A New Class of Laurelists
As with most Euro events, attendance
shrinks as the game ages but the skill level increases.
Aha! Photographic evidence that
Bruce Reiff did not win every game he played at WBC.
The two preliminary heats of Goa produced a total of
14 individual winners in 16 games. GM Rich Meyer and Alan Kaiser
each won twice, and Alan also notched two of the four highest
scores (the top score of 53 and 50) in the process. Rod Spade
(52) and Alex Bove (51) also turned in top drawer first round
performances. As in 2005, the trade winds of the East Indies
did not favor last year's laurelists. Defending champion Kevin
Walsh did not make it out of the preliminaries, and runner-up
Arthur Field would fall in the semi-finals, leaving four new
faces to contest the Final.
This year the tournament used the game designer's rule modification
on expedition card draws requiring discards to be made prior
to a draw that would put a player over the maximum number of
cards he could hold. Results suggest that this change certainly
helped to bring the power of the expedition card track back in
line with other strategies. Out of the 21 games contested in
the tournament's three rounds, the winner built all four colonies
thirteen times, scored the highest points from expedition cards
twelve times, scored the most points from tile bonuses nine times,
and had the most money ten times, a very balanced mix.
Nonetheless, the expedition card track still appeared to be heavily
favored by the players advancing to later rounds. In the heats,
the high expedition point score averaged 7.4 points, and the
entire table averaged 16.5 points in expedition card bonuses.
In the semis, however, the high expedition point score rose to
9.5, while the table average grew even more dramatically to 26
points, suggesting that nearly all of the final sixteen incorporated
late-game card hoarding into their overall strategy.
Two of the semi-finals were extremely close, while the other
two victors held comfortable margins in the final scoring. Alex
Bove beat Raphael Lehrer by eight points (53-45), with double
winner Kaiser third at 43. Chris Trimmer (47) beat both Davyd
Field and GM Meyer by six points. At the other end of the spectrum,
Rod Spade won his semi-final by tie-breaker over Charlie Kersten
by a final margin of 10 ducats. Finally, in the closest match
overall, Jason Levine (46) used nine tile bonus points to edge
Steve Shambeda (45) by one, with Arthur Field (43) and Jeff Mullet
(42) close on their heels.
The Final began with an unusual board set-up, as two of the four
orange tiles generating rewards each turn (the money and spice
tiles) were left out of the mix. When Chris Trimmer won both
the one colonist per turn tile in Round 1 and the one
ship per turn tile in Round 2, the material advantage he gained
would prove extremely significant. Rod moved quickly up the expedition
card track, and exploited this advantage immediately, drawing
cards six times during the Phase A action rounds. Alex, after
purchasing an early white plantation, went the shipbuilding route,
maximizing that track by Round 4, but lagged badly in other
development areas. Jason won all three of the Phase A auctions
where ships or colonists were put up for sale, but also wound
up spending two actions taking cash to replenish his money supply.
At the halfway point, the table consensus was that Rod and Chris
had moved out to a lead over the other two. Interestingly, the
two had gotten there in almost absolutely reverse fashion. Chris
had been the most active bidder (winning seven of the 20 Phase
A auctions), while Rod had won only three.
Entering Phase B, it seemed as if Rod had a larger war chest
of funds available, but that is not how matters played out, as
Jason's periodic visits to the money track "ATM" would
leave him just enough cash to thwart a couple of Rod's highest
bids for Phase B tiles. Typically, it was Chris who was the beneficiary
of the escalating bidding. As a result, he was able to extend
his auction dominance through Phase B as well, winning eight
bids while his three opponents won only four each. While Rod
made a strong leap forward in Round 5, thanks to three extra
actions, his latter game expedition card draws would not prove
as helpful as his early game performance. Chris maxed out the
colonist, ship, and harvest track in successive rounds (6, 7,
8), pulling away from his pursuers, and ending the game with
a tournament high score of 54. Rod remained solidly in second
(47), while Jason's late game wins of tile bids for two extra
actions (won with a 22 bid) and the Swap tile (won for 28)
propelled him into third with 41 points.
Champion Chris' performance throughout was dominant, as he handily
won all three games he played by seven, six, and seven points.
But can he survive the defender's curse in 2007? Only time will