Tuesday, August 12, 2014

2014 WBC: Day 6

Thursday morning brought the second heat of my team game. I knew the format this year for Le Havre had changed to preferentially play 3 player games in all rounds and I wanted to do what I could to make sure the semis and finals got as close to exactly 9 people as I could. The first heat had 6 games, which meant 6 winners. Assuming the second heat had the same attendance that would make 12 winners which sure looks like 4 player games in the semis to me. So I decided that I wanted to play to knock someone else out to limit the winners to 11. I also really like the game and haven't played it enough so I wanted to play it again anyway. It also turns out that the listed format for the event included information on seeding for the semis and finals so winning a second game would keep me from having to play other people who won 2 games in the semis and would actually also guarantee I get 1st seat in the semis unless there were at least 4 double winners. So it was a really, really good idea to play a second heat.

I showed up close to 9 after once again stopping by the Coke machine for some morning caffeine. This time the Coke bottle said I should share a Coke with Nick. I took that to be a good sign! I wander into the room where Le Havre is setting up and Mike Kaltman accosts me for coming in to play. He has apparently already convinced Daniel Eppolito to skip this heat in order to play Ra Dice in the same room. (I wonder if as assistant GM he told Daniel about the seeding plan and how advantageous it would be to win a second heat? He sure didn't tell me.) Mike tries his best to dissuade me from playing which feels like a really bad thing for someone to do. I get why he did it (he lost his first heat and needed to win this one to advance and his odds of doing so go down if Daniel or I get placed at his table) but it really rubs me the wrong way. So when I get assigned a seat and it's at Mike's table I get a grin on my face.

It ends up being a 3 player game and I get 1st chair. I buy my 4 cost building firm and pick up wood. I build the marketplace. I go to the marketplace. I get the sawmill. I sell it with something else (probably wood at the joinery, maybe a franc offer) to get a wooden boat. Pretty standard stuff. I set it up so the first or second special building to drop is the farm. This building has a 1 franc entry fee and pays out 2 wood, 2 fish, 2 grain, 1 cow, and 1 hide. This was still early enough in the game that 3 wood is a near instant grab... Would you trade a wood for 5 things? I would! And did, a couple of different times. I didn't take a grain offer or a cow offer and got set up to harvest that stuff from the farm. No one else at my table was willing to do so. I don't really understand why. Getting 4 extra things to ship (the grain and cows) for an early action is pretty good and it's a way to get some of the extra wood people desperately crave in the early game. Sure, fish suck, but when they come as an add-on it's fine. (I will also note that in Mike's recap of the event he talks about how he thinks the game is stale and boring because everyone does the same things to win and the special buildings aren't important enough. But I thought this special building was important enough and I do think going to it gave me an early edge that eventually snowballed into a bunch of points.)

The early game is also about setting up to be the person who gets to build the colliery. I did some mental math and worked out that I wasn't going to be able to build the colliery until the town built a building to unlock it, and that Mike was going to get first crack at building after the town did so. He had the resources on hand to build it, so things were looking a little bleak for me. But then he took a build action and spent a bunch of his resources... Even worse for him, he built the building that was blocking the colliery. I was now the one in line to get the colliery, and super early too. I did, and I used it a ton while the other players often skipped their chances to use it.

From that point it was pretty much all over. I got all of the things and scored all of the points. I think it was my highest score ever, well over 300. The third player at the table commented on how her 186ish point total was also her highest score ever. I feel like that's what happens when the table essentially colludes to power the colliery out fast. The early colliery action combined with the early farm meant I really wasn't taking offers at the rate you'd normally expect in a game. This let all the offers build up more for everyone which means all the scores are going to go up. The more actions the table takes to earn resources without taking an offer the higher the scores should go. The game was also super fast and was done in under 2 hours. I don't know how much of that was the table giving up from my early lead and just going through the motions? Or how much of it was us all just being naturally fast players?

I considered going to play something like Galaxy Trucker at noon but decided I'd rather tool around a bit on the internet and then go eat. I ended up bumping into Sceadeau and Elaine and baby and we headed off to Red Robin. It was here while Sceadeau was talking to the waitress about sides that I discovered that even though the steamed carrots were taken off of the menu they still exist in the restaurant and I could totally get some instead of the random fruit salad. Hurray!

