This year’s campaign to unite feudal Japan was a fun affair. There were 32 participants, down some from recent years. However, given the perfect scheduling conflict with Twilight Struggle, this was not wholly unexpected. The tournament wrapped after five rounds, just after midnight. One of the bright spots in this year’s tournament was that Sekigahara game designer (and former GM) Matt Calkins played in the event for the first time. He also brought with him the customary honor prizes for those who play into the evening, regardless of their number of wins or losses. This annual tradition has always been greatly appreciated by all participants and is a great way to remember participating for those who play all day, but don’t manage to qualify for the single elimination rounds.
One of the great things about the Sekigahara tournament is the incredibly supportive environment of the community. This includes allowing new players to play veterans in the first round of the tournament so that they can learn how to play the game. These informal teaching games are great for those who need a refresher or for those who just want to try Sekigahara out for the first time. The GM would like to thank everyone who played in the tournament for being incredibly kind and positive throughout.
After the first three rounds of play, three players emerged with perfect records: James Pei, Three-time champion, Dennis Mishler, the defending champion, and Jeff Cornett, WBC veteran and Medici GM.
These three players advanced to the single elimination round along with Jack Jung, the top “2-1” player after the first three rounds, and one of the many cool Canadians who join us every year.
For the single elimination matches, James Pei played against Jeff Cornett. Each participant had impressive wins in their first matches. Jeff had defeated fellow semifinalist Jack Jung in the second round and the fifth place finisher, Bob Wooster, in the third round. James had defeated Bruce Hodgins, 2017 3rd place finisher, in his second round match and Nick Henning in his third round match.
In the “Battle of the J’s", James would come out ahead, winning by instant victory over Jeff. This was apparently an aggressive game with Jeff moving against James early, before James was able to turn the campaign in his favor, killing Jeff’s leader in combat.
In the other semifinal, Dennis Mishler played against Jack Jung. Dennis had previously defeated two other Canadians, Larry Sisson and the aforementioned Bruce Hodgins, in the earlier rounds. Dennis and Bruce had a memorable 2017 match that was decided by one point. The rematch was equally tense. Meanwhile, in the earlier rounds Jack had lost to Jeff Cornett, before managing a tight win over Larry Sisson.
In this semifinal, Dennis Mishler managed a week 7 victory, 15-12 pts, after the two opponents mostly sat and built up their respective forces during the first several weeks. However, about halfway through the match Jack’s Ishida forces gained a decisive victory at Aizu in the east. After that, the game began to speed up with more combat and changes in board position. In the end, Dennis was able to control who went last during the final week of the campaign, and was thus able to limit the number of spaces Jack could claim.
Thus, this year’s final was a rematch of the 2015 and 2016 finals, in which James Pei and Dennis Mishler fought each other. In those two games, James had decisive wins, establishing early board position and then running out the rest of the games. Would the 2018 match be a repeat?
The final started with James bidding 1 block for Tokugawa. Dennis accepted the bid and played as Ishida, receiving one extra block in his recruitment box. For the record, the GM Dennis feels this is the “most equal bid”, but other bids could also work out as the sides are fairly even. However, the Tokugawa ability to win initiative whenever they want is extremely powerful.
What follows is a weekly summary of the year 1600 campaign to unite all of Japan: Sekigahara
The Tokugawa win initiative and elect to have the Ishida go first. During this week, the Ishida make a standard move to take Miyazu from the Tokugawa (for the card bonus). Somewhat surprisingly, the Tokugawa immediately move on Ueda, reducing the garrison by 2.
The Tokugawa win initiative and elect to go first. During this week, Tokugawa first takes Ueda, and reposition the Maeda to Takeda. In response, the Ishida move the Uesugi to Niigata and a small Kobayakawa force to Kanazawa, which the Maeda have abandoned. This movement now threatens to pincer the Maeda at Takeda.
The Tokugawa respond by moving a strong Fukushima contingent into Gifu, currently occupied by four Ishida blocks. The resulting field battle results in the complete elimination of the Gifu force, with the Tokugawa (James) playing out exactly 21 impact with all of his cards and blocks. At the same time, he safely redeploys the Maeda force from Takeda to a safer position to the south and leaves a small garrison in Ueda, while the main Tokugawa force moves towards Kiso along the highway.
The Ishida can only meekly respond by merging the Uesugi and Kobayakawa forces in Takeda, leaving a garrison in Kanazawa. This stack of 7 blocks may serve as a possible threat, but at this point the Ishida forces have taken some significant losses, while the Tokugawa losses have been minimal.
The Tokugawa win initiative and elect to go first. During this week, Tokugawa first consolidates his Maeda and Tokugawa forces in Kiso, along the main highway. The Ishida meanwhile muster 3 Ukita blocks in the far west, but otherwise can do nothing given the board’s state.
The Tokugawa then consolidate their forces in Gifu, merging the above two forces with the Fukushima. James also begins to reduce the Uesugi garrison in Aizu. In response, the Ishida consolidate all of their western forces in Kyoto. At this point the Ishida army in Kyoto is smaller than the Tokugawa force in Gifu, but is also two spaces away. Meanwhile, the Ishida forces at Takeda finally move. The Uesugi contingent moves straight onto Ueda, taking the castle, while the Kobayakawa (3 blocks) remain at Takeda.
At the end of the week, the board position for the Tokugawa is less secure than it seemed, but given the losses so far incurred, they are still in a stronger position. In particular, they are stronger in the west – where many of the key objectives are, and if they can figure out how to deal with the multiple fronts developing, they should be fine.
