When I was building my schedule for the week I'd penciled myself in to play Diplomacy at 9am Saturday morning. Come Friday night I had no intention whatsoever of waking up early to play Diplomacy. There were some short games I could play if I woke up somewhat early but my primary goal was to get up by 3pm for Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation. I ended up getting up a little before 1 and decided I didn't really want to play more heats of Titan the Arena or Ra Dice so I just screwed around on the internet and watched Olympics.
3pm brought Lord of the Rings which unfortunately was held in the sweatshop that was the wargame room. Apparently the air conditioning was broken in a lightning/hail storm and they couldn't get it fixed for us. I honestly considered not playing at all and just going back to the room but the air conditioning in our room wasn't very good either. There also weren't any other games I wanted to play all day. Maybe I should have tried to run some open gaming? Probably I should have gone back to the room to change shirts at least since my Saturday shirt didn't breathe at all and got completely coated in sweat from playing in the room. Ew.
Anyway, Lord of the Rings. The format for the event was two games against the same person in a round. Win both games and win the round. Split the games and the winner is whoever had more units alive at the end of the round. (The game is an asymmetrical Stratego+rock/paper/scissors style game.) My first round I was matched up against a kid who had just learned the game. I beat him both games. As soon as my game was over I took off out of the room in search of air conditioning. I ran into Sceadeau who was standing under the AC just outside the door. He was also hiding from the heat while waiting for round 2 to start. Pounder went and got the GM to agree to send a runner out for us before starting the next round so we could avoid the heat/humidity/funk. Yay Pounder!
Round 2 I played against a guy who had camped out a table right in front of a gigantic fan. I believe he said something about liking the air on his boys. I for one didn't care what his boys were doing under the table, I had a ring to throw into Mount Doom. I don't remember details about the match except my opponent didn't have a firm grasp on the tiebreaker so when we both won as the good guys he thought it was a draw but I'd killed more of his guys in his win so I actually won the match.
Round 3 was against Sceadeau. Unfortunately for him the tournament uses a creative interpretation of a key rule which drastically changes the power level of the two magic cards. Under any sane reading of the rules and according to everyone I've ever talked to outside of WBC the dark side magic wins. (Both magics let you play a card out of the discard pile. Dark side has a counterspell for event cards so you should be able to magic up the counterspell to negate the light side magic. The WBC ruling is light side gets to choose which card to magic and if they pick a number your counterspell fizzles.) I complained about this in last year's summary when it came up a couple times. Sceadeau apparently should have read that recap since he didn't know about the way the GM was going to rule. We both played for the unbeatable magic card. Mine was actually unbeatable which let me get a trade in a fight I didn't deserve to win. We ended up splitting the games with each winning as dark side but I killed more dudes so I won the tiebreaker.
Round 4 was against someone I didn't recognize. I remember nothing about the match except we split the games with the same number of guys alive for a full draw. Oddly enough Pounder was also 3-0 in this round against Alex Henning and they also got a full draw. Nick Henning got a draw in round 1 and both him and his opponent at the time won out so we ended up with 6 people at 3-0-1. Alex dropped to play in another semifinal which meant they didn't have to flip a coin between some of the 3-1s who were tied on opponent's record. Which mean Sceadeau made it to the top 8 at 3-1. He got to face Pounder in the quarters while I got to play my round 2 opponent again.
In the quarters I started with a dark side win with 4 guys alive. I figured I could probably pull off a loss with only 3 guys alive so I wasn't even trying to win. I was going for the long loss with tons of trading. The real trick to pulling this off is to keep Sauruman from going on a rampage. If you always have cards getting played you can recycle your deck and then threaten a noble sacrifice of Frodo. It didn't get that far as I knocked him down to 3 dudes without losing Frodo. I think he scooped? I don't remember.
The semis matched me up against Nick Henning. He's the only winner the event has ever had and I remember people talking last year as though he was unbeatable. In a game that has mind-games in it like this one I can see people who think that way actually having no chance of winning. I wanted to play him last year because I thought I could take him down. I didn't get that far (losing on a coin flip in the quarters) but I still thought I could beat him. This year there were the same grumblings from kids in the crowd about how he was unbeatable. I would have preferred to face him in the finals but I can beat him anywhere! Other Nick actually had another semifinal starting around the same time and asked if we could go play in that room instead. We probably had time for our match regardless but he'd need to play two at the same time if he made the finals. He asked the other semifinal about it and they said ok. I made myself be a little miffed that he was assuming he'd beat me. Gotta get mental bulletin board material somewhere, right? At any rate the other room had air conditioning so I might well have paid good money to be allowed to play in that room instead of the wargame room.
I'd noticed Nick watching some of my games (I played a fun game with Sceadeau using the real rules after our match) and commented that he'd been scouting out my plays. Of course in that game both Sceadeau and I did some weird things and the first fight was actually warg V Frodo. I played the semi in a straightforward manner as both sides instead of trying something crazy. I don't remember specifics but it seemed like I guessed right at every turn and won all the 'coinflips' in the game. Eyeing the sacrifice, picking the cave troll as the first enemy Gandalf fought, and so on. I won with both sides so the tiebreaker never came into effect. Woo! I do recall winning the light side game thanks to the bad magic ruling and we both grumbled about it when it happened.
