Friday, December 17, 2010

Does Win/Loss Really Encourage WAAC?

by SandWyrm

Yes, I already addressed this question in a previous post, but Strung Muppet had some more to say on the matter and I want to make sure the point is properly explored.

Strung Monkey said in the comments to this post:
"I don't like the thought of W/L and only awarding the undefeated players. I think the point was made that when this is the case it encourages more WAAC behavior simply because one loss and you’re out. That to me defeats what I like about W/L."
To which I said:
"Please explain what you mean by this. I really want to know how you think that W/L might increase WAAC when the degree of win doesn't matter. Because I can't see it."
This is his reply, with my comments added (in red):
What I was getting at is if I show up to an event and I know that 1 loss and I am out of contention for anything then I will be more inclined to play much harder against my opponents. I feel this is true about most competitive players but I will stick with me for now. So I know that if I lose and am out, then there is no reason to kick back and take it easy I will play to win
I hope you do play hard against your opponents. This is a competition we're talking about after all. I'm not suggesting that you not bring your best to the table. But, in a Win/Loss game, there isn't as much incentive to nitpick over every little thing. Because you're not getting points for them. Since it doesn't matter how much you win by, you can relax a bit and let the little stuff slide.

Consider if you will, my experience in the last tourney, getting my butt handed to me by Steve's terminator-heavy list. We played hard, but my deployment sucked and the dice were not with me at all. Once it became obvious that Steve had it in the bag, we were able to relax and joke around.  At the end of the game, when all I had left was my Command Squad and a single Vendetta, his last assault terminator was still (impossibly) alive, and was saving every single wound I threw at him. I even started calling down meteors from the sky, exterminatus, plus other silly stuff, and Steve was rolling (and passing) saves for them!
In short, we had fun with it. Rather than the usual story, which would have been Steve apologetically milking me for every single additional battlepoint that he could get. That's a real difference that I enjoy.
I will say our opinions on WAAC differ so let me clarify. You seem to almost relate it to cheating where I relate it to being competitive to a point where it may not be fun for the other guy up to and including being a rules lawyer but not cheating.
At it's most basic, true WAAC is all about the ego. While Competitiveness is about the desire to test yourself against a challenge and either win or learn something from the contest. Hence WAACs do tend to cheat more, because their ego often demands a win that their skills cannot provide. Even when they don't outright cheat, they can still push the envelope by various other strategies that are designed to knock you off your game. Such as arguing every move you make or otherwise distracting you.

But, if you don't have to win by a massacre every time, then the incentives for being a prick lessen quite a bit. Yes, somewhere there is a WAAC player or two that just want to smash face no matter what. But they're a tiny, cartoon-like minority. Most competitive players don't like smashing face without a good reason, and will stop doing so when the rules of the game don't require it.

As an example, imagine yourself playing a series of football games with a bunch of pre-teen kids. And let's imagine that there's a big pile of money on the line. If only wins count, then you can win your games without making them cry and ruining their fun. It might even be fun for you. While if your prize is determined by your cumulative score, then you have every incentive to run the kids over and send them crying back to mommy. Because if you don't, someone else will.

The uncomfortable feeling you'd get afterward is how I've felt many times at events like 'Ard Boyz. Where I had to ruin someone's day in order to advance.
Now say that you do prizes to the top players not just the undefeated players. I can lose 1 and still get something for doing well not 1st or 2nd and that is fine but something none the less.
That's what Mike Brandt is doing for the NOVA this year. Each bracket from the 1rst day will get it's own mini-tourney on the 2nd. 
I would be content with that. I wouldn't expect something if I lost two rounds and outside of the real DB's out there I don't think any other competitive player would complain either. I think most guys can be happy if by losing 1 they have a chance at something even if they don't end up getting something simply the chance that they might is usually good enough...
That's why I think a best overall prize and some random prizes or in-game objective prizes work well. They give the rest of the field something to strive for.
...but when as soon as you lose its all over then yeah I think it encourages more of a desire to win each game and so increases WAAC behavior.
There's nothing wrong with desiring to win! The problem is when winning requires that you beat your opponent senseless. I would have no problem losing a basketball game to Michael Jordan. I imagine he'd be a good sport and even give me some tips. But I would have a big problem with him constantly fouling me and calling me names because he thought he could get more points that way. I'd be especially pissed if I discovered that the event encouraged him to do this because of it's scoring system.
I look at a tournament where I have to pay to play like an investment and I want to see a return on my investment. I enjoy having a good time but when I have to worry about losing out on my investment then I buckle down and go to work.
This just sounds like normal competitiveness to me. You're paying (in time and money) for the opportunity to (hopefully) play good players and maybe win the day. But most people won't win, and there's nothing at all wrong with that.

