I was not sure what to expect after moving the first heat to 10 on the first Saturday morning. On the one hand, there were not a lot of other options for people to choose from, particularly as far as short games go. On the other hand, it was right at the start of the convention, so I thought the turnout would be low as people took Saturday to travel. I started the first demo at 9 AM and had at least a dozen folks interested in learning to play. I should not have been surprised, then, that we ended up with 64 players for the first heat. That was more than the entire tournament last year, so it looks like the move was a good one at least from the standpoint of allowing more to play.
That number would have been perfect for 16 4-player games, but only 12 games turned up. I added my three copies to the mix but we still had to hold four 5-player games. The disadvantage of the time slot was that the library was not yet open. I know they have several copies because I used them last year but that was not an option with such an early start. Next year I hope more people will bring their games if we keep the start time the same. At least Small World is very scalable, with 5-player games being just as fun as 4-player.
For the second heat, that afternoon, we had a perfect 52 players, this time with 13 games. Three more showed up a little late and one of them had a game so I let them play the only three-player game of the tournament rather than disrupting the games that were already getting started by switching three of them to 5-player games. I may have to reconsider the start time for the third heat, as only 33 showed up at on Sunday morning. I think the popular 7 Wonders siphoned a number of people off, in addition to it being early in the morning.
Out of 37 games over three heats, we had 25 single winners and 6 double winners. I had already stated that the semifinal games would be all 4-player so I stuck with it, but I think I will add a little more flexibility next year to accommodate all the winners by using all 5-player games if the numbers are sufficient. I hate to turn away heat winners from the semifinal. As it was, two of the 20 semifinal qualifiers did not show up so the first two alternates played, but there were several alternates, including at least three heat winners, who unfortunately had to be turned away.
The winning score in the heats for 4-player games ranged from 86 by Brandon Buchanan to 110 by Rich Atwater. In contrast to last year, there was only one tie. John R Myers and David Spencer tied with 88, which was the lowest winning score for a 5-player heat game. John won by having four more tokens on the board at the end. The highest winning score of the five 5-player heat games was 99 by Nick Page.
The semifinal game winning scores, all 4-player games, were a bit higher, ranging from a low of 92 by Romain Jacques to a high of 112 by Alexander Lange. I separated the six double winners for the semifinal as best I could, leaving the two lowest qualifiers, Dalton Versak and Romain Jacques, together since we had only five tables. The other double winners were John R. Myers, Pierre Luc Ramier, Ian Lange, and Catherine Raymond. As you can see from the final standings, three of the six double winners made it into the finals. Small World includes a fair amount of luck based on which and when combinations come out but there is clearly an element of strategy that rewards the better players.
Once again, questions abounded regarding the Ghouls. Here are answers to some of the most frequent questions:
- On the turn that Ghouls go into decline that is all they do. They do not move or even redeploy. They simply flip over in place and the player collects income as usual at the end of the turn
- If a stack of Ghouls is conquered, one is eliminated and the others redeploy at the end of the turn
- Ghouls in decline are immune to the Sorcerer’s special power
Interestingly, the winner of the final game employed the Ghouls without ever taking them into decline, but I am getting ahead of myself. A recap of the final game follows.
A random draw saw Romain Jacques start things off. His choices were, from cheapest to most expensive, Heroic Tritons, Commando Sorcerers, Merchant, Ratmen, Diplomat Ghouls, Fortified Dwarves, and Forest Halflings. He decided to save his cash and start out with the Heroic Tritons. The Stout Amazons were then revealed as the new sixth choice and the remaining players took their turns establishing their initial positions. At the end of turn 1, here is where everyone stood, in turn order:
- Romain - Heroic Tritons, 7 tokens, 7 VP
- Pierre - Commando Sorcerers, 6 tokens, 6 VP
- Verity - Merchant Ratmen, 5 tokens, 10 VP
- Alexander - Forest Halflings, 4 tokens, 5 VP having paid 2 for Halflings
- Ian - Stout Amazons in decline, 5 tokens, 3 VP having paid 2 for Amazons
Here is what it looked like after turn 2:
- Romain - Heroic Tritons, 9 tokens, 9 turn VP
- Pierre - declined Sorcerers, 6 tokens, 6 turn VP
- Verity - Merchant Ratmen, 7 tokens, 14 turn VP
- Alexander - Forest Halflings, 6 tokens, 9 turn VP
- Ian – Berserk Humans and declining Amazons, 3+5 tokens, 8 turn VP having paid 2 for Humans
After turn 3, the positions were as follows:
- Romain - declined Tritons, 9 tokens, 9 turn VP
- Pierre – Spirit Elves and declined Sorcerers, 4+5 tokens, 7 turn VP having paid 2 for the Elves
- Verity - Merchant Ratmen, 5 tokens, 10 turn VP
- Alexander - Forest Halflings, 7 tokens, 10 turn VP
- Ian – Berserk Humans and declining Amazons, 5+2 tokens, 10 turn
At this point, you might think Verity is running away with it, and she is. However, watch what happens next. The other players decide that she is a threat and begin to attack her aggressively. Verity recognizes the warning sign and declines after a great run with the Merchant Ratmen. On his next turn, Romain also makes what will prove to be a very canny choice. The Ghouls, avoided since the beginning, perhaps because Diplomat is not seen as a particularly strong special power. Romain is about to show how wrong that assumption is in the right hands. At this point Pierre is also in a quandary. His Elves are powerful, but to fully take advantage of the fact that they are Spirit, he will have to decline. After much consideration, he decides to decline. This puts him in position to take the very attractive Mounted Skeletons next turn.
