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Another year, another tournament, but this year the tournament was old enough to vote. This year's commemorative stash pads resembled voter registration cards for this reason. "Cydonia" is a geographic region of Mars, by the way.
Anyway, a small tournament, but an intense one. Without Jacob's influence, the Shotgun was less utilized, and the Snowball often seen. Most players achieved fortresses in most games, leading to brutally attack-heavy endgames. There were only two Icehouse calls the entire tournament, both by myself. I'm not so big on Icehouse calls, so this is fairly unusual. To top that off, the time I called Icehouse during the finals, it was on myself to keep other players from getting my pieces as prisoners. We had a fair number of shared wins, including one surprising three-way win!
The tournament was small, with only 9 players. Because of the odd number of players, some players' first-round scores were dropped. The first round was played, then letters were distributed. So, it was good luck that Timothy and Ross were able to count their shared win, and bad luck that Josh did not get to count his. Josh managed two more wins to plant himself firmly in the finals, so I don't have to feel bad.
The timer didn't seem to bite people as hard this year as it has in past years. One game I was in, Ross and I played out fairly early, and managed to pressure the other two players into speeding up instead of carefully icing us down. I think we finished that game in 9 minutes or so.
Three players (one third of the field!) were tournament newcomers. All three of them were familiar with the rules far in advance of the tournament, but all of them learning "how to play" in teaching sessions at Origins. The one who sat through both a rules session and a "strategies" session wound up winning the tournament, which seems to indicate those sessions were valuable.
As usual, I managed to do well in games where I acquired a fortress, and poorly in games where I did not. This horked me majorly in the finals, where Josh and Ross waited until game three to switch to a heavy Shotgun strategy. I tried sevral times in vain to get fortress, but failed each time, even once crashing the vital piece in a move that was not necessarily even possible. Timothy tried to help me out by playing the prisoner in the way I was attempting, but he couldn't do it either. Josh and Ross iced the piece instead, leading to me calling Icehouse on myself a tiny fraction of a second before Josh. I wasn't able to do anything meaningful with my self-prisoners, however, and most of them ended the game on my stash pad.
Thanks to Eric Zuckerman who did most of the judging. Thanks to John "Tucker" Taylor who helped out on scoring and tough floss calls. The number of questionable attacks into fortresses and oblique attacks to created fortresses created the need for a large number of thread checks, leading to some very tired eyes. Thanks to Julian Lighton for returning this year with the scepter, and facing the traditional crushing of the champion. Thanks to the new players for bringing excitement and the unexpected, and to all the players for their skillful play and for enabling the tournament to run smoothly.
A little background to my entry into the tournament. After getting an IceTowers boxed set as a cheap-ish way to get most of my Xeno stashes, I read The Empty City that came with it, which was thoroughly enjoyable. I felt I *had* to learn this fascinating game that was the first pyramid game. So, I read the rules, read them again, and then found two other players (after all, the rules said it was fine with three... I didn't know there was a very definite sweet spot with four), and taught them the rules. We played. Twice. Our feeling? Meh. The thing was, we understood the mechanics, but none of the strategy. But I knew, deep down, with the following it had, that there must be something more to the game.
Then, on one of the lists, there was talk of having Icehouse 101 and 201 classes at Origins, at the Big Experiment. I was going to Origins anyway, so I was all for that. I even piped up that the 101 class really should be before the 201 class, for anyone that wanted to do both (I think at one point it was suggested that the 201 class come first!).
Thank you Eeyore for some fine presentations in the classes. The helped my understanding a lot, both in some mechanics and a lot in strategy. I thoroughly enjoyed them, and I really hope they are back next year, as this really is a fun game. I would love to be able to encourage some of my friends to attend those classes (though I will probably be doing some teaching of my own, once I have suitably weighty pieces).
So, it comes to the day of the tournament. I've been spending a lot of time in the Lab. I also have a Boardroom ribbon. I've not been spending nearly as much time in the Boardroom as I could and should have. My wife (who is a gamer, but not quite as uh... dedicated as I am) had spent significantly more time in there than I had! So, instead of entering the tournament, I decided to spend the evening in the Boardroom. This also meant we could eat when we felt hungry, rather than having to eat early because of the tournament starting at 6.
5:30 rolled around. We'd just finished a game. I was feeling antsy, so I told Karyn that in fact, I would go get some food and try out this tournament. It would be a good way to get a little experience against some really good players. So, with not a lot of time left, and approaching peak time for the food court, I walked all the way from the boardroom to the food court, based my dining decision on the "Shortest Line" principle, and then came all the way back to the Lab, just in time for the official start time of the tournament.
My overriding sense of the event was *fun*. I can honestly say I would have had a good time, even if I hadn't done so well. A few notable points about the prelims.
Also, as my last round was my bye, with the Ref's permission, I went and participated as a judge in the Nanofictionary final. It gave me something to keep my mind occupied as I waited for the last round to be played out and scored.
So, we're called back to order, and told about the Cooler than Ice nominations. I'd forgotten completely that it was happening. Sure, I'd read about it in some of my reading about the game, but I don't recall anything having been mentioned about being Cool until that point. (Perhaps that's something that could be added to Icehouse 201, Eeyore? Unless it already is, and I forgot...)
So, we're nominating, the ref is figuring out the scores, and tension is in the air. I'd really had no concept of where I'd placed. Several people had commented that with 2 wins I really had little to worry about. I was surprised, though, to be the second highest in ranking. Still, with Joshua choosing Red [@i(Green, actually. --editor)] I was glad to be able to choose Blue.
