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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hosting a tiered competitive event and a non-tournament event: Introduction

So, I’m all about some competitive tournament events. Since the “NOVA” phenomenon, I have also attended the BfS and intend to go to Bolter Beach, another event based off the NOVA Open. These are a ton of fun if you are into the competitive scene.

What if you aren’t? There’s no need for me to further generate ideas on what a good competitive tournament would look like. The Whiskey and 40K crew already figured this out for us. Indeed, they even attempted to reach out to the rest of the community as well by involving equal prize bases in that format for things such as Sportsman, Best Painted Army, and Renaissance Man. Combined with the seeded matching system, hopefully players at the event get to face off against opponents which are basically on par with them. That being said, at the end of the day, it’s still a competitive event.

As large (and VOCAL) as the competitive community is, there is an equally large if not larger 40K community out there that doesn’t associate with that competitive community. I’m sure you are familiar with the groups, but here are my definitions for them:

- Non-competitive: These groups of individuals just want to game and be a part of the hobby. Winning is completely irrelevant.

- Amateur Competitive: Groups of individuals that truly are competitive, but want an arena where they can actually compete because they aren’t into the hyper-competitive scene.

So, let me describe some of the characteristics of these two groups of individuals, and I’m sure you will be right on board with what I’m talking about.

The Non-Competitive Gamer:

The non-competitive gamer is generally characterized by the “beer and pretzels” mentality. These are the guys who just showed up at your event because showing up was the primary goal. Often, these guys are more into the hobby than into the game, although not necessarily. Winning a game means nothing to them nor does losing it. They don’t come to events expecting to win prizes and are happy just to play some games and get some laughs in.

Often, these are the major hobby guys. They show up to show off their armies. If they can get some fun games in to boot, great!

Amateur Competitive:

These are the gamers who are characterized by a desire to compete but general inability to do so. Generally, this is the group of gamers that characteristically is known for wanting comp systems, complains about hyper-competitive gamers at events or “hard” lists in a competitive environment, or just a general want of “fairness” or “balance” in a tournament scene so they aren’t getting crushed by the hard-core competitive crowd.

Believe it or not, most of the gamers I meet fall into this category.

So, the competitive crowd has put a TON of effort into devising plans for competitive tournaments. In efforts to include other types of gamers, those events include other tournaments within tournaments such as painting, sportsmanship, etc. However, what they don’t do is include game play related events which would appeal to the Amateur Competitor or Non-Competitor. The NOVA did a good job of addressing this by their seeding methodology, which tends to by the end of the day put like-skilled gamers together as well as offering more prizes the more you lost. This was a fantastic layout while also trying to cater heavily to the competitive scene with a single-elimination tournament in play as well.

That being said, not so much effort has been put into trying to come up with events that cater to these other two crowds in terms of actual game play. I think there are several reasons for this, but why is not as important as moving forward. What I would like to do is come up with events for these other type categories of gamers.

Now, this is not just your average “we need a better tournament format” BLOG post. On the contrary, as far as tournament formats go, the NOVA format pretty much solves the problem.

So, what is the point? Many events do their best to try and combine all categories of gamers under a single roof. This makes sense given how small our hobby is in terms of players. You want as many people to show up as possible. However, I really think that the best solution for catering to these groups of gamers is to separate the events.

In other words, if you really want that group of gamers to be happy, you should really have different events. Have an event for your competitive gamers, one for your amateur competitors, and one for your non-competitors. Rather than trying to figure out how to combine them, have three different types.

We are already doing this in most cases. Tournaments with comp attached are directed exactly at the amateur competitors. There are a bunch of GTs already doing this. They include made up scenarios, comp systems, and many other elements which competitive gamers abhor but amateur competitors love. What I want here is an event structure as solid, well thought out, and copyable as the NOVA format. The difference will be that we don’t have to focus any longer on trying to cater to all groups, just one.

As far as non-competitive events involving game play….. are there any? Most of these are just conventions, but non-competitive gamers want to play, not just attend a convention as well. What would an event look like that involved game play that isn’t competitive at all?

I’ve got a lot of ideas to explore on these notions. For example, what about tiered tournaments for amateur competitors where you match people based on their skill level, armies, comp preference, etc?

I’m interested to see where this thought process can lead.


  1. Best event you can run that caters to non-competitive and amateur competitive gamers is something that the Warhamsters in Bellingham Washington invented and perfected: the Games Day Scavenger Hunt.

