The results from Thurn and Taxis this year showed a strong advantage for the first player, with 28 games won by the player who went first, with only 16 won by the players who went second and fourth, and only 13 won by the player who went third. Since most years other than last year showed a substantial advantage for the player going first (though not usually as great as this year), I've instituted bidding for seating order in the elimination rounds. Despite the statistical evidence for an advantage for the first player, the bidding for seat order exhibited no strong preference, with very modest bidding. 6 games, including the final, saw no non-zero bids at all, and the 10 non-zero bids were all only half a point. Five of them were bids for first, 2 for second, and 3 for fourth position.
At the conclusion of the quarterfinals, one of the winners indicated he was not planning to continue with the semifinals. Fortunately, we were able to find Hennesy Gorham, the closest second-place finisher in the quarterfinals, who had already left the room, and inform he had qualified for the semifinals after all, giving us a full 16 players for the semifinals. While players are always welcome to compete in the heats whether or not they have any intention of moving on to the elimination rounds, players, please do your GM's a favor, and inform them and check that it's OK before playing a quarterfinal or semifinal when you don't intend to play the event to the conclusion. Some formats can accommodate this, but some cannot.
In one semifinal game, Ted Bohaczak ended the game early, even though he knew he was not in the lead, because his position was only getting worse, and he thought a close second in the semis was his best chance for laurels. While he was correct that ending the game at the time he did put him in second place, losing by a mere two points to Kevin Breza, this was actually the largest margin by which a semifinal game was decided. In a low-scoring semifinal marked by much administrating by Erin Griffin, often taking away the cards Lauren Bohaczak needed, Hennesey Gorham edged out Lauren Bohaczak by a single point. So Hennessy had turned his close second in the quarterfinals, which he thought was the end of his tournament, into a spot in the finals, and Lauren's single-point semifinal loss wasn't even close enough to get Laurels. In a third semifinal game, Andy Latto spent half the game administrating looking for Pilsen, not realizing that Faith Wobbeking had twice drawn Pilsen from the top of the deck, so that she held all three copies of the card Andy was looking for. Of course, these extra copies of Pilsen were of no help to Faith, so this was bad luck for both of them that left Andy and Faith in third and fourth place. Mike Huggins, who went first, placed his twentieth house on the board, triggering the endgame, and scored the same 26 points as Ben Scholl.
Since Mike Huggins triggered the endgame, he would have won the game on tiebreak, but he had bid half a point for the privilege of going first, so he ended up losing by half a point, winning the first ever Thurn and Taxis sand plaque as a result. The fourth semi ended in a dead heat, with Allan Jiang breaking the tie with Steve LeWinter by being the first to claim a 7 carriage.
With no-one willing to bid even half a point for seating order in the finals, the order in which people bid zero determined the player order; Ben bid first and chose to play first, followed by Allan choosing to go last, Hennessy choosing to go second, and Kevin left going third.
One of the tough decisions in Thurn and Taxis is what to do when no useful cards are visible. You can use the administrator to see six new cards (and take a seventh off the top if you don't like any of them), which has a good chance of getting the card you need, but wastes an action. Or you can use the postmaster to draw two cards off the top of the deck. This can put you in trouble if neither card is useful, break even as compared to administrating if you get one useful and one completely useless card, and be a big win if you get two usable cards.
When it came around to Allan's first turn, there were no cards he liked on the board, so he drew off the top of the deck, drawing Zurich. Nothing on the board connected to Zurich, so he made a second blind draw of Freiberg. So he had two connected cities, but when his second turn came around, there again were no useful cards that connected to either of them. Two more blind draws yielded Sigmarinen and Stuttgart, getting a very nice 4-house 4-card route from four blind draws. Allan was also able to take two of the three Innsbruck cards the first time through the deck, making it tough for other players to get either the blue or the world traveler bonuses. Hennesey took an early lead by playing 7 Bavarian cities on his second route, getting the 5-point Bavarian completion bonus. But as often happens, this left him with awkward positions later in the game, with lots of additional plays to Bavarian cities he was already in, and that sort of inefficiency is not going to win you a finals. Speaking of inefficiency, Since the bonuses for long routes top out at 7 cities, it's inefficient to score an 8-city route, but sometimes when the cards you need show up on the board at an awkward time, the 8-city route is the best of bad options available. This happened to two players in last year's finals, and happened to both Kevin and Ben this year. Ben's 8-city route was a powerhouse, placing 6 houses, finishing the greens and the blues, and giving him the 6-point bonus for first world traveller, but even this couldn't catch up to Allan. Scoring an 8-city route and discarding two cards put him behind in the carriage race, which Allan was then the undisputed leader of, despite starting out as the fourth player. When Allan was ready to cartwright for the 7 carriage, all the other players scored their routes. At this point, the usual play for the fourth player is to extend the game for another turn, eking out a few extra points while the other players take a useless final turn. But Allan had been tracking the scores, and knew that he had no need to prolong the game, and cartwrighted to end a comfortable four points ahead of Ben for a well-deserved win.