Still Wonderful ...
Erik Schlosser and Alyssa Gumkowski
with no foreign adversaries.
Richard Shay and Canadian Maria Calandrino
vie for supremacy.
Austrian Herbert Gratz presents the
foreign opposition for Peggy Ng and Jeremy Lennert.
Rodney Bacigalupo had best be wary
of Israel (Aran Warszawski) on his left.
Just as great civilizations rise and fall, so too must great
tournament formats. This year, 4-player preliminary round games
replaced the previous tradition of 7-player games in the 7
Wonders qualifiers. The change was introduced to enhance
the game's strategic elements early in the tournament, allowing
players to plan ahead in their first few building selections
each round knowing that some of the cards they pass on may return
to them later.
format change, coupled with a switch to an advancement-point
system, made for much tighter games in the preliminaries. Only
nine players managed double wins in the two qualifier games,
and only two scores of 70 were reported compared to many game-winning
scores below 50. 2011 champ Matthew Beach, with a two-game combined
score of 121, was the top finisher after the qualifying round.
A single quarterfinal match proved to be an even greater trial
to the 40 players who advanced from the two-game preliminaries.
While a first- or runner-up finish at a quarterfinal table would
guarantee a player a spot in the semifinals, the quarterfinals
featured yet another new challenge: 5-player games. Additional
opponents and varied card distributions (particularly in the
Science department) proved to be the undoing of a number of preliminary
leaders. A number of tables saw second/third-place splits as
two players competed for the increased Science count card only
to fall short to those players eschewing Science for Civilization
or Military development. Indeed, Susan Waterhouse walked away
with the round's highest score of 65 as two of her opponents
waged an epic battle of Apothecaries and Observatories, earning
each of them 38 Science points but not enough to top Waterhouse's
combined Civilian-Guild score of 40.
The semifinals saw a return to the 4-player game format of
the preliminaries, but again only a single game would be played
to determine the final slate of six. As the tournament entered
its fourth consecutive hour of play, a weary field of 16 across
four tables fought hard to secure the coveted first-place positions
at each table--the only position that would guarantee advancement.
The brutal semifinal competition saw all four tables with no
more than 12 points between the top and bottom scores and only
2-4 points between first and second in each contest. Ed Ericson's
62 points--built heavily on a foundation of Science and despite
military defeat at the hands of his neighbors--was the highest
score of the round and earned him a seat at the final table.
The final two hours of the grueling six-hour tournament saw
six surviving players - without a 7WS laurel between them
- take part in a battle royale symbolic of the final centuries
of the great civilizations the game depicts. The three-game Final,
endearingly termed the "Gauntlet of Doom", started
with a 6-player match and included the Leader cards from the
7 Wonders: Leader expansion. With Leaders in, the players
prepared for what would inevitably be higher-scoring games knowing
that all it took to advance to the Gauntlet's second round was
a finish in the top four.
Jeremy Lennert started the game by arming himself with a Military
defeat token-bouncing Tomyris Leader card to help protect against
a well-predicted Military onslaught from the game's runner-up,
David Platnick. On the other end of the table, Dan Shmueli threw
down a Nero to reward his own Military card plays, while his
neighbor Kelly Czyryca countered with a Military-discounting
Leonidas. Innocent bystanders Zach Snyder and Ed Ericson played
Phidias (victory points for basic resource cards) and Maecenas
(free Leader card builds henceforth). The first play of regular
cards saw all six build basic resource cards but strategies varied
wildly from there. Platnick, boosted by a Vineyard build that
netted him a critical eight coins, dominated Militarily 15-0-0
over his two neighbors for a comfortable second-place 67. Establishing
an early Commerce-based civilization, Czyryca later went head-to-head
with Ericson in the Scientific realm; but Ericson coupled his
plays with Science-yielding Leaders, a strong showing on Civilian
building cards, and middle-of-the-road Military might to trounce
the table with a tournament-high score of 83. Czyryca's 66 was
enough to secure him the third advancing position, and Shmueli
followed right behind with a Military- and Civilian-powered 65
points. Snyder struggled to find a niche early, and his 24 points
from Guilds wasn't enough to advance with a score of 61. Lennert's
hefty resource stockpile never materialized into something bigger,
and his singleton on Science and large remaining Treasury left
him with a score of 60. Both Snyder and Lennert could only watch
helplessly as their Altar-Temple combos never led to Pantheon
builds in Age III; both Pantheons were buried under the Wonders
of their first-and-second finishing neighbors.
Game 2 of the Gauntlet of Doom returned to the tournament's
mainstay of basic 7 Wonders with the four survivors competing
for the three spots in the subsequent deciding game. Ericson,
as the winner of the previous game, received the bonus of choosing
his Wonder (Alexandria) as well as his neighbors, opting to keep
runner-up Platnick at the far end of the table. Platnick chose
his Wonder--Halikarnassos and its discard-digging power--while
Czyryca was dealt Rhodes and Shmueli received Babylon. Ericson
once again followed more Scientific pursuits; but Platnick handily
won that battle and, despite his total Military defeat, tied
with winner Shmueli with 53 points. Shmueli, who ditched Science
in favor of Military and Civilian buildings, won on the Coin
tiebreaker. Czyryca trailed the leaders by only a single point,
clinching the third seat at the next game with an assortment
of resouce cards that allowed him the flexibility to achieve
22 points in the Civilian category alone. Ericson's Science gambit
didn't pay off, landing him in fourth place with 49 points.
Yet another new challenge awaited our heroes as they entered
the final game--the tournament's only 3-player competition. His
previous victory earned Platnick the right to choose his Wonder,
and he stuck with Halikarnassos once again. To Platnick's right,
he seated Czyryca's Ephesos, and to his left played Shmueli with
Alexandria. Czyryca showed his strategy from Turn 1, building
Science early and often (and, ultimately, exclusively!) while
Platnick and Shmueli engaged in a heavy Age I Military conflict.
Platnick once again built an eight-coin Vineyard for some mid-game
flexibility, but his Military battle with Shmueli also crossed
into the Civilian building realm, and the two split points in
almost every scoring category. With his opponents focused on
their head-to-head competition, Czyryca easily coasted to a Science-based
victory of 64-59-56, with Shmueli taking second.
Tournament contestants were briefly surveyed regarding their
opinions on the new format, and the overall consensus seems to
favor the newer, more strategic setup. So while the overall format
will hopefully be retained in coming years, players can expect
some new challenges and surprises in 2014 to help keep the tournament
fresh, exciting, and... well... wonderous.
Playing games in Lilliput with the
Asmodee display version.
Asmodee supported the tournament with
numerous extra prizes.