Monday, October 11, 2010

'Ard Boyz, Competition, and What I Like in a Tourney

by SandWyrm

The discussion going on in the comments to Wienas' last post have got me thinking about the things I like and hate about the tourneys I've gone to. Which I can't fit into a paragraph or two of comments. So I decided to dedicate a new post to them.

1) I Like Playing To Win, Not To Smash.

I play this game to relax and socialize, not to beat people's faces in. When a tourney's results are based on win/lose instead of Battle Points, I'm very happy. Because I can worry less about bad matchups and enjoy a close game that will count just as much to my record in the tourney as the guy who brought the unbalanced beat stick and drew a Baby Seal for his first round.

I mean, think about this... The last person I wanted to play at 'Ard Boyz was Farmpunk (and vice-versa). Not because I can't ever beat him, or because I wouldn't have fun playing him. But because we're so evenly matched. If we draw each other in a round the resulting game will always be close. Which is BAD in 'Ard Boyz because the guy who beat up the baby seal will advance right past us. That's not right.

Neither is the joy I took in beating up my own baby Seal in the 2nd round of last year's prelims. I tabled him and took full points in a game that may well have soured the poor guy on all tourneys. But I needed those points for GW's crap scoring system.

Wienas summed it up nicely:
"Imagine if the Super Bowl were played that the two teams that accrued the most points over the season would face each other. The 2nd place team would be at such a disadvantage, that it may not matter whether they win or lose, unless they can cover the points difference."
Does anybody like watching a one-sided (American or European) football game? Or do you rejoice when the game is close and nail-biting? Why should the blowout be scored higher than a tight game?

What's more exciting? This fight, or the one from the Princess Bride?

2) The System Can Be Changed

Why is this hobby mired in a flawed tourney system that the GW sales department crapped out as an afterthought back in the early 90's? You don't need battle points to determine a single winner. You just need enough rounds.

It's simple mathematics:

2 players need 1 round to determine a single undefeated winner.

For 4 players, you need 2 rounds.

For 8 players, you need 3 rounds.

For 16 players, you need 4 rounds.

For 32 players, you need 5 rounds.

For 64 players, you need 6 rounds.

For 128 players, you need 7 rounds.

For 256 players, you need 8 rounds.

(hint: It's a power of two thing.)

So if you have 16 players in a tourney, but only play 3 rounds, you're always going to have 2 undefeated players. So be ready to either split the prize support or play another round. But don't let an overall winner be determined by degree of victory. Or you'll get WAAC behavior. Which is only made worse by the easily cheated player-scored sportsmanship that's typically used to try and curb the WAAC that the BP system put there in the first place.

3) GW Has Created The WAAC Phenomenon, Not The Players.

Battle-points encourage face-smashing and bad behavior. Win/Loss encourages fun and good sportsmanship. It's really as simple as that. Let's reform the system and get rid of the incentives to act badly.

4) 'Ard Boyz Is Not Competitive, We Only Pretend It Is.

Steve said:

look at 'ard boyz. a bunch of people reading this played in round 2. did anyone have a truly enjoyable game against someone they didn't know? if so, do you think it likely to happen again in that setting?
I had one enjoyable game, one horrible game, and a pathetic game against a friend where my attitude  was tainted by my bad experience in the 2nd game. So hey, I agree. I've attended 2 'Ard Boyz semi-finals now, and both were uncompetitive WAAC-fests that weren't worth the effort I put into attending them. Fueled by the BP system, sloppy random missions, and the ridiculously large prize.

This year I'll only be attending the Prelims, if at all. Instead, I'll concentrate on preparing for Adepticon and the Nova Open, which will offer true competitive events.

5) Reward Painting and Sportsmanship Separately From The Undefeated Player(s).

I like love painting as much as the next obsessive compulsive brush monkey, but please don't mix the scores for painting into the results of the game. Penalizing players who bring unpainted models is fine, but if they meet the minimum standard then call it good and move on.

Instead, hold (gasp!) a painting competition as a part of the event. Give a prize to the best Sportsman too. Determine a best all-round painting/modeling/play winner if you want. But don't screw over the guys who just want to play the game itself because they only meet the minimum standard.

6) Nobody Says You Can't Run Real Hobby Tourneys Too.

Who says we always have to play the game? Give everyone the same model and 2 hours to paint it. Next round, give them another. I'd come to that event too! So would a lot of people for whom the game itself is not very important compared to the hobby.

7) I Really Like The Last Few Events That Hive Fleet Indy Has Put On.

There's room for improvement, sure. But the Win/Loss system is really refreshing.

8) 40K Is Not Yahtzee.

If it were, you wouldn't see the same group of players at the top tables tourney after tourney. So it's really more like poker, because your success depends on both luck AND skill.

