A game of SKILL or MONSTERous LUCK?
Bronacle of the Depths and Tomanagi the Carnosaur remain the
most-chosen MONSTERS, followed by Glow Wyrm, who won 38% of games
it played in 2003. Players overlooked Ixitplaís ability
to make two attacks with each infamy marker, as Ixitpla only
won 13% of its games. First-time player P. Howard Dawson of Michigan
beat three experienced players, including a former champ, with
a military victory by Mecha-MONSTER. Since military MONSTERS
cannot fight other military units, Marvin Birnbaum's Super Colossal
Guy was forced to watch the MONSTER Challenge from the sidelines.
This was the second time Marvin saw the military win, a rarety.
MONSTERS have won 97% of the 200 games played in the last five
2003, the players controlling the Air Force won a whopping 38%
of games played. The Navy players won 29%, and the Army dropped
from 31% won in 2002 to 18% in 2003. The Marine players lagged
with 13% won in 2003, demonstrating that most players overlook
their intended design to be a rapid and frequent attack force.
The cumulative results over five years:
The Marines have more of their bases at cities that give MONSTERS
a lot of health, so the Marine players tend to lose more of their
bases. That, in turn, gives them less money to spend on the military,
and fewer units available - making it harder to beat up the other
playersí MONSTERS. The military bases in the game reflect
real-life places, and the Marine base at El Toro in the Los Angeles
grid space was closed in real life. Players are urged to move
that base to the grid to the north, shared with the Air Force.
The real life Marine depot at Barstow is actually in the God-forsaken
desert grid to the northeast, according to BPA player and Marine
Corporal John Poniske Jr., who was stationed there, but there
already is a Marine base on that grid space in the game.
The game was classified as Coached for 2003, meaning novices
could learn the game and play immediately. Many players complimented
the excellent instructions given by Don Chappell of Texas and
Mike Lam of California. Attendance rose for the second consecutive
year, with a sharp increase in players over age 30:
Age Range % of total
12 or less .12%
Females who played in any of the four heats won 100% - yes, 100%
- of their games in 2003, continuing a trend of excellent play.
The only female who lost in the heats fell to another female.
This is a game where cooperation with the use of the military
can enhance one's chances of winning. If ladies generally have
better social skills than gentlemen, perhaps that might explain
this phenomenon. 2001 champion Rebecca Hebner of Colorado had
the biggest kick-butt MONSTER in the tournament. Her Bronacle
had 35 health, Whip Tentacles, Atomic Breath, and two infamy
markers for 56 points on her scoresheet. James Kramer Jr. had
the healthiest MONSTER in the tournament, with 51 health for
Unusual events usually happen in the heat games. The Army
MLRS is the only military unit that gets an extra attack before
the MONSTER attacks, with the risk of mutating the MONSTER on
a roll of 1 (which makes the MONSTER stronger 94% of the time.)
11-year-old Daniel Pappas rolled snake-eyes with the MLRS, giving
Michael Saunders Armor Scales and War Spikes. Gamemaster Mark
Love and veteran player Dan Dolan Jr. were both eliminated from
the MONSTER Challenge, as they were stuck in Hollywood when it
began, giving an easy win to Dave Agostino of PA, who had just
learned the game. After 8-year-old Daniel Ruhnke of VA won his
game with a one-day convention pass, Ryan Gury was so dazzled
that he offered to help with next year's Junior tournament if
Daniel agrees not to play in the adult tournament and only plays
the juniors. Daniel is the youngest player reported to have ever
won a game in the adult tournament.
Tournament format changed
1999, 26 winners showed up for a quarter-final, a year when total
attendance was 106. But in 2000 and 2001, only 19 and 18 winners
showed up for the quarter-finals. It made no sense to hold a
2-hour quarter-final just to eliminate two or three winners.
8-player semi-finals were previously played, prompting players
to play for 2nd place, to make the finals anyway. The quarter-final
round was eliminated in 2002, and 48% of winners failed to appear
then, up from 29%. In 2003, the scoresheets were redesigned for
the first time since 1999. Taking the top 16 winners based on
scoresheet totals would have only encouraged players to avoid
using the military, to artificially inflate their scores. So
in 2003, using the same format used in some other WBC tournaments,
advancement to become one of the 16 MRA semi-finalists was based
on the following order: (1) first-game winners, (2) other winners,
(3) alternates based on highest total points from any heat game.
