The 2023 WBC gathering was a good year for the Union Pacific tournament. In hopes of allowing more game enthusiasts to check out this wonderful game, the tournament format was revised. In prior years, this competition ran as a continuous slot, with each Heat following the prior one, followed by the Semifinal and Final. This year the tournament was broken into separate windows of opportunity for play, with the exception of the Final still immediately following the Semifinal.
Starting with the demonstrations, it appeared that participation levels may be up for the year. The demo pulled in 6 interested players to start, but upon completion of this training session, 3 more players showed up, looking for instruction. Ever eager to increase exposure to this game, I went through an accelerated review of the game. Once complete, I decided to watch an interesting demo at a neighboring table, which resulted in 2 more curious about Union Pacific, who had lost track of the time, being able to be introduced to the world of Union Pacific. After indoctrinating 11 new people to the game, I thought “this will be a good year”!
The first Heat kicked off on Saturday afternoon with 32 people showing up to play. This was perfect for 8 tables of 4 players each. Luckily, a combination of the copy of the game from the BPA library, 3 from the GM’s, and 4 player copies allowed all participants to play. Any more players and we would have had to turn people away unless they brought a copy of the game with them.
The second Heat occurred on Sunday evening with only 20 players; 6 of these were new participants, raising our count to 38 unique players. This resulted in 5 separate tables of 4 players.
The third and final Heat occurred on Friday evening with 23 participants, 4 of which were new participants, giving us a final head count of 42 for the event. This resulted in 6 tables of play, 5 boards with 4 players each and one with 3 players.
I was thrilled with this increased participation, mainly due to the fact that these numbers work so much better for the Semifinal’s advancement. With 32 players or more, per WBC guidelines, we are then able to advance 16 players to the Semifinal, which allows 4 tables of 4 players (which is ideal for Union Pacific) or which the 4 winners advance to the Final. For this event, we had 15 players with one or more wins plus a single 2nd place winner with the highest “blow-out score” who qualified to advance. Unfortunately, due to conflicts with over Semifinal/Finals, specifically Acquire, 3 of the advancing players were not able to attend, opening up slots for 3 more 2nd place finishers to advance. This proves to be great news, giving Debbie Gutermuth a chance to compete.
With our 16 participants set, and 4 boards setup and ready, the Semifinal kicked off 10 mins after the scheduled time, due to delaying ensuring the original qualifiers had a chance to show. At the conclusion of these games, Debbie Gutermuth, Jeff Jackson, Jeff Meyer, and Bruce Reiff advanced to the Final, resulting in a close match. Debbie Gutermuth gained the early lead and held it, creating an environment where the players were apparently trying to position for 2nd place, chipping away at each other’s railroads. The game finished with Debbie in first place, followed by Jeff Meyer, Bruce Reiff, and finally Jeff Jackson. All appeared to enjoy the game! In fifth place was Olin Hentz, and sixth place was claimed by Chris Meyer. The blow-out percentages for these player’s second place finishes were the highest of the 4 Semifinal tables.
On a side note, at least one of the individuals who came to the demo, being taught the game for the first time, qualified for the Semifinal, proving that new players have a chance to win in this game. This player enjoyed the game so much that he went to the WBC Auction and bought the only copy of the game available. He said to me before bidding “don’t judge me for how much I spend on this game.”
Many thanks to all who attended, showing up with positive attitudes and a desire to enjoy themselves. Hopefully, next year more players can find their way to our tables, allowing them to be exposed to this enjoyable game.