World Series of Board Gaming will be held this year for the first time from September 28 to October 2, in Las Vegas. When I heard about the event, I got excited and didn’t give myself an option to opt out. In WSBG there will be a collection of games to choose from for every day. Every game will have a tournament of its own, called ring event. The winners of each ring event will get to play against each other in the final day. In the ring events games will be played in 4-player tables, and only the winner of each table will advance to the next round. The rest are eliminated. So basically, to get to the top 16 I must win 4 games in a row in one of the games I chose – that is my minimum goal.
During the past year I have gathered all the games played in the tournament and practiced each, some more than the others. Big shout-out to Poromagia for helping me getting the games, and to the Jyväskylä gaming group for playtesting sessions. Here I present my thought process on picking the games and preparing for the tournament. Game options are presented in a day order in the figure above.
Day 1 Wednesday - 7 Wonders + Leaders Expansion
On Wednesday there are only 2 options for the game. The decision must be made between Splendor and 7 Wonders. Drafting is one of my favorite game mechanics, so I chose 7 wonders. There is a lot of skill involved in drafting and reading the signals, but there are also many factors that a player cannot affect. Sometimes the cards just lineup bad or your opponent steps on your toes and starts collecting the same cards that you need in the middle of the game. Also randomized wonder boards with varying power level have a big impact. I think in this game I need a lot of luck to be able to win 4 tables in a row.
- Pay attention which resources your neighbors provide. Most of the time you want to be able to build your wonder, so make sure you have all the resources needed available
- In red and green strategies the Age 2 is the most important one, you need the chains from Age 2 cards to be able to get the Age 3 cards
- Strong leaders: Bilkis, Archimedes, Cleopatra, Amytis, Nefertiti, Euclid, Pythagoras, Ptolemy, Caesar.
Day 2 Thursday - Brass: Birmingham
On Thursday there are 4 games to choose from. I am not a big fan of a Wingspan, especially when we are playing only the basic game with the overpowered Ravens around. Dominant Species: Marine is probably the game I have played least from the 16 so I rather play something more familiar to me. I really like both Acquire and Brass, but I end up picking Brass, in my opinion the most skill intensive game of the day.
- Prefer Iron and Beer over other Industries
- Take loans
- Always develop your level 1 beers
- In the canal era make as few networks as possible
- In the canal era make as many level 2 industries as possible, those will give you double points
- In the rail era the network action is many times the best way to get points.
Day 3 Friday - Ticket to Ride
On Friday there are a lot of good games to choose from. I had already tested and prepared for Gaia Project in 2019, when it was one of the games in the Finnish team championships. Based on the testing we made back then I was a bit afraid about the unbalance of the factions. I did not want to see myself in an uphill battle against Ivitz, Nevlas and Terran. Also 4 games of Gaia in one day sounds quite heavy even for a hardcore gamer like me. I abandoned another exhausting game, Great Western Trail, for the same reason.
I must admit that Ra’s bidding system is brilliant, but I do not like the “push your luck”-element of the game, especially in a tournament like this. Azul was also played at the 2019 nationals. It is a fun game, but I think the decisions made by the player in front of you have too much of an impact on the outcome, especially if they do something unpredictable that can ruin the game for both of you. So, my game of the Friday will be Ticket to Ride, a fast-paced game about map control where you need to understand what your opponents are trying to do to see which routes will be open for you.
- Prefer longer routes over shorter ones, that gives you more points and lets you play your trains more efficiently and win tempo
- Try to be the one who dictates the pace of the game or at least be aware when the game is going to end
- You only have 45 trains, don’t take more train cards than you need
- Draw from the deck if there is no colors you need available
- You should almost never pick a joker instead of two cards, it's too time consuming
- Fight for these 3 routes in the early game if you need them: Atlanta-Nashville, Houston-New Orleans, Los Angeles-Phoenix. Be aware that your opponents may also pick them early.
Day 4 Saturday - Dune: Imperium
On the last qualification day, there are some old classics and couple of newer games to choose from. I am the 2015 Finnish national champion in Carcassonne, but I’d rather not play 4-player Carcassonne competitively. I have played a lot of Catan, but I believe there will be more experienced Catan-specialists in the field that I do not want to face. In Blood rage there is a drafting mechanic that I like a lot, but the gameplay itself allows for two opponents to team up against you to make winning practically impossible.
Terraforming Mars is an excellent game, but I end up choosing Dune: Imperium. Dune: Imperium is a relatively new game that successfully combines worker placement and deck building. There are various ways to achieve 10 points in Dune and often the game state evolves so rabidly that players must rely on their intuition in the decision making.
- Prefer sending agents to a Faction’s board over the other locations, usually you should get at least 4 points in a game from there
- Leader pick order: Helena Richese > Baron Vladimir Harkonnen > Duke Leto Atreides > rest
- Prefer expensive cards in the card row over cheaper ones, sometimes it’s even worth skipping the agent turn in order get a better card for your deck
- Conflicts with point rewards are the most valuable, try to win those but pick your battles carefully. Remember that 3 of the last 4 conflicts are worth 2 points.
Day 5 Sunday - Semifinal and final rounds
On the final day, the 16 players will be distributed in 4 tables and games will be chosen randomly. The semifinal games will be chosen so that everyone plays a different game than in the ring event they won. If I make it to this point, I believe my chances are good. I am confident playing most of the games, and probably the opponents I face are not specialized in the game we happen to be playing. After the semifinals, each winner will face off in a final game which is basically chosen the same way. The only difference is that every contestant may also ban one game they do not want to play from the ones which are left.
More information about the tournament can be found in www.wsbgvegas.com.
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