Guess Who? ...
For such a one-sided event, FTP
Newlyweds Emely and Geoff Allbutt
interrupt honeymoon to play For The People.
Jeff Donald and Tim Tow vie for a
chance to answer the perennial question—who can finish second
in For the People?
The Final, or as it is commonly referred
to in FTP, the "execution" as Michael Mitchell
has the unenviable task of trying to upset
"The Master" in a bid for his 13th title.
As the saying goes, if it was a fight, they'd have stopped
it. For the 13th time in 15 years, James Pei has won again. They
don't call him "the Master" for nothing. Who better
to describe the FTP tournament than its perpetual champion?
Master Pei pinch hit for the GM with this account of his 13th
had a great time at WBC 2013, in the 15th running of the FTP
tournament (champions usually do). We had a solid turnout,
including several new players thanks to the early demo by Mark
Herman. Among the new players were the new couple of Geoff and
Emily Allbutt. They were married at 9:30 am, and then drove all
the way back to the Host to participate in the tourney.
Despite the absence of numerous regulars, including Dockter,
Byrd, Thorensen, Sohn, Ussery, and Pettus, the field remained
strong with 24 games played. Mark Giddings, the 2012 runner-up,
went down in the opening round to George Young, a very strong
CDW player. Jeff Donald, fresh from his PbeM wins and lessons
learned from last year, made an exceptionally strong showing
this year, blowing through three opponents.Tim Tow, who came
all the way from Seattle to compete in his first face to face
tournament after years of playing online, was his second victim.
Other notable events included:
· Randy Callard parlaying an AA level of 5 into a commanding
position against Tim Miller. His Union plays would make the AA
· Jeff Donald played three discarder cards as the USA
against John Lapham on the same turn, including discarding a
Major Campaign and a Minor Campaign! Ouch!
· Michael Mitchell used a fistful of reinforcement cards
and a Campaign to knock out the Union on Turn 3, before Lee even
· Tim Miller used three Campaign Cards and a discarder
on Turn 9 to pull out a tight game against Nick Pei, forcing
Nick's Rebels to fight into a desperate 1864.
· John Sutcliffe, a Brit who is a top POG player (having
defeated Riku last year), showed that he is no slouch in FTP
either by winning his opening game. Unfortunately, other commitments
precluded him from seeing how far he could go. So many games,
so little time. I hope he returns to demonstrate the strong international
talent out there.
As fate would have it, Michael Mitchell and I met in the Final.
Michael is a very experienced wargamer, playing all sorts of
games from hardcore Advanced Third Reich to the new generation
of CDWs. He proudly told me that this was his second FTP Final,
having met me at the very first tournament way back in 1999.
Wow, we have indeed come full circle.
The Final started well for me as I was able to get nine SP
reinforcements in the first three turns. I didn't have any special
event cards, so I played a low keyed opening. I pulled back to
Richmond in a defensive posture. Michael, on the other hand,
had nice cards, leveraging them by taking KY and WV early. Knowing
that Lee was about to appear on Turn 4, he built a strong fortified
line around DC with the help of the Washington Defenses card.
With the arrival of Lee and Forrest, I finally built the AONV
and went on the offensive. With plentiful SP, AONV engaged AOP
in a series of large battles. Winning them not only gave me the
SW gains, but the attrition on the Union was noticeable. The
end of Turn 4 saw the first raid in PA, through the Pittsburgh
corridor as it was the weak link in an otherwise formidable Union
Turn 5 saw a close failed interception by AOP into Frederick,
on a 50/50 attempt. Lee's AONV broke through to cut off the DC
rail line but only managed one raid. Timely defense by the Union
prevented more raids and trapped a CSA army under Jackson.
Turn 6 saw desperate action around DC and the destruction
of Jackson's army. In a series of assaults on DC, Lee was repulsed
time and again. The timely play of the Locomotive Shortage card
forced Lee to abandon his stay on northern soil and move back
to friendly LOC. But Michael used the Mud March card to stop
and trap Lee in Harpers Ferry. Trapped behind enemy lines with
a much reduced army and the remaining two cav brigades, Lee was
in big trouble.
