The Tools of Success ...
Alan Zasada vs Michael Trobaugh as
the two Illinois natives fight the battle for state honros at
GM Tom Gregorio with his two finalists
- both looking for their first TRC title.
The struggle between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union lasted
less than four years in 'real life' but our intrepid cardboard
warriors have been at it now for 24 years! A lot of worthy competitors
have secured their wooden tokens of accomplishment during this
time and a superficial analysis might indicate that it's really
the same old folks executing similar strategies but the results
this year indicate otherwise. While this GM will of course be
highlighting the "Russian Campaign" tournament
conducted in the summer of 2014 in Lancaster, including individual
game highlights, he will also shed some light on some of the
nuances of the tournament game.
As part of the "GrognardCon", TRC can be a veritable
round-the-clock Vegas Buffet of counter-pushing, dice rolling,
and factor counting. Because of the open scheduling, players
can participate in tournament games from the first Saturday to
the second Saturday at any time. The open rounds cover the initial
Saturday through Friday period while the semifinalists contend
for wooden glory on the final Saturday. This year we introduced
a Friday night "wrinkle": Contenders in positions
five through eight of the TRC tournament ranking were
allowed to challenge those in the top four slots. The intent
was to mitigate general Grognard concerns about players running
up their tournament point totals during the early part of the
week and then 'dodging' matches in the last few days. It's hard
to tell what effect this had for TRC, where 'dodging'
was never a tradition, only one challenge match occurred. This
GM's belief is that most TRC warriors in the 5-8 positions,
by the end of the week, are worn out and have no desire to possibly
commit to another 15+ hours of the game over the next 24 hours.
As has been highlighted in prior years, a critical part of TRC
tournament success is ENDURANCE and many of us are running on
fumes by our second Saturday in Lancaster.
Regarding the tournament scenario: For the last eight years
we've used the same format, it's a five-turn game covering the
launch of Barbarossa through the end of the January/February
1942 turn. To mitigate concerns about lop-sided weather, only
September/October is variable with November/December's weather
set to 'offset' the prior turn. The Germans have to strive to
achieve certain territorial gains while the Russians need to
hold Moscow and prevent their opponents from achieving their
historical progress. Bidding for sides is utilized, not so much
for play balance purposes as to allow players to use the side
they're most comfortable with.
For those wanting a quantitative assessment of this year's event,
let's review a few key points:
~ There was a slight decline in players, 24, and total games
played, 60, from prior years. (In 2013 the corresponding numbers
were 26 and 65.)
~ The WBC 5-turn tournament scenario has been in use for eight
years. In 2013 the Germans won 50.8% of the games. This year,
the Russians improbably won 59.7%.
~ The bid last year was about 14.6,.This year folks bid an average
of 15.4. (This is the number of extra Russian replacements the
Germans were willing to give over the course of the game.) In
the games the German won, they bid 16.3; in the games they lost,
the bid was 14.8. (This provides some support for the belief
that the bid is not directly related to which side will win and
is consistent with results from prior years.) Bids in the semifinal
rounds were 18.1 with the Germans winning three of four matches.
(There was a playoff for 3rd and 4th.)
~ The weather was fairly balanced with there being 29 "Clear"
September/October results recorded and 26 "Light Mud"
outcomes. There were four matches that ended before Turn 3 and
three matches where neither opponent remembered to update the
game record sheet with the weather result.
The Germans won 10 matches with clear, 11 matches with light
mud, and four of the seven matches that didn't have a weather
result for Turn 3. The Russians won 19 matches with clear and
15 with light mud. (Combined with results from prior years, this
GM does not think that Clear weather is of particular advantage
to the Russians.)
~ Only two matches featured Moscow falling in 1941, thus giving
the Germans an Automatic Victory. One was against me, further
proof that I am still being punished for originally claiming
that a competent Russian could not lose the game this way. In
general, based on the data over the past few years, losing Moscow
is becoming ever rarer.
