The Spice of Life
Attendance held steady again this year, with 33 players, including
a number of new faces, attempting to control Arrakis. We played
ten preliminary games with a mean duration of 5.7 game turns
in 3.5 hours, a bit faster than previous years. This can be attributed
to the fact that we have been systematically adding minor house
rules each year in an effort to make it more difficult to force
rule for treating the Shield Wall as a sixth stronghold (beginning
on whatever turn the sixth worm appears, just to keep it uncertain),
which received good feedback from most players last year was
retained. In addition, we added a new rule limiting spice exchanges
between players to the Collection Round only (except for the
Emperor, who may give spice to his allies at any time). Even
though I had playtested this rule a bit, I was nervous about
introducing it, but it met with virtually unanimous acceptance.
The primary purpose of this rule was to make it more difficult
for players to spontaneously pool their spice to stop attempts
to win the game, which has been a very common occurrence. The
change requires players to plan ahead a bit more, which actually
enhances the strategic aspects of the game. It also yields some
desirable secondary effects without dramatically changing the
game's tone, namely strengthening the Emperor's alliance position
a bit, allowing the Fremen a bit more freedom to operate without
interference, and preventing players from relying too much on
the Guild moving last to stop wins. Since these three factions
have usually achieved the fewest victories each year, these changes
would be welcome.
We saw a fairly broad mix of types of results, including three
2-player alliance wins, four 3-player alliance wins, one stalemate,
one Bene Gesserit prediction victory (that I think surprised
even the BG), and a 1st turn Harkonnen solo win!
For the first time this year, the distribution of wins was
very even across all six factions: Each scored three wins except
for the BG who scored 4! In the past, we have seen very significant
differences between the top and bottom factions. The Fremen in
particular rose from less than one win per year to three this
year, and a significant presence in most games I witnessed. I'm
not certain exactly how this might or might not be attributed
to the new house rule, but we feel that it did have an impact.
I again awarded my Best Faction plaques to the players who
gave the best single-game performance with each faction during
the preliminary heats, measured in terms of strongholds controlled
per turn. Adam Clark received Best Bene Gesserit; Matt Fagan,
Best Emperor (last year's Best BG); Brian Jones, Best Fremen;
Jean-Francois Gagne, Best Harkonnen (last year's Best Fremen).
And young A.J. Sudy, first time tournament participant but son
of long-time player Kevin Sudy, took home both Best Atreides
and Best Guild!
In the final game, Phil Barcafer drew the Atreides; Jeff Cornett,
the BG (with which he had won a prediction victory to qualify
for the final); Andrew Clark, the Emperor; Bill Dyer, the Fremen;
Matt Fagan, the Guild; and Jean-Francois Gagne, the Harkonnen
(with which he had won the turn-1 solo victory to qualify). Most
of these players are no stranger the the finals, and in fact,
both Bill and Matt were competing for their team score, so tension
Immediately in turn 1, House Harkonnen re-enacted the novel
by evicting House Atreides from Arrakeen. J.F. had seen an aggressive
Harkonnen opening turn out very favorably in the preliminary
round, and he was anxious to try it again. However, the Fremen,
Guild, and Emepror held the desert sietches firmly.
In turn 3, the Atreides forced his way back into Arrakeen,
and then possession of the two cities changed hands between the
Atreides, Harkonnen, and Emperor for the next 4 turns. Through
it all, the Fremen, Guild, and Emperor retained control of their
one desert sietch apiece. The Bene Gesserit, presumably working
behind the scenes, did not control a stronghold the entire game.
Finally, in turn 7, the Emperor made his move, taking Tuek's
Sietch from the Guild. The next turn, his ally the Atreides was
able to take and hold both Arrakeen and Sietch Tabr for the alliance
win! Andrew Clark, a player from the past returning to the WBC
for the first time in recent history, won the tie-breaker and
took home his first wood.
Congratulations to all the players, and thanks for another