If I ever needed to channel the wargaming gods for a Campaign
card, this was it. True to form, the Master was able to live
up to his legend of pulling Campaign cards at the right moment.
Turn 7 saw Lee's AONV barely escaping through Shenandoah Valley
while Stonewall mustered another large force in Richmond. Grant
was put in charge of a 15 SP army and knocking at the gates of
Richmond. With an influx of fresh troops, Lee easily held against
Grant. The downfall to the Union was when the Forward to Richmond
card forced AOP to charge into Richmond. In the ensuing counterattack,
Lee forced AOP to retreat on top of Grant's army, thereby losing
another -10 SW. This was enough to have the CSA double the SW
of USA. With the writing on the wall, Michael graciously resigned.
Michael added these thoughts. "I never drew a Blockade
card for the whole 7 turns (43 cards) that combined with his
early draw of 4 replacement cards removed any SP advantage. That
really left me with my only real advantages being able to concentrate
forces, and build forts. Not only did this add to his SP force
but it kept his SW high. I briefly held fort P-J and Sabine City
which was his only SW loss other than my killing one of his Armies.
Despite having numerous forts and being attacked often with
a +3 or better mod, I seldom mustered a combat roll over a 3
that would win or at least kill two or three attackers. James
often attacked with a +5 or +7 and despite rolling 10s often
only lost Polk from a General caualty roll. In several large
battles he rolled the perfect 9. My chain of forts had almost
no effect. A loss of a Cavalry general or two would have been
I might add the fort in WDC did work as combined with my army
mod of +4 and the Capital voiding * results kept me from losing
By Email 2014
By all accounts, the 2012 World Boardgaming Championships
were a great success, if a bit uncomfortable due to a 6:1 die
split that resulted in a HVAC failure. Once again, James Pei
successfully defended his FTP title. Of course, and not to take
ANYTHING away from James, it was undoubtedly easier due Don Chappell's
unfortunate absence (and maybe David Dockter's). Seriously, congratulations
to James and our thanks to him for giving us all something to
shoot at... I mean shoot for! Shortly after WBC, the results
of James' PBeM match against previously undefeated newcomer Alberto
Molina were reported. Alberto's CSA conceded to James' Union
after the Summer of '63 with the SW at 75:42. The Union had closed
three Blockade Zones and had a 35:16 edge in SPs.
In a second battle of the undefeated, Herr Dockter's Union
downed third ranked Michael Mitchell's CSA in the Fall of '63
with the SW at 90:38. As of this writing, Nick Pei and Gary Kirk,
both previously undefeated, are enjoying a battle for the ages
in a game found on ACTS under the handle BPA 4-1. It is the Spring
of '64 and the SW is 31:24 (USA:CSA). This is a donnybrook well
worth the effort of looking through the journal. Doug Pratto,
the other previously undefeated player is locked with newcomer
Jeff Donald in yet another masterful game.
James Pei and David Dockter are guaranteed their positions
in the Single Elimination bracket games to begin at the end of
September, and as befits their AREA ratings (first and second
respectively) they will anchor the brackets. The winner of the
Pei/Kirk game will also be seeded as will Pratto should he prevail
against Donald. Known to have qualified for the drawing to complete
the bracket are: Michael Mitchell, Alberto Molina, Grant LaDue,
Tom Thornsen, Sean Dolbee, Tim Tow and Jean Louis Dirion. Possibly
qualifying, depending upon the outcome of their current games
are: Jeff Donald, Mike Pacheco, George Young, Steve Likevich
and Mustafa Corapci. Round 4 officially began on May 25th and
ended on September 28th 2012.
The fourth round ended on schedule with one adjudication.
Things only got tougher thereby, however, as there were 13 players
with 3-1 records and only five slots available in the Single
Elimination bracket. Five of the 13 were randomly selected to
participate in the championship bracket. With exactly eight remaining,
a special "Trans Mississippi" bracket was created for
fun, honor and "I coulda been a contender!" bragging
rights. While disappointment was clearly evident, all accepted
this invitation in the spirit of good sportsmanship that is the
hallmark of BPA members.
