The game itself was a little anticlimactic. I got aboard the C-bus (Christopher Columbus) and found a good territory. Chris made a mistake on an early turn likely due to playing online. He ended his turn without a juggler so his empire was in revolt. We offered to let him undo his turn to fix it (by perhaps not turning his last guy into a warrior?) but he decided he was going to corrupt if he didn't spend those rocks so he wasn't really missing much by skipping a turn of production and wanted to get the strength to not get attacked again. (Rich had hit him early already and got his only defense card.) I think losing his 4 science production was probably game losing, but it is what it is. Anyway, I saw that I was going to be able to grab James Cook early in Age II so I seeded a territory and snagged navigation. Then it turns out that at least one of the other two players had been seeding territories all game and I ended up with 6 territories total and 12 points per turn off Captain Cook. Couple this with a dominating military lead and the game was all but over by the midway point. I spent some time beating up on Rich (we had a scientific cooperation pact so I went over and raided his scientific method; then I annexed his territory; then I hit him with a war over culture). Rich managed to topdeck the one copy of Fundamentalism during the war after calling it so he was able to revolution into it via Robespierre and only lose the war by 13 instead of 18. It still dropped him down to single digits of points while I was making 12 per turn from Cook alone, so not good. I ended up winning by a large margin, something like 229-142-109.
This game was also super fast (probably the other players had checked out because of my board position and stopped parsing moves as much as normal but it may just be that we're all fast players) in that I think it ended in a little over 2 hours. I normally estimate an hour and a half per player for people who aren't super experienced at the game so getting a 3er done in around 2 hours is very fast. This gave me time to go play the mulligan round of Innovation where I played badly and lost to a fast achievement plan. I could have stopped it with a card I had in hand and probably won from superior board position but I had so many cards in my hand that I didn't bother to read them all fully. Oh well! I did find it interesting that my opponent had really sweaty/clammy hands after the game. Maybe I'm an intimidating presence? I certainly try to project an air that I know what I'm doing in a game even if I don't...
Off to Red Robin for more food. I'd decided after the last time that I didn't get enough food so I was thinking about ordering a second burger. But it turns out when you take almost everything off of a burger anyway (including the bun) and when the side is bottomless anyway you're really better off paying $2 for an extra patty in the burger than spending $9 for an extra burger. The math just doesn't work out for the second burger!
Then it was time for the TTA semifinals. They ended up with 2 people who won all 3 heats and 13 other people who won 2 heats. This means a first and a close second was good enough for one person, but only one person, and really you needed 2 wins to advance. Good thing I skipped San Juan! My table ended up featuring Nick Henning again along with a couple guys I recognized as being good at games but not necessarily as being sharks at TTA. (None of them had laurels in TTA before this year for example. Neither did I!) We were definitely considered the 'soft' semifinal by the sharks.
My game got off to a pretty good start as I was able to be starting player and start with Aristotle and pyramids as my leader and wonder. I got a lot of good things like alchemy and iron and a bunch of yellow cards. I missed out on an Age I leader as the other players got Leonardo, Michaelangelo, and
As the game progressed people kept talking about how I was in a great way but I didn't really see it. I was in a good way for sure, and the player on my right made a real mess of his game so I looked fantastic in comparison, but Nick was quietly putting together some very good things too. I set him up by offering him the military protection pact (I got a point, he got 5 strength) but somewhere along the way the board got bumped and he got reset to X points per turn, not X-1. I suspect he was actually running at X even before the board got bumped since I think one of the other players probably moved the token at some point by counting his board and adjusting without saying anything? But maybe not. We decided to just dock him a point from his last turn and move on which seemed pretty fair. He was able to use that strength to get off an attack (which was defended by 3 defense cards) and to stay the strongest through a bunch of events. I got the points which was nice too. Later on in the game I saw an opportunity to make him lose the 5 strength and knock him down to last in strength by offering a different pact to another player. I chose the guy on my right who was in last and the weakest and offered him a peace treaty. We each get a point per turn and can't attack each other. The table was convinced I was winning so he didn't want to give me a point. After he rejected it and used that as his rationale I pointed out that I wasn't actually gaining a point because I was already getting one from Nick. All I was doing was giving him a chance to earn the point too and stop being the weakest by subtracting 5 from Nick's strength. (Nick had actually disbanded part of his military to drop from way ahead to barely ahead in order to build a journalism and start making a lot of points and science. A good play, but one that probably should have been punished by losing the pact.) I still had nothing good to do on a future turn so I once again offered the peace treaty to the guy in last. He again rejected it because I was winning and he didn't want me to earn points. *sigh* I ended up later playing Gandhi and sending the pact at 3rd place. He took it for his point, so I never actually went a turn without scoring a pact point. Some times you want to hurt yourself to hurt the leader... But in this case I feel like this guy was really hurting himself to not hurt me at all. Oh well.
