The Spice of Life
Defending champion Anne Marie
Dilworth was the only female among the entrants and remains the
only woman to laurel in the event. She tried hard to defend her
title, playing in all three heats but failed to advance.
The finalists included all four
members of the GM's team - finishing 1-2-3-6.
Participation in this year's tournament continued at about
the same level as previous years. We again played nine qualification
games, this time with a mean duration of 6.3 game turns in 4.1
Most of the qualification games finished in the allotted four
hours or less, but one grinder took nine hours to complete to
a 10-turn Guild default victory. (My philosophy is to let the
games play to their conclusion as long as all of the players
agree to stick with it and are having fun. Based on the amount
of intense negotiation going on at this table, it was apparent
that all six players were fully engaged and they insisted on
playing it out.) On the other end of the scale, one game finished
in just one hour with what appeared to be a surprise solo Harkonnen
victory in Turn 3. Until the crafty Bene Gesserit player revealed
that it was all part of his master plan, converting it into a
solo BG prediction victory! This is the first prediction victory
in three years; before that we were typically seeing one per
year, so it's good to have the witches back in their usual form.
All of the other games were won by alliances, six pairs and
two three-ways. After last year's "Fremen surprise"
(where the tournament's losing-est faction leapt to the top of
the winner's column), we returned to results more aligned with
the usual expectations: Harkonnen led with six total wins, followed
by the Bene Gesserit with five. After that, the Atreides took
third with four wins, continuing their odd habit of alternating
years toward the top and at the very bottom. The Emperor, Guild,
and Fremen brought up the rear with three, two, and one victories
This year's statistics were no real surprise in terms of faction
results. Over the seven years of records I've kept, the Atreides,
Emperor, and Guild have been pretty stable as the "average"-strength
powers, capable of winning and losing in about equal measure.
The BG and Harkonnen (especially the BG) definitely seem to win
more often than they lose, and the Fremen lose quite a bit more
than they win. The hardcore fan base of Dune (including
myself) are quick to want to discuss adjustments to the various
player powers to try to balance the factions a little more for
tournament play, but we risk damaging the flavor and enjoyment
of the game. Several people proposed limiting the Harkonnen's
hand-stealing Karama ability a bit, but opinions on the relative
strength of the BG still vary considerably. I may consider beginning
some sort of bidding system for faction selection next year
all opinions on that subject are welcome.
The other house rules in play continued to receive good feedback
in general. The semi-variable appearance of the Shield Wall as
a sixth stronghold, combined with some minor limits on inter-player
spice exchanges seem to be doing a good job of preventing stalemate
situations, helping tournament games end in a reasonable time.
Best Faction plaques were awarded to the players who gave
the best single-game performance with each faction during the
preliminary heats, measured in terms of strongholds controlled
per turn. Dan Hoffman received Best Atreides; Ty Hansen, Best
BG; Joe Abrams, Best Emperor and Best Harkonnen; Rob Barnes,
Best Guild; and Matt Fagan, Best Fremen. Of note is the fact
that this is the third time Joe has taken home Best Harkonnen,
and also the third time Rob has taken Best Guild. Make sure you
watch out if you run into one of these guys playing those factions!
Five of the six finalists were returnees, with Rob Barnes
being the only newcomer, and happily drawing his favorite, the
Guild. Phil Barcafer, 2005 champion, drew the Emperor. Then,
in a bizarre twist of fate, all four members of the "Three
Men and a Canadian team" advanced to the Fnal: Bill Dyer,
2003 champion, drew the Atreides; Brad Johnson, 1998 champion,
drew the Bene Gesserit; Glenn McMaster drew the Fremen; and Joe
Abrams drew the Harkonnen. (One may very well question the validity
of the GM and all three of his teammates advancing, but my records
are open to all! In the interest of full disclosure, Dune
was Glenn's team event, but the rest of us had already lost our
team events, so Glenn's performance did not matter, and in fact,
we had more interest in making sure he did NOT score!)
The Final was off to a relatively dynamic beginning, with
a number of battles over available spice blows erupting quickly.
The Guild snapped up two stronholds in Turn 1, and the BG sent
advisors to all corners of the planet. House Atreides and House
Harkonnen allied in Turn 2 and were almost immediately contending
for the win, with the Harkonnen pushing the Guild out of Tuek's
Sietch. The other factions were forced to ally and cooperate
against the leaders to keep the game going. A lot of tokens were
sent to the tanks in the next two turns, and the Harkonnen in
particular took significant damage and loss of position. By Turn
4, despite the Atreides/Harkonnen alliance controlling the bulk
of the battle cards and working carefully to maintain critical
gaps in the other players' hands, Sietch Tabr lay unoccupied
and the BG controlled Tuek's Sietch. The Atreides and Harkonnen
were reduced to their home cities and the Emperor continued to
hold the last stronghold. With the appearance of a critical worm
in Turn 5, the Atreides abandoned his weakened Harkonnen ally
and offered an alliance to the BG. The combination of the Voice
and Prescience makes for a fearsome opponent, particularly with
the various gaps in battle card ownership known by the Atreides.
With relatively large treasuries, careful analysis, and a little
luck concerning the hidden cards in the Harkonnen's hand, the
BG and Atreides were able to take control of the requisite four
strongholds to win a fairly short game. The Atreides held three
of the four to take first place.
Congratulations to all, and especially to Bill Dyer on his
second Dune championship. I think this was the first year
since I took over as GM that I was able to play more than one
heat myself, and it was great to face some of the players whom
I haven't had the pleasure of opposing in some time. I received
a lot of good feedback about the format and style of the tournament,
but as always, suggestions for improvement are always welcome.
See you again next year!