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Splendor (SPD) WBC 2016 Report
Updated Nov. 26, 2016 Icon Key
288 Players Michael Huggins, PA 2016 Status 2017 Status History/Laurels
2016 Champion Click box for details. Click box for details.

Those Smartie Canucks

Just because something isn't broke doesn't mean it can't be fixed. For Splendor, we had several things we wanted to change, despite its great debut as a WBC event last year. We wanted to continue the flights system, seating players as soon as they got up to the front of the registration line, but wanted to streamline that process even further. We wanted to make it easier for players to find their table and their seat, and also cut down on the papers that we would need to tote around. And heck, why not provide everyone with a little snack to have while playing? We Canucks are oh so clever. Here’s how it all went down.

Ahead of time, we prepared our table number sheets. Each one had the table number in large print on the front, along with setup instructions, and the letters A, B, and C, to let players know where to sit. We also acquired many mini-packs of Smarties - the Canadian kind, that are similar to M&Ms, not the chalk-flavored ones that Americans with which Americans are familiar. In the time leading up to the event, co-GM Sara VanderWal stuck a small label on each with a table number and letter - for instance, 12C. One pack for each table was randomly selected to be the host copy, and those were gathered up in sequential order; the rest were grouped according to which flight they would be included. All of this came down across the border with us, where luckily we were not questioned by customs about what we were planning to do with 480 packages of Smarties.

When players arrived for a heat, they were directed to split into two lines, depending on whether or not they had a game. Hosts were signed in, and then handed the next package in order, and instructed to find that table and seat and set up. Players without games, once registered, would draw a random package from a bag, and headed off to the appropriate table and seat. Once a table had three players, they could begin playing. When the bag of randomizers was empty, the next pre-prepared set of Smarties were tipped in and shuffled around, and randomization could resume. While we needed at least two staff to make this work, and ideally more - I believe we often had four people helping out - it meant that we could get through the line very quickly, which led to faster playing and very little waiting.

One innovation that helped this process was numbering the tables sequentially for all heats, instead of resetting after each. Heat 1 had 61 tables; therefore Heat 2 started with table 62. This allowed us to prepare the randomizers and table numbers ahead of time without needing to predict how many players we would get for any given heat, cutting down on potential waste of labels or table numbers. Keeping the table number sheets down was also important, as each doubled as a scoresheet, having a grid on the back to fill in the player's names, badges, scores, and other important information. In the end, it turned out that 480 packages of Smarties were not quite enough; our attendance was up more than 15% from the first year, and the last few of our 493 heat players were denied their sugar fix, and had to be randomized by pulling gems out of a bag instead.

As in the first year, the tableaus owned by winning players varied widely, with players winning with as few as six and as many as 20 cards, and from no to three nobles. Special recognition goes out to Dennis Gomer and Sophia Holmquist for setting a new tournament record of 20 points with heat wins - a feat that can only be accomplished by buying a card worth at least three points that also gets you a noble in the same turn.

I was especially curious to see the data on player wins by seat, as that had been my first tiebreaker in Year 1. Last year's results did not support the theory that either player A or C had a significant advantage in a 3-player game, although both seemed slightly favored over B. This year actually saw more players winning from B than either of the other seats, but again not by much. The combined data for the two years shows only a minuscule difference between the seats, which certainly supports the decision to abandon Turn Order as a tiebreaker.

Defending champion Andrew Drummond started the event off with a bang, achieving the highest win margin of the year with a 12-point victory in Heat 1. His plans for event domination hit a snag in Heat 2, though, when he ran into Michael Holmquist, another 2015 finalist. Michael took the win this time - his second of the tournament - which forced Andrew into sudden death in Heat 3 just to make the playoffs. He managed to eke that one out, taking a hard-fought 16-15-15 game that tied one other game for the closest scores of the entire event.

Despite the larger field, we had one less double winner than last year, with 32 players guaranteed through to the quarterfinals. When only 26 of them appeared, we took the first alternate as well and ran all playoff rounds as 3-player games. Four players - Joe Yaure, Mary Ellen Powers, Michael Kaltman, and Rob Kilroy - won all three heats, and these were consequently sent to different tables, but it didn't seem to help much. Rob was the only one to reach the semis. Mary Ellen's achievement was particularly notable as she walked into Heat 1 half an hour early to read the rulebook! Michael went down to Bob Woodson in a game that saw each player buy 17 cards, but Bob's were of higher quality. It was a tough round for last year's laurelists as well. Lance Ribeiro also failed to advance out of the quarters. Michael Holmquist didn't have to face Andrew Drummond for a third time, but ended up at a table with another Dice Lovin' Canuck, Sara Ward. She dispatched him handily, leaving Andrew as the only returning laurelist to reach the semifinals. Sara continued her winning ways in the round of nine, and was quickly joined in the Final by Michael Huggins. In the third semifinal, Andrew Drummond and Kate Fractal found themselves stymied by the defensive play of Rob Kilroy, who repeatedly reserved low-level cards, then played them without spending his gold. In this way he accumulated _all_ of the gold, leaving the others scratching to get enough gems to play anything that would actually help. Before Rob could move on to the "profit" step of his plan, though, Andrew managed to get all five rubies to play a big point card out, then followed that a few turns later with all five onyxes for another. Rob cashed in some gold to try to recover, but this opened options for the other two, and Andrew slammed home a victory shortly thereafter - ending Rob’s winning streak at four.

