Alternate Takes The Big Prize
The second year of the Orleans tournament at WBC was a huge success. We increased to 76 unique players and were up to 33 tables across the opening heats. One downside was the 3rd heat at 9am that saw only 28 players make it up for it. In future, I think the early heat will need to be earlier in the week before everyone gets too fatigued to get up for 9. The players have also gotten considerably better over the last year as the average winning score went from 141 last year to 149 in 2018. Only 9 of the 38 tables had a winning score under 140. Other notable things from the heats included:
- Sceadeau D’Tela’s unbelievable 189 point score in heat #2.
- Robb Effinger managing to pull off a win with 135 points despite having only a single cheese in goods.
- Jared Schever and Nick Vayn both pulled off wins without having a single citizen
- Weirdly, no winner in the heats had 10 guildhalls down, though it happened twice in the semifinals
A huge thank you to Duncan McGregor and Sara Ward for their help as AGMs. Particularly Duncan’s help in organizing and starting heat 2 while I was occupied by a final. It is only possible to GM games if you have people around you who can help out, and Duncan and Sara are two of the best.
After the heats, we had exactly 16 players with a win and a second or better. This would have been perfect, but on the Saturday morning we had 2 no shows for the semifinals allowing Eric Wrobel and Ricky Boyes to sneak in as alternates. I am a believer in seeding the semifinals based on performance in the heats, but I am also open to hear other views on this subject if anyone thinks it should be different next year.
The first semifinal had last year’s champion Duncan McGregor up against Nick Vayn, Patrick Neary, and alternate Eric Wrobel. After the first few rounds it was clear that Duncan was pressing forward with a Windmill/Lab strategy. Eric was falling well behind in the tech tree but had earned a decent income off of sprinting ahead on the farmer track. Patrick has raced to get all his scholars, and was trying to use them with the school but with only 2 knights and 1 craftsman, he just wasn’t taking as many actions as the rest. Nick had a very powerful building combo out (Pharmacy/Hospital/Horse Wagon) but didn’t seem to be able to activate them in the early game.
Nearing the end, Eric took a Shipping Line as he had his halls out but was well behind on the tech tree. Duncan added an Office but had trouble getting enough halls out to make it profitable. Nick was still struggling to make his combo work every turn and Patrick’s goods and halls were going ok, but he wasn’t making any cash. At the end, Eric’s tailor shop and leading in halls was enough to overcome Duncan’s tech and cash advantage. Final scores [(Halls + Citizens) * Tech + Cash + Goods]:
- Eric (8+2)*4 = 40 + 54 cash + 66 goods = 160
- Duncan (6+3)*5 = 45 + 69 cash + 30 goods = 144
- Nick (3+3)*6 = 36 + 67 cash + 21 goods = 124
- Patrick (6+2)*5 = 40 + 22 cash + 59 goods = 121
The second semifinal featured the only triple heat winner Ryan up against perennial threat Sam Wolff, with Kyle Greenwood and alternate Ricky Boyes being the fourth. Ryan jumped at an early hospital and combined it with a school to take a tech laden strategy. Kyle eschewed any buildings at all in the first half and focused on trying to be the first down to the bottom half of the board to achieve dominance there. Sam hurt himself badly when he set up a Lab, but couldn’t ever seem to draw the scholar he had. After checking his bag, he realized it had accidentally been dropped off board but the turns lost there were hard to recover. Ricky fought with Kyle to stay ahead on the farmer track and tried to secure the guildhalls North of Orleans, while falling well behind in tech and building just a Shipping Line.
In the end, although Kyle was able to fight off Ricky to secure the top of the farmer track, he wasn’t able to put down many guildhalls and Ricky was able to visit towns Kyle had passed through and build his own guildhalls. Ryan had won the cash fight with his hospital, and he had a ton (6) of citizens, but his cash was only a little better than others and he had almost no goods. Sam recovered enough to place a strong 3rd at the table, but he’d never been able to get his Horse Wagon going to secure any real goods. Final scores:
- Ricky (10+3)*5 = 65 + 46 cash + 42 goods = 153
- Ryan (4+6)*6 = 60 + 64 cash + 15 goods = 139
- Sam (6+2)*6 = 48 + 59 cash + 13 goods = 120
- Kyle (2+1)*3 = 9 + 43 cash + 55 goods = 98
The third semifinal featured last year’s finalist and most point getter of the opening round Sceadeau D’Tela against Matthew Craig, Mark Jensen, and Pierre-Luc Ramier. Sceadeau started out with a Windmill while Pierre-Luc took a School and Wool Manufacturer, Matthew got started on a Pharmacy/Hospital combo and Mark worked on his worker bag while waiting on the buildings. By mid-game Sceadeau was way behind in tech, but had a Lab and Cellar going to get a cash lead. Pierre-Luc had cogged his Wool Manufacturer, but hadn’t yet gotten the fishermen to activate it. Matthew likewise had a Horse Wagon and Hospital all set up, but halfway through the game hadn’t been able to use either of them. Mark’s game was going a little better with a lead on the Knights and being near 5 in tech.
