The 25th HRC tournament at WBC marked the end of our COVID-19 break. However, pandemic concerns reduced attendance to a record low of 26. Nonetheless, seven of the top 12 seeds in the world and six former champions turned out to face a tough, veteran-filled field and four gamey rookies. Most participants played two or more rounds, and attendance was still strong in the final two rounds. A total of 42 games were played, with Carthage winning 26 versus Rome’s 16 victories. Average playing time was just under 4 hours per game. The player winning the bid for sides took Carthage in 36 out of 42 games, with an average winning bid of 1.75 PCs. The highest bid for Carthage was 3 PCs. In half of the games, Syracuse remained neutral, while in the other half, Syracuse was reconquered by Rome 20% of the time. Philip allied in 24 of the games, but defected in 25% of those, often with decisive effect late in the game. Intercepted Messengers occurred 1.6 times per game, evenly distributed among the adversaries. Turn 9 intercepts occurred six times, but the intercepting side still lost three of those games. Africanus died nine times, twice on turn 9 in losing causes. Hannibal died eight times, but Carthage still won in three of those games, including two games in which he died on turn 2. Carthage was sacked three times, Rome never. Carthage won once due to Suit for Peace for lack of PCs. Rome resigned early in nine games; Carthage resigned in five games. Twenty of the games were tight to the end, with province count victories of 2 or less. Twice the game ended in a tied count (for Carthaginian victory).
Round 1 witnessed 23 participants enrolling, and James Pei accepted the bye. The first upset of the tournament was the defeat of second-ranked Chris Byrd by David Amidon by virtue of a turn 8 DE defeat of Hasdrubal leading to the fall of Iberia. Third-ranked Stuart Tucker’s Carthage killed Africanus on turn 6 and used the island strategy to win 10-8. Ninth-seeded Lyman Moquin’s Rome fell to Sean McCulloch, as Hannibal sailed to Carthage on turn 9 to relieve the siege and preserve a 2-point victory. Michael Day’s Romans sacked Tom Drueding’s Carthage on turn 3 after Varro defeated Hasdrubal. Marvin Birnbaum’s Africanus died in the sacking of Saguntum, and Marcellus’ invasion of Iberia failed, leading to a resignation to Chris Trimmer. Randall MacInnis had difficulty drawing naval cards, leading to Roman Michael Mitchell’s 10-8 victory. Steve Bachman’s Hannibal moved into Bruttium and then died on turn 5, leading to Nathan Wagner’s 10-8 victory. Michael Sosa benefitted from a turn 9 Syracusan alliance to gain a 9-8 victory over David Pepin. Aaron Byrd killed Scipio on turn 9 and intercepted a messenger to defeat Larry Sisson. David Sherwood sacked Carthage on turn 5, defeating Ed Rothenheber. Andy Latto’s Carthaginians wiped the board of all Roman leaders and besieged Rome on turn 3 to defeat Paul Gaberson. In all, Carthage won 6 of the 11 games played in Round 1.
Round 2 witnessed domination by Carthage, as Rome only won once. Michael Day went for the jugular early by laying siege to defending champion James Pei’s Carthage in turn 2. With all Roman CUs at Carthage, their defeat in an 18-18 battle led to Day’s resignation. In a tight game, Wagner’s Carthage played Traitor Takes Tarentum in the final turn, but failed to control Apulia, losing to Latto. McCulloch gained control over Sicily and played Grain Shortage to induce Aaron Byrd’s turn 8 resignation. Tucker defeated Africanus at Thubursico with no retreat path and played Syracuse on turn 7, gaining a 10-8 victory over Sherwood. Amidon lost an army in Spain to DE and then Africanus died due to a bad die roll, leading to resignation to Trimmer. Michael Mitchell survived losing Hannibal on turn 2, later forcing Sosa’s resignation.
