26 players competed in 3 Heats in this year's Gaia Project tournament, which is a decrease compared to the 35 entrants that participated in 2022.
The Heats were played without auction and using predetermined maps. The 40+ maps were randomized and printed ahead of time by the GM.
Each player with a copy of the game randomly drew 1 map from the folder while the remaining setup of round scoring tiles, boosters etc. were done according to the rulebook.
This helped save time during the Heats as the normal rules would require the 4th player to rotate all the tiles and it can be a daunting task, especially for new players!
The majority of players seemed to appreciate this method and that's how it will be done for the future years.
The 3 heats produced 10 unique winners and only 1 double winner: Randy Williams. Heat 1 was the most attended, with 22 players competing in 4 tables of 4 players and 2 tables of 3 players. Heat 2 attracted 16 total players of which only 5 were new. Heat 3 saw 8 returning players fight it out trying to get their win in order to qualify for the Semifinal.
Because the magical number of 32 unique entrants was not reached in the heats, only 12 slots were opened in the Semifinal. The plan was 3 tables of 4 players. Every winner advances to the Final as well as the closest 2nd place, determined by percentage of 1st place score.
Unfortunately, only 10 finalists (and none of the 4 alternates I had listed!) showed up! We resorted to 2 tables of 3 and 1 table of 4.
The Semifinal yielded 2 extremely close games: 183 (Tim Horne)-173-172-171 and 192(Robb Effinger)-192(David Platnick)-190 (where I placed 3rd and was a disappointing result as a defending champion).
The other Semifinal game was comfortably won by.......you guessed it, Randy Williams! Randy, Tim, David and Robb would meet later in the same night for the Final in the Laurels Room.
This year's final was recorded, both audio and video thanks to the amazing Chris Bizzell! The players nominated the following factions for auction (in seat order): Nevlas, Firaks, Geodens and Lantids (their only appearance in the tournament).
Players heavily favored Nevlas in the bidding, and with good reason.
- Randy Williams, Nevlas starting with 24vp
- David Platnick, Firaks starting with 39vp
- Tim Horne, Geodens starting with 40vp
- Robb Effinger, Lantids starting with 40vp
Randy and his Nevlas got off to an explosive start of PI+RL+2M in Round 1, fueled
by his opponents feeding him a ridiculous amount of power charge. David opened PI+RL and a downgrade to a TS with 2 bumps on the economy track, which is generally regarded as the strongest Firaks opening. Tim also built the PI with the Geodens but got shut out of step actions. He did have the range booster and placed an extra mine on one of his native orange planets. Robb built the Lantids PI and a couple of parasite mines, giving him an additional bump in the economy track to match Firaks' start in that regard.
The game was well fought by all 4 players and was really interesting to watch. In the end, despite Randy's monster economic start with the Nevlas, David and his Firaks triumphed. His clever play and patience on the final scoring conditions allowed him to win by only 2 points over Randy! Final results, with the bracketed values being the final score if every faction started at 10.
- David Platnick - Firaks - 193 
- Randy Williams - Nevlas - 191 
- Robb Effinger - Lantids - 186 
- Tim Horne - Geodens - 174 
For those who are into such things, bidding did affect the outcome of 2 out of 3 Semifinal games in addition the Final. This is a very welcome result as it helped confirm my intuition that bidding would be necessary to have competitive games in the later rounds. With Gaia Project being a variable-setup and asymmetric game, starting vp values need to be different to account for that and the auction puts this balancing responsibility on the players, which is why it makes sense in Semifinal and Final.
The most picked factions were Itars and Terrans with 9 picks each. The least picked factions were Bescods and Lantids with 1 pick each. The Gleens were the only faction that was not picked.Here is a summary of the average finish and average vp scored (Game score - Starting score)
For all factions:
|Average Finish & Score
|Michael Ledford determining where to go next.
||David Platnick on way to Final.
|Trying to determine next move.
||Finalists with GM Fadi El-Riachi.
| Fadi El-Riachi [1st Year]