Through The Ages attendance was up this year despite cutting from 3 heats down to 2, or perhaps it was because that cut made the tournament less of a time commitment. It’s actually probably because the new app is a great way to learn the game, but the GM was quite happy that the two heat format resulted in every unique winner earning a seat in the semifinals without being required to play another heat just to help their tiebreakers, and he plans to stick with this new format moving forward.
Four players won games during both heats and they were seated at separate tables for the semifinal. Sceadeau d’Tela won his to return to the final table for the 5th year in a row (though he has yet to take home a shield). Randy Buehler’s semifinal win looks comfortable on the scoresheet, but was actually very close until he drew a Culture War on one of the last possible turns. Randy earned his 8th final table in 9 years, though he hasn’t taken home a shield since 2012. Allan Jiang, the defending champion, was the 3rd member of last year’s final table to return. They were joined by newcomer Matthew Thiessen, who won the closest of the semifinals by just 2 points over Goran Kero and dispatched double-winner Mike Assante in the process.
Matthew ran out to the lead at the final table by using Genghis Khan for a lot of early culture. However, by the middle of Age 2 Randy and Allan had both built significant military forces and Matthew found himself on the wrong end of a couple aggressions. Sceadeau managed to stay just ahead of Matthew on strength and just close enough to Randy and Allan that they didn’t want to risk him having a hand full of defense cards, and thus he never did get any aggressions pointed at him until the very end of the game despite fully 9 different aggressions heading Matthew’s way, all of which resolved.
As Age 3 began things looked great for Randy, who had Napoleon in play and a full grip of aggressions and wars. Allan was also in good shape with Cook giving him the best culture engine at the table, but Sceadeau wasted no time in seeding an event because he saw this coming ahead of time and wanted to flip the Iconoclasm he had seeded previously. There were 4 Age 2 events in the (shuffled) stack, but the Iconoclasm was right on top, exactly where Sceadeau wanted it. Suddenly Randy didn’t have the red beads he needed to exploit his strong military and Allan’s culture slowed to a trickle as well.
Because of the massive arms race that everyone had been forced to engage in, no one had managed to build any science. The four science rates at this point in the game were 3, 2, 2, and 2. Randy wound up investing 8 precious bulbs in Strategy just to replace those lost red beads from Napoleon, but this meant he never did get to build a culture building (or a science building). Sceadeau managed to invest in Scientific Method while Randy and Allan were reeling from Iconoclasm (plus continuing to attack Matthew when they could). Meanwhile, the perfect card came off the deck for Matthew: Gandhi. Gandhi meant that no one could point a war at Matthew, and the 2 culture per turn let him hold on to his culture lead all the way through to Age 4.
The game was incredibly close as it wound down. Not only could no one tell who was winning, but no one could tell who was losing either. Randy was still the strongest, and he played a Culture War on his next to last turn. Gandhi meant he couldn’t point it at the weakest player (Matthew) so he had to decide whether to target Sceadeau or Allan. Sceadeau was weaker, but Allan had more culture, and Randy figured he needed to lower Allan’s culture in addition to raising his own. Plus, Allan only had 2 rocks on his board so he wouldn’t be able to build much defense. However, Allan had an Age 3 Raid, which he was able to resolve against Sceadeau for fully 8 rocks. That let him build within 11 strength of Randy, and the war was only a 32-point swing ... so things somehow were even closer. Randy had a similar dilemma on his last turn with an Armed Intervention that he wound up pointing at Matthew, who was still the culture leader despite all the aggressions that had hit him.
Going into Impacts the score was 82-79-78-72! (For the record, it was Matthew then Randy then Allan then Sceadeau, but with 5 Impacts to be revealed for end-game scoring, it was literally anyone’s game.) All those aggressions finally caught up with Matthew as his board was pretty bad for pretty much all possible Impacts and he wound up last with 104. Randy did win Impact of Strength, but his single-minded devotion to military hurt him on the other 4 and he wound up at 121 in a dead heat with Sceadeau. Sceadeau won the tournament’s tiebreaker for having the worse starting seat position (4th), but it was Allan who won the tournament, by a scant 6 points of culture: 127-121-121-104.
Interestingly, if Randy had pointed his final Armed Intervention at Allan (who turned out not to have the 2 defense cards that could have stopped it) then Sceadeau would (finally) have won the final table, on tiebreakers over Randy. Meanwhile, if he had pointed it at Sceadeau then Allan would still win but it would be Randy in 2nd. Instead, he pointed it at the only opponent that left him in 3rd place.
What a close, well-played, hard-fought final table! In the end Allan Jiang won for the second year in a row, becoming the 4th person to win this event twice. Will he become the first person to ever win it 3 times? Tune in next time and we’ll see!
|Smiles at this table.
|The journey through the ages begins.
|Allan Jiang earning his way to the final.
|Finalists including GM Randy Buehler.