Before this year’s report I want to specifically thank our new CD for helping sponsor the event for one last chance at redemption.
I was also very humbled by the many thanks of the long time AOR players who were happy to hear the tournament had a revival this year – we hope to see you back next year with a fresh batch of new fans.
Lastly, to everyone who came to the demos or did their homework before hand to play this classic, thank you for bringing the tournament back from the brink, I hope that you will come back again to help make this the competition it once was. If you had a rough game, really, I PROMISE, this game gets way better after a few plays.
On that note…
Turns out, when you invite people to a party they’re more likely to come. Changing Age of Renaissance to a Class B tournament had exactly the hoped for result – a doubling in attendance and new players learning the game!
The demos attracted around fifteen people many of whom played in the tournament! New players were separated as much as possible to ensure the games could finish and to make sure an experienced player could offer advice where requested.
In the first heat we had 23 players: three six-player games and a single five-player match. Despite the amount of dice and cards in this game, and adding in the “randomness” of a newer player at each table, experienced players took home all the wins in heat 1. Harald Henning blew things out of the water with a win by 45% over Rob Kircher’s second place score – buying all of the advances. On later reflection Harald credited his win to “having a nearly perfect game” as far as timing was concerned. His table tried to bring him back by hitting him with Alchemy and Civil War. His lead on Commerce advances and Interest and Profit then finally industry help him claim the win. Kevin Youells got himself a 13% win over second place David Hewitt. This game was adjudicated but Kevin was in control of a few spice territories with a spice card in hand. The next turn would have assured his win. In the closest match of the first heat Greg Crowe won by 5.6% over Russel Harley. Jon Anderson bested Eric Monte by 6% - a come from behind win with a little help from a 112 Fur payout during final card play. Eric probably deserved it after playing War! with a military advantage to steal 3 doms from brand new player Julie LeFebvre and finally moving everyone to the far reaches of the misery track with Mysticism, pushing Julie into CHAOS. So much for wanting to attract new players eh?
The late night second heat brought back three players who were playing in the Age of Renaissance tournament for the first time: Julie LeFebvre, Stephane Gallari, and Daniel Berger. Although we randomized seating, four players who had played at the same table the night before were all seated together. After a few adjustments and a little more randomization we separated in to 2 – 4 player games to give everyone new friends to make. Rob Kircher showed up a bit late and we ended with a single five player and four player game. It turned out that Julie (again who was a first time tournament player) happened to be seated at the same table as WBC veterans Mark Smith, John Stevens, Jon Anderson, and Rob Kircher! Needless to say, this table was a little rowdy with many out bursts of laughter and a few monologues by Mark of “what the right move was”. Mark ended up winning this very close adjudicated game by going last and securing getting paid on a metal payout – Jon and Rob both had controlled those spaces in the same expansion phase. This game would have gone another hour had it not been adjudicated, partially because every time the last card was drawn prior to playing cards, meaning every card that was played got reshuffled. There was some talk of making a house rule that in this situation you just reshuffle the deck. If anyone has feedback on this idea I would love to hear it!
At table 2 Daniel Berger playing Paris took notes from Harald the night before and had interest and profit on turn four getting industry soon after – in a 10 turn 4 player game. Despite being hit with the Plague and Civil war he was able to buy all the advances on the turn the cards ran out. Eric Monte was able to secure a late game Spice, Grain and Fur payout and bought everything except Industry. In a very tight game, Dan won by 13 points or 0.5%!
Heat 3 assured a true doubling in size of attendees at 33 with 8 additional players joining us including Guy Forollo who showed up to the demo with no prior experience in the game wanting to play in the tournament.
Again, experience in this game showed with Ewan McNay running the table with a 47% win at a six player table who seemed to have a lot of fun pummeling him with events and attacks. Ewan tried to plead to the GM that everyone was picking on him: his complaints are still being reviewed, but everyone else at the table agreed enthusiastically! An early interest and profit ensured his victory.
Rob Barnes took the day at a tight misery ridden table in an adjudicated game that also suffered from exactly enough cards to give out prior to a massive play cards phase. After an early and large interest and profit, Eric Monte paid the price being tag teamed by Rob and Chris Trimmer with a +2 war courtesy of Rob for 5 doms and then alchemy from Chris.
For the first time in several years – a win alone was not enough to qualify for the final. Mark Smith and Dan Berger were both at the top of the alternates list with a tight win for each followed by Eric Monte with the closest 2nd place finish at 99.5% of the winners score. Greg Crowe bowed out and Daniel was expecting that Mark would for sure play and thus did not appear for the final. Mark chose to opt out at the last minute and this meant the GM would play in his own final.
