princes of florence [Updated August 2001]

POF   Trial Beginners Mult Ent Sing Elim Scheduled 
 Demo 19  Rnd1 Heat1 20    
 Rnd1 Heat2 21  Round 2 19  Round 3 Final 21

  Maryland 3

Arthur Field, SC

2001 Champion

2nd: Doug Smith, PA

3rd: Brian Jones, NC

4th: Randy Cox, SC

5th: Marc Houde, DC

6th: Justin Veazey, MD
Event History
1991    None      -
1992    None      -
1993    None      -
1994    None      -
1995    None      -
1996    None      -
1997    None      -
1998    None      -
1999    None     -
2000    None     -
2001    Arthur Field     65

AREA Ratings:

GM: John Weber

another Euro to tempt you

Princes of Florence, which became a top seller once Rio Grande Games issued the English edition in February 2001, was nominally a "trial" event in its first year at the WBC. Hopefully it will be the first of many years at the WBC, as its total entry of 65 surpassed many of the established games as well as all but a handful of the newer games at the 2001 WBC. A total of 34 players competed in seven games in the first preliminary heat, held on the opening night of the convention, and then the competition really heated up in Thursday's second preliminary round, where 48 competed in ten games, which necessitated an impromptu search for tables at the far end of the Maryland Ballroom.

There were 16 different winners in the 17 preliminary games. One player (Anne Norton) won both her preliminary games, following an 80-point score in the first round (in a four-player game) with a whopping 81-point blowout in the second round where her 28-point margin of victory was the highest in any of the 17 preliminary games. Arthur Field also engineered a 20-point win in the opening round, and his high score of 68 was topped in the second round only by Anne's 81 and Michelle Goldstein, the assistant GM, who tallied 70 in her second round win. Several preliminary round games were cliffhangers, with one game resulting in a prestige point tie (the winner being determined by most florins) while seven others were decided by three points or less.

Entrants who won a preliminary were guaranteed a spot in Friday's semifinal round (consisting of five 5-player games) which, after a brief break, was followed immediately by a 5-player final. The GM allowed alternates into the semis and two won semifinal games to reach the final. Randy Cox, who was the last of five alternates to participate, won a narrow one-point margin on Table 1. Randy's road to the final was even more ironic that it was the team event for his teammate, Rachel McGinley, who (because of the rule preventing teammates being selected in the same heat) was left to fend for herself at Table 5 and only finished fourth in a game characterized by very spirited bidding on almost all of the most prized auction items.

The eventual winner, Arthur Field, followed his impressive preliminary heat with a 6-point win in the semifinals. Tying with Arthur for top score in the semifinals (with 65 prestige points) was Doug Smith, who edged out Jason Levine at Table 2 by two points. Table 1 saw the closest battle for first and second, and under the rules, Table 1 runner-up Justin Veazey was awarded sixth place for coming the closest to winning a semifinal heat. Table 3 was perhaps the most competitive game, with all five players separated by just eight points from top to bottom. Brian Jones (who, like Randy Cox, was one of five alternates in the semifinals) used a Bonus Card strategy to advance, narrowly edging out sportsmanship nominee Frank Cunliffe by two points. Of all the games for which such records were kept, this table showed the highest amount of spending on any single item in the auction - 1200 florins for the final Recruiting Card.

At Table 5, GM John Weber found himself (after a random draw for all five spots at the table) seated between Anne Norton and Rachel McGinley, two other preliminary round winners who also happened to be the only two participants left in the event with the possibility of finishing in the top six and scoring points for their respective teams. There was some very spirited bidding at this table on all key auction items, with jesters never going for less than 800 while the final Recruitment Card went for 1100. The winner at Table 5 was Marc Houde, who afterward commented he played a nearly perfect game to score a six-point win over Anne with John third and Rachel fourth; the fifth place player (Joe Nemet) wound up 18 points in arrears despite grabbing his third builder in the final round for the bargain basement price of 200 florins.

The tournament was played with hidden money rules (left to the discretion of the players) and in the finals all five players used cards and other devices to hide their florins. In fact, the winner, Arthur Field, was so successful at hiding his florins that at the end of the game he discovered an extra 500-florin piece that he had apparently overlooked. Arthur did not hire any builders and actually wound up paying full price for his three buildings. In fact, one builder was left unclaimed after the seventh and final auction round. Another interesting aspect of the final game was far less spirited bidding, on average, than in the semifinal rounds; in the finals, the average winning bid was 360 florins, or approximately 60 florins less than the average winning bid in the semifinals.

In the end, there was a seven-point spread among the five finalists, indicating a very close and hard-fought contest. All five finalists were able to produce at least five works. The winner, Arthur Field, was able to acquire two Recruiting Cards in the first three rounds and went on to produce six works, the most of any player. The key moment in the game may have been in the third round auction, where Arthur and eventual runner-up Doug Smith were the remaining two bidders on a Recruiting Card, and Doug dropped out of the bidding when he had the resources to bid a higher amount. Thus, Arthur secured his second Recruiting Card for just 500 florins. In fact, by the fifth round all players were so cash-poor that the final Recruiting card went for the minimum price of 200 florins compared with 1100 and 1200 at the same stage in two of the semifinal games. In the action phase, all of the finalists focused on "pulling the slot machine lever" by purchasing variable value bonus cards to complete sets.

Each participant in this inaugural WBC event was asked to fill out a brief questionnaire on topics such as event format, scheduling, and rules for advancement to the next round. While a few recommended adding one or two more heats, most liked the format as is. Guaranteed semifinal spots for all preliminary winners was also mentioned as a plus. And, by a slim majority, players favored maintaining the class B (beginners welcome) status of the event.

Contestants were also asked to share their winning strategies after the completion of each game. More detailed statistics were collected for the six semifinal and final round games. While there still does not appear to be a foolproof winning strategy, acquiring Profession and Recruiting cards early to produce a high number of works - provided one does not overbid for the precious few Recruiting Cards - was successful for a number of players, including this year's winner.

 GM      John Weber  [1st Year]   NA 
    NA   NA

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