This year, the Catan: Cities & Knights tournament at WBC drew 40 unique players. Dropping a heat didn’t seem to impact the total attendance much, with almost half of the participants playing in both heats for a total of 77 qualifying player starts. Both heats were well attended, each having at least 6 tables. We’ll see if that’s enough to get the game back to Century status.
Starting in the second heat, we allowed tables to ignore the barbarian ship movement for each player’s first turn, if all players at the table agreed. This appeared to be a popular option, and minimizes the chances of all players losing their city on the first hit (which makes for a very long tedious game), so the rule will stick around for next year.
The common belief about Cities and Knights is that the later turn orders are the best opening positions. At least this year, that holds true, with a 3rd or 4th starting position leading to an average finish of 2.18, vs 2.82 for a 1st or 2nd starting position (sample size = 17 games).
As in previous years, a single win, or two 2nds, is enough to advance into the semifinals. We had 15 of the top 16 qualifiers show up, with 1 alternate, so the semifinal was able to be four 4-player games, which is my strong preference. The 16 players had heat scores ranging from a double winner, down to a 2nd and a 4th finish, perpetuating the mantra of “hey, show up!, you might be in.”
The final table consisted of Rob Kircher, Andrew George, Craig Trader, and Virginia Colin, in that initial turn order. Andy and Rob were back for the second year in a row, with Craig and Virginia being the newcomers to the final table but regulars of the tournament.
During setup, per the rules of the game, each player starts with a city. Virginia decided that the all-wood spot of 5-9-10 would be an excellent city spot, presumably hoping for an early aqueduct. The dice were very uncooperative with this seemingly desirable placement, as those numbers would come up only twice, combined, in the first 5 turns, and, unfortunately for Virginia, continue that less-than-average pattern for the entire game. All 3 of the other players placed their cities on sheep, with Craig diversifying to wood/paper, Andy brick, and Rob ore and brick.
Also, Rob and Virginia are the only players producing wheat, on a 10 and 11, respectively. It looks like both Craig and Andy are pushing a sheep port strategy, as they each have multiple hexes producing it (Craig 3,4,6; Andy 3,4). Craig has a backup plan though, with one of his roads pointing toward a wheat hex and 3:1 port, so it seems likely he’ll build that way fairly quick.
All interesting approaches: trading brick, porting sheep, and fast aqueducting; they know they will need the wheat during the game, and they can’t be dependent on the board to give it to them, as wheat is only available on 2, 4, 10, and 11. Not great numbers, but we’ll see if the Inventor has something to say about them.
The first few turns are fairly uneventful, with each player building an active knight. Craig activated his just in time, as the barbarian’s 7th step would happen on the very next roll of the game. All players contributed a single knight to the defense, and they all chose the green progress card, all going for a fast start. That card would be immediately useful for Rob, as he would play an Inventor on his next turn.
Slightly past the game’s halfway point, Andy built the first aqueduct of the game. Strange that he got it first, especially considering that he didn’t produce any paper. All of it came from trades or robberies. Virginia, expecting it would come earlier, also got the aqueduct this turn. Even though this could hardly be considered early game, it was clear that this would give them both a significant advantage. At that point, the points are: Rob 6, Andy 5, Craig 7, and Virginia 5. Fairly tight game still.
In later turns, Andy would get both the cloth and paper metropolis, and build 2 cities but unfortunately for him, couldn’t find that last point. Rob was able to take the coin metropolis. Craig stole the longest road from Virginia.
After 19 rounds of play, points are still very tight…well, among 3 of the players. Virginia was unfortunately a victim of the dice. Decent numbers, but horrible luck. Sorry Virginia, it happens that way on the island sometimes. Rob has 10, Andy 12, Craig 10, Virginia 5.
The final turns would be very close between the players.
- 1. Craig rolls an 8, which produces him coins. He is able to spend some of them to tie Rob on the coin tracker. (10/12/10/5)
- 2. Virginia rolls another 8, and flips her coins as well. She is only one flip behind them both, as she also produced quite a bit of coin. (10/12/10/5)
- 3. Rob rolls a 9, with the help from an Alchemist. He plays a merchant card, and builds a settlement. (12/12/10/5)
- 4. Andy rolls a 7, and plays an Inventor. Not super useful at this stage of the game, but better late than never? We’ll see. (12/12/10/5)
- 5. Craig rolls an 8 (popular number, it would roll 25 times during the game, double the average). He is able to steal Rob’s coin metropolis, to put him at 12 points as well. (10/12/12/5)
- 6. Virginia rolls a 7, takes the Merchant from Rob, and builds a settlement. (9/12/12/7)
At this point, we had reached the 3 hour timeslot, and the players needed an adjudication to get to other events.
- Rob, losing the coin metropolis, agreed that he was out of it.
- Andy was blocked in, and had nowhere to go. His only hope was for a Merchant card, or the Constitution.
- Craig had a decent potential still. He had previously earned a Defender of Catan, and had a few build spots available.
- Virginia, having the dice against her, and the longest road recently stolen from her, also agreed that she was out of it.
Therefore, with the agreement of all players, Craig was declared the victor. Just because of our natural curiosity, the GMs rolled the dice a few more times, as if it had gone 1 more round. As it turned out, on the very next roll of the game, Craig would have drawn the Constitution, giving him 13 victory points. So while I hated adjudicating a final, it wasn’t really an adjudicated game.
The final tally – Craig Trader is our winner with 13 points, with 3 cities (one of those being the coin metropolis), the Longest Road, 2 Defenders of Catan, and the Constitution card. Second Place goes to Andy George with 12 points (Sorry Andy, 2nd overall two years in a row). Third Place goes to Rob Kircher with 9 points. Fourth Place goes to Virginia Colin with 7 points.
Overall, a very successful tournament. Even with the reduced number of heats, attendance increased slightly. I’ll see everybody around the island next year!