In 2019, The Kaiser’s Pirates was voted back in as a trial event, continuing our Seven Springs slalom: we’ve been a Century event, a sponsored tournament, and a regular trial event since the move! We had a small increase in players from 2018, which was heartening considering that our game is out of print and our traditional Friday-Saturday slots have become much busier over the last couple of years.
One aspect of The Kaiser’s Pirates is that, while you are never out of the game, it’s a lot easier to score points if you still have German ships in front of you – without them, you are reliant on good cards, good dice, and better play to sink or capture Allied merchantmen, the ships that not only score you points by themselves but also allow you to score the points for any higher-valued German raiders or warships you might have sunk. Inexperienced players often get frustrated when they lose their German ships, and I have seen one WBC finalist walk out before the final deck in part because he had played most of a round without any warships or raiders (needless to say, he wasn’t nominated for Sportsmanship).
This year, though, patient, long-time player Stan Buck showed folks how it’s done. Stan had lost all of his German ships in the first couple of turns in the first heat, but rather than getting frustrated, he carefully marshalled his cards and, through a mix of submarine torpedoes and mines, successful Safe Passage rolls for his merchantmen, and the sinking of other players’ warships and raiders, not only won his heat, but outscored all three of his opponents combined and played one of only three 100+ point rounds in this year’s tournament. Well done, Stan!
On the strength of his play there and in the 12-player semi-finals, Stan progressed to the final table, where he met last year’s winner, Bob Murray, 2013 champion RJ Gleaton, and 2019 WBC juggernaut William Kendrick for a three-deck game. The final often starts with card draws as players search for good combinations, but this year, everybody came out shooting, and the seas were littered early with damaged ships, tempting the finalists to spend their limited resources willy-nilly. Damaged ships don’t automatically get sunk and score points, though, as William’s starting warship, the Konigsberg, demonstrated. The ship took damage early, he hid it in an Island Refuge to repair it, and then brought it back out to prey upon unsuspecting convoys. Once back on the high seas, the ship took damage (each damage cube is -2 to attack and defense, minimum result of 1), he played Damage Control to repair it, and then took three more hits (taking him to a cumulative -6 drm) before another player managed to sink and score it. William edged out Bob, 86-76, to take the round and the lead.
Players can sacrifice card draws in later rounds to keep choice German ships in front of them instead of being dealt three new, random ships. For the second round, only RJ chose to keep one, the warship Dresden. Everyone else had lost their more powerful ships and preferred starting with more action cards. RJ began the round playing Rendezvous Missed on Bob, putting all three of his ships out of supply (-2 drm on attack). Bob responded on his turn with a Breakout to get two more German ships on the board in front of him (more targets for everyone else!), but spent most of the round with his ships out of supply. The other players managed to put William’s German ships out of supply as well in an effort to neuter the leaders. To some degree it worked – no one scored as high as William or Bob had in the first round – but it didn’t work well enough. Even with -2 to all his attacks, William sank six merchantmen along with a couple German targets to take the round. RJ also sank six merchantmen and came second, followed by Bob, and then Stan.
Going into the final deck, William had a commanding lead in round points (8), followed by Bob, RJ, and then Stan. Bob needed to win the round and have William come last to take the plaque, and RJ could only win if he took the round, William scored no points at all, and RJ got the tiebreaker. Stan, alas, was out of the running and playing for laurels. Bob kept the Wolf, one of the strongest ships in the game, and William kept the Mowe, each sacrificing a card draw to do so. On the first play of the game, Stan played Rendezvous Missed on William’s German ships, putting all three out of supply, and then attacked two of the three merchantmen in William’s front line. One of William’s merchantmen escaped undamaged, William won the Safe Passage roll, and the ship went into his score pile; RJ could no longer win the tournament. The rest of the round featured the three lower players trying to keep William from scoring while Bob and William each frantically tried to sink German ships – Bob to win the round and keep them out of William’s hands, William to keep himself from ending up last. For much of the deck, William was stymied and Bob had a chance, but in the final turns, William’s dice heated up and he inched his way from last to first. After the final play, William had taken the tournament decisively with 12 round points while each other player had finished with 6. Bob won the tie-breaker for second, followed by Stan, and then RJ. Each of the rounds was closely contested, but, in the end, William finished with one of the most dominant victories in our thirteen years at WBC.