Bob Malcomson bested the field again for his second title in as many years. Alan Applebaum, back after a five-year absence, knocked off the rust and battled his way to the Final, giving Bob's Allies 15 supply. Early fortune favored Alan, as he took the so-called "magic bridgeî* and a June 6 impulse 5 weather change persisted despite a re-roll. On the 7th, in nine attack rolls, Bob rolled three snake-eyes, with a median of “4". Down on his luck, Bob started working on a desperation plan to envelop Caen. The dice held for him as he contested Caen at +2 odds. On the 9th, he prepared a 9:5 assault from Evercy across the river into Bourguebus, but a fourth early snake-eyes ended the day before he could execute the assault. The 10th opened with a German position that looked strong in terms of the number of fresh units in position, but with vulnerabilities nevertheless. Bob still had an Evercy to Bourguebus assault in waiting. Merville held an Allied striking force, but it was contested by three units of the 243rd division. Troarn held three more fresh defenders, but they were all artillery with weak defense values. The Allies sliced through Merville and Troarn and then launched the cross-river assault from Evercy, following up with three more lone unit assaults coming through Troarn. By the end of the 10th Bourguebus was holding by a thread and it fell quickly on the 11th. Caen was doomed. Bob had come from behind to claim the city, and with it the title.
We drew 26 players, and there were 30 games played between a mulligan session plus four elimination rounds. The bids ranged from 5 reserve supply given to the Germans to 46 to the Allies. The average bid was 11 to the Allies, and 18 games were played with bids between 0 and 15. The old Avalon Hill version tilted to the Germans in about two games out of three, regardless of the bid, it seemed. When he revisited the game, Greenwood insisted on keeping it fundamentally unaltered, despite a hue and cry from some players (including the GM) to alter it. There was special concern for the magic bridge, which tilted games even more to the Germans. But Don resisted, making small tweaks to improve the Allied side, even while he took away one path to victory. Holding the Advantage marker is no longer worth a VP. It appears Don's instincts were solid. He insisted that players had to adjust to the game, not the other way around. In the past two years, the wins have evened out between the two sides. Last year's Allies won 10 against 13 losses in games between experienced players, including five of the last seven games. This year, the Allies won 16 and lost 14 overall, and in 15 games between expert players, the Allies went a stunning 11-4. Bob had one of the toughest draws, beating Scott Fenn, Mark Gutfreund, Nels Thompson (playing as an eliminator), and Alan. He played the Allies in three rounds and the Germans in one. Not counting his games, the Allies still went 8 and 3 in expert games.
Even the magic bridge lost some of its game-breaking potency. Designer Don Greenwood's Allies beat GM Nels Thompson's Germans in a magic bridge game that dings Nels's reputation as a German specialist. For the tournament, the Germans achieved only three wins against four losses in magic bridge games. In a related development, the expert players assembled this year have clearly studied the Allied side and settled on the "four bridge"** opening. They accept the greater risk of losing the magic bridge that comes with this opening in return for better early odds exploiting Utah Beach. In the 15 expert games, 13 were four-bridge openings, the Allies winning 11, and losing both games with three-bridge openings.
The Andrew Cummins Experience Award went to the game between Nels Thompson (playing as an eliminator) and Ray Freeman. Nels's Germans used a double impulse to enter St. Mere Eglise from Carentan and Montebourg, a unique way for the Germans to stall the Utah sector.
The tournament had a mix of players from each of the game's three decades. Alan Applebaum and designer Don Greenwood earned their first BKN titles in the 90s. Bruno Passacantando, Bryan Eshleman, Marvin Birnbaum, Jim Eliason, and Nels Thompson won in the next decade. Mark Gutfreund, Steve Andriakos, Kevin Hammond, and repeat champ Bob Malcomson have all won in the L2 era. Several new players were welcomed into the fold, and we hope they will return next year. Don't fall for the 'aw, shucks' routine from Steve Worrel. He earned a shark fin in yet another WBC event and reached the semifinals, finishing third overall when he fell to eliminator Kevin Wojtaszczyk. Kevin's victory transformed the old school versus new school semifinal between Alan and Bob into the last game of 2016. In the old school game, the road to Evercy is the road to nowhere, but Bob goes to Evercy with a plan. He has turned enveloping Caen into something of a signature strategy, and as strategies go, that's a fine one. Bob's back to back titles put the old guard on notice: Change or die. The new game is Allied and it is played with a fury rarely matched by prior champions.
*The so-called "magic bridge" is the 50/52 (Montebourg to St. Mere Eglise) bridge. If the Germans control this bridge before St. Mere Eglise is controlled by the Allies, they can stuff units into the friendly defensive terrain of St. Mere Eglise and gum up the Allied works in the Utah sector.
** "Four bridge" opening: When the Allies take all four of the St. Mere Eglise bridges during the Night Phase preceding D-Day. The four-bridge opening allows the magic bridge to fall on a two in six chance. The Allies leave the bridge to Utah Beach in German hands in the three-bridge opening, and the odds of capturing the magic bridge fall to one in six.
|Designer Don Greenwood stopped by
to roll two snake-eyes, two weather changes, lose
bridge and still somehow down four-time champ Nels
|The Ski Lodge's Maple Room was filled
with Normandy Beach
carnage as BKN fans turned out in
the con's decreased overall attendance.
|Newcomers Rodney Robinson and Jonathan
get their feet wet at the beach party.
|Grognard Art Dohrman makes the transition
from hexes to BKN vs Bryan Eshleman.
Veteran competitor Stephen Andriakos has won the 9th rendition of the Breakout: Normandy PBeM Tournament over a field of 32 in five rounds. He showed command from both sides of the table with three victories as the Germans and two as the Allies.
In the Final as the German, Andriakos was able to secure the so-called "Magic Bridge" after the runner-up, Dan Leader, decided to seize all four bridges around St. Mere-Eglise with his paratroopers on D-Day. The second and decisive turning point came on June 9, when the Germans were able to counterattack into Caen and throw the Allies out with a +1 die roll. From there it was all downhill for the Germans as Steve won his first BPA tournament.
The other laurelists were Don Greenwood, Henry Jones, Dennis Nicholson and Jason Albert who finished third through sixth respectively.