The elimination factor came into play in 2003, as 20 winners
showed up for the semi-final, or 77%, including 14 first-game
winners. Marvin Birnbaum's 63 scoresheet points and Andre's Dunn's
41 points filled the last two slots, as players who had won in
their second tries. Unfortunately, 2003 became the first year
where all heat winners did not advance. Michael Bergt's 36 points
and Woolly Farrow's 25 put them below the other second-try winners.
Gamemaster Mark Love was eliminated as a third-try winner, and
Alex Bell's fourth-try win left him out. Had the average no-show
rate of the previous four years held up, all of these alternate
heat winners would have qualified to advance.
The semi-finals saw the return of familiar faces, indicating
that luck alone is not a factor for winning. Assistant GM Verity
Hitchings, one of the 4 original finalists in 1998, qualified
for the semi-final. At another board was 1999 champion Marvin
Birnbaum. Reiko McQuiston took 5th place in 2000, edging David
Brooks that year by a single tiebreaker point. But in 2003, Reiko
was now Reiko Brooks, as the two got married in 2002. They became
the second married couple to be playing at separate MRA semi-final
boards, duplicating the feat of Tom and Melanie Meier in 2002.
2001 champion Rebecca Hebner also returned to the semi-finals.
Her Bronacle did not collect the strongest mutations, as Steve
Dickson advanced to the final with Glow Wyrm and 41 health.
Newcomer Ryan Gury made the finals with Fírothomir's
47 health, leaving Andre's Dunn with 5th place in the tournament.
Marvin Birnbaum ran a clinic on the value of controlling the
MONSTER Challenge. He had the lowest health in the game, at 21,
although he had the best mutation, Whip Tentacles, which gives
an extra attack in each round of combat. Marvin's Konk attacked
Super Colossal Guy and then the weakest MONSTERS, rolling up
their beginning health into the health he had at the end of each
fight. He saved the strongest MONSTER for last, facing Erica
Poniske's Ixitpla and her 31 health with his now-vigorous 53
health. Erica Poniske's scoresheet gave her 6th place.
The military was well played in the fourth semi-final game
by four excellent players, which tends to prolong the time needed
to finish. John Pack had a commanding lead for much of the game.
Don Chappell and Matthew Beach were each sent TWICE to Hollywood
with zero health. John controlled the Challenge with 20 health.
But Don only had one health to yield, and David Brooks inflicted
numerous losses on John, despite only having nine health. So
John lost strength before he faced Matthew's 12 health, and Matthew's
Glow Wyrm had Armor Scales, which raised his defense from 3 to
4. In the biggest surprise of the tournament, Matthew Beach hung
on to become the only player to ever win after being sent to
Hollywood twice in the same game.
After Marvin Birnbaum accepted the Caesar award for most annual
BPA victory points while wearing a toga at the Sunday Armistice
meeting, he then proceeded to the refrigerated Valley room for
the MRA semi-final. But only after he put on more clothes! The
MRA heats were all held in the Maryland room, and the GM suggested
that the advancing players and potential alternates wear winter
coats for the Valley semi-final. Marvin Birnbaum was the only
player in the room who actually wore a winter coat. (Is this
the blueprint for winning the Caesar award?) He also wisely designated
MRA to be his team game for the team tournament.
For Marvin Birnbaum, the MRA final, in the words of New York
Yankee great Yogi Berra, was like deja vu all over again. The
fellow New Yorker found himself playing Konk the Great Ape against
three teenagers, just as he did when he became the MRA champion
in 1999. Once again, he was cracking jokes throughout the final.
This time Marvin had the Navy. He moved first and placed Konk
in his #5 lair, in the Great Smoky Mountains, southwest of DC/Baltimore.
Ryan Gury had the Air Force and placed Tomanagi the Carnosaur
in her #5 lair, in the Atlantic Ocean's Gulf Stream, within one
move of the largest east coast cities. Steve Dickson had the
Army and placed the Glow Wyrm in his #3 lair at the Wind Cave
next to Mt. Rushmore. Matthew Beach had the Marines and started
Bronacle of the Depths at his #5 lair at Lake Ontario, also within
one move of the largest east coast cities.