The Finalists ended up being former WBC and PBEM champion Harald Henning, former three-time champion Ewan McNay, with first time finalists Rob Barnes, Kevin Youells, Jon Anderson, and Eric Monte. Bids were high for choice of capital with two 5s and a 4. The two fives went to Venice (Rob), then Genoa (Eric), followed by Barcelona (Harald), Paris (Kevin), London (Ewan), and Hamburg (Jon).
The first two epochs were quick with some normal squabbling over who was winning. As expected this teetered between Harald and Rob playing the perceived best capitals. This perception was exacerbated after Harald played Crusades and proceeded to dominate area five and six for two turns. Rob, holding a wool card, kept using this as leverage in a series of failed deals for Barcelona and London. He ended up paying it out in the 3rd epoch with the three wool holders getting relatively small payouts but denying London its usual medium sized payout - both Wool cards were played only once. Very early Kevin played Rebellion on Harald’s starting metal space to which Harald responded with playing civil war on Kevin who was going early with a low token bid. Lesson here for the many new players this year – hold those nasty cards until you can protect yourself or have a really good reason to play one (not wanting to pay for your cards isn’t a good reason!) Kevin struggled with bad card draws and never truly recovered. Ewan stayed afloat but wasn’t able to buy seaworthy vessels until later in the game. Getting Alchemist’s Gold from Hamburg didn’t help London either. When Paris used the pope to ban exploration, Hamburg perceived himself as having no choice but to buy Holy Indulgence on turn 3. Genoa and Barcelona followed suit as well. There was an era 2 Black Death on area 6 which opened things up for the final two turns.
Genoa and Barcelona lead the charge into era 3 with an offer by Eric for Harald to play Metal (Eric had 3) in exchange for silk which would pay 72 for Harald. Eric also had a metal card collecting 108 that turn. With Hamburg still recovering from not reaching area 5 early, Paris struggling to keep and acquire doms/decent cards, and Venice having a perceived lead but a misery problem along with all the religion advances with religious strife yet to come, it seemed as if the winner was among Genoa, Barcelona or London.
And so, we are brought to the last turn with Barcelona bidding 11 to go first and dropping enlightened ruler. Genoa and London tried to outsmart each other with Genoa bidding a low for the game 18 tokens versus 20 for London – both trying to go early. Genoa slammed area 8 with Black Death denying London a $150 metal payout and hurting just about everyone else. As was mentioned at the time, this was an anti-London play. Indeed it was, with London’s income over 100 going into that final turn and Genoa thinking he only needed to beat London to secure a win.
However, Enlightened Ruler netted Harald enough points with everyone else suffering from religious strife and revolutionary uprisings coming out to secure the win by a 100 points over Ewan’s London who had some decent payouts during final card play, despite Harald having an income in the 50s. Eric mismanaged his final purchase and chose to hold onto revolutionary uprisings instead of buying master art and discarding it. If he had gone this route we calculated the top three would have been much closer possibly tilting the balance in Ewan’s favor.
Thank you everyone for participating this year! I hope to see even more new faces again in 2018!
I wanted to add a little reflection on the tournament in general:
- We had more than twice as many tables. Last year we had 4 tables including the final. This year we had a total of 9 tables, meaning a single win was not enough.
- The Saturday evening heat was by far the largest, followed by the Monday evening, then the late night heat Sunday. For next year, I will likely make the late night heat start at 6pm and the others start at 4pm with demos at 3pm. This GM is not a night owl and consecutive 6 hour heats and going to bed after 1am was a bit much for me personally and maybe a deterrent for some folks.
- Time limits. We had many unfinished games, most likely due to newer players, this is fine and it really only takes a couple plays to do things “faster”. The slowest time for new players is the first three turns. For reference, the final had completed turns 1-3 in well under an hour with zero card play on turn one (helping the deck stay small). I’m sure at many tables this time was closer to 2+ with a decent amount of early card play. For next year we will move back to a hard 5.5 hour limit on games with the turn starting after 4.5 hours being the last. Once your game gets to 5.5 hours, it ends immediately at the end of the current phase.
- Another note about timing. While the time for AOR is listed at 6 hours, the games are expected to finish in 5. The extra time is devoted to set up, clean up, and games possibly running long. Like I mentioned, we will move back to the hard limit of 5.5 hours next year.
- New players! They certainly made things interesting! I think the powers are relatively balanced, at the helm of someone who knows the game. However, when someone who has never played before is saddled with Paris or Hamburg, things will start feeling bleak quickly. Paris did however record a win for a brand new player…in a four player game where they are actually perceived to be somewhat better than the rest. I might come up with a very streamlined strategy guide for brand new players, just to make sure they don’t fall behind so early they can’t fight back. This might include bidding 4-5 to play one of the Mediterranean powers. Nonetheless, I think my advice to bid at least 20 for your token bid when in doubt and hold on to those event cards was taken seriously and resulted in fun games for new comers. We might need Bill Crenshaw back to show everyone what it’s like to lose 32 tokens trying to assault Vienna!