Roll the Panzers ...
John Popiden looms over Bitter
Woods designer Randy Heller.
Bill Morse (left) and Tom Gregorio
for all the marbles in the Final.
It was another milestone year for Bitter Woods. In
this eleventh incarnation, not only was there record attendance,
with 26 participants, the event was also graced with the presence
of the "Patton's Relief" scenario which saw usage in
addition to the traditional six- and eight-turn scenarios. As
always, competitors were treated to another great year with numerous
new tricks and tactics being unveiled in 2009.
The Tuesday night mulligan round had a super turnout with
22 players! The veterans used this session to get the rust off
of their weapons while the less experienced took their drubbings
without complaint; what they learned that evening would be applied
in Wednesday's opening round. The mulligan round ensures that
all Bitter Woods fans get at least two games under their
belts as the Single Elimination tournament format would otherwise
eliminate 50% of the event entrants after the first round. The
shark count in this event was high with the owners of nine of
the existing ten first place woods present. Phil Evans
earned the 'Most Distant Traveler' award as he came from France
to try to add to his plaque collection.
Wednesday morning broke with a full roster of players lined
up for the first Single Elimination round. Last year's champion,
Tom Gregorio, did not participate in the prior mulligan round
so he was ripe for an early exit and was essentially playing
without a net from the get go Mentionable outcomes included:
* Marty Musella and Tom Gregorio fighting to a 'no decision'
in their match; both players advanced due to the bye rules in
effect for this tournament.
* Bob Bessin demonstrating that he'd been practicing in the off-season
with a convincing win over Dan Dolan.
* Jeff Hacker rolling over the GM, Ed Witkowski, from behind
a pair of dark sunglasses gaze that only added to the intimidation
* Kevin 'accidently' came up with a scenario strategy subsequently
dubbed "The Hacker Gambit" and the subject of much
post-WBC discussion. This involved the US player fortifying Clervaux
with a couple combat units and a leader on the 16AM turn which
creates a bottleneck for the Germans in the south. This could
be a game-winner, combined with the standard delaying tactics
used elsewhere on the board. In Kevin's upset win over past champion
Bob Ryan, this gambit proved decisive.
The second round on Wednesday had fewer surprises with the
veterans sailing through to the next round.
The third round featured eight experienced players trying
to make it to the final four. Match highlights included
* Bob Ryan leveraging Peiper in an exploitation to Trois Ponts
that forced a white flag from Forrest Paffenberg.
* After hearing about Kevin's Clervaux gambit, Tom was all too
happy to accede to Kevin's desire to play the Germans in the
six-turn scenario. To make it even more interesting, Kevin started
'calling the dice' and they responded to his will. Nevertheless,
Tom ground out a win by executing extremely conservative moves
that assumed Kevin would get ideal dice.
The final four featured top-rated familar faces; defending
champ Tom Gregorio vs designer Randy Heller and Bill Morse vs
The Tom vs Randy match was a replay of the 2002, 2005, 2007,
and 2008 finals with the players splitting the championships
at two apiece. This eight-turn scenario between the #1 and #2
AREA rated players would be the rubber game. Because Randy had
only played the Americans up to this point in the tournament,
he requested to play the Germans. Tom immediately agreed as Randy
was a known master of the US defense and both the 2007 and 2008
finals had featured Randy's Germans being defeated. Tom played
a precise positional game and that, combined with some atrocious
dice from Randy, gave Tom an early edge. Every rollbahn, or avenue
of approach, seemed secured by Tom's Allies but Randy spied a
chink in the defense: An angriff on the approach to Bastogne
had the Germans leapfrogging towards Noville and Tom was now
in deep trouble! With measured desperation, Tom threw caution
to the wind and sacrificed units to cut these advanced panzers
from their supplies. While this would result in eliminated US
units, the German advance would be sufficiently delayed to allow
reinforcements to prevent the German tide from getting any further.
The decisive event that had Randy surrendering after his 18AM
turn was his failure to account for the mud weather on that turn:
This extra movement point cost prevented him from exploiting
a gap in the German line and saved Trois Ponts!
In his semi-final match with Bob Ryan, Bill Morse secured
the win with a fortuitous advance that resulted in the capture
Since Bill had recently defeated Tom at Prezcon, it was with
some trepidation that Tom agreed to play the Germans in the Final.
Bill's defense was rock steady but Tom won the 50-50 roll and
Skorzeny snuck through and enabled the elimination of three US
units and the additional 'trapping' of a valuable US artillery
unit. The artillery survived the initial assault but succumbed
on the US turn because it was forced to counterattack and couldn't
move. Some tactical misplays led to the Germans capturing Eupen
and Trois Ponts, the destruction of sufficient American units
for the victory point and the preservation of German mech forces
gave the Germans four VP. At this point, Bill conceded.
As further proof of the dedication of BWD fans, Bill Bassin
and Jeremy Osteen played an extended campaign game that, at last
observation, still had them playing after 3AM! While Tom got
his third straight shield, everyone in the tournament was a winner
with all participants already looking forward to the 2010 WBC.