Omens of Caesar ...
Deal Me a Championship
Young Tom Richardson (left)
made his mark by carrying away 6th place laurels to prove that
the family plays more than just War At Sea.
GM Stuart Tucker was unable
to get away from work for WBC this year but that didn't stop
him from sandwiching both weekends to get in both HRC and WPS.
Craig Melton (left), who returned
to Omens after a long absence, and regular Charlie Hickok vie
for ancient supremacy in the Mediterranean.
Carthaginians Pull Away
This year's Omens pre-con witnessed a solid field of gamers
vying to maintain the record of never having a repeat champion.
Last summer's defending champ declined to attend so the problem
of anyone racking up two in a roll was solved immediately, but
the field remained strong, containing a half dozen former champions
or WAM winners. The earlier start for this pre-con lost a few
veterans, but pulled in eight rookies, to produce a field comparable
to prior years. With only three players (all with losing records)
opting to abandon us on the second day to play in the Victory
in the Pacific pre-con, the general concensus was that Hannibal
players like the Saturday afternoon start. Furthermore, the overlap
with POG remains minimal, so perhaps next year they'll run simultaneously,
if we can get enough table/floor space.
As in previous years,
the first round involved many veterans teaching the rookies just
how Carthage really does have the edge, when played properly.
Round 1 went to Carthage 9-6. The Romans bounced back to win
Round 2 8-7, but it was advantage Carthage throughout Sunday
to produce an overall record of 39-31 in favor of Hannibal's
boys. That said, many a pro-Carthaginian veteran found his bidding/playing
style well-known, such that only two games saw the winning bidder
choose Rome, while the bids for Carthage went to an average of
nearly 2 PCs in the final round of play. Overall, the average
bid was 1.3 for Carthage. Apparently, the PC bid may not be having
a significant impact on Carthage's chances of victory. In those
games where the bid went to 3 PCs for Carthage, the game winners
were 2-1 Carthage, though all were close10-8 province counts.
Clearly we need to be pushing the Carthage Proficient players
to higher bids.
Round 1 witnessed the advance of two former champions and
two WAM victors. The return of Craig Melton to the tourney spelt
doom for former champ Chris Byrd (on a 9-8 count). Meanwhile,
hothand reigning WAM king Jim Heenehan beat the always tough
Charlie Hickok, despite Rome intercepting the messenger and killing
Hannibal on Turn 9. The secret to his success must be the helmet.
Always a contender, Keith Wixson survived an unusual attempt
by Ken Nied to trap Hannibal in Gallia by marching Scipio across
the alps from the west. Card-driver extraordinaire David Dockter
survived a late strike on the Carthaginian capital by Lyman Moquin,
relieving the 2-point siege with a smashing double envelopment
victory. Former WAM champ, Stuart Tucker survived a tough match
against Michael Ussery's Romans.
In the underside of the brackets, Scott Moll eked out a 9-9
tie over Pat Mirk, while Rob Hassard survived five siege rolls
against Carthage by newcomer Keith Butler's Romans. Long-distance
traveller Ahmet Ilpars took down Roger Whitney's Carthaginians.
Round 2's memorable moments included Hassard nearly losing,
despite having killed Hannibal on Turn 3. Ilpars took down past
champion James Doughan in his return to the tournament by virtue
of killing Scipio on the beaches of Sardinia on Turn 9. Wixson
defeated Bill Morse by sacking Carthage on Turn 7, after having
survived a 13-13 battle in which Hanno lost when his 13th and
final card was matched by Marcellus' last card. Thomas Richardson
sacked Melton's Carthage on Turn 5. Heenehan defeated Dockter
by virtue of Scipio defeating Hasdrubal at Croton. Randall MacInnis
survived Tucker's Carthaginian occupation of Sicily and Gallia
Cisalpinia for much of the game, then won by defeating Hannibal's
reserveless army in Gallia and converting it on the last card
play for a 10-8 Roman victory. Moll rolled over Matt Bacho in
Round 3 dawned on eight undefeated players, including two
former Omens/WAM champs. Wixson's Romans took down MacInnis by
parrying Carthaginian thrusts: Hannibal evacuated Gallia on Turn
2, and Hasdrubal's Turn 4 and Turn 7 invasions of S. Italy and
Corsica both failed. Heenehan again thanked Tanit upon squeaking
out a 9-9 tie to defeat Tom Richardson, whose game has improved
signficantly over last year (enough to earn the coveted Sand
this year). Hassard survived two lost Messengers to defeat Peter
Card 10-8. Moll recovered from a 6-12 province deficit on Turn
6, killed Hannibal's 8 CU army and salvaged a 9-8 victory over
This set up the Round 4 feature match of the weekend, reigning
WAM king Heenehan against 2003 champ Wixson. Wixson's Romans
took Gades on Turn 3 and had Carthage on the ropes, eventually
forcing Hannibal to return from Gaul. But by the end of Turn
7, the Romans are limping out of Spain. The Syracusans ally on
Turn 8, and survive Longus' siege (at 2 points at end of game),
giving Heenehan victory, and securing that still there would
be no two-time champion of this event--a new face would appear
on the Hannibal kiosk at next year's convention. In the other
match of 3-0 players, Moll's Carthaginians put Hassard behind
the eight ball, leading to a desperation Turn 6 invasion of Africa
by Scipio, which is pushed back into the sea with a Probe victory
by Hanno; Hassard resigned.
With about a dozen players still in the hunt for wood, and
no other gaming distractions at the hotel, the fifth and final
round drew a solid field of 22 players, all finally convinced
that Carthage is the side to select (except perhaps Randall MacInnis).
The championship between Heenehan's Romans and Moll's Carthaginians
began with Hannibal crossing the Alps on Turn 1, and two Messengers
lost to Rome in the next three turns, with Marcellus forcing
Hannibal out of Italy. The Marcellus/Nero invasion of Africa
is beat back by Hasdrubal. Syracuse joined Carthage on Turn 5,
only to fall to Scipio's two-year siege. Hannibal's second invasion
of Gallia is squashed by Scipio in Turn 8. Then Cato hampers
Roman options from Turn 7 onwards. Mago's invasion of Sicily
is repelled by Marcellus and Paulus on Turn 7. Hannibal is run
down by Scipio's forced march on Turn 8, allowing (with the aid
of Philip making peace on Turn 9) a conversion of northern Iberia
and a 10-8 Roman province count at game end. Our congratulations
to Jim Heenehan who showed that though Tanit may be helpful,
his WAM championship was no fluke. He joins Chris Byrd as our
second serial champ in this twice-per-year tournament series.
One note on sportsmanship: I always enjoy this band of brothers,
no matter how many times I get criticized over the rule edition
used. I'm constantly amazed at how players with few wins will
continue to play onwards--and even volunteer to tutor a latecomer.
I have the greatest respect for this field of players. I'd like
to nominate the entire group for the sportsmanship award.
Hannibal will not be a "featured" event at WAM this
year, but it will still be played by the hardcore, and can earn
a plaque if enough join us next January. The competition at both
these events always remains tough, and those who win any of our
event plaques earned them in the forge of fierce and grueling