Dominion's plan stayed mostly the same from 2018 - run three heats early in the week and get the event over with before there was much to conflict with it. The biggest problem last year had definitely been a lack of copies of the game. To try to counteract this, I put out a call on BoardGameGeek in the week leading up to WBC, appealing to the public to please, please bring their copies of Dominion if they could. Asking as well for a list of other games that had had problems with copies in the past kept the thread active and visible, and hopefully helped out other GMs.
The only other change from last year was moving the first heat to First Saturday, with the other two in the old back-to-back positions on First Sunday. This seemed to be well-received, and I was pleased to find that we had 26 full tables for Heat 1 without needing to dip into the GM/library copies. My thanks to everyone who showed up with a copy of the game!
Not everything was sunshine and roses, though, as once again play time became an issue. Games of Dominion shouldn't normally go over an hour, but even with the seating method inherited from Nick Ferris getting everyone into their assigned seats quickly, players still need a few minutes to deal out randomizers, study the available cards, and get to playing. The random nature of Dominion would also rear its head - games that feature many attacks have a tendency to go longer than more pacifistic ones. Frequent tours around the room to remind players of the inevitable passage of time helped most games finish on time, but the last table had to be cut off early as the hour mark hit without an end in sight.
The second heat, unfortunately, saw less players with copies of the game. The GM and library copies, as well as one provided by Andrew Drummond, were all pressed into service, and we still had to turn away the very last hopeful entrant. Room size was also problematic, as the Sunday heats had been moved to the smaller Wintergreen, forcing our last few tables to overflow downstairs into Fox Den.
Running back-to-back heats has some advantages and some disadvantages. It minimizes setup time, as hosts only need to put away the 10 kingdom cards and reset the starting decks for the second game; players and hosts who show up for the first game are also easily able to stick around if they want. It definitely doesn't simplify things for the GM, though, as registration for the second game necessarily needs to overlap with the first game's slot in order to avoid unsightly delays. The GM's best friend for times like these are, well, friends, in this case AGM Sky Roy. While I ran around to verify which of the game hosts were sticking around, Sky handled registration of all of the non-game-bringing players. With his much-appreciated help, we were able to start the third heat basically on time.
In 2018, multiple players, including some with wins, had to be turned away from later heats due to the afore-mentioned problem with copies of the game. This had dropped the number of players with two heat wins from 21 in 2017 all the way down to 8, so we went directly to semifinals. With only a single player turned away across three heats in 2019, we recovered to 19 double-winners, adding the top single-winners to fill to 27 for quarterfinals. Sky Roy was unfortunately not well rewarded for his exemplary service, as despite winning twice, he was late for the playoffs, running into Foggy Goggle just after Joe Birnbaum had been awarded the last alternate slot. Joe didn't waste the opportunity, winning his quarterfinal match and finishing second to Ricky Boyes in semifinals to earn laurels. His brother Aaron finished in a similar position, taking second in semifinals to past winner Chad Weaver. In the third semifinal, Ben Scholl, who had finished sixth twice in previous years, finally made it to the finals, leaving William Carrigan with laurels but no plaque.
As a result of conflicts, the final game was rescheduled for Tuesday morning, and the finalists showed up bright and early to find what the GM had in store for them. In previous years, finals game had featured cunning twists and strange rules to go along with custom-crafted card sets. With the printing of Events and Landmarks in recent years, some weirdness had made its way into official products, and the finals this year consisted of:
- Kingdom cards: Raze, Masquerade, Storeroom, Miser, Spy, Artificer, Bazaar, Jester, Witch, Peddler
- Landmark: Wolf Den
- Special rules: 3/4 Copper split to start the game
The Wolf Den, for those who have not played Empires, is a Landmark - a special card that modifies scoring. This one says that, at the end of the game, you lose 3 points for each card that you have only one of in your deck. While this isn't likely to be a problem for cards like Silver or Province, there are some utility cards that you might not want in multiples.
A quick bid for turn order put the turn order at Chad (-1.5), Ben (-0.5), Ricky. All three disdained the 4 dollar cards, with Chad and Ben going Masquerade/Silver and Ricky Masquerade/Masquerade. Cards danced around the table, with Estates and then Coppers pirouetting into the trash. Ben was the first to hit $6 for Gold, with the others close behind. Chad and Ben both bought Witches with $5, while Ricky went for Jester. None of the attacks hit the table for several turns, though, with Masquerades continuing to be the action of the day. Ricky was the first to snag a Province, while Chad and Ricky added more Witches with the Curse pile still full. Each added another Province before a round of two Witches and a Jester distributed the purple cards, with Ricky commenting "Last time with good decks." This was followed by three consecutive Province buys, putting the pile below half. Duchy became the $5 of choice. Ben - still sitting on only one Masquerade - also used $3 to buy one to avoid the Wolf Den negative.
The rules of Dominion state that you are not allowed to look through your discard pile, but the contents of the trash are open information. It was around this time that Chad, frowning, verified the presence of 8 Estates in the trash, meaning that the one he knew he had was a singleton. Without a Masquerade handy, he dealt with the Wolf Den issue by buying another one. This ended up proving advantageous: the other two each had turns where they had less than 5 dollars available, but with the end of the game in sight, didn't want to buy an Estate that might be -2 points, and purchased Silver instead. Another heads-up play saw Ricky hand his singleton Jester off to Chad, who sighed and bought a second one to avoid the Wolf Den penalty. The other two responded with only Silver, though, and Chad's Witch handed the last Curse to Ben and gave him enough money to also grab the last Province. No players ran afoul of the Wolf Den in the end, although it had definitely affected decisions during the game. Chad's extra turn from his bid proved worth it, as he edged Ricky 30.5 to 30 for the win, with Ben trailing at 18.5. In addition to the shield, the win moved Chad into first all-time in Dominion laurels. Congratulations!
Finally, now that Dominion is back to a relatively stable state, I am hoping to find someone to take over as GM for next year, so that I can go back to playing in it. I know that there are many events at WBC where the GM plays in their own event, but I am not comfortable doing this myself: I can't concentrate as well on my game when I'm GMing simultaneously, I wouldn't be able to do a custom setup if I made the finals, and finally, Dominion only barely fits into a 1 hour slot, so regular time announcements are required. None of these are absolute deal breakers, and I will certainly run it if nobody steps up; but if you're interested, please drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. And I promise to bring my copies of the game!