monsters ravage america [Updated October 2003]  

2003 WBC Report  

   2004 Status: pending 2004 GM commitment  

Marvin Birnbaum, NY

2003 Champion

2nd: Steve Dickson, CA

3rd: Ryan Gury, NC

4th: Matthew Beach, MD

5th: Andres Dunn, MD

6th: Erica Poniske, NC

Event History
1998    Dave Long     167
1999    Marvin Birnbaum     106
2000    Tom Meier       83
2001    Rebecca Hebner       68
2002    Joseph Sposito       69
2003    Marvin Birnbaum       73

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AREA Ratings

Rank Name


 1. Marvin Birnbaum


 2. Rebecca Hebner


 3. Joe Sposito


 4. Tom Meier


 5. Steve Scott


 6. David Brooks


 7. Nick Henning


 8. Christina Hancock


 9. Steve Dickson


10. Mike Eoppolo


11. Dan Eshleman


12. Joshua Garton


13. Ryan Gury


14. Seth Kirchner


15. John Koski


16. Abby Cocke


17. Reiko McQuiston


18. Matthew Beach


19. Joshua Dunn


20. Andres Dunn


21. Christi Cousins


22. Dan Hoffman


23. Kevin Wojtaszczyk


24. Erika Poniske



Past Winners

Dave Long - NC

Marvin Birnbaum - NY

Tom Meier - VA

Rebecca Hebner - CO

Joe Sposito - NJ

A game of SKILL or MONSTERous LUCK?

Bronacle of the Depths and Tomanagi the Carnosaur remain the most-chosen MONSTERS, followed by Glow Wyrm, who won 38% of games it played in 2003. Players overlooked Ixitplaís ability to make two attacks with each infamy marker, as Ixitpla only won 13% of its games. First-time player P. Howard Dawson of Michigan beat three experienced players, including a former champ, with a military victory by Mecha-MONSTER. Since military MONSTERS cannot fight other military units, Marvin Birnbaum's Super Colossal Guy was forced to watch the MONSTER Challenge from the sidelines. This was the second time Marvin saw the military win, a rarety. MONSTERS have won 97% of the 200 games played in the last five years:.

In 2003, the players controlling the Air Force won a whopping 38% of games played. The Navy players won 29%, and the Army dropped from 31% won in 2002 to 18% in 2003. The Marine players lagged with 13% won in 2003, demonstrating that most players overlook their intended design to be a rapid and frequent attack force. The cumulative results over five years:
Air Force...32%
Army .22%
Marines 15%
The Marines have more of their bases at cities that give MONSTERS a lot of health, so the Marine players tend to lose more of their bases. That, in turn, gives them less money to spend on the military, and fewer units available - making it harder to beat up the other playersí MONSTERS. The military bases in the game reflect real-life places, and the Marine base at El Toro in the Los Angeles grid space was closed in real life. Players are urged to move that base to the grid to the north, shared with the Air Force. The real life Marine depot at Barstow is actually in the God-forsaken desert grid to the northeast, according to BPA player and Marine Corporal John Poniske Jr., who was stationed there, but there already is a Marine base on that grid space in the game.

The game was classified as Coached for 2003, meaning novices could learn the game and play immediately. Many players complimented the excellent instructions given by Don Chappell of Texas and Mike Lam of California. Attendance rose for the second consecutive year, with a sharp increase in players over age 30:
Age Range % of total
12 or less .12%
13-17. ..28%
18-29. 9%
30-39. 17%
50+ 7%
Unknown .3%
Total ....100%

Females rule!
Females who played in any of the four heats won 100% - yes, 100% - of their games in 2003, continuing a trend of excellent play. The only female who lost in the heats fell to another female. This is a game where cooperation with the use of the military can enhance one's chances of winning. If ladies generally have better social skills than gentlemen, perhaps that might explain this phenomenon. 2001 champion Rebecca Hebner of Colorado had the biggest kick-butt MONSTER in the tournament. Her Bronacle had 35 health, Whip Tentacles, Atomic Breath, and two infamy markers for 56 points on her scoresheet. James Kramer Jr. had the healthiest MONSTER in the tournament, with 51 health for Fírothomir.

