Still hitting the beach 16 years
Nels Thompson downs four-time champ
Jim Doughan while defending his title. As a triple winner, Nels
now trails Jim by just one BKN title.
Alan Applebaum (left) joins GM Andrew
Cummins and Nels in the Final. The secret of their success: having
the foresight to bring long sleeved wear to the meat locker.
In its 16th year of competition at the WBC's Breakout Normandy
(BKN to its friends) continues to provide fresh surprises. Indeed
it is probably this ability to generate different situations
on almost every run of the game that leads to its enduring popularity.
The moment you think that you have a lock on a game, curve
balls will come in to throw your plans into disarray. The softening
up bombardment your assault needs has failed. Air interdiction
has stopped reinforcements from reaching the battle. A key attack
has been thrown back in confusion or succeeded beyond your wildest
expectation. Against the background of an uncertain length of
day you are forced to ruthlessly prioritise what you want to
do from what you must.
The player pool in recent years has been viewed as something
of a shark-tank with many highly competent players having absorbed
the harsh lessons of the game -- this year was no exception with
six previous champions and many contenders in the lists.
New players however can also be an occasional source of surprise
-- Kevin Hammond in his first face-to-face encounter at the game
took down Don Greenwood (ex-champion and game developer) in classical
giant-killer fashion. He also despatched four-time winner Jim
Doughan before being stopped in the semi-finals by Alan Applebaum.
There have been some subtle changes in the bidding since last
year, the average bid remaining approximately the same at 36-37
supply for the Germans. But early round bids have increased somewhat
(32->35) while later round bids have subsided from the heights
of 50-70 seen last year towards 40-45. The overall results still
favor the German side with 13 wins out of 24 (0.54) down from
last years (0.65). Interestingly, the Allies won seven of the
last twelve games and four of the final six in favor of the Allies.
It seems that increased bidding and improved strategy with the
Allies is indeed narrowing the gap.
Last year's champion, Nels Thompson, again reached the Final
to face previous champion Alan Applebaum returning to BKN after
a period of absence. They agreed to play with the no magic bridge
variant, using cards instead of dice. Nels' Allies had a good
landing, clearing Utah, Gold and Juno beaches and seizing Merville.
The 7th was relatively short (A to 4) with the Advantage remaining
with Alan's Germans. The 8th sees the Allies contest Caen, finally
clear St Mere and break up the aggressively placed local German
defenses in Troan but fail to contest Carentan & Balleroy.
At the end of the 8th, with Allied progress poor and the German
position east of Caen weak, Nels decided his best hope was a
breakout. Deploying his British reinforcements east on the 9th,
after some initial failed attempts to contest Colombiers and
Balleroy he created a killing zone in Troan. This drew in Alan's
local reserve to its defense, threatening Bourguebus, Potigny
and a potential encirclement of Caen. The 10th saw Troan fall,
Mezidon contested and Houlgate taken with the Advantage surrendered
in an attempt to prevent its capture - the Allied strategy was
Alan regrouped forces out of Mezidon to defend Zone A while
Nels concentrated in Houlgate. The 11th ran long (2-10). Zone
A was contested in force by a British corps, while the Germans
prepare a large counterattack force for the 12th. Despite supply
difficulties the Allies had twelve units, seven fresh, four of
whom are artillery units in Zone A at the start of the last turn.
Ranged against them, the Germans have around 20 units but with
the day starting on impulse 3 they simply don't have the resources
or time to stop the Allied breakout victory.
Winning with a Breakout against a skilled opponent is a very
rare event, only a couple having been seen in the past decade
of BKN play. Nels victory was well earned and deserved against
a former champion.