Friday morning brought the Le Havre final at the stupidly early hour of 9am. One advantage of being sick all week is I'd gotten plenty of sleep the last few days, so my sleep batteries were all charged up. I got around 6 or 7 hours sleep, woke up, bought a Coke, and was in pretty good shape relatively speaking. I was still a little sick and I absolutely detest waking up so I still wasn't in a very good mood and wasn't thinking perfectly clearly but compared to previous years it was just fine.
The format this year had 3 semifinal games with the closest second also advancing. One of the winners said he has a hard time waking up and might well just sleep through it since we wouldn't move it. Which provides a bit of a conundrum... If that happened, should the final switch to a 3 player game? Should they advance the next closest second instead? That would mean he needs to also wake up at 9am and might not even get to play. What if he doesn't show either? The next next closest second? How far down the chain do we go to find a 4th player? Any warm body? Making the situation even stickier the person who is 2nd in line is the GM himself. So if he rules that we keep taking people it's to his own benefit. But if he rules that we stop at him to avoid looking like he's ruling in his own favour he actually ends up ruling against himself which is really terrible. GMing is rough enough as it is, you don't need any rules swung against you. He ended up deciding to let #5 in if it came up, but was going to decline his own spot. I think that will seem fairer on first inspection for most people so it's probably a good thing, but I think it sucks for him. It ended up not mattering since the actual 4 finalists did show up.
The final table included one of last year's finalists (another Nick) and two people new to the finals this time around. Another Nick was on my immediate right and was one of the people in last year's finals who got screwed by iron parity, and was well aware that that was probably why he lost that game.
I was in third chair. I haven't yet found the time/inclination to work out which seats may have an advantage or not. I'm pretty sure first chair is strongest, especially if a wood tile flips up first. Which it did in this game. I believe second player got 3 clay, and then I got 2 wood myself. It also seems like people don't like to spend their early money, so I also got to buy the 4 cost building firm. Interestingly no one took money to buy the marketplace. Not only that, but first player who took wood also didn't build the marketplace! So when it got back to my turn I was able to build it with my wood. I mentioned how I got both the 4 cost building firm and the marketplace in the semis and how Robb imprinted in my brain how ridiculous a setup it is to let someone have both. And here I am with both of them again. Will it continue to be ridiculous?
The location of the iron tile meant that 1st and 3rd seats were going to have good iron parity. We would always get first crack at 2 iron until someone snapped and took the single iron. For the second year in a row the other finalists refused to take 1 iron, so myself and the guy opposite me got to scoop up 2 iron offer after 2 iron offer. On top of this source of iron, and my marketplace, I also decided that my conclusion from the last game with the hardware store was a reasonable one so I was jumping over to it as well which was giving me an absolutely ridiculous amount of iron. I may even have used the black market once to get 2 iron and 2 of something else!
One key play, for me, was how everyone seemed to be neglecting the harvest phase of the game. Another Nick quickly took 2 cows and a grain but no one else was harvesting anything at all. Which meant the cow offer kept getting bigger and bigger. Eventually I took it when it was at 5! As the second person to get cows that's mind boggling. Of course I didn't take it at 2, 3, or 4 either, so I don't know that I can say other people were making mistakes either. But that one action probably gave me the resources to score 60+ points.
I had marketplace control again, which meant I got to manipulate the special buildings. There wasn't one I wanted to keep buried this game, but there was one I wanted to make sure came out. Harbour watch, which is probably the single most game warping card in the deck. It's a building that lets you use any occupied building by paying them a dollar. This means you can't block people from building boats, or from getting in all the shipping phases they want, or from picking up coal in the colliery. It means you basically get to ignore the opposition for my preferred line of play. It also means owning the colliery is even more critical than normal, so as soon as I saw this building existed I went out of my way to make a plan to get the colliery. The colliery was buried under the clay mound and the arts center I think. My play ended up being go to the construction firm, build the arts center, sell the arts center, buy the clay mound, build the colliery. A short time later I got some money (maybe by going to the cokery) and bought the harbour watch. I tried to convince people that they should be using my harbour watch in order to use my colliery but it rarely happened.
A little later on the feed lot came out, and no one had much interest in it, so I was able to do a big shipping phase to get down to 2 cows and then buy it like in the semis. Then I got to make 2 cows a turn for a while for lots of extra things to ship.
As the game played out I pretty much ignored steel entirely. The steel mill was late to come out and Another Nick was waiting on it instead of building iron ships. I think this ended up setting him back way too far. When it finally did come out he was able to make 11 steel and then was able to start building boats and setting up to ship all the stuff he'd acquired over the game, but by that point I'd already flat out bought 2 of the 4 steel ships. Guy on my left had made 2 steel with the business office and had built one also, so there was only one left for Another Nick which was really bad for his position. I ended up with 2 steel ships, 2 iron ships, and a wooden ship. The 2 steel and the wood I had bought with cash money, the iron I had made with all the iron I'd picked up.
I was paying attention to when the town was going to build a building late in the game this time, and spent the money to buy the bridge over the Seine in order to force the town to build the town hall. One of the other players was set up to build it and I wanted to keep that from happening.
I also got a late grain offer with 9 or 10 grain in it, which let me bake the full 20 loaves of bread near the end of the game. I got to ship many, many times thanks to the harbour watch. Probably 6 or 7 times, with some of those times being for 16 goods. Lots of cows, bread, and coke. I ended the game with no goods left at all.
