Accountant Dominion ...
Players huddle for warmth. If its
not the dismal swamp in Lampeter, it's arctic cold in the ballrooms.
If only we could average them.
Scenario boy Birnbaum is a euroweenie?
Forgive Marvin, Dockter, Dominion is one sweet game ...
even crusty old wargamers like it.
2012 champ Chad Weaver vs Taylor Tu.
GM Nick Ferris oversees his finalists.
Power to the People
The 2014 WBC Dominion boondoggle saw the penultimate
gathering of deck-builders and deck-shufflers at the Lancaster
Host Resort and Casino. (It's a casino, right? You mean that
gentleman in the lobby wasn't a legit blackjack dealer? I am
so embarrassed ...) Rumors quickly spread that the preliminary
rounds of Dominion in 2016 would be played in ski gondolas
whilst summitting the mountaintops of Seven Springs, a rumor
which many players hailed as "at least a little warmer than
Host Ballroom B." But over a hundred players huddled together
for warmth in the qualifying round late Thursday evening. Dominion's
2013 Champion, Brandon Bernard, kindly started a bonfire in the
ballroom corner fueled by spare Copper cards.
With the release of the last Dominion expansion--Revenge
of the Shuffle--since last WBC, there was concern that the fervor
over Dominion would start to simmer. Those concerns quickly
evaporated when the ballroom filled with players eager to see
what challenges would await them this year. Unlike previous years,
there was an abundance of copies of the base set of Dominion
and even a decent quantity of its first expansion, Intrigue.
The GM was particularly grateful to all those players who heeded
his requests to bring Intrigue, and he rewarded their
efforts with a base-set-only opening round, suckas! But no longer
content to subject his victims--er, players--to two more sets
of vanilla base set, the GM threw a wrench in the works, and
any Dominion player worth his 7 Copper should be able
to spot the trick to this year's prelim sets.
ROUND (Base Set Only)
Game 1 ("Player's Choice 1"): Adventurer, Bureaucrat,
Cellar, Council Room, Feast, Library, Market, Militia, Mine,
Moat, Remodel, Throne Room, Village, Witch
Game 2 ("Player's Choice 2"): Bureaucrat, Cellar, Chapel,
Council Room, Festival, Gardens, Militia, Mine, Moneylender,
Remodel, Throne Room, Village, Woodcutter, Workshop
14 Kingdom cards??? Was this part of the GM's continuing protest
against the base-10 number system [GM note: binary4ever!]? Possibly,
but even a GM can't break the most basic of Dominion rules--10
Kingdom cards or GTFO. This left players with the task of vetoing
one Kingdom card each at the start of each game. In Game 1, many
tables saw the veto of scary attack cards like Militia and Witch.
Others favored killing cards with lots of text, because who wants
to read a short novella every time they play a game? Game 2's
popular veto was a little more consistently applied with nearly
80% of tables voting to keep Dominion's "broken"
deck-trashing Chapel in the box.
Another treat greeted all tournament players this year, courtesy
of Rio Grande Games and long-time WBC supporter Jay Tummelson.
Every player walked away with a copy of the latest Dominion promo
card. Called "Prince," this card released a few decent
songs in the 80s and 90s before fading into obscurity and re-emerging
in the new millennium, desperately trying to stay relevant. Oh
wait, wrong Prince. The Dominion card by that name legitimized
players who insisted on "forgetting" to shuffle certain
cards back into their deck, perhaps hoping to keep them on the
table to use turn and turn again for the rest of the game. With
the help of the Prince, you can do that without being a cheater,
cheater, pumpkin eater.
Two games later, a field of 64 was selected to advance based
mostly on good looks and retaining consciousness until 11 o'clock
at night. The qualifier's top players--placing first in both
games--included veteran top finishers Chad Weaver, Thomas Tu,
and Mark Giddings, along with just nine others. Dominionkateers
didn't have long to wait for the next round, as a post-lunch
Friday quarterfinal gave players their next test of wise card
choices and skilled shuffling.
QUARTERFINAL ROUND (Base, Intrigue, Seaside, Prosperity)
Game 1 ("Village People"): Bridge, Courtyard, Mining
Village, Torturer, Trading Post, Bishop, Grand Market, Peddlar,
Quarry, Worker's Village
Game 2 ("The Bishop's Revenge"): Colony, Platinum,
Ambassador, Bazaar, Pearl Diver, Warehouse, Wharf, Bishop, Goons,
Mint, Trade Route, Watchtower
No vetoes accompanied these card sets, but that didn't stop
a number of playeres from lamenting the appearance of the dreaded
Torturer. Indeed, the GM would regularly lock whining players
in the stockade for several game rounds as punishment. Oh wait,
wrong Torturer. Faced with choices of being Militia'd or gaining
curses, players frequently opted for the less negative (VP-wise)
discarding option, often leaving them without good Bishop-trashing
cards in hand in Game 1.
Game 2 saw the reappearance of an angrier, Goons-accompanied
Bishop by the Seaside. Many games quickly turned in favor of
Trade Route-ing players, especially once the Trade Route featured
four coin tokens. Others saw creative uses of Watchtowers and
Warehouses to sidestep offensive play. Top quarterfinal players
Thomas Tu and Chad Weaver (both 2013 laurelists) as well as John
Ratanaprasatpom, Dylan Quintana, Jamie Tang, Eric Schlosser,
and ten others completed the field of exactly 16 players moving
on to Saturday's semifinal.
SEMIFINAL ROUND (Cornucopia, Hinterlands, Dark Ages)
Game 1 ("The Best Laid Plans..."): Farming Village,
Harvest, Hunting Party, Menagerie, Border Village, Crossroads,
Haggler, Oracle, Scheme, Tunnel
Game 2 ("Death Cart for Cultist"): Shelters, Ruins,
Spoils, Cultist, Death Cart, Fortress, Junk Dealer, Marauder,
Market Square, Rebuild, Sage, Storeroom, Vagrant
Making its WBC tournament premier in 2013, the Cornucopia
and Hinterlands sets made a repeat performance in this
year's semifinals, offering some players great rewards for varying
their play. But with tempting cards like Scheme and Tunnel on
the table, many players couldn't resist the urge to keep their
decks limited to just a few types of Kingdom Cards. A lot of
course-reversing and second-guessing knocked top players into
third and fourth place Game 1 finishes.
Too excited about the incredible possibilities presented by
the next-to-last Dominion expansion--Dark Ages--the
GM didn't honor the tradition of debuting the next set in the
tournament's Final. Thus, a handful of players saw Dark Ages
cards for the very first time in Game 2 of the semifinals, and
a few openly wept at the prospect of starting with something
other than three Estates. Those who could look past the cards'
darker, often more demented tints (Seriously? A card themed after
the guy who goes around collecting dead bodies??? And it gives
you four money??? Childhood, ruined.) locked on to several opportunistic
strategies, many of which revolved around the almost-magic Gold-spawning
Market Square. Almost every Game 2 table reported empty Market
Square piles, and many of the winners had four or more of them
in their finished decks.
Emerging victorious from the semifinal rounds were some new
and familiar faces to late-round WBC Dominion. Returning
to the Final for a second year in a row was Mark Giddings, hoping
to improve on his third place finish in 2013. 2012 champ Chad
Weaver, who finished just outside of wood ranking last year,
aced his two semifinal games and also earned a Final seat. Joining
them were Conal Jaegar, also with two winning games in the semis,
along with Duncan McGregor, the only player to make the Final
without two wins in the semis. Tim Tu placed fifth, finishing
4th in Game 1 and 1st in Game 2. Thomas Tu, who finished second
the year before, finished 6th.
