Still Short of the Mark ...
Davyd Field, Scott Fenn, Gregory Kulp
and Matt Evinger make like Indiana Jones.
Alyssa Gumkowski gets schooled
the finer points of Tikal by Arthur Field.
TIKAL celebrated its tenth anniversary as aWBC event
in 2009, and the numbers were about the same as last year: 41
participants. Read on to discover how the experts managed
their allotted 130 Action Points over nine regular rounds and
four scoring (volcano) rounds. Alsoo read on to discover if perennial
finalists Jack Jaeger, Arthur Field, or Daniel Broh-Kahn won
the tournament, or if it was relative newcomer Virginia Colin.
Again the tournament this year was not without controversy, as
there were charges of unsportsmanlike conduct at one table, but
this might be attributed to normal venting or convention fatigue.
In the GM's opinion, much of this is to be expected at the WBC,
where the competition is the reason people come. The GM
himself must share some of the blame, by prodding this slow moving
table. Tikal, like many Euros, is easy to learn, if difficult
to master. The Tikal game itself comes with a player cheat
sheet, which shows everything a player can do on a simple 3"
by 4.5" card. To summarize: A player places a tile, and
then allocates 10 action points in their turn as they see fit.
Scoring is also simple: In a scoring round, and there are four
of them in the game, each player receives the usual 10 action
points, without the tile placement, and then they score. The
last scoring round is done in reverse player order, meaning whoever
trails at the last scoring round gets to go first in the last
scoring round, often a significant advantage. No language skills
are required, as there are no words anywhere on the player card
or the map. A true Euro!
In order to make for a far more competitive game, Tikal,
which has now been at WBC for ten years, uses the optional bidding
rules included in the game. This "optional rule,
which was new to some people, is not that difficult an addition
to an already great game. Players bid victory points for
the right to choose which tile they want to place, some tiles
having more perceived value to one player than another. Bidding
provides a bit more strategy to the game, and is supposed to
prevent the inevitable whining about poor tile selection. If
you don't like the tile you got, you've got no one to blame but
Bidding also allows a player to go last in one round, and then
first in the next, allowing them, in effect, 20 action points
in a row, useful for digging temples one turn, then capping them
in the next. And when there are only 130 Action Points in the
game, the back-to-back play can be very rewarding. But
be careful, bidding too many points can hurt you, as one finalist
discovered to his dismay this year!
There were three heats scheduled for different days and times.
The first heat, always the most popular, had six games, the second
had five, and the last heat had just two games. Is there
a trend here? YES! The last heat was a disaster from
a scheduling perspective at a WBC tournament, as seven players
is just not enough. Perhaps the 10pm start was a little
too late? If so, then let this be your wake-up call that
even the final heats of a multiplayer tournament need bodies,
and, more importantly, offer opportunities! Heats
were scored on cards, with each individual disclosing his or
her finish place, scoring in the final round, and reserve pieces
for a tiebreaker. An amusing anecdote this year is that the GM,
after just teaching a dozen or so folks how to play at the demo,
was soundly trounced by three "beginners" in their
very first game! I take solace in the knowledge that my
teaching skills are so good.
There were 13 individual heat winners, and so "win one and
you're in" was pretty much guaranteed. Although there
was plenty of room for alternates at the semi-finals, only eight
of the desired 16 qualifiers appeared for the 11 am semis! Eight?
With room for 16? Wow. Since Tikal works
best as a 4-player game, it was agreed that the four semi-final
winners and runner-ups would advance to a single, four-player
Final, immediately following the semi-finals.
During the heats and the semis, the GM did his usual aggressive
job moving the four scoring rounds along, with all but one game
finishing within two hours. The key to this aggressive scheduling,
for those tempted to run Tikal tournaments without the
dreaded Analysis Paralysis, is to ensure that all scoring rounds
start before 30 minutes have elapsed since the last one. Most
players, who usually had other games to go to after two hours,
were only too happy to oblige and only one game before the Final
went past 120 minutes, in spite of the prodding.
The first semi-final game was won by Jack Jaeger, with 107 points,
eight ahead of his nearest rival, Virginia Colin. Daniel
Broh-Kahn won the other semi with 109 points, with the next player
Arthur Field at 106. Although the margin of victory provides
some indication of the skill of the participants, it is not possible
to compare one Tikal game to another, with different board
layouts or bidding strategies possible each time. But clearly,
the Final was again going to shape up as a clash of titans, with
three bridesmaids to the big show.
At the Final most participants observed what was initially considered
to be relatively passive bidding amongst the four finalists,
unlike the aggressive bidding that characterized previous Finals.
Jack and Daniel were tied after almost every scoring round,
with Arthur and Virginia relentlessly breathing down their necks.
Scoring after Volcano 1 was 30; 28; 24 and 21. After Volcano
2, it was even closer 41; 41; 37; 36. At that point it was still
anyone's game. But then, something stunning happened! There
was a 10 point bid for a single tile! That had never happened
before. The impact was felt in the third scoring round,
as the scores were 63; 63; 60 and 55, with the 55 by Arthur,
who had bid the 10 for the critical tile, but had not yet recovered
his expensive investment.
Then the trash talk started shortly after, as it was clearly
going to be close. Although the first three scorers (done
in reverse order of their place on the score track) in the final
round were able to start a comeback, with impressive scoring
rounds after the last scoring round, it was a case of too little,
too late. So although Arthur scored a game high 42 points
in his final scoring round, neither he, nor either of the other
two, were able to stop the leader. Virginia scored 40 on
her final round, Daniel scoring third a paltry 36, knocking him
out of contention and then Jack last with a 39. Final scores
were Jack, 102, Daniel, 98 Arthur, 96, and Virginia, 94. A
very, close game.
When it was all over, the four finalists went their separate
ways, knowing that they would probably meet again at some future
Tikal tournament. Will Jack, Daniel and Arthur reclaim
their spots at the Final table next year? If past performance
is any indication, you can almost guarantee it! Or will
newcomer Virginia make a reappearance? Well, we'll just
have to see you at Tikal 2010 to find out. And if
you want to play it again, you're probably gonna have to vote
it back in!