Unusual events usually happen in the heat games. The Army MLRS is the only military unit that gets an extra attack before the MONSTER attacks, with the risk of mutating the MONSTER on a roll of 1 (which makes the MONSTER stronger 94% of the time.) 11-year-old Daniel Pappas rolled snake-eyes with the MLRS, giving Michael Saunders Armor Scales and War Spikes. Gamemaster Mark Love and veteran player Dan Dolan Jr. were both eliminated from the MONSTER Challenge, as they were stuck in Hollywood when it began, giving an easy win to Dave Agostino of PA, who had just learned the game. After 8-year-old Daniel Ruhnke of VA won his game with a one-day convention pass, Ryan Gury was so dazzled that he offered to help with next year's Junior tournament if Daniel agrees not to play in the adult tournament and only plays the juniors. Daniel is the youngest player reported to have ever won a game in the adult tournament.

Tournament format changed
In 1999, 26 winners showed up for a quarter-final, a year when total attendance was 106. But in 2000 and 2001, only 19 and 18 winners showed up for the quarter-finals. It made no sense to hold a 2-hour quarter-final just to eliminate two or three winners. 8-player semi-finals were previously played, prompting players to play for 2nd place, to make the finals anyway. The quarter-final round was eliminated in 2002, and 48% of winners failed to appear then, up from 29%. In 2003, the scoresheets were redesigned for the first time since 1999. Taking the top 16 winners based on scoresheet totals would have only encouraged players to avoid using the military, to artificially inflate their scores. So in 2003, using the same format used in some other WBC tournaments, advancement to become one of the 16 MRA semi-finalists was based on the following order: (1) first-game winners, (2) other winners, (3) alternates based on highest total points from any heat game.

The elimination factor came into play in 2003, as 20 winners showed up for the semi-final, or 77%, including 14 first-game winners. Marvin Birnbaum's 63 scoresheet points and Andre's Dunn's 41 points filled the last two slots, as players who had won in their second tries. Unfortunately, 2003 became the first year where all heat winners did not advance. Michael Bergt's 36 points and Woolly Farrow's 25 put them below the other second-try winners. Gamemaster Mark Love was eliminated as a third-try winner, and Alex Bell's fourth-try win left him out. Had the average no-show rate of the previous four years held up, all of these alternate heat winners would have qualified to advance.

The Semi-Finals
The semi-finals saw the return of familiar faces, indicating that luck alone is not a factor for winning. Assistant GM Verity Hitchings, one of the 4 original finalists in 1998, qualified for the semi-final. At another board was 1999 champion Marvin Birnbaum. Reiko McQuiston took 5th place in 2000, edging David Brooks that year by a single tiebreaker point. But in 2003, Reiko was now Reiko Brooks, as the two got married in 2002. They became the second married couple to be playing at separate MRA semi-final boards, duplicating the feat of Tom and Melanie Meier in 2002. 2001 champion Rebecca Hebner also returned to the semi-finals. Her Bronacle did not collect the strongest mutations, as Steve Dickson advanced to the final with Glow Wyrm and 41 health.

Newcomer Ryan Gury made the finals with Fírothomir's 47 health, leaving Andre's Dunn with 5th place in the tournament. Marvin Birnbaum ran a clinic on the value of controlling the MONSTER Challenge. He had the lowest health in the game, at 21, although he had the best mutation, Whip Tentacles, which gives an extra attack in each round of combat. Marvin's Konk attacked Super Colossal Guy and then the weakest MONSTERS, rolling up their beginning health into the health he had at the end of each fight. He saved the strongest MONSTER for last, facing Erica Poniske's Ixitpla and her 31 health with his now-vigorous 53 health. Erica Poniske's scoresheet gave her 6th place.

The military was well played in the fourth semi-final game by four excellent players, which tends to prolong the time needed to finish. John Pack had a commanding lead for much of the game. Don Chappell and Matthew Beach were each sent TWICE to Hollywood with zero health. John controlled the Challenge with 20 health. But Don only had one health to yield, and David Brooks inflicted numerous losses on John, despite only having nine health. So John lost strength before he faced Matthew's 12 health, and Matthew's Glow Wyrm had Armor Scales, which raised his defense from 3 to 4. In the biggest surprise of the tournament, Matthew Beach hung on to become the only player to ever win after being sent to Hollywood twice in the same game.

The Final
After Marvin Birnbaum accepted the Caesar award for most annual BPA victory points while wearing a toga at the Sunday Armistice meeting, he then proceeded to the refrigerated Valley room for the MRA semi-final. But only after he put on more clothes! The MRA heats were all held in the Maryland room, and the GM suggested that the advancing players and potential alternates wear winter coats for the Valley semi-final. Marvin Birnbaum was the only player in the room who actually wore a winter coat. (Is this the blueprint for winning the Caesar award?) He also wisely designated MRA to be his team game for the team tournament.

