Eventual champ Bob Malcolmson
short work of the designer.
Mark Gutfreund greets French visitor
Guillaume Bouilleux with a loss.
Bob takes down defending champ Kevin
Three-time champ Nels Thompson
Bob's last victim.
Still hitting the beach 22 years
later ... via Canada
Bob Malcomson bested the 2015 field for his first Breakout title in only his second year of play. He earned his laurels the hard way, playing the statistically unfavored Allies throughout. His opponents were all expert German players: Scott Fenn, designer Don Greenwood, Mark Gutfreund, champion two out of the previous three years Kevin Hammond, and four-time champion Nels Thompson.
The 2015 tournament switched to a Beginner's format, with good results. Four demo attendees entered the mulligan round, where experienced players were seeded against the new players, giving novices Mike Rinella's excellent demonstration plus at least two teaching games if they chose to stick around. New player Steve Boone got to play designer Don Greenwood in the first round after playing veteran Bryan Eshleman in the mulligan round. We don't give out byes in Breakout, and when an odd number of players arrived for Round 2, Steve was rewarded with a third game as an eliminator against last year's champ Kevin Hammond. That's a lot of expert-level Breakout training in under 24 hours.
Our dear friend and GM Andrew Cummins passed away in February, but he was remembered fondly. Some players returned to storm the beaches in Andrew's honor. 2000 champ Phil Barcafer returned for a beating by Nels in the mulligan round, and four-time champ Jim Doughan won a mulligan round game against Steve Worrel to maintain his skills should Nels ever win his fifth title to force him out of semi-retirement to match. Marvin Birnbaum and Anthony Daw received the first Andrew Cummins Award for creative play. Marvin didn't take any of the St. Mere Eglise bridges with his paras on the drop, but Anthony was unable to get any defenders into the area, and Marvin cleared it during a daylight impulse. We're calling this the "zero bridge gambit." It's similar to the old Barcafer "postal on the coastal" where the paras make their assault during the night phase. The gambit counts on luck and British landings good enough to fork the German player between the choice of defending Bretteville or defending St. Mere Eglise on his opening impulse. A +2 on the dice wins St. Mere Eglise. With the advantage marker in hand, that's roughly even odds. Marvin got his roll and went on to a win, but the gambit comes with a lot of downside risk. Will we see it again next year?
It was a tough tournament for the game's venerable designer. The 1st Minnesota gaming club's representatives swept him. Greenwood fell to champ Bob Malcomson in a magic bridge* game in the second round after Jason Albert beat him in the mulligan round. Fellow 1st Minnesota gamer, man about town, raconteur, and sometime Breakout player David Dockter predicted before the tournament that Bob would win Breakout by 2016 at the latest, and Bob proved him too conservative.
It's always a tough tournament for a lot of expert players, given the high level of competition in the early rounds. Mike Rinella's Allies couldn't get going against Bruno Passacantando. Gold and Utah were stuffed on the landings. Grandcamp failed to clear on an 11:3, Merville was stuffed outright on an 8:3, and Rinella offered an early concession from a hopeless position. Dan Leader pushed Nels to the limit in a forced magic bridge game with action that stretched from Coutances to Bourguebus on the 11th after Dan cleared Troarn on the last impulse of the 10th. Nels has taken to forcing the magic bridge by assaulting St. Mere Eglise at about 15:13 from Montebourg on the 7th. Dan responded by regrouping to the center. He pushed through Isigny into the gap between St. Lo and Carentan, and attempted to surround Caen. It's hard for the Allies to win magic bridge games if they can't score points for St. Mere Eglise and Carentan. Despite Dan's progress, by the 12th there were too many German steps in place for him to cut off the Cotentin Peninsula at Coutances or clear Caen, even though the city was partially surrounded.
Bob won two magic bridge games on his way to the title, and he won them in different ways. In his win over Greenwood, Bob's British had a good 6th and 7th to counter the loss of the bridge. All of Lehr and the 12th SS were pressed into service defending Caen, with many lost to interdiction. This saved Caen for the moment but lost the center, and Don conceded after Bob contested St. Lo on the 8th. In Round 3, Bob earned the distinct honor of defeating his "Ghost Division" teammate Mark Gutfreund, knocking Mark out of scoring in BKN, and knocking Bob out of scoring for the team as well, because it put him through to the next day's competition and he couldn't play his team event. When the weather changed to wet on impulse 6 of the 6th, Mark took the magic bridge on impulse 7. But Bob forced his way through St. Mere Eglise on the 7th by going all out. He hit it with naval, air, and with three assaults, including individual unit attempts by 90th division from the approach against beach interdiction. He finally cleared it on impulse 7. By the 9th, Bob had an unstoppable path to a win.
