The short version is that I racked up eight semi final qualifications, played in six of those semi finals, advanced to the finals twice, and have a third place plaque for Castles of Mad King Ludwig to go with my second place plaque from last year. I also got a fourth place in Santa Fe Rails, though for that I didn't get any hardware to clutter up my home. Maybe that is a good thing?
Overall it was similar in terms of success to last year. Both years saw two finals tables, though last year had better results at those tables. In both years my team game was Puerto Rico, and in both years I failed my team by scrubbing out in the semi finals.
Also in other silly news I skipped the semi finals of Lords of Waterdeep both years to participate in a Puerto Rico heat. I also missed the semi finals of Monsters Menace America for a heat, but that game is kind of silly and fluffy so I didn't mind so much.
Overall the experience at the convention was a good one, but I had a few moments that really weren't great. The first was in a semi final for Santa Fe Rails where it was me, my teammate, the GM of Santa Fe Rails, and a dude I didn't know. The game was about to end and the GM had a decision to make. He could either give four points to me and to the random dude, or give fourteen points to my teammate. Now normally this is an easy choice and you give four points to two people, especially when one of those two is clearly last place.
But instead of doing that the GM explained that he was sure that my teammate was winning, so he wanted to hurt me as much as possible to secure second place for himself. He handed my teammate fourteen points and the game ended.
I felt almost ill. I felt like I had played well, and was pretty sure my teammate was really close behind me, so it really sucked to have someone throw points away from me in such a fashion. It would not have been fun to lose like that.
But instead it turned out that I was way ahead, more than anybody thought. I won the game anyway, with points to spare. But because my teammate got those fourteen points he pulled ahead of the GM and got second.
Ouch for the GM. Onward to the finals for me!
Then later on in the week I was in my Puerto Rico semi final, and again I was playing against the GM of Santa Fe. He was fourth chair and quickly sold a corn, bought a coffee roaster, and sold coffee. His game was looking amazing. However, I decided that it was my mission to prevent any more coffee sales and I jammed the trading house as hard as I could. This was helped by lefty and righty both having tobacco to sell so nobody was able to safely craft. I managed to wrangle selling sugar, and it was the third last turn of the game before someone finally sold a tobacco to clear the trading house. When the game ended there were two Offices that had never been used, a Small Market that had never been used, and a Small and a Large Market that got used once. Totally nuts.
I realized on about turn six or seven that all three opponents were going hard for Guild Hall. Everybody was buying up production buildings as fast as they could. I decided that the only chance I had was to get it myself, so I saved up cash and snagged it right before two other people could step in and buy it. All three opponents were unhappy as all of them would have gotten far more points from it than me. I ended up getting six from the Guild Hall so it was still the best choice for me but two of the others would have gotten the full ten.
The GM from Santa Fe Rails then announced that he was deliberately throwing the game to my right hand opponent because he had been jammed so hard this game. He ended the game instead of trying to score more points himself, and was left in last place. I came second and failed to advance to the finals, though I did crush lefty and the GM across from me by huge margins.
So this one guy went to great lengths to throw the game away from me in two semi finals this year. Once it worked and made me lose (though I might well have lost anyway, to be fair) and the other time it just screwed him over and did nothing to stop me.
Not the ideal way for games to go.
Thing is, I don't regret losing Puerto Rico that way. I think I played a brilliant game. I stopped my opponents from running their game plans, I had perfect tempo when I grabbed the Guild Hall, and I wrangled a strong endgame position from a terrible early game situation. I played great, and crushed both downstream opponents mercilessly. The guy upstream of me really isn't my problem - I can't do much to stop him, that is the job of the player to his right!
But despite doing things right I lost, partly due to spite, partly due to the other two people not jamming my righty enough.
So while I wish I had managed to win to help support my teammates, I don't find any blame for myself here. I did the right things and I lost anyway. That happens. However, next year I am definitely not making Puerto Rico my team game. It is so frustrating to have a game where you do it all right and lose anyway, and Puerto Rico really jams up my schedule. Maybe I will make my team game Castles of Mad King Ludwig next year. I am apparently consistently good at that, and I love playing it.