The other players at the table were pretty much ready to concede early in the game because I had such a big lead. I thought Another Nick could catch me, but he waited too long on steel and ran out of time. I don't remember final standings, but I think he did come second. I won, by a pretty good margin. Good thing we didn't submit a team this year, it sure would have sucked to win my team event. 8P
1 o'clock brought the single elimination Innovation tournament. The caffeine from the first Coke I'd had in many weeks was keeping me ready to roll and I wasn't really feeling super sick anymore. Still sluggish with a cough, but not like I wanted to die. So I went to that. I got paired up with Rob Kircher in the first round which is a bit of a tough draw because he's really good at games and I'm really good at games. I hardly play any Innovation and I know I'm a lot worse than Robb and Pounder so I didn't have terribly high hopes. Andy (the GM) came by to watch us because he said we were the tough match for the round. (There was a mulligan round, so a lot of the really good players weren't playing in this round at all.) I ended up in a relatively bad position and Rob had enough points to get his last achievement but needed to get a 7 into play. His last turn was to draw a couple 7s and I didn't have a way to make him discard both of them. So he was going to get to play one and achieve to win the game on his next turn. I had a bunch of cards in play and finally came up with a viable line of play. I could reveal a green card from my hand and steal all his green cards. If both of his 7s were green then this play would prevent him from winning on his turn. Also, if they were green I would get to meld them all, and all my green cards, which included the card that lets you auto-win if you have 10 or more green cards in play. I had 8 of my own, so if he had 2 of them I would win on my next turn! I'd seen 3 of the 7s, and none of them were green, so there was a non-zero chance this play would work. 1 in 21, I believe! It turned out his 7s were a yellow and purple so it didn't work, but it made me happy to at least find a line of play that had a chance of working. It's like I'm changing the rules for victory and gaining status even though I lost! Yay, dopamine!
Most of the games I would normally play are done by this point in the week. There are still semis and finals and such, but I didn't make any of those because I didn't play any games earlier in the week. And I still wasn't really feeling like playing a lot of games. So I just sat around and watched the rest of the Innovation tournament. I feel like I probably went to Red Robin with Pounder after the Innovation event, but I may be misremembering. Maybe I just ate gluten free cookies. Then I played some Rogue Legacy back in the room after doing a blog post.
11pm brought Liar's Dice. I couldn't turn down my chance to be the LIAR'S DICE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD!!!!!! even though I didn't want to be in a room with 1250 dice being rolled at once with my foggy brain. I played at a table with Robb, Sceadeau, Pounder, and a couple of random dudes. I lost very quickly. Sceadeau was very mean to me and knocked me out. I wasn't the first one eliminated in the whole event so I didn't get made fun of by the whole room but it was pretty close. Pounder 'won', but he didn't want to advance so he conceded to the kid at the table who was very confused about the outcome. It's a little sketchy to me (I'd rather have Pounder eliminate everyone and just not show up to the next round if he doesn't want to play) but with a game like Liar's Dice I don't think anyone actually cares.
Hanabi was the open gaming game of the convention and Robb was one of the few people who owned a copy of the game so he was swarmed by people to play it after Liar's Dice. I sat around and watched for a bit, and then was learning some weird Flower Fall game from Matt when Randy came up and asked if we'd go learn Copycat instead. I don't have the ability to interrupt the start of a game and convince the people in it to do something else instead, but Randy does, and I'd rather learn Copycat than Flower Fall so it was all good by me. Matt ended up winning the Copycat event later in the week so he was probably just fine with getting in an extra game too.
Copycat is a game that copies game mechanics from all kinds of games and tries to kludge them all together into a good game. Some of the people I talked to thought they did a great job. I thought it was very mediocre personally. It was incredibly bland, and while the mechanics from different games were all there it didn't feel like the fun parts of those games came with the mechanics. You build a deck like in Dominion, but with the game lasting at most 11 turns and with new cards only getting shuffled in the turn after you buy them it felt like building a good/fun deck didn't matter enough. There are decisions to make on which cards to buy and which cards to trash but the game didn't last long enough for it to really feel like it matters like it does in Dominion or even A Few Acres of Snow. That said, the game was still pretty long and felt like it was dragging. Worker placement from Agricola is probably at fault here. You're placing workers down on pretty minorly relevant spaces, but there are a bunch of them and you get presented with the illusion of choice. Do I want to draw a card, or make a dollar, or earn a point? But when it comes right down to it drawing a card is worth a dollar or a point and neither of those really matter either. So it again feels like you're making decisions (which takes time) but the decisions you're making have no theme or major consequence. Through The Ages and Puerto Rico show up with mechanics, but they didn't get the good ones out of those games.
Perhaps worst of all, I didn't get to end the game on the score track. I ended with a score of 91, but the score track went 90-92-93-94-93-95. No space for 91. I fell off into the abyss never to be heard from again.
The rules are also very badly written. It wasn't at all clear if we could do some of the abusive things we wanted to do, and that made the game experience suck for me. A lot of the cards and actions are about copying other cards or actions (the 'theme' of the game being copying stuff) and one of the rules shows up in bold talking about how you can only use the base of any given card twice total. Once for the card, once for a copy. That is all. But then the explanation text for a card goes on to say how you can end up tripling some cards. And there's a card that says it comes in as a copy of a different card, not that it copies the effect of a card. So can you play that card as a copy of a good card, and then use two copy effects to copy both of those? In some senses you're getting the base of the first card 4 times. In other senses you're getting 2 cards 2 times each.
No one knew how to actually resolve it, which meant part of me was stuck feeling like I'd been cheated because the other players had done some super copying, and part of me was stuck feeling like I should be able to do the same things but would be cheating myself. It just didn't feel good. Come back, dopamine! Come back!
We then went to Waffle House, but made the mistake of showing up at 2:30 am on a Friday night. So the bars had just recently shut down and all the drunk people were at Waffle House, filling it up and making service very slow. I was more than a little worried about contamination issues but they managed to keep me from getting sick for a third time with the scrambled eggs, hash browns, and ham.