In our third year at Seven Springs, I’m pleased to announce that this year Michael Dauer brought home his third Paths of Glory Championship. Left in his wake were numerous contenders and also-rans, myself included. Before drilling into the gory details, let’s cover some of the basics.
The tournament structure was unchanged, a mulligan round on First Saturday afternoon leading into the single elimination component starting First Sunday morning. All matches featured the historical scenario which basically is the twenty turn campaign with tweaks to hone the balance and thwart some crafty but gamey ahistorical strategies. Although the 2018 turnout was slightly diminished in numbers, this GM was more than pleased by the raw passion and expertise of the players - there were minimal adjudications, few blowouts, and even fewer rules questions. After twenty years of serious committed and competitive play, the rules are very stable and most players are well versed in the various ways to claim victory.
Opening Rounds (1-4) Recap
Things kicked off with fourteen players participating in the mulligan round followed by a field of a dozen in the second round on Sunday AM. For the third round, Sunday PM, we had an odd number of participants and David Bleau was offered (and accepted) the bye by virtue of being the WBC POG 2017 champion. Sadly, David did not get a chance to attempt to claim ‘big wood’ in 2018 as this GM rudely dispatched him in the fourth round. (As small compensation, he did get fifth.) Michael Dauer also knocked out Alex Gregorio, thus ensuring the Gregorios would not meet in the semifinals.
Semifinal Match #1 Summary
Michael Dauer faced the always dangerous Steve Koleszar on Monday evening. Steve secured the CP with a bid of 0. Standard opening play had a relatively even position at the start of turn 10 but things went savagely bad for the CP that turn:
- Michael’s MEF invaded, threatening to go ashore at Adana.
- Turk corps fended off the MEF at Adana but then the ANA moved into Damascus which triggered a TU buildup in Aleppo.
- MEF then attacked Adana again, won, and advanced, despite Kemal being thrown into the fray.
- CP corps were rushed in to block MEF while the AP reinforced MEF with a BRc. YLD then moved to Kharput.
- MEF and ANA then flank attacked Aleppo and advanced after blowing out the Turkish defenders.
- The desperate CP counterattack led by YLD and a GEc, with chlorine gas, failed to dislodge the MEF from Aleppo.
At this point Steve conceded as 4 VP spots in the NE would be lost OOS, the long-term prognosis for Turkey was dim, and few CP opportunities existed on other fronts to reclaim VPs.
Semifinal Match #2 Summary
Tom Gregorio faced Marvin Birnbaum in the second semifinal match. While never having played Marvin before, Tom was well aware of his opponent’s very feisty AP play and thus made sure Marvin had to bid 2 VP for that side. The game went the distance with Tom winning on the final turn with the requisite 13 VP. Here are a few summary observations:
- Tom’s CP got Tsar Takes Command (TTC) in by driving on the Russians in the NE and capturing Baku. This was precipitated by the Caucasus army being flipped during an initial RU offensive and a solid RU defense in Prussia and Poland.
- Significant action occurred in the Balkans, particularly after Romania was played as the event after TTC was played. It took numerous GE and AH armies to clear out Romania on the very last turns of the game.
- Western action was heavy but the CP had the front fully stabilized by Turn 15 with nine or ten German armies, an AH army, and numerous AH/TU/BU corps helping out.
A very exciting game with lots of Romanian tactical play that neither player had experienced before.
And then there were two, ready to fight, on Wednesday morning. Tom and Michael had played each other many times, both face to face and PBEM. Having faced off a few years earlier in the WBC finals, both were prepared for another exhausting game that would go to the wire. As fate would have it, this ‘preparation’ was unnecessary as the match finished early, lasting slightly more than three hours.
- Knowing Michael’s proclivity for playing the CP, Tom wanted to make sure the "Cardboard Price” was paid and it was: Michael had the CP but he was giving the AP a VP for the privilege.
- In the early going Tom’s Russians exerted some pressure on the Germans but it was never enough to truly threaten the CP. The Russians advanced into Insterberg and a prompt German counterattack on the 9A column saw the unlikely 7LF result inflicted on the Russians which pretty much killed the eastern threat for a few turns.
- Michael easily established his defensive line in France with no decisive combats.
- The race for War Status was one-sided - Michael got in the necessary events to start TURN FIVE in Total War - Tom did not reach reach Total War until Turn 7.
