The 2018 WBC is the year of returns, as I saw a number of old friends returning after several years of absence. Among them was David Dockter, a good friend and sparring partner in many FTP finals in the years past. His tireless cheerleading efforts have energized WBC and wargaming for many of us. Seeing him after 4 years was like seeing a lost brother returning from the war!
The 20th WBC FTP tournament took place on the mountain top of Seven Springs. Attendance took a small dip as there were too many events competing and too many things to do. But 24 participants are still pretty good. I was just disappointed that a number of players who had wanted to play were sidetracked by other games. Among them were several top players like Bill Pettus, Chris Byrd, the Day brothers, and BKN crowd. But it was comforting to see Mark Giddings, George Young, Michael Mitchell, and of course, Dockter, putting a brief appearance.
New this year was having a Mulligan round on Tuesday evening, to allow those players who want to play more games and to open another time slot to recruit new players. It worked like a charm as we had 8 players playing, including several new faces. AGM Nick Pei, did a great job teaching the demo session beforehand and shepherding the Mulligan. It was great to see new players wanting to try this beloved game. So I strive to make every effort to accommodate any player. In fact, a new player, Greg Tanner, asked to play an experienced opponent on Tuesday night as he only had that time slot available. Nick volunteered and did a banged-up job in showing and explaining the subtleties of FTP.
An unfortunate side effect of too many events, open gaming attractions, and other things to do at WBC is that a number of players decided to drop out, even after winning their first round games. I see this happening at other wargame events too, making GMs scrambling to make pairings and truncating rounds. Keith Wixson, noted GM of Wilderness War and Washington’s War, was very frustrated with this (new) phenomenon. I told him that this may be the new normal as there are just too many candies in the store. I had that happened in FTP in the past, and this year, to an even greater degree. Oh well, as long as players are enjoying themselves, who am I to argue.
Before WBC, Michael Day (2-time semi-finalist) told me his brother Warren (PBEM finalist) is also coming for the first time. I thought how cool to have the Day brothers vs the Pei brothers in FTP. But they got involved in several long, multi-player games, and only Michael played in the Mulligan round. However, the Buehler father/daughter duo picked up the mantle and joined in the action for the first time. Their story is simply amazing. Basically, Randy Buehler, 2-time Caesar and Euro expert, made a decision last year to learn FTP and went straight to the Dealer Room to buy a copy. His words… “If no one else was ever going to beat James Pei at that event, I figured maybe it was up to me to knock him off myself!” Spoken like a true Caesar!
A total of 20 games were played, including 3 teaching games. Not counting the teaching ones, box score was in favor of the Rebels with 7 Union and 10 CSA victories. The game is still very well balanced as one or two games could have gone either way, with the CSA pulling out the win.
This year’s Final was the battle between two Caesars. Randy Buehler, a 2-time Caesar and expert in Euro games, stormed into FTP after just 1 year of practice, reaching all the way to the finals. How cool is that, to dedicate one year to learn and practice in something that is out of your comfort zone. When he told me the story, I was shocked and impressed. Told him that he definitely got street cred with us wargamers!
Randy rolled the die and got the Union, and I was the Rebel. He commented that he has played CSA all through the tournament, that this was his first time as USA. So I thought that was a good sign. Here is the summary.
Turn 1: Not much happened as both sides placed PC in border states and geared up for war. Union built forts and repositioned troops while CSA placed reinforcement.
Turn 2: Union forces launched attacks into KY, aggressively trying to secure the state and burn Nashville. ASJ made the critical interception and then the defensive roll to prevent KY from being admitted into the Union and more importantly, saved Nashville from going up in smoke. CSA got a good hand, with 2 reinforcement cards. So I patiently placed the reinforcements and built up AONV. With the last card, AONV lunged towards 7S (Pittsburgh ) and got off a raid in PA. This also cut off the east-west rail link for USA.
Turn 3: USA drew a powerful hand, with a Minor and a Major Campaign, plus all 2’s and 3-Ops. Randy immediately attempted to destroy AONV and to clean up the raid. Multiple attacks were made against AONV and its LOC. I just re-opened supply every time so AONV has a fighting chance. In a series of fighting withdraws, AONV barely escaped destruction to live and fight another day.
The turning point was when Burnside was unleashed to secure KY, burn Nashville, and raid into TN. This gave AONV the respite it needed to regroup and pivoted its offense back to Frederick. Union defense was stretched very thin with troops stripped from the fortification lines to both cut off and attack Rebel positions. So I played the Dysentery card to remove Frederick from 2 SP to 1. Randy peeled off 1 SP from AOP, now down to 1 SP too, to beef up Frederick to 2. With my last card, AONV went all in for the attack. After winning the first battle, AONV  attacked AOP  in DC. DRM was in my favor, +8 vs +4. Dice god was kind to me, rolling a 1 to his 2. Just enough to give me a 2/1 battle win. With DC displaced and AOP destroyed, USA suffered a catastrophic -40 SW! Randy graciously conceded, a bit shell-shocked at the sudden turn of events. Afterwards, I explained several moves he could have done better, giving his powerful hand. I told him he had done very well to reach this pinnacle of success at his first year, that with further play he will be much better prepared next year.
Thanks to all who showed up and played. I had a great time talking with new and old friends. I hope to see many of you coming back to WBC and FTP tourney next year.