First to Three Titles
John Rogers takes his schooling from
two-time champ Paul Gaberson.
Bob Jamelli looks for help in his
hand to use against Tom Drueding.
Top seed James "The Master" Pei defended his 2008
Championship and became the first three-time winner in the event's
history. Pei defeated Scott Beall, Paul Gaberson and Bill Peeck
in the preliminary rounds, Riku Riekkinen in the semi-finals
and Grant LaDue in the championship game. His only loss was to
Doug Smith in Round 2 of the preliminaries. LaDue was undefeated
entering the Final, having beaten Peeck, Bob Jamelli, Smith and
George Young in the preliminary rounds and Keith Wixson in the
Here are some highlights of the tournament:
* Attendance was down again to only 23 players after falling
from 35 to 27 last year. It may be time to reevaluate the Wednesday
timeslot that we have been occupying for the past several years. With
the convention now starting earlier in the week, I will definitely
give consideration to moving the tournament to Monday or Tuesday
for next year (assuming we survive the Century cut this year,
which is by no means certain). I did notice that both of those
days had a scarcity of tournaments this year, while the competition
with new events on Wednesday has been hurting us for a couple
of years now.
* There were only three new players this year, which is the smallest
number that we have ever had. Since the game is now out of print,
this is not really that surprising. What has really been hurting
attendance is that regular attendees from the past have moved
on to new events, and new players have generally not been sufficiently
charmed by the game to return in subsequent years. For example,
none of last year's new players returned this year.
* Half of last year's laurelists made it into the top six again
this year, and only one of this year's semi-finalists (Pei) was
a semi-finalist last year. LaDue advanced to the elimination
rounds for the first time.
* The Top New Player was Riekkinen, who reached the semi-finals
and defeated Wixson and Bill Edwards, the sixth and seventh seeds
* The best British player was LaDue with three wins. The best
French player was Pei with three wins.
* This year I tried something new to address the yearly dominance
of the tournament by the French, instituting a new rule whereby
the British players were allowed to retrieve reinforcement cards
from the discard pile at the start of each turn. I also did away
with bidding for sides in favor of random side selection (IMO
bidding in the past may have allowed players to become "specialists"
of one side or the other). My fear prior to the tournament was
that I had gone too far and that the new rule would lead to British
dominance, but my fear was unfounded as French dominance continued
unabated! This year the French won 65 % of the games played (as
compared to 67% last year, 61% in 2007, 52% in 2006, 56% in 2005,
71% in 2004 and 62% in 2003).
* I will continue to strive to better balance the game, and have
several ideas for next year. I realize that attendance may suffer
from house rule hating purists staying away, but I feel that
the current imbalance is very bad for the game and hurts attendance
* Prizes: In addition to the plaques, the Champ received
a Brass Head Pipehawk and the runner up received a French Style
Warhawk. Books and period 54mm toy soldiers were also awarded
to the worthy.
Wilderness War 2009 Final AAR, by Grant LaDue with
comments by James Pei:
Grant LaDue (French) vs. Defending Champion James Pei (British)
I opened with a Campaign, sending Montcalm and Levis to HCN. Webb
intercepted Montcalm, but Montcalm won the battle. Montcalm
then successfully took HCN, but James played the Massacre card
to eliminate four Indian units and start the "no Indians"
theme of the game. VPs to FR5. James secured
HCS and started a fort line towards OCE. James had
no Regulars reinforcements, but did move the Provincial Assemblies
to Enthusiastic and played two consecutive cards to recruit Provincials. This
secured all normal raiding routes as well as giving him copious
cannon fodder. Attempted raids with my last
two Indian units resulted in both being intercepted and destroyed. Zero
Indians for the French! Two Campaigns by the British
allowed James to begin a siege of Ticonderoga. Vaudreuil
died when Montcalm sacked a fort under construction at OCE. I
held a British Regulars card to keep it out of the discard pile.
This was a very good turn for the British. They gained
no Regulars reinforcements, but James' other cards were beyond
excellent and he was already establishing a supply line towards
Niagara. I had little choice but to cut it with my
last play as the main French army was already weakened and had
no Indians to absorb losses. Direct combat could see
it quickly reduced to impotence.
Pei's Thoughts: I didn't think I had
a great hand at the time other than the Campaigns and the Provincials. As
the British, you need to have a good starting hand to get the
ball rolling since time is against you. In hindsight,
compared to Grant's hand, my cards were pretty good. Seeing
that Montcalm was without Indian support, I tried to entice Grant
into attacking my forces, hoping to ding more French Regulars.
