We ended up having more players than last year, just barely. Conflicts with newer games and the absence of some usual El Grande players resulted in continued low attendance. The distribution of players during the heats also meant we had a lot of four-player games, which was probably a bit new for some folks.
We had thirteen games in the initial rounds, with only two double winners, Ben Scholl and Andrew Freeman. Enough alternates were admitted to make for three five-player games in the Semifinal round.
In my own Semifinal, I made a misplay right out of the gate, giving Keith Dent an advantage which he built upon to secure a commanding win while the others duked it out for 2nd place. In the second game, Jeff Meyer and Andrew Freeman tied on points, with Jeff winning the tiebreaker. Since the closest two second-place finishes would advance, they both were in the Final. In the remaining game, one player got hammered by a special action early, losing all of his caballeros from the board. Curt Collins won that game, with Ben Scholl close behind.
Jeff, Curt, and Keith are all previous champions of the event. Andrew and Ben have not previously scored laurels, but you may notice they were the two double-winners from the heats.
Jeff started the Final off with a bid of 11, but he was outbid by Andrew (who took back his 13) and Ben (who burned a Score the Fives card). Jeff used the King action to build up his board position, while Keith and Curt settled for Intrigue and Veto.
In Turn 2, Ben went first (with a 13) to burn the other Score the Fives card. Andrew attempted to score his home region, but apparently forgot there was an active Veto, and it did not go through. Keith got to move the King, while Curt played Royal Advisor, and Jeff caused havoc with Intrigue, having set up for a 1-13 play.
In Turn 3, Jeff indeed played the 13 and locked down his home province. Keith put the 4/0/0 on Old Castile (where Andrew and Ben were tied), and Curt declined to score the Castillo, since Jeff had secured the lead there. Andrew and Ben manipulated the board position with the 1 and 2 stack cards.
In the Castillo drop, Jeff took over New Castile. Keith and Curt took over each other’s home provinces, while Andrew recaptured his own home province. Ben didn’t have any pieces to place. Jeff took the lead, followed by Andrew, Ben, Keith and Curt (23/21/15/14/14).
In Turn 4, Curt went early with his 13 to score Granada, where he got six points and gave Keith/Andrew a few points. Jeff took the King, left it in his home province, and sent 3 cubes (all he had in his court) to the Castillo. Andrew then sent 3 cubes home from Ben’s court (everyone else was empty). Ben declined to move his Grande. Both sent all their folks to the Castillo. Keith managed to get three cubes on the board with the 1-stack card.
In Turn 5, the effects of low courts resulted in bids of 1/3/5/4/6. Andrew went first with the King and then Ben with a Score the Fours that gave Ben 10 points, Andrew 6, Keith 5, Curt 4, and Jeff 1. Jeff said to mark down that he made a misplay this round. He then Evicted Aragon and took it over. Curt sent some folks home and Keith used Intrigue. Andrew is in the lead at 30 points, with Keith trailing at 20 points, and the others at 24 or 25 points.
In Turn 6, Keith completes his 1-13 combo to take back and lock down his home territory. Curt relocates the 4/0/0 scoreboard to Catalonia. Jeff Scores the Most in New Castile (where he paradropped last scoring round) to give 7/4/2 to Jeff/Keith/Curt. Ben takes the Veto and Andrew uses Intrigue.
During the Castillo phase, the counts are revealed to be 6/6/5/5/5. Jeff recaptures his home territory in Venice. Andrew takes over Aragon; Ben takes over Old Castile. Both Curt and Keith go to Basque Country, Andrew’s home territory, where Curt takes first place by 1 cube. Scores remain very tight at 49/47/46/45/44 for Jeff/Keith/Andrew/Curt/Ben, although Keith has a better board position by a few points over the others.
In Turn 7, Andrew relocates the 4/0/0 scoreboard for the final time, to New Castile. Jeff goes next, and declines to score the sixes and sevens, as it would get him nothing after Andrew’s action. Curt moves the King to lock down his sole first place in Basque Country, unable for the moment to retake his home territory. Keith conducts some Intrigue, and Ben discards his Veto and lets everyone choose a territory to send 2 cubes home; everyone chooses the newly downgraded New Castile.
In Turn 8, Ben goes first with a bid of 10 to Score the Firsts, which gets 16/12/11/7/5 for Ben/Keith/Jeff/Andrew/Curt, which starts to separate the pack. Jeff then scores his home region to create a seven point lead. Keith moves the King to his home region and throws troops into the Castillo. Curt gets more folks into his court and ties Keith in the Castillo. Andrew is setting up for his 1-13 and takes the Intrigue action.
In Turn 9, Andrew goes first with his 13, Curt follows with his 12 and Ben with his 11, being the only ones left with those card values. Keith gets fourth with his 9 and Jeff has to go last, having no card above an 8. Going first, Andrew cannot take over his home territory. He could have locked down Aragon but chooses to take over Valencia (Jeff’s home territory) and move the King there. Curt scores the Castillo giving points to himself and Keith. Ben chooses to Intrigue, tying up some other folks and reinforcing his home territory. Keith takes back a useless power card, takes back his home region and ties up Curt in the Castillo. Jeff empties Ben’s court and places a few cubes on the board.
At this point the scores are 67/62/60/59/53 for Jeff/Keith/Ben/Curt/Andrew. Keith, Ben and Andrew have better board positions by several points over Jeff/Curt. The Castillo is 9/9/6/5/3 for Keith/Curt/Jeff/Andrew/Ben.
At the drop, Jeff and Andrew both go to Galicia, where Jeff takes first and Andrew second, knocking out Ben’s first place there. Ben defends his home territory in Catalonia, but no one else goes there. Curt takes back his home province in Aragon, scoring it for the first time in the game. Keith takes over Old Castile by one cube over Ben. The score for the round was 24/19/16/15/13 for Keith/Curt/Andrew/Jeff/Ben for final scores of 86/82/78/73/69 for Keith/Jeff/Curt/Andrew/Ben. This was Keith’s second victory, having won the event in 2018. Congratulations!