The Spice of Life
Rob Barnes ponders the next appearance
of the worm.
1994 champ Paul Weintraub leads an
Eight qualifying games were played in the three heats, all
6-player games for the first time since 2001. Perhaps because
there were no 5-player games, the average game this year was
up in duration, to 8.1 turns in 4.6 hours. Adjudication rules
were unchanged, but only one game exceeded the time limit and
required an adjudicated finish.
This year, the wins were shared more than usual, with no solo
wins of any kind. We had five 3-player alliance wins, two 2-player
alliance wins, and one 2-player alliance Guild default victory.
The Atreides were the "winningest" faction, sharing
in five victories, and continuing a four-year streak of win-rate
improvement. The Emperor, Guild, and Bene Gesserit factions formed
the pack with four wins apiece. The Fremen were next with three
wins, taking them out of the cellar this year, which is particularly
ironic since this was the year we conducted a poll for deciding
whether or not to add a house rule to help boost the Fremen's
power. Surprisingly, House Harkonnen dropped from first to last
place this year, with only two wins. (An interesting pattern
has developed for the Harkonnens for the last 10 years,
Harkonnen have alternated from 1st or 2nd place one year to last
place or second-to-last place in the next. Since they were last
this year, it will be interesting to see if they can return to
first in 2011!)
As mentioned, we conducted a poll concerning the possibility
of adding a house rule specifically to help the Fremen faction
a bit. Over 10 years of records, the Fremen have had the lowest
win percentage by a significant margin every year except two:
2006 and this year. Overall, the Fremen have only a 20% win ratio,
compared to 36-38% for the Atreides, Emperor, and Guild, 42%
for Harkonnen, and 47% for the BG. This means a player who randomly
draws the BG in a game is almost 2.5 times more likely to win
than the player who randomly draws the Fremen!
15 players returned their questionnaires (giving a better than
50% return rate). Five responders considered the Fremen to be
the weakest faction (relative to the others), while five considered
them to be below average, and four considered them to be average.
No one considered the Fremen to be an above average faction.
Nine of the responders believe something should be done to increase
the Fremen's relative power, and of those, seven leaned toward
some way of decreasing the Fremen's battle support costs. (Since
we play with all advanced and optional rules, many believe that
costs incurred with advanced battle rules hurt the Fremen, who
tend to be a relatively poor faction. The opinion on whether
or not the Fremen should have an additional power to offer allies
was evenly split, and somewhat surprisingly, a majority of the
responders do NOT favor introducing a bidding system for faction
assignments, in spite of the disparity in faction strengths.
Based on these results, I believe I will be introducing a simple
house rule to decrease the Fremen's battle support costs next
As always, Best Faction plaques were awarded to the players who
gave the best single-game performance with each faction during
the preliminary heats, measured in terms of strongholds controlled
per turn. Joe Harrison received Best Atreides; Joe Abrams, Best
BG; Phil Barcafer, Best Emperor; Ty Hansen, Best Fremen; Jean-Francois
Gagne, Best Guild; and Alan Arvold, Best Harkonnen.
In the Final, Joe Harrison returned again as the Atreides, Joe
Abrams drew the Bene Gesserit, Jean-Francois Gagne was the Emperor
with compatriot Stephane Dorais as the Fremen, newcomer Wray
Ferrell got the Guild (after drawing the Guild in every game
he played during the week already!), and Phil Barcafer, the lone
prior champion at the table, snagged the Harkonnen.
This game was turned on its head early, with the Fremen ousting
the Harkonnen from Carthag in Turn 2, and the BG defeating the
Atreides in Arrakeen in Turn 3. They went on to hold these conquests
for most of the game, until the next big shake-up in Turn 8.
In a dramatic show of strength, the Fremen defeated the Harkonnen
in Sietch Tabr by declaring Feyd Rautha a traitor and winning
big. After that, Stephane held TWO strongholds himself all the
way through Turn 7, seeming to hold a position of dominance on
the board. Things were relatively stable through the mid-game,
with the Guild and others scrambling militarily and diplomatically
to prevent the lead alliances from securing the win. Finally,
in Turn 8, the Shield Wall was destroyed and the sixth worm was
revealed, making the Shield Wall a stronghold for the purposes
of victory (house rule). After many battles and extreme loss
of tokens, an alliance of the Emperor and House Atreides finally
emerged victorious in Turn 11. JF Gagne as the Emperor was declared
the winner with the second tiebreaker.
Congratulations to all, and especially to first-time champion
Jean-Francois Gagne. Thanks for another great year, and we hope
to see everyone again next year!
Wray Ferrell and Phil Barcafer press
home their points.
GM Brad Johnson oversees his finalists.