And if you want to reduce the luck part, stop using BPs to score tourneys. :)


  1. Very good post. There's a tournament format out there that can make everyone happy, we just have to keep working on figuring out what that is.

  2. I just wanted to say that this past Ard boyz was my first one, but I went into it knowing how it was. I was completely surprised when I got there and found people playing that didn't know what they were going into. And it honestly skewed my placement.

    My first game was hyper-competitive, and I loved it. It was almost a draw if I hadn't been sleep deprived.
    My second game was against someone who hadn't played in a while. He wasn't slow playing, but I had to walk him through tons of the basic stuff. We only got to turn 2, which wasn't enough for me to kill things, and he ended up winning because my reserves didn't all come in.
    My third game was against a completely casual player who had not brought a competitive list at all. I practically tabled him by turn 3. I could tell he wasn't having too much fun, so I tried to be as nice as I could, but it was Ard boyz, so I went for the points.
    That tabling left me just a few points shy of placing to move on in ard boyz, but I lost a game I would have easily won, because I was facing someone I had to help with the rules.

    I went to Ard boyz to get my face beat in, I knew what I was getting into. Playing fun and casual games each weeks is fine and dandy, but if I want to get better than I need to play some tough games. I feel like I've been depleting that locally, as many of the WAAC players have not shown up as much, nor many of the good casual players. And it gets boring playing the same person every week.

    That is why I enjoy the W/L tournaments. It gets me out playing new people, and Hopefully I can play casual games to win when needed, and play tough games when it is pressed on me.

    Under the old tournament style, if I knew sandwyrm was showing up, then I was just playing to have fun, and why should I pay the entry fee for games I have normally during the week? They weren't that much fun for me, not because of Sandwyrm, but because of the scoring. I am still learning, so I'd be hard pressed to do a lot better than Him in generalship, and his painting is exponentially better than mine, there is now way I could place higher than him.

    So in summary, Having competitive tournaments are great, because it allows people to get better at the game. That being said, I've been thinking for a while, we need some more hobby/casual events that are low points. If we start some low point fun events, we are more likely to get new people into 40k. Things like kill-teams would be a great way to get new people in, if GW learned how to balance their books better, and at various point levels.

  3. This has been one of the best, and most insightful, posts I've read in regards to tourneys. Nicely put.

  4. excellent post. akin to my thoughts on the matter.

    I think NOVA style events have been friendlier from what I've read. I know the Hive Fleet tourneys have felt friendlier to me. I think W/L and good missions shifts the focus from beat-face to playing the GAME. There's a big difference between playing your Opponent vs. playing the Game.

    I was thinking this morning about a Killteam Tourney, and what that might look like. Could you imagine 30min rounds? You could play a LOT of games in the span of 8hrs.

    Perhaps if we came up with a 5x system we could try it out.
    I might have to playtest that this wed. when I get to the shop after work rather than Necromunda.

  5. Kill teams would allow for the hobbiests to work on a few custom models, the painters to put effort into a few models. Even I could put out a few good looking models. Kill teams could be fun, just few things that make it difficult, such as codexes. haha

    Also, I think there is no need to do as long of an event with kill teams. Maybe even make the missions a little story driven. There are many possibilities with it.

  6. @Sandwyrm: what would you use as a tie breaker in this scoring system? How about the number of victory points that you have remaining at the end of each game?

    @Farmpunk: A Kill Team tourney sounds cool. I've also heard of Necromunda "tournaments" where you make a gang of 1100 points or so, and you get a predetermined number of advances to spread around your gang beforehand. I don't know exactly how you would score such an event, but it's a thought.

  7. @Wienas

    First off, the missions would not be designed to encourage ties. For instance, instead of 2 objectives in capture and control, I'd have a third placed in the center of the table.

    If there is still a tie, break it with something table quarters first, and then if you still have a tie break it with Victory Points. If there is still a tie, flip a coin or play rock, paper, scissors for it. :)

  8. Wouldn't ties in each game spread out the results, so that you don't end up with two 3-0 players in the end (in the 16-player example)?

  9. @Wienas

    If you allow ties, then a tie essentially becomes a loss, as it knocks you out of the running. If you have two really good players play a close game and tie, then you've taken two good players out of the chance at winning. This could allow for a player who is not as skilled winning the tournament. If you have a tie breaker, then only one good player is taken out of the winners bracket.

    Having ties might make the bracket work out to one winner, but it makes pairing much more difficult.

  10. In a 1 day tournament where you have 4 undefeated players playing in the last round, you can always just use the victory points for the final game to determine the tournament winner. Instead of adding up the VP for all 3 games. This further reduces the "beat face" attitude to the first 2 rounds. If you are undefeated the last game is really the only one where you have to "beat face" which is fine with me.