I was even more surprised to have been voted Cooler than Ice. I'm still not sure what I did to deserve it. I just played to the best of my (I thought limited) ability, putting into practice the lessons I'd learned from the classes and previous games. In any case, thank you once again for that award.
Things are a little fuzzy for me, so I may be getting things out of order for which final game was which. Please comment and correct me, and that may jog my memory for other things.
Joshua, you are a master at table talk and diplomacy. Somehow, you convinced everyone that we were running short of time in that first game. I hadn't felt that at all. Eric confirmed once the game was over that there was still *plenty* of time on the timer. Now, being last to play, had I taken some more time, I could have relieved someone of a point (I forget who, but it may well have been Joshua), by Icing a small piece instead of playing out my pieces as defenders. However, if he'd not convinced the other two that there was a time shortage, they may have played differently, allowing for other options too. In any case, I believe I won that one.
I don't remember much of the second game, other than Eeyore winning it. I know that because of the analysis about the situation in the third game.
If I remember correctly, after the situation was that Eeyore was one point behind me in the score sum. That meant for him to win the tournament, he had to beat me by 2 points in the final game. Josh and Ross were maybe 8-10 points behind me, so both had significant work to do to catch up, but they were certainly still in the running. However, going into that third game, I realised I had a strong position, and I was going to do my best to take advantage of it. Eeyore was my nearest threat, so my attention was going to be on him, mostly, but I knew I had to watch out for the others too. I also knew I would be a target of all three of the others. Early on in that game, I had three walls of a strong fortress, with a defender in the middle. I was reaching for my large, and I heard Joshua and Eeyore discussing which of them would Ice that as yet unfortressed defender. Eeyore took the plunge, before I could get my large defender there. However, he noticed that he was in Meltdown! He hadn't played a single defender, let alone two. He took his piece back, and I was able to get my defender to close off the fortress wall in, before Joshua realised what was happening. The outcome of that game could have been so completely different if it had been Joshua who had attempted to Ice me. Yet again, a small piece of luck was in my favour. Later on in that game, a couple of people are attacking a piece of Eeyore's. He's hanging back, just watching. He calls Icehouse, fractionally before Joshua does. I'm surprised! OK, I'm still fairly new at the game, and I know what it means to be put in the Icehouse, but almost all of the play I'd seen so far included fortressing a piece. Indeed, up until that point, all of my play had included successful fortressing, so that I didn't have to be worried about it for myself. So, it didn't even occur to me to be at least on the look out for the possibility in someone else. Lesson learnt. Eeyore obviously called it on himself once he'd realised it was inevitable, to prevent someone else getting his pieces, but it would also guarantee his not winning the tournament, as even if I too had a score of 0, I would have beaten him in the final rankings.
Once again, the final outcome of this game was heavily influenced by Josh's Cool table talk. If I recall correctly, Josh, Eeyore and I had all played out. Ross had two prisoners left. Josh's comment "Oh no, we're screwed, he can restructure". And that's exactly what Ross starts to do. He places one piece, then places the second, at which point Josh calls out "Last piece played, game over!" And thus, Josh won that game, but unfortunately for him, not by enough to win the tournament. Final scores suggested that if Ross had had I think maybe two or three more points and brought down Josh by a point or two, he would have got a win for the both the game and the tournament. Again, memory is a little fuzzy, but I think that one of Ross's defenders was more heavily iced that the one he started his restructure with, which would have allowed him to use just one of his two prisoners to start restructuring. Had he restructured around this piece first, I'm pretty sure he would have been able to meet that scoring objective and win the tournament. It really was that close, but spotting the right thing to do under pressure can be very hard. After all, what Ross was doing would have been absolutely fine, had there been other pieces available to play.
All in all, it was a great tournament. As I say, I had a lot of fun, even without the winning bit :) Though that added to it! I really enjoyed playing against everyone, and look forward to next year's tournament. I'm already thinking about pieceniking so that I have weightier pieces to teach the game with and practise with.
One final thing. There was a little discussion afterwards about Overicing in a tip-blocked situation. Looking back, yes, I'd had a bit of a fuzzy understanding of that, though fortunately it didn't come up in play. I said that it had come up in one of the classes, and the others there were surprised that Eeyore would have made that mistake. However, looking back and trying to remember exactly what happened, I'm pretty sure it was this: During an example game after the class, Eeyore was concentrating on something else, someone removed a large that had been tip-blocking another large. This was queried, and the person removing it said "but my piece is still iced", and I think that perhaps being a little distracted with what was going on elsewhere meant that Eeyore didn't fully appreciate what had happened. When playing in the tournament, I think I had a *gut* feel that that wasn't right, which is why it didn't come up. I mean, if that was legal, tip-blocking would be largely worthless, as it could just be removed by the defending player could simply capture it. All that said, I *really like* Josh's way of describing how to determine if a piece is over iced, and if the piece you want to capture really can be. He described it essentially as "Imagine the piece you wish to capture had an attack strength of zero. Is your defender still Iced? If so, you can capture that piece." This is different from "if that piece wasn't there..." as it leaves its physical attributes the same, potentially blocking other attacks. I think that the "attack strength zero" phrasing is wonderfully unambiguous, and I will be using it when I teach the game.
[More discussion ensued, but I have not yet formatted it and added it here.]
That was the first IIT that I had played in where I really knew the rules of the game, so things I did may not have made any sense at all. In fact, I was extremely surprised I did as well as I did, and I'm sure that if more of the WTS had been in attendance (and not, for example, collecting Origins Awards :) ) I would not have made it even close to the finals.
If you competed in or observed the tournament, please post your commentary to the Icehouse mailing list and I will excerpt it for this report.