At the end of last year’s Dominion report, I made three wishes for this year’s WBC: “a faster laptop, more dependable wi-fi, and the Seasons room thermostat set lower than 73 degrees.” So how did my three wishes pan out this year? Let’s start with my laptop. The HP laptop that I used last year for slow check-ins and even slower score compilations went to that giant e-scrap heap in the sky back in February, and this year brought me a nice new Dell laptop with Windows 10 Enterprise and 11th Gen Intel CORE 2.4GHz processor. The resort’s wi-fi situation is second, and I expected that, since our beloved host is now officially a part of Vail Resorts, we would get some of that sweet corporate cheese to go toward better wireless internet. In fact, both the wi-fi and cellphone reception around the resort were improvements from last year. As for the thermostat, that was a mixed bag as the temperature of the Seasons room fluctuated wildly between a comfortable 68 and a roasting 75 throughout the convention.
But, just like last year, I’ve been very fortunate to make palatable lemonade out of the lemons that I was given. My second go-round as Dominion GM was mostly smooth, compared to my baptism of fire at last year’s WBC. Despite the increased WBC turnout post-pandemic, Dominion attendance actually went down 20 to only 107 entrants to put the event’s Century status in future jeopardy. There was also the second heat of Dominion, which will forever be known in the WBC circles as “the heat from hell” as we had to compete with Ark Nova, Cascadia, Saint Petersburg, Splendor, and Terra Mystica for available tables. Complicating matters further was accusations from attendees in the days after the Dominion tournament that at least three contenders may have engaged in false shuffling techniques to force card orders in their decks (which is technically cheating). While we can’t prove that any such improprieties did take place or even had any impact on any of the scores, there will certainly be a rule change concerning reshuffles in next year’s Dominion tournament to prevent further issues.
Aside from all of that, this year’s Dominion heats produced a lot of interesting moments. Bradford McCandless got a refresher of the game basics from my Sunday afternoon demo at the Exhibit Hall Annex and went on to win his heat later that day, proving that I am clearly a better Dominion teacher than a Dominion player. Eight-year-old Lexi Shea was also a heat winner to take her place as one the youngest winners of a Century Event heat in WBC history. Another member of the Shea family (Elizabeth) might have won her only played heat of the year if she had bought a Province on her final turn instead of buying a Gold on the hope that the game would last a little longer. And there was one table in Heat 1 that had such a nasty arrangement of Kingdom cards that 4 points ended up being the winning score—possibly the lowest winning Dominion heat score in WBC history.
We had only eleven people with at least two heat wins, so we once again had no Quarterfinal round. The Semifinal got off to a rocky start when a scoring discrepancy from one heat match was raised and it had a direct impact on who advanced and who got left out, making the top alternates extremely upset. (Scoring accuracy is always stressed in my legal spiel before every heat, so this is another point that will be addressed next year.) The Semifinal field was loaded, as it included the three most recent Dominion champions (Nicole Bosca, Chad Weaver, and Dominic Blais). We also had a husband/wife pair (the Boscas) and a father/son pair (the Heintzelmans) among the sixteen advancers.
Let’s start with our defending champion, Nicole, who drew into a table with Eric Meader, Jordyn Felici, and Alex Schlosser (who was the top alternate but advanced when his father, Erik, voluntarily withdrew from the competition). A market dominated by Seaside and Prosperity cards couldn’t stop Nicole from advancing to her second straight Final, as she declared victory with a score of 45.5-40-32-16.
,p>It was a different story for Nicole’s husband, Tony, as he drew into the table with overall #1 seed Martin Gunnar Heintzelman and an all-Base market. Joining that Classic Dominion table was George Swift and Dominion regular Joseph Birnbaum. Tony once again fell short of the Final, as he narrowly lost to Martin G by a score of 27.5-26-21-21. Fortunately, Tony’s 1.5-point deficit was low enough to claim this year's 5th-place laurel.
The elder Heintzelman, Martin Daniel, found himself in the same Semifinal with Nate Heiss, Ginger Thompson, and my assistant GM Bill Carrigan. Nate decided that there would be no father/son Final or third-straight Dominion laurel for Bill, as Nate handily won a ticket to his first Dominion Final with a score of 37.5-32.5-30-29.
The fourth Semifinal saw former champions Chad and Dominic go head-to-head for a shot at a return to the Final. However, they and Samantha Raszewski failed to navigate the Intrigue-heavy setup. Liz Nelson came away triumphant here with a score of 24.5-22.5-19-13 to round out this year’s Final. Dominic had the 22.5, and that 2-point margin of defeat got him the 6th-place laurel.
Continuing the WBC tradition of using unorthodox rules at the Dominion Final, we celebrated the 15th anniversary of Dominion by doing a mash-up with the 40th anniversary of the classic TV game show “Press Your Luck.” However, a lack of available Dominion sets meant that I couldn’t use all of the Kingdom cards that I desired for this theme. Fortunately, I always have a list of alternate cards to use in case of emergency. This is what we eventually had:
Kingdom cards – Bureaucrat, Forge, Grand Market, Jester, Minion, Nobles, Tactician, Treasury, Vault, Wishing Well
Secret twist – Whammies, the animated demons that penalizes contestants on “Press Your Luck,” invade the Dominion Final by adding one Curse card to a player’s deck on any reshuffle. (A sub-rule was added that any trashed Curse cards would return to the Curse pile, since the special rule would deplete the Curse pile quickly. Also, Curse cards from other Dominion sets would be added as necessary so that the Curse pile could never deplete. Martin D graciously assisted me in guarding the Dominion boxes and monitoring the Curse pile.)
