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Automobile (AUT) WBC 2019 Event Report
Updated October 7, 2019
39 Players Patrrick Schaefer 2019 Status 2020 Status History/Laurels
2019 Champion Click box for details. Click box for details.

Newcomer Defeats WBC Veterans

For a game that was originally a small-press game, Automobile has had substantial staying power at WBC, now in its tenth year on the schedule. 

Several players are acknowledged sharks at Automobile, including the top three laurelists in the game—Nick Henning, five time champ, Matt Calkins, defending champ, and Jack Jung, who claims to have never beaten the first two players but is very scary for the rest of us. On the other hand, Automobile is a game that strong gamers can often pick up quickly. Several people came to this year’s demo, including a few that would be obvious threats in the tournament if they came out. Fortunately for this storyline, they did.

As is traditional, Automobile ran as a two-heat event. I believe that while attendance was down slightly this year, total game starts were up as more people came to both heats. We wound up with 12 winners (2 of which were double winners), leading to some second places getting people into the semis. However, as is also tradition for Automobile, while almost all of the top 16 turn up for the semifinal finding alternates proves difficult. Having recruited everyone eligible for the semis we almost started a 15-player semifinal round, but Haakon Monsen ran into the room as seating was underway and was seated just in time.

This proved fortuitous for him.

Three notable things happened in the semifinals:

  • First, Jack Jung finally defeated Nick Henning in a game, making the final and eliminating the notionally biggest threat to win the event.
  • Second, Lyman Moquin won his semi to make the finals and earn laurels for the first time. Lyman is in pictures of the event going back to 2011
  • Third, not one but two players that had never played before the demo won their semifinals—Haakon Monsen, late to the semis, and Patrick Schafer, attending his first WBC.

The final table was thus composed of two new players (Patrick and Haakon) and two old hands (Jack and Lyman). Having defeated nemesis Nick, and with Matt Calkins also losing in the semifinals, Jack hoped it was his chance to go home with the centurion’s plaque.

The final table was hard fought, with new player Patrick Schafer coming out on top—a centurion in his first WBC, getting past several acknowledged sharks in his earlier rounds. Congratulations to him, and a reminder to all that even when the big names get eliminated there’s still the chance of an unknown face playing a strong game. If you fancy yourself a generally strong gamer, come on out to the tournament next year—maybe you’ll be next year’s winner.

Thanks to all the players for their support during my first year GMing at WBC. Also many thanks to AGM Adam Anderson, who helped a lot and has provided the following data analysis from stats collected during the event:

How much hard cash was needed to win a game of Automobile?

The lowest winning score we saw was $3,610 and the highest winning score was $5,510. These two games showed off just how much variability there can be in the game.

Cash Needed
Place Game 1 Game 2
1st $5,510 $3,610
2nd $4,510 $3,450
3rd $4,410 $3,430
4th $2,120 $3,250

How important was picking which car to produce first?

First Car Produced
First Car Popularity # of Wins
Midsize $200 12 2
Midsize $250 12 2
Midsize $300 12 4
Midsize $350 7 2
Economy $300 3 0
Midsize $400 6 2
Economy $350 1 0
Luxury $400 1 0
Midsize $450 3 2

It seems that opening the economy or luxury cars first is a bold and risky play. Maybe next year we can see someone pull off a victory with it, though some Durant or Chrysler winning games likely included a first-turn economy or luxury play. Note that the names of the cars vary between editions—the table above is in board order.

What character was the most popular?

Leaders Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Round 4 Total
Ford 7 16 12 14 49
Kettering 13 7 7 5 32
Sloan 1 4 7 16 28
Howard 17 15 14 12 58
Durant 13 14 17 6 50
Chrysler 17 11 11 11 50

Howard was the most picked characters of the tournament followed by a near 3 way tie between Durant, Chrysler, and Ford. The remaining two, Kettering and Sloan, lagged behind. By looking at the individual rounds we can see the popularity reflect the characters powers for that part of the game.

Ford in round 2-4 expand existing locations or to get initiative to close a factory. Kettering picked early in the game for R&D cubes. Sloan picked in round 4 as a band aid. Howard picked consistently all game. Durant picks drop off in round 4 after peaking in round 3. Chrysler picked consistently all game.

Which round 1 character got the most wins?

In between games of the tournament there was a discussion around first player advantage, and the desirability of having a bidding system for next year.

We were excited to see if an advantage presented itself in the 19 games. Unfortunately, we didn’t collect data on initial turn order, but the turn 1 role choice is a more natural place to insert an auction anyway. That is, a Howard win below could have been the 2nd in initial turn order but either way the rest of the game would play out the same.

Round 1 Character Wins
Leaders Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Round 4 Total
Ford 0 3 1 4 8
Kettering 1 3 0 0 4
Sloan 0 0 0 2 2
Howard 5 3 7 5 20
Durant 4 3 6 1 14
Chrysler 7 5 3 4 19

Picking Chrysler in round 1 led to the most wins followed closely by Howard and Durant---somewhat surprising results. The GM team would guess that this is partly result of bias in selection, as Howard is a consensus #1 pick, while the optimal Chrysler plays aren’t as well known, leading to more Chrysler picks by good players. In the Semis and Finals R1 Howard obtained 3 of 5 wins, somewhat exonerating conventional wisdom.

We can see there is a substantial advantage in not getting last pick in round one, as Ford, Kettering, and Sloan were picked 21 times in round 1 but only snagged 1 win between them. Bear this in mind when bidding next year.

In round 4, Sloan was picked 16 times with only two of those converting to wins. Sloan was probably the best pick for many players who found themselves with excess losses, but not enough to catch up—this is a correlation, not causation, analysis.

Loans & Losses

Players took out 45 loans in 19 games and still held the bag on 478 loss cubes trying to corner the market. Of the 19 games played the winners had 1 loan in four games and 2 loans once—a noticeably smaller number than the total quantity of loans. Debt appears to be suboptimal.

As a consequence of stats collection and also discussions with the player base, we are planning on implementing bidding for role selection in the first turn next year—optionally in the heats and required in the elimination rounds.

The system will be as follows: In the randomly determined player order, players will conduct an Amun-Re-/Vegas Showdown-style auction for their role selection in the first turn, bidding cash-on-hand for their choice of role in $10 increments. When each player has bid on a different role the auction will end.

The winning bids will be collected into a pool of cash and distributed evenly amongst the players, with any remainder placed in the bank. This last step is to try to avoid disruption of the total liquidity in the game, as it’s not clear at this time what value players will place on role selection. Feedback on this proposed system can be sent to the GM via BoardGameGeek (user: Excalabur) either by private message on the thread containing this report.


2019 Laurelists Repeating Laurelists: 2
Haakon Monsen Lyman Moquin Jack Jung Ted Zellers Nick Henning
2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
Early round action for our automobile moguls. A picture tells a thousand words.
Francois enjoying his game. Finalists with GM Devin Smith.
GM   Devin Smith [1st Year]  NA
  NA  NA