Fare Wars ... a wargame for capitalists
The skies were partly cloudy over Air Baron Land as the seventh
annual championship tournament began. A rookie GM had taken over
tower, and he was so green he didn't have any pre-printed scoresheets.
Nevertheless, the games departed on schedule in three flights
of six, six and nine boards. Not all of them arrived on time,
however. The GM was determined to have every game completed before
the three-hour time limit. Four boards
were adjudicated after time ran out in qualifying rounds, and
there were some expressions of frustration, one quite intense.
Otherwise, though, the event ran pretty smoothly.
of the first-round games featured two past champions each, but
the only ex-champ who advanced to the semi's was John Coussis,
who actually won two games. So did Tim Marvin, who was cheeky
enough to knock the GM completely off the map in Round 3. (Oh,
well, one of the former champs went bankrupt twice in his game.)
Other qualifying round "highlights" included a disaster
scenario with four fuel hikes and three bankruptcies, a defensive
struggle with 17 jumbos deployed, and a game in which the winner
had fewer points than another player who hadn't been able to
declare victory on his own turn.
Sixteen players (five of whom were from the Jersey Association
of Gamers) showed up for the semis, which turned out to be three
distinctively different games. On board 1, Jim Fleckenstein,
who had started up in Dayton, watched a couple of rivals take
seemingly strong positions before he blasted through Detroit,
Chicago, Dallas and Denver to claim the victory in 45 minutes.
(Who says you can't win starting with a spoke out of Detroit?)
Coussis finished a strong second to also qualify for the final.
Board 2 was apparently affected by the prospect of adjudication.
Chris Storzillo came out of Orlando and almost won by mid-game,
but he was in debt and then got hit by various disasters (including
two snake-eyes rolls). Nevertheless, his opponents didn't make
a concerted effort against him, possibly playing for second place
and a seat in the finals. Storzillo sweated for long minutes
before finally winning, while Andy Gardner's position in the
central part of the map was good enough for the coveted second
Defense was the story on board 3, with only one hub controlled
by mid-game. The five players had sixteen jumbos deployed and
four more undeployed. Eric Shaffer, who had opened in humble
El Paso, made the first big move, taking Dallas and Denver and
some key spokes elsewhere. Chuck
Krueger took the West Coast, but Shaffer won the battle of Atlanta.
He placed first and Krueger second with Jeff Schulte only five
The final proved anti-climactic. Storzillo, who was based
in Boston, looked like he was in for a northeast struggle with
Gardner, as both were
rolling in cash, while Krueger took over the always-imposing
LAX and also got rapidly rich. Instead of a struggle, however,
it was a romp, as Storzillo
powered through Detroit, New York and Washington D.C. and, with
cash to spare, won his wood.
Regretably, the game's designer cannot return for 2003 so
Air Baron is in need of a new GM this year. But he leaves
us with these words of wisdom for his successor.
To whoever picks up the torch as GM, the main issue will be
game length. I was content with the adjudication system I used,
but a few people were pretty upset. My intention was to make
sure all games were finished within the three-hour limit. As
was announced before each round, I announced at 15 minutes before
the final hour that players should finish their current rounds
and then play one more. If no one had won, we added up cash and
market share, subtracted debt and had a winner. A better plan
might have been to subtract double the amount of a debt, to avoid
last-minute borrowing for fare wars runs. Any ties in the prelims
were to both count as winners. My plan in the semi's and finals
was that if we had to adjudicate, a tie would be broken by having
each person tied drawing one more chit and seeing who scored
the most from all of those drawn.
An alternative is something my friends and I have been playtesting
locally: Profit Taking. It's a sort of anti-fare wars that you
can choose any time after at least one slot has been taken in
each hub. You declare whether you are in it, and you stay in
or out as you would with fare wars. You cannot make any
purchases or attacks, although you can redeploy your jumbos and
SST. You are minus 2 on all defenses. You score triple value
on all payoff chits drawn, including recession. One of the goals
is to keep games from getting into long slugfests by giving players
with good defensive networks a better chance to win with a surge
of cash. It seems to work pretty well, though people's eyes do
bulge the first time an opponent scores $120 for Paris.
A related House rule, which we have not yet tested but I know
I would like, is not to allow fare wars until at least one slot
has been taken in each hub. This is to prevent the occasional
30 minute-game won on an early lucky streak.