Northern Invasion Continues
Charley Hickok appears to be keeping
a lookout for the Canadians as the Yanks try to sneak in a qualifier
during the Preliminaries.
Richard Irving (right), the lone American
champion, is muttering something under his breath about "Canucks
It has been suggested that maybe we should just shift the
site of the Age of Steam tournament to Quebec to save
our finalists a trip. However, since I don't want to go
to Quebec to run the tournament, I guess that we will just keep
it in Lancaster. I'm sure our northern friends won't mind.
The defending two-time champion, Martin Sasseville, managed
to qualify for the Final again this year, but could not pull
off a third championship... settling for fouth. Instead,
his Quebec neighbor 2005 champion Pierre Paquet bettered his
runner-up finishes over the past two years to win his second
The first heat saw seven 4-player games using four different
maps of the seven eligible choices for the heat. It also
had some players reacquainting themselves with the game as the
only two bankruptcies occurred in the initial heat. Three
games were played on the Rust Belt map that comes with the game.
This proved to be the unforgiving map which fostered both bankruptcies.
The Rust Belt map had the biggest margin of victory as Michael
Holmquist posted the highest score for the year of 133 points
to win by 35. This map also had the closest game as Cody
Sandifer beat the GM on the second tie-breaker with Pierre Paquet
only 5 points behind each of them. In the third game on
the Rust Belt map, Glenn Pierce took the most loans, but earned
much more income to finish ahead of Charlie Hickok. There
were also two games played on the Western US map where Mario
Veilette took the fewest number of loans of anyone in the tournament,
5, to earn a victory. Barb Flaxington defeated Ian Nowland
by 4 points to win the other game played on the Western US map.
On the Germany map, Richard Irving defeated Rick Dutton by a
single point to qualify for the semi-finals and Martin Sasseville
took his first step toward his third championship by winning
on the South Africa map.
The second heat drew only 14 players and thus three games,
all on different maps. In a 5-player game on the Rust Belt
map, Nathalie Malenfant earned the victory. In a 4-player
game on the India map, Pierre Paquet earned a final income of
$42, the largest of the tournament, to cruise to an easy victory.
Finally, Mike Kaltman came back from a bit of a tough start to
win convincingly on the South America map.
With only 10 players winning in the heats, the GM opted for
two five-player games in the Semis with the top two finishers
in each game advancing to the Final. The same map was going
to be used for the round with the players choosing from a selection
of 5 maps. The map chosen was the Rust Belt map.
The two semi-final games had very different styles of play.
In one, players were bidding a lot for turn order causing large
amounts of loans to be taken. In fact, with three turns
still to be played, three players had maxed out their loans at
15 while the remaining two players had taken 14 loans and then
maxed out on the penultimate turn. Martin Sasseville won
to qualify for the Finals for the 4th straight year while Mario
Veillette finished three points ahead of Mike Kaltman for second
place and his third Final appearance of the past four years.
In the other semi-final game, the bidding was more subdued. Three
players didn't max out on loans and everyone ended within 17
points. Pierre Paquet earned his 4th consecutive appearance
in the Final with a win even though he had the fewest number
of tracks at the end of the game. Nathalie Malenfant finished
2 points ahead of both Barb Flaxington and Michael Holmquist
to earn her first Final appearance.
The finalists had a choice to play on the Rust Belt or on
the Germany map and opted for the latter. The game started
off rather conservatively with two players taking two loans and
the others taking one. In the first turn, Nathalie started
the ball rolling by building from Berlin to Hanover going through
Magdeburg. Mario then built track from Nuremberg to Stuttgart
to Freiberg, which had been promoted to a city via the Urbanization
action. Martin built track from Hanover to Dortmund to
Köln and then Pierre built track from Oldenburg to Dortmund
to Köln. At this point the other players congratulated Mario
on his victory since he was alone in the south while the other
three players were fighting it out in the north. All gave up
one of their runs in the first turn to increase their locomotive
and the game was on. The second turn saw Pierre build disconnected
track over to Antwerp from Köln and start infringing on
Mario's southern territory with a build from Stuttgart to Frankfurt.
