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Air Baron (ABN) WBC 2022 Event Report
Updated March 6, 2023
37 Players Ben Gardner 2022 Status 2023 Status History/Laurels
  2022 Champion   Click box for details. Click box for details.

Gardner Rules the Skies

2022 marked our return to the World Boardgaming Championships. After a two-year hiatus, Air Baron went wheels up again. This year we found ourselves at an outstation known as Alpine. This small detour may have been partially to blame for our attendance dip as we were down to 38 unique attendees. Overall numbers of the convention showed a decline though and hopefully, this is a one-year blip on the radar.

Our crew pressed through dangerous skies and found market share despite 25 crash pulls throughout our four heats. There was less turbulence in the air throughout the semis and the finals with only 1 crash appearing. The rest of the calamity stats through the heats included 5 fuel hikes, 8 local competitor cancelations, 9 recessions (some showing up at crucial financial times), and 10 strikes. Semifinal and final calamity stats are as follows: Local Competitor - 3 pulls. Recession - 9 pulls. Strike - 5 pulls. Fuel Hike - 2 pulls.

We saw brisk play this year. Very few tables required the full 3-hour time block hitting adjudication. Perhaps the only reason why tables in heat one went the distance was the somewhat late start with the GM’s travel to the Alpine room from the demo area on Sunday. If Air Baron returns to the century in 2023, I will probably adjust the schedule to accommodate new captains and passengers by holding the demo earlier so the end does not butt up against the heat. Heat 3 ended in just over an hour! Andy Gardner only needed 45 minutes to dispatch his opponents by a score of 300-66-53-31-13-6. Approximately 20 minutes later, his son Ben Gardner hit a score of 293 to finish the heat!

In previous years, players have often reported negative scores. With our final score formula penalizing loans outstanding at the end of games, seeing a score of -50 was not out of the realm of possibilities. In 2022, the airlines didn’t fare as poorly though. Only three scores fell below zero over the course of the heats (two were reported in Ben’s 60-minute win) and only one throughout the semifinal/final playoffs.

Past champion Fred Minard had an interesting up and down run this year. In his opening heat, he saw an opportunity to go into Fare Wars on the first turn - and failed on his first attempt. This sparked a 6th place finish to past convention captain Don Greenwood. However, in his 4th heat, Minard rebounded to win - boosted by a round that saw him earn an outstanding $94! This game also reported that the government contract was never pulled - perhaps a first for a WBC Air Baron event! Minard also wins the prize for most money held at the end of a game with $203! I have to believe that’s an all-time record.

We also saw an all-time high percentage of games played at 6 players than we had in the past. Of the 13 heat games played, seven were 6-player games and six were the desired 5-player variety. I suppose it is only fitting then to have 18 players report for the semifinals - which pushed our overall 6-player game total to 10. With a desired final of five players, it was decided to take the three semifinal winners and then the highest-rated second-place finishers at each table. Ben Gardner raced through the west to secure a spot in the finals. Jeff Finkeldey used his financial prowess with $123 in combination with a market share of 200 to earn a first place finish. Past Champion John Coussis actually finished with more cash than Jeff ($139) but a lower market share relegated him to a strong second. Strong enough for a spot in the finals. Bob Wicks’ balanced market share and cash (160/$184) earned him a spot at the finals along with second place finisher Rob Schneeberger who topped Bob in market share (180) but was behind in cash payments at $32.

The five-player final started with relatively high money - allowing Coussis to pick up Philadelphia, Finkeldey buying Tampa, and Gardner scooped up San Diego. Bob Wicks took an early financial hit buying the Government Contract in turn one, only to see it pulled again in turn two. It stayed in for a few turns though, allowing Wicks to rebound. By turn 4, Gardner had collected all of LAX and with a $27 payout had a great board position. LAX was pulled again in turn 5, but it was pulled in the same turn as recession, so a wise play by Coussis cost Gardner a larger payout.

In turn 5, there was a pooled collective to try to extend the game by not allowing Gardner to scoop up all of the western spokes unimpeded. In a wild turn, everyone went into fare wars to attempt to lock down portions of the west. Coussis was drawn first and lost his first roll. At the second spot, it was Wicks’ turn. Wicks tried to take over Dallas to secure an added DRM and was successful in doing so - but lost in his first Phoenix attempt. Schneeberger followed suit by going into fare wars from the 3rd turn spot. He attempted to break out west through Denver, but was only able to win his first roll. Gardner saw the writing on the wall from the 4th spot and tried to fight back in Denver out of the 4th turn spot. He was able to win 2 spots in Denver but failed before taking the entire hub. Finkeldey had the final turn in the round and overtook Houston - but lost in his next fare wars roll.

Turn 9 saw Gardner finally take over the Denver hub with two wins and two wins on rolls in Dallas before stopping his fare wars roll. He was high on market share but too low on cash to risk getting hit with a fuel hike. Being short on cash and having LAX hit with a recession and no-pays for being in fare wars for several turns did not help the cause. (The recession was the most often pulled calamity in the final at four times - and each came at a tough time for Gardner). Coussis did not have the same financial concerns. A $28 New York pull along with several jumbo profits pulls gave him a lot of financial leeway. Turn 12 was the lone fuel hike - and it hit Gardner hard. With only $6 and a 220 market share, Gardner was forced to sell off his foreign stakes in Vancouver and Singapore along with OKC, Salt Lake City, and Kansas City, dropping his market share to 180. He earned money back on the very next turn though, allowing him to compete in a race to the finish.

By turn 13, it felt as if four of the finalists had a reasonable shot at winning the game. As a bystander watching, I may have had an idea how it would finish but I would not have been surprised by any of the four pulling out a victory. Finkeldey took Atlanta in turn 15 to push his market share to 280 and in the next turn earned $21 with an ATL pull. He was just short on money to claim the win though.

Fare Wars was good to Gardner allowing him to take the Dallas hub in turn 15, but he needed a $30 loan to pull it off. He had the market share, but not the cash. Meanwhile, Coussis continued to take in cash with Jumbo Profits pulls and amassed quite the bankroll. Schneeberger continually denied Coussis a win in the DC hub though - even defending successfully against an attack roll of 11! Schneeberger's four defenses opened the door for Gardner to rebound financially and pay off his loan - and then in turn 21 move into Fare Wars to win the Dallas hub. With 290 market share and cash holdings of $47, Gardner wins the 2022 Air Baron trophy with a final score of 337. Coussis’ $172 in hand combined with 120 market share earned him a second-place finish. Finkeldey’s 200 market share helped boost him to the bronze medal with Wicks only 50 points behind him.

2022 Laurelists Repeating Laurelists: N/A

John Coussis Jeff Finkeldey Bob Wicks Rob Schneeberger Don Greenwood
2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
Getting ready for the battle of the skies. Chris LeFevre trying his hand at Airplanes instead of racing cars.
Who can make it to the finals? Finalists with GM Max Jamelli.
GM     Max Jamelli [6th Year]