As a former champ, Marvin generously advised his opponents
that "this is a game of skill - which requires a superior
ability to roll 5's and 6's". Then he maneuvered three Navy
submarines into New York City, which can only be beaten with
a roll of 6, to keep his opponents out. The tactic worked - both
Tomanagi and Bronacle disappeared off the map, in search of easier
prey elsewhere. On Turn 2, Marvin confidently sent Konk into
DC/Baltimore, which was meekly defended by two hastily-placed
National Guard units. But the Guard held on for three rounds
of combat and retreated the MONSTER! To improve his chances,
Marvin skillfully sent Konk to Three Mile Island to mutate. He
got Atomic Breath, which added 1 to all attack rolls, for the
rest of the game. Meanwhile, Steve stomped Glow Wyrm's goal at
NORAD and Denver in the process. He was soon attacked by Ryan's
Matthew's $5 billion investment in military research paid
off, as he pulled the Blonde Lure and placed her on the Big Apple,
targeting Konk. But his allies didn't mobilize a very large welcoming
party - a tactical error, in a game of skill. Konk was met by
two F-22 Air Force fighters, one Army M1 Abram tank, and one
Air National Guard. The military did no damage and Konk knocked
them all down and stomped New York City. But with four dice,
Marvin rolled a 1 + 1 + 2 +3, for an anemic seven points of health.
Marvin declared, "We just did a little urban renewal".
Matthew grabbed two mutations, Winged Horror and Hi-Octane
Blood, to give Bronacle rocket speed, raising his movement from
4 to 6 and eliminating any terrain obstacles with the new flying
skill. As Ryan's Tomanagi reappeared in her #2 California Current
lair to threaten Los Angeles, Marvin playfully warned,"Remember
the historical result of King Kong vs. Godzilla" indicating
that Marvin wanted L.A. for himself. (SPOILER: In that Japanese
classic film, King Kong kicked Godzilla's butt and saved Tokyo.)
Steve took San Francisco with the Glow Wyrm and picked up
the Iron Stomach mutation, which added one health for each military
base stomped. As Ryan contemplated where to place his Air Force,
Marvin referred to the original King Kong film's ending atop
the Empire State Building, and said, "Konk gets a bonus
against the Air Force - because of his training". Ryan built
seven F-22's around Los Angeles, prompting Steve to stomp San
Diego instead. Steve surrounded Konk with seven Army units around
New York. Marvin skillfully disappeared Konk off the map, to
avoid a likely losing battle. This also left the Army a LONG
way from where Konk would be. Marvin's Navy attacked Bronacle
in force. Marvin had Konk reappear out west at Mt. Whitney, gaining
an extra attack for the infamy of trashing the Giant Redwoods.
He then skillfully mutated at the Nevada Test site, enhancing
Konk for the coming MONSTER Challenge with War Spikes. Steve
also mutated, going Berserk and getting an extra attack in the
first round. Marvin then attacked Los Angeles, placing the miniature
gorilla the GM provided atop a package of Breath Savers (representing
Konk's Atomic Breath), set up on its end as a tall tower on the
board. Marvin roared, "Konk is an urban warfare machine"
and picked up 10 health from the three dice for L.A. Steve's
military research attempt succeeded and he got the powerful Rogue
Nuke, which mutates the MONSTER but nails it with two dice of
damage points. There were nine mutations out and seven left in
the deck. Marvin openly challenged Steve to fire the Rogue Nuke
at him, in the hopes he could pick up the powerful Whip Tentacles
mutation, which would add a third dice to all of his attacks.
Ryan's Tomanagi took the Challenge marker, as Albuquerque became
the 20th city or base to fall. Steve sent Glow Wyrm to Three
Mile Island and got Son of Monster. He then became an Equal Opportunity
military commander - he attacked Matthew's Bronacle with his
Army and gave Marvin his wish, firing the Rogue Nuke at Konk,
giving Konk the now-useless Atomic Recovery. Matthew showed some
brotherly love by stomping Philadelphia. Marvin went after more
health, leaving Ryan with control of the Challenge, since no
one else got to a Challenge Site to swipe it from him.