The Championship Quarterfinals feature Jean Louis Dirion (USA)
vs James Pei; Tom Thornsen (USA) vs Jeff Donald; Gary Kirk (USA)
vs Doug Pratto and Sean Dolbee (USA) vs David Dockter). Shortly
after the brackets were announced a flurry of unauthorized handicapping
for a betting pool broke out on ComSimWorld. It seems to me that
the handicappers were basing their odds on their own experiences
against these players rather than any valid mathematical analysis,
so my advice would be to take the long odds in each case as I
suspect that pay-offs are larger than risk across the board.
This bracket strikes me as a highly competitive one. While Dockter
and Pei are seeded to allow yet another Final confrontation,
the path to both getting there is not going to be easy. This
may yet be the tournament that sees the beginning of an end to
a certain dynasty... and if not, then the greater the glory as
the story will continue for another chapter. Round 5 of the tournament
officially began on September 29th and will end on February 2nd
As I suspected would happen, Round 4 ended with more balanced
results with respect to the sides. There were six Union victories
vs five losses (and the one adjudication). Additionally the games
lasted longer with one, the contest between reliable grognard
Bill Peeck and Mike Kunin going into the last turn before a decision
was reached. For more details please visit our tournament website
at the link above.
King is Dead! Long Live the King!"
Tournament newcomer Sean Dolbee has unseated James Pei as
the reigning FTP Champion. James, holder of 722 BPA Laurels
in FTP alone, has defined the word dominance in Card Driven
Games since FTP's original publication over a decade ago.
While he has been defeated in tournament play twice before, this
marks his first loss during a championship PBeM Final and caps
an extraordinary run for any wargamer.
Nor can it be said that Sean managed to "get lucky".
Certainly, luck was involved, it is a wargame afterall; but Sean
bested a number of top quality players for the right to meet
James in the Final including Gary Kirk (other than Pei and Dockter
the only undefeated player in the Swiss rounds), Jon Gautier
(2 laurels), Tom Drueding (18 laurels) and perennial FTP
second seed David Dockter (186 laurels). Sean did lose his opening
round to CDG grognard George Young (12 laurels), but obviously
did not lose heart and resign from the tournament; instead he
went on to qualify for the drawing into the finals bracket.
Additionally, the Pei/Dolbee contest was one of the most watched
and commented on in CDG history. Fortunately before the on-line
commentary got too far out of hand, our next GM, Tim Tow, moved
it to its own, closed, website on ComsimWorld. The viewing audience
was treated to a game much like any super NFL-like football bowl
game whose name cannot be uttered without risking lawsuits. By
that I mean that the play of the apparent David vs. Goliath contest
did not seem to match the excitement level the fans desired.
Both players played aggressively, but were always aware of and
managed their downside risk. In the opening turns, early distractions
by Pei in the West seemed to match Dolbee's desire to establish
more depth to his defense there as well as to threaten invasion
of the Union midwest. Soon enough however, the CSA moved into
the Eastern theater in force. There Dolbee both waited for opportunity
and took a bold chance when it presented itself and ended the
game with a three-state raid. At the fundamental level, Dolbee
played a very Pei-like game and it paid off. Hardly flawless
by either player, but still very well played and a worthy contest.
In the meantime we have three matches left to complete in
the current tournament. Jeff Donald and Gary Kirk are still battling
it out for the 3rd and 4th place laurels. In the Trans-Mississippi
(consolation) bracket, Alberto Molina and Michael Mitchell have
suddenly found themselves in a close contest. This is a game
that players who believe that it is over by the end of 1862 should
really take a close look at. An "early resigner" would
have already folded, but this one is now too close to call. The
winner of that game will play Nick "Padawan" Pei for
bragging rights in the consolation bracket.
As a GM, PBeM or otherwise, Don Chappell is unrivalled
- the dean of his craft. Perhaps in this case he was too good!
As a learning moment for other potential GMs to consider, please
note the following.
The winner of this event was known and announced long before
WBC 2013, but the event itself dragged on long past our annual
convention while the secondary matches continued months afterwards.
