Even in a "down"
year, Puerto Rico draws a crowd. Down 81 from its record
2003 attendance, it was still the fifth largest event at WBC
Clockwise from lower left, David Platnick,
Chris Moffa, "stenographer" Barb Flaxington,
John Weber and Eric Freeman vie for the title in the
No Longer the WBC Attendance Champ
It was the closest finish in any WBC Puerto Rico Final
game since the game debuted in 2002. Chris Moffa and David Platnick
were the only players to reach the last round undefeated, each
having won their prior three games in convincing fashion. David,
in the #1 indigo seat, piled up an early lead, had three manned
quarries working for him and appeared to be on his way to victory
when he purchased the Guild Hall. Chris, however, had three quarries
of his own plus a factory pumping out three doubloons each production
phase and he parlayed this into two large buildings of his own
as the game reached the home stretch. When the VPs were counted,
Chris and Dave had exactly the same -- 43 -- but the half VP
Dave had bid for his #1 indigo seat (Chris, by contrast, had
bid nothing for the less desirable #2 indigo seat) proved critical.
Chris, whose wife Barb had won the tourney in 2004, was the new
WBC champion and David was runner-up for the third year in a
row. Third place went to GM John Weber, who had originally been
declared the winner but dropped to third when a VP count--verified
by all players later with the aid of some replay notes--found
he had taken an extra 5 VP chit by mistake. Rounding out the
final table in fourth place was Eric Freeman, who had earned
his spot in the Final the hard way, by besting two former WBC
champions (Barb Flaxington and Arthur Field) in the semi-final
The first and second heats saw 37 different winners emerge
from 35 games. As in the past, there were two games with double
winners (tied on points and on doubloons plus goods tiebreaker)
but, unlike prior years, no player managed to score two wins
in the first two heats. Highlights of the first round were wins
by 2004-05 runner-up David Platnick and 2005 fifth place laurelist
Rob Barnes, but some other contenders took it on the chin by
finishing last in their games, including 2005 laurelist Malinda
Barnes (Rob's sister), 2004 champion and Assistant GM Barb Flaxington,
and GM John Weber. The second heat saw a 4-0 clean sweep for
Puerto Rico GMs, as Barb and John bounced back to win games,
as did Assistant GM Anne Norton, and PrezCon GM Chris Terrell
also won his game as well.
While overall numbers were down from prior years, the numbers
for the third and final heat on Saturday were up as players seemed
aware of the fact that just one win would secure advancement,
and also that a second win would mean a coveted bye into Sunday
morning's semi-final round games. Five tables of winners were
paired together, plus an additional 12 tables -- but one winner
managed to join the non-winners' group and score a second win,
meaning there were six two-game winners and over 40 one-game
winners. Four of the two-game winners (Chris Moffa, Chris LeFevre,
Arthur Field, and Doug Smith) accepted byes into the semis, one
(Andy Gerb) declined the bye and the sixth (Don Tatum) withdrew
due to schedule conflicts. The quarterfinal round then brought
together exactly 31 one-game winners with the one two-game winner
and, unfortunately, that meant that the top alternate (Kevin
Walsh, who placed second in all three heats) did not get to play.
Eight quarter-final winners were thus guaranteed advancement
to the semis along with the four top second-place finishers from
the quarter-final round. Perennial contender David Platnick and
former winner Barb Flaxington paced the group of quarter-final
winners; this meant that both former champs in the field (Barb
and Arthur Field) would be part of the 16-player semi-finals.
Father and son Barry and Rob Barnes also won their quarter-final
encounters to book spots in the semifinals--the third year in
succession for at least one Barnes family member, and the second
year in a row that two Barneses graced the semi-final field.
The penultimate round consisted of some familiar names from prior
WBCs, such as Rodney Bacigalupo (third year in a row to the semis),
Rob Barnes (second year in a row) and Barry Barnes (father of
Rob and Malinda, who was returning after reaching the semis in
2004), plus Tom Browne, a participant in the very first WBC final
in 2002. There were some new faces making their first semi-final
round appearance as well, including Athena Padouvas (who had
two seconds and two wins after playing all three heats plus the
quarterfinals), current and former BPA Board members Ken Whitesell
and John Pack, Chris LeFevre, and Princes of Florence
expert Doug Smith -- but defending laurelist Malinda Barnes did
not advance, managing no better than third on a tiebreak in a
one-point loss in her best game.
