Taking over an event from someone else was a strange experience. Running a new event had been very open-ended; we were free to choose what we wanted for tournament format, number of heats, number of players per game. Dominion, on the other hand, was a Century event with a lot of history to it, and the players would certainly have expectations. After some thought, I decided to leave the event basically unchanged from the previous year, using Nick Ferris's and Tom Browne’s system of two-game rounds, where each game awarded Advancement Points (APs) that could progress you to the next round. There were a number of elements that I liked in this system, the biggest being that it rewarded consistent good play, instead of just wins. On a personal level, I also enjoyed the challenge of designing the card sets for each game, and I felt that the different possible card sets added enough variety that there was no strong reason to change the format.
As with last year, then, players who appeared for the first round were given the option of playing either with the Base game only, or with Base + Prosperity. Prosperity was chosen because the Dominion Big Box meant that a few more copies of Prosperity and Alchemy were floating around than the other expansions, and of those two I certainly preferred the cards in Prosperity to the rather binary choices represented by Alchemy - Potions or not. The 79 players who came for the first round split as evenly as possible between those options, with the expansion players picking up the extra.
Base 1: Council Room, Laboratory, Militia, Moneylender, Mine, Moat, Smithy, Spy, Village, Workshop
Base 2: Bureaucrat, Council Room, Gardens, Market, Moat, Remodel, Village, Witch, Woodcutter, Workshop
The first game offered players the chance to "go off" with lots of card drawing and Village for extra actions, with the attacks not causing any permanent damage to the opponents. The second used the only alternate Victory card from the Base set, Gardens, and offered a choice of attacks - the Bureaucrat would be particularly annoying to those loading up on early Victory cards, while the normally superior Witch could actually help out your opponents by increasing their deck size.
Base + Prosp 1: Cellar, Council Room, Library, Spy, Village, Contraband, Monument, Talisman, Trade Route, Vault
Base + Prosp 2: Laboratory, Market, Militia, Moat, Remodel, Hoard, Loan, Rabble, Watchtower, Worker's Village
For those who wanted more variety, the first game offered many non-Attack ways to interact with your opponents. Council Room would let them draw cards, Contraband would let them veto your buys, Trade Route was a card that you could make better for everyone, and Vault gave everyone a bit of selection. The second set gave you several cards that could attack, defend, trash, and give extra buys, and with extra Treasures and cards that gave +1 Action, it wasn't apparent if extra actions were even needed.
We had twelve returning laurelists in the field, who split four to Base-only and eight to Base + Prosperity. Not all of those had brought their own copy, though, and the vagaries of random table assignments saw a monster table develop in the expansion section, with 2013 winner Brandon Bernard, 2014 winner Mark Giddings, and 2015 winner Dan Boyle facing off against each other. Unlucky fourth Ricky Boyes fought into second place in the first game before being dispatched in the second. The games ended up being split, with wins putting Dan and Brandon through to the next round.
With attendance down markedly from last year, the initially announced cut for quarterfinals needed to be reduced, and in the end we cut from our initial 79 down to 32. This allowed us to plan on a cut to 12 for the semifinals and four for the Final, keeping the cuts at each stage proportional.
Quarterfinals 1 (Intrigue + Seaside): Great Hall, Harem, Masquerade, Mining Village, Bazaar, Ghost Ship, Island, Lighthouse, Salvager, Tactician
Quarterfinals 2 (Intrigue + Prosperity): Courtyard, Shanty Town, Torturer, Upgrade, Bank, Bridge, Grand Market, Royal Seal, Watchtower, Worker's Village, Colony, Platinum
The first game offered many choices for additional pointing, with Great Hall, Harem, and Island all viable paths to victory. The second offered the full Prosperity experience of big money and big cards that I declined to use in the opening round, in order to keep the two halves of the room moving at about the same speed - Colony/Platinum games tending to go longer.
Unfortunately, we continued to experience issues with a lack of sufficient copies. Only four of the advancing players had copies of the game with the appropriate expansions. With the GM copy and the one set of expansions from the BPA library, that gave us six sets, but we needed eight for the quarterfinals. The solution to this was to have two tables start playing with Game 2 instead of Game 1, and switch with their neighbors once both were done. This was further complicated, though, by Game 2 being a Colony/Platinum game, which, again, tends to go longer. In the end, all of the games finished within the time slot, avoiding the need for adjudication, and our top 12 players advanced without incident.
Semifinals 1 (Cornucopia + Hinterlands): Farming Village, Horn of Plenty, Horse Traders, Hunting Party, Menagerie, Develop, Duchess, Ill-Gotten Gains, Margrave, Spice Merchant
Semifinals 2 (Hinterlands + Dark Ages): Embassy, Farmland, Oracle, Count, Fortress, Junk Dealer, Marauder, Rats, Storeroom, Vagrant, Shelters
Both of these sets offer possible rewards at the expense of awkwardness. The first game has only the underwhelming Develop to trash Estates or Curses, and if players decide that they want to work on Ill-Gotten Gains, the game can come to a quick halt. The second leverages the trashing theme from Dark Ages and offers up Rats to quickly empty your deck of your bad cards - while filling it up with more Rats.
Brandon Bernard and Robb Effinger managed to advance with a win and a second at their respective tables, but after that we had to go to tiebreakers among the 10 AP players. Newcomers Berney Pellett and Jesse Scammon had the VP totals to move on, leaving returning laurelists Dan Boyle and Ben Scholl adding to their lifetime hauls without plaques.
The Final is where things get funky. In each of the last two years, the GM has thrown twists at the last quartet, and that was a tradition that I was happy to continue.
