ORLEANS MAKES CENTURY IN INAUGURAL WBC
For the inaugural Orleans tournament at WBC, 72 brave souls risked the hard task of cultivating a village and worker force in medieval France. Across the three rounds, we sat 30 tables, which intriguingly led to 23 unique table winners. Notable stories from the heats included:
- Both Sascha Matzkin in the first heat and Sam Wolff in the third heat had extremely high scores (145 and 161 respectively) and still weren’t able to pull off a win
- Sceadeau D’Tela had the single highest score of the tournament with 173, including half (106) of all the coins available
- Lyman Moquin scored the most goods in a round with 57 using a Horse Wagon and Tailor Shop to propel him to a win
I would also like to thank Tasty Minstrel Games for sponsoring this tournament with 4! Copies of the Orleans Invasion expansion as well as an additional 4 copies of Harbour, a 30-45 minute worker placement game with hilarious art. These prizes were given out to the top 2 finishers at each semi-final table and were greatly appreciated by all.
Also, a big thank you to AGMs Duncan McGregor and Sara Ward. Having a group of people to enter in badge numbers and ensure that people got to their assigned tables made the process so much smoother for everyone involved. Duncan also took over as GM for Heat 3 as I was otherwise detained.
All in all, when it came time for the semi finals, tiebreakers were used to determine the top 16 winners and alternates. Very interestingly, while there were 7 double winners, there were also only 3 winners who also had a second place finish. What this leads me to believe is that players are still relatively new at the game and will get stronger as the tournament continues as a century event at WBC.
The first semi-final had a lot of early excitement. Because of some early harvests and unlucky character draws, Robb Effinger was forced into torture on multiple early turns. While he tried to recover from that, Timothy O’Flynn started in on a Blue strategy by building the Herb Garden and Francois de Bellefeuille built a hospital. Robb’s early string of bad luck continued when he couldn’t draw the characters for a farmer and thus kept getting tortured for $1 as worst farmer.
By mid game in the first semi, Duncan McGregor had built a Wool Manufacturer and started to build an engine around that. Robb tried to recover with a Horse Wagon, Laboratory, and Library. Francois kept spamming his hospital to rack up an early money lead and Timothy added a school to his Herb Garden to try and run the wilds. Nearing the end of the game, Francois had the technology lead and a bunch of coins from his Hospital, Timothy’s blue strategy stalled but he was able to effectively use scholars and a couple of cogs to build a few guildhalls. Robb added an Office and Gunpowder Tower to try and make use of a late developing guildhall play and Duncan continued manufacturing wool. By the end of the game, Robb had closed the gap a lot but not quite enough as Duncan took the game. Final Scores: Duncan 143, Robb 131, Francois 124, Timothy 106.
In the second semi-final, Sceadeau D’Tela started out with an early balance taking 1 each of a builder, farmer, scholar, and craftsman while building the Wool Manufacturer. Paul Klayder countered this with a School/Winery combo while losing out on the second scholar build for the citizen. Tim Valliere got a Lab/Library combo going and Bruce Bernard jumped out to an early lead on scholars without getting a building down.
By midgame in the second semi, Sceadeau had added a Cellar and a couple of cogs to his board (while being the only player to ever take a craftsman action). Tim had left his lab vacant for the game and still didn’t have a cog to focus on racing for scholars. Paul was tied for the lead in both Knights and Scholars, but hadn’t converted any of that into points. And Bruce was using a Pharmacy/Shipping Line combo to keep up with the others on the tech track despite being behind on scholars. By the end, Sceadeau pivoted to a blue strategy and ran out the blue track. He also added a Horse Wagon and no one fought him for the top half of the board. Combined with his existing Wool and Cellar he racked up a commanding score. Tim eventually got some cogs on the board, and 7 guildhalls, but he had no source of coins or goods beyond movement and finished well back. Bruce got shut out of halls close to Orleans and ended up needing to build in the far bottom of the board. He also never got his Shipping/Pharmacy to work right and finished back on the tech track hurting the value of his 4 halls and 4 citizens. Paul managed to pull off a second place finish, though far back, with 49 points in goods from running his Winery. Final scores: Sceadeau 170, Paul 130, Tim 112, Bruce 109.
Semi-final #3 was the closest of the 4 of them with double winners Aaron Blair and Andrew Emerick facing off against each other. Aaron got off to an early start with three quick buildings establishing the “wild” strategy (Herb Garden, School, Pharmacy) Andrew countered with three early buildings of his own to try and control the main board (Horse Wagon, Windmill, Office). Daniel Ottey built a Hospital and started early up the blue track, and Deb Yaure built the Lab/Library combo while getting the early scholar lead.