One innovation this year was mandatory bidding for seat position,
starting in the semis. Players could bid in 1/2 VP increments
for their favored seat positions, such VPs to be subtracted from
the final scores. As it turned out, three of the four semifinal
games were won by players who accepted a handicap for one of
the two corn seats -- only David Platnick bucked the trend when
he finished eight points ahead of Rob Barnes in a game where
both accepted indigo seats with no handicaps. David used four
manned quarries and ended with three large buildings to cap his
semi-final win. Chris Moffa built a Guild Hall and a Harbor to
win his semi-final game, despite no coffee or tobacco production,
by seven VPs over Rodney Bacigalupo. GM John Weber also put the
Guild Hall-Harbor combination to good use, advancing to the Final
for the first time by squeaking out a two-point win over Chris
LeFevre; John and Chris had both bid for corn seats in the game,
and Chris (because of his close finish) walked away with the
coveted 6th place plaque. The toughest semi-final table based
on the random pairing was the one that brought together the two
former champs, 2004 winner Barb Flaxington and 2002 champ Arthur
Field. In their prior WBC semi-final encounter in 2004, Barb
had edged Arthur by a point, but Arthur got some revenge by beating
Barb in the Final at EuroQueat a few months later. Surprisingly,
neither Barb nor Arthur reached the Final this time, as their
game was won by Eric Freeman. Eric has shown great skill in a
variety of Euro-style games before but not, until the 2006 WBC,
at Puerto Rico tournaments. Eric bid for the #1 corn seat
and made use of an early Factory buy coupled with a mid-game
Harbor to finish just one point ahead of Barb (after the VP bids
were taken into account). This meant that Eric moved on to the
Final, while Barb would settle for the fifth place plaque, for
her fourth Top 5 finish going back to 2003 (counting two runner-up
results at EuroQuest).
The Final table brought together David Platnick and Chris
Moffa, each of whom had swept aside their opponents in three
previous games by margins ranging from five to 12 points, with
two surprise finalists: GM John Weber, who had squeaked out a
two-point win in his semi-final game, and Eric Freeman, who had
surprised Barb and Arthur, the two former champs. David, as runner-up
at the previous two WBCs, along with wins at two 2006 Puerto
Rico tourneys at PrezCon and Origins, would have to be rated
the favorite with Chris, who had finished second at the 2005
EuroQuest Final, the only other player with Final table experience
a strong second choice. John and Eric both decided to try to
help their chances by accepting handicaps of 2 VP and 1.5 VP
for the first and second corn seats, respectively. In a move
that would later factor into the outcome, David bid 1/2 VP for
the first indigo seat while Chris accepted the least desirable
#2 indigo seat for no handicap.
As the game developed, all four players aggressively sought
to gain the early cash advantage to improve their respective
positions. Chris bought a tobacco plant on Turn 2 to assist his
trading position, but he also had to deal with having his tobacco
clogging up a ship for just about the entire game. John secured
the early coffee monopoly, while Eric scored some quick cash
and bought the first Factory. David quickly obtained three quarries
to earn building discounts, and then he used a Hacienda to draw
three corn plantations in three attempts! The jockeying for position
continued as John used the funds from an early coffee trade to
buy a Harbor, leaving Chris with the opportunity to snap up the
remaining Factory. Eric secured the second Harbor but was shut
out of the tobacco business when John grabbed the last Tobacco
mill after Eric had already acquired a couple of tobacco plantations.
David won the race to buy the first large building, selecting
the always popular Guild Hall. Eric and David bought the Small
Warehouses to keep their goods from rotting. David used his three
quarries to start pumping out more buildings to earn maximum
bonus points on the Guild Hall, while Chris played catch-up by
picking up two more quarries to match David's three. John and
Eric did not have time to acquire quarries, focusing on trying
to improve their shipping position given their Harbor purchases.
A key moment occurred when Chris picked up a $3 Craftsman,
adding another 3 in factory income which wound up giving him
just enough cash to build two large buildings in succession --
while David, who was maximizing his Guild Hall points, did not
get a second large building. Chris, John and Eric were prepared
for the game to end when David -- after eyeing Chris' stack of
unrevealed shipping VPs -- decided to extend the game an additional
turn to see if he could improve his position relative to Chris.
The extra turn allowed John to buy and man a large building and
the initial VP count showed John coming in ahead of Chris and
David. But, thanks to the benefit of a replay, a vital scoring
error was discovered (John had inadvertently picked up an extra
5 VP chit by mistake) and the recalculations showed Chris and
David tied with 43 VPs. Had there been no bids for seat position,
David would have won on the tiebreaker, but in the end that 1/2
VP bid made all the difference as it was subtracted from his
score -- thus Chris became the fifth WBC Champion in the closest
finish yet. Final scores (after taking into account the bids
for seat position) were Chris 43, David 42.5, John 39 and Eric
Overall statistics regarding seat position showed one surprise
and one familar pattern. As in past years, the "worst"
starting position was the #2 (indigo seat), which trailed the
"best" seat by an average of exactly four VPs per game.
This data was based on the 60 games played with random draw for
seat and did not include the Final or semi rounds where bidding
occurred. Only nine of these games were won from the #2 seat,
but of course Chris, the tournament winner, bucked the trend
by winning the Final after also winning one of his earlier games
from the #2 seat. The surprise was that the "best"
seat, unlike past tournaments, was not the #3 (first corn) seat,
but the #4 (second corn) seat, which won more games and had the
highest scoring average as well. The disparity in the point spread
has caused the GM to consider a variant where the second seat
starts with sugar instead of indigo -- look for the variant to
be tested at the EuroQuest tournament in the fall before it is
adopted for WBC play, however.
