This March I was lucky enough to enter a Settlers of Catan tournament held on a cruise through the Caribbean.

Excited to set sail on my nerd cruise, I met with fellow gamers and the owners of Mayfair Games on the evening of my arrival in New Orleans. We met at the famous Pat O’Briens bar in the French Quarter for the signature Hurricane cocktail. There I met my roommate for the cruise, Sue. She is a gamer/teacher from Chicago and filled me in on cruising basics. The Gaming Adventures travel agency owner, Kim, let me know about the reserved game room onboard the cruise ship. She brought three big suitcases full of games to keep the 40 of us entertained for the week.

As we sailed from port to port through the Caribbean, I had a nice balance of regular-people fun with roomy Sue and spent a few hours per day playing games with the die-hard players – who always seemed to be in the room already playing upon my arrival.

But those die-hard gamers did actually take time off for excursions and dinner.

The event was mostly alcohol-free because you had to be sharp. Competition was strong. A large percentage of the group had computer-techy careers, but I was privy to only one evening of tech-talk, which also dived into game reviews and a role-playing card games discussion.

A little over my head, I felt like I was in the Super Geek Clique, and geeky is the new cool.

One of the highlights of the cruise was when I had the opportunity to play Settlers of America with the game’s creators, Pete and Bill. It was a cool experience and I learned some new tips and rules. As the evening disappeared, we talked about what would make a great Canadian board game and the kind of thought they put into their design elements. Even more exciting: who can say they beat the creators at their own game? Me. That’s who.

Then the tournament day arrived. The 40 competitors got the lowdown on rules and played all day at sea. At the end of each game the organizers took a tally of everyone’s scores, so even if you were not going to win the game it was important to gain as many victory points as possible. They all counted towards your competition total.

I lost two games, once to Ed and once to Mike. Both were very strategic players. But I also won three games.

A guest of honour on the cruise was from Gras, Austria. Herbert happened to be the Settlers of Catan World Champion. He participated in the tournament. And won.

He wasn’t eligible for the North American Championships, though, so he gave up his seat at the finals table. This allowed me to squeak into 4th place and earn a spot in the championship game the following day. What’s a girl to do but ask the World Champion for a few tips.

Herbert set up the board a few different ways and we spent plenty of time assessing it and talking about initial placements. I discovered I’m too nice. I need to be more aggressive on claiming spaces and removing opportunities for others. Surprisingly, he who controls wheat has the best chance of winning.

He also told me to never play for the longest road and always build outwards rather than inwards.

Herbert said he’ll share his notes on the game with me once he has them translated into English.

When the final championship game began I think I got the best placements in the beginning settlement stage. However, I was thrown off when I realized two of the competing players had joined forces against myself and a player named Ed. It was already well into the game at this point, when Ed and I started working together – but it was too late.

I also made the crucial mistake of building two roads inward without having the resources to build a settlement right away. So Mike rolled in and claimed that spot.

When all was said and done Mike took first place and I finished in third.

As the winner of that tournament, Mike will be attending the North American Championship tournament GenCon Indy 2013 in Indianapolis in August.

Mayfair Games staff suggested the Yukon have an official tournament for a chance to make it to GenCon. We have plenty of gamers up here so I think it could happen. I’m getting the details and we will see where it leads.

Gamer Adventures has already set dates for the next Gamer Cruise for March 15-22, 2014. This time it will leave from Miami and visit Bahamas, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas and Grand Turk.

The one set back to going on a gamer cruise and coming in third is that my friends and family don’t want to play me anymore. I guess I know too much, now.

What’s Up Yukon’s Chaos Co-ordinator