Kevin Wojtaszczyk has one of the best records against Bob Malcomson in all around play including friendlies, and when they met for the 2018 final, Kevin set up his “First Minnesota Killer” the nom de guerre of the board Malcomson lost to Greenwood on last year. It’s tough to bet against Bob, but the omens had Kevin trending. Instead, Bob claimed his third “Best Breakout Player on the Planet” trophy, and Wojtaszczyk added another color to his Breakout plaque collection, but not the one we all covet. In 5 years of competitive play, Malcomson has only 3 losses (note to bidders: all as the Germans) against 20 plus victories. He is now third in overall BKN WBC tournament titles with three, one behind both Nels Thompson and Jim Doughan, and gaining fast. Kevin Hammond missed his third WBC title when he fell to Greenwood in the 2017 “instant classic” final, and in this year’s tournament he was foiled by George Young playing as an eliminator, dropping his record under the L2 version to 30-7. A Malcomson-Hammond title match will have to wait for at least another year.
There was no bid in the final, Wojtaszczyk preferring the Allies and Malcomson the Germans. Kevin chose the four-bridge opening at St. Mere Eglise. The D-Day landings were about par. With Sword and Merville untouched by the night assault and naval bombardment, Kevin opted for a single commando landing at Sword. The British beaches help each other out in recent Allied play, and Kevin cleared Juno with a pair of Canadian infantry brigades in the first wave, allowing him to send the Canadian armor to Sword and the artillery to Gold to eliminate the beach fortifications. The main wave at Sword suffered heavy interdiction, and Kevin chose not to risk an assault against a 7 strength defense on the beach. At Omaha, all 4 defenders were spent before the first wave, and the Americans assaulted safely, with little damage to the Germans. Utah was cleared, and a follow up assault came within one pip of clearing St. Mere Eglise. A failed assault into Bretteville allowed the Germans to take down the bridges leading from the beaches. The magic bridge held, but the day ran to impulse 7, allowing the Germans to make important defensive adjustments.
The 7th dawned with 6 fresh German defenders in Caen. St. Mere Eglise fell and the Americans contested Carentan. Combined with a tough British schedule, the opening suggested a par game, the Allies taking Carentan and linking the beaches, plus Merville and one bocage area. Sword and Merville fell. The Americans at Omaha suffered a couple of bombardments in Trevieres that would slow them down. Contesting Caen was risky. Late in the day on impulse 8, the Allies bombarded Caen to good effect on a roll that also changed the weather. With 12th SS waiting in the wings, Kevin decided to reroll the bombardment. The day continued, and Kevin declined to make an impulse 9 assault at +3 into Caen. That’s a tough beat, if you miss it, but with the Allies a little bit behind schedule everywhere except Utah, it was probably a chance Kevin had to take.
The delay meant the Allies had to contest Caen on the 8th, denuding their attack strength into Foret de Cerisy and allowing Bob to continue prioritizing his bocage defense. The Caen bombardments once again were weak, and with Troarn well defended, envelopment was not an option. The Brits managed to contest Caen, but the Foret assault was almost as important, and Kevin’s +5 assault suffered a -6 roll. With Carentan continuing to hold, and Germans thick in all of the bocage areas and undamaged in Caen plus defending in strength in Troarn to prevent envelopment, Kevin eventually was forced to resign.
New players can take a few tips from the game. Kevin’s D-Day strategy has depth and offers the Allied player several options to exploit the British beaches, depending on the initial results. The conventional wisdom held, that Caen must be contested on the 7th. Recent expert play has featured at least two British infantry divisions and armored brigades enveloping Caen through Merville. Bob forestalled that with a stacked defense in Troarn. And finally, without any contested bocage areas, Kevin was unable to prevent at will German movement and regroups to optimize the defense. Even with Carentan’s 2 VPs, Kevin would have a difficult time earning a win.
We’ve been playing this game a long time. A Doughan made his first tournament appearance: Jim’s son Drew attended the demo and played. Other first timers included Laurie Wojtaszczyk and Meng Ong. Ken Nied got to play a game with cards, to avoid his famously cursed dice. And it might have worked, too, if not for Thompson’s hot dice on interdiction rolls. Greenwood was diced by interdiction against Thompson’s Germans, too, and when Jason Albert landed a unit of the 4th division at Utah in round 3, it was the first one to reach Utah Beach against Thompson’s Germans in the tournament. Too bad he lost 6 units to interdiction at Omaha. Later the magic bridge fell, too. Albert shifted the Americans to Omaha and a wild Caen game developed after the Allies took Troarn and contested Bourguebus, forcing the Germans to make a 13:12 into Troarn on the 11th to prevent Bourguebus from falling, and possibly Caen.
The 3rd round Hammond-Young match was perhaps the best one of the tournament. There was no bid. Young’s Allies bloodied Caen on the 7th with a 12:5 assault roll, putting the Germans on the ropes early. On the 9th, a big bombardment lowered the defense of Carentan to ‘untenable’. But George was still headed for a loss by 1 VP. Caen held, and on the 10th, the Allies were repulsed outright on two assaults into Tilly, one at +5, the other at +3. Also on the 10th, a US corps artillery bombardment of St. Lo whiffed and changed the weather. George went north from Utah and took Montebourg. On the 12th, holding the advantage, George took his shot at St. Vaast for the win. (Andrew Cummins would be pleased.) He would need to roll +3, given two chances. His first roll came up +6, knocking Hammond out of the tournament. Hammond then eliminated Thompson in a semifinal match, elevating the Malcomson-Wojtaszczyk game to the final.
We had 26 entrants. Bids have been shrinking over the past several years, and the range this year was from 11 reserve supply to the Germans to 13 going to the Allies. There were 22 games between experienced players. The Allies won 13 of the 22. Sixteen of the 22 had no bid. Most observers now feel game balance has shifted slightly to the Allies. The GM isn’t so sure, but he doesn’t like to go against the numbers. What’s clear is that after 25 years of competitive play, this great games still yields new strategies for players to ponder.