Deep in the Deepest Jungles ...
TIKAL celebrated its sixth anniversary as a Century event
at WBC 2005, and the numbers were about the same as last year:
75 participants. Sadly, the tournament this year was not without
controversy, as there were charges of unsportsmanlike conduct,
but this might be attributed to normal venting or convention
fatigue. In the GM's opinion, much of this is to be expected
at the WBC, where the competition is the reason people come.
So read on to discover if perennial finalists Jack Jaeger, Arthur
Field, or Davyd Field won the tournament, or if it was relative
newcomer Valerie Putnam.
Tikal, like many Euros, is easy to learn, if difficult
to master. The game itself comes with a player cheat sheet, which
shows everything a player can do on a simple 3 by 4.5 inch card.
To summarize: a player places a tile, and then allocates 10 action
points in his or her turn as he or she sees fit on the mapboard.
Scoring is also simple: In a scoring round, and there are four
of them in the game, each player receives the usual 10 action
points, without the tile placement, and then they score. The
last scoring round is done in reverse player order, meaning whoever
is in last place at the final scoring round gets to go first
in the last scoring round, often a significant advantage. No
language skills are required, as there are no words anywhere
on the player card or the map. A true Euro!
In order to make for a more competitive game, Tikal 2005,
like the previous year, uses the optional bidding rules included
in the game (which were new to some people). Players bid for
the right to choose which tile they want to place, some tiles
having more perceived value to one player than another. Bidding
provides a bit more strategy to the game, and is supposed to
prevent whining about poor tile selection. If you don't like
the tile you got, you've got no one to blame but yourself!
Bidding also allows a player to go last in one round, and
then first in the next, allowing them, in effect, 20 action points
in a row, useful for digging temples one turn, then capping them
in the next. And when there are only 130 Action Points in the
game, the back-to-back play can be very rewarding.
There were three heats scheduled, set for three different
times and days. The Thursday heat had nine games, the Friday
heat seven, and the Saturday morning heat five. Is there a trend
here? The first heat was a disaster for some WBC attendees, as
eight players were turned away for lack of enough games, same
as last year. Let this be your wake-up call that even four-player
tournaments need players to bring their games!
Heats were scored on cards, with each individual disclosing
his or her finish place, scoring in the final round, and reserve
pieces for a tiebreaker. The Gamemaster's son, 13 year-old Kevin
Broh-Kahn, had to enter three heats before he finally won a game.
The semifinals: As happened last year, there were 21
individual heat winners, and the potential existed for a scheduling
problem in the semifinals Saturday morning at 11. And just like
last year, the Gods of Tikal were delighted as the problem resolved
itself, with only 15 of the 21 qualifiers present for the 11
am semis. Since the game works best as a four-player contest,
it was agreed that the four semifinal winners would advance to
a single, four-person Final, and the GM would participate in
the fourth game as a non-advancing player to round out to 16.
During the semis, the GM did an aggressive job moving the
four scoring rounds along, with all games finishing within two
hours. The key to this aggressive scheduling, for those tempting
to run Tikal tournaments without the dreaded Analysis
Paralysis, is to ensure that all scoring rounds start before
30 minutes have elapsed since the last one. Most players, who
had other games to go to at 1 pm, were only too happy to oblige!
The first semifinal game was won by Valerie Stanton, with
109 points, five ahead of her nearest rival. Davyd Field crushed
his table with 135 points, with the next player at 118. The other
two finalists, Jack Jaeger and Arthur Field, each scored 115
points in their semifinal, with all of the other players at their
boards scoring below 100. Although the margin of victory provides
some indication of the skill of the participants, it is not possible
to compare one Tikal game to another, with different board
layouts or bidding strategies possible each time. But clearly,
the Final was again going to shape up as a clash of titans.
At the Final, the Gamemaster observed what he considered to
be relatively passive bidding amongst the four, unlike the aggressive
bidding that characterized last year's Final. According to Arthur,
Jack took his favorite tile early just to burn it. Jack complained
that Arthur was allowed to build and score points unmolested.
The same sort of trash talk between these two participants has
existed for years. Jack quickly dug a high scoring monument,
which was soon challenged by Valerie. Valerie later shifted the
focus of her attention to Arthur. The competition between Arthur,
Jack and Valerie over a few points here and there ultimately
hurt each of them.
By the time Valerie, Jack and Arthur had reached a sort of
detente, it was too late. Although they were each able to start
a comeback, with impressive scoring rounds after the second volcano,
it was a case of too little, too late. So although Jack scored
a game high 44 points in his final scoring round, neither he,
nor either of the other two, were able to stop the leader. Davyd,
who had escaped most of the competition among this elite group,
grabbed the lead early and for the most part, never let go. Final
scores were Davyd, 128, Arthur, 109, Valerie, 102 and Jack, 96.
Congratulations to Davyd Field, on his first ever win.
Based on the volume of mail on the electronic bulletin boards,
Tikal 2005 was certainly a memorable event. In the eyes
of the GM, it was once again a smashing success, based on both
the number of players (same as in the previous year, in spite
of significant competition from newer Euros) and the quality
of the competition (very high, as usual). The accusations and
recriminations in the Final were as intense as any Tikal
game ever seen, but the threat of a five-hour final was way off
the mark! As a matter of fact, the Final, like most of the preliminary
heats, was completed in less than two hours.
Still, when it was all over, the four finalists went their
separate ways, knowing that they would probably meet again at
some future Tikal tournament. Will Jack, Davyd and Arthur
reclaim their spots and the finals table next year? If past performance
is any indication, you can almost guarantee it! Will newcomer
Valerie make her appearance? Well, we'll just have to see you
at Tikal 2006 to find out.