2003 BPA Winter Activation Meeting (WAM)

January 31-February 2, 2003

Hunt Valley, MD




And a Fine Time It Was ...

That seemed to be the consensus of the 46 card-driven wargame devotees who descended on Hunt Valley Inn during the off-season in Baltimore's dreary winter weather. All involved seemed committed to repeating the experience next year with more lead time, more planning, more gamers, and perhaps a few less competing events. Many thanks to hosts David Dockter and Stuart Tucker who were the driving force behind the initial WAM and moved mountains to make it happen. I'd say they were the perfect hosts except they couldn't muster the good grace not to win their own events. But what the heck ... they deserved some compensation for getting us all together!

Dave, in particular, was tireless with his Consimworld cheerleading and website promotion of the event - topping it all off with free WAM T's for the multitude out of his own pocket. He also made sure such designer notables as Ted Racier and Mark Herman were on hand to rub elbows with their fans.

Already looking forward to next year ...

BTB or POG???

The combined Paths of Glory and Barbarossa to Berlin tournament was the top draw with 32 players taking part. Players could elect to play either game, but the old standbye POG was the default choice. Even so, the majority of games played were BTB as players scratched an itch with this new offering. Altogether, 43 games of the full Campaign version were played. There were a number of memorable matches including Heinzman vs Zuckerman at BtB. This game witnessed Heinzman (Axis) having his Total Krieg card pulled by the bomb plot, just after he had finally reached the conditions, 11 VP, to play it. Instead of resigning, he got mean and pulled an automatic victory on the Allies.

The finals of the combined tourney witnessed Marvin "scenario boy" Birnbaum playing the Central Powers vs David Dockter as the Allied Player in a game of PoG. Regardless of the outcome, both were guaranteed to move up in the BPA Caesar competition with 20 laurels at stake.

The game was a barnburner that came down to the last roll involving the beautiful Polish city of Lodz...

Marvin opened with Guns of August. The early game (thru turn 8) witnessed a real pounding in the West. Both players were as stubborn as mules - Birnbaum trying to break the forts, and Dockter refusing to leave them.

By the end of Turn 8, the trench line from Calais-Amiens-Paris-CT-Verdun was only held by three French armies and a ragtag group of beat up
Italian/British/French corps. How could the Allies hold? There were only three flipped German armies/Austrian army/and some pathetic CP corps left! The next few turns witnessed some serious rebuilding.

Turns 11 - 17... saw a lot more pounding in the west with fighting centered around Verdun/CT/Nancy. The Allies finally left Nancy and Verdun for good. The Balkans, Italy and the east were all relatively inactive. VPs at this point favored the CP.

In the east on Turn 18, the Great Russian offensive opened up with the Brusilov Offensive. Up to this point, Birnbaum held the initiative for about 90% of the game, but the Russians felt they had something to prove. The Russians quickly vaporized the Austrian mountain line. With Russians pouring through, Germans are airlifted (one at a time by bi-plane) from the west to cover, but can't stem the tide. End of Turn 19, Russians celebrate with a little debauchery and what not in beautiful Budapest. This was the turning point, since four eliminated Austrian armies could not be rebuilt.

Turn 20 began with a VP total of 11 (all in - bid/all blockade/etc). CP takes back Budapest and Drebecen. VP 13.

Phase 4, Russians try to take back Budapest. ONLY a 6 roll by the CP and a 1 by the AP will save Budapest for the CP. Guess what? That was the roll. A morale check is demanded of the AP player. The demoralized/whining AP player barely passes. VP at 13. Something must be retaken. But what?

Phase 5. AP tries an assult on Drebecen again. 1 Flipped/1 Full Russian army vs a full Austrian army. It works - barely. VP 12.

Phase 6. CP uses a trench buster to take BLD. VP 13. Last play of the game. AP tries a flank on Lodz. Only one unflipped Ru army & Ru corp plus two flipped armies vs German full army at Lodz. Flank works, AP fires on the 8 table. Four losses inflicted. German flips. A 6 wins the game for the CP on the return fire (3A table). No 6....and the Russian commander began to drink a lot of vodka!

