Record Attendance ... and then
Our last year in Lancaster was a banner year for SPG. When the tournament started in 2005 it pulled 125 players, which remained the highest count until this year. The past two years had held steady at 108. This year we blew past 125 after two heats! All in all, 142 people played this year! Starting the first heat on Monday when there wasn’t much competition didn’t hurt, but all heats were well attended.
The big topic of conversation was the ‘New Edition’ published in 2014. The GM’s decided to exclude the new edition because we felt the extra round introduced with this edition substantially changed the game. In addition, our tiebreakers for advancement to the semi’s is based on scores, and we don’t have enough data yet on whether the scores in the new edition are comparable to the old. We did allow new sets to be used with the old rules, and provided copies of a conversion chart showing the ‘old’ card values for the four ‘updated’ cards. For those wondering, we plan to do the same next year. We are waiting to see if the new edition ‘takes off’ with players or not, as well as getting more data as to whether they can be considered equivalent for tournament purposes.
As usual, Norman has compiled some interesting stats from the scoresheets:
- 62 tables from heats, four in the semis and one Final for 268 player starts.
- Ten multiple winners including two triple winners.
- In one game, the winner had both mistresses and both observatories and only won by a point with a 4-point spread between first and last. High score in that game was 43!
- Winning player had two special cards 22 times (32%). Had three special cards four times (6%) and ALL FOUR specials once (1.5%).
- Winning player Had NO special cards 14 times. (20%).
- LAST place had one or more specials 37 times ( 54%).
- LAST place had two or more specials ten times (15%).
- We had three games where NO special cards came out (or were not reported).
- There were three ties with the winner determined by cash in hand.
- Ten players ended having cards in hand. One player got stuck with two cards in hand.
- Winner had both mistresses in two games. Last place had two mistresses in two games.
- Winner had both observatories in four games. Last place had both observatories in two games.
- Biggest winning score was 135 points, over double the last place score.
A big concern among players has always been whether or not a first round Mistress or Observatory would unbalance the game. This year, we tracked the starting position of the players and found that the start player position was the biggest factor in predicting the winner.
Of the 67 games played:
- 14 won by Worker start player (21%)
- 14 won by Upgrade start player (21%)
- 12 won by Building start player (18%)
- 27 won by Noble start player (40%)
When start position was noble (27 times), got a mistress 21 times during the game (NOT necessarily on first round). When start position was NOT noble (40 times), got mistress 24 times during the game.
In the semifinals, winner started with nobles three times.
Many thanks to Randy Buehler for the following play by play of the Final:
Saint Petersburg has a reputation as being all about trying to get a broken start—a first turn Mistress of Ceremonies or Observatory, for example. However, the consistency with which the same players advance to the Final table would seem to put the lie to that theory. Randy Buehler had a first, two seconds and a fifth in the previous five years and this year he made the Final once again. Cary Morris also returned to the Final for the first time since taking second in 2008. They were joined by a pair of relative newcomers to this game: Chris Senhouse and Rob Murray.
Rob was the beneficiary of a first turn Observatory, which he immediately used to pick up an extra green worker (though it was the fairly expensive Fur Trapper). He later used that Observatory to acquire not one, but two different copies of the Mistress—the only two in the entire orange deck. Unfortunately for Rob, he got himself stuck with a hand full of expensive cards in the mid-game, and was unable to deploy all those awesome cards in a timely manner. One brutal sequence in particular saw him pick up a blue in order to open up a spot for an orange that he could buy, but all the nobles exceeded his budget and he was forced to pass (and give an extra orange to Cary).
Cary played an extremely aggressive blue-based strategy. Most players shy away from the blue buildings, just acquiring them when they want to open spots for nobles (or when they need something to upgrade). Cary, however, focused on building a steady supply of blue victory point buildings as quickly as he could, and then played to end the game as quickly as possible - before anyone had time to build up an overwhelming number of nobles.
Randy accidentally enabled this strategy not just by taking an orange upgrade and letting a blue one float to Cary early, but also by buying a green worker for five rubles on what he assumed was the penultimate turn. Cary went deep into the tank after that and figured that he could actually gain two cards during the green phase and cause the last blue to get dealt, triggering the end of the game a turn before anyone was ready for it. It wasn’t clear whether this would give Cary the win, but what was clear is that giving everyone an extra turn would help other people more than Cary so he went for it.
When the dust finally settled from the surprise last turn of the game, things were extremely close, with only two points separating first from third. Cary’s gambit worked, as he ended with 51 points. Chris did a great job of accumulating a bunch of blue upgrades but ended one point behind Cary. Randy too third (and was kicking himself for enabling Cary to end the game early). Had the game gone another round, it’s not clear whether Randy or Chris would have won, but what was crystal clear is that Cary played an innovative strategy extremely well and fully deserved to win his fifth WBC title.
Congratulations to Cary and all of the finalists. See you all at Seven Springs next year!