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Thursday, December 01, 2005

DiceConEast 2005

Memoir'44 TournamentSo the 2nd DiceConEast passed on Sunday 20th. Donald drove Antony, Badger and myself through for the day, which required a hideously early start! As I said earlier, I was planning to run a Memoir'44 tournament because I think this is a great game ideal for convention play. My original plan had been just to GM this in the hope of getting a chance to play some ASL or Up Front, but things turned out differently on the day.

Anyhoo, after a tour of the centre of Edinburgh in search of parking, and a visit to McDonalds for breakfast, I set to getting the event going. First off there were some interested people who'd never played before, so introductory games were organised. Meanwhile I had to rustle up players and finalise the details of the format. In the end there were 5 other willing players, so I joined in to make 6, which just happens to be the number required for the official M44 tournament format that I'd downloaded from the Days of Wonder site.

The main issue in M44 tournament play is balance- the game's scenarios are unbalanced by design. One approach to this would be matchplay- playing each scenario back-to-back from each side. This would solve the balance problem, but with the disadvantage of reducing the number of scenarios played, or lengthening the playing time of the tournament. The WBC pack takes the approach of splitting the players into 2 sides- Axis and Allied. Each player then plays the 3 players on the other side across 3 different scenarios, competing to see who is the best Axis player and the best Allied player over the 3 games. These 2 then matchplay a 4th scenario to decide the final winner.

With the format decided then, Badger, Sean and myself became the Axis generals with the task of stemming the Allied tide led by Donald, John Evans, and Mike.We fought our way through the following scenarios:
#1: Pegasus Bridge- British glider troops attempt a coup de main to grab bridges securing exits from the D-Day landing beaches.
#4: Point du Hoc- US rangers scale cliffs to neutralise German artillery batteries on D-Day.
#9: Operation Luttich- the panzers strike to prevent the US army from breaking out of the Normandy bridgehead.
Each scenario was a 4-medal game.

The scoring system for this tournament format is based on victory medals gained instead of simply on wins, with medals and/or figures lost as tiebreakers. This means that even a losing game should contribute to a player's overall score for the qualifying games; whereas a close and costly win could well lose a player their place in the final. The merits of this were seen in the final round. My last game finished first. Checking out the standings and taking a quick look at the remaining 2 games, I noticed that every single one of us still had a chance of making it to the final. I thought this was pretty impressive. It certainly made for some tense moments as we gathered around to await the outcome of the last game to finish.

In the end Badger won out on the Axis side with a total of 10 medals from 2 wins and a loss. Sean was pipped by Badger, losing out by a mere 1 medal after John Evans rolled over his German defence at Pegasus Bridge. With that medal in hand, Sean would've won out on the figures lost tiebreaker. We all thought that this was an impressive performance from someone who'd only played their first game that morning. I trailed a sad 3rd with 8 medals- a performance that included the day's only duck, when my Germans had failed to take even a single medal off of Mike's lads at Pegasus Bridge. Ouch!

John Evans led the Allied camp with 11 medals- another 2 wins and a loss. Mike was 2nd with 9 medals. Donald came 3rd with 8.

John and Badger contested the final over #2: Sainte Mere-Eglise- US paras land to secure the right flank of the beachhead. John played the Allies first, and promptly got in a perfect drop- this scenario starts with the Allied player dropping 4 figures onto the board to determine the number and location of his airlanding reinforcements! John's airlanding reinforcements landed without loss and perfectly surrounding Badger's exposed unit holding St. Mere-Eglise. The result was a swift walkover. Badger was unable to win so decisively as the Allied player, and the day went to John.

The overall standings then were:
1. John Evans
2. Badger
3. Mike
4. Sean
5. Me
6. Donald

Ellis and Gordon of the Scottish Boardgames Assocation pulled out the stops when it came to prize support: all 6 competitors received a prize, donated by Esdevium Games. This was very cool.

So I can happily report that the DiceConEast 2005 Memoir'44 tournament was a great success. Everyone who took part enjoyed themselves. Several people commented on how good the tournament structure was, and I have to agree. Looking over the tournament scoresheet as I wrote this, I could see how every single medal won by each player in all of their games was important. The value of this in a tournament should be self-evident. This tournament structure therefore only enhances the benefits of the supreme playability of M44- itself evidenced by the excellent showing made by the players new to the game on the day. The format can easily be adapted for more players too, without extending the 4 hours it took to run the event (5 if you count the tutorial games).

With this experience under my belt then, I am looking forward to running future events for so long as people want to play in them.

Finally, I would like to conclude with the traditional votes of thanks. First: to Ellis and Gordon of the SBGA, for laying on the venue, and the prize support. Second: to Esdevium Games for providing the prizes on offer. And third: to the participants, for making the event such a success. My thanks to one and all. ;)
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