But in the end Sceadeau’s position was dominant. He accumulated a massive lead in cash, that combined with no one else being able to set up their engines effectively, gave him a comfortable win. Final Scores:
- Sceadeau (7+3)*4 = 40 + 86 cash + 39 goods = 165
- Pierre-Luc (7+1)*5 = 40 + 40 cash + 51 goods = 131
- Mark (2+5)*6 = 42 + 55 cash + 30 goods = 127
- Matthew (4+2)*6 = 36 + 31 cash + 19 goods = 86
The last semifinal had 2 laurelists and the 7th place player from last year in what looked to be a great matchup between Andrew Emerick, Robb Effinger, Aaron Blair, and Jared Schever. Robb started out with an early farmer, possibly as a reaction to the torture he received in last year’s semi. Andrew cogged up his village and tried for the tailor shop. Aaron got started with a School and Windmill, and Jared went for the Hospital. By the midgame, strategies had developed. Robb was still the only one to farm at all and added an Herb garden to try and go Blue. Andrew got 5(!) buildings out including the Office, Library, Horse Wagon, and Lab. Jared got the first guildhall down and was playing a balanced game of a little of everything, and Aaron was trying to Pharmacy and Windmill his way to the top of the tech track and was succeeding. The most insane thing about this table was that all the non-farmers were gone by round 13. Even the fishermen were split between Aaron and Robb.
At the end though, this game wasn’t close. Andrew got all 10 of his guildhalls down and combined that with spamming the Tailor shop 8 times and finishing out the cash with his Office. Aaron had taken over on farmers, but it wasn’t as profitable having lost the early revenues from Robb’s start down the track. Robb and Jared both had some cash, but virtually no goods and Jared hadn’t managed to grab more than a single citizen. Final Scores:
- Andrew (10+2)*5 = 60 + 47 cash + 65 goods = 172
- Robb (5+6)*5 = 55 + 59 cash + 11 goods = 125
- Aaron (4+3)*6 = 42 + 43 cash + 24 goods = 109
- Jared (4+1)*5 = 25 + 63 cash + 17 goods = 105
And then we were down to 4. Two repeat finalists, and two newcomers. We sat down for what would be a very entertaining and hard fought final. Highlights:
Turn 2: On the second action, both Andrew and Ricky left 3 guys back to have a stronger turn 3 which was an interesting strategy. Sceadeau bought the Hospital and then sent off a Black through the Town Hall to get a book and set him up for the first citizen. From Eric “I’ve used that strategy before, it’s pretty good.”
Turn 3: Sceadeau posed an interesting question. Should he voluntarily torture himself? Harvest was out and he could spend 3 coins in the Pharmacy leaving him to be short 3 on paying the harvest. He concluded that he could live with a max of 7 guildhalls and took the 3 books. Andrew also grabbed a Windmill
Turn 4: Andrew grabs a Lab and cogs it up right away. Eric decides to go Blue with an Herb Garden. Ricky grabs his 3rd craftsman to cog Village, Castle, and Wagon. Sceadeau kills off another Black through the Town Hall.
Turn 5: The first plague. Andrew desperately pleads “Take a Brown guy, Please!” And gets a brown pulled out of the bag! But alas, it was a starter. Ricky also jumps out to a convincing Knight lead 7-5-5-5. Eric adds the Horse Wagon and actually loses a brown guy while Andrew has 4 guys left in his market.
Turn 6: Plague again! This time everyone goes nuts on the Town Hall with Sceadeau sending browns, Ricky sending a red and a brown, and Andrew sending a red as well. Everyone but Sceadeau also lost a guy in the plague but none of major consequence.
Turn 9: By now, Ricky has established a farmer lead and bought a Shipping Line for his Blues to have something to do. He’s also moved 3 times and dropped 3 guildhalls. Andrew is struggling to draw the right guys from his bag and has added a Cellar to try and earn some cash. Eric also has 2 guildhalls out and has the South all to himself for now, and Sceadeau is way up on the tech track for the first income event saying “The timing couldn’t have been more perfect.”