For Marvin Birnbaum, the MRA final, in the words of New York Yankee great Yogi Berra, was like deja vu all over again. The fellow New Yorker found himself playing Konk the Great Ape against three teenagers, just as he did when he became the MRA champion in 1999. Once again, he was cracking jokes throughout the final. This time Marvin had the Navy. He moved first and placed Konk in his #5 lair, in the Great Smoky Mountains, southwest of DC/Baltimore. Ryan Gury had the Air Force and placed Tomanagi the Carnosaur in her #5 lair, in the Atlantic Ocean's Gulf Stream, within one move of the largest east coast cities. Steve Dickson had the Army and placed the Glow Wyrm in his #3 lair at the Wind Cave next to Mt. Rushmore. Matthew Beach had the Marines and started Bronacle of the Depths at his #5 lair at Lake Ontario, also within one move of the largest east coast cities.

As a former champ, Marvin generously advised his opponents that "this is a game of skill - which requires a superior ability to roll 5's and 6's". Then he maneuvered three Navy submarines into New York City, which can only be beaten with a roll of 6, to keep his opponents out. The tactic worked - both Tomanagi and Bronacle disappeared off the map, in search of easier prey elsewhere. On Turn 2, Marvin confidently sent Konk into DC/Baltimore, which was meekly defended by two hastily-placed National Guard units. But the Guard held on for three rounds of combat and retreated the MONSTER! To improve his chances, Marvin skillfully sent Konk to Three Mile Island to mutate. He got Atomic Breath, which added 1 to all attack rolls, for the rest of the game. Meanwhile, Steve stomped Glow Wyrm's goal at NORAD and Denver in the process. He was soon attacked by Ryan's Air Force.

Matthew's $5 billion investment in military research paid off, as he pulled the Blonde Lure and placed her on the Big Apple, targeting Konk. But his allies didn't mobilize a very large welcoming party - a tactical error, in a game of skill. Konk was met by two F-22 Air Force fighters, one Army M1 Abram tank, and one Air National Guard. The military did no damage and Konk knocked them all down and stomped New York City. But with four dice, Marvin rolled a 1 + 1 + 2 +3, for an anemic seven points of health. Marvin declared, "We just did a little urban renewal".

Matthew grabbed two mutations, Winged Horror and Hi-Octane Blood, to give Bronacle rocket speed, raising his movement from 4 to 6 and eliminating any terrain obstacles with the new flying skill. As Ryan's Tomanagi reappeared in her #2 California Current lair to threaten Los Angeles, Marvin playfully warned,"Remember the historical result of King Kong vs. Godzilla" indicating that Marvin wanted L.A. for himself. (SPOILER: In that Japanese classic film, King Kong kicked Godzilla's butt and saved Tokyo.)

Steve took San Francisco with the Glow Wyrm and picked up the Iron Stomach mutation, which added one health for each military base stomped. As Ryan contemplated where to place his Air Force, Marvin referred to the original King Kong film's ending atop the Empire State Building, and said, "Konk gets a bonus against the Air Force - because of his training". Ryan built seven F-22's around Los Angeles, prompting Steve to stomp San Diego instead. Steve surrounded Konk with seven Army units around New York. Marvin skillfully disappeared Konk off the map, to avoid a likely losing battle. This also left the Army a LONG way from where Konk would be. Marvin's Navy attacked Bronacle in force. Marvin had Konk reappear out west at Mt. Whitney, gaining an extra attack for the infamy of trashing the Giant Redwoods. He then skillfully mutated at the Nevada Test site, enhancing Konk for the coming MONSTER Challenge with War Spikes. Steve also mutated, going Berserk and getting an extra attack in the first round. Marvin then attacked Los Angeles, placing the miniature gorilla the GM provided atop a package of Breath Savers (representing Konk's Atomic Breath), set up on its end as a tall tower on the board. Marvin roared, "Konk is an urban warfare machine" and picked up 10 health from the three dice for L.A. Steve's military research attempt succeeded and he got the powerful Rogue Nuke, which mutates the MONSTER but nails it with two dice of damage points. There were nine mutations out and seven left in the deck. Marvin openly challenged Steve to fire the Rogue Nuke at him, in the hopes he could pick up the powerful Whip Tentacles mutation, which would add a third dice to all of his attacks. Ryan's Tomanagi took the Challenge marker, as Albuquerque became the 20th city or base to fall. Steve sent Glow Wyrm to Three Mile Island and got Son of Monster. He then became an Equal Opportunity military commander - he attacked Matthew's Bronacle with his Army and gave Marvin his wish, firing the Rogue Nuke at Konk, giving Konk the now-useless Atomic Recovery. Matthew showed some brotherly love by stomping Philadelphia. Marvin went after more health, leaving Ryan with control of the Challenge, since no one else got to a Challenge Site to swipe it from him.

