age of empires III  

Updated 11/14/2008

2008 WBC Report  

   2009 Status: pending 2009 GM commitment

Evan Davis, IN

2008 Champion

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Event History
2008    Evan Davis, IN     33

Rank  Name              From  Last  Total
  1.  Evan Davis         IN    08     30
  2.  Jacob Hebner       CO    08     18
  3.  Alex Gregorio      PA    08     12
  4.  Bill Morgal        MD    08      9
  5.  Kaarin Engelmann   VA    08      6
  6.  Doug Mercer        MD    08      3
2008 Laurelists

Jacob Hebner, CO

Alex Gregorio, PA

Bill Morgal, MD

Kaarin Engelmann, VA

Doug Mercer, MD

Assistant Convention Director Kaarin Engelmann (left) and Junior Monitor Sharee Pack take time out to play Age of Empires III with Robert Hahn.

John Pack (right) steps out from his Gangsters and Medici GM duties long enough to try a new game. The entire Pack clan came east from Colorado for WBC.

Age of Air Empires?

Age of Empires III (AE3), the boardgame, is nothing like its counterpart on the computer. The game is designed for two to five players out of the box, with an optional sixth that you can purchase from the company. From the GM's perspective, the game is best with four, then five, and then three. It also makes for an excellent fast-moving two player game. The six-player is VERY tough, as options are not available for each player (it being set up optimally for four). Each colour represents one of the major colonizing powers ­ although in the game there are no different national abilities.

AE3 is a game about resource management, resource competition, discovering and colonizing the new world, and bringing riches home through the establishment of a trade network. Each turn a player is provided a number of 'settlers' that can be used in a variety of ways: attempting to take future initiative from other players, colonizing the new world, developing trade goods, building a merchant fleet, developing your home country's colonization capability, launching discoveries, training for future specialists, and finally warfare. Each player starts with five 'settlers' and then expands this number (or not) depending on the strategies they elect. As the game progresses you tend to see different strategies develop ­ colonize the new world, the development of trade empires, the discovery of the new world, and even warfare. Often the winning strategy requires the right balance of these basic concepts, with the player that executes the best balance vis-a-vie the others most likely to win.

This was the first year that Age of Empires III was run -- and great thanks to our anonymous sponsor!

The tournament had 33 unique players that played in two initial heats. From those heats the top 12 moved onto three semi-final games. The Finalists were drawn from the winners of the three semi-final games plus the highest scoring, non-winning semi-finalist. Two of the finalists were new to the game, with the other two having played a handful of times previously. The four finalists were Bill Morgal, Alex Gregorio, Jacob Hebner, and Evan Davis.

At the start of AE3 only the Caribbean region is explored. The other eight are not. Like most games of AE3, the final started off slow, but with Brazil being discovered in a lucky move by Alex on the first turn. This also combined with the three indigo trade goods that came up (Alex grabbed two of them) to set Alex up for his initial discovery and economic strategy.

Jacob Hebner scored a lucky play early on by selecting the new world cartographer as his first capital building selection. This building allows a player to instantly discover one territory in the new world. Jacob selected New Spain, which is a source of gold -- and found the most valuable native card in the game! Lots of victory points and extra money plus he then co-opted a tough native force.

A little levity was introduced early when Bill Morgal, a newbie stated 'the first three games (which he won) I tried going to the new world. This game I decided to try something different.' Changing strategies in the Final? By the end of the first Epoch, Evan had a slight lead in colonization points of 10 to Jacob's 8 to Alex's 6. Bill (Mr. try a different strategy) was shut out with 0 colonization points. By the end of the second epoch, Evan had a clear lead with a total of 30 colonization points, Jacob and Alex tied with 20 each, and Bill still with 0. In a game where the victory usually has around 90-100 points (four-player game) a 30-point deficit is a tough hill to climb -- especially when your other competitors each have 20 points. One way to climb out of the hole is through the Capital buildings at the end of the game.

Those Capital buildings that enable a player to improve their colonization program are vital. In the first two epochs a player is grabbing buildings that provide them extra settlers, or specialists such as merchants or missionaries, or even, as Jacob used so well, unique opportunities such as New World Cartography that give you a free area discovered, or Conquest of the Incas that give you a bunch of extra money. However, it is the final Epoch (III) where the capital buildings provide the victory points players desperately need to win.

In this year's Final, the initial five Epoch III buildings were Prosperity, Militia, Factory, Population, and Navy. Alex grabbed Prosperity (VPs for number of Capital buildings) and Population (VPs for people in the New World), while Bill, the money leader, grabbed the Factory (produces a lot of money and some VPs) and Navy (VPs for each ship you own). Jacob and Evan did not pick up any victory scoring building in Turn 7. For the last turn of the game, the final scoring buildings that came up were Power, Mercantilism, Wealth, and Glory.

The last turn proved, as it often does, crucial. Viewing Jacob as his main competitor, Alex launched all-out attacks against him in Brazil and New Spain. At the same time the new Capital buildings were bought, with Alex purchasing Power (VP for soldiers), Jacob Mercantilism (VPs for trade goods), Bill Wealth (VPs for money ­ which combined nicely with his Factory), and finally Evan with Glory (VPs for each New World region in). The final scoring was close, but a clear winner was declared.

Whether it was the final turn battles between Alex and Jacob, the abandonment of the New World race by Bill, Capital building purchases, solid play or plain luck, Evan came out victorious. He vanquished his opponents with a total score of 90 to Jacob's 82 to Alex's 78 to Bill's 70. Going into the last turn the GM can attest it was a very close match. Had Evan not purchased Glory in time, a 14 point shift would have occurred. Had Alex not attacked Jacob in Brazil and New Spain, Jacob would have picked those desperately needed 10 points. Regardless of the what if's, Evan pulled out a solid victory.

Before WBC, Evan had largely given up playing AE3, believing it to be unbalanced. He told the GM that he had been a playtester, but had not really played a lot after the game was actually published. However, he found the game 'more balanced than my previous experience before WBC.' Some of the great things about WBC is not only the opportunity to compete with others, but to try new games you have not before (like Alex and Bill) or to discover (as Evan did) that others don't quite play the game in the way you and your group does -- and it gives you a new appreciation. For Evan the victory was especially sweet. He stated that "It has been a rough week ... there were games I thought I would do well in that I did not. This was a real boost. Not only to win, but to play with such a great group as the ones (Alex, Bill, Jacob) in the Final." Evan, like the rest of the participants, rejoices that Age of Empires III will move beyond Trial to become a full event in 2009.

Evan Davis (second from left) is known in gaming circles as the designer of Air Baron but he showed he can play a little too by wunning AE3.

Janice Thorne and Doug Mercer (left) watch Kaarin Engelmann's move. There were seven women in the field of 33 for the event's WBC debut.
 GM      Karsten Engelmann  NA   NA

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