals feature Jean Louis Dirion (USA)
vs James Pei; Tom Thornsen (USA) vs Jeff Donald; Gary Kirk (USA)
vs Doug Pratto and Sean Dolbee (USA) vs David Dockter). Shortly
after the brackets were announced a flurry of unauthorized handicapping
for a betting pool broke out on ComSimWorld. It seems to me that
the handicappers were basing their odds on their own experiences
against these players rather than any valid mathematical analysis,
so my advice would be to take the long odds in each case as I
suspect that pay-offs are larger than risk across the board.
This bracket strikes me as a highly competitive one. While Dockter
and Pei are seeded to allow yet another Final confrontation,
the path to both getting there is not going to be easy. This
may yet be the tournament that sees the beginning of an end to
a certain dynasty... and if not, then the greater the glory as
the story will continue for another chapter. Round 5 of the tournament
officially began on September 29th and will end on February 2nd
As I suspected would happen, Round 4 ended with more balanced
results with respect to the sides. There were six Union victories
vs five losses (and the one adjudication). Additionally the games
lasted longer with one, the contest between reliable grognard
Bill Peeck and Mike Kunin going into the last turn before a decision
was reached. For more details please visit our tournament website
at the link above.
King is Dead! Long Live the King!"
Tournament newcomer Sean Dolbee has unseated James Pei as
the reigning FTP Champion. James, holder of 722 BPA Laurels
in FTP alone, has defined the word dominance in Card Driven
Games since FTP's original publication over a decade ago.
While he has been defeated in tournament play twice before, this
marks his first loss during a championship PBeM Final and caps
an extraordinary run for any wargamer.
Nor can it be said that Sean managed to "get lucky".
Certainly, luck was involved, it is a wargame afterall; but Sean
bested a number of top quality players for the right to meet
James in the Final including Gary Kirk (other than Pei and Dockter
the only undefeated player in the Swiss rounds), Jon Gautier
(2 laurels), Tom Drueding (18 laurels) and perennial FTP
second seed David Dockter (186 laurels). Sean did lose his opening
round to CDG grognard George Young (12 laurels), but obviously
did not lose heart and resign from the tournament; instead he
went on to qualify for the drawing into the finals bracket.
Additionally, the Pei/Dolbee contest was one of the most watched
and commented on in CDG history. Fortunately before the on-line
commentary got too far out of hand, our next GM, Tim Tow, moved
it to its own, closed, website on ComsimWorld. The viewing audience
was treated to a game much like any super NFL-like football bowl
game whose name cannot be uttered without risking lawsuits. By
that I mean that the play of the apparent David vs. Goliath contest
did not seem to match the excitement level the fans desired.
Both players played aggressively, but were always aware of and
managed their downside risk. In the opening turns, early distractions
by Pei in the West seemed to match Dolbee's desire to establish
more depth to his defense there as well as to threaten invasion
of the Union midwest. Soon enough however, the CSA moved into
the Eastern theater in force. There Dolbee both waited for opportunity
and took a bold chance when it presented itself and ended the
game with a three-state raid. At the fundamental level, Dolbee
played a very Pei-like game and it paid off. Hardly flawless
by either player, but still very well played and a worthy contest.
In the meantime we have three matches left to complete in
the current tournament. Jeff Donald and Gary Kirk are still battling
it out for the 3rd and 4th place laurels. In the Trans-Mississippi
(consolation) bracket, Alberto Molina and Michael Mitchell have
suddenly found themselves in a close contest. This is a game
that players who believe that it is over by the end of 1862 should
really take a close look at. An "early resigner" would
have already folded, but this one is now too close to call. The
winner of that game will play Nick "Padawan" Pei for
bragging rights in the consolation bracket.
As a GM, PBeM or otherwise, Don Chappell is unrivalled
- the dean of his craft. Perhaps in this case he was too good!
As a learning moment for other potential GMs to consider, please
note the following.
The winner of this event was known and announced long before
WBC 2013, but the event itself dragged on long past our annual
convention while the secondary matches continued months afterwards.