Other highlights from this year's tourney:
*** Three of the top five finishers (Chris, Eric and Barb)
were teammates but none of them had the foresight to select Puerto
Rico as a team game.
*** David Platnick, now runner-up for the past three years, kept
a streak alive that dates back to 2003 by winning a plaque in
each of the last four WBC Puerto Rico tournaments, breaking
a tie with Arthur Field, who won successive plaques in the first
three years (2002-2004).
*** Closest game in any of the heats was a 52-52-51-51 barnburner
in the third heat, won by Alex Bove over Gordon Rogers on a tiebreak.
*** Stats were again collected to see the most popular buildings
in winning displays, and this year (excluding the mills) it was
Small Market #1 (in 41 winning displays), Harbor #2 (36) and
Factory #3 (22).
*** The least popular violet buildings on the winning displays
were the Large Warehouse (only seen twice), the University (seven
times) and the Office (12 times).
*** The most popular bonus building was (once again) the Guild
Hall (in 22 winning displays) and least popular was the Residence
(in ten displays).
*** Three players won games by constructing three large buildings
-- Jason Levine (in the first heat), Neil Ekengren (in the second
heat) and then David Platnick in the semi-final round.
*** Neil Ekengren, who was one of four players who participated
in this year's demo, went on to win a game in the tournament,
to prove that newbies can survive in the "Puerto Rico shark
tank," and one of his victims in that game was Eric, who
went on to take fourth place overall. Another player who learned
the game at the demo, James Tyne, also proved to be a quick study
as he finished only two points out of first in his initial game,
losing to an eventual laurelist, Chris LeFevre.
*** Eventual winner Chris Moffa and his three first round opponents
(Winton Lemoine, Derek Landel, and Josh Githens) proved you can
still have fun --despite the pressure cooker of WBC competition
-- by taking the stats compilation to a new level by reporting
categories such as "most rotted barrels in the Captain phase,"
"most colonists held in San Juan during the Mayor Phase,"
plus the ever-popular "times Josh made Derek upset during
For those craving more details on the 2006 WBC Puerto Rico
tourney, look for a Final game replay and more stats and info
to be posted soon at the GM's website, http://www.home.earthlink.net/~jcw222,
under the "2006" page.
The GM wishes to once again acknowledge the invaluable assistance
of Anne Norton, who has served as assistant GM for the past three
years, and Barb Flaxington, who has served as assistant GM for
the past two years, as well as some key impromptu help this year
from Alex Brown.
Finally, tournament winner Chris Moffa has added the following
comments that are presented here verbatim (Chris's comments in
"His & Hers Puerto Rico championship plaques"
: I went through the first three games with strong harbor shipping
and did it with little or no crafting. At the final, it was a
total about face. I settled for the 2nd seat by bidding zero
and decided on the cash/builder stance. I also needed a 1-2 combo
because I was to be governor on Turn 2. I saw tobacco out in
the plantations, David took settler/quarry, I knew I had to pounce
on it. Coffee would take too long to get going, and wouldn't
do me that much good being governor next round. My first turn
pick was prospector, and then 2nd turn was to take builder/tobacco
With my tobacco ready to roll on Turn 2 it was time to look for
phase 2 cash - factory. I was able to acquire this at just the
right time. It is very easy to become beguiled by the money craftsman
brings when you own the factory and the 1+ doubloons resting
atop the role is even more enticing. Previously during my tournament
games, I was reluctant to pull the trigger and let others do
Later during turn 12, a pivotal moment arose, as John noted,
I selected craftsman with 3 doubloons and generated 3 more which
put me straight into range for my first large building. My final
cash stage was acquiring 3 quarries. Yes, this is a reverse quarry
approach, but when you have cash flow coming in early-midgame,
you don't need quarries as much at that point. It accomplished
a number of things. In my previous 3 games I had piles of vp's
to mask my true score with. This time, however, I had a paltry
stack of singles. Coming in with quarries on the back end made
me a surprise double large builder when the game was on the line.
It also gave me a useful "null" play option when the
prospector was gone.
Having enough money at the end via the reverse quarry maneuver
may have been a surprise. Previously David had blocked off my
tobacco sales. When he was going for a late 2nd large bldg, he
traded tobacco which allowed me to sell sugar and to exactly
afford my 2nd large with the huge help of 3 quarries in place.
The end game was angst ridden for David. He could choose to end
the game on his turn immediately and probably settle for a tie
with me. I went to the restroom to give him some space. When
I returned, he was still agonizing over it. He decided to prolong
the game and allowed John and Eric to mount a last ditch shipping
attack, closing the gap. Curiously, the end result was about
the same - a tie. By not bidding for2nd spot I gained 1/2 pt.
on David to break our tie.
"Viva la 2nd seat!"
On a side note, during the first game the other players ingeniously
devised a new statistical analysis for PRO. I encouraged them
to scan it in and upload it to boardgamegeek for countless PR
fans to lose sleep over. Hopefully someday light will be shed
on this most intriguing bit of number crunching.