I plan on going to both Adepticon and NOVA this year. Winning is my goal, but even if I don't win I'll get to test myself against some of the best competitive players around. That's the real draw, and what would make a win all the sweeter.
If I wanted to just have fun I could just hang out with you guys and play the game.
True. If you don't care about winning, then why go to a tourney? I don't see people who don't care about winning clamoring to go to one. So I don't see how W/L is going to encourage more bad behavior than we see now. The real point is: What happens after that moment in the game where the outcome is decided? Do you relax, enjoy yourself, and discuss the details of the game? Or do you plow forward, smash face, and alienate a potential friend?
If it was a free event then I would just be playing to play the game prizes would just be a bonus and there would be no real desire to win outside of bragging rights and well those alone aren’t worth being a pain over. Just my opinion though.
Well once again I'm saying that you shouldn't be ashamed of wanting to win or playing your best. You should only be ashamed of cheating, bullying, or turning an opponent's loss into a humiliation. Because that's bad sportsmanship. Which shouldn't be encouraged by the event itself.


  1. In 95% of battle point tournaments, the award goes to someone that won all of their games. So, it's the general case that losing a tournament takes you out of contention for first place. Yes, there are instances where someone who went 2-1 can still win at a BP tournament, but people generally call foul when something like that happens. Usually it's because the 3-0 player had an intense close last round game, and the 2-1 player got to mop up on less challenging opponents. It's not something you want to award first place for.

  2. The tourneys I've seen where someone 3-1 and still beats a 4-0 person for top prize, have paint and sports scores included in the BP totals.

    I'm not interested in going to those tourneys in the least bit.

    I'm also not interested in tourneys where you can play the tournament, rather than a series of games to see who wins. Which is why I prefer the random matchups, to prevent lame duck playing first round.

  3. Sandwyrm, you are doing a good service to the community by addressing these issues. Keep it up man. Check out my blog post today, it's related:

  4. @Farmpunk Painting and Playing should be separate scores, not combined. Combining them makes no sense to me at all.

    A few thoughs on W/L. The biggest gripe seems to be the idea of one less means your out vs. stomping to get the most point out of an opponent. How about having three missions in all games. Primary, secundary, and tertiary which would score you 3, 2, and 1 points respectively. Writing good missions would help here and it would open up more variations in the game. Which ones should I go for and how do I stop my opponent.

    Tabling should be worth nothing in an by itself and to win a mission you actually have to fulfill the criteria even if there are no opponent left.

    Because I get the feeling that tabling is worse than loosing, and the solution is to create other ways of winning than tabling.

  5. @Sandwyrm

    I am not sure where the idea that I think W/L encourages WAAC behavior came from. My comment was W/L that only awarded the undefeated players encourages WAAC behavior. I would think that anyone who reads these posts would know that I am actually a supporter for a W/L style format and think that W/L record should be the first criteria used to determine rankings. My point was simply that single elimination tournaments for prizes encourage more WAAC behavior. That is exactly what W/L tournaments that award only the undefeated players are.

    It could be said that with no degree of win that once a player knows he has the win that he can kick back and not have to milk for points and that is what discourages WAAC behavior and so makes W/L a better system. The problem with that thought is it only means relaxing after you know you have the win. It does nothing to make the rest of the game enjoyable or reduce WAAC behavior prior to knowing victory is in hand. Ask yourself how often in a tournament setting you have ever played against a competitive player (no not attitude competitive but skill level competitive) and knew early in the game that you had the win. I would say that experience would be an exception to the norm. In my experience it is usually a close and often a hard fought game to nearly the end of the game and I have played many games with not only you but several of the posters here. If it’s a close game until the end when do you go in to relax mode? So I think when you only award the undefeated players that you are not discouraging WAAC behavior. You’re not encouraging it either but you’re doing nothing to really discourage it.

    My point was if you give players that have lost 1 game a chance at a battle prize that they would probably be laid back during the entire game because the pressure to be undefeated is removed. That in my opinion would lend itself to more of a reduction in WAAC behavior than a single elimination system. You will never get rid of WAAC behavior but if you are trying to reduce it then I say single elimination is not the best way to go. This was never a comparison between BP’s and W/L but a comparison of W/L formats.