By mid game Daniel had 31 coins and had finished the scholar and knight tracks, relying on his Hospital for points in the late game. Deb had used the Lab to add cogs to each of her top row movement actions, but hadn’t been able to effectively get on the board until it was a bit too late. Andrew had gotten 4 halls out and by adding cogs to Office and Windmill, he was effectively mastering the coins with 34. Aaron hadn’t moved or dropped a hall, but he had all the scholars and two fisherman to take advantage of his wild buildings. By the end of the game, Aaron’s slow start to build halls couldn’t quite catch Andrew’s early lead and Andrew edged him for the win. Final scores: Andrew 148, Aaron 143, Daniel 117, Deb 101.
The last semi-final had the guy all the top seeds were afraid of. By having 2 very high scoring second places, Sam Wolff was only the 8th seed, but easily had the highest cumulative score. In the semi-final, Sam started with a craftsman, scholar, and 2 knights, looking to gain an advantage on available workers. Top seed Franklin Downing countered with the game’s only early farmer and a Library to go with his otherwise balanced build. Anthony Lainesse got out an early Hospital/Lab combo to try and rack up coins while alternate Lyman Moquin started off with the early scholar lead combined with the Windmill/School setup.
By mid game, Anthony had fallen behind on most of the tracks and was not able to get going on his Hospital early enough. Sam was the first to get his character moving, and was out in front on the farmer track, but by midgame had still not purchased a single building. Franklin had a decent balance, but hadn’t yet converted that into a way to score points. Lyman maintained his scholar and tech track lead setting himself up to convert in the late game.
Into the late game Franklin had added a Gunpowder Tower to try and convert more characters to points, but did not build anything to get points directly. Sam was running around the board and had dropped 5 halls with 5 turns to go but the board ran out of scholars when he only had moved twice on the track so he was scoring less than he could. Lyman had added a Windmill to keep him ahead on the tech track, and Anthony dropped a bunch of cogs, but still struggled to find a way to directly earn points. At game end, Franklin had managed to get 5 citizens to the end of the tech track, but had very few goods. Sam had managed to get a 5 multiplier for his full 10 halls, but he’d spent a bunch of his coins in the Pharmacy to do it. Anthony only got to 4 on the tech track, severely limiting his Hospital strategy, leaving Lyman’s late Tailor Shop as the difference maker as he advanced to the finals. Final Score: Lyman 142, Sam 132, Franklin 130, Anthony 111.
The final thus became a death match between 4 very strong players (Lyman, Andrew, Duncan, and Sceadeau). In a fascinating start, no one took a first round University action and instead all 4 players took village. Duncan and Sceadeau took a craftsman and dropped a cog on Village. Lyman did the same but put his cog on the University. Andrew bucked the trend and took a builder with the Windmill to start.
On the second turn, Duncan took the first knight of the game, Sceadeau got both a villager and a scholar (taking the hospital), Lyman took a builder with a Tailor Shop (seeing 6 brocade in the market) and Andrew settled for another builder getting the Lab as the games first second level building. Turn 3 saw Duncan take his first builder, nabbing the Wool Manufacturer. Lyman took a second scholar to nab the first citizen, Sceadeau took the games first monk, and Andrew villaged for a builder for the third time (Office). Andrew also Town Halled a builder, but still had 2 left on his board at the end of the turn.
The next few turns saw each player developing their strategy and getting into place the elements of their engine. Sceadeau got a Pharmacy and Herb Garden down and set up his Hospital plays for later in the game. Duncan dropped a Horse Wagon and also had to deal with too many builders in his bag. Lyman rushed down the Scholar track in order to max out his tech level and Andrew got screwed. At one point, Andrew needed to draw either his fisherman or craftsman to make any decent action and drew all his tiles but those two. It set him back considerably as a missed turn at this level of competition pretty much dooms a player.
By turn 8, all the builders were gone off the board (Lyman built a school with the last one). Duncan was leading the knight track 6-5-5-4, and Lyman was way out in front on Scholars. Only 4 characters had gone to town hall by this point (the $3 knight, 2 builders and a craftsman), but each player was starting to look at how their bag of characters would work and ensuring they could be properly manipulated. A turn 10 plague went disastrously for Lyman as he and another player lost a scholar making it much easier for the rest of the table to accumulate tech.
Duncan finally started moving in the mid-late game but no player had really started to take coins at all from the bank until around turn 12-13. Lyman got the second citizen off the tech track, but by this point Sceadeau was only a few spaces behind and advancing at a much quicker rate. Andrew, in addition to his earlier struggles also spent a couple of turns losing a coin for the worst farmer.