The Tokugawa win initiative and elect to have the Ishida go first. During this week, the Ishida continue to consolidate in Kyoto while also moving the 3 Kobayakawa blocks to Niigata, threatening to relieve the Aizu siege.Tokugawa responds to the multi front threat by 1) taking his combined Gifu force and splitting it in half and 2) finishing the siege in Aizu. This results in a stack of 8 blocks in Kiso and a stack of 9 blocks in Kiyosu. 1 block remains as a garrison in Gifu. The picture above was taken prior to Aizu falling.
With Aizu having fallen, the block deficit in the game is now 9 to 2 in favor of the Tokugawa.
Knowing he must apply pressure to the multi front press, the Ishida marches on Aizu and musters a single Kobayakawa block there, giving him a total of 14 impact in the ensuing field battle. This is sufficient to kill 3 of the Tokugawa blocks, while the Ishida lose none. The sole Tokugwa survivor (the Date leader) abandons the castle, retreating to the south. With this victory, there are now only 2 Tokugawa blocks east of Kiso and 8 Ishida blocks in this same area.
To end the week, the Tokugawa march their 8 blocks in Kiso to Saku, threatening the Uesugi force at Ueda. The Tokugawa also bring out 3 Date in Sendai with the Date leader marching to them.
At the end of this week, the Ishida have assembled a stack of 13 blocks in Kyoto and have an additional 3 Mori blocks in Osaka. The Tokugawa have more total blocks in Saku, Kiyosu, and Gifu, but Saku is rather far from Gifu.
The Tokugawa win initiative and elect to go first. During this week, the Tokugawa begin by marching the Date to Shirakawa. The force in Saku also moves completely into Ueda, annihilating the Uesugi contingent there. For better or worse, this results in the Ishida side drawing additional cards as well as leaving Gifu only defended by the Fukushima force of approximately 10 blocks, which is in Kiyosu.
In response, the Ishida march on Gifu. 8 blocks move from Kyoto to Gifu, while an additional 8 blocks remain in Kyoto, capable of reinforcing Gifu, if needed. Gifu falls.
Sensing an opportunity to extend his block differential, which is still quite significant, James moves his Kiyosu stack into Gifu. This battle of 8 blocks vs 8 blocks could prove decisive. However, while James chose the battle, Dennis is the defender and holds a significant card advantage (3 cards) after the losses at Ueda.
In the Battle of Gifu, both sides reveal a leader and proceed to amass impact, showing suited armies with matching specials. The battle continues to seesaw back and forth, with those in attendance occasionally murmuring about the state of conflict. As the final cards are played, the impact values end at 35 vs 35. As the defender, the Ishida (Dennis) win the battle, holding Gifu and throwing the diminished Fukushima force back to Kiyosu. The Ishida lose 5 blocks, while the Tokugawa lose 6. More importantly though, it is now the Ishida’s turn to move.
In response to their stunning victory at Gifu, the Ishida immediately march their Kyoto and Gifu forces on Kiyosu, initiating another combat. This combat is less dramatic. Although the Tokugawa make 2 loyalty challenges, including 1 successful attempt, the final impact is 28 – 8. The Tokugawa force there is nearly annihilated with survivors retreating to Okazaki. The Ishida force of 10 blocks stands victorious.
At the end of this week, the block differential has evened out considerably. In addition, the Tokugawa board position appears to unraveling as the Ishida are now on the offensive in the east and west. While the Tokugawa still hold the central portion of the map with a significant force, they must decide where to go. Part of that decision was made at the end of the week when 3 Tokugawa blocks moved from Ueda to Takeda. The Ishida respond by moving their Kobayakawa force in Aizu back to Nagaoka, threatening the small Tokugawa force in Takeda.
The Tokugawa win initiative and elect to go first. During this week, given the dire state of affairs, the Tokugawa know they must reach Kanazawa first. Thus, the small force in Takeda immediately force march into Kanazawa and muster 3 loyalists there, taking the castle back.
Meanwhile, the Ishida respond by force marching the Kobayakawa from Nagaoka into Ueda, taking that castle. Simultaneously, the Ishida army in Kiyosu splits up, taking Okazaki while another contingent moves towards Kiso. This means that three forces are now closing in on the Tokugawa leader. To the north are the Kobayakwa, to the west are the Ishida forces coming from Gifu, and in the south the Ishida forces control the road from Okazaki to Hikone. Tokugawa can either run to Edo, hoping to make it there first or force a combat.
The Tokugawa respond by moving the Date force into Aizu, capturing that castle while also moving the Tokugawa army into Ueda to confront the Kobayakawa. This battle proves to be decisive as the Tokugawa can muster only 10 strength to the Kobayakawa 14.
The Tokugawa leader is killed in combat! And with his death, Japan is united under the leadership of Ishida.
In summary, Sekigahara 2018:
For the third time in four years, James Pei and Dennis Mishler battled each other in the finals. For the first time Dennis was able to defeat James, defending his 2017 title. The game was hard fought with James jumping out to an early lead. Dennis countered by making a number of movements to open several fronts on the board. Eventually, the game likely turned at the battle of Gifu, which separated the two main Tokugawa forces from one another. However, prior to that the board position of the Ishida forces presented a particular challenge for the Tokugawa as he had to maintain cards for virtually all of his factions and dedicate resources to defending the entire map, while the Ishida could just sit in Kyoto while focusing their attacks with one of two small roving armies.
Be on the lookout for news regarding an online Sekigahara that will start later this year!