4 o'clock came around and it was time for two different semifinals. I could play Le Havre, my team game, or I could play Galaxy Trucker. Had to be my team game! I hope next year these games end up scheduled at times that don't conflict with each other so I can do both. It was now that I really figured out just how important it was that I played that second heat. They used a wonky formula to break ties and I'm not sure how relevant it was? It had something to do with percentage of points at the table or something but my numbers were pretty low. I feel like beating Nick Vayn in the first heat should have been worth more than crushing people who really didn't know what they were doing like Pounder did in his heat but his tiebreaker ended up way higher than mine. I'm not sure if there would have been a better way to do it? Randomly amongst people who didn't play a second heat maybe? Really encourage everyone to play twice... Anyway, I ended up being the only double winner so I was the #1 seed and would get to be starting player in every game. Unfortunately for me Daniel E ended up as the #6 seed because he didn't play (and win) a second heat. This meant that we were, once again, matched up in the semifinals. Along with the #7 seed who was not nearly as experienced with the game as we were. As another advantage of the seeding system it was mandated that we sat in order 1-6-7 which meant random guy would be playing immediately before me. Hurray!

I started by taking 3 wood and buying the 4 cost building firm. Daniel took dollars and didn't buy anything. (I figured he was probably saving up to buy a boat.) 3rd player took a wheat. I built the marketplace on my turn. Then the 3rd guy took 3 clay on Daniel's turn. Daniel cracked a sarcastic joke about how he was playing the game. 3rd guy responded by putting the 3 clay in front of Daniel instead of back on the board. This prompted another sarcastic remark about how Daniel might want to make his own moves and then he made a big show of going into the tank to consider all the possible options. Parsing the order of the buildings for colliery plays, that sort of thing. He eventually settled on taking the 3 clay. 3rd guy took some wood and then I went to the marketplace for clay, iron, coal. Daniel immediately remarked that he'd made a mistake by taking the clay and he'd thrown away the game due to rust. 3rd guy would have nothing of it, thinking my position was not very good and saying things about how he routinely crushes people who vendor the sawmill for a boat. This seemed like a ridiculously statement for him to make, especially since he'd commented when he sat down about how he only plays 4 player games and has never played with only 3. He'd asked us for the differences and we'd honestly told him the important stuff. I guess he decided we had to be wrong since I was making a play for the important stuff and he thought I was making a mistake.

To make a long story short... I was not making a mistake. I don't know that I was guaranteed to win after turn 2 or anything but I'd definitely put my odds much higher than those of the other players. And I did end up winning by a pretty significant margin, again scoring over 300 points and winning by 50 or 60 over Daniel and 150 over the 3rd guy.

The game wasn't terribly interesting after the opening. Daniel played very slowly which is a difference from previous years but I think he was trying to find a line of play to dig himself out of the early hole he was in from my early strength. I got the colliery when Daniel parsed out that I was guaranteed to get it and gave up on trying to block my build of it. He instead went to it once and squatted for a long time. He finally moved, told the 3rd guy it was his turn to go in and squat, and that's what the 3rd guy tried to do. Unfortunately for them the next special building was the harbour watch I'd carefully preserved on top of the deck. Daniel said he considered vendoring one of his buildings solely to go to my marketplace to check for a dangerous building because I'd checked to see who got first crack to buy this one. But it wasn't me who had first crack, and I would have first crack next time, so it was entirely possible I'd done it in order to bury something away from 3rd guy. And it would have been costly to give up on his other action and lose a building for a couple goods and some information. It was probably only right solely when the top building was precisely harbour watch. But it was, and it meant the plan of squat in the colliery was thrown out the window. Even worse, 3rd guy didn't understand how powerful the building was and failed to buy it. I did. Which meant I could use my own colliery for 1 franc any time I wasn't personally the one inside. Daniel also made use of the harbour watch to kick me out of the colliery every now and then. Third guy refused to do so. Either because he didn't want to give me stuff or more likely because he simply didn't understand what was going on. He also flat our refused to build a boat. He sat around making food in order to feed himself every round instead of getting a boat. It was baffling. I even reminded him at one point that I had a modernized wharf since he had a lot of iron in front of him but he didn't care. He'd rather pay Daniel a franc to smoke 6 more fish or to slaughter more cows. I actually thought during the game that he was flat out trying to kingmake Daniel because of how much he refused to take actions that were good for him if they would give me anything. Maybe to prove Daniel wrong with his early game assertion that I'd already won? But in retrospect he might just have been _really_ bad. I can't figure out any other reason to refuse to build boats. No boats means no shipping. What are you doing to score points if you never ship? Build stuff I guess, but he wasn't building a lot of things. He was spending all his time feeding himself!