~To ensure that TRC continues to be a thriving event
at WBC, we will need to implement some changes to help draw new
players and bring old players back to the game. Simple examples
include scheduled demo sessions, making standard setups available,
and highlighting the overwhelming similarity with the third edition
of the game may also alleviate concerns about players who don't
have access to the fourth edition game. Creating matchups featuring
players of similar experience may also help reduce possible shock
associated with being thrown into the TRC 'shark tank'.
~ The disproportionate number of Russian wins was as lopsided
as it has ever been. Going into this event, I would have assumed
that the steadily rising bid for the Germans reflected a belief
that the Germans were favored. After looking at some of the
individual matchups, and talking to players during the event,
it seems clear that another factor associated with the desire
to play the Germans is simply that folks are tired of being a
punching bag in this scenario! From personal experience, I also
believe that playing the Germans is easier as you have the initiative
for most of the game and thus don't have to expend as many brain
cycles anticipating your opponent's possible countermoves.
~ Very few German players consistently focus on taking Moscow
in 1941, there are just too many setups that prevent this and
only the sharpest of play combined with superior luck makes this
route to an automatic victory a realistic likelihood.
Single Elimination Highlights:
The SE portion of the TRC Grognard event clearly highlighted
some important characteristics of the 5-turn scenario that may
not be clear to those accustomed to the longer games. In a nutshell:
German losses don't matter, 1-2's are viable assaults if properly
planned for, and you can't count on your opponent making stupid
mistakes. The four semifinalists brought to the table a ton
of experience, a willingness to gamble, and a craving for wood.
All the matches went the distance.
Semifinal 1: The first elimination match set Mike Trobough
as the Germans with a bid of 15 against Alan Zasada's Russians.
May/June 1941: Leveraging excellent die rolls, Mike
obliterated Alan's units in the Military Districts. The Russian
defensive response featured a traditional line from Riga to Minsk
and a strong defense of the Bug River in the South.
July/August 1941: Mike AVed the Bug defenders but did
not break the Dneiper River in the south. Progress in the center
was made as far as Smolensk and a 1-2 Finnish assault on Leningrad
was thrown back.
September/October 1941: Light Mud weather saw the Russian
defenders pushed out of Dnepropetrovsk, the fall of Kiev and
Bryansk and the Finns pushing the Leningrad defenders back with
a successful 1-2 attack. Alan's Russians counterattack succeeded
in pushing the Germans out of Dnepropetrovsk.
November/December 1941: German assaults on Kharkov, Stalino,
and Sevastopol were all turned aside. The Russians rushed the
Guards to the Ukraine where they successfully created some breathing
room for the defenders of Kharkov and Stalino.
January/February 1942: With their combat strength halved
in the snow, the Germans were unable to mount a serious threat
to the victory cities and Alan advanced to his first TRC
Semifinal 2: The other bracket had Richard Beyma playing
Gary Dickson again. (Gary had previously prevailed during the
open portion of the tournament.) Determined to win as the Germans,
Richard took them with a tournament topping bid of 25, i.e.,
the Russians would be getting FIVE extra replacement points every
May/June 1941: Numerous EX and DR results had Richard
cringing, having to fight the same Russian units twice on the
opening turn is NEVER a good sign.
July/August 1941: The Germans ground their way forward.
September/October 1941: Light mud weather was rolled
which, in this particular situation, was exactly what the Germans
wanted. (The Russians had defended with a bias towards a Clear
weather roll.) The "flank cities" of Leningrad and
Sevastopol both fell. (These cities are particularly important
in this scenario as they are very hard to recapture.)
November/December 1941: Kharkov fell to the Germans on
a 1-1 while subsequent Russian counterattacks recaptured Bryansk
and Vitebsk from the Germans.
January/February 1942: On this snowy turn, the Russians
needed to recover Kharkov. They had two 1-2 attacks lined up
on the city, needing to win one. Alas, the Germans withstood
Gary's attack and, with that, secured for Richard a berth in
the final round.
Final: The last match of the tournament featured Richard
Beyma as the Wehrmacht with a bid of 21 against Alan Zasada,
both were playing their favored side.