Final 1 (Kingdom cards): Advisor, Great Hall, Haggler, Highway, Hunting Grounds, Militia, Pearl Diver, Quarry, Shanty Town, Witch
Final 1 (Extras): Candlestick Maker, Courtyard, Crossroads, Haven, Herbalist, Lighthouse, Moat, Native Village, Raze, Stonemason
The Kingdom cards for the first game were revealed first, and it didn't take the players long to note the deficiencies in them: no cards that provided extra buys, defense, or trashing, and other themes sparsely represented. They were each then handed one each of the extra cards - a variety of 2-cost cards that they could take up to three of in the beginning. Each player needed to make their choices independently, but would get to discover what everyone had done before the game actually started. There followed much wailing and gnashing of teeth, as well as multiple requests to take more of the extra cards, but they eventually made their choices, and showed what they had selected.
All four players took Raze, as the better trashing card, but after that they diversified. Robb, Brandon, and Berney went for defense with Lighthouse, and Berney doubled down with Moat as well. Robb and Brandon decided they wanted some extra actions with their last card, but disagreed on how, taking Native Village and Crossroads, respectively. Jesse, finally, went for utility with Courtyard and Candlestick Maker.
Defense would indeed be needed in this game, with four Militias and two Witches being purchased in the opening rounds. Brandon ran into bad luck immediately, drawing all three Estates in his opening hand with the Crossroads nowhere in sight, and started bemoaning his choice of game-start cards - a theme that would be echoed at different times by the other players. Razes began removing Estates from the game, and the players developed their decks in different directions. Jesse grabbed Shanty Towns and Highways, trying to leverage his extra buy. Robb limited himself to buying treasure and attacks, and was the first to Gold. Berney also tried the money-and-attacks strategy, also grabbing Shanty Towns for some combo action. Brandon repeatedly ended with only two dollars to buy with, getting three Pearl Divers among his first six buys, and hadn't built up much before the Witches started handing Curses out like candy.
Jesse landed a great turn with Highways and a Haggler, getting another pair of Highways, a Shanty Town, and a Pearl Diver, but Robb trumped that with the first Province of the game. This triggered a run on victory cards, with the first Duchy being bought immediately after, and Great Halls becoming the three-cost card of choice. Jesse and Berney both grabbed Hunting Grounds, hoping to get some use out of them and/or trade them in for victory cards after, but neither was able to get them along with their Raze. Robb was also the purchaser of the second and third Provinces before Berney broke his combo with the fourth. The last of the Curses ran out at around the time the last Highway was purchased, and then it was a race to see which other point pile would run out first, with Great Hall being the winner. In the end Robb's five Provinces gave him a massive lead, winning with 35. Berney got second with 14. Jesse's last two buys were both Provinces, but he had attracted the most Curses of the lot, so they were only enough to give him third with 9. Brandon never managed a Province, and was last with 6.
Final 2: Border Village, Conspirator, Contraband, Duchess, Ghost Ship, Groundskeeper, Island, Messenger, Steward, Village, 4-15 Provinces, Scout the Apocalypse
The last game offered a different twist, where the end of the game was not initially known to the players. The Province deck consisted of three face up Provinces, then a dozen face down cards, and finally a last face up Province. After the first three Provinces were bought, the top card of the stack would be flipped. 11 of the face down cards were additional Provinces; the last card was marked 'Last Province', and when it was flipped, all of the remaining face down cards would be removed from the game, leaving only one Province before the end of the game. Additionally, a special Event was on the table. For those of you who have not yet played Dominion: Adventures, an Event is a special card that can be bought instead of Kingdom cards. When you buy it, it stays on the table, generating an effect instead of going into your deck. Scout the Apocalypse cost 1 to buy, gave +1 Buy (so you could sink any amount of money you wanted into it), and said 'Look at any face-down card in the Province stack.' Thus players could spend some money to figure out when the game might end, and plan accordingly - but Messenger could also trigger an early end to the game.
Berney opened with Silver/Island, Bernard with Village/Conspirator, Robb with Island/Silver, and Jesse Silver/Steward. Bernard was the first to seriously scout the Provinces, checking out the top two cards in a buy down that also gave him a Steward. Berney got a quick Groundskeeper and was the first to score points off one, grabbing a new Island for a bonus point. Robb decided that scouting the top of the Province deck was for chumps and decided to go four down, and lucked into the Last Province, becoming the first to know that the total number of Provinces available to be bought was seven. Jesse, meanwhile, was the first to trash.
Bernard's strategy began to come together. He had not bought any treasures, going for extra actions with Village and Border Village, and Conspirators and one Steward for extra money and utility. Berney snagged a Conspirator of his own and started to thin his deck with Islands, getting extra points off Groundskeeper. Robb, seeing the end of the game looming, started on points earlier, getting much the same as Berney but with some extra Estates thrown in. Jesse ramped Ghost Ships into a Province, several Gold, and then another Province, but Bernard was taking the longest turns, playing out his entire deck several turns in a row. He hadn't grabbed a Messenger, though, and with no +Buy could only buy one Province, with one extra point each time off a Groundskeeper, and it was unclear if this was going to make up for him being the last player in the game to buy a green card. Bernard bought the sixth Province, revealing the Last Province marker to everyone. After him, Robb was only able to snag an Island, but Jesse was able to end the game with eight money. The second game was much closer than the first, with Brandon taking first with 29 points, Jesse and Robb at 27, and Berney at 19. Jesse took the tiebreaker to finish second over Robb, but it wasn't enough to dethrone him. First and third for Robb gave him the win in the Final pair, ahead of Brandon (fourth and first), Jesse (third and second) and Berney (second and fourth).