The Final setup offered some interesting choices for the players. All four three-level cards had costs of 7 of one gem and 3 of another - a good rate of return for your gems. Additionally, all four two-level cards required blue gems to acquire. Both Andrew and Sara started grabbing blue gems as well as others, but Michael bought the only cheap blue one-level card. He also bought an early, cheap green card. Andrew overpaid for a zero-point blue card. All three players reserved more expensive cards, but Andrew overreached, reserving three expensive cards, ultimately without the gems and gold to buy any of them. Michael was first to earn points, playing a five-pointer, while both Andrew and Sara looked glum. Sara had been building up smaller cards, and got a one-pointer down after that, while Andrew bought red cards that didn't help with his reserved cards. Michael dropped another point card, then reserved a third card himself - leaving all three players with full hands. All three played point cards, but this didn't help the Canucks narrow Michael's lead. Michael switched to smaller cards, playing a two-point and a one-point. Andrew and Sara got down one more point card before Michael ended the game exactly, swinging up to 15 points.

As was the case this year, we now have some additional "fixing" that we are planning for next year. The biggest change is that we will be moving to 4-player heats for 2017. I still believe that 3-player games are more skill-intensive; however, the fact that the number of copies brought to any given heat has consistently been under a third of the player count (but more than a quarter) lead us to believe that 4-player heats are the way to go. This should also reduce the number of winners, and thus the double winners, which will hopefully allow us to continue to run 3-player elimination rounds going forward.

Additionally, we are going to swap the position of two of the advancement tiebreakers. So far, the first tiebreaker has been Best Non-Win Finish, followed by Best Margin of Victory. This was intended to encourage players to play in more heats, but also led to the unfortunate situation that a player who only appeared for one heat had no chance to sneak into the playoffs as an alternate, no matter how complete their victory was. For next year, these are going to be revised so that Best Margin of Victory will be examined before Best Non-Win Finish.

2016 Laurelists Repeating Laurelists: 1
Sara Ward, on Andrew
Drummond, on
Curt Collins II, PA Chris Gnech, PA Bob Woodson, NV
2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
The Seasons room is full of beaucoup Splendor players
as the event overtook Ticket to Ride as the #1 attraction in 2016.
Cyril Tircuit, the ever photogenic Sam Wolff and
Deniz Bucak begin a row of Splendor competitors.
Gary Schaefers, Chris Kizer and Ray Wolff anchor a row of players. Lynda Shea, Mary Ellen Powers and Jesse Adcox vie in the next row.
Finn Antonio Kuusi and Californian Roderick Lee vie
with a youngster awed to play with such world travellers.
GM Duncan McGregor with his finalists which include
a couple of his fellow Canucks who certainly know their Splendor.

Splendor Junior 2016

On Friday afternoon 30 little Splendor fans reported to Fox Den to contest the first Splendors Juniors tournament. And they did so with gusto at eight tables with a command of the game that far exceeded GM Andrew Drummond's wlldest expectations. Three preliminary games stood out. Andrew Freeman, with a vast collection of Juniors plaques already and several years of eligibility remaining to gather more, eked out a 15-14 win over Preston Saccenti. Preston's sister, Linsey, prevailed in a close 15-13 win over Sarah Drummond. And in the best of the preliminary games, Audrey Powers prevailed in a three-way tie. You are never too young to learn about tiebreakers!

The three semifinal games proved that these kids had done their homework and came from families where boardgames were more than a casual pastime. As the 2015 champion and an ardent player of the game on the app, I like to think I know my Splendor better than most and these kids could put many adults to shame. In the first semi, Shira Weiss ran an efficient second and third row card engine to win easily, 15-6. At the second table, Linsey barely held off Bailey Burdett with a 15-14-11-8 win. But the third game was special - the kind of tense and fun game that showcases skill and brings you back to WBC year after year for more of the same. I look forward to matching wits with these amazing kids in the future. Amyway, Casey Moquin held off Preston Saccenti. Elowyn Cres and Ethan Shipley-Tang in a battle for the ages. The score was 15-14-12-8 but that hardly does justice to the precision of their play.

The three victors advanced to an all-girl Final that was as tense as any adult contest. Shira made a 3-point final play that would have won most games, but Linsey was a little more efficient and won 15-14-8. Her brother Preston finished fourth, Bailey Burdett fifth and Aubrey Powers sixth.
James Freeman lends a hand
to some fledging Splendor players learning the game.
The GM and reigning champion of Splendor
awards the Junior plaque to Linsey Saccenti.

GM  Duncan McGregor [2nd Year]  NA
 robroyduncan@gmail.com  NA