Because of the arcane rules pertaining to BPA laurels and its
Caesar competition, an event can't be finshed until it is over
lest a real can of worms be unleashed on the scoring thereof.
So, even though the deciding title game had been concluded months
before, the participants had to wait for their laurels to be
awarded until the other ranking games had finished. This, theoretically,
could very well determine the winner of our annual Gamer of the
Year Caesar award when the event
drags on past WBC - our official end of the gaming year.
The drawback of PBeM tournaments has always been the excessive
time they can take when not all participants are fully engaged
with timely reponses. In his enthusiasm to provide the most gaming
opportunities and entertainment for his players, Don made two
errors. First, he had playoff games for positions third through
sixth scheduled concurrently with the championship match - meaning
the tournament cannot end until the slowest match concluded.
More importantly, he compounded this error by allowing a player
to exceed the deadlines for finishing the round.
He is not alone in this regard. I've participated in numerous
tournaments where a deadline was required at the start and the
stated penalty for exceeding said deadline was forfeiture. The
point is to provide an incentive to play accordingly and make
time to respond in a prompt and courteous manner - and to discourage
those not committed to such an undertaking from participating.
Having done so, often at considerable sacrifice of other activities,
one is then left grinding one's teeth when the GM arbitrarily
changes the rules and allows the game to continue past the stated
deadline. If the rule was never intended to be enforced, why
have the rule in the first place?
I know. No one wants to win on a technicality and there
but for the grace of God go I. Life happens and this is only
a game. Yes and No. When you enter a tournament it is not just
a game - you are agreeing to a code of conduct that includes
timely response. Object to such a GM ruling - and you're a poor
sport so you grin and bear it. But in doing this kindness for
one player, the GM is inconveniencing all the others who must
abide by a slower schedule than was agreed to previously. Set
aside for the moment whether it is fair or not - and make no
mistake about it, I believe there is nothing fair about changing
the rules in midstream. If you want the trains to run on time,
you have to keep to a schedule. Failing to do so makes tournaments
drag on for years and in the long run discourages players from
getting involved. Sure, the game is the thing, but nobody is
saying the players can't continue the game on their own schedule
for the sake of the game. But for tournament purposes, when that
chess clocks runs down to 0, the tournament round is over. Or,
at least it should be in Don's world.
The official order of finish for the 2011-2013 BPA FTP PBEM
1st: Sean Dolbee (60 Laurels earned)
2nd: James Pei (36 Laurels earned)
3rd: Jeff Donald (24 Laurels earned)
4th: Gary Kirk (18 Laurels earned)
5th: David Dockter (12 Laurels earned)
6th: Jean Louis Dirion (6 Laurels earned)
7th: Tom Thornsen
8th: Doug Pratto
Additionally we had a Consultation Bracket made up of players
who qualified but were not drawn for a spot in the Championship
Bracket. The order of finish for this bracket is:
1st: Michael Mitchell
2nd: Nick Pei
3rd: Alberto Molina
4th: Tim Tow
5th: Mike Pacheco
6th: Grant LaDue
7th: Mike Kunin
8th: Steve Likevich
BPA Sponsor and For The People publisher, GMT GAMES,
provided additional prizes. Sean Dolbee will receive two in
print games. James Pei, Michael Mitchell and Nick Pei will all
receive one in print game of their choice. The Gamemaster provided
additional prizes to those finishing third and fourth in each
bracket. Jeff Donald and Tim Tow will receive books on Civil
War topics and our international winners, Alberto Molina and
Gary Kirk, will have their BPA Associate membership dues covered.
(Shipping costs to Spain and Australia respectively are prohibitive,
and this makes it easier for these players to retain their membership
as transferring funds to the USA for dues is not easy either.)
53 BPA members played 96 games in this tournament. Hopefully
all had fun. I'd like to once again recognize our Assistant
Gamemasters, Tom Thornsen and Michael Mitchell, for their support.
Without their help this tournament would not have run as smoothly
and successfully as it did. They are good friends and real pros!
The next FTP
PBEM Tournament, game mastered by Tim Tow, is already underway.
Best of luck to all in that, and all your future games. It
was a pleasure to be the Gamemaster in this one!