With 5 turns to go, Scadeau was clearly ahead on the tech track (and took the 3rd tech citizen), he was also able to start getting 6 coins per turn on his Hospital. Scadeau had also started to take off on the blue track, accumulating coins and trending towards the citizen. Lyman made up for his lost citizen on the tech track by taking the knight citizen, and he made a late game push to head down the farming track starting to get the better resources as he travelled down the track. Andrew used his Lab to add cogs to the wagon and guildhall actions and with 5 turns to go had 3 halls on the board. He also started using the Windmill and Office to start accumulating coins, but starting from as far back as he did it was difficult to earn enough. Duncan raced to the south of the board, building halls all the way down and took advantage of the available Scholars to head down the tech track.
Turns 14-16 saw an explosion of coins being taken by all players, running them out. We got 3 straight turns of Trading Day, Income, and Trading Day that gave a large amount of coins to Duncan and Andrew who had 7 halls each on the board by turn 16. Beyond that, Andrew was able to Office for 6-7 and Windmill for his share, Sceadeau spammed his Hospital for 6 coins, Duncan and Lyman settled for sending characters to the Town Hall for their last coins.
So the last few turns were played with no coins available while players rushed to collect goods and place halls. Lyman made an error on the last turn when there was only one brocade left in the market, but he took both the last farmer and staffed his tailor shop when there was only one good left to take. Sceadeau became the citizen master accumulating 6 more in the last turns of the game to finish with 7 total. Andrew managed to move and drop an eighth hall to keep Duncan from winning the citizen for the board.
When the dust had settled we had 4 scores within 11 points for a thrilling final count:
- Duncan scored 8 halls, no citizens, times 5 on the tech track for 40. Added to 52 coins and 52 points in goods gave him 144 points.
- Sceadeau scored 4 halls, 7 citizens, times 6 on the tech track for 66. Added to 68 coins and 6 points in goods gave him 140 points.
- Lyman scored 5 halls, 3 citizens, times 5 on the tech track for 40. Added to 336 coins and 62 points in goods gave him 138 points.
- Andrew scored 8 halls, no citizens, times 6 on the tech track for 48. Added to 56 coins and 29 points in goods gave him 133 points.
Congrats to each of the finalists on a game very well played!
Beyond the finals, we also collected a variety of statistics on the games in both the heats and the playoffs to see if there was anything that could be derived from the ways the game was played. Some of the conclusions we can reach are:
- The tech track is important. The average winner had a tech level of 5.1. Only one player (Nick Henning, mentioned above) won a game without having a tech level of at least 4.
- Citizens are nice, but are not critical to your success. In 13 of 35 games, the winner had 2 or less citizens, including Duncan’s 0 in the finals.
- Coins are important. Only twice of the 35 games did the winner have less than 40 coins.
We also tracked the buildings played by the winner. We got this data back for only 31 of the games played (glares at Andrew Emerick who didn’t fill this out for either of his heat wins). Buildings in order of popularity among winners were:
- Library 10 times
- School and Hospital 9 times
- Windmill and Pharmacy 6 times
- Herb Garden, Laboratory, Gunpowder Tower, and Horse Wagon 5 times
- Tailor Shop and Wool Manufacturer 4 times
- Cellar, Office, and Winery 3 times
- Cheese Factory and Shipping Line Once
A fairly big gap between the top 3 and the others. And no one took any of the Sacristy, Hayrick, or Brewery. Looking at these, and the points scored by each winner, we can derive their basic strategy and how often it was used.
- 2 players got both the Herb Garden and School to maximize their wilds
- 1 player focused on Fishermen and generating coins at the hospital
- 1 player got many goods with goods buildings and a Horse Wagon
- 2 players focused on efficiency through the Laboratory
- 5 players used the Office or Horse Wagon to score points through lot of Guildhalls
- 8 players used Schools, Libraries, or Windmills to maximize their tech track.
- 3 players used a Gunpowder Tower and other buildings to send many characters of to deeds
- 9 players were balanced enough in their buildings and points that a single strategy can’t be derived.
As a note to all players, we will likely be changing the tiebreaking formula for next year. While I do value the points that can be accumulated through multiple plays, I feel that a last place finish should not increase one’s standing in the tiebreakers. For next year, we will likely be moving to points accumulated in games in which a player finished first or second rather than overall accumulated points.
What these data points show is that Orleans really is a game with multiple, valid winning strategies. It is possible to play this game many different ways and still end out on top. Thanks to everyone who played and I’ll see you all next year.