- Tactically, Tom was overmatched. In an attempt to be clever, he SR’ed a BRc to the NE on turn 2 hoping to develop some early pressure in that part of the front. Michael’s response was to push hard against the British in France and, because of the grinding, Tom ended having to SR that same BRc back from Egypt and into the Reserve Box to avoid a permanent British Army loss!
- With the success of the CP western campaign, the AP ended up facing a CP entrenched line based on Ostend-Brussels-Sedan-Metz-Strassbourg. (Experienced players will recognize that’s a very tough line to crack until the AP forces are full strength, including US support.)
- Michael then followed that up by pressing hard in Egypt; YLD showed up and marched down to Sinai. The Libyan Rebels event was played and all of a sudden the Brits were fighting a two-front war in Egypt! At the cost of a BRc flip in Cairo, the SN rebels were eliminated in Alexandria; YLD then attacked and blew out the weakened Cairo defenders. The AP counterattack was repulsed and by the end of turn 7 Egypt had fallen.
- At that point Tom was in severe trouble. He tried creating problems in the Balkans but to no avail. Michael calmly squelched the AP inroads in Greece and then assembled five German armies in Poland and lined up for the grand march east. AP attempts at distraction in the west were fruitless and the Italians did what they often do in POG. Which is to say, not much.
Having played enough times, and knowing what was coming, Tom threw in the towel after turn 13 and thus the 2018 POG event ended with a whimper. While retribution for having lost to Michael in 2015 was not to be served in 2018, Tom did learn a few things and has resolved to never lose Egypt again.
By the Numbers
From a statistical perspective, here’s where we landed this year with no new trends or patterns identified.
- 21 players, two of whom were new to the event.
- 24 games were played.
- As was expected, the most common bid was +1 for the AP with 12 of 24 matches featuring that bid.
- The Range of bids were from -1 to +2 for the AP.
- 13 of 27 recorded games had the AP winning.
- The average bid for games the CP won was 0.8. The average bid for games the AP won was 0.6. (Given the limited data sample, this may not be statistically significant, but at least this year the theory was supported that giving the CP more VPs would enhance the likelihood the AP would lose.)
- No players chose to use the optional cards. It appears that most folks want to reserve their ‘trying new gaming things’ for less competitive situations. I am continuing to distribute, gratis, the custom BPA CP and AP decks that Peter G., the prior GM, had produced; these decks included the optional cards but most folks just seem to want to ‘collect these’ as opposed to use them in actual play. So be it - I’m just about out of these decks so next year I expect the last of these to be distributed. (Stop by if you want a set, I won’t even force you to play in the event!)
- We were fortunate to have a copy of the new map that will be featured in the Deluxe Edition reprint. Thank you Mark Simonitch and GMT! (Just to be clear - it’s a new rendering of the standard map, no functional changes but plenty of usability changes along with a variety of aesthetic ‘corrections’.) It was very well received and, knowing that the legacy map would also be included in the reprint, many viewers reaffirmed their need to get yet another copy of POG on their shelf.
- Greg Smith, for the past few years, provided his own home-brewed reinforcement cards that were very well received. Turnabout is fair play - this year this GM provided a derivation that will also be included in the reprint. Thank you, Greg!
- Bringing home the illustrious Sand plaque was Jeff "the POG Barber" Lewis. Welcome to the club, Jeff! (Be sure to ask him what a "Fez Cut" is.)
This GM is always looking for ways to step up his game, if not on the cardboard map, then at least in improving his management of tournaments. Applied learnings from last year included amping up the paperwork game, better time management of long-running matches, and ensuring that the final match was conducted (and concluded) in a timely fashion.
Aspirational goals for next year include usage of the upcoming Deluxe POG reprint edition, assuming a 2018 release, enhanced promotion of the game to increase the player count, and assessment and incorporation of tournament changes to accomplish the same. Looking forward, this GM is also appraising the back environs of the Foggy Goggle - beyond the relatively long distance from the main thoroughfares, the environmental aspects also need further review. Several players were not fans of the bar-height tables and the overly zealous air conditioning was less than welcomed. Some compensation could be gleaned from the glorious view overlooking the slopes, especially given the generally good weather. So many tradeoffs to consider in the next few months.
Finally, at the risk of being repetitive, congratulations again to Michael Dauer; he now has won three of the last four POG events at WBC. We’ll all be gunning for him next year but I suspect “The Natural” will be more than ready to take up the gauntlet.