For those who are unfamiliar, the Jester is a card from the Cornucopia expansion. The Jester gives the active player an extra $2 to spend in the buying phase and forces all other players to discard the top card of their decks. If that discarded card is a VP card, the attacked player gains a Curse. Otherwise, the active player decides if he/she or the attacked player gains a copy of the discarded card. (And for posterity: Bureaucrat, Minion, and Wishing Well were substitutes for my intended cards of Artisan, Patrol, and Sentry that were unavailable on Final night.)
My four finalists took about 15 minutes to study the kingdom cards before they felt comfortable enough to commence the bidding for turn order. Martin G won the honor of going first with a bid of 2 points. Nate was able to take second seat with a modest bid of 1 point. Neither Nicole nor Liz proffered a bid for third, so they stayed in their seats.
The first round was quite nice for all four players, as they all drew at least three Coppers. Martin G bought a Silver for his $3, Nate bought a Treasury for his $5, Nicole bought a Bureaucrat for her $4, and Liz bought a Silver for her $3. The second round saw some players repeat others’ actions from the first round. Martin G and Liz took a Bureaucrat for $4 apiece and Nicole took a Silver for her $3. Nate was stuck with $2 after that hot opening hand and opted to pass. After every Round 2 of Dominion is when every player reshuffles, and that was significant here because of my evil secret rules this year—the first Curses of the game go into everybody’s deck.
Round 3 saw Martin G turn over his Bureaucrat and $5, which he used to top deck a Silver and buy a Treasury. Nate bought his first Silver card and Nicole bought a second Bureaucrat. Liz ended the round by pulling a $6 hand to grab the first Nobles card of the game and give her an early 2-point lead. Round 4 was uneventful as Martin G bought his second Bureaucrat, Nate and Nicole bought Silver, and Liz drew a junk hand. More reshuffles and another Curse for everybody.
Martin G started Round 5 with a junk hand of his own. Action went quickly to Nate, who drew his Treasury and bought a Silver. Since he didn’t buy a VP card, he was allowed to top deck that Treasury for his next hand. Nicole revealed $6 and bought the first Gold of the game. Liz showed her Bureaucrat to top deck a Silver, but she lacked the coins to buy anything. In Round 6, both Martin G and Nicole showed a Bureaucrat to top deck Silver and $3 to buy more Silver. Nate went back to his Treasury and was able to buy his first Gold. Liz bought an additional Bureaucrat. In fact, the succeeding two rounds saw Bureaucrats and Silvers fly into three of the players’ decks while Nate continued to spam his Treasury card for Golds.
Round 9 saw Martin G and Nate redrawing their Treasury cards for more Silver, but Nicole opted to change it up a bit by using her $5 to buy the first Jester of the game. Round 10 saw some real excitement, as Martin G used his Treasury to buy Gold. Nate, on the other hand, finally made it to $8 to buy the very first Province of the game and finally put his Treasury in his discard pile after six consecutive rounds of usage. Nicole cracked the $6 threshold again to capture her second Gold.
Round 11 had Martin G drawing the Treasury/Bureaucrat pair to top deck a Silver and purchase another Treasury. Nate bought a Gold without the assistance of his Treasury. Nicole bought a second Jester. Liz drew $7 and bought the first Forge of the contest. Martin G started Round 12 with another Treasury/Bureaucrat pairing and got the $8 necessary to buy his first Province. Nicole drew $6 to buy a Nobles, while Nate and Liz bought more Silver.
In Round 13, Martin G bought his first Nobles and Liz bought her first Jester, while Nate decided to press his luck by purchasing a Wishing Well just in time to reshuffle his deck. Nate happened to draw into his Wishing Well on his next hand, but he failed to guess his next card correctly. Nonetheless, he bought a second Wishing Well to try his luck more often. Meanwhile, Nicole finally showed $8 for her first Province and Liz showed $6 for her first Gold.
Round 15 was another bad one for Martin G, as he could buy nothing with a handful of VP cards. Nate turned $6 into more Gold. Then Nicole disclosed her Jester for our first true test of luck. Unfortunately, Liz got Whammied, as she revealed a Curse to end up with an additional Curse. Round 16 saw Martin G reveal another Bureaucrat and a total of $8 to get a Province. Nate showed $7 for his first Forge. But Liz didn’t waste any time to get payback from the previous round. She revealed her own Jester, and that was bad timing for Martin G and Nicole as their next cards were VP cards. Nate’s next card was a Bureaucrat, and that gained Liz the final Bureaucrat in the market.
The players went on a VP shopping spree over the next three rounds, with Liz closing out Round 19 by revealing a Bureaucrat at the perfect time to gain the final available Silver onto her deck. All players gained an Estate in Round 20, with Nate being the only one to do so by using the Forge to cull a Curse from his hand. More VP cards were claimed in Rounds 21 and 22 as the event’s conclusion drew closer, while Nicole’s Jester made an encore performance—much to the dismay of Martin G and Liz.
Nate finally made good on his Wishing Well investment in Round 24 by calling the Gold that he needed to purchase a Province… but it hardly made any difference, as Martin G started Round 25 by purchasing the final Duchy card to clear three piles and end the game. Despite the extra Curses gained from attacking Jesters, Martin G still had enough Duchies and Provinces in his deck to claim the 2023 Dominion World Championship. The final score was Martin G 36 (34), Nicole 30 (30), Nate 20 (19), Liz 13 (13).
As an anecdotal sidenote, Martin G drew into my table in the very first two heats of Dominion that I ever played at the World Boardgaming Championships back in 2019. Now here we are in 2023, where I am the Dominion GM and I am presenting Martin G with the grand prize of a custom-made Dominion organizer box that was graciously donated to this event by Rio Grande Games. My WBC career has truly come full circle.