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Dominant Species (DSP) WBC 2016 Report
Updated Oct. 25, 2016 Icon Key
25 Players Laura Harper, on 2016 Status 2017 Status Event History
2016 Champion

Sketching Birds while Hiding Nuts

This year the struggle for dominance turned out to be a fairly enjoyable and at times a very social event.  The tournament filled 10 boards in three heats, yielding eight different winners. Defending champion Anthony Lainesse and perennial finalist Kevin Emery each won twice. The semifinal was scheduled to immediately follow the third heat, but when only six winners appeared the semifinal became a 6-player Final consisting solely of heat winners. This has become fairly common recently and has been appreciated by many, including the GM, as it shortens the event by a round. The GM’s only regret is that he failed to win a preliminary game and was thus excluded from advancing.

There was an opening bid for animal with the bid subtracted from the bidder’s ending score. The highest bidder selects first, and then the next highest bidder, and so on until all players have selected an animal. For the entirety of the tournament, the bids ranged from six to no VPs. No VPs was the most common bid (the mode. Two VPs was the median bid. The average bid was 2.04 VPs.

So, what did a high VP bid get you? Brandon Nagle bid six in Heat 1 and selected the Amphibians with the first choice at his board. Nicolas Chepaitis (at the same board!) bid five and selected the Arachnids. However, both players were devoured by Jason Arvey’s Reptiles (bid of 1). The only other five-VP bids were by John Emery for the insects and Anthony Lainesse for the Arachnids. Both of these high rollers won their boards without bid repercussions.

Overall, the Arachnids were most frequently selected first, and only the Mammals were NEVER selected first or second. Given the small sample size, it is hard to argue for any statistical significance, but the data (as reported) is shown below in Table 1.

Table 1: Total plays and outcomes for each animal

Animal Times Selected Times Won Finish Percentage   Times Selected Early
1st 2nd 3rd Other   1st 2nd
Mammals 6 1 16.7 0.0 16.7 66.7   0 0
Reptiles 8 1 12.5 12.5 25.0 50.0   1 2
Birds 7 1 14.3 71.4 14.3 0.0   0 1
Amphibians 8 2 25.0 25.0 12.5 37.5   2 3
Arachnids 10 5 50.0 10.0 20.0 20.0   5 3
Insects 10 1 10.0 20.0 40.0 30.0   3 2

Table 1 legend: The animals are presented top to bottom in food chain order. From the left, the number of times an animal was selected and the number of times the animal won are shown. This is followed by the percentage of times each animal either won its board or finished second, third, or “other”. The final two columns indicate how many times an animal was the first or second animal selected.

To the surprise of the GM, despite the insects’ popularity in being selected in a game (see Table 1), the Insects only won once. John Emery’s Insects in Heat 1 (a five-VP bid with omnivore showing) won a solid victory over his opponents, including the GM. The other big surprise from the 11 board tournament, in the mind of the lowly GM, is the Birds. One of the least popular animals, the birds were only present in seven of the games and were only once selected either first or second. Regardless, every time played they finished no worse than third, and were at least second in all but one of their appearances. Let’s assume small sample size explains the apparent disconnect between selection order and final board placement for the Birds.

One non-surprising detail was the Mammals. Never receiving much love, they were only present in six of 11 games, were never selected first or second, and finished fourth or worse 67% of the time. In the one successful mammal game, Rafael Philibert-Larivee managed a 169 - 161 win over the Birds. “Fortunately”, the GM was at this board and able to observe how the Mammals and Birds were able to flourish while the GM’s insects limped along to 125 VPs.

Early in this game the Mammals (Rafael) and Birds (Eddie Burmester) were both far behind with their part of the board being rather decimated and devoid of points and elements. While the other three animals competed strongly against each other on the more fertile part of the board, the Mammals and Birds had a great peace summit, agreeing to work together, and to cooperatively repopulate their half of the board. They both came to adapt to “seeds” (some, including the GM, might say “nuts”) and “meat”, and as these element discs became available each turn, they were added to the board. Additionally, the two began to wanderlust and migrate cooperatively on their part of the board, allowing them to further expand their range and maximize their scoring opportunities.

On the other half of the board... the other three players, Chris Trimmer (Arachnids), the GM Insects), and Gus Collars (Amphibians) engaged in mortal combat. Gus had managed a strong opening with his amphibians, but after constant assault (in the form of disasters such as blight) from the Insects and competition from the friendly neighborhood Arachnids, the Amphibians’ board position was in grave doubt. As the game headed to the endgame, these three players realized that while their mortal combat had produced certain losers (most noticeably the Insects and Amphibians who were swapping dominance back and forth and occasionally completely canceling each other’s dominance), it had not produced any winners. The Arachnids made a final desperate attempt to speciate into the rich land of nuts and meat, but it was insufficient for them to finish first.

