It turns out the Lancaster Host has a thermostat in the hotel room which implies you have the ability to set the temperature that you want for the room. The three of us want drastically different temperatures so there is normally some minor bickering which ends up getting resolved by setting the room really cold and Pounder giving me the blanket off of his bed. Last year the AC just didn't work very well at all so the room never got into the really cold range despite Pounder's best efforts. This year we were in a different room and it was very mild outside so the AC was definitely able to win the fight. It won so well, in fact, that I was able to work out how the thermostat actually works. Short answer: ZE THERMOSTATS! ZEY DO NOTHING!
Maybe it does something in the winter when the heaters are able to run, but in the summer it doesn't matter where you set it. Higher than current temperature? No impact. Lower than current temperature? No impact. Instead there's a light switch on the wall that toggles the state of the air conditioner. You can either have it running full blast to continuously lower the temperature in the room or you can have it turned off entirely. No middle ground. No intelligent control system using the information we know is available (current temperature and desired temperature). On or off. That is all. By this time of the week I'd finally figured it out and we had a plan for how to try to keep the room in the right range. Run the AC during the day so the room ended up really cold, but turn it off when we went to sleep. This would have the room slowly warm up during the night but hopefully not so hot that it would disturb sleeping. Or if it did then someone would just stand up and flick the switch again and start it cooling off. Definitely a better situation than completely freezing or stupidly warm!
At any rate, super temperature tech meant I was able to sleep in without waking up super cold or covered in sweat which meant I got to sleep a long time. Eventually I was up and around before 3, which had the second heat of Le Havre. Now, we're lazy so we didn't actually submit a team this year but if we had Le Havre would have been my team game. So even though I'd only felt like playing 1 game of Can't Stop over the previous couple of days I felt like I should probably put in the effort to play at least one game of Le Havre. Other factors weighing in favour of showing up even though I still didn't feel great are that it is my favourite game and the GM had asked me a couple times in passing in the hallway if I was going to make it. GMs want lots of people to play their games in order to maintain prize status and such, and I have made the final every year thus far so there is some history to preserve by having me show up. And I try to be a nice person, so maybe that helps too.
Le Have ended up with 15 people for this heat, which would mean 3 4 player games and a single 3 player game. I was randomly assigned to the 3 player game. Yay! I'm much better at the 3 player game than the 4 player game and my brain wasn't really working well so it would probably be for the best to have the more natural number of players for me. Then a 16th person showed up so we had a 4 player game as well. Boo!
I actually hadn't played Le Havre since last WBC. It's my favourite game, but I don't own it. When I first learned it a few years ago at WBC in open gaming I liked it so much I made my friends play it (on Pounder's copy I think) a bunch and so many of them liked it that they all bought copies too. Sky, and Pounder, and Robb, and Aidan, and Duncan all owned the game so if I ever wanted to play it most of the people I was gaming with could bring it along. No need to buy it myself!
Combine that rustiness with being sick and things weren't going so well. An early special building was the one that lets you turn 15 energy and 1 iron into 2 steel. I'd ignored that building the last time I saw it in play (the finals at WBC in 2010) and the two people who used it blew me out. So I went looking for a good way to use it. I ended up building the cokery and had a bunch of coal ready to convert immediately before the first steel ship was going to come up for purchase. Everything seemed to be coming up Milhouse! Then the guy on my left went to the cokery to build up enough energy to use the special building himself. He was going to be start player the turn when the steel ship came out, so he was going to get to build it before me. At this point I could abort, do other things, and wait two more rounds for another steel ship while hoping no one else set up to build it on me or I could go crazy. Ignore coke and instead spend 5 coal getting the steel right now. That would get me the first steel ship and set up a decent shipping phase I thought, so I went for it. Unfortunately the guy on my left owned the special building, so he could have vendored it, gone to the now vacated building, and beat me to the steel ship after all. Doing so would cost him 6 points, but I'd thrown away probably 20 points with my play (5 points from the cokery conversion and 15 points from not having 3 extra coke) so if I thought my play was right then I should have thought his counter play was right. I did see his counter play, I just ignored it. I think maybe my game plan was hope for opponent misplay which is a terrible, terrible line of play. Even if it works I'm not going to be happy because I like to win games by beating the best my opponents have to offer, not by having them goof the game away.
It turned out he didn't sell his building, so I did get that steel ship. Which put me in a great position. So great, in fact, that the player opposite me decided to go out of his way to keep me from shipping an extra time in the end game position. Probably right anyway, but he said he only did it because he thought I was so far ahead. Doing so the way he did actually gave my right hand opponent an extra shipping phase. The end result of the game was the guy opposite me won by like 6 points, but the guy on my right came back to tie me with his extra shipping action. He had 1 extra franc in unshipped goods which is the first tie breaker, so I came 3rd in the only heat I was able to play.
Oh well. I was annoyed that I hadn't played well enough to win but I was sick so I didn't feel too badly about it. And the 3rd seminar by the win at life lady was happening in an hour so I could just go to that instead. It was going to be on physical movement and how terrible shoes are for people. I feel like I was going to know most of what she had to say from listening to Sky talk about his barefoot adventures but I still wanted to go and see if I could pick up any info to pass along to him.