Ryan's Tomanagi had 18 health and one infamy marker. He challenged Matthew's Bronacle, who had 23 health and was rolling a mean pair of black dice. Bronacle prevailed, but only after taking a massive 18 points of damage. Matthew knew his victory would be short-lived, as both of his remaining opponents had spent the entire game skillfully accumulating huge advantages for just this moment. With 23 health, Matthew took on Steve's Glow Wyrm, who had 37 health and six extra attacks for the first round, from Beserk and five infamy markers. (He might have had a whopping 11 extra attacks, if he had taken Ixitpla, but Glow Wyrm was moving five instead of Ixitpla's 4.) In spite of this, Matthew Beach still inflicted a painful 18 points of damage before dettling for the 3rd place plaque.

That left Steve's Glow Wyrm with 42 points of health and the extra Beserk attack to use against Marvin's Konk, who had two extra infamy attacks, 27 health and two fight-enhancing mutations. Atomic Breath added 1 to all attack dice rolls and War Spikes did 4 points of damage instead of the standard 3. It was fitting that these two faced each other - they had both lost in the same 2000 quarter-final game where Super Colossal Guy, the military research MONSTER, won for the first time in convention history (for Seth Kirchner, a 2002 finalist.) Both players knew the value of the military, and the strategy and tactics needed to win. Konk's second mutation gave him a decisive advantage, along with some "skillful" dice-rolling, as Marvin quickly scored 11 hits to present Steve Dickson with 2nd place. With 15 health of his own remaining at the end, Marvin Birnbaum became the 1st player to claim a second championship of MONSTERS Ravage America.

 MONSTERS Ravage America Junior

25 little monsters, aged 12 or under, played in the 2003 junior tournament. Suzanne Welker and Jacob Hebner returned to the Finals - proving they retained some of what they learned last year. But the big winner was Vincent Alonso of Virginia. the other finalists were:

2nd: Jacob Hebner - CO

3rd: Suzanne Welker - OH

4th: David Pack - CO

5th: Shea Lawson - MD

6th: David Rennert - MD

The 2003 tournament saw the highest turnout ever, with 25 little MONSTERS, as young as 5 and as old as 12, playing at five boards. Plenty of adults were present to organize and keep the games moving along briskly. One game altered the format to allow a 5th player to control the National Guard, operating out of eight cities. The winners with the four highest score sheet totals advanced to the final.

Any adult who wanted to see MONSTERS Ravage America played expertly should have been at the juniorís final. Suzanne Welker, age 10, repeated as a finalist, and this time played Fírothomir of the Ice and the Air Force. She started in Lair #4 in Manitoba, Canada. 2002 MRA junior champion Jacob Hebner, age 11, also repeated as a finalist. He started Bronacle of the Depths at Great Salt Lake after taking the Navy. Vincent Alonzo, age 11, had just learned the game in the first round, and started the Dust Devil at Death Valley after taking the Army. David Pack, age 11, knew the game well and helped teach it to other juniors, but this was his first junior MRA tournament. He took the Glow Wyrm and the Marines.

Rockets do not launch as quickly as this game did. Jacob got the Winged Horror mutation at the National Engineering Lab with his first move, eliminating all terrain difficulties with his new flying ability. Vincent got the Atomic Breath mutation on his first move at the Nevada Test Site, adding 1 to all attack rolls for the rest of the game. David's military research paid off on the first turn, as he picked up the Rogue Nuke. His Glow Wyrm stomped New York City on the first move. David stomped Philadelphia and soon raised his health to 44, an awesome amount for so early in the game.

This group of juniors clearly knew how to read - last year's tournament report described how the juniors virtually ignored the use of the military. One year later, the difference was like night and day! During the course of the 2003 junior final, all 16 of the military research cards were put into play. The adults watching had their mouths hanging wide open, as one 6 after another was rolled for successful research attempts. Jacob responded to David's huge lead in health points with an all-out Navy attack. David responded by firing the Rogue Nuke at Jacob's Bronacle, inflicting 7 damage and mutating him. David and Jacob both began arguing that the other should be the target of military attacks. Mark Love, who was assisting gamemaster Ken Dunn, explained that this was a classic demonstration of "sandbagging," and that all the players should master its use. (Is effective sandbagging instinctive or is it learned?)