Prior to final scoring, the Mammals’ food chain advantage allowed them to strategically move in or out “1 more cube” so that they could tie with other animals for the most cubes, and thus allowed them to score first or second on a great many hexes. This was a great example of how board diplomacy in the form of negotiating disasters as well as in the form of negotiating how to set up a board for scoring points can allow the “allied” players to score a lot of points, and thus allow a player to win. This can be especially advantageous for the player within the pairing who has the food chain tie break or is slightly better adapted.

Overall, the above game was both social and fun, as were most of the other games. Immediately following this third heat, the Final commenced as winners John Emery and Richard Beyma declined to advance. The six remaining win-qualified finalists were Kevin Emery and Anthony Lainesse, each with two wins, and Brandon Ketchum, Jason Arvey, Rafael Philibert-Larivee, and Laura Harper with one. Kevin, who qualified with both the Arachnids and Amphibians, got first choice of species for the Final and not surprisingly chose the Arachnids. Anthony, whose double wins were both attained with the Arachnids had to settle for the Insects. Brandon won with the Birds and was content to reprise that role in the Final as was Rafael and Jason who stayed with the Mammals and Reptiles respectively. Laura, who had won with the Arachnids earlier was left with the Amphibians as the sixth selection.

The only players who did not select an animal that they had previously won with were the two who could not legally select their previous winning animal since the Arachnids had already been chosen. I will resist the urge to speculate on the relation between past animal performance and future animal selection. With the selection completed and a very social and experienced set of players ready to go, the GM left for lunch (to drown his sorrows in paperwork for having lost every heat), missing a fair amount of the hilarity that followed.

And thus begins the GM’s official “recount” of the EPIC DOMINANT SPECIES FINAL OF 2016. [Warning: the following is meant to be more humorous than serious and may contain gross errors for the purpose of telling a hopefully enthralling story. As memory is inherently imperfect would you rather have an “accurate”, but boring story missing some details or an absolutely legendary tale of daring filled with drama and intrigue?
This being said, the final paragraph is actually serious.]

The first few turns saw relatively few deaths as each animal began to go forth and explore. As this was a 6-player game, each player had only three actions at start and the board began well populated. Sometime around the third round things started to heat up and as this was a social game, someone was heard to remark, “Hey, did you regress your nuts”? This might normally be seen as an inappropriate thing to say in mixed company, but remember the Birds eat “nuts” (some, not including the GM, would say “seeds”, but those people are generally wrong. Seriously, “nuts” is way funnier and is up there with Settlers of Catans “wood for sheep”.)... But in the interest of adding more drama to this story the GM will now add an interpretation of who said what to whom that is almost certainly apocryphal, as it was not recorded in the game notes. [GM’s note: How often do you get to use the word “apocryphal”?]

Seeing as how the birds naturally eat nuts, it’s highly unlikely that the above statement was said to them, but perhaps it was the bird player (Brandon) who said, “Did you regress your nuts?”, aloud as he was paying close attention to what was happening and wanted to get rid of the competition for the nuts, which were rightfully his. As the Amphibians (Laura), Reptiles (Jason), and Insects (Anthony) start farther away from the Birds (and their precious nuts) than the Arachnids (Kevin) or Mammals (Rafael), we will assume that they didn’t possess any nuts to regress. So, that leaves Kevin’s Arachnids and Rafael’s Mammals as the two most likely targets for nut regression. On the one hand, in Rafael’s earlier game he had adapted to nuts in order to live peacefully with the Birds (see above account) and perhaps he tried to do so again... that makes logical sense. On the other hand, Mammals actually do have “nuts”, while Arachnids clearly do not, so almost certainly theBirds (Brandon) must have reminded the Mammals (Rafael) to regress his nuts. Presumably Rafael retorted back, “I’ll get you, you no good Birds!”. So, naturally, this started a blood feud between the Birds and Mammals. [GM’s note: Remember the above paragraph is probably apocryphal, but maybe not.... it could potentially be true.]