We were really close to running out of time and played the last turns in a frenzy since we all had somewhere else to be. We barely finished in time and Daniel and I took off for the Agricola room. I was a little slower since I stuck around to haggle over moving the finals of Le Havre first. We decided not to move it since I wanted to play Agricola and the only time the other guy wanted was during it.

I showed up to Agricola, pulled a card, and was again assigned to a table with Bill Crenshaw. We were the only two people at said table. I think they'd overestimated how many people were going to show up for the round and ended up starting too many tables. They started consolidating tables on a whim and then decided to just break my table of 2 down and stick us into 5 player games. Bill was uninterested in playing a 5 player game and I was more concerned with the way the tables were being chosen for getting an extra person. Any table that had started fast was getting exempt, which seemed to be rewarding faster people or people who showed up extra early to the detriment of those who'd started later. While a small debate was breaking out over this between the GM and the assistant GM a 3rd guy showed up. I'd have thought that would mean we'd play a 3 player game but now they wanted to form up 3 games of 5. But they'd been convinced it should be random amongst all tables so they were going to force some games to restart with us added in unless a 4th for our table showed up right that instant. Elaine happened to be standing around and while she didn't really want to play she decided to run it in order to make people happy. Yay Elaine!

I opened this draft with guildmaster once again, but this time I was passed charcoal burner second. I'll say straight up I was pretty bad at Agricola until very recently, but one thing I knew back in the day was that charcoal burner was very good. He's guaranteed to be 4 wood and 4 food at the very least and can often be even more than that if people upgrade to cooking hearths. It turns out Sceadeau thinks he's in the top 3 non-banned cards so getting passed him either means righty opened a ridiculous pack or he's bad. I ended up also drafting a slaughterman so I was all set up to get free food from my other players all game long. My minors opened with a house goat which I've long thought to be the best minor. More completely free food and a point to boot on a card you can use to start player early. Run it! My opening pack had a two card combo (ladder and chicken coop I think) and I made a note to take one of those on the wheel if the other was gone to keep them out of the same person's hands. We'd drafted a bunch of cards when Bill stopped the draft to ask righty about what he was doing... Righty had already drafted 5 cards and was looking at a pack containing 3 more. In a draft where you're supposed to get 7 cards. We really didn't know what had happened. Did he take two cards from one pack? Did he somehow pick up multiple packs at once and combine them weirdly? Everyone's draft ended up screwed up and we didn't have a good solution. Rather than call the GM we tried a quick fix Bill suggested which didn't work and resulted in needing another quick fix. Eventually we all got 7 cards and since we were pretty sure the first few picks were fine we were probably good to go... Halfway through the game Bill played chicken coop after already playing ladder and alarm bells went off in my head. I hadn't seen either of those cards back! How did he get both of them? Maybe Bill had cheated? Far more likely righty had taken one of them and then put it back into a different pack somehow. The whole thing was screwed up. Whatever, it wasn't that good of a combo anyway, just keep running it.

Especially since as badly as righty had screwed up the draft... He'd screwed up the play even more. At one point he tried to take 3 clay when there was a 4 clay space on the board. We let him take that back. Later he tried to plow with plow and sow available. We let him take that back. Finally he set up to reno and fenced on turn 14. Then he renoed on 13 and took wood on 14, letting me fence. He couldn't reno anymore because he was stone and he couldn't fence because I took the space. We didn't let him take that one back since it wasn't a strictly wrong choice. Wrong in retrospect once he knows I'm taking fences but if he was getting to fence later he wanted the extra wood. I'm sure he made lots of other misplays along the way which set me up, too.

I ended up winning by a fair margin, but losing fences probably knocks me to second. Since his major screwup should have still let me build fences I didn't lose any sleep over it. He was guaranteed reno+fences so I was safe to snag fences in 14 regardless.

I could have played pro golf but I decided I didn't really want to learn it what with having a final for my team game at 9am the next morning. I tried to go to bed early but Pounder ruined it for me by making me count my calories from the day and telling me I was too hungry and had to go to Waffle House at 11. Him telling me that made me hungry so I had to get out of bed and go eat more pork chops. I'm pretty sure he did it because he was also in the Le Havre finals and was trying to sabotage my sleeping plans! And not at all because I actually needed to eat...

No comments: