War of the Worlds 21st Century
The inaugural tournament of Galaxy: The Dark Ages (a
cousin of Titan: The Arena), drew nearly 100 entrants,
despite not having a published game available for sale. GMT Games
shipped in 15 pre-publication demonstration copies for use. GM
Stuart Tucker and his valuable assistants, Andy Lewis, Keith
Levy and Kaarin Engelmann launched into the event with teaching
sessions before each of the four heats, the first of which was
The first-round format of having to sum points from playing
two games greatly facilitated the learning process, as few players
worried about how badly they did in the first game at their table.
Each table winner from each heat was eligible to advance to the
Sunday morning final round. Where the leaders tied, the players
were placed on the top of the list of alternates (all of whom
were allowed to advance). The rest of the alternates list was
filled out by runner-ups from the heats.
Sunday morning turned out to be a bad time for the final,
as nine of the 21 first-round table winners failed to show (whether
due to travel plans or competing finals), allowing seven alternates
to play in the round. The19-player final was run as a four-table,
three-game, rotating final. Each player was assigned a unique
table rotation identity and played three times.
The pre-set rotation sequence maximized the number of finalists
each player would face in the course of the three games, while
minimizing the number of repeat opponents. Each player carted
around their scorecard to their next game, while the table scores
were reported to the GM. While the format was intended to be
used with player scores generally kept secret from other
players in the room, this aspect was dropped because the GM had
earned a place in the final. Thus, each player was allowed to
inspect his opponents' scorecard prior to playing each game.
Furthermore, the room "leader" after each round was
an open fact for all to use as they saw fit.
The final's first game scores ranged from 16 to 3, leaving
hope alive for all contestants. Jonathan Shambeda won at table
3 to take the early lead in the tournament. Table 1 was won with
12 points by Kaarin Engelmann; Table 2 was
won with 11 points by Zack Metcalf in a very even game; Table
4 was won with13 points by Chris Greenfield.
The final's second game scores ranged from 14 to 2. James
Pei, who had only scored 5 in the first game, tallied 14 at table
1. Low-scoring Table 2 was won by Steve Shambeda with only 10
points. Clearly, base-pounding skills were increasing, as Table
3 also was low-scoring, with Luke Koleszar winning with 9 points.
In this game, the GM (and the most-experienced player in the
room) failed to remember to reveal his secret base and utilize
its card to secure the survival of a key world. His Wood chances
were dimmed greatly after he failed to draw any cards for vulnerable
undefended worlds and his key world surrendered several rounds
of play later. Table 4 was won with 12 points by Mark Guttag.
The two-game totals ranged from 25 (Jonathan Shambeda) to 9.
The disparities resulted in a shakeout, with three players
departing before the third and deciding game. This led to an
adjustment of the table rotation for two of the remaining players
to keep the tables even. One table got started into the third
game rather late, due to the break in the action for the Convention
After Action meeting, but this only served to add drama to the
day's events. When Tables 1-3 finished, Steve Shambeda had a
tourney-leading 33 points, just as the Wood and Shields were
delivered from the registration desk (more than just figurative
smelling of the Wood now took place). However, Table 4 had four
players all equal to the task of victory. As on-lookers began
to edge closer to see the final actions, both Kaarin Engelmann
and James Pei were in a position to score 33 points. The GM began
to calculate the tie-breaker points (least amount of points allowed
to opponents in the three-game final).
With the pressure already high, the current leader let Table
4 know how high the bar was set. In the end, James Pei outmaneuvered
Kaarin and appeared to score 14 more points for a total of 33.
However, he had allowed more points to his opponents than had
Steve Shambeda (thereby losing the tie-breaker), so the GM was
about to award Steve the Wood when all four Table 4 participants
realized that James had neglected to claim his Spoils of Victory
in the final combat round, which gave him 15 (for a total of
34) and a clean victory in the tournament. As the number of onlookers
made for some harried last moments at Table 4, the GM accepted
the revised score as legitimate (after having checked with all
participants regarding the veracity of the situation). The Wood
was literally two inches from Steve Shambeda's hand when this
scoring revision whisked it away and into James Pei's hands,
leaving Steve second. Like a true sportsman, Steve simply smiled
and accepted the ruling, and defeat, without question. Brendan
Crowe (31 points) finished third, Jonathan Shambeda (30) fourth,
Jonathan Miller (28) fifth and John Ellsworth (28) sixth.
In a twist of irony similar to Titan: The Arena in
1999, the tournament champion James Pei was the lowest-rated
alternate allowed into the final. I think there is a lesson about
seizing opportunities in there somewhere. Having also helped
GM the Hannibal event, which James won as well, the lesson I
take away is that James Pei is a favorite to win any game he
With roughly six other players finishing just one surrendered
world away from victory, the unusual final format seemed to be
a refreshing and striking success. The very flexible table rotation
system will no doubt reappear next year, and perhaps may be adopted
for Titan: The Arena as well. Now that the game is known,
for next year, the two-game summation approach for the initial
heats may be dropped in favor of single games or something more
like the table rotation approach.