Loudoun dropped Johnson at Ticonderoga to work the siege with
a +1. Montcalm attacked, but Loudoun made the interception
(the fourth straight successful 50-50 intercept for the British). Loudoun
had a max army with a 0 modifier while Montcalm was on the 22-27
column with a +2 modifier. A 6-6 result gave the British
the win. VPs to FR4. Ticonderoga then fell. VPs
to FR2. James got Light Infantry with Amherst
and his third Campaign. I drew no reinforcements and
had not yet seen an Indian card. The Campaign
allowed him to begin a drive on Ohio Forks and send his main
army into winter quarters. I evacuated the Louisburg
garrison to Quebec because Montcalm needed the men.
The situation looked bleak for me. Montcalm's army
was heavily damaged and brittle, the British were poised to drive
up the Champlain Valley and on. Ohio Forks and Louisburg was
undefended. A VP loss for the French seemed likely
as no Indians meant that I could not gain VPs by raiding. In
addition, I discarded two British Regulars and the Big Highlanders
cards (no choice), so he was guaranteed reinforcements next turn.
Pei's Thoughts: My hand was below average,
with mostly 1-Op and 2-Op cards. Most disconcerting
was no Regulars or Highlanders. Then I saw why as
Grant played multiple British reinforcement cards. He
had lots of 3-Op cards, but few usable events. The
main comfort I had was that I won the crucial battle at Ticonderoga
and damaged the French army enough to force Grant to pull the
Louisburg garrison out so early.
James used the tournament rule to retrieve the big Highlanders
from the discard pile and played it for Murray and Forbes while
Montcalm reoccupied Ticonderoga. Amherst attacked
Montcalm unsuccessfully at Ticonderoga, with both Amherst and
Webb killed assaulting my Fieldworks. VPs to FR3. The
Small Pox card was played on the damaged British army, but got
only one hit. James played Victories in Germany to
replace six of the British step losses. I stole
a Fieldworks card from him with Courier Intercepted.
The French had seen no Indian reinforcement cards to date. This
was the only turn of the game where James didn't have a Campaign
card. The victory at Ticonderoga gave me my
first glimmer of hope. Losing Amherst had greatly
complicated his command situation, and the stolen Fieldworks
card prevented him from coming to grips with the battered French
army. I had to spend most of my activations
keeping the main army functional.
Pei's Thoughts: My hand was not bad,
with Victories in Germany and Fieldworks. More importantly,
I was able to pull the big Highlanders card from the discard
pile. This proved to be my only Regulars reinforcement
for the entire game. I didn't get Wolfe, so I sent
Forbes to the West to start the Ohio Forks campaign. Losing
the two leaders later sure put a crimp in my plans as I had to
shuffle leaders around to fix my command problems. Then
with my Fieldworks card gone, I basically just sat quietly until
the next turn. The main French army was somewhat battered
which forced Grant to be on the defensive.
Late 1758 -- (reshuffled here)
I finally got some reinforcements in the form of a French Regulars
card and got my only raid of the game in with a Cdb raid in the
Northern Dept. James sent Johnson out West with some
Rangers, forcing Dumas to move north to the French Creek stockade
to block an easy VP for the British. James got
his fourth Campaign of the game and took Ohio Forks. VPs
to 0. The year ended with VPs at FR1 because
of the raid.
Some hope existed for me if I could get some raids in during
1759 and win a battle or two. A 0 VP French
win was still possible, but any kind of bad luck and I was dead. Through
the first four turns of the game James had drawn four Campaigns
to my one. He also had more reinforcements, and I
had seen no Indian cards and no Ambushes. The situation
out West was precarious at best and I would have to work hard
to extract my Marine Detachments so as not to give him free VPs.
Pei's Thoughts: My hand was average,
with a Campaign and a Ranger card, but still no sign of any Regulars. With
the VPs in manageable condition, I decided to send Johnson with
a small force to harass the French western stockades. My
plan was to have Murray lead a sizeable force to take Ohio Forks
while Johnson tried to pick up a cheap VP. Grant
played well and blocked my efforts. I took comfort
in that the Forks fell rather easily, but this was somewhat offset
by the successful French raid.
The situation out West came to a head. James missed
a chance to overrun a Cdb and crush my last force out there for
two VPs, but not until I had also missed a chance to overrun
his Ranger and escape to Niagara. In the end,
he was faced with a 4 strength force at a stockade with Fieldworks
against his 10 strength force with no retreat route, and he declined
to risk the battle. Montcalm's army then moved onto
Lake Ontario and the threat forced him to abandon his drive on
Niagara. James had another Campaign (his fifth) and
began the siege of Louisburg, which had no garrison. Small
Pox hit the Brits for three steps. I used Bastions
Repaired to put Louisburg back to siege 0 just after James finally
rolled a hit.
The game was still up in the air. If Louisburg were
to hold out, I would have a fair chance. I still
had yet to see any Indians. James felt that
I should have perhaps sent Montcalm to Louisburg to hold the
fortress and that may have helped. Unfortunately,
with Vaudereuil dead I would not have been able to move a full
army with Levis in command, so it likely would have cost me elsewhere.