  6. Sandwyrm can you clear up how painting scores would be factored into a W/L tourney? If they aren't factored in at all couldn't this also support WAAC?

    Many of the tourneys I have been to have been 90 points total battle point tourneys with 3 rounds. 20 points per game and 30 for painting.

    The problem I se with W/L tourneys comes with painting and modeling. Many people are average players and know this so they put a lot of time into painting and modeling their army. With BP these things are taken into consideration.

    What if you took 1/3 of the prize support and put it towards a separate painting competition? That supports people who buy an army the week before and slaughter someone like yourself or Uber that puts thoughtful work into their army.

    On the flip side of that if you include painting you're then going back to BP in and trusting a bias painting judge. As we have all just about agreed on BP is a system that forces people to play like jerks.

    I guess my question is at what point does 40k go from a hobby to a competition? I have always understood it to be a hobby and 1/3 of the hobby being painting and modeling. How do you reward those people that spend an above average time on their army yet still keep WAAC players at bay?

  7. @Rionnay

    I know your question wasn't commented at me but this is what I think most of the events around are going to.

    1) Painting is a separate prize and competition at the tournament. I think that most players admit that the hobby is still a huge part of the game but should have no real bearing on the rankings of the event.

    2) Soft scores are getting phased out to help reduce the need to make up points you lose in other places by milking for them somewhere else.

    3) There has been talk about another award in addition to the battle awards and painting awards that awards the best all around player. This would be the closest to the old system by basically adding soft scores to your battle score. As far as I know there hasn't been anything mentioned about the best way to do that but it could be easily done without BP's.

    4) In regards to your question of when 40k went from a hobby to a competition. I would say 3rd edition easily made the change. Competition isn't bad and I am a firm believer in knowing before an event what type it is and making the best decision for you (the player) on whether or not to go.

    5) I would say that a good way to cut down on WAAC is simply make the events free and themed. Free events are easily done by using GW's prize support in addition to maybe having the host store donate something extra or by getting a sponsor or two. I think smaller prizes make for much more fun events because the incentives for winning are reduced. That is another problem in that free events are nice but you are then limited to a place where the event can be held for free because venues are not cheap and this often limits the number of players. If you have people pay to cover prizes and venue then I think the prizes need to be larger to give players more incentive to attend and pay. That is when competitive play really starts taking over. More money invested and bigger prizes on the line. Solving that problem for large events would really help cut back on WAAC behavior. It will never go away but it will help encourage those players that can turn it off to do so.

  8. @Strung Muppet

    It sounded from your original comment that you thought W/L by itself would encourage WAAC. Nice to know we cleared that up and are in agreement that other prizes need to be included too.


    You need to look at what MVBrandt did with the NOVA Open this year. Besides the undefeated prize, there was also a "Renaissance Man" best-overall prize that was 1/3 battle score, 1/3 painting/appearance, and 1/3 player-ranked sportsmanship. I think it even had better prize support than the best general award.

    They also had quite a few random door prizes to give out.

    @Strung Muppet again...

    I don't think that prizes and pay-to-play are bad in themselves. Just keep it reasonable and spread the wealth around amongst more than just one or two players.

    'Ard Boyz has free admission and a ridiculously huge (free army) single-winner prize in the semi-finals, which is where I've seen the worst WAAC behavior.

  9. I think the Win/Loss method for determining the outcome of a game is a great idea.

    Sure, some people set out to utterly destroy their opponent, you can't help that. But if the structure of a GT allows you to win the whole thing by simply winning all of your games then there's no automatic incentive to crush people utterly.

    If you can increase your chances of an overall win at a GT by crushing your opponent then that's what people will aim to do.

    To an extent determining the victor of a GT is a separate issue. You could use any one of many determining factors to work out who of the undefeated players takes the prize.

    All you need to be aware of is that people will strive to meet that criteria well if it will determine whether or not they will win overall.

    So I guess there's at least two themes in this thread. First, that W/L doesn't encourage WAAC play styles. Second, that working out who wins of the undefeated players is hard to do without encouraging WAAC play during the GT.

    I guess I've always been happy with the GT's I've attended, I've taken some beatings but do people really expect friendly-style games when there's a big prize waiting for the best guy?


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