AFL-CIO it ain't ...
This years tournament saw some changes to the format, some
good, some bad. First of all, the two-minute turn limit was placed
into effect. Two-minute sand-timers were passed out to each table,
and players were then able to enforce the turn limit as neccessary.
It is very easy for a person to spend too much time programming
their robot, thereby reducing the enjoyment of the game by all
participants. Two minutes is a reasonable amount of time to select
five cards (out of nine) to play. Naturally slower players dislike
this rule, but it is favorably received in general. I've even
had some players suggest that one minute would be better, but
I don't believe this gives players enough of a buffer for sticky
situations. Next year I will improve this rule by allowing each
player to exceed the time limit a few times during a game.
second format change was to the final board layout. This year
we used five boards and flags instead of six, the idea being
to reduce playing time a bit. In previous years the finals have
run over the expected length, and to increase player interaction
by having players criss-cross the board. Unfortunately, this
backfired a bit causing an increase in playing time, forcing
the game ultimately to be adjudicated.
As in previous years the first round boards were hard fought
and deadly with many players losing two or more of their five
lives before reaching Flag 1. Several boards managed to finish
very quickly, a couple coming in at just over two hours, while
two took nearly all of the time alloted. Ken Samuel was the first
to qualify with a runaway win, and Rich Shipley won the last
board to finish, fending off three other robots who's only goal
was to take him out, including last years Champion Jeff Ribiero,
to get to the last flag. Past champion Brad Johnson made it to
the finals by taking out the beloved GM, and our first champion
and member of the Greenville Mafia, Dan Lawall was taken out
by, fellow mafioso, Ralph Gleaton. The boards that took longest,
also tended to have the closest races for the finish.
The finals this year were a big slugfest, with the increased
player interaction, players actually stopped on occasion to collect
option cards, with Ken Samuel and Rodd Polsky topping the list
with as many as four at one time. Brad Johnson was the first
person to touch Flag 1, followed shortly thereafter by Jeff Cornett,
Bill Navolis and Rich Shipley. Ralph Gleaton, Rodd Polsky
and Ken Samuel finally managed the flag, several turns behind
the leaders. Michelle Goldstein dropped out after her third robot
perished before reaching flag 1.
Luck was not with Brad as the game continued, as he fell to
3rd by the first flag, with Jeff and Bill getting there first,
and 5th by the third. Rich Shipley was able to turn 4th place
into 2nd by the third flag, and all without losing a single life.
Rodd managed to pull into 4th by the 3rd flag, while Ken fell
to 6th, Ralph never made it to the second flag as he lost his
remaining lives to a board edge and a pit.
When the allotted time expired, Jeff was the only player who
had managed to touch four flags, Rich and Bill had both tagged
flag 3, but Rich had more lives and so took second place, leaving
Bill in third
Some changes I am planning to implement for next year include,
two 2-hour heats instead of one 4-hour first round. These will
have much shorter boards and allow more people to play. There
will be a reduction in the number of boards in the final to four,
so it can finish without the usual time pressure in four hours.
Also there will be the addition of two or three time overruns
per player mentioned above.
Despite the time problems, it was still a fun year, and hopefully
next year will be even better.
Marc F. Houde