Path of Glory (POG) is a challenging event, both to participate in and to administer. For those not familiar with the event, this is a classic card-driven game with participants expected to play in two SIX hour rounds a day. Some games go even longer as we had one match go ten hours this year! While a mix of sharks and guppies can be found in any event, POG at WBC is notable for the number of very experienced players who join the competition each year. Because of the large player base, many eager newcomers are able to garner a lot of table time in the off-season which means that there will always be some mismatches that quickly become nightmares for experienced players who thought they could get a quick win against an unknown, only to discover that their opponent had brought more than their fair share of cleverness to the table. In 2017, we had numerous upsets as is immediately obvious by noting who was missing from the finals!
Like 2016, the POG tournament was held in the spacious back-bar area of the Foggy Goggle. Overlooking the scenic vista of the Seven Springs ski-slopes, albeit populated mostly by hikers, bikers, and sliders, POG contestants were able to enjoy a tranquil setting in order to pursue their cardboard carnage. Unlike last year, they never opened the adjacent bar. This doubtlessly raised the play quality for some of the evening rounds but it was still missed by onlookers.
For the ninth straight year, the WBC Historical Scenario was the default scenario. Previously tournament play saw a prevalence of peculiar, and annoying, game strategies centered on the CP retreating to the Rhine, no attempts to get the US in the game, and a CP focus on crushing Italy. There were no changes to the scenario rules from prior years and no feedback that would lead to any scenario rule changes next year.
The tourney itself was run as a single-elimination event with the first round being a mulligan round, thus ensuring that every participant could get at least two games in. The mulligan was held on the First Saturday followed by two rounds on the First Sunday, two on Monday, and the finals on Thursday.
In two matches, the opponents chose to use the optional card variant where 10 optional cards were substituted for 10 standard cards. As was done in the prior year, free decks that included the optional cards were distributed gratis to all who wanted them. Using these cards introduces variety into the game and opens up some clever armistice strategies given the additional war status available.
We had 28 players participate in the event, no fewer than five of them being brand new to the event. All had played POG before.
By Sunday night, we were down to the Elite Eight: Tom Drueding, Alex Gregorio, Nick Benedict, Chris Byrd, Mike Dauer, Steve Koleszar, Dave Bleau, and Tom Gregorio. Only Tom D. and Michael D. had previously won the event.
In the Elite Eight round, Tm Gregorio, Nick Benedict, Michael Dauer, and David Bleau advanced into the semifinals. Things seemed primed for a repeat of the finals from two years ago when yours truly lost to Mike Dauer. Alas, our presumptuous predications bore only bitter fruit as Nick and Dave made clear that their progress to the finals would not be denied. The hopes of the GM and his assistant facing off in another finals were dashed.
The first semifinal was between Tom Gregorio and Nick Benedict. Tom's luck in the west was crummy and Nick wasted no time in hammering the Germans with the French and British. This helped the Russians make progress in the east which culminated in a Russian assault on Berlin. A victorious 6A vs 9A saw the Russians advance into Berlin on turn 4 which cramped the Germans for the rest of this short game. Berlin was recaptured on turn 6 but, by then, the damage was done. The Near East collapsed with the early entry of Allenby and attrition in the west stifled German attempts to knock out Russia. Tom's CP surrendered on turn 12 or thereabouts.
In the second semifinal, Michael Dauer took on Dave Bleau. Michael's CP got off to a nasty start with the end result of the initial Sedan assault being a full strength French army retreating to Sedan after withdrawal was played. The French turn 1 MO saw a successful assault on Sedan which resulted in an extra CP loss so as to hold the space. This seemingly became the norm, the CP suffering significantly more casualties when the AP counterattacked. During Limited War, the Russians pressured the Germans back to the gates of Berlin before extra CP Total War reinforcements rallied the defense and succeeded in pushing the Russians beyond Danzig. The CP eventually managed to build a Level 2 trench defense from Brussels to Strasbourg line, but this did little to stop the bleeding. By turn 10, the CP was having to use AH armies, BU and TU corps to garrison the West Wall to spread out the dreadful losses being inflicted on them. By turn 13 it was over with Berlin falling to the surging Russian horde and the west down to a skeleton crew of multi-colored defenders. With10 of 15 GE armies and half the AH armies in the dead pool, our two-time defending champ threw in the towel and Dave advanced to his first POG final.
On Thursday morning, Dave Bleau and Nick Benedict got down to business. Nick played the CP again. Here are some quick highlights:
- The game was shaped by an early risky CP play, foregoing "Entrench" as an event. The CP was quickly punished by it being buried deep in the next shuffle. The intent was to press hard on Paris.
- A successful British drive resulted in Sedan being relinquished back to the AP, forcing Nick's hand as he had to then fall back to the Rhine.
- To their credit, the CP did repel an early assault on Berlin.
- The CPs next foray was into Italy but devastating dice differentials repelled that assault and significant AP reinforcements were on their way to ensure that front would be shut down.
- The AP got to Total War on turn 6, the CP promptly followed on turn 7.
- With pressure in the NE building up, Allenby having reached the front on turn 8, the CP threw in the towel on turn 9.
- 28 players participated, 3 of them being event new comers
- 27 bids recorded out of 36 games
- Most common bid was +1 for the AP, 15 of 27 recorded games
- Range of bids were from -2 to +3, indicating points given to the AP. Negative points = points the CP gave!
- Two bids gave the AP VPs, both by Alex Gregorio
- 19 of 27 recorded games had AP winning
- Average CP win had bid of .5
- Average AP win had bid of .8
Despite being well into my second decade of running events at WBC, numerous mistakes were made on my part. Many people did not complete game record sheets and, as a fan of lots of statistics and associated analysis, that will not do. Next year, much more GM diligence, even if I have to fill out the sheets myself, will result in more raw data.
As is common for the last round of this event, we let the finalists decide when it will be held. Unfortunately, several days went by before this was nailed down which made it much harder to share the time and location of the finals with interested onlookers and the media! Next year I will have the finalists decide and communicate the timing of the finals immediately after the semifinals complete.
From a playing perspective, the usage of the optional cards still does not seem to be particularly popular. It is this GMs belief that, while they do add spice to the game, most tournament participants don’t want to learn about them in a tournament format, i.e., they want to get some road wear on these cards beforehand.
While bidding data over the years seems to indicate that a bid of 0 or 1 for the AP is both safe and appropriate, more than a few games featured a player who had a known and demonstrated proficiency for one side which resulted in his opponent bidding it up to drive a player to play the side he was less proficient in. Sometimes this worked and sometimes it didn’t.
Next year, we will be capping the durations of the evening matches. More than one winner of a long evening match was worn out the next morning.
Our new WBC champion, David Bleau, seemingly came from nowhere to upset many very experienced players. It is also notable that, in one game, he bid 3 to play the AP in a successful effort to make sure his opponent, with a fearsome AP reputation, would not get that side. My general observation of David's games was that he favored a precise and attritional style while not hesitant to capitalize on tactical opportunities. Nick Benedict, our runner-up, also had a successful tournament. From Nick’s ruthless crushing of Tom G. in the semifinals, we know that he was not afraid to assess the risk-reward payoff on even low odds attacks and press ahead to secure eventual victory.
Congrats to both of them for clearing the riff-raff out of the tournament on their way to the Finals! Congrats are due to both players for persevering in the marathon that is POG at WBC and I am confident I speak for all of us when I say that we are already looking forward to seeing the POG gang again in 2018!