By Jim Jordan, GM
It was a year of close wins at WBC in 2011! Last year, the closest of the close win plaques that are distributed during the heats was a game with 5 points between 1st and 2nd. This year, there were two games in the first heat with 1 point wins! And then, in the second heat, there was another 1 point win. And then, in the semi-finals, we had one game where the score spread from 1st to 4th was only 14 points and the game was won by, yes indeed, 1 point. But I get ahead of myself.
As another indication of the increasing competitiveness of the WBC Britannia community, we managed a bit more balance in color wins during the heats over last year. Last year, Yellow had 10 wins in the 19 heats. This year, the field managed to pull that down to 6 wins for Yellow out of 17 heats. Meanwhile, there’s still some work to be done in balancing out the play. While Red also had 6 wins in the heats, Blue only managed 3 wins and Green 1. Amusingly, in the semi-finals, just as last year, Blue won 3 out of the 4 semis, while Red pulled out the last. Of course, Yellow was second place in that semi that was won by 1 point. <sigh> Ahead of myself again.
Anyway, for the heat closest wins, we had an excellent story for the first heat. There, Ewan McNay’s Blues had just pulled out a tight 1 point win over Rick Kirchner’s Greens for one of those scarce 3 Blue wins in the heats. Final score 226/225 for the top two. Ewan was looking forward to his (in my memory) first closest win in the heats award when another game finished. And as the dust settled in that game, we realized that Rich Curtin’s Greens, with their score of 229 over Greg Hultgren’s Yellows with 228, had managed to pull out the closest win in the first heat! And remember, I calculate the closest second places as percentages of the winner’s score. I had to calculate his one to 4 decimal places to find a difference. Greg’s second was 0.995633, Rick Kirchner’s 0.995575. Rich Curtin had the closest win by 0.000058 over Ewan.
In the second heat, Steve Smith pulled in with another of the 1 point wins this year as his Reds held on with 233 points over Llew Bardecki’s Yellows for another tight win. Steve’s Saxons definitely helped there, scoring a huge 41 points on turn 13. For the final heat, your GM claimed the last closest win plaque with another of those Yellow wins. That game ended with a 12 point differential 231/219 over Ed O’Connor’s Greens.
The second heat also sported an interesting game in which the Roman Legions demonstrated their impressive ability to get, every once in a while, beaten up badly by the Belgae. On the first turn Ewan’s Yellow stalwarts from Rome lost 8 legions. James Sulven’s Belgae took out 6 of that total. Of course, after that the legions once again displayed their invincibility by not bothering to lose any more. The dice periodically like to remind us that they will have their say.
To round out the heats, we, of course, have the Ethelred the Unraed award. There was a bit better showing this year as Llew Bardecki pulled garnered another Ethelred award with 186 points as the low score for semi-finalist in the heats.
OK, now I can finally catch up with myself and talk about the semi-finals. For whatever reason, Blue seems to be a winner in the semi-finals, again racking up three victories, with one red tailing along. We had typically larger victories for the winners in the finals, with point spreads from 1st to 4th in the three Blue wins averaging 51, and 1st to 2nd averaging 18. In the last game, your GM’s Reds eked out, by dint of a couple of lucky rolls, a 1 point win (following in the tradition of this year) over Scot Pfeiffer’s Yellows. And the 1st to 4th spread in that game was 14 points. Everyone was in the hunt until the end. So we had Ewan McNay, myself and Barry Smith advancing to the final, with, again this year, representation from the Hultgren’s. This year though it was Micah’s turn to play while Greg watched (and tried to not comment) from the sidelines.
The final started Sunday morning with a fine selection of colors (I finally got to play Blue!) Meanwhile, Ewan had pulled Red, Barry Yellow and Micah Green. That was interesting for a couple of reasons. I had Blue, which would be enough to worry Ewan. Meanwhile, he had Red, which was enough to worry me. Barry tends to be a bit of a wildcard, so his having Yellow lessened the ability of that tendency to affect the flow of the game. And then Micah with Green was another bit of a wildcard because he’s not been playing at the WBC as much as the other three of us, so his style is not as well known.
Barry’s Roman invasion was relatively uneventful. The most notable events were the Brigs getting a decent number of kill points to put Ewan’s Reds slightly up. Meanwhile, Barry headed to the Hebrides, which put Micah’s Greens slightly down in the scoring.
The action started getting hot with Ewan’s Saxon invasion. The Jute in Kent refused to make any deals for survival. Meanwhile, Barry’s RB’s had setup in a fairly usual fashion, occupying the Downlands with 4 and some of the lowlands to balance out the population. Ewan’s Saxons took out the lowlanders and headed for the hills to take out the RB infestation. On the first round of the invasion, the Saxons were thrown back with a couple of losses almost immediately and retreated to lick their wounds and regroup. On the second turn of the invasion they came back refreshed and yet, Barry’s mighty army of Romano-British wiped out the entire expeditionary force of Saxons in the Downlands, leader and all.