Because of the arcane rules pertaining to BPA laurels and its
Caesar competition, an event can't be finshed until it is over
lest a real can of worms be unleashed on the scoring thereof.
So, even though the deciding title game had been concluded months
before, the participants had to wait for their laurels to be
awarded until the other ranking games had finished. This, theoretically,
could very well determine the winner of our annual Gamer of the
Year Caesar award when the event
drags on past WBC - our official end of the gaming year.
The drawback of PBeM tournaments has always been the excessive
time they can take when not all participants are fully engaged
with timely reponses. In his enthusiasm to provide the most gaming
opportunities and entertainment for his players, Don made two
errors. First, he had playoff games for positions third through
sixth scheduled concurrently with the championship match - meaning
the tournament cannot end until the slowest match concluded.
More importantly, he compounded this error by allowing a player
to exceed the deadlines for finishing the round.
He is not alone in this regard. I've participated in numerous
tournaments where a deadline was required at the start and the
stated penalty for exceeding said deadline was forfeiture. The
point is to provide an incentive to play accordingly and make
time to respond in a prompt and courteous manner - and to discourage
those not committed to such an undertaking from participating.
Having done so, often at considerable sacrifice of other activities,
one is then left grinding one's teeth when the GM arbitrarily
changes the rules and allows the game to continue past the stated
deadline. If the rule was never intended to be enforced, why
have the rule in the first place?
I know. No one wants to win on a technicality and there
but for the grace of God go I. Life happens and this is only
a game. Yes and No. When you enter a tournament it is not just
a game - you are agreeing to a code of conduct that includes
timely response. Object to such a GM ruling - and you're a poor
sport so you grin and bear it. But in doing this kindness for
one player, the GM is inconveniencing all the others who must
abide by a slower schedule than was agreed to previously. Set
aside for the moment whether it is fair or not - and make no
mistake about it, I believe there is nothing fair about changing
the rules in midstream. If you want the trains to run on time,
you have to keep to a schedule. Failing to do so makes tournaments
drag on for years and in the long run discourages players from
getting involved. Sure, the game is the thing, but nobody is
saying the players can't continue the game on their own schedule
for the sake of the game. But for tournament purposes, when that
chess clocks runs down to 0, the tournament round is over. Or,
at least it should be in Don's world.
The official order of finish for the 2011-2013 BPA FTP PBEM
1st: Sean Dolbee (60 Laurels earned)
2nd: James Pei (36 Laurels earned)
3rd: Jeff Donald (24 Laurels earned)
4th: Gary Kirk (18 Laurels earned)
5th: David Dockter (12 Laurels earned)
6th: Jean Louis Dirion (6 Laurels earned)
7th: Tom Thornsen
8th: Doug Pratto
Additionally we had a Consultation Bracket made up of players
who qualified but were not drawn for a spot in the Championship
Bracket. The order of finish for this bracket is:
1st: Michael Mitchell
2nd: Nick Pei
3rd: Alberto Molina
4th: Tim Tow
5th: Mike Pacheco
6th: Grant LaDue
7th: Mike Kunin
8th: Steve Likevich
BPA Sponsor and For The People publisher, GMT GAMES,
provided additional prizes. Sean Dolbee will receive two in print
games. James Pei, Michael Mitchell and Nick Pei will all receive
one in print game of their choice. The Gamemaster provided additional
prizes to those finishing third and fourth in each bracket. Jeff
Donald and Tim Tow will receive books on Civil War topics and
our international winners, Alberto Molina and Gary Kirk, will
have their BPA Associate membership dues covered. (Shipping costs
to Spain and Australia respectively are prohibitive, and this
makes it easier for these players to retain their membership
as transferring funds to the USA for dues is not easy either.)
53 BPA members played 96 games in this tournament. Hopefully
all had fun. I'd like to once again recognize our Assistant Gamemasters,
Tom Thornsen and Michael Mitchell, for their support. Without
their help this tournament would not have run as smoothly and
successfully as it did. They are good friends and real pros!
The next FTP
PBEM Tournament, game mastered by Tim Tow, is already underway.
Best of luck to all in that, and all your future games. It was
a pleasure to be the Gamemaster in this one!