The Brit & the Bridesmaid ...
Since returning to WBC, A House Divided has enjoyed
its best attendance over the past three years. While down slightly
this year, we still managed 20 generals - not a bad feat for
a game initially released more than 30 years ago.
A large part of the charm of AHD is its simple yet
elegant system, which allows players to focus on strategy rather
than game mechanics - offering an appeal to Euro and general
strategy gamers, as well as wargamers. Significantly, the game
appears to be well-balanced, despite decades of competitive play.
And the 10-turn Short Game scenario provides an almost perfect
length for a tournament game, especially welcome on Saturday,
at the end of a full week of gaming.
Any potential concerns about attendance were banished when
12 players appeared for the Friday night mulligan round, which
was not only a pleasant surprise for the GM, but also a source
of conversation for the number of visitors who dropped by to
chat and shake their heads in amazement. (Now, all I have to
do is get the majority of these passers-by to actually play in
the event next year...)
A number of the early winners were familiar. Ray Freeman's
Union forces ground down Johnny Wilson's Confederates, while
John Sutcliffe outpointed Bryan Eshelman. In a meeting of former
champs, David Metzger won a hard-fought game over Phil Rennert.
Terry Coleman renewed his bi-annual tussle with Tom Knapp, and
Greg Tanner upset veteran Roderick Lee.
Unfortunately, as all too often happens, some players had
other commitments, and were unable to follow up on their mulligan
success. After the musket smoke of the early rounds cleared,
the contenders began to emerge. Scott Sirianna had good wins
over Michael Rogozinski and Chris Bauch, but his spunky Rebels
were no match for David Metzger's Northern steamroller. Brad
Raszewski beat Eric Filipkowski, only to fall to Bryan Eshleman,
in a battle of Union sympathizers. Larry Sisson's reward for
beating Chuck Frascati was to play 2011 champion John Sutcliffe,
who proved he could win with Confederates as easily as Union
- although, if you had heard John 'whinge' (his term) about his
dice rolls, you would have thought his position was hopeless
by Turn 4.
Terry Coleman played himself into the Final with a win over
Bryan Eshelman, by taking six points worth of VP cities on one
turn. Meanwhile, John met David in the semis, in a heavyweight
rematch of their 2011 title clash. John built up a sizeable lead,
only to watch nervously as David snipped away at the margin.
It all came down to huge battles on the last two turns - David
won one, but not the second, and John was back in the Final.
The championship game pitted a Brit who loves playing American
Civil War games, versus a born Southerner who had always been
the bridesmaid, in his fourth AHD Final. Moreover, this
was the first time the two had played each other, which made
for an interesting contest, starting from the bid - zero for
the Union, lower than normal.
John successfully attacked at Bull Run, then proceeded to
march down the Mississippi in an attempt to strangle the Confederacy
on both flanks. Terry punched back in Kentucky, and managed to
keep the game close for the South. As the closing turns loomed,
Terry realized that he had to break the stalemate, or lose on
points. He stripped Richmond to the bones, and moved two stacks
of units into Indiana and southern Ohio. In the climactic battle
for Richmond, it came down to the last dice roll. John's decision
to promote Crack troops made the difference, as Terry was unable
to score enough hits against those high-quality units, and the
Southern capital fell. John confessed that if his attack on Richmond
had failed, he would have conceded.
Terry still had a chance to win, however, and launched an
assault upon three key cities on the last play of the game. Two
cities fell to the rampaging Rebels, but the third, Louisville
- ironically, where Terry lived for many years - was able to
resist the Confederate onslaught. Both players were very appreciative
at the high quality of the contest, especially given the great
contrast in styles. John adds a new crown to the one he gained
in 2011, while Terry gets his fourth runner-up finish, and another
year to contemplate what might have been.
I was happy to return to run this again - as always, it was
a great group of gamers. I kept the format simple: There were
no ad hoc modifications for march or recruiting die rolls, all
of which seemed to work well, especially for those who might
have been a bit rusty. Not surprisingly for such a balanced field,
the majority of games came down to the wire, with only four Rebel
auto-wins (by achieving a greater Army Maximum than the Union,
or by taking Washington D.C.)
Bids for sides were popular, and averaged 1 for the Union.
This slight preference matched a trend, as this time around,
Union wins doubled Confederate victories; this tendency held
true even in the money rounds. Will the customary balance be
restored next year? We'll need your votes in December to find
out. See you on the fields of Fredricksburg and Bowling Green
Bryan Eshleman loses to John Sutcliffe
in the quarterfinals.
Terry Coleman falls to John Sutcliffe
in the Final.