Well, that left only 3 Saxons left. Only 1 of the Saxons had been killed by the Jute. And then there were murmurings of amazement as the Romano-British declined to eliminate those three Saxons in the next turn.
Meanwhile, to the North, the Brigantes were refusing, under any circumstances, to submit to the Angles. Given that they were fully populated, that left my Angles with a couple nasty choices. Submit the Brigantes and risk a rather severe hit to my forces, or take out a couple of Brigantes and then spread out for a large number of points. I opted for spreading out. Sadly, continuing the lack of dealing in the game from anyone Micah’s Welsh immediately came out and headed for York. My Angle empire was then split and threatened with quick decline as the additional 4 Saxon reinforcements came on and started growing quickly.
The mid-game proceeded with lots of three way sniping between the Welsh, the Saxons and the Angles as each tried to gain an upper hand in preparing for the Danish invasion. All that really happened though was the weakening of each of those three forces such that the Danes had a full, but skeletally manned board as they prepared to launch their invasion. Barry’s Romano-British were eventually eliminated by the Saxons by Turn 11, but only after taking out 19 Saxon armies on the way to their departure.
And so on came the Danes and the Dubliners. Micah’s Danes rolled well against the Angles and seemed to be in excellent position to score well and keep a reasonable force. Unfortunately, they encountered some tough holdouts in trying to take the Angles in the Pennines and the Blues gained 6 points for Ivar/Halfdan from the weakened Danes. The fierce battle there sapped the Danish invasion force and left them spread thinly on the board. Barry’s Dubliners then had to decide what to do. Cumbria and York were both thinly protected after the Danish invasion, and the Danes weakened forces made it unlikely that they would threaten Dubliner point scoring. But, Ewan’s Saxons had come back substantially, and his Brigantes were still numerous and had never been submitted.
Ewan’s Brigantes then were gleeful when the Dubliners headed south to take out some Saxons in HWI. It did weaken the Saxon position, but it left the Brigantes to collect 10 points for Strathclyde on turn 13, a was a definite turning point in Red’s fortunes. The Dubliner expeditions went reasonably well and they also were to score well on turn 13. In taking their point though, the Dubliners spread themselves among the Brigantes, Danes and Angles, who took advantage by sniping away Dubliners in the following turns.
Another benefit to Red at this point were Ewan’s Norsemen. They easily fought their way into the Hebrides and then were able to create a small kingdom for themselves by occupying the Orkneys and Caithness.
And thus we come to the endgame. My Blues, Ewan’s Reds, and Micah’s Greens all appeared to be in the hunt, with a few points advantage to the Red with their Brigante and Norse turn 13 scores. Barry’s Yellows were not terribly far behind, but enough that they appeared to be a longshot unless the Norwegians did incredibly well. The Norwegian’s were faced by Danish opposition though and struggled in combat, losing enough in their invasion to be fragile. In another blow to Yellow, Ewan’s Norsemen continued their romp through the north, eliminating the Scots in a final stand in Skye, after the Brigantes did their share attacking the Scots in Dalriada.
After the Norwegian invasion, Ewan had to decide what to do with the disposition of his Saxons in facing the Norman invasion. As it turned out, he was most concerned about the scoring potential of my Blues. Thus, Harold went off on a mission with one unit to speak with Harald in the north about the Norwegian’s misdeeds. Naturally, the discussion was short and points for Harold went to Barry’s Yellows. My Normans then faced a scattering of Saxons in the south, as well as a few last holdouts among the Danes in the Suffolk and Norfolk regions.
My Norman invasion went well, and all of the reinforcement areas were captured along with most of the point scoring areas. The gap with the Red score was closed to within a few points. The last turn was setup with just the usual minor maneuvering for point spaces as everyone waited to see what the Normans would do in the final move. Everyone else stayed to the north, although the still powerful Welsh did take an area from the Normans. As the points were analyzed, I became evident that my Blues could win, but only through a series of desperate battles. William easily conquered in the Downlands, but the Norman cavalry had a tougher challenge, needing to win three battles between single cavalry units and 2 infantry. One space fell…but the other two did not.The dust settled and Ewan’s Reds had hung on for victory with 242 points. My Blues came in 5 points behind with 237, while Micah’s Greens were not far off with 228. Barry’s Yellows trailed, but still managed to keep with game tight with 217 points. Ewan will be the first name on the new Britannia plaque, and we’re off for another 20 years of gaming. Thanks everyone.