2018 saw 137 players play 57 games across three heats of Mad King Ludwig, nearly 20% more games and 15% more players than in 2017. As always, this meant that the fight to get into the 16 semifinal slots was very tight, eleven slots were filled with double winners or better, so even the top alternates had a win and a second. Of all of those who advanced, only one person didn’t show up for the Sunday morning final, allowing your humble GM to slip in as the first alternate.
In semifinal game #1, Duncan MacGregor, Felicia Alfieri, Andrew Emerick, and last year’s champion D.J. Borton matched wits. Felicia pushed for utility rooms and bonus cards; Andrew and Duncan focused on living rooms with large bonuses, and D.J. focused on sleeping rooms for the public objective. D.J.’s sleeping rooms pushed the game longer than the other players expected, with the last turn ending on Andrew as Master Builder. Andrew missed that D.J. had an open food room, and first player Alicia, seeing herself as behind, picked up another utility room to draw what she hoped would be a high-value card – allowing D.J. to chain one sleeping room on his food room (with a sleeping bonus) then use his bonus action to buy the other sleeping room, close the first sleeping room, and clear out one last pile for more points. This massive swing meant the game ended with DJ beating Andrew by a single point and advancing again to the finals.
In semifinal game #2, Andrew Drummond, Randy Buehler, Nick Henning, and Keith Dent faced off. Randy Buehler, locked out of stairs on turn 3 (!) and unable to compete for the basement public bonus, felt he needed to be greedy to grab points and push back on Nick’s strong position by buying the two 600 living rooms in the same turn by closing his food bonus room – giving him a set up for huge points and denying Nick the room he was looking to buy. Instead, it spread Randy thin on cash, denying money to Andrew and Keith, and setting Randy up for closing neither 600 room. Nick took the advantage and continued to focus on blue rooms and bonus points, handily winning with 127 to Andrew’s 100.
The final was then set, with Nick and D.J. facing off with Dylan Quintana who won 124-122 over Janet Ottey with Elaine Pearson and myself at that table, and Ricky Boyes who won 123-113 over triple heat winner Sky Roy, as well as Eric Freeman and Nate Heiss.
Public bonuses flipped as square footage for Living Rooms and Sleeping Rooms, for number of Large Rooms, and for number of Circular rooms. Nick Henning took first Master Builder, with D.J., Dylan, and then Ricky in order of play.
D.J. and Nick focused on end-game bonus points living and sleeping rooms. Ricky and Dylan focused on gardens and food rooms for money and actions, but often when there weren’t good points-scoring opportunities on the board, leading to them purchasing activity rooms to close to try and keep up.
The game ended after 11 rounds, as few of the built sleeping rooms were completed, but most of the built food rooms were. In end game scoring, Nick made big points off of empty room tile stacks, but D.J. made out better than anyone else on the end game bonus tiles, so going into card scoring, Nick was only ahead of D.J. by 2 points.
Dylan revealed Living Rooms, Round Rooms, 250s, and Corridors Rooms, showing good synergy with final bonuses, but he was stymied by D.J. and Nick both heavily favoring those same rooms, making 11 points for a total of 94.
Ricky revealed Hallways, Square Rooms, and Food Rooms as his bonus cards, making an amazing 12 points off the Food Room alone, to end at 98.
Nick revealed Gardens, 450s, and 350s for 14 points to make it to 104.
But in the end, D.J. had the Bonus Cards for Square Rooms for 4 points, 100s for 6 points, and most importantly, a completed “All 8 Room Types” card for 7 points, to bring him to 105 and a single point win to take 1st in Castles of Mad King Ludwig for the second year in a row.
Thanks for Duncan MacGregor, Andrew Drummond, and Randy Buehler for the BGG geeklist recaps of their semis to allow for details; and thanks to Greg Crowe, Greg Ziemba, Roni Breza, and Duncan MacGregor with help in AGMing and setting up for getting people seated and ready!