Round 3 began with six undefeated players remaining. Pei’s Carthaginians gathered reinforcements, while Mitchell’s Romans gained none in five turns. Rome lost a battle despite an 8-4 advantage due to having seven Frontals and losing the initiative to a 2-pt. general. Mitchell resigned on turn 5. Latto’s Roman fleet defeated Hasdrubal’s attempts to reinforce Trimmer’s Hannibal in Italy, and weather stopped the Adriatic Pirates. Two intercepted messengers in the final turns allowed Latto to secure a 10-8 victory. McCulloch forced Tucker to bid 3 for Carthage, but Tucker secured his home provinces and sacked Massilia, then crossed the Alps in turn 5. Failing to defeat Nero, Hannibal withdrew from Gaul and then used the Philip alliance to secure Sardinia. McCulloch was heading for defeat via Diplomacy until Philip defected on turn 9, allowing him the final two plays to flip Celtiberia for the 10-8 victory. In other notable events, Amidon used the Adriatic Pirates three times to avoid Hannibal’s entrapment and finally defeat Sosa’s Romans. Drueding’s Carthaginians forced James Terry’s Suit for Peace due to lack of PCs on turn 6. Chris Byrd killed Africanus on turn 9 to gain a 10-8 victory over Wagner. In Round 3, Carthage beat Rome in five out of eight games.
In Round 4, Latto won the bid to take Carthage for 2 PCs and then played Syracuse early only to have it sacked on turn 5. Pei’s Africanus died and Philip joined Carthage on turn 7. Hannibal was killed on turn 7, and Latto resigned in turn 8. McCulloch’s Romans sacked Syracuse on turn 8 despite never seeing Marcellus, but in the end, he was down two provinces and resigned to Trimmer. Tucker’s Carthaginians sacked Massilia in turn 4 and DE’d Sosa’s Nero in W.Numidia in turn 6. Philip defected in turn 7, but Syracuse allied in turn 8. Two intercepted messengers in the final turns kept the game close, but Tucker won by a 9-9 province count. Rome and Carthage split the round 3-3.
Round 5 began with only one undefeated player remaining, but James Pei was reminded that the tournament was full swiss and he had to play another round, and win, to claim the Wood. Based on strength of opponents faced, the best 3-1 record was held by Sean McCulloch, earning him a shot at the Wood against Pei. Twelve other players returned to play for a shot at lower prizes, including the coveted Sand Plaque for sixth place. Once again, Tucker bid 3 to play as Carthage, leading Trimmer to take the Balearics, which would gain him 3 CUs during the game, including 1 CU at Carales at a key moment during the fight for Sardinia. During turn 6 battles around Syracuse, Hannibal DE’d and killed Africanus, then fights three battles against Marcellus, ending in DE defeat of Marcellus. On turn 7 a new Marcellus is chased out of Idubeda by Hasdrubal and then on turn 9 he dies on the beach at Panormus, leaving Tucker a 9-7 victor and the winner of the 2nd place plaque due to the strength-of-opponent tie breakers among all the 4-1 players. Chris Byrd survived a turn 9 messenger interception to secure 3rd place by beating Latto’s Carthaginians 9-8. Steve Bachman, winning all his games after his first-round loss, secured 4th place by defeating Aaron Byrd’s Romans by a 9-8 province count. In the decisive game, McCulloch bid 2 to play as Carthage against Pei. McCulloch got a good start with a turn 2 DE destruction of P.Scipio’s army. Turn 4 went in favor of Pei’s Rome with an exceptional hand of strategy cards, including Messenger Intercepted, Diplomacy, and Celtiberia Revolts. On turn 6, Africanus and Marcellus trapped and killed Hannibal in Samnium, leading to McCulloch’s resignation. This dropped McCulloch to 3-2 and into fifth place. The last game to finish would determine whether Latto or Wagner would earn the Sand Plaque. Latto rooted for Sosa’s Romans, but in a tight-fought game, Wagner won with a 10-8 advantage when Sosa resigned in turn 9. In this round the Romans won four out of seven games, the only round won by Rome. Four of the 2019 Laurelists repeated. Most significantly, we now have our first threepeat champion, James Pei. To both those who played and those who could not make it here this year, may all your omens lead you to Seven Springs in 2023 for another great tournament.