Freeman Wins Inaugural Ark Nova Event!
The trial year of Ark Nova at WBC was a great success. We knew it would be popular when 50+ players came to the demo! We had 117 players participate across two heats including 58 who played in both. We had 22 tables in the first heat and 23 in the second.
The format had players choosing a zoo map in reverse turn order to help offset the advantage of going first. In the first heat, Silver Lake was a popular choice. It was used in every game and won 11 of 22. Allowing for some selection bias, it was still proven to be an effective choice. However, Ice Cream Parlor did equally well. Here’s how the maps ranked in the heats (1 pt for 1st, 0.67 for 2nd, 0.33 for 3rd, 0 for 4th):
- .74 Silver Lake (11 wins in 22 plays)
- .74 Ice Cream Parlor (7 in 14)
- .62 Outdoor Areas (4 in 15)
- .58 Rescue Station (4 in 12)
- .53 Park Restaurant (7 in 27)
- .50 Research Institute (4 in 20)
- .45 Geographic Zoo (1 in 11)
- .38 Hollywood Hills (2 in 15)
- .31 Observation Tower (3 in 16)
- .30 Commercial Harbor (2 in 19)
My assistant GMs Kyle Smith and Rich Miller and I had lots of discussion about tournament format. I reached out to the designer and had a back-and-forth about how to structure tournament play. He recommended the map selection method that we used (an alternate option in the rulebook) and the change to reveal the display before selecting cards. I liked how both played out. We’ll consider the stats and the valuable feedback players provided when setting up next year’s event.
Back to this year’s results. Some Heat 1 highlights included Tim Valliere posting the top CP of 34 in his win and Randy Buehler racked up 98 appeal on his way to victory. In Heat 2, we had another good turnout but came up a bit shy of the 128 unique players required for a quarterfinal round. We had 120 but after announcing that a single heat win wouldn’t be sufficient to advance, three players dropped. David Sun got his second win while scoring a tournament high with 37 CP. Mark Giddings (146) and Lumin Sperling (144) had the top scores. Meanwhile, I was the only player with six conservation projects supported, slipping by Christian Kasilag for a narrow win.
This is a good time to mention that we were able to get all 45 heat games completed within the three-hour window. I knew it would be tight for some, with varied levels of experience and the added pressure of tournament play. In heat 1, one table was given two turns to finish and I’m not sure if anyone crossed, but two players finished at >=100. We love Ark Nova, but four-hour blocks of time would lead to slower play and reduced turnout in my opinion, and now we know three hours is sufficient.
With room only for 16 in the Semifinals, there was a brutal cutoff--some of the players with a 1st and a 2nd were below the cut line. In fact, 21 people who won a heat were unable to advance (including me). All 16 qualifiers arrived and we randomly assigned one from each quartile of the standings to each table. Map and seat selection changed for the Semifinal. A starting seat was designated and a map was dealt to each set randomly. All tables either left out or didn’t hit Silver Lake, as many didn’t want the added stress of determining how much it was worth. The bidding was still interesting with some diverse opinions. At one table, Robb Effinger got the starting seat with a 0 bid with the Hollywood Hills map. At another, Michael Thiessen also went first for 0, but with Ice Cream Parlor, while the highest bid overall was Cliff Flachsenhar for Ice Cream Parlor for 6.5 in the second seat.
Michael took advantage of both Species Diversity and Habitat Diversity by adding several small animals and a couple sponsors to quickly get 5 of each, also picking up 20 bucks with Explorer with Christian Kasilag denying him from also getting Basic Research out for 5 CP. Michael got the win over Christian, John Butterfield, and Curt Collins II.,/p>
Cliff’s big bid paid off as he got by Matthew Thiessen, Randy Buehler, and Aaron Birnbaum. Nick Henning overcame Keith Dent, Dan Elkins, and Sky Roy. The last Semifinal was the most closely contested, with Andrew Freeman playing a late eagle to double turn on the end-game trigger, ending up with 94 appeal and a 7-point win over Robb Effinger and 13 in front of Rich Miller as all three crossed on their final turns, finishing a bit in front of David Sun.
Based on results, the favorites going into the Final table were Michael and Nick, our last two undefeated players with a combined margin of victory of 190 points in their six games. Cliff and Andrew had both gotten through some formidable opponents as well, and the championship game proved that all four were worthy Finalists. The maps were dealt to the seats and it was Seat 1 Research Institute, Seat 2 Park Restaurant, Seat 3 Outdoor Areas, and Seat 4 Hollywood Hills. The bidding showed a meeting of the minds, as no one wanted to take last turn order and Hollywood Hills without a boost. The players ran up the bidding on the other three seats before Nick took it for 0 while the others paid 6 to 6.5 points.
Asia, Primates, Herbivores, and Habitat Diversity were dealt, while the display included Polar Bear Exhibit and two bears, South American Coati and Raccoon. Cliff had a clever opening, dropping Rhesus Monkey Park primarily for access to his map’s university placement bonus in order to get an early Cards card flip. Andrew’s opening included the hand size university, the side entrance, and a partner zoo placement bonus. Nick snapped the Polar Bear Exhibit and played Engineer, accelerating his ability to start covering his map. Michael went for early CP with Zoo School and the African Tortoise, opting to flip Association first.