I had the hour to kill first, so I swung by the Le Havre semis just in case. The GM had said in advance that he was going to take 16 semifinalists no matter what, and he only had 30 people across the 2 heats, so a close 3rd might actually be good enough to advance. I showed up and it turned out they only had 9 people who wanted to play in the semis including me. They'd also stated in advance that they were going to have a 4 player final table, so their plan on how to get there was to play 3 semifinal games of 3 players each and advance the closest 2nd place. That's pretty standard for previous Le Havre tournaments. I'm not a big fan because there's just something I don't like about having someone who didn't win a semifinal end up winning the final. One year I beat Daniel in the semis, but he advanced and beat me in the final. So we were 1-1 against each other that year, but he got to be the overall winner because of the ordering of the wins. It works according to the rules and all, but I don't really like it. Of course when you only have 30 people show up and only play 9 heat games total I don't know how to build a better format! They had to advance a 3rd place dude just to get to 9 people in the semis as it was! I think I prefer just playing a 3 player final with this setup because Le Havre plays well with 3 or 4 people but you have to do what you spelled out in advance.
I ended up getting paired against the GM (and last year's winner) Ken and with Rob who I vaguely knew through Sceadeau's Vent server. He didn't seem too happy with the pairings. Apparently our table with the 2nd and 3rd people on the laurels list for this event is going to be a rough win. Closest second gets to advance though, so no problem!
In this game I ended up in first chair, and the first tile came up with a wood on it so I was able to take my optimal first turn of grab 3 wood, buy the building firm for 4. I believe I then got to build the marketplace on my next turn. When Robb first taught Pounder and I to play Le Havre he made it very clear that letting someone do this would be game losing. So someone has to pick up dollars and buy the marketplace if the first player takes wood and buys the building firm. I don't know if this is actually true, but it's been an axiom in my Le Havre strategy since the very beginning. I got to get them both in this game, and it was pretty awesome. Especially as I learn the different special buildings and figure out which ones I want to come out or not, marketplace control seems really important. Being the one who owns it means you're more likely to be able to go to it when it matters, and you can sell it off at a truly important time if you have to.
As the game progressed I commented on how the Hardware Store actually seemed to be a lot better than I'd previously given it credit. Ken was using it a lot to good effect. From the finals last year I knew Ken was eyeing a way to end up buying or building the colliery. So I needed to do the same thing. It was sitting under the brickworks and the abattoir. The town was due to build the abattoir soon, and Ken would get to go first right after it did so. We both were sitting on the raw materials to build the brickworks and the colliery. But there is another option... Buy the abattoir for 8 and then build them both in one action! Things set up with a 6 franc offer which I was able to take on my second to last action before the town built the abattoir. Which meant my last action was to go to the construction firm, buy the abattoir, and built both buildings. I was just in on the money to do it.
I think the colliery is by far the best building in the game. Practically every way to score a lot of points involves coke in some way. You need a ton of energy to make steel, or you need a ton of energy to power the shipping line. There may be a hardcore builder plan that can ignore coke? But everything else wants coke. And because the cokery gives you a dollar for each coke, and because coke is the second best thing to ship, having extra coke is just fine. How do you get more coke? Having more coal. How do you get more coal? Hit the colliery every single chance you get. As a result I feel like it's the most used building in the game, and it has a relevant entry fee, so owning it is worth a ton of stuff. Or maybe you can convince someone to not go to the colliery on their turn to do so and then you get way more coke than they do. So you get to win.
Anyway, I now have the colliery. We also got what may be my favourite special building in the game to come out: the feed lot. I love it, because it lets you do a really early shipping action, buy it, and then replace the cows from that early shipping action. It probably lets you take an extra shipping action, and gives you 6 extra cows, so just buying it is like gaining 16 points. And you get extra cash in mid game, which can let you buy some relevant things. I think I ended up shipping using coal for power instead of coke in order to scoop it up, but it was still worth it. I think I used the money from that shipping to also buy the building that gives you a brick off the cost of every building. Which itself let me take an action to buy a 12 point building for free in the saw mill which was nice.
Rob ended up making a mistake I'd made in the finals a couple years ago. He set up to build the town hall, but then did something else first and then the town built it on him. I remember being really bitter at myself when it happened to me, so I can imagine how he felt. I legitimately hadn't noticed it was going to happen to him either, or I probably would have mentioned it. I just flat out missed that the town was building a building that round. That was probably a 30ish point play that just vanished on him, which is a big problem.
At any rate, with owning the marketplace early, and the colliery mid game, and the feed lot to get free cows I ended up with a pretty ridiculous score. 303 points, with Ken around 250 and Rob in the 220 range. Looks like I get to play in the finals. Woo!
The finals were scheduled for 9am the next day, which I really didn't want. I wasn't really expecting to play another game all week, so I could move it to pretty much any time slot that didn't involve having to wake up early while sick. The other two table winners concurred, but the closest second place guy wanted to play at 9am. Maybe that was because he saw how badly we wanted to move it? Maybe because he had something else to do all the rest of the day? Maybe he just doesn't like change. I can cop to rejecting a final move for that reason in a previous year so I can't really complain. I guess I'll just have to set an alarm and get up early on Friday.
I wandered around a bit, posted a blog post from the room, and eventually went back to Waffle House where I got the exact same thing for the second night in a row and still didn't get sick. Woo!