With the move to Seven Springs, and more importantly the elimination of pre-cons, came more schedule competition for San Juan. While there were more players present at the very start of WBC, San Juan was no longer the only game in town. Due to multiple event choices and the inevitable conflicts therefrom, participation dropped 30% with only 68 players playing in the early Monday morning tournament. It was an 8-year low for the conference opening staple event. However, the demo on Sunday afternoon garnered more attention than usual. Hopefully, we will see more people next year for this quick and easy-to-learn card game!
There were four continuous rounds of 2-player games and those who won at least three games advanced to the elimination rounds. The second edition of the game made an appearance with its new buildings and text changes to existing cards. Players had the option of playing either edition, so more and more are getting exposed to it. We shall see if it grows in popularity.
There were 20 players who garnered the required three wins to advance. The playoff field included four of last year’s laurelists (Debbie Gutermuth, Rob Kircher, Derek Glenn, and defending champ Jeff Mullet) as well as past champions Greg Thatcher and Bruce Reiff. Because only 20 advanced, byes were given to past winners and seven other people. Therefore, the first round consisted of only four 2-player games to set the brackets at 16.
The most common battle in San Juan, especially with two players, is between the strategies of building production buildings and Guild Hall, and building violet buildings and City Hall. This year was no different, particularly within the elimination bracket.
However, there were a few surprises. In his second round game against Rob Kircher, Rich Miller built an early Gold Mine. Gold Mine allows a player to flip four cards from the top of the deck, and, if there are four different costs to these cards, the player is allowed to choose one to add to his hand. With only six different card costs this cheap cards results in at most one or two winners. Rich Miller had better luck. Over the course of this game, Rich was able to strike it rich and acquire three end-of-game 6-cost victory cards: Palace, Guild Hall, and City Hall. These strikes allowed him to defeat Rob Kircher 43-36.
Miller continued his upset ways in his quarterfinal game against double champion Reiff. Yet again, he acquired and built an early Gold Mine. He was able to use this card to acquire ONLY two 6-cost cards this time … (Guild Hall and City Hall). That was enough to defeat Bruce 36-25!
The two semifinal games were similar and resulted in near identical scores. The first semifinal was a rematch of the 2015 Final between Derek Glenn and Jeff Mullet. Jeff went full-on production strategy with a Gold Mine and Smithy for the first two builds. After that, it was all-out production building, ending the game with two Indigo plants, a Sugar Mill, three Tobacco Storages, three Coffee Roasters and, of course, the Guild Hall. His total score was 35 points. Derek proceeded with the opposing violet building strategy. He started strong with Quarry, Market Hall, and Prefecture. Everything seemed well, but Derek could not get enough cards, or the right ones, and stalled in mid game. He made a few decent builds, with Chapel and City Hall for his last build. However, he was not able to keep pace with Jeff’s production engine and ended with only 23 points in a defeat very similar to last year’s runner-up performance.
The game between our lucky miner and Keith Dent was similar in contention. Rich started off with his old friend, the Gold Mine. However, this time he could not locate the rich vein with the payoffs of his previous strikes. He also built a very strong violet building engine, including early builds of Quarry, Poor House, Carpenter, and Library. However, because of the lack of other production buildings, he ran short on cards. He ended his game with 10 out of 12 cards, and even the City Hall could not make up for the lack of monuments and other high-point cards. In the never ending battle of violet vs. production, Keith sided with production. Even with the conflict of building both the Quarry and Smithy at the beginning, Keith pushed a quick game to the end. He finished with three Indigo Plants, three Tobacco Storages, two Coffee Roasters, and the Guild Hall to win 33 - 24. The ONLY differences between his game and Jeff’s was a Sugar Mill and a Coffee Roaster vs a Quarry and an Indigo Plant.
So, it all came down to the Final to determine if production would top violet buildings. Jeff decided to not fix what is not broken and continued his production building streak. He started with and held the Guild Hall in his hand the entire game. To go with his usual plethora of production, even sneaking in a late Silver Smelter this time, he added a Prefecture and a Palace. He pushed the game through, all without the aid of the ever-helpful Smithy, and completed the game with four Indigo Plants, a Sugar Mill, two Tobacco Storage, a Coffee Roaster, and a Silver Smelter in addition to that held Guild Hall. On the other hand, Keith was not going to let that continuous production slow him down. Unlike Jeff, he did start out with an early Smithy, but only built one other production building, a Tobacco Storage. He instead played some of the favorite violet buildings: Poor House, Prefecture, Quarry, Market Hall, Chapel, and Victory Column. His City Hall and Palace end game scoring kept him in hunt, and not blown away as seen previously. Those five points under the Chapel pushed him to a score of 33 to Jeff’s 34 before Palace. Because both had one, the final score was 41-42. This was a much closer score than expected, but nothing unheard of, especially within the elimination bracket. In the end, his Production strategy carried the day again and Jeff Mullet ran his San Juan winning streak to three.