May/June 1941: Wielding yet another important tool
in the German opening arsenal, Richard used the "MOO"
against Alan. (For those not familiar with this opening, the
central theme is achieving a 10-1 Automatic Victory against the
Russian Odessa defender on the second impulse of the first turn.
Breaching the Bug River can put the Soviets in an awkward position
but they are often compensated by the fact that their forces
elsewhere will not be pounded as hard because of the reallocation
of panzers to the south.)
July/August 1941: The Germans breach the Dneiper river.
This can be very important as the Germans want to get into the
Victory Point-rich area stretching from Kursk to Rostov. Young
Beyma's gambit of sea invading with the 40th Panzer Corps in
the Black Sea did not succeed and the sea floor was soon littered
with German armor. Nevertheless, German tanks, by virtue of
their advanced positions at the start of Turn 2, found themselves
at the outskirts of Stalino.
September/October 1941: Clear weather enabled the Germans
to have shots at three major cities. Kharkov and Stalino fell
while Leningrad withstood the Nazi tanks. Alan's riposte was
lethal - his 1-1 counterattack on three surrounded panzer corps
in Kharkov saw the German defenders eliminated and some clever
maneuvering stalled the German push on Sevastopol.
November/December 1941: With the snow falling furiously,
Richard pulls one out of his... hat. Rolling TWO sixes on two
1-2 attacks, he eliminates the Russians in Leningrad and Kharkov!
Soviet counterattacks on these cities fail.
January/February 1942: Needing to only hold his current
positions, the Germans pile up their units in Bryansk, Stalino,
and Kharkov. (Because of the victory conditions, the Germans
need only contest these cities to win.) The Russians didn't
have the forces necessary to both clear the defenders and occupy
the city and so Richard earned his first WBC TRC championship.
The Chicago Clique continues to be strongly represented with
both Alan and Michael hailing from that region - both of these
players are now breathing rarified TRC air. Gary Dickson
had hopes of getting his fifth TRC wood but foundered
on the rock that was Richard in 2014. (It should be noted that
when this GM refers to "wood" in his reports, he's
only referring to first place plaques, not the 'other wood' that
some dismissively refer to as fit only for kindling.) Not to
put too fine a point on it, Richard faced some incredibly tough
competition this year and certainly put in his time by playing
nine five-hour TRC matches before the semifinals began.
To add further context, this son of two-time TRC champ
Robert Beyma, defeated four TRC champions who had collected
11 WBC titles! (Also noteworthy is the fact that Gary Dickson
and this GM were Richard's WBC "Team Tournament" teammates
and our new TRC champ showed no hesitation in dumping
both of us from our designated team events.) Well done, Richard.
Looking forward to 2015, this GM hopes to see the 25th Anniversary
of TRC at WBC to be one noted for a large number of entrants,
innovative setups, and fiendish tactics. Will youth continue
to assert itself on the hexes of the Motherland or will the chastened
veterans have their redemption? Join us next year in Lancaster
to find out.
Four-time champion Gary Dickson
vs the newest member of the WBC TRC champions club, Richard Beyma.
By Email 2014
After two years of single elimination play encompassing 29
games between 30 opponents, Ed O'Connor's Russians defeated Pat
"the TRC Sensei" Flory in the 10-turn scenario in a
hard fought match. Despite the attrition favoring the Germans,
i.e., the Germans lost less than expected and the Russians more,
Ed's tight play combined with the Germans admittedly less than
aggressive style at the tail end of the game helped Ed land the
victory. While the Germans had a good chance of capturing Leningrad,
and possibly Moscow, a German capture of Kursk would have been
decidedly an uphill proposition. The dice favored the Germans
early but 1942 saw the luck swing the other way and, combined
with lousy (pro-German) weather, gave the Red Army the path to
victory. Stay tuned for the announcement of the tenth edition
of the 2014 BPA-Sponsored TRC PBeM Tournament; as the
champ, Ed will soon get to enjoy the new experience of being
the man with the target on his back!
Laurels for third through sixth place were won by John Malaska,
Doug James, Bert Schoose and John Ohlin and are reflected in
the updated totals above.