UKBCGC 2000

Pevans took part in the UK Boardgames Championship

Saturday 25th March was the date for this year's UK Board and Card Games Championship and I was competing for the first time (in previous years I have usually ruled myself out as one of the organisers). The format is that four games are played; players gain points for their positions; and the team scores the aggregate of its members' points. There was a good buzz about this year's event and a terrific selection of games: Chinatown, Ra, Torres and Union Pacific.

My team, Anglo-American, consisted of myself, the true Brit, Timothy Hunt (an LPBS player and a regular at the Swiggers club and games events), the Brit who's about to move to the USA (he has a job in St Louis), Rob Bendig (another Swiggers regular), the Canadian who lives in London, and Bruce Whitehill (aka The Big Game Hunter), the Yank visiting London. Knowing the team was a bunch of smart guys, I had hopes that we would do well. The only problem was that the opposition was lots of bunches of smart guys and gals.

First up was Union Pacific, a game at which I fancied my chances having been on a winning streak recently. We played with a different rule for the deck of share cards, aimed at ensuring a more even distribution of scoring cards. It was a good game, with some hard-fought battles for control of companies. The player to my left (Trish Dawson) made the mistake of challenging me for three companies: we tied one, I took two and took control of the company she had built up. I was surprised to find that my final score was an exact tie with Julia Iskett, sitting opposite me - she was number one shareholder in the Union Pacific railroad, by the way, with me just behind her in second. Amazingly, several other games ended in ties. This seems so unlikely!

Anyway, a good start, but could it be my best result of the day? The next game was Chinatown - a game I appreciate, but am a terrible player of. I tried to harden my usual negotiating stance. This culminated in a furious exchange between me and Rick when I offered a deal that would give both of us a complete business on the board and he wanted money as well. The other two sided with Rick in quite a, um, lively exchange of views. I eventually conceded. Rick went on to win the game. I trailed in last.

Two games down, 5 points scored (an average would be 5.5) by me. The team had raked in 15.5 points in the first game, but a paltry 8 from the second. Clearly we were thinkers, not negotiators.

A brief break for a bite of lunch and then it was time for Ra - which I was looking forward to. For once I seemed to be pitching my bids at the right level (I often find I bid too low). I collected enough Pharoahs to give me the bonus for the most, picked up the odd Civilization to avoid the penalty and scored points with Gods and Niles. All three Epochs followed a similar pattern, with Ra tiles appearing slowly until about halfway through and then a flurry that finished the Epoch quickly. We had at least one stone unused between us at the end of each Epoch. By the end of Epoch 2, I had six different Monuments and a set of three - I hadn't been scoring high so far, but I knew I had a big score coming. A seventh Monument and other bits and pieces came my way in the final Epoch, leading to a final score of 48 and an outright win - second place scored 40 with the other two on 37. Sweet! But not so good for the team overall, with just 10.5 points in total from this round: 34 points running total was just one point over average.

Just Torres to go and I was feeling confident after the last game. We were playing the Master rules - a full set of action cards for each player and a bonus card that gives an extra scoring opportunity. The bonus card (same for everybody playing) was points for having knights on the edge of the board. This immediately gave some different tactics. I was the only player to put my starting knight on a castle at the edge of the board, but I then moved towards the middle while the others were lining knights up round the edges. I followed my usual strategy of aiming to get a knight in every significant castle, making sure I got them all on the board and scoring the King's bonuses. One of our players was clearly unwell and playing badly, but otherwise it was a tight game. I reckoned that the bonus for getting knights on the edge was not that significant in the first phase and concentrated on getting high-scoring castles. I was a little surprised to be as high as second place - by 2 points - when the scoring finished.

Leader Neil Rajah and I had a close second phase: Neil added action points to his score, but I scored slightly more to be only three points behind at the end of phase 2. The third phase saw me sneak a fifth knight onto the edge of the board, while maintaining its scoring position. The King's castle was pretty much closed down, but I had carefully kept my 'put a piece beneath a knight' card for just this situation and was the only player to gain the King's bonus in this phase. Neil and I leapfrogged each other's scores with spare action points, leaving me a few points ahead. Neil scored better on castles to take a 7 point lead. Then I got the King's bonus and we both scored 50 bonus points for knights on the edge. Final scores: Pevans 370, Neil Rajah 362, Michael Abramowski 320, Mark Moores 270. Wow!

It was intriguing that the scores varied hugely between the various boards. Top score I heard was over 400, while another game didn't see anybody over 270. The win gave me a total of 15 points and the team did well with 17 points on this game. Total score 51, putting us in fourth place - half a point behind The Uninspired (Chris Boote's team), a regular top three team and past European champions. Winners of the tournament were The Four Dobbers of the Apocalypse and their captain, Martin Abrahams, took away the individual prize with a perfect score of 20 points. Full results will be posted on the SFC Press website in due course.

The tournament atmosphere of the event makes it a rather different gaming experience (particularly from the friendly free-for-all of conventions), but it was a good day's gaming. A range of good games played against tough opposition: great!

This article was first published in To Win Just Once issue 3 and a revised version in Games Games Games 143, May 2000

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