On the Wednesday night of WBC 2018, a healthy 265 gamers arrived in the ballroom to enjoy the 13th running of the Can’t Stop tournament. With the assistance of AGMs Sara Ward, Orla Mitchell, Duncan McGregor, and Mary Ellen Powers (combined with a new idea to start seating and playing as of 10:30) we were able to get people seated relatively quickly and off to appreciating the fine skills required to excel at this deep game of strategy and cutthroat probability.
As the primary objective in the first two rounds is to let the non-winners get to bed (or werewolf) as soon as we can, first round winners were immediately paired and sent to a second round game. With a few people taking off after winning a round and a moment of GM confusion in pairings, we did eventually get down to a final 16. Oh wait, we thought we had 16, but in reality 265 => 66 => 17 so we had to sit one semi final table of 5 and I am still sorry to those poor souls who had to endure that.
Those 5 were Andrew Emerick, Chris Long, Gary Schaefers, Joe Millovich and Mike Kaltman. Chris helped out by using a wise strategy and closed off the 2 column on the first turn. He followed that with an early 12 cap to be the leader in the early game. This also guaranteed Chris at worst 5th place as he locked down the GM provided tiebreakers of furthest columns. This was to be important as Joe then capped off 3 lesser numbers (4, 7, and 11) to escape the 5 player gauntlet.
Semi #2 involved Alex Metzger, David Meyaard, Eli Sotirakos, and James Bell. It too proved to be a battle as Eli and James both capped 2 numbers early and had an epic fight to get a third number as Alex and David took increasingly unlikely play lines to try and catch up. Eventually Eli was the victor as he capped 5, 7, and 8 to book his ticket to the finals.
Semi #3 was the fastest done of them all with Felicia Alfieri, Justin Shao, Missy Chapman, and Samantha Berk all taking turns quickly to try and get the chance to sit around and watch others play their semi for another 20 minutes. Felicia proved to be the most adept at the table capping the far numbers 2, 3, and 12 before the rest of the table had more than 1 column combined.
Lastly was the long table. Every year there is one game that just won’t ever end. There were GM questions, lucky rolls that spawned unlucky rolls, water hazards thrown on the table, and then more water hazards as drinks were spilled on the new table too. But after all of it, Josie Naylor, Maria Traini, Michael Shea, and Preston Saccenti got down to playing. With her team of family and good luck charm Rachel, Maria eventually dispatched the others by capping 7, 8, 9 and the final was set.
The finals started off as a conservative affair as it tends to in a 4 player game with but three plaques on the line. Felicia started with a very timid 4, 7, 12 and stopped after only 2 rolls. Maria then pulled the coveted 6, 7, 8 but didn’t exploit it and stopped after 6 rolls without getting even halfway up any column. Joe followed with a 7, 9, 11 that he took halfway up the 7 and Eli flamed out with some early bad luck.
Round 2 saw Felicia again seem intimidated by the finals and made only 2 rolls on 7, 11, 12 which did leave her a single spot short of the 12. Maria got the GM’s favourite combo of 4, 7, 10 and took it a fair distance while Joe and Eli failed to advance again.
Round 3 was the difference maker. If anyone recalls from the 2017 Can’t Stop report, there was a moment where someone stopped one short of a cap and that turned out to be a mistake. 2018 would be a repeat of that error. After Felicia realized her slow rolling was leaving her behind she missed a roll and Maria got up to start on a 5, 6, 7 run. She was only starting 5 spots from the cap on the 7s but was terribly worried about crashing this turn. It turned out that the timidity was what she needed to be worried about. After much consternation and advice from the audience, Maria settled on stopping 1 short of the top of 7. With Joe starting only 6 spaces behind, the inevitable happened and Joe capped the 7 leaving Maria with little progress on the other numbers. Eli finally got on the board with an impressive 4, 6, 8 run that left him 2 spaces short of the 6.
In round 4, Felicia fell off again, and Maria tried to push her luck further than it would go. That left Joe to score an 8, 6, 5 that let him finish the 8 and give him a 2-0-0-0 lead. But Eli had an answer as he used 5, 6, 12 to quickly cap the 6 and leave the game at 2-1. Felicia continued her bad luck in round 5, and Maria drew a horrible 2, 3, 9 that prevented her from making any meaningful gains. Joe also didn’t make any progress and Eli came in to finish the 4 and leave the game 2-2.
Round 6 was where the game was decided. Felicia unfortunately did not get anywhere being forced to make increasingly unlikely rolls. Maria took a 3, 5, 10 to 1 roll away from the top of 3 and had a decision to make. After a long pause she decided to press forward, but unfortunately it didn’t work out this time and her progress was lost. (For those of you playing at home, 3-5-10 has a 76% chance of success on any given roll)
It was now Joe’s turn to make a decision. He got 5, 10, 11 which is not a great (but still 78% to survive each roll) and got it 1 short of the 10 for the win. After going through the probabilities afterwards, at this point Joe had a 62% chance to win if he continued. However, he decided to play for the roll next turn and saved his progress. Eli missed his roll and the game continued one more round.
Felicia again failed her rolls in round 7, and Maria couldn’t get any decent numbers to make progress with. Joe missed the chance to roll a 10 and Eli pulled a 3, 5, 9. He only needed 3 steps on the 9 to win, and like the champion he would be he stepped up and nailed it to capture his first ever shield.
Congratulations to all the finalists, and my sincere appreciation for everyone who showed up to play. I think this is one of the best late night games, and I really appreciate everyone coming out and having a good time with it.
We also collected the same stats as last year, and noticed an interesting trend. In games this year:
- 2 was used by 19% of winners (-9% over last year)
- 3 was used by 20% of winners (+9% over last year)
- 4 was used by 15% of winners (-8% over last year)
- 5 was used by 21% of winners (-5% over last year)
- 6 was used by 31% of winners (-3% over last year)
- 7 was used by 54% of winners (+11% over last year)
- 8 was used by 37% of winners (-5% over last year)
- 9 was used by 35% of winners (+7% over last year)
- 10 was used by 29% of winners (+6% over last year)
- 11 was used by 11% of winners (-5% over last year)
- 12 was used by 29% of winners (+6% over last year)
What this shows for the third year in a row is player’s bias towards the higher numbers. In 4 of 5 sets (only exception this year being 3 vs 11) the higher number was used more often. There is enough data available now (close to 200 games) that I feel comfortable saying this is a real trend. Players tend to aim for higher numbers. Which means the lower numbers should have less competition.
I also continued to track from the QF onwards start player to see if there is a bonus available but again it appears that there is no strong correlation between winning the game and starting first. We now have 60 games of data and in only 17 of them has the starting player won the game. That is slightly higher than 25%, but not enough to take actions going forward.
Thanks to everyone who came out, a special shout out to those who never stopped, and we’ll see you all again next year!