He got a second flip right after the first break, flipping Sponsors. Andrew got two flips thanks to Reptile Breeding Program and opted for Cards and Build and using Build II to start filling in spaces around the Side Entrance. He also got his third flip, Animals, before the second break. Cliff claimed Herbivores 2 for 2 CP, flipping Animals and unlocking another worker. Nick got the Polar Bears in play, covering the first H and picked up 10 money from Explorer. We went quickly to Break #2 with most players short on money.
On the first turn after the break, Michael hit Habitat Diversity for 5, having planned for it with 3 animals and the other 2 on partner zoos. With his early CP and donations, he pushed his CP to 10 and forced the scoring card discard. He kept Conservation over Biodiverse, Andrew opted of Small Animal over Naturalist, Nick kept Favorite over Aquatic, and Cliff went with Architectural over Sponsored. Andrew spotted the Primate Breeding Program on the display, snapping then playing it to further boost his CP and reputation, then followed up with Western Green Mamba to dole out two venom tokens to each other player. Cliff played Baboon Rock to go with Rhesus from earlier.
At Break #3, Andrew collected 43 money, in part due to Side Entrance, giving him an edge there. He got Veterinarian into play, which would be critical as the game went on. Cliff went all in on Primates, adding Primatologist while also playing Panamanian White-Faced Capuchin and Senegal Bushbaby. He also filled up his petting zoo and started surging up the appeal track. Michael played Indian Rhinoceros, taking Species Diversity for later, and got Asia for 4. Meanwhile Nick found some useful cards including Research, Hydrologist, and the Japanese Macaque, which stole 5 money from both Michael and Andrew. Michael triggered the next break on his 22nd turn.
Going into Break #4, all players were snowballing toward the finish line. Here are the scores: 50 Cliff (58a 3cp), 48 Andrew (48a 7cp), 47 Michael (29a 14cp), and 41 Nick (47a 4cp).
Andrew was up to 52 money income and took 5 more with Sponsors after the break. Nick played Expert on Africa and Herpetologist, and then Cliff took Primates for 5, took 3 Xs, and donated to launch out to a bigger lead. Michael answered with Secretary Bird and Koala, while Andrew took the Europe partner zoo and picked up the x2 token left on the 8 CP spot. Nick’s next turn brought groans from Cliff, as he played Dusky Leaf Monkey and Cotton Top Tamarin from the display, foiling Cliff’s plans to do the same.
With all players 23 turns in, the scores drew closer: 62 Cliff (58a 9cp), 62 Michael (41a 15cp), 59 Nick (63a 5cp), and 52 Andrew (48a 9cp).
Cliff chose to build, followed by Michael taking Herbivores 4. Andrew played the Eurasian Owl for 9 total appeal, and the White Rhinoceros, snagging Europe from the base conservation project deck. Nick also built, including two pavilions thanks to Engineer. On Turn 25, Cliff needed any partner zoo and randomly took the Americas, getting him 2cp for his last worker and another from a donation. Michael came right back with another 5-strength Association and played Species Diversity for 5 and added another from his last worker. After Andrew built, Nick claimed Primates for 4. This made the scores: 95 Michael (41a 26cp), 71 Cliff (59a 12cp), 71 Andrew (67a 9cp), and 69 Nick (65a 9cp).
Cliff took Species Diversity for 3 and donated. Michael needed the Americas partner Cliff had just taken in order to play an animal and trigger the end game and was left sponsoring for money instead. Then Andrew made the key play of the game that he had been setting up for a few turns. His Association card was just a 3, but it had a multiplier token and he had 2 Xs and a Veterinarian in play, along with 3+ workers available and a pile of money. This allowed him to do back-to-back 5-strength Association actions, first playing Europe for 5 with a donation, then Bavarian Forest National Park, releasing the best animal for it, the Eurasian Lynx, costing him just 2 appeal while collecting 4 more CP, and one more CP each from donation, zoo map, and the 14-rep space. This 36-point play triggered the end game, with other players getting one more turn each with the scores: 107 Andrew (65a 22cp), 95 Michael (41a 26cp), 83 Cliff (59a 16cp), and 69 Nick (65a 9cp).
Nick’s last move was African Bush Elephant for 10 appeal, and he picked up the Research Zoo end-game card. Cliff played the Reindeer from the display for 5 appeal, and it was the last card Michael could’ve played for points so he had to settle for a pavilion for a point. Going into the final scoring: 107 Andrew (65a 22cp), 96 Michael (42a 26cp), 88 Cliff (64a 16cp), and 79 Nick (75a 9cp)
Cliff scored 2 CP from Conservation Zoo and lost 6 on the bid to end at 88. Michael got 3 CP, 2 from Conservation Zoo and 1 from a sponsor. With his 6.5 bid his final score was 98.5. Andrew had just the Small Animal Zoo for 1 CP, and then lost 6 for his bid, leaving him with 104. With several sponsors played and two end-game scoring cards, Nick was sure to close the gap. He got 5 CP total from Favorite Zoo and Research Zoo, 3 more CP from various sponsors, and 2 appeal from Expert on Africa. This brought him to 104 as well, and with his 0 bid, we had a tie, the first of the entire event!
The first tiebreaker in the rules and our tournament was most conservation projects supported, and with a 5 to 3 edge, Andrew was the champion.
Andrew’s grandfather was there taking pictures, and his dad had been sending regular text updates to keep mom informed. After the win, I’m pretty sure dad had a few tears. He explained that Andrew had been working quite hard at Ark Nova in the weeks leading up to WBC, getting his mom to play daily in his determination to do well.
It was a satisfying conclusion to a fun event, and we are looking forward to doing it even bigger and better next year!