So, on Turn 4 the fun, social game with little blood shed, got real. Catastrophe, mass exodus, and biomass events all appeared. Additionally, the Mammals had been listed as an endangered species given their valuable food source (meat) had been wastelanded in the previous turn and (presumably) they had been forced to regress their nuts. What this all meant was that $%!+ was going to die. As the turn got underway, the Mammals decided to speciate off of the sole remaining meat on the board, as those were the only tiles upon which they could live. Unfortunately for the Mammals, he was still in a blood feud with the Birds, who decided to place an action pawn on depletion, where there just so happened to be meat. At this point, Rafael (Mammals) probably muttered something along the lines of, “Oh, nuts!”, which caused even more trauma as he recalled the event of the previous turn, now commonly referred to as “The great nuts regression of Turn 3”. So, as Turn 4 went along, Brandon removed the last meat on the board, preventing Rafael from speciating more Mammals into the world, and also leaving the board devoid of any meat (the only food source for Mammals). [GM note: It is entirely appropriate that after losing their nuts the Mammals were soon after also no longer able to speciate. At this point any other interpretation of what happened on Turn 3 regarding who did or did not have to regress their nuts is meaningless and I am tempted to say my interpretation is not apocryphal but rather precisely what did happen as it allows for a much more compelling story.]

With the potential extinction of the Mammals under way, the board turned to other matters, namely the giant catastrophe, biomass, and mass exodus about to befall the rest of the animals. It was at this time that the Amphibians and Insects remembered their ancient “good neighbor policy” and decided that they should work together to direct the evils of the world to a part of the board that neither of them called home. Board diplomacy is almost always a good thing for those involved in the board diplomacy (and for those who control where the horrible disasters will strike). As the mammals were teetering on the edge of extinction and the insects and amphibians agreed to avoid hitting each other, AND the notes do not explicitly lay out who was hit by which disaster, we will say that the… Arachnids were destroyed by the horrible ... catastrophe and the... Reptiles were a main target of the ... mass exodus. [GM’s note: This way everyone’s animal gets a mention in the official summary of the 2016 Final; Also, I haven’t played “ad libs” in a long time.]

By the end of Turn 4, the game had taken a sullen turn. The Mammals were likely down to a single cube on the board at the end of Turn 4 [according to the GM’s interpretation of the game notes] and were in a sad state as were many other animals. However, time was drawing short as the game was likely to go only two more turns.

Rafael, remembering his winning strategy from the heats, rallied what remained of his Mammal species (plural) and reached out to see if the cold slimy Amphibians would work with him, much like the Amphibians were already working with the Insects. Laura (who is apparently a really good artist and was drawing an amazing sketch of a bird the whole game) said… “yes, sure, uh huh, whatever you like. We can totally be friends. Wait, who are you again?”.

As the game continued to wind its way to its inevitable end, there was much debate about who should be targeted and who was winning. However, Laura remained fixated on her bird sketch and when someone remarked [apocryphally] “Laura, you’ve been awfully quiet this whole game, but I think you actually have a lot of...”, she quickly interrupted [again, apocryphally] and spat out, “the Birds. It’s the Birds. They are clearly winning. We should all attack them. Remember how mean they were to the Mammals?!?! We must avenge poor... Robert and his... mammals”. Her noble response to avenge the Mammals seemed to ring true and must have swayed the others as she escaped the worst of the disasters and late competitions.

And so, when the ice age came, final scoring was conducted, yielding 138 VPs for Laura’s Amphibians, 128 VPs for Brandon’s Birds, 125 VPs for Anthony’s Insects, 118 VPs for Rafael’s persecuted Mammals who may or may not have regained their nuts, 101 VPs for Jason’s Reptiles, and 99 VPs for Kevin’s Arachnids.

And thus, Laura Harper and her amphibians became the 2016 Dominant Species champion of the world (well, the WBC version anyway). It turned out that being peaceful and friendly with other players while also sketching an awesome bird is clearly the best strategy to employ while playing Dominant Species. Congratulations to Laura and what I believe are her first laurels, plaque, and victory at WBC!

GMs serious note: For what it’s worth, during the last turn or so things were very close. Different sets of players seemed to be competing for the survivor’s bonus, dominance cones, and scoring for cubes on a number of tiles. The players paused at least once to assess who they thought was winning with different answers coming from different players. However, based on board presence, Laura’s Amphibians looked like they were slightly ahead in the eyes of the GM, and I got the sense that she knew she was in a good position, but was “playing possum” a bit. Regardless, going into the last scoring it looked as if several of the players could win depending on a single swing in a dominance cone or the loss of a cube or two that could have swung scoring. The game was very close, and thus very well played by the entire board. Even better, all of the players appeared to have had a good time!

2016 Laurelists Repeating Laurelists: 2
Ketchum, FL
Lainesse, qc
Philibert-Larivee, qc
Arvey, VA
Emery, SC
2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
John Emery, Angela McGavisk, Trevor Schoenen and Dennis Mishler try to evolve.
Tom McCorry and Anthony Lainesse GM Dennis Mishler oversees his finalists.
GM  Dennis Mishler [1st Year]  NA
 mishlerwbc@Gmail.com  NA