Pei's Thoughts: My hand was good, with
another Campaign and the Foul Weather card. I missed
the opportunity to kill Dumas when I could have combined Murray's
and Johnson's forces together. But I didn't want to
risk the chance when the game was so close. Besides, I was
forced to withdraw when Montcalm's army came screaming to the
rescue. In any event, I pulled Murray out quickly
and shipped him to Louisburg before Grant could send a good leader
to defend the fortress.
James had another Campaign in his hand and used Courier Intercepted
to steal a Campaign from me! He had the last three
plays of the game. James hit on all his siege rolls
at Louisburg, and it fell quickly - VPs to BR2. I
had one last chance as he had not torn down the fort at HCN. Unfortunately,
Loudoun defeated Montcalm twice in even battles which gave James
too large a lead for me to recover from and I resigned. I
finally had drawn an Indian card, but it was too little too late. I
never did see an Ambush card.
In retrospect, I am quite pleased that I managed to take this
game the full length. James did not appreciate
his lack of Regulars reinforcements, but I'm convinced that he
had a near ideal set of British hands. The Brits
never lacked for an ability to move their troops, nor did they
ever have much to worry about with regards to raids after the
first few card plays. The Brits got three of their
five leaders into the game, and had maximum Provincials to provide
men. I believe that my lack of Indians was the deciding
factor in the game. Indians usually provide
two or three French VPs on average, and the lack of those VPs
really hurt. If it had been 0 VP after the fall of
Louisburg, it would have been a much different game. Montcalm
lost three battles where he had at least a slight advantage,
which was another three VPs lost. The British made
every 50/50 intercept throughout the first three turns (at least
six attempts) until the Cdb managed to sneak by for a raid. The
"draw a discarded reinforcement card" rule played a
major factor in the game as the leaders James got (Forbes and
Murray) were the key to keeping him mobile. James played his
position very well. I do believe that if I had not
gotten lucky killing Amherst and holding James off out West,
the game would have been effectively over in 1758.
Pei's Thoughts: My hand was terrific, with
another Campaign and the Courier card. But time was
running out. I definitely needed to roll well at Louisburg
to win. My siege rolls were on the money, and the
fortress fell handily. (I almost had flashbacks of
my Hannibal game where Africanus rolled over a dozen times,
failing to take Syracuse). With the VPs then on my
side, I made sure that Loudoun's army at HCN was maxed out. So
even if Monty won that first battle, I would have been able to
counterattack effectively. As it turned out, Loudoun stood
his ground and defeated Montcalm.
This was the first game that I played as the British with very
little reinforcements. I didn't think I was hopeless,
but it definitely made it very difficult to win. Lack
of mobility was another issue until Forbes and Murray came along. What
saved me was the lack of French Indians. That has
a greater impact on the French game than the lack of Regulars
has on the British game. Grant played very well, given his hands. He
has risen steadily through the years, and I have no doubt that
his time will come and he will eventually win the tournament.
Bruce Monnin goes point-to-point with
Jason White. The field continued to shrink this year as it often
does for high skill games where the shark pool is deep and established.
The Master gets his revenge again!
Ok, different game, but someone's got to pay for breaking that
winning streak. Riku finds the going tougher this year.
The WNW tournament
was a disappointment as 14 players (not bad) played only 12 games
(sad). I called it after three rounds in favor of Ohio's Cabbie
Sean McCulloch, who was the only unbeaten player. Since he defeated
two former WBC champs, Paul Gaberson and Keith Wixson, his title
does have some merit attached to it, however, despite the paucity
of games played. Sean took home a Medicine Arrow for his effort.
The French won eight of the twelve games played.
It was obvious during the general meeting on Saturday that
this game was a poor choice for the last tournament. The interest
was just not there and our methodology for choosing this was
flawed. So this was the final year for WNW at WAM. It had a good
run and it should live on at WBC for another year or two at least.
Next year's WAM will have a new fourth tournament.
On the bright side I was able to test a new rule for WBC that
I hope will address the play balance issue. Instead of having
the players bid VPs to play the French, sides were determined
randomly and the British player, starting with the Late Season
1757 turn, was given the option to retrieve one British Regulars
or Highlanders card from the discard pile (at the beginning
of EVERY turn - after the cards had been dealt and examined but
before the first Action Phase) and place it in his hand after
RANDOMLY discarding one card from his hand. Despite the usual
lopsided win totals for the French, which I ascribe for
the most part to several brand new players and rustiness by a
few vets, I was pleased with how the test went and expect to
adopt the new rule for WBC this year.
Paul Gaberson, PA
Tom Drueding, MA
Michael Sosa, FL
Doug Mercer, MD
Bruce Monnin, OH