Ryan's Tomanagi had 18 health and one infamy marker. He challenged
Matthew's Bronacle, who had 23 health and was rolling a mean
pair of black dice. Bronacle prevailed, but only after taking
a massive 18 points of damage. Matthew knew his victory would
be short-lived, as both of his remaining opponents had spent
the entire game skillfully accumulating huge advantages for just
this moment. With 23 health, Matthew took on Steve's Glow Wyrm,
who had 37 health and six extra attacks for the first round,
from Beserk and five infamy markers. (He might have had a whopping
11 extra attacks, if he had taken Ixitpla, but Glow Wyrm was
moving five instead of Ixitpla's 4.) In spite of this, Matthew
Beach still inflicted a painful 18 points of damage before dettling
for the 3rd place plaque.
That left Steve's Glow Wyrm with 42 points of health and the
extra Beserk attack to use against Marvin's Konk, who had two
extra infamy attacks, 27 health and two fight-enhancing mutations.
Atomic Breath added 1 to all attack dice rolls and War Spikes
did 4 points of damage instead of the standard 3. It was fitting
that these two faced each other - they had both lost in the same
2000 quarter-final game where Super Colossal Guy, the military
research MONSTER, won for the first time in convention history
(for Seth Kirchner, a 2002 finalist.) Both players knew the value
of the military, and the strategy and tactics needed to win.
Konk's second mutation gave him a decisive advantage, along with
some "skillful" dice-rolling, as Marvin quickly scored
11 hits to present Steve Dickson with 2nd place. With 15 health
of his own remaining at the end, Marvin Birnbaum became the 1st
player to claim a second championship of MONSTERS Ravage America.
MONSTERS Ravage America Junior
25 little monsters, aged 12 or under, played in the 2003 junior
tournament. Suzanne Welker and Jacob Hebner returned to the Finals
- proving they retained some of what they learned last year.
But the big winner was Vincent Alonso of Virginia. the other
2nd: Jacob Hebner - CO
3rd: Suzanne Welker - OH
4th: David Pack - CO
5th: Shea Lawson - MD
6th: David Rennert - MD
The 2003 tournament saw the highest turnout ever, with 25
little MONSTERS, as young as 5 and as old as 12, playing at five
boards. Plenty of adults were present to organize and keep the
games moving along briskly. One game altered the format to allow
a 5th player to control the National Guard, operating out of
eight cities. The winners with the four highest score sheet totals
advanced to the final.
Any adult who wanted to see MONSTERS Ravage America played
expertly should have been at the juniorís final. Suzanne
Welker, age 10, repeated as a finalist, and this time played
Fírothomir of the Ice and the Air Force. She started in
Lair #4 in Manitoba, Canada. 2002 MRA junior champion Jacob Hebner,
age 11, also repeated as a finalist. He started Bronacle of the
Depths at Great Salt Lake after taking the Navy. Vincent Alonzo,
age 11, had just learned the game in the first round, and started
the Dust Devil at Death Valley after taking the Army. David Pack,
age 11, knew the game well and helped teach it to other juniors,
but this was his first junior MRA tournament. He took the Glow
Wyrm and the Marines.
Rockets do not launch as quickly as this game did. Jacob got
the Winged Horror mutation at the National Engineering Lab with
his first move, eliminating all terrain difficulties with his
new flying ability. Vincent got the Atomic Breath mutation on
his first move at the Nevada Test Site, adding 1 to all attack
rolls for the rest of the game. David's military research paid
off on the first turn, as he picked up the Rogue Nuke. His Glow
Wyrm stomped New York City on the first move. David stomped Philadelphia
and soon raised his health to 44, an awesome amount for so early
in the game.
This group of juniors clearly knew how to read - last year's
tournament report described how the juniors virtually ignored
the use of the military. One year later, the difference was like
night and day! During the course of the 2003 junior final, all
16 of the military research cards were put into play. The adults
watching had their mouths hanging wide open, as one 6 after another
was rolled for successful research attempts. Jacob responded
to David's huge lead in health points with an all-out Navy attack.
David responded by firing the Rogue Nuke at Jacob's Bronacle,
inflicting 7 damage and mutating him. David and Jacob both began
arguing that the other should be the target of military attacks.
Mark Love, who was assisting gamemaster Ken Dunn, explained that
this was a classic demonstration of "sandbagging,"
and that all the players should master its use. (Is effective
sandbagging instinctive or is it learned?)