As the game wound down I built my military up by changing tactics cards and switching gears with 10 free rocks from yellow cards and 2 free guys from an inhabited territory II, but in retrospect I paid too much. Guy in last had really bid me up and I should have let him have it. I ended up having to sac too much and needed to spend some real rocks along with the free ones and those real rocks could have been used to good effect elsewhere. Especially since the response to my building some strength was for Nick and 3rd place to make a military pact for 4 strength each. Nick then declared a war over culture on last place using the 4 strength from 3rd and the 5 strength from me. Last place thought a bit and decided not to withdraw and give Nick a bunch of culture. He also 'let' 3rd place beat him up with an attack of some kind (raid I think) and seeded an event (no idea which impact) and I was worried that because I wasn't playing the 'whack the loot pinata' game I was going to fall from my supposedly dominating position all the way to 3rd since I wasn't really set up for end game scoring and other people really were.
The end result had Nick surge past me by quite a lot and 3rd place put on quite a run but ultimately he fell just a little shy. The war over culture was only actually worth 13 points and Nick beat me by 20 so it wasn't actually the deciding factor but it sure felt like a big swing at the time. I tried not to let it get to me mostly by checking out of the game mentally and just waiting for it to end. It didn't help that my intestines were acting up a little bit and I'd really rather have been in the bathroom instead of at the slowest semifinal table. Oh well.
On the plus side the difference between Nick and I ended up falling into the sweet spot where I was the second closest second place. This means I came 6th overall in the tournament. Top 6 get laurels in every event, so that's something, but the key is that Through The Ages is a level 6 event. Which means that all of the top 6 get a plaque! Every plaque place is a different colour and the 6th place one is pink. It's the rarest of all the plaques since not many events get 6 prizes. (By my count only 12 of the ~140 or so events get that many.) I've always wanted a pink plaque and am probably happier to have finished 6th in the tournament than I would to finish 2nd. At least this one time, anyway... Next year will be different!
I went to the room to cool down after the semis and eventually decided I'd go play Vegas Showdown at 11pm. I decided as long as I didn't really care about winning I could go have fun being silly in Vegas Showdown. I got into a table with John Corrado, Steve LeWinter, and another Steve I recognized from Innovation. John and Steve used to play Blood Bowl with me in Sceadeau's Cyanide league back in the day and are both very good at games. Steve has won Vegas Showdown before (in 2011, when I came 2nd...) and he won this game too. The game was a lot of fun. I went hardcore green since both restaurant cards came up very early and we got lots of big tiles early but we never saw the theatre. John actually ended the game by filling up his board with lots of base tiles like extra restaurants and lounges and the like. It certainly accelerated to game end, but since he ended up in last it probably wasn't beneficial to his cause to do so. Detrimental to mine since the theatre never flipped (I was sitting on 54 dollars so I was going to be able to buy it the turn it came out) but what are you going to do? Still a fun game and I regret nothing!
After the game I bumped into Greg (4th from my TTA semi) and apologized if I'd made him uncomfortable in any way about his decisions in the game but he said it hadn't been a problem. He'd also discussed the situation with John after the game and came to the conclusion that since he was guaranteed last if he let the war resolve he probably should have resigned instead of letting the person who was eliminating him reap the rewards. I'm actually fine if someone believes either way on this issue and that there is no 'right' answer but certainly my personal beliefs are to spite the one who kills you if possible. (Which may actually be a change from years past... I know I've stayed in Titan games at WBC before to let the person who hunted me down get the kill... Maybe there's a difference because the stated purpose of Titan is to kill people while military in TTA is more of a balancing mechanism? I'll need to think more about that...)
Back to Waffle House, this time with a small army in tow. The poor waitress was a little overwhelmed when 13 or so of us showed up randomly at 1am on a Monday night. My order came last and included the toast I'd explicitly asked to not get for allergy reasons so that got sent back and they had to try again. They didn't want to just throw out the food so they gave it to Ian. Score? But having the slowest eater get food significantly later than anyone else did impact how long we ended up staying at Waffle House. Which may have been bad for people who happened to have a TTA final at 10am the next day but it was fine for me since I got to sleep in on Tuesday!