Still Wonderful ...
GM Ferris' random seating method instantly
transformed a room of 150+ milling players into their assigned
Yeah, it was cold in that ballroom,
but Matt Calkins and Canadian Andrew Drummond seemed to survive
without their parkas.
Felicia Alfieri and Matthew Beach
build their civilizations.
GM Ferris and his six laurelists get
down to the serious rounds.
Like the Great Pyramids at Giza themselves, the vast array
of tables playing 7 Wonders at WBC served as monuments
to greatness. Sure, players weren't exactly hauling giant stones
across the desert landscape and stacking them in a pleasing geometric
fashion, but their feats of strategic fortitude would excite
even the most discerning of pharaohs. (GM note to self: get one
of those funky pharaoh hats for next year.)
year saw a nice attendance rebound. 151 players took part, up
nearly 20% from the year before. While the time slot remained
unchanged, the scheduling of other games may have been to our
As in 2013, the tournament favored smaller, more strategic
table groupings. And as in the year before, preliminary round
matches consisted of two games awarding advancement points to
players depending on their finishing places. Unlike the prior
year, players were instructed to play Side A of their Wonder
boards consistently throughout the tournament. While some players
noted they would have preferred the challenge and variety of
Side B more, newer players were excited to play on what many
consider to be the "easier" sides. Shockingly, despite
a setup designed to level the playing field amongst veterans
and new players alike, there was a much higher percentage of
players finishing first in both of their qualifying games.
The switch to Side A triggered some interesting changes to
Round 1 scores when compared to 2013 results. Scores in the Science
category dropped over 10%. Naturally, points from Wonder boards
rose (since Side A consistently awards up to 10 points, while
most Side Bs award much less). Locking in those points from Wonders
was also a fairly common strategy, with over 75% of players in
both games scoring the full 10 points (or 15 for Giza) from their
Wonder boards. Commerce (Yellow) cards also saw a jump in value,
perhaps due to players hoarding resource cards and finishing
their Wonders, thus scoring higher off cards like Haven
Fifty players, all but six of whom won at least one of their
preliminary round matches (and nearly a dozen who won both) advanced
to the quarterfinal round. There, single 5-player matchups advanced
all first and second place finishers to the semifinals. As one
player described it, "fundamental strategic differences"
present themselves in a 5-player game versus one for four players,
and only needing second place to advance reinforced that. "Science
isn't as good a bet; it has too big of a variance. Science can
win you a game or just as quickly put you in dead last."
Indeed, only one of the ten quarterfinal tables saw the leader
in Science finish in first place (three finished second, and
three in fifth).
As the crowds thinned entering the semifinal round, there
were few familiar faces to late-round play, at least compared
to the previous year. But those who did advance had one more
obstacle to overcome before reaching the Final: another 4-player
game, but this time, only first place guaranteed advancement.
In fact, with five tables of four and a final round field of
six, only a single runner-up would see the Final. For semifinalists
David Platnick, Karl Buchholz and Steven Alfieri, this meant
steering clear of Science building altogether to secure their
wins and a spot in the last round. But for others, including
Joe Millovich and Erik Schlosser, Science was the cornerstone
of their semifinal strategies, accounting for two-thirds of their
total scores. Joe won his table, and Erik took the sole runner-up
advancement spot. Sean Maher won his table without locking in
a single strategy; leaving his Wonder unfinished, he aced Military
and picked up enough points in Guilds and a few other categories
to stave off his challengers.
With Platnick being the only returning 2013 finalist to successfully
run the gauntlet, the six nearly-new faces competed in a slimmed-down
version of the previous year's Gauntlet of Doom. Instead of a
three-game slugfest, only two games would be played to determine
the 2014 champion. But like the first game of the previous year,
advancing further meant finishing in the top four of six in a
game that included the Leaders expansion.
In the opening moves of Game 1, Millovich (playing Babylon)
scored Leader cards that would support his largely cash-driven
empire. At the same time, Buchholz as Rhodes locked in a strong
supply of resources (and the ability to get more easier), while
Maher-carnassus started out strong on Military, and Alfieri countered
with Military of his own in addition to early builds on his Ephesos
Wonder board. Platnick, hoping to improve on his third place
laurels of the year before, loaded up on Commerce and finished
goods resource cards to support his Olympia, while Schlosser
with Alexandria signaled a Science strategy early.
mid-game, Maher's decisions became more and more agonized as
he faced a continued Military onslaught from the right (courtesy
of Buchholz) and a new one from Alfieri on the left. Millovich,
perhaps seeing Schlosser taking the clear lead on Science, started
going heavy on Civic structures. Schlosser's scientific civilization
hit a few stumbling blocks coming down the stretch, forcing him
to discard for money twice in Age II. Platnick kept a wait-and-see
approach with a number of basic resource acquisitions.
In the closing plays of Game 1, it was Maher who took the
lead on Science, but his Military defeats kept him from finishing
better than fourth--still enough to survive into the Final game.
Platnick, despite scoring heavily from point-laden Leaders, only
came in third with a still-impressive score of 66. Tied for first
were Buchholz and Alfieri, both scoring high in Military, with
the former netting 29 points off Civic buildings and the latter
snagging several opportune Guilds. Millovich lost the battle
for Civic supremacy to Buchholz, missing the last game by just
three points. Schlosser, with the only incomplete Wonder board
of the game and Science sets he couldn't complete, finished sixth.
With Leaders back in the box, the last game of the tournament
pitted Maher with Ephesos, Alfieri playing Alexandria, Buchholz
as Rhodes, and Platnick in Giza in a base-only 4-player brawl
for the ages. All four opened with resource grabs on Turn 1,
and Maher and Alfieri kept their resource grabs alive for several
additional picks, while Platnick adopted an early Military offensive.
Buchholz went Military and Science as well but faltered on an
unfortunate duplicate card play. By the end of Age I, Platnick's
Military might and Alfieri's strong resource setup pointed odds
in their favor. In Age II, all players saw fit to construct the
first stage of their Wonder boards, with Alfieri following it
up with a second Wonder build. Maher locked in some points off
Civic buildings and started favoring Science cards with tablets,
while Platnick loaded up on cash and more resources. Buchholz
jumpstarted his recovery with more Military and some resource
hoarding of his own.
Age III saw impressive plays from all players. Everyone completed
their Wonder boards, and Maher continued to dominate the Civic
realm--ultimately scoring almost more in Civic than the other
three players combined--but succumbing to pure Military defeat
from both sides. Alfieri snatched up two high-scoring Commerce
cards but couldn't quite find his point niche. With only a few
cards left to play, it became apparent that first place would
be a battle between Buchholz and Platnick. Buchholz completed
a Science set and scored well across the board, but it was ultimately
Platnick and his building of two massively-scoring Guilds that
gave him the 56-point victory over Buchholz's 49. Maher and Alfieri
finished with 47 points each, with Maher's golden empire earning