Splendor’s setup did not change much from 2017, only swapping the tiebreaker order back, so that Best Non-Win Finish is on top of Best Win Margin. We enjoyed a record crowd of 297 unique players this year - next stop, 300! The flight system pioneered by Sara VanderWal, where disposable randomizers are handed out as players register, continues to work extremely well for this fast-paced game, and the fact that the randomizers are edible is an additional bonus.
AGM Sky Roy helped with registration for Heat 1, where our players filled a whopping 49 tables in Seasons, leaving just enough room at the back for the few games of Through the Ages still running. This prompted Nick Page to check the program for future heats, where he discovered that Heat 2 not only overlapped with the last hour of Catan: Cities and Knights, but that Tin Goose and Tyranno Ex were starting in Seasons at the same time as us! Forewarned, I tracked down convention director Ken Gutermuth to talk solutions. He was able to offer Wintergreen, right across the hall, as overflow space. Ken also provided me with the names of the other three GMs, and in the time between the two heats I was able to talk to all of them. Chris Gnech agreed to run C&K at one side of Seasons, and Bill Herbst and Tom DeMarco also set up on that side, leaving Wintergreen and the other half of Seasons for us. This setup worked well, and my thanks go to Nick, Ken, Chris, Bill, and Tom for their parts in minimizing the disruption.
The push to win Splendor with as few cards as possible reached its logical (or illogical) peak this year when two players – Sarah Drummond and Daniel Beard – both won heats with only three cards purchased, a record that cannot be surpassed.
The larger field pushed us above 27 double-winners, which meant that the quarterfinals were played on four-player boards this year, slimming down to three-player for semis and finals. Two of last year’s laurel winners, Jefferson Meyer and Andrew Drummond, were randomly assigned to the same quarterfinal table, but in the end both were denied by Michael Pustilnik. This marked the first year in the event’s history that Andrew failed to make it to the finals.
In another first, a quarterfinal game needed to use the random tiebreaker. Ming Hon and Jonathan Miller tied for the win, having the same number of points and development cards bought, and having the same number of leftover gems – the GM-added extra tiebreaker. With no other way in the game to determine who is in the better position (turn order history being inconclusive), they had to resort to a die roll. It was at this point that I realized that I hadn’t actually brought a die to the event! Luckily, Dalton Versak, fresh off a win himself, sprang to the rescue, producing a rather oversized d20 for the contestants to use. Ming rolled first, sending the die tumbling across the play surface for a 19, to the oohs of the spectators. Jonathan shook the die and sent it back… also 19! Forced into a second round, Ming’s next roll was a much less impressive 6. Jonathan rolled… 5. Thanks to Dalton for the loan of the die, and to the contestants for being good sports!
The semifinals continued the one significant problem with three-player Splendor – excessive thinking. In each of the last few years, the semifinal and final rounds of Splendor have taken close to an hour, with player analysis, like a proverbial goldfish, expanding to take up the available space. While Splendor is officially in a one-hour slot, this is due to WBC scheduling constraints, and ideally it should never come close to needing the full time. Announcements will be made in future years that players should play at a reasonable pace, even in the playoffs.
The finalists, Allan Jiang, Rob Murray, and Michael Pustilnik, were new laurelists at Splendor, but all three are Centurions, and brought a high level of play to the finals. Michael Pustilnik also continued Splendor’s tradition of having a Michael in the finals, joining Swinson from 2017, Huggins from 2016, and the above-quota duo of Wojke and Holmquist in 2015. The three played a tight game, but in the end Rob was able to clear the 15 point barrier and take home the shield. Congratulations!
The only change currently being planned for 2019 is a tweak to the 4th-6th place distribution. So far, we have been using the tiebreakers provided for playoff advancement to determine how 4th-6th are awarded – Highest Non-Win Finish. This means that ranking within a game has not been considered – only how close you are to the winner. As a result, if one semifinal table finishes with scores of 15-14-13 and another 15-12-11, both the 14 and the 13 would be ranked above the 12. While this does have merits, and I plan to continue using it as a tiebreaker for playoff advancement, it does not feel proper to reward players for finishing third out of three at a table. Next year I plan to award 4th-6th to the second place finishers at each of the semifinal tables, still using distance from the winner as the tiebreaker among them.
Finally, special thanks go to Sky Roy, Nick Page, and Kyle Jewell for helping with registration. Having friends there to help out makes a huge difference in running these events, and I am very grateful for their support.