After years of consistently solid showings, the WBC Russian Campaign tournament suffered a blow in 2018. Players were down only from 23 in 2017 to 19, however, the number of games played dropped from 66 to 34. While many stalwarts returned for 2018, the tournament clearly missed some prolific players. Chief among these was Michael Trobaugh, who passed away earlier in the year. Michael was a constant presence at WBC. He came to play TRC, and he played game after game, with anyone and everyone. As the GM, I often got drawn into discussions with Michael about the finer points of the game. He had a passion for TRC that few have equaled, and none have surpassed. Truly Michael, you were and are missed by your gaming buddies!
As in past years, the TRC tournament was played as part of the free-form “Grognard Style” event, with games being played all week culminating with the top 4 scorers entering the Semi-finals and Final on Saturday. Unlike past years, a challenge round was NOT held this year. Victory conditions were unchanged from 2017, requiring the Germans to conquer and hold territory equal to minus 1 from the Green Line at the end of January/February 1942 (5 turns). (Minus 1 equals one small city). The weather is rolled once – for September/October on Turn 3. If the Turn 3 weather is clear, then Turn 4 is automatically snow. If Turn 3 is light mud, then Turn 4 is also light mud.
Players bid for sides based on extra replacement factors given to the Russians over the course of the match. The average 2018 bid was 14.4, down slightly from the previous year’s average bid of 18.2. Bids ranged from a low of 0 to a high of 27. Of the 34 games played, the Russians won 20, and the Germans 14. Bids were NOT a good predictor of victory, as the averages were virtually identical regardless of which side ultimately prevailed. My conclusion is that the bidding process is functioning as intended to allow players to play their preferred side, with little or no impact on game outcome.
Another possible predictor of victory may be the September/October weather die roll. The conventional wisdom holds that the Germans want light mud (resulting in light mud again in November/December), while the Russians want clear (resulting in snow in November/December). For whatever reason, the conventional wisdom did not hold true in 2018. For the 26 games for which weather was reported, light mud occurred 17 times, and the Russians won 11 of these games! Of the 9 games reporting clear, the Russians won 5 times.
Attempting to take Moscow in 1941 for an automatic German victory continued to be a viable though seldom-used strategy; 2 of the 9 German wins occurred through this method.
Semifinal A featured Mike Mishler’s Germans against George Karahalios’ Russians. Surprisingly, the bid was 0, bucking past years trends which saw bids increasing for the Semis and Final. Mike got off to a fast start and never took his foot off the gas. The weather was light mud which probably aided the Germans, allowing them to close on the worker cities and enjoy an extra turn of full factor attacking. George defended gamely, however, after Mike’s final move his Germans held Leningrad, Smolensk, Bryansk, Kursk, Kharkov, Stalino, and Sevastopol. George surveyed the situation and offered his sword rather than making the final Russian move.
Semifinal B featured Richard Beyma’s Germans versus Alan Zasada’s Russians. Bidding was typical for a semifinal with Richard getting the Germans for a bid of 21. An early highlight was Richard’s invasion of Sevastopol using the 8-7 panzer reinforcement versus the 5-3 defender. The invasion landed but the stuka-aided 3-1 rolled an attacker retreat = attacker eliminated. The weather was light mud. Sevastopol never did fall and the start of turn 5 saw the Russians also holding out in Stalino, Kharkov, Kursk, and Bryansk. Hampered by the falling snow, Richard’s final desperation attacks fell short and Alan claimed the win.
The Final matched Alan Zasada’s Germans against Mike Mishler’s Russians. As in Mike’s Semifinal, the bid was zero, only this time it was Mike who had the Russians. Alan overloaded the South with panzers and got off to a good start. Elsewhere though, a lucky Russian counterattack killed a 6-7, reducing German firepower in the center. Turn 2 saw the Germans taking Dnepropetrovsk, getting within 1 hex of Sevastopol, and also closing in on Leningrad, Smolensk, and Kiev. The turn 3 weather was light mud, and things started out well enough for Alan - Sevastopol fell to a 1-1 and Kiev and Smolensk were easily taken. However, Mike had defended well and his second tier Russian units prevented any Turn 3 attacks on either Kharkov or Stalino. In the far north, Leningrad survived both a stuka-aided 3-1 and a follow-up 1-1 attack. The stukas returned to Leningrad on Turn 4, with the same attacker retreat result! This time though, Alan’s second impulse attack yielded a contact, forcing an unsuccessful Russian counterattack which vacated the city. Elsewhere on Turn 4, Kharkov repulsed a single second impulse attack, and Stalino survived both a 1-1 and a 1-2 attack. Entering the final turn, Mike held Bryansk, Kursk, Kharkov, and Stalino, and Leningrad was contested. Of these, only Leningrad and Stalino could be effectively attacked. Alan took Leningrad but his final 1-2 attack versus Stalino failed with an attacker retreat. The score stood at -2 and so the final Russian turn did not need to be taken. Mike claimed the victory and his first-ever TRC championship. Congratulations Mike!