    Great post Sandwyrm. As a plug we will be having another tournament November 6th with more of the good tournament strategies you all have said you liked about our past few tournaments!!!!! More to COME!!!!!

  11. @Wienas

    What CaulynDarr said.


    I dislike this idea, since a sub-par player could still make it into the last round and win due to better players pulling close games with one another. It's better in my mind to just reward each undefeated player equally or have them play another round alone (in front of everyone) for the prize. Maybe using smaller armies in fixed 5-turn rounds.

  12. 2. this is one reason that i think multiple day events should be the norm. it might be difficult for some of us to schedule, but i would rather play fewer large events than a ton of tiny ones.

    3. i think the players and TOs are just as much to blame. there's no reason to use the GW system unless the people directly involved want to.

    4. 'ard boyz is very competitive; mostly because the prize is crotch-kickingly awesome. any large tournament runs into this issue, but there are ways around it - mostly by having side competitions for other aspects.

    5. i concur. i would like to point out that i think that theme and player-judged composition have a place here. players should be able to judge armies outside of a pure painting aspect - otherwise the same 3 guys will keep winning this comp.

    and to some of the other points made here :

    while ties can be screw people at times, i think they are just as likely to help some players recover from bad luck games.

    besides; there isn't any good tie-breaking system to use. VPs end up unfairly judging the tactics a player might choose in how they use certain units, and tend to encourage more conservative gameplay. i don't like being told how to use my army, and being penalized for using a unit in an unconventional way does just that.

    i like the idea of making games harder to actually draw with, but it should still be possible. if two players really are that evenly matched, then a draw just makes sense. this is one of those things where more games in an event will help solve the problem.

    i'm going to try some crazy things this weekend to see if i can spice things up and i'll report back with what happens. if anyone wants to play or critique, feel free to stop by :

  13. BTW, for those that don't know it yet, Adepticon's championship tourney will be 8 rounds this year. Four on Friday, the winners of which (16 players) will advance on to the Sunday finals.

    That allows for 256 players, which is around what they had last year when their battle points system screwed over 16 undefeated players to hand the trophy to the guy with the best paint and sportsmanship scores instead of recognizing everyone.

  14. @CaulynDarr: It would seem that having the ability to tie would not knock you out of the running, but make it possible to win without going undefeated.

    It would seem that having more rounds is the simplest answer, not denying players the ability to tie. It would create a middle-ground of players who could move up or down depending on their results over the course of the entire tournament. Having only two possible results polarizes players into two categories: people who could possibly win, and people who cannot.

  15. I agree that a two day tournament would be the best situation, but how do we get that last round done in one day. I believe once we get that solved, which would be starting earlier and playing 4 rounds at 2:00 a piece with a shorter lunch and break it could be possible. Bigger point games not so much. Either way, we are on the right path.

  16. @Steve

    'Ard Boyz may attract competitive players, but the results aren't the result of real competition. They're the result of random seal-beatings combined with missions designed to either be random or to screw over specific army builds. He who draws the most Seals and doesn't get screwed over by the missions wins.

    So no, it's not competitive. It may have been the best of a pathetically bad field a year ago, but now we have the NOVA Open and the revamped Adepticon Championships to compare it to. Against which 'Ard Boyz is pure fail.


    There's a reason the NFL, NHL, NBA, and every other established sporting organization does their absolute best to prevent ties. Because ties don't work. Who goes on to the next round? Both players? Neither? Even if you assign points to them, both players will auto-lose the entire event to an undefeated player who may be of a lower skill level.

    The only way to not knock them both out is to institute the traditional BP system. But that leads to people losing 2 out of 3 games and still getting 2nd or 3rd place. Like I did in last year's 'Ard Boyz Prelims. Or the time I won the prelims with a draw and two massacres over guys who won 2 or more close games. How is that more fair?

    Even if all you do is flip a coin, one good player in a close matchup will get to advance rather than having 2 good players knocked out of the running.

    So you make sure that every mission has an odd number of objectives and you back it up with secondary and tertiary objectives. Either that or you play extra turns until a winner is determined.

    And yes, competitors will be knocked out for any loss, but that's why you also award painting, sportsmanship, and renaissance man prizes. So the 2nd and third tier players still have something good to strive for.

  17. @Sandwyrm: You bring up good points.

    @Spaguatyrine: At our tournament in June, we played 4 games with 1:45 to play with 25 min breaks and 45-60 min lunch. It makes for a longer tournament, but it can be done. Registration started at 9, game 1 started at 10, everyone was gone around 7-7:30.

  18. Nice. Worth a try at 1500, but at 1750 or 2000 might be a little rough.


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