All players again increased their locomotive by one more link,
Pierre through the locomotive action and everyone else by skipping
their first run. Martin used this advantage to complete a 4-link
run to generate additional income, but he still was cash poor
and lost 2 income at the end of the turn to pay expenses. Money
was tight by the third turn as two players decided to take 3
shares and the other two took 2 shares. Pierre connected
his two disjointed track segments with a build from Frankfurt
to Dortmund while the other players continued to increase their
existing networks. Martin took the locomotive action to
get to a 5-train by the third turn and the other players all
skipped their first opportunity to ship goods in order to increase
to the 4-train. On his second run, Martin could have had
another 4-link run, but instead took a 2-link run which ended
up costing him another dollar of income at the end of the turn
in order to meet expenses. Mario took 3 more shares on
Turn 4 while Pierre only took 1 share and Martin and Nathalie
each took 2 more shares. Mario skipped a chance to ship
goods to get to the 5-train and then made the first 5 link run
of the game on the second round of shipping goods. On Turn
5, Pierre did not take a loan and would not borrow for the remainder
of the game while Nathalie had to take 2 more shares this turn.
Mario took the locomotive action to get to the maximum 6-train
while Nathalie and Pierre each used a ship goods action to increase
their trains again getting Nathalie to the maximum train level
as well. During these past two turns, Nathalie and Martin
were building parallel track causing them to fight for the same
goods each round. By the end of this turn, Nathalie had
income of $19 while all of the others had income of $18.
However, there were big differences in loan amounts making the
game less close than the income seemed. On Turn 6, no loans
were taken although neither Martin nor Mario built any track
during this turn. Martin did make two 6 link runs during
this turn although he only generated $5 of income from each of
these runs with Nathalie getting the only $1 of income from each
of them. On Turn 7, Mario took the last 2 shares of loans
that any of the players took while Pierre became the last to
max out his train by taking the locomotive action. Both
Mario and Pierre completed two runs of 6 links with each of them
getting all $6 of income on both runs. On the final turn,
Pierre generated $6 of income on one of his two runs while Mario
generated $6 of income on both of his. When the game ended,
Pierre, Nathalie and Mario each had $34 of income to Martin's
$29. However, Pierre had only issued 7 shares of loans
versus 11 by Nathalie, Mario 14 and Martin 12. Even though
Nathalie had the most track segments (21), the major difference
in loan amounts gave Pierre a 10-point victory over Nathalie.
One of the problems that Mario had was that Nuremburg, one of
his start cities, never got any additional goods leaving Mario
an early income void since he had no goods to ship from there.
It seems that some have started to believe that our Quebec
friends are unstoppable. On one of the heat results, one
player's comment was that "Martin played" indicating
that he believed that the game was determined before it even
started. Even I fell into this trap - feeling satisfied that
I came in ahead of Pierre in the first heat even though I didn't
actually win the game. This kind of thinking can lead to
a defeatist attitude before the game even starts - making the
favorite's job much easier so I'd recommend coming in with some
confidence and you never know what may happen. My goal
for next year is to actually make my own semi-final and I won't
be satisfied with any lesser result.
Finally, I want some input for next year's tournament.
First, I will have to send in a preferred time schedule for the
event by February 28, 2009. This year, we moved our Saturday
sessions to 11:00 a.m. and the semi-final at 3:00 p.m.
In the previous year, the second heat began at 2:00 or 3:00 p.m.
and the semi-final was either 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. If you
have a preference for the time, please send me an email message
by January 31, 2009 and I will take that into consideration when
making the schedule. The second item is that I again plan
to limit the number of tracks available in each heat to either
six or seven choices. If you have a track that you really
would like to see included in the tournament, please let me know.
Good thing Peter Staab is the GM or
he wouldn't have a seat at this all-Quebec Final.
I haven't seen this many Canadians
since the Maple Leafs came to town.