FINAL ROUND (Dark Ages)
Game 1 ("Darkest Before The Dawn"): Shelters, Ruins,
Spoils, Armory, Beggar, Catacombs, Forager, Fortress, Graverobber,
Knights, Market Square, Rats, Scavenger
The Dark Ages returned for Game 1 of the Final. Weaver
drew the starting position, and before play began, all players
were permitted to stack their starting decks as they desired--a
setup which led to four very different opening plays. Weaver's
3-4 start brought him into a Market Square and Scavenger. Jaeger
not only opened Silver and Silver, but he followed with two more
Silver purchases in Rounds 3 and 4. Giddings saw the same opportunity
as Weaver with a first-turn Market Square, but he continued with
a Rats the next round, perhaps hoping to start a trash-into-Gold
engine. McGregor's Armory and Forager opening left room for a
more adaptive strategy.
In subsequent early rounds, Giddings improved his engine with
a trash-managing Graverobber, firing off his Rats plus Market
Square combo to pick up Province #1. Jaeger turned his four Silvers
into the game's first Gold, eventually hopping on board the train
for the Market Square after seeing it work well for Giddings,
but he started to falter without actions to back up his riches
by mid-game. Weaver went on the offensive, buying Sir Vander
from the top of the Knights pile and balancing out his action-heavy
deck with the Village-like Fortress. McGregor soon followed course,
grabbing two Gold and Dame Anna (though not possessing a Market
Square to make best use of Anna's trashing ability) with Province
#2 not far behind.
In the game's third quarter, Weaver picked up two more Knights,
a Beggar, and more copies of earlier purchases, but his late
Golds only turned into a single Province in Round 11. Jaeger
popped Province #3 and the last Market Square, but even with
lots of Treasure in his deck, most of his remaining turns were
just shy of 8 Money. Giddings was first to a second Province
and spent a few turns completing his engine with a Catacombs,
Fortress, and Beggar. McGregor pulled a Beggar and fired off
its ability to add three Copper to his hand immediately, netting
him another Province.
In the closing rounds, Weaver bought four straight Duchies
but couldn't find his way into another Province and finished
in last place. Jaegar's Treasure-rich and Action-light deck earned
him a couple more Duchies, but he had an extra Province that
Weaver did not and finished in third as a result. McGregor fired
off his Beggar again and closed the game with a fourth Province.
But Giddings' engine kept chugging along and helped him edge
out Jaeger with a fifth Province for the win.
FINAL ROUND (All sets through Dark Ages including
Game 2 ("Promotional Consideration"): Potion, Ruins,
Black Market, Envoy, Walled Village, Tactician, King's Court,
Quarry, Watchtower, Throne Room, Fairgrounds, Vineyard
The second game of the WBC Dominion Final is traditionally
wrought with peril. Two years ago, a combination of Alchemy's
Possession and Seaside's Duration cards saw each player's
own cards turned against them. Then, in 2013, a slew of Attack
cards had players diving for cover that a Haven and Trader just
couldn't provide. But the first tournament appearance of Black
Market at WBC procured a variety of reactions from the final
four. (For those unfamiliar, Black Market creates a deck consisting
of unique copies of other Kingdom cards not otherwise in play.)
McGregor quickly announced to the table that Black Market was
his favorite card. Weaver, noting that his chances for winning
depended on an unlikely combination of other players' finishes
in Game 2, promised he would have a lot of fun with the Black
Market. Giddings had a completely different reaction, almost
lamenting his first round win and forecasting that the randomness
of the Black Market deck might be his undoing. Jaegar kept his
comments on the Black Market quiet--and his early plays would
immediately reveal why.
THE BLACK MARKET
Bridge, Lookout, City, Alchemist, Menagerie, Harvest, Chapel,
Altar, Pawn, Contraband, Witch, Sage, Lighthouse, Peddler, Develop,
Scheme, Fishing Village, Treasure Map, Cartographer, Inn, Wandering
Minstrel, Grand Market, Fool's Gold, Familiar, Catacombs, Junk
Dealer, Upgrade, Conspirator, Gardens, Mountebank, Vault, Golem
Before starting, 32 one-of-a-kind Kingdom cards were revealed
to be candidates for the game's Black Market, but each player
was permitted to secretly cast a ballot to veto one. After the
veto round, Gardens, Mountebank, Vault, and Golem were removed,
leaving some highly desirable cards like Witch and Grand Market
behind... along with a single useless Treasure Map. Additionally,
players were directed to stack their decks again with either
a 3-4 or 4-3 Copper start.
Predictably, most players opened with a purchase of a Black
Market. Jaegar identified the other big strategy option in the
game's two other Promo cards--Envoy and Walled Village--placing
himself partially at Weaver's mercy for his Envoy draws. Those
who purchased Black Markets in Round 1 followed them up with
the obvious match of Quarry (a Treasure which discounts Action
cards) in Round 2, while Jaegar grabbed a Silver and set himself
up for another Treasure-heavy game.
Giddings hit the Black Market first, nabbing a Junk Dealer,
followed by another Black Market card purchase. McGregor and
Jaeger--who weren't reminded nearly enough about their rhyming
names--both picked up Walled Villages in Turn 3, while Weaver's
"fun" strategy called for a King's Court. In later
early rounds, McGregor's early visits to the Black Market bought
him Scheme and Altar, while Giddings found Cartographer and (what
would turn out to be a very important) Witch. Weaver's first
Black Market found Wandering Minstrel, but his second Black Market
was played via King's Court, and his three consecutive Black
Market pulled introduced Fishing Village, City, and Menagerie,
the last of which one would expect to benefit greatly from having
nearly 50 uniquely named cards in the game. Jaegar went Silver,
Gold, Silver, Gold, Province #1, undoubtedly making a couple
Black Marketeers question their strategies.
McGregor was the first to buy and play a Tactician, recognizing
that the Black Market would allow him to use his Tactician's
turn's Treasure cards while still giving him the full benefits
of Tactician next turn. Meanwhile, Giddings had a couple more
noteworthy trips to the Black Market with procurements of a Chapel
and Lighthouse, the latter of which was more to prevent any other
player from obtaining it and hiding from his Witch. Weaver, fearing
Giddings' Witch, grabbed a Watchtower and found a Bridge and
Develop in the Black Market deck. Jaegar continued his steady
march with a Walled Village and Province #2.
The Giddings Witch proved enormously powerful, quickly clearing
out the Curse deck and clogging the others' decks, particularly
once he bought a King's Court. Jaegar in particular, once again
forsaking Action cards, saw his Treasure-filled deck diluted
with Curses. McGregor pulled more good cards out of the Black
Market deck, Tacticianing roughly every other round for the rest
of the game, but failing to pull many big-money hands. Weaver
continued to make impressive King's Courted plays of Black Market,
but as the Black Market deck thinned, he more frequently declined
the remaining options.
One Black Market deck card which continued to elude players
was the Grand Market which required a Copper-free money play.
Indeed, it stayed in the deck until the penultimate round when
McGregor snatched it up on a Tactician turn, along with a Duchy
to go along with his only Province. Weaver struggled to come
up with a strong play off any of his King's Courts, and his Cursed
deck only made the problem worse, leaving him Provinceless. And
while Jaegar staved off the attack of his own Curses long enough
to pick up a third Province, Giddings and his Witch had already
done more than enough damage entering the last few rounds of
the game. Indeed, Giddings wound down his final plays with a
few variety-rewarding Vineyard Victory cards, and the game itself
came to a close when the Walled Villages and finally the Black
Market cards themselves disappeared.
The final scoring was tense as each player's decks had radically
different makeups at the end of Game 2. Weaver's math was easiest,
with a couple of Estates and a bunch of Curses leaving him in
negative point territory. McGregor, despite his half dozen semi-successful
Tactician plays, walked away with just 10 VP to show for it.
Jaegar's Black Market-less deck (except for the final purchase
of the game) included three Provinces but too many Curses, giving
him only enough to pip McGregor with 11 VP; McGregor's high score
in Game 1 ultimately gave him second place in the tournament
over Jaegar's third. Giddings, who barely made it out of the
Quarterfinals as the 16th seed, scored 15 VP and completed his
sweep of the Dominion Semifinals and Final.