Round 3 included a rematch of the 2014 Final. Thompson again took the Allies, but this time it cost Hammond 61 supply instead of 30. Nels had mediocre landings, but he successfully risked a 12:11 contest of Caen on the 7th, allowing him to prioritize his impulses at Utah, including a field artillery bombardment of the CA at Montebourg. With no beach interdiction and with air interdiction stopping almost everything that moved, St. Mere Eglise and Carentan fell on the 7th to the pressure from Utah. Merville had fallen during the paradrop, and when Foret fell on the 8th, Kevin's position was doomed.
Kevin returned in the morning to give the tournament the defending champ as a semifinal eliminator and faced Malcomson. Bob's Allies once again smashed their way to a win, this time with a successful even-odds clearing of Caen. In the other semifinal, Buffalonians and "Iron Meeples" teammates Nels and Kevin Wojtaszczyk, 2014's second and third place finishers (and 2015's, as it turned out), squared off again. Kevin almost immediately regretted sitting down on the Allied side of the board with a bid of 30. Clearing Merville during the paradrop was the last glimmer of hope he saw. The magic bridge fell on the first attempt. A double impulse to clear St. Mere Eglise failed. The 7th ended on impulse 3. On the 8th, veteran player George Young wandered by and observed, "Lehr Division has the luxury of stopping for coffee in every village along the way." It took an 11:12 to contest Caen. Still Kevin kept his head in the game and took the VPs he would need in addition to Caen for a win, counting on a late clear of the 4 VP area. The string of successful impulses to reward his planning did not materialize, even after Nels helped by re-rolling a +4 bombardment of Caen only to see another +4. Cursed by short days on top of bad luck, Kevin had to reroll an impulse 4 day end on the 10th and later conceded.
Bob took the Allies and a bid of 30 into the Final. He went with his favored 4-bridge opening, and used the Advantage marker to re-roll Sword, clearing it. Kevin W's first wood awaits him, but he has made a mark on the game. Bob went with Kevin's opening on Gold, and the independent 56th, the lone unit in the first wave, cleared the beach on the landing. Juno and Utah were cleared. Bretteville was cleared later on the 6th. On the 7th, Nels had to cover the center to start, and Bob killed four units from Omaha Beach after the short 6th left the 352nd artillery unable to fire and unable to get further away than Trevieres and with the bridge to Omaha still up. The Germans took the magic bridge, hoping to get lucky, but the 14:5 assault looming from Utah immediately cleared St. Mere Eglise, ending the threat. Caen and Carentan were contested on the 7th. Tilly, Foret, Isigny, Caumont and Catz were cleared on the 8th. The Germans had a mathematical chance to retake a VP area on the 9th to get back into it. When that failed, Nels offered his congratulations to Bob on his championship.
The Allies won 10 of the 23 games between experienced players. The average bid was 12 and the median bid was 10 to the Allies in those games. Bids are in reserve supply points. The highest bid was 61, the minimum bid was 13 to the Germans. The average bid went up in every round, from 6 to 9 to 22 by round 3. The two semifinals averaged 27 and the final was played at a bid of 30.
*The so-called "magic bridge" is the bridge between Montebourg and St. Mere Eglise. German control of that bridge allows them to reinforce St. Mere Eglise without making a mandatory assault. This usually denies the Allies any progress through Utah Beach.
By Email 2016
Veteran competitor Stephen Andriakos has won the 9th rendition of the Breakout: Normandy PBeM Tournament over a field of 32 in five rounds. He showed command from both sides of the table with three victories as the Germans and two as the Allies.
In the Final as the German, Andriakos was able to secure the so-called "Magic Bridge" after the runner-up, Dan Leader, decided to seize all four bridges around St. Mere-Eglise with his paratroopers on D-Day. The second and decisive turning point came on June 9, when the Germans were able to counterattack into Caen and throw the Allies out with a +1 die roll. From there it was all downhill for the Germans as Steve won his first BPA tournament.
The other laurelists were Don Greenwood, Henry Jones, Dennis Nicholson and Jason Albert who finished third through sixth respectively.