2016 was a transition year for the tournament, for multiple reasons. On the one hand, the elimination of the “precon” distinction resulted in more games moving to the opening weekend and the increased options seemed great for the Con even if it did result in a smaller AGE tournament. On the other hand, the publication of “A New Story of Civilization” made the format of the event a bit more complicated as the GM attempted to allow players to play their preferred version of the game. In the end, three of the usual suspects made the Final, but it was the finalist newcomer – Steven LeWinter – who took home the shield.
As far as the new version of the game goes, most people seem to like most of the changes, though there is still some concern that uncapped military strength makes the Big Military strategy even better (helped a bit by the fact that you can no longer resign in Age 4 when you’re on the wrong end of a war). Despite this potential flaw, when players were allowed to choose which version of the game they preferred to play, twice as many people chose to play the new version. In future years the old version will continue to be available during the heats, but the default for the playoffs will be the new version (quite possibly with a tournament “house rule” that puts back the military cap of 60 strength).
There were two triple winners during the three heats – Joel Lytle and Randy Buehler – each of whom has won this event twice before. The five double winners included the other two-time former champion: Jason Ley who was tragically killed by a drunk driver three months after the convention. He was a talented player and a regular competitor whose loss will be sorely felt in the years ahead.
Having the field reduced by a third in 2016 meant that just eight players advanced to the semifinals with just one win and it worked out to be everyone who also had a second place finish plus one player with the closest third. Because of the requirement to separate team members where one has this as their team game, we wound up with two semifinal tables of the new version and two semifinal tables using the old one. (Many thanks to the players who chose not to have a preference so the GM could accommodate everyone who did!)
The “feature match” during the semifinal round was certainly the one featuring former champs Joel Lytle and Jason Ley with Joel emerging with a narrow win that left Jason with fifth place laurels in his last tournament. (In a sign of how much better balanced the new version is: Joel built the previously unplayable Colossus as his first wonder.) The other “new” game was won easily by Sceadeau D’Tela, who had quietly crept into fourth place in the AGE laurels race by making the Final in four of the last five years. Randy Buehler and Steven LeWinter won the two old versions and because the new version was so, well, new this year the rules for the event said if the players at the Final table were split 2-2 on which version they prefer, it would default to the old version. So the old version was used for one last Final.
Age 1 was bloody, with Randy using Caesar to take a couple of potshots at Joel, who did not draw any defense cards and definitely had his development stunted. Those spoils seemed to have Randy in the best position as Age 1 ended, but if he did have a lead it wasn’t by much. The key moment of the game came at the beginning of Age 2 when Steven drew the Classic Army tactic on the very first draw from the Age 2 military deck. It is considered by far the best tactic and Steve used it to great effect, taking the military lead and staying near the top of the arms race the whole game. In addition, Steve drew a bunch of defense cards and won several early colonies. When Cook appeared that gave Steve a culture engine too and as Age 2 turned into Age 3 the others started to realize they were playing for second place.
No one’s infrastructure was particularly good as all four were forced to invest significant resources in military just to make sure they didn’t leave themselves vulnerable to aggression. This led to a fairly low-scoring game where no one managed to build an Age 3 wonder. It would all come down to the endgame Impacts. Sceadeau actually seeded an Impact on the very last turn that was bad for him in a desperate attempt to flip an event that would allow him to build his wonder, but there was no Economic Progress to be found and instead his event actually just moved Joel into second ahead of Randy.
Steven LeWinter – 148
Joel Lytle – 119
Randy Buehler – 115
Sceadeau D’Tela – 105
Chris Ellis, Eric Engelmann and Don Tatum
Joe Angiolillo, the late Jason Ley and Jeremy Billones
|The elimination rounds expand to 4-player games. Our finalists were three of the usual suspects,
plus Steve LeWinter who crashed the party and won it all.
| Randy Buehler (6th Year)