A successful Rogue Nuke launch creates a new mutation site,
but Bronacle was already on a mutation site when he was bombed.
So this created a Super Nuker, where all MONSTERS who visited
could now mutate TWICE. (Vincent could get a 2nd mutation by
returning there.) Suddenly, all the players now were making plans
to tour the new and "improved" Nevada Test Site! Before
the game was over, 14 mutation cards came into play! Suzanne
got Kinda Friendly and Whip Tentacles. Jacob added Beserk, Intelligence,
and Atomic Recovery. Vincent added Armor Scales, Iron Stomach,
and Fins & amp; Gills. David's Marines attacked Jacob's Bronacle
- but did no damage! Suzanne got the powerful Blonde Lure military
card. Her plan to form a coalition to attack Bronacle was foiled
when Jacob disappeared Bronacle off the map, with plans to reappear
later a LONG distance from the threat.
David got the only bad mutation in the deck, Brain Rot, which
slows the MONSTER's movement - but he also got Hi-Octane Blood,
which added one movement point back. David also got a rare combination
that made his commanding lead appear to be unstoppable. His MONSTER
mutated with Radiation Field, which required the military to
spend two EXTRA movement points to enter his MONSTERí'
space. He then succeeded in getting the Guard Commander military
research card, which put the previously-independent National
Guard under his personal control. The Guard could no longer be
used to deter his conquests. Even worse for his opponents, David
could now move the Guard units and use them to attack at will.
David had played brilliantly, but he had made himself a target
the others could not ignore.
Suzanne and Vincent combined their military might, mobilizing
all eight Air Force units with three Army units at Ft. Hood in
Texas. Suzanne placed the Blonde Lure at - where else? - Fort
Hood! She summoned David's Glow Wyrm, who, by indisputable MONSTER
law, could not resist the Blonde's charm, and was required to
go there on his next turn! (The juniors were running a free clinic
on how to best use this military card - the adult finalists only
mobilized four military units with the Blonde Lure in their final
the next day - all of which were easily knocked down by the MONSTER,
without doing any damage.) David's mighty Glow Wyrm was badly
damaged and retreated, which restored balance to the game. David
chased Jacob's Bronacle with his National Guard units. Vincent's
Dust Devil took the yellow 20th ravage marker to start the Challenge
round. He had the least health with 15, so controlling the Challenge
represented his best chance of winning. But David sent Glow Wyrm
to the Niagra Falls Challenge Site to swipe control of the Challenge
for himself. David challenged Vincent's Dust Devil, who had three
extra attacks from infamy markers and two good mutations. Armor
scales raised his defense from 3 to 4, and Atomic Breath added
1 to all attack rolls. The Glow Wyrm had 23 health and two extra
attacks from infamy - but no usable mutations. The Wyrm fell
after eight hits and the Dust Devil's mutations limited Glow
Wyrm to only three hits. Glow Wyrm'ís beginning 23 health
was added to Dust Devil's ending health of 6 to give him 29 for
the next battle.
Vincent now controlled the Challenge and chose Suzanne's Fírothomir,
who had 22 health, three extra attacks from infamy, and Whip
Tentacles - which provided for an extra attack in each round
of combat. Fírothomir fell after eight hits, leaving Suzanne
Welker with 3rd place, but Dust Devil also took eight hits, weakening
him to a net of 27.
To defeat Jacob, Vincent was going to have to beat a very
strong Bronacle PLUS BOTH of the two military MONSTERs, who Jacob
controlled. With 27 health, Vincent defeated Mecha-MONSTER and
its defense of 4, without taking any losses. That gave Dust Devil
33 health against Super Colossal Guy, who also fell without inflicting
any losses. So Vincent's Dust Devil had now grown from 15 health
to 41, and he still had two powerful mutations. Jacob Hebner's
Bronacle had 36 health plus Beserk (1 extra attack in the first
round of combat). It turned out to be a very close battle but
Jacob Hebner, the defending junior champion, had to settle for
2nd place this time. Vincent Alonso, who had just learned the
game that day, turned the Dust Devil into the King of the Giant
MONSTERS for the first time in the convention's history. This
was one of the best games of MONSTERS Ravage America ever
played at this convention. These juniors proved themselves to
be capable of beating the adults.