In the Heats, for the first time, no player ever ended with a negative or 0 score. Maybe this means that the weakest players are getting better?
The closest game in the Heats will be a hard record to break; Rich Meyer squeaked out a win on tiebreak against Barb Roeper, with Dante Saccenti and Lee Mewshaw only a single point behind, with a final score of 11-11-10-10. At the other extreme, Randy Buehler won a game with a final score of 34-12-12-1, scoring 9 more points than all his opponents put together.
In the elimination rounds, we bid for seating order. As always, bids were small., with no bids over 1, no bids for 2nd or 3rd seat, and average bids of .3 for first position and .35 for 4th seat.
Oddly enough, the number of winners by seat in the tournament this year, ignoring three-player games, was 12-19-16-15. The two seats that attracted some bidding, first and last, won slightly less than second and third seats, always available for a zero bid.
The worst thing that can happen in a Thurn and Taxis game is to have to discard a route without scoring it, and this happened to Steve LeWinter in his first Heat. But he didn't give up, played carefully and got some breaks, and scored up a win. Steve continued his run, winning his Quarterfinal, and winning his Semifinal via tie-breakers over Chris Long to reach the Final.
In another Semifinal game, Dan Addams crashed a route early, and couldn't duplicate Steve's comeback, and finished 4th. Brandon Bernard went for a Bavarian strategy, starting strong with a route that placed 7 houses in Bavaria, but as often happens with that strategy, he stalled out in the late game, finishing a distant second to Dalton Versak.
2019 champion Scott Saccenti also crashed a route early and finished fourth, and with Jefferson never seeing a Lodz card the entire game, and other things not going well for Mark Jensen, Kyle Smith won his Semifinal in a lopsided 23-14-13-13 contest.
Many players try hard to avoid the inefficiency of using the administrator early in the game, but sometimes it's the right play, and Bronwyn Woods cleared the board on both the second and third turns. This apparently was the right decision; she later scored two 7 routes, once of them placing 7 houses. Rob Murray could tell that if he ended the game, Bronwyn would win, and declined to end it, but delaying the end by a turn did not help him, and Bronwyn triumphed.
This set up a very strong Final, with 4 players who had all played in a Thurn and Taxis Final before. Kyle Smith bid half a point for fourth (outbidding Dalton Versak's 0 bid) and everyone else took their positions for free: Steve LeWinter first, Dalton second, and Bronwyn Woods third.
The initial board was a good one for the first player, Steve, who took Sigmarinen and Stuttgart from the initial board, leaving an unattractive layout for everyone else at the start.
On turn 2 Kyle couldn't resist the temptation of taking an Innsbruck and Sigmarinen that showed up on the board, leaving him with the a starting route of Linz to Budweis and no cards in hand to extend it. This paid off when two Pilsens appeared on the board, so Bronwyn couldn't force him to administrate.
Dalton, Bronwyn, and Kyle all scored their first route on turn 3, each only putting down 2 houses. Steve scored a route on turn 4, so he was behind in the carriage race, but placed 5 houses on his first route and 4 on his second, giving him an early strong lead in score.
Dalton and Bronwyn raced for carriages, both cartwrighting the 4 carriage on turn 5 and the 5 carriage on turn 7.
"I don't want to actually go to Germany" -- Kyle, with only 2 houses on the board after 5 turns. He went on to take the first administrator action of the game on turn 6. But he made a strong comeback with his second route, scoring the perfect southern Salzburg-Basel route to place 7 houses with 7 cards. Two turns later, he administrated again, still at that point the only player to clear the board.
Dalton slowed down a bit in the carriage race to rack up some points, playing a 6 route that scored 6 houses, the greens, and the 6-point world traveler bonus.
Bronwyn had slowed the same amount, so as they both scored their 6-routes, the carriage race was still a dead heat between then, with Kyle and Steve a full carriage behind, both scoring their 5 carriages on that turn.
Steve abandoned the carriage race completely, scoring a 3 route, getting his fourth bonus chit, but running the risk of ending the game with only a 5 carriage.
A few turns later, Dalton had 4 cards on the board, and Bronwyn had 5, so this looked like the final turn. Steve scored his route, covering all of Bavaria. But Dalton with a length 4 route played 2 and scored a length 6 route. If he had cartwrighted, he would have scored 3 for his 7 carriage and 1 for triggering endgame, but this play scored more, with an additional house, the 3 points for the first 6 route, and an additional bonus chit. And it would be the last turn anyway (or so he thought!), since Bronwyn had 5 cards on the board and a 6 carriage.
But Bronwyn, with 5 cards on the board no bonus chits left and a low score, realized that ending the game would give her fourth place, and she had the cards in her hand to score Bavaria with her next route. So, to everyone's surprise, she scored a 6 route when she could have scored a 7, finally getting her first (and second, and third) bonus chits, and intentionally extending the game by an additional 3 turns. Kyle kept his route going, but with only a 5 carriage, what looked like the last turn of the game ended with the game end further away than it was at the start of the turn.
Steve had 18 houses placed. He was behind, but houses in Lodz and Pilsen would end the game and give him the world traveler bonus, the orange bonus, and the high score. He had Lodz in his hand, but not Pilsen. He administered for the first time, saw no Pilsen, and drew blind. He did not find his Pilsen, but decided he had to play to win, and played Lodz anyway. Kyle made a defensive play and took Pilsen from the board, so Steve administered again, drew from the deck again, but still did not find Pilsen, so he was forced to discard his route. Kyle scored a 7 route, getting his 6 carriage, placing 3 houses, and gaining 6 points in bonuses (Green, Purple, and 7-route).
Finally, 3 turns after the turn everyone expected the game to end, Bronwyn, with 4 cards on the board, cartwrighted to end the game.
If Bronwyn had ended the game as everyone had expected, Dalton would have won. If Steve had found Pilsen in two administrators, he would have won. But with neither of these happening, Bronwyn's stratagem moved her from 4th place to 3rd, and Kyle, since his fourth place position let him continue his route on the turn everyone else was forced to score theirs, triumphed.