For the third straight year, we had a new winner, this time someone attending his first WBC. Michael Patnik defeated Randy Pippus in the Final to win his first title. And he did it by commuting from Pittsburgh for the Friday event and then the Saturday afternoon Final (after doing parental duties earlier on Saturday). He got home at 3 am from Friday’s event and was up at 6 to tend to the younger generation.
Once again, TWS drew a large field, tying its high water mark, with a total of 70 players. Doubtless, the release of the PC and IOS versions of the game helped, but most had been regular attendees (or those returning after missing a few years). The overall field was missing last year’s finalists, David Amidon and Riku Riekkinen, but still numbered returning champions Chris Byrd and Stefan Mecay.
As usual, we employed a swiss format with rounds continuing until only two undefeated players remained. These two then played for the title. Many players took advantage of the option to play all five rounds of the swiss format, so a total of 83 games were played.
The base game has generally been seen to favor the Russians, particularly in the first part of the game unless adjustments are made. For the first time, the tournament played with the optional cards from the Deluxe Edition. In addition, for balancing purposes, the US received two influence that could be added to any location that already had US influence. Players were also required to switch sides each round. This approach was well received and is largely consistent with the balancing adjustment used by the wargameroom.com leagues and many other online tournaments (although not the current WBC PBeM tournament).
The overall effect of the adjustments was to produce even results, with 41 US wins, 40 USSR – and strangely, two ties. This is the first time we’ve achieved a balanced outcome so expect the same approach next year.
The tournament took six rounds to resolve. After four rounds, three undefeated players remained: Michael Patnik, Randy Pippus, and Paul Sampson. A fourth, Michael Mitchell, was drawn from the 3-1 records to complete the final four.
The first semifinal matchup saw Randy’s Russians achieve an automatic victory vs Mitchell with 20 VPs on Turn 10. This was helped greatly by taking a dominant position in Europe and scoring it on Turns 1, 5, and 9 for 5, 5, and 7 VPs, respectively.
In the other bracket, Michael Patnik’s Americans ground down Paul’s Russians, winning with an automatic victory on Turn 7. Again the Russians gained an early positional advantage. All American attempts to recover VPs were thwarted, with the Russians eventually playing Wargames on Turn 8 to end it (being ground down was a common theme vs. Michael).
For the Final, Randy had the US due to the side alternation rules. The first turn started poorly for the Russians as the coup of Italy failed, allowing Randy to obtain Domination of Europe. This was offset by the Russians winning the Korean War and playing China to take South Korea and Pakistan. Turn 2 saw the Russians secure Asia due to the play of Vietnam, scoring nine VPs. After other plays, USSR was up three VP.
The action moved to other fronts on Turn 3, with the US moving into Africa. But Asia scored again for USSR pushing VPs to 13. But this edge was offset by Europe on Turn 4. Still, the Russians were able to expand into Africa and gain a favorable position in both Americas. This included undermining the US position in South America (which had just been gained through a coup of Venezuela) through the play of Junta to take Brazil and realignment of US forces in Venezuela. Both Central America and Africa scored for USSR, pushing the total back up to ten VPs at the end of Turn 5.
On Turn 6, things got worse for the US. Russia effectively used Brezhnev, adding six extra Ops. With this, the Soviets grabbed back Italy and gained dominance in South America. VPs jumped to 17. As Michael pointed out, the game was effectively over now, with the Russians just needing to hold their position. The Americans were able to pick up eight VPs on Turn 7, even with a poor position, by eking out small point gains in Middle East, SE Asia and space. But the Board position remained untenable. This became clear on Turn 8 as the Russians scored Africa for eight VPs. The end came at the outset of Turn 9, with Russia gaining a quick six VPs.
Overall, it was an interesting Final. Russia was able to score Africa and South America without either Decolonization or Destalinization. The favorable board position in Asia provided lots of early VPs that made it challenging for the US. Obviously, it was well played by our new champion. Welcome to WBC.