Despite the loss, Marvin cements his hold on the BPA Caesar lead with 12 laurels for second place - increasing his lead over Peter Reese, who is present but does not score, from a scant five laurels to 17. Dockter's 20 laurels for first moves him up 14 places in the standings from 22nd to 8th. The weekend yields no other changes in the Top 25 Caesar standings.

Steve Brooks claims third, while Bob Heinzman finishes fourth in the combined POG/BtB tournament.

Wilderness War

Wilderness War proved to be the next most popular event with 20 entrants, although only 17 games were played in what amounted to a single elimination format.

In the championship game, Tom Drueding's British played Quiberon in L58 after Keith Wixson's French failed its Louisbourg Squadrons roll in E58. He then launched a two-pronged offensive towards Niagara, one column from Ohio Forks, one from the Mohawk Valley. Montcalm abandoned the Champlain Valley to threaten the British supply line. He reached Oswego, getting in between the two British armies, cutting off the supplies to Wolfe at Niagara. He beat off Amherst's army then swung around and destroyed Wolfe's force at Niagara in an attack along the north lake route. Wolfe was able to absorb Amherst's army and drove on Niagara a second time. In the second battle of Niagara the depleted French were finally defeated and Montcalm retreated into the fort with survivors. With two card plays remaining, the British had two chances (66% each) to take the fort to win the game (and succeeded on the first try).

Gary Phillips took third, followed by Michael Ussery and James Pei in fourth and fifth respectively.


The Napoleonic Wars

Unfortunately, there were more people playing pickup, multi-player games of The Napoleonic Wars then played in the two-player tournament. Apparently, a lot of educating needs to be done on just what a great two-player (or three-player) contest this game is. But that didn't stop twelve players from logging 16 games in the tournament.

It proved to be the developer's weekend as Don Greenwood held sway with a 5-0 record and maintained bragging rights over his playtest crew. After years of being abused regularly by the likes of Ben Knight and Roy Gibson, Don enjoyed one of his rare lucky streaks and defeated all comers.

On Round 1 his Imperials defeated Ken Richards in a two-turn game as peace was declared with France in the lead.

Round 2 saw him maneuver the Coalition to victory over Roy Gibson in two turns with a combination of good cards and hot dice. When the Prussians joined the Coalition and Napoleon was routed in his attempt to take Berlin, victory was assurred.

Round 3 was the clash of the unbeatens as Greenwood faced off against nemesis Ben Knight. Ben had beaten him like a drum regularly ever since the Nappy project began so it was sweet revenge when a rare combination of poor Hands and cold dice laid Ben's French low in two turns. The timely play of Dos de Mayo to strip Spain from the Imperial camp and the arrival of the Turks in Napoli signalled the end of Ben's reign of terror.

But the highlight of the weekend was in Round 4 when he faced Roy Gibson again - this time as the French. Roy's Coalition was armed to the teeth and played a seemingly unending supply of 6 CP cards to amass a ponderous lead against the Imperial's miserly Hand. CP expenditures probably favored the Coalition 3:1. Only hot dice and Roy's conservative play with the game seemingly in the bag kept the tricolor flying. When the British, with an opportunity to take five keys on their final play came up empty, Greenwood saw a glimmer of hope. With visions of a three-way playoff looming on the morrow, Greenwood threw caution to the wind and assaulted with Napoleon to take Salzburg against overwhelming odds, cutting himself off in the process. The patron saint of fools rewarded him when Charles failed his intercept roll - leaving Nappy in control of Salzburg - and a single key advantage. With seemingly no French chance to win a prolonged game, both players spent a card to influence the Peace die roll, and Greenwood - in his best Satchel Page imitation windup - delivered the telling 6 die roll to the Dice Tower from hell. The elation of the resulting victory celebration was matched only by the utter despair of Roy as he watched his seemingly assured three-way tie for the lead go up in smoke on Turn 1.

With victory assurred on tie breakers, Don finished his unbeaten run with a French win over Charlie Hickok. For the second game in a row, the cards had abandoned him and it looked for awhile as though his unbeaten streak was in jeopordy. But Charlie soon discovered that fate is fickle - especially at sea - and his once dominant British navy was soundly thrashed while flushing out the remnants of the French fleet in Cadiz. The resulting debacle opened the way to invasion and French troops wintered in Wales.

Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage

Eleven players ravaged Italy during the course of 17 games in the Hannibal event. It proved to be a Weekend of Carthaginian Victory.

The weekend began with three major upsets of former WBC champions. The returning champion, Peter Reese, was defeated by Doug White; former champion and top-rated James Pei was defeated by GM Stuart Tucker; former champion Karsten Engelmann lost to Randall MacInnis. Both games were tight 10-8 province count victories for the Carthaginian. In Tucker's win, both Hannibal and Africanus found themselves hiding in walled cities after near misses with death. At one point in the game, Pei's Romans were down to three CUs after an aggressive invasion of Africa, only to be saved by a mid-game Messenger Intercepted and a flood of recruits. Tucker used a Turn 8 Truce to forestall the fall of Sicily, to secure a continuation of his Syracusan alliance, breaking it with a Sardinian Revolt, putting victory nearly out of reach for Pei. White's game witnessed the unusual occurrence of a Roman army force marching over the alps three times on the same card play (losing a massive amount of troops in the process). The necessity of this extreme measure was just one indicator of the poor quality of Reese's navy in that game. Engelmann's Carthaginian invasion of Italy was assisted on the first turn by the Messenger Intercepted, but when Hannibal lost two battles to Marcellus and Nero, resignation soon followed.

With the former champions generally fleeing to other events in search of wood, the HRC event settled into a fine round-robin type event in which six players stuck it out, playing virtually every possible remaining opponent once. Going into the final round, it was entirely possible for five players to end up tied with 3-2 records, forcing reliance upon the tournament point system to allocate the awards. However, at the end of the first night, it looked like White was going to run away with the event, as he was the only remaining undefeated player.

Jim Heenehan ensured that his hometown friend would be leading the event after the first day when Heenehan got himself out of his sick bed and played into the evening and inflicted a loss upon the only other undefeated player, Tucker. Heenehan's aggressive invasion of Africa and eventual sacking of Carthage was the right medicine for Tucker's island strategy.

On Sunday morning's round 4, the four leading players squared off, Tucker vs.White, and Mercer vs. Heenehan. Tucker outbid White for Carthage (2 PCs) and then played his usual naval waiting game. Alas, the fleet modifiers were slow to arrive, and White's invasion of Africa wasn't cleaned up until Turn 5. Then, Philip arrived (depriving Rome of a Major Campaign), soon followed by two years of Carthaginian Naval Victory. Fearing that the islands were going to leave him down on the count, White went for the jugular with a turn 7 landing at Carthage of 20 CUs for a quick siege. Unfortunately for Doug, it wasn't quick enough, as Tucker sent Hannibal back to Africa and drove the stack (which had achieved one siege point at a cost of 1 CU) into the sea in a 20-20 BC battle, costing Rome nine PCs. The Turn 8 arrival of the Syracusan alliance put White in a squeeze, but it was really the ninth Turn deal that sealed his fate (too few naval cards, and a Diplomacy to Tucker).