Meanwhile Pounder had beaten Sceaudeau in the quarters but lost in the semis to my 4th round opponent. It was time for a rematch of my draw! For any elimination round but the finals the tournament rule is a draw results in a coinflip to see who advances. In the final the rule is you play another full match and repeat until someone actually wins. Neither my opponent nor I wanted to play a marathon series of games in the sauna. The GM said if we came up with another way of working it out we could go with that. My opponent wanted to play just one game after a draw. He wanted that one game to happen on any split regardless of the stated tiebreaker with the 'winner' of the old tiebreaker getting to pick sides. The GM was opposed to changing the tiebreaker and I felt like I had a better grasp of the tiebreaker so I wanted to keep it. I suggested we play as stated but if we happened to come to a full draw we'd flip a coin to choose sides for one final game. This seemed like it would limit how long we'd be playing, and it would sate my opponent's desire for one game, and it would remove some of the sting from losing a coin flip. I think dark side is the best but I had won a couple games with light side in the day, after all. The GM and my opponent agreed with that plan.
The finals started off with me on the dark side. I ended up winning the game with 4 units alive. I think this game featured a 'Shire burn' victory where I'd lost control of Frodo but worked my positioning to force him away from the tunnel through Moria which bought me the tempo to get 3 guys into the Shire before he could get Frodo into Mordor. I think he could have sacrificed Frodo to trade with one of my guys at one point for better tiebreakers but didn't go for it because I don't think he realized I was in position for a Shire burn.
My light side plan again was to try to burn enough of his guys out that I'd win on tiebreakers. I got him down to 5 guys alive and had a tricky situation. We were down to 3 cards. I had 3-4-magic. He had 3-retreat sideways-magic. Balrog was hanging out in Moria and thanks to the bad magic ruling I knew I was guaranteed to take him out by attacking in and playing magic. (He couldn't retreat sideways since he was in the mountains.) This would guarantee at least an extra game but would cost me board position and make it harder to knock him down to 3. If I attack and play my 4 instead I'm guaranteed at least a trade unless he plays his magic card in which case he can attack out of the mountains, bringing his retreat card back into play, and maybe get a 5 character win. I decided to play safe and used magic. If he also plays his magic I win the game straight up. He played his 3. I grabbed noble sacrifice. Now I was down to Frodo+Merry against Witch King+Warg+Orcs+Saruman. He's guaranteed to win any fight we get into with his magic card. I try to sneak Frodo forward but he gets boxed in. I know I have no hope. Rather than give in I move Merry forward into a position I'm 99% certain can only be attacked by the Orcs. My opponent doesn't kill Merry with the Orcs. Instead he moves forward to threaten Frodo. I attack out with Merry and hit the Orcs. If he wastes Magic here then Frodo will be able to kill whoever has him boxed in so he retreats sideways. My opponent can still win the game by attacking Frodo and playing his magic card. He thinks for a while and then moves someone else forward. Merry shrugs and attacks the space likely containing the Witch King. Witch King is there and dies. My opponent then kills Frodo. But because he let me kill the Witch King I win the tiebreaker and the match. Woo! (I wonder if the heat was getting to him, or if my failure to concede rattled him?)
Afterwards they have the winner of the adult tournament play the winner of the junior event. Thankfully we played this game in an air conditioned room. I wasn't sure how to approach this. Am I supposed to play badly to give the kid a chance? Am I supposed to slaughter him mercilessly? Throwing a game goes against every fiber of my being so I decided to play a straightforward but strategically sound game. I ended up guessing right each time we had to play cards (similar to my match against other Nick, actually) and blew the poor kid out. His father was pretty happy I stuck around to play the kid and chatted a bit with Bruno about Titan while we played. (It turns out the Titan finals also ran away from the sauna to the same room.)
It was 10pm by this time which was barely enough time to run to Facts in Five which was under yet another GM (the old GM is apparently under house arrest for financial fraud). The new guys ran things a little slowly at the start which meant the event threatened to run into Slapshot which is a hugely popular 11pm event. They ended up skipping the marking phase of the event and stayed up all night marking the entries themselves which seemed really nice of them. I did terribly once again and even managed to forget the Titan unit which starts with D! On the plus side I remembered Guildenstern was a G character from a Shakespeare tragedy.
I'd seen Pounder and Robb check in on Fi5 right before 11pm but couldn't find them in the immediate vicinity. I figured I'd check Slapshot for them. I walked into the room to take a look around and got signed in to the event. Eh, I guess it's time to learn Slapshot! Robb and Pounder wandered in shortly thereafter. I don't think they wanted to play but my table had 2 empty seats and we goaded them into playing. Slapshot is essentially glorified war with a hockey theme pasted onto it. You have a deck with 3 forwards, 2 defensemen, and a goalie. On your turn you can draft a new player by discarding a card and getting the top card of the appropriate deck. You can trade with another competitor by stealing a card from their hand and returning a player of the appropriate type. (Gretzky for Domi? Sounds fair!) Or you can challenge another competitor to a game. Play war against them with the winner scoring a point on the chart. As soon as anyone wins such 9 games you cut to a top 4 for the playoffs. I built a decent deck pretty early on and won a few games. Then it became clear that Robb had the superstar forward (scores on anyone) so I tried a trade with him. I got his superstar! I then went on to win 8 games while people continued to trade with me for the superstar and failing. I went for my 9th win to start the playoffs and Robb's enforcer injured the superstar! Boo! I had to play Pounder in the playoffs without my superstar. His deck was a little better than mine but I had a better goalie. We played a best of 7 war sequence and he got fortunate pairings against my goalie and won 4 of the game. He went on to win the finals of our table as well. He promptly dropped so we could go to Waffle House.
Waffle House was an all-star breakfast with the sausage I didn't get a few days earlier. Then Pounder went to bed to get ready for the long drive home. Robb and I are jerks so we went to play games. We'd told Daniel we'd play when we got back from Waffle House, after all. Daniel was playing werewolf so Robb and I went to the demo station and tried out Roll to the South Pole. It seemed like an ok 'press your luck' style game but wasn't all that fun. It might be a good game for kids who are bored with Can't Stop I guess?
I went to bed. Robb went to find werewolf games because he's a jerk.