Nearly Three Figures ...
More than once I've heard that one of the strategies in this
game is not to get out to an early lead. Several players this
year, including the eventual champion, proved that wrong. Players
have to keep both the board position and the score in mind when
taking their moves. It's also possible to defend your position
by judicious bidding and use of the Castillo.
I had hoped to increase attendance this year, which would
have certainly set the record for this event. What I didn't
expect was a 40% gain over last year, which overwhelmed my primitive
game tracking methods and caused me to take a couple of hours
after the second heat to make sure I could sort the semifinal
qualifiers and alternates correctly. The laptop comes with me
next year! As it was, we narrowly missed breaking 100 ahd shattered
the previous attendance mark in much the same manner that Bonds
and McGwire set their homerun records ... by leaps and bounds.
Three initial heats saw thirty games played, mostly full five-player
boards, with 28 different individual winners. Charlie Kestler
and Robb Effinger managed two wins each. Jason Levine, having
of course switched his team game from El Grande to Battle Line,
managed the biggest win in the heats, with a 31-point victory.
Charlie had the narrowest win, a tie game decided by the first
tie-breaker (just barely). I was worried about having to adjudicate
games with the shorter two-hour slot this year, but all games
finished within the time limit although a couple came close.
I scheduled the semifinals and Final for Thursday night in
an attempt to avoid the weekend bottleneck, and appear to have
succeeded since only four of the 28 qualifiers stayed away, allowing
Geoff Pounder to advance with his three runner-up finishes.
Lots of familiar faces populated the semifinals. Jason created
another blowout when his home province scored multiple times
in the initial rounds. Charlie had a similar blowout at his table.
Pete Gathmann established an early lead, which was maintained
as his fellow players, including defending champion Jay Fox,
somehow managed to attack each other's positions with as much
gusto as Pete's. Greg Thatcher edged Davyd Field for sixth place
laurels by means of tie-breakers.
In the Final, New Castile quickly became the big battleground.
Charlie used his 1-13 combo to get lots of pieces on the board
and lock down his home territory with only two men. He opened
a small lead, but was spread extremely thin. David remained close
behind with two scores of his home territory, which had no other
players present. Geoff was only concentrated in a few territories
and was trailing, occasionally taking scoring cards just to deny
them to other players.
In the next three turns, Pete used his 1-13 combo, and that
along with a "Score the firsts" card served to tighten
up the scores considerably, although Charlie still maintained
a 3-point lead. Late in the game, Geoff broke out of his trailing
position with the "Dial-a-Score" card. He also bid
his 2 on turn 7, hoping to get to use his 1-13 combo, but Jason
pre-empted with his 1 that turn, allowing David to execute it
instead. When the final cabs landed, however, David couldn't
overcome Chris's lead, falling short by two points.