One of the highlights of the WBC schedule for any true grognard has always been Thursday’s Up Front marathon. This game has had a loyal following since before the inception of the con and those players continue to appear year after year to vie for the title of best of the best. While it was feared that the convention change in venue would lessen the field, most of the regulars found a way to be present and the addition of three new recruits meant that our attendance remained stable.
The initial five swiss rounds provided very few real “upsets”. The term is used in quotes because of the overall quality of the field. While some are considered better than others, the old saying that anyone can beat anyone else on a given day remains applicable.
After the casualties were removed from the swiss rounds, the only man left standing with a perfect 5-0 record was defending champion Ed Kendrick who had just won 12 of his last 13 WBC matches. Joining the hot hand in the elimination rounds with one loss were regulars Jeremy Billones, Bill Edwards, Richard Irving, and Ray Stakenas II. The eight-man field was rounded out by 3-2 cpmpetitors Wade Fowble, John Emery, and William Kendrick. Three other 3-2 players, Alan Arvold, Steve Vance, and Bruce Young, were eliminated by lesser strength of schedule tiebreakers. As always, it was a veteran playoff field with five former champs who counted 14 titles between them.
The round of eight began with Fowble versus Stakenas in City Fight. Ray’s Russians were early victors against Wade’s Germans. City Fight also was the scene for Edwards and Billones, but the victors were reversed as Bill’s Germans caught Jeremy’s Russians in a Stream for the win. In a battle of former champs, Irving’s Americans attempted to defend the Outpost Line against Emery’s Germans. The armored attack was decisive in a close game with John emerging triumphant. However, the most interesting game of the quarterfinals was the father-son duel. Ed Kendrick was seeded first and drew his son William as the eighth seed. Fate can be capricious and it decided to pair two Englishmen who had crossed the pond in an elimination match in the hills of Pennsylvania. Now for one of them the quest would end at the hands of the other. Previous records and familial relationship are not the final determinants in UPF, however. William’s Americans attacked Ed’s Japanese in The Infantry’s Iron Fist. Despite losing his AFV early in the contest, William shot better over the course of the game to win the family laurels and a place in the semis and end his father’s perfect slate. Maybe that was even better than winning it all.
William chose Germans in Patrol to start the semifinals versus Bill Edward’s Russians. Bill could never get past William’s Marsh and Stream discards and when William hit a rich vein of fire cards, half the Final was set.
In the other bracket, another City Fight was ongoing between John’s Germans and Ray’s Russians. Ray had some early setup problems and John’s long range fire gave him troubles. He hung on gamely and drew some hope when John’s MG broke, but eventually the loss of both SL and ASL reduced his hand capacity and John gained yet another Final.
So, the seven-time champ faced a challenger trying to notch his first title. Both were veteran players but there was no debate as who had the more big game experience. The Final itself lived up to the hype one would expect from a WBC championship. John was the German attacker and William the British defender in Outpost Line. William began by entrenching, then moving his “B” group to “C”. Fire cost John a man but his artillery took out William’s mortar. William pulled slightly ahead by the end of the first deck. The second deck threw casualties at both sides. John got to Range 3 despite losses and had regained a slight lead by the end of the deck. The game continued to see-saw as John malfunctioned two weapons in the same turn. Desperate to advance, he accepted a Marsh at Range 4 so he could keep his “B” and “C” groups on the move. This was crucial as they were down to the minimum of four men required for victory. As William played for the end of the deck and the win, John drew needed Move and Terrain cards. William lacked the Fire cards necessary to finish off one more man or even to speed the deck depletion. With only a dozen cards remaining, John got his depleted group “C” into Buildings at Range 5 and William’s desperate riposte infiltration attempt failed, giving John his eighth UPF title. Once again John had demonstrated that Up Front is no game for the faint of heart.
Thanks to Steve Smith from Wargamers Vault for providing prizes and showing off their latest Up Front products. These products and the excellent attendance at WBC highlight hope for the continuance of this classic game.