Turn 4 ended as follows:
- Romain – Diplomat Ghouls and declined Tritons, 3+7 tokens, 14 turn VP gaining 4 for the Ghouls
- Pierre – declined Spirit Elves and declined Sorcerers, 4+5 tokens, 9 turn VP
- Verity – declined Merchant Ratmen, 2 tokens, 2 turn VP
- Alexander - Forest Halflings, 8 tokens, 12 turn VP
- Ian – Berserk Humans and declining Amazons, 6+2 tokens, 11 turn VP
Romain uses his Diplomat power selectively to prevent his greatest threat from attacking him during each of the next few turns. Surprisingly, no one recognizes that the Tritons are still bringing in a large number of points for Romain each turn. It is hard to say but the fact that the Tritons were not attacked for so long made a big difference in the final result. I thought perhaps there was a misunderstanding of the rule that the Diplomat power only prevented attacking the active race, and in fact, I considered saying something, but I ultimately decided that would be unfair to Romain. Then one of the players did in fact ask the question whether he could attack the Tritons to which everyone responded yes. That told me the rule was clear, but inexplicably, the Tritons remained untouched for several more turns. At this point Romain is now running away with the game but the other players seem unaware of his threat and instead concentrate on trying to stop each other from gaining an edge.
At the end of Turn 5, the positions were:
- Romain – Diplomat Ghouls and declined Tritons, 6+6 tokens, 12 turn VP, 51 VP
- Pierre – Mounted Skeletons and declined Spirit Elves/Sorcerers, 5+4+5 tokens, 14 turn VP, 42 VP
- Verity – Dragonmaster Giants and declined Merchant Ratmen, 5+2 tokens, 7 turn VP, 43 VP
- Alexander – declined Forest Halflings, 4 tokens, 4 turn VP, 40 VP
- Ian – declined Berserk Humans, 3 tokens, 3 turn VP, 35 VP
Pierre, with three races accumulating victory points, seems to be the most likely to run away with the game if left unchecked. Verity decides to try to do something about that by attacking both his declined races with her Giants since they happen to be adjacent to the same mountain range. Finally, Alexander decides to take the six coins on the Fortified Dwarves. The Dwarves are probably the weakest race in the game, but it eventually pays off to take the coins dropped on them throughout the game. In this case, since Alexander won second place by only a point, this decision may have been the one that gave him that edge.
Turn 6 positions ended as follows:
- Romain – Diplomat Ghouls and declined Tritons, 7+6 tokens, 13 turn VP
- Pierre – Mounted Skeletons and declined Spirit Elves/Sorcerers, 7+3+2 tokens, 12 turn VP
- Verity – Dragonmaster Giants and declined Merchant Ratmen, 9+2 tokens, 11 turn VP
- Alexander – Fortified Dwarves and declined Forest Halflings, 2+4 tokens, 14 turn VP gaining 6 for Dwarves
- Ian – Alchemist Orcs and declined Berserk Humans, 3+2 tokens, 10 turn VP having paid 1 for Orcs
The penultimate turn is critical, as everyone has to make the choice whether or not to decline one last time. Romain, seeing that his Tritons are still largely untouched, makes the unusual decision to keep the Ghouls active for the remainder of the game. It is a great call as he ends up well in front at the final tally. Pierre struggles with having to discard both the Elves and the Sorcerers but the toll they have taken under Verity’s onslaught is just too much. His Skeletons are in a decent position to allow him to decline and have one last shot at a different active race for some final points. This is particularly appealing since the Wealthy Amazons have made an appearance. Verity, almost stretched to the maximum with her Giants, goes into decline. The other two decide to see what damage they can do with their current races.
As Turn 7 comes to an end, player’s positions are:
- Romain – Diplomat Ghouls and declined Tritons, 5+4 tokens, 9 turn VP
- Pierre – declined Mounted Skeletons, 7 tokens, 7 turn VP
- Verity – declined Dragonmaster Giants, 8 tokens, 8 turn VP
- Alexander – Fortified Dwarves and declined Forest Halflings, 3+4 tokens, 11 turn VP
- Ian – Alchemist Orcs and declined Berserk Humans, 5+1 tokens, 10 turn VP
Note that in the final three turns the players receive comparable victory points. The difference in the end is that Romain never had a low value turn. His first turn of 7 was the lowest for him in the entire game, whereas the others had turns of 2, 3, and 4, except for Pierre, who had multiple single digit turns due to declining so many times.
The final turn resulted in the following:
- Romain – Diplomat Ghouls and declined Tritons, 5+4 tokens, 9 turn VP
- Pierre – Wealthy Amazons and declined Mounted Skeletons, 5+5 tokens, 15 turn VP having paid 2
- Verity – Bivouacking Wizards and declined Dragonmaster Giants, 3+5 tokens, 10 turn VP
- Alexander – Fortified Dwarves and declined Forest Halflings, 4+3 tokens, 12 turn VP
- Ian – Alchemist Orcs and declined Berserk Humans, 5+1 tokens, 9 turn VP
Final scores were Romain with 82 VP, followed by Alexander with 77, Pierre 76, Verity with 72, and Ian with 63.
For the second year in a row, the winning player only declined once. The second place player also only declined once. Third place declined three times and the other two declined twice each.
This year’s final was a very well played game and enjoyable to watch. I have a newfound respect for the Diplomat power. I hope everyone had a great time and I look forward to seeing you all next year.