A Different Kind of Tiger ...
Newcomer Mike Mishler (left)
absorbs a beating in the Mulligan Round against designer Ray
Freeman, but puts the lesson to good use in subsequent rounds.
Jim Winslow (left) nearly overcomes
a poor opening turn on Thursday to recover in the Final but eventually
fails to prevent Ray Freeman's third title.
Tigers in the Mist attracted 17 players, down one from
last year. However, 22 games were played. Jim Winslow and Tom
Thornsen again acted as assistant GMs, and adjudicated a game
involving the GM (as a loss, no less)! This year we played a
mulligan on Tuesday night, three rounds on Wednesday, and the
Final on Thursday.
Unlike previous years, we only had one new player in the event
this time, but he was a doozy. After attending the tutorial demo
and then getting smacked around by the designer in the Mulligan
round, Mike Mishler went on a tear, winning three of his next
four games to finish third on tiebreaks. He had an extremely
impressive debut, facing the GM, last years runner-up, and two
other experienced opponents.
The event was won by GM and designer Ray Freeman, with a 3-0-1
record. I did lose an adjudicated eliminator game (deservedly,
by the way), which did not count against me as I had already
won in the Mulligan round. My one draw was against Floridian
Rick Sciacca. Rick took Bastogne on the 18-1 impulse, but then
his Germans ran into a green wall at the Ourthe River and never
made any real progress afterward. A bid of one VP as the US
now seems rather steep. In the past, some players have gone to
two VPs, but German play in the scenario has caught up with the
defense over the past three years. Other games of note featured
the annual battle of the AGMs, and this time Jim Winslow triumphed,
breaking a two-year losing streak to two-time defending champ
The three semi-final games were all tough. Rick Sciacca faced
Ray Freeman in the game mentioned above. Jim Winslow parleyed
a determined defense into an ultimately winning position against
Tom which went down to the 21st with Jim hanging on with a pretty
thin line at the end. Mike Mishler played tenacious defense against
Jim Kramer, holding on to Bastogne until the 21st, despite losing
Baraque on the 18th and the 2 SS arriving on the 19th.
The last round games were equally rough on the "surviviors"
of the semis. Brad Jones avenged his loss in the 2005 Final to
Tom Thorsen His secret plan was to play the Germans, or rather
keep them out of Tom's hands. Brad used Tom's strategy against
him by taking Bastogne on the first impulse of the 17th and blew
the game open with a breakout at the end of the day.
Meanwhile, Rick Sciacca and Mike faced off in a tense game
that came down to the wire. Rick's attack on Bastogne on 17-3
failed to secure the town, however "Big Black", the
2nd SS Pz, entered on the 18th. Baraque also fell on the 18th,
but thereafter progress was slow with the Germans finally breaching
the Ourthe on the 20th, and Marche falling on 22-1. It was too
little, too late and Mike held on for the win.
Jim Winslow and Ray Freeman sat down to play a rematch of
the 2003 championship game. Jim took the Germans for no bid.
Four years ago when we played in the Final, I had the Germans
and a fabulous opening day. This time, Jim had the worst opening
results for the Germans I can recall. On 16-1, he only cleared
two areas and his engineers failed to fix either bridge. By the
end of the day, the US had plenty of extra units and still held
St. Vith, Lutzkampen and Marnach.
US luck continued on the 17th as the three southern bridges
over the Wiltz and Sauer went down in tangled masses of timber
and steel. However, both US engineers managed to get themselves
killed (with a little help from their commander).
On 18-1 the Germans hit Bastogne with a major attack, however,
10 SP of US troops were waiting. German losses were severe. By
the end of the 18th, the Wehrmacht had pushed into Vielsalm,
Houffalize, Noville and Martelange. Positionally speaking, this
is not where the Germans want to start December 18th.
Jim continued to press doggedly on, maneuvering where possible
and by 19-2 Bastogne was isolated, but continued to hold against
German assaults. The US failed a demo roll at Moircy and the
Germans captured this bridgehead area on the west side of the
Ourthe River. The Germans made attacks into Neufchateau and La
Roche as well, and the depleted garrison at Bastogne surrendered
at the end of the 19th.
On 20-1, the Germans seized the highway bridge at Champion
by a coup-de-main and hammered at the US front lines, now beginning
to look rather thin in places. Fortunately, the Germans had been
rather decimated by this time and though ground was given, nothing
disastrous had happened. Still, Jim had tenaciously climbed back
into the game through persistence and good play.
The 21st saw the Wehrmacht resurgent, with six attacks clearing
six areas, including a stunning victory at Marche. Shocked, the
US formed a line at Weelin-Forzee-Haid-Mean-Ouffet. There were
no US reserves left. Jim opened 21-2 with a 5-3 attack at Haid,
and killed two of the defending SPs. His remaining shot was at
Wellin on 21-3, and the green 1313 engineer just barely blew
the bridge with a DR of 8 to save the game.
After a horrid start, Jim played a great game, demonstrating
once again that what appears to be a hopeless position early
may not be near the end of the game. It really came down to a
couple of die rolls on the 21st.
Some other memorable moments in the tournament were a fresh
US engineer failing to blow the bridge at Ouffet on 21-1, but
then surviving a 6-1 attack to stuff the German assault on that
flank anyway! In one game, the Germans took Bastogne on the morning
of the 17th, yet not only didn't win, they barely advanced three
more areas after that! Finally, Tom Thornsen, after having a
7-0-1 record for the past two years was held to a much more mere
mortal 2-2 record. Congratulations to JIm Winslow for ending
Tom's WBC streak, as well as for his second place finish.
Statistically, it was pretty even. The Germans won 11 games,
the US 12, with one draw. 15 of the games had no bidding. Where
there was bidding, the range was 0.5-2 for the US, with the average
bid at 1.16. In games between the top six finishers, the US managed
a 7-4-1 edge. This is consistent with past experience, except
for Tom's extraordinary run of eight games without a loss as
the Germans coming into this years WBC.