Turn 11: Eric looks down at his board and wonders why he cogged the Castle and wishes he could move it. The 3rd Trading Day comes out to hurt Ricky who has a 5-3-3-0 lead in guidhalls. Sceadeau laments “There won’t be anything to do for the rest of the game” as everyone has already set their engines.
Turn 12:: Andrew despairs as he draws 7 of his 9 workers to leave both of his monks in the bag. Ricky had a plan to fight Eric for towns that failed because he drew no knights. Ricky also gets into the Wool Manufacturing business, and the GM notices that only 4 university actions have been taken all game.
Turn 13: Andrew fights his luck by just drawing his entire bag this turn, guaranteeing his monks. Sceadeau and Ricky both double Town Hall to claim citizens. Eric laments “The Office was a mistake” as he’s forced to fight with Ricky for every town, and Andrew takes a farmer to force Eric into the worst farmer spot.
Turn 14: Sceadeau takes a Tailor Shop despite there only being 3 brocade in the supply. The last plague hits and helps cull some bags as many knights are returned.
The remainder of the game was uneventful with the exception of a time where there wasn’t a good on board when there should have been one. Fortunately, despite worrying that Andrew or Ricky claimed it accidentally, we were able to look back in the pictures the GM was taking and confirm that the game simply missed it in setup.
Everyone ran out their actions. After turn 16 we were out of money, and by the end Ricky and Eric had dropped a bunch of guildhalls, Sceadeau had the most cash, and Andrew was just unlucky. About how it was expected to go down. Final scores:
Ricky (9+3)*5 = 60 + 49 cash + 71 goods = 180
Sceadeau (3+5)*6 = 48 + 84 cash + 20 goods = 152
Eric (8+3)*5 = 55 + 64 cash + 31 goods = 150
Andrew (6+0)*5 = 30 + 63 cash + 34 goods = 127
Congratulations to Ricky for his first ever Orleans win and to all the finalists for a tournament very well played!
Beyond the finals, we continued to collect a variety of statistics on the games in both the heats and the playoffs to see if there was anything that could be derived from the ways the game was played. Some of the conclusions we can reach are:
- The tech track is important (but not necessarily early). The average winner had a tech level of 4.9 (down from 5.1 last year). No one in a non-adjudicated game won without having a tech level of at least 4.
- Citizens are nice, but are not critical to your success. In 17 of 38 games, the winner had 2 or less citizens, including Duncan’s 0 in the finals.
- Coins are important. Only thrice of the 38 games did the winner have less than 40 coins (2 of those being Ryan Feathers).
- There was also a stronger focus on goods and halls than last year. Average winner had 6.1 halls (up from 5.8) and 41.6 points in goods (up from 34.2)
We also tracked the buildings played by the winner. We got this data back for only 34 of the games played (glares at Andrew Emerick and Ryan Feathers). Buildings in order of popularity among winners were (difference from 2017’s 31 games recorded):
- Horse Wagon 12 times (+7)
- Laboratory 10 times (+3)
- Hospital 10 times (+1)
- Windmill 10 times (+5)
- Tailor Shop 8 times (+4)
- Wool Manufacturer 7 times (+3)
- Gunpowder Tower 6 times (+1)
- Pharmacy 5 times (-1)
- School 5 times (-4)
- Shipping Line 4 times (+3)
- Library 4 times (-4)
- Office 4 times (+1)
- Winery 3 times (=)
- Cellar 2 times (-1)
- Cheese Factory 1 time (=)
- Brewery 1 time (+1)
- Herb Garden 1 time (-4)
From this, you can tell that the strategies were evolving. There was a much lower focus on making things wild (Herb Garden and School both much less used), and a much higher focus on making goods (Tailor Shop and Wool Manufacturer). Also the Horse Wagon launched out as the most popular building despite not being used that much in 2017. If we look at the strategies in general:
- 10 winners focused on winning through buildings that made coins (Hospital, Office, Windmill, and Cellar). They typically had 70+ coins.
- 9 winners focused on winning through a multi faceted goods strategy. At least 1 goods building with 7+ guildhalls and scoring 55+ points in goods.
- 9 had a balanced strategy pulling from multiple spots for their points
- 2 focused on guildhalls without worrying about the goods portion.
- 2 focused on using wilds (Herb Garden, School) to get balanced points
- 1 player won with multiple goods buildings and only 1 guildhall.
What these data points show is that Orleans really is still a game with multiple, valid winning strategies. It is possible to play this game many different ways and still end out on top. Thanks to everyone who played and I’ll see you all next year.