A successful Rogue Nuke launch creates a new mutation site, but Bronacle was already on a mutation site when he was bombed. So this created a Super Nuker, where all MONSTERS who visited could now mutate TWICE. (Vincent could get a 2nd mutation by returning there.) Suddenly, all the players now were making plans to tour the new and "improved" Nevada Test Site! Before the game was over, 14 mutation cards came into play! Suzanne got Kinda Friendly and Whip Tentacles. Jacob added Beserk, Intelligence, and Atomic Recovery. Vincent added Armor Scales, Iron Stomach, and Fins & amp; Gills. David's Marines attacked Jacob's Bronacle - but did no damage! Suzanne got the powerful Blonde Lure military card. Her plan to form a coalition to attack Bronacle was foiled when Jacob disappeared Bronacle off the map, with plans to reappear later a LONG distance from the threat.

David got the only bad mutation in the deck, Brain Rot, which slows the MONSTER's movement - but he also got Hi-Octane Blood, which added one movement point back. David also got a rare combination that made his commanding lead appear to be unstoppable. His MONSTER mutated with Radiation Field, which required the military to spend two EXTRA movement points to enter his MONSTERí' space. He then succeeded in getting the Guard Commander military research card, which put the previously-independent National Guard under his personal control. The Guard could no longer be used to deter his conquests. Even worse for his opponents, David could now move the Guard units and use them to attack at will. David had played brilliantly, but he had made himself a target the others could not ignore.

Suzanne and Vincent combined their military might, mobilizing all eight Air Force units with three Army units at Ft. Hood in Texas. Suzanne placed the Blonde Lure at - where else? - Fort Hood! She summoned David's Glow Wyrm, who, by indisputable MONSTER law, could not resist the Blonde's charm, and was required to go there on his next turn! (The juniors were running a free clinic on how to best use this military card - the adult finalists only mobilized four military units with the Blonde Lure in their final the next day - all of which were easily knocked down by the MONSTER, without doing any damage.) David's mighty Glow Wyrm was badly damaged and retreated, which restored balance to the game. David chased Jacob's Bronacle with his National Guard units. Vincent's Dust Devil took the yellow 20th ravage marker to start the Challenge round. He had the least health with 15, so controlling the Challenge represented his best chance of winning. But David sent Glow Wyrm to the Niagra Falls Challenge Site to swipe control of the Challenge for himself. David challenged Vincent's Dust Devil, who had three extra attacks from infamy markers and two good mutations. Armor scales raised his defense from 3 to 4, and Atomic Breath added 1 to all attack rolls. The Glow Wyrm had 23 health and two extra attacks from infamy - but no usable mutations. The Wyrm fell after eight hits and the Dust Devil's mutations limited Glow Wyrm to only three hits. Glow Wyrm'ís beginning 23 health was added to Dust Devil's ending health of 6 to give him 29 for the next battle.

Vincent now controlled the Challenge and chose Suzanne's Fírothomir, who had 22 health, three extra attacks from infamy, and Whip Tentacles - which provided for an extra attack in each round of combat. Fírothomir fell after eight hits, leaving Suzanne Welker with 3rd place, but Dust Devil also took eight hits, weakening him to a net of 27.

To defeat Jacob, Vincent was going to have to beat a very strong Bronacle PLUS BOTH of the two military MONSTERs, who Jacob controlled. With 27 health, Vincent defeated Mecha-MONSTER and its defense of 4, without taking any losses. That gave Dust Devil 33 health against Super Colossal Guy, who also fell without inflicting any losses. So Vincent's Dust Devil had now grown from 15 health to 41, and he still had two powerful mutations. Jacob Hebner's Bronacle had 36 health plus Beserk (1 extra attack in the first round of combat). It turned out to be a very close battle but Jacob Hebner, the defending junior champion, had to settle for 2nd place this time. Vincent Alonso, who had just learned the game that day, turned the Dust Devil into the King of the Giant MONSTERS for the first time in the convention's history. This was one of the best games of MONSTERS Ravage America ever played at this convention. These juniors proved themselves to be capable of beating the adults.

 GM      Mark Love  [5th Year]   9890 Wahingtonian Blvd #705, Gaithersburg, MD 20878-5351    (NA)

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