However, a Tucker championship needed help in the form of Doug Mercer defeating Jim Heenehan at the next table. Despite losing his Syracusan and Macedonian allies early in the game, Mercer as Carthage managed to counter Heenehan's Rome-to-Africa strategy, accepting resignation in the final turn. This left Tucker in the driver seat: if he managed to win his final game, he should win the tournament. However, his opponents yielded nothing to him. White won a 9-8 victory against Mercer to stay hot on Tucker's heels. Keith Wixson gladly took Rome against Tucker in the last game to clear the room at WAM. Four hours later, Tucker survived with a narrow victory. Wixson struck into Spain on Turn 1 and sacked Gades on Turn 2, only to be chased away by Hannibal with a siege train to recover the city before losing any reinforcements. Tucker used well-timed island revolts to stay ahead in the province count throughout the game. Wixson then began the "Grant at Petersburg" strategy of piling up CUs in Massilia in anticipation of Africanus' arrival. For three turns Hannibal used interception and battle avoidance to hold Marcellus and Africanus at bay, keeping northern Spain barely in the Carthaginian camp. The Turn 8 Messenger was gifted to Tucker when he also had three campaigns in his hand. This allowed him to whittle down the Roman threat in Spain while simultaneously transferring Mago back to Africa and then to Sicily with a sizeable army to support a Sicilian revolt. Turn 9 involved Mago trying to extend the Sicilian campaign as long as possible to distract the Roman war effort. When Gisco slipped into Lucania with the aid of Adriatic Pirates, and Wixson lacked the movement ability to get his slow Roman generals down south, he nearly resigned. However, he had one last trick up his sleeve, so Africanus sailed to Carthage with a small army. Tucker's Hasdrubal had to pray that his -4 naval move to Carthage would succeed or that Africanus' siege rolls would fail. Hasdrubal's jubilant arrival in Carthage dealt the death blow to Africanus, and delivered victory to Tucker. With both White and Tucker at 4-1 and with the same number of tournament points, Tucker won the Wood on the basis of his head-to-head victory against White in Round 4. Unlike last summer, Tucker's Carthaginian navy never abandoned him in his most dire moments, allowing him to hold onto his narrow province count victories in four games (10-8, 9-9, 10-8, 10-8).

Except for Engelmann's forays, Carthage was played conservatively at this convention, with Hannibal rarely being put at risk. His death was usually late in the game in efforts to forestall sieges of Syracuse. This placed the burden of attack on Rome, with a resulting higher death rate for Africanus. Messenger Intercepts, contrary to last summer, ran against the eventual winners, with Rome benefitting more than Carthage. However, in the 17 games of the tournament, Carthage won 13 times--11 due to PC advantage or ties, once due to suit for peace and once due to early resignation. Rome's four wins involved three early resignations and only one sack of Carthage, ironically of the event winner. Clearly, these veteran players have learned how to play to Carthage's strengths. Bidding for side ran 60% pro-Carthaginian, with an average bid amount for Carthage of 1.2 PCs. Pro-Romans had to outbid each other by 1.2 PCs as well. Clearly, the overbidding for Rome has finally ceased. The question is when will bidding for Carthage begin to hurt enough to balance the victory results. The end of the tournament brought queries from runner-up White of Tucker's willingness to bid for Carthage. In his triumphal moment, Tucker let slip that he would have bid four PCs to play Carthage against White (who was at the time of their meeting 3-0 as Carthage). At this tournament, Tucker paid an average of 1.0 PCs to play Carthage (and White paid less). Perhaps next summer people will be more willing to outbid Tucker and White for Carthage--or at least make the bid hurt.

Rankings after five swiss rounds (W-L record and side propensity) tourney pts., awards:
1. Tucker, Stuart (4-1, Carthage exclusively), 51 pts., Event Champion
2. White, Doug (4-1, 4xCW, 1xRL), 51 pts., Best Carthaginian
3. Heenehan, Jim (3-2, played both sides), 43 pts., Sportsmanship Nominee
4. Mercer, Doug (3-2, played both sides), 42 pts., Best Roman
5. MacInnis, Randall (1-3 + 1 Bye, Rome exclusively), 30 pts.
6. Wixson, Keith (1-3, 3xRL), 20 pts.
7. Ussery, Michael (1-0, as Rome), 10 pts.
8. Pei, James (0-1, as Rome, 4 pts.
9. Reese, Peter (0-1, as Rome), 4 pts.
10. Engelmann, Karsten (0-2, Carthage exclusively), 3 pts.
11. Phillips, Gary (0-1, as Carthage), 1 pt.

For The People

Little is known about the For The People contest other than it was won by three-time WBC champ James Pei over George Young and a field of eight.







Thirty Years War

The Thirty Years War event was our only casualty with GM Mike Welker (and his entire family) coming down sick and having to depart early. Consequently, the planned event never got off the ground.

GMT Games: publishes all titles except Hannibal: www.gmtgames.com
BPA: The Boardgame Players Association, which is sponsoring the event: www.boardgamers.org
Consimworld: The website that hosts the primary discussion boards for these games: www.consimworld.com
ACTS: The site where 500 of these card games are currently being played: acts.wizard.com.hk/index.asp

For the most recent updated info on WAM, see www.wamconvention.com.