116 still in convoy ...
Mike Stanley, Matt Evinger and Dacey
Collinson are still in convoy.
2015 was the 18th straight year of
triple digit fields for ACS.
Atlantic Storm again drew triple digits for the 18th consecutive year. Among the combatants were 11 of the 15 former champs (eight of whom would qualify for the semifinals). Pacific Typhoon was the game of choice for nine of 46 tables. The average number of players per table was the same for both (5.5).
Heat 1 featured the highest scoring table of the tournament when Carmen Petruzelli pulled in 46 VPs. At another table, Anna Rinko quietly dispatched three former champs. Two of the closest-fought tables occurred in Heat 1 with only 10 VPs separating first from fifth. At one of those tables, Ryan Friedmann lost to Craig Melton on the last round because the “Atlantic Storm” rolled through and knocked Ryan out of the battle.
In Heat 2, the final score at one of the 6-player tables was evenly divided between the haves and have-nots. The haves were led by Eric Stranger at 29, 27, 25. The have-nots all tied at 8, 8, 8, and they dutifully recorded who had the most convoy VPs between them to determine the tie-breaker for last place.
During Heat 3, one table saw the battlecruiser Renown fight in three 1940 battles (the rarest year in the game), winning two and getting stormed away in the third. At the same table, Ben Knight’s battleship Tirpitz dashed out of port to chase a 1942 Arctic convoy and was followed by the Hood, which was immediately sunk by the Bismarck, which was immediately sunk by the Rodney (with attached bonus), which was joined by a British cruiser that together defeated the Tirpitz’s average two-dice roll.
In Heat 4, three former champions met in a 5-player game where the scores ranged from Roy Gibson’s 27 to Stephen Squibb’s 17—a very decent showing by all players.
The 40 Preliminary games yielded 28 of 33 qualifiers who opted for more punishment. These were divided between five tables. To qualify, a player had to win a game in any one of the four heats. Three players (Steve Scott, Rob Eastman and Rich Fetzer) won twice, which would normally earn them a congratulatory shout out from the GM at the start of Round 2. However, their achievements were bested by two others, Anna Kiefte and John Coussis, who each won three games (Anna a perfect three of three and John three of four). Both players were less than thrilled to be singled out by the added attention sure to direct more incoming shells their way.
The semifinal table with the closest score was a 6-player Pacific Typhoon game in which Robert Kircher’s 25 VPs was only one point higher than 2014 laurelists Jeff Heidman and Jesse Boomer. In tight games like that between competent players, the last battle is often the deciding one.
The seating order for the 2015 Final was Robert Kircher, Ron Glass, Alexander Lange, Andy Gardner and Justin Thompson. This was Alexander’s first foray into deep water, but the others had been at this table before, Justin having won in 2011. In fact, Justin was the first player to be recorded on the signup sheet this year, so he was more than ready to compete. By contrast, Robert was the next-to-last player to enter, debating which of several events to enter. He jumped in just before the window of opportunity closed on the last heat, winning two 6-player tables of Pacific Typhoon back to back by the slimmest of margins. Could he play Storm as well as that in the Final?
It certainly seemed that the planets were in proper alignment. Robert won the Round 1 using U100 fated against 1940 half-full HX 72, and everyone else discarded. Six of the next nine convoys saw combat, however, including an attack on Arctic PQ 17 by Andy’s Tirpitz that was overwhelmed by opposition led by Justin.
At the halfway point (ten convoys), Robert had 12 VPs showing, two spoils and a 7-card hand. Justin had 10 VPs, two spoils and an 8-card hand. Ron had 7 VPs and a 7-card hand, while Alexander and Andy each had an empty convoy and two spoils. Robert improved his position on Round 11 by safely escorting HX 228 to score 6 VPs and an 8-card hand. Things slowed down after that, though, with only three of the remaining nine convoys causing actual battles. In fact, Andy called surface on convoy #14 (empty OG 69 worth 1 VP), played the Belchen to resupply a German ship should it appear, but everyone else took the opportunity to discard. Since there was no card on the table with a value of 1 or more in the declared suit, the convoy and Belchen were discarded.
Justin won convoy #18 using wolf pack Westmark fated against full SC 121, sharing a spoil with Andy. If anyone was counting hidden VPs at this moment, Justin and Robert were now tied at 24 VPs. Furthermore, Justin had just gained a 9-card hand advantage over Robert’s 8-card hand.
The Allies encountered no German opposition on the last two convoys, but the players competed to make the strongest play. Robert had a 67% chance on one die roll to win convoy #19 (empty ONS 5), which he did, giving him four more VPs. Justin called submarine for suit on convoy 20 and played three Allied cards. He had a 67% chance to win the convoy, which he did but it was only worth three VPs. Therefore, Robert won by a single point, and he seemed happy with his decision to enter the Atlantic Storm tournament. It was his 16th WBC title but his first ACS shield.