    Essentially, when you sign up at the event you get a long sheet of paper with various things on it. If any of those events happen in your game, you and your opponent initial it on your sheet. At the end of the event, you turn in your sheet and you get a number of raffle tickets equivalent to the amount of events that you had happen. At the end of the day, there's a raffle and that's it.

    Now, the thing is that those events are usually rare things like rolling snake eyes to hold when you needed it. Or rolling box cars on a morale test. You basically just come up with a huge list of interesting game moments or even mundane ones.

    You can play as many games as you want during the day (or weekend if you want to go nuts) which obviously increases your odds of getting more of these events checked off. Winning or losing makes NO difference for the odds of winning a prize, so there's no incentives there; rather the incentive is to play more games and finish them out.

    This really makes for a laid back time and it is free-form for the most part and since you have to have your opponent sign off on all events that happen in your game, odds of cheating are rather low (plus, the type of gamer drawn to this event would probably be unlikely to do this...). Essentially you play how you like and play at whatever pace you enjoy and get in as few or as many games as you can.

    Every time I've gone to one of these, its been a huge blast and usually everyone has a lot of fun.

  2. The only non-competitive events I know of are the ones that the Canadian guys who run Astronomi-con. These events cater to the hobbyist allowing FW rules, VDR, plus outdated armies like the LatD and Kroot Mercs.

    With tables determining the mission/scenario, not the tourney round.

    I think it is a nifty concept, I would love to run something like it here.


  3. That's a killer idea on the scavenger hunt thing. That sounds like fun and is entirely non-competitive. That's exactly like something I would be looking for in a non-competitive game play event. You are playing but there is no reward for winning. The reward is for playing more games. :) That's fantastic.

    I also checked out the astromi. A good example I think for amateur competitors. It's the level of inclusion and comp involved to make it interesting. This is one area I really think we need to focus on.

    I got an e-mail from a listener that I'm still kicking around in my brain as far as amateur competitive as well where he came up with a very neat system for selecting your own opponent based on desirability to play that also sounds promising.

  4. I very distinctly feel like I myself fall into a fourth category. The pickle is that I don't know how many others fall into this category, could be many, could be few.

    I like the fluff. Not so much I've made my own chapter and written a fanfictionous backstory but so much that I read the novels and like the idea of theming a list a bit. I am going to include Ragnar in my Space Wolves army and it is going to be drop pod, even if the internet and math tells me not to.

    I hate comp. I think it truly punishes randomly. It's about one type punishing another type of player and in the process kicking the legs away from a whole bunch of others. Why is "spam" so bad for instance? Where did this notion that it isn't fluffy to have multiples? It's inane and stupid. But most of all it is petty and unfriendly. I really really think that boosting an older dex is a much much better idea.

    I like to try to think that I build and effective list with a purpose. Have had very little table time as I want to paint my models first. I like to see everything painted on the table:) But that doesn't mean that I don't look at cost effectiveness, synergy, mathhammer, etc.

    I want to win. I really really do. I play games to win.

    I want to have fun. Rules disputes, opponents trying to mess with me by bullying me, opponents who can't have fun, etc kills this. This is more important to me than winning as the opponent can turn a win into a sour memory (think custody battle or phyrric victory) or a loss into a fond memory.

    There's more but I think the general theme is clear enough by now:)

    I think that holding two tournaments at the same time would make a lot of sense. Same rules, same missions, but to enter the "hard" tourney you might need to pre-qualify (how I leave up your imagination) and the "soft" you don't have to. You can still play the soft if you so wish even if you qualify. This is where the fun meter points a bit more to fun than to win. Still here to stomp face but also to see other awesome armies and play to win while having a blast against like minded and pretty equal generals.

    This also solves another problem. Your 64 man tourney just turned into two 32 man ones. Requiring one less game to find the winner!

    Could also throw in a 16 man narrative event with more time per game and different goals. Maybe a giant free for all game. Fun times:) And why not a painting comp while you are at it. Find the best armies of the event, give prices:)

    I guess my round-about point is that I don't think you can squeeze everyone into one super-tourney and that the one important rule is that you can't not be unpleasant towards others. Also comp sucks for everyone but the people who decide what is right (also known as fascists). FAQ the weaker codexes to be better instead and use that FAQ in your event. If GW can retcon rules, why can't we?

  5. FAQing and Comping have the same random effect.

    What i am curious about is this, it is already proven that competitive gamers will travel to the end of the earth to attend a game, will non-competitive gamers>? What would motivate a NC (non competitive gamer) to travel far(ther) to get a game in, since that person can game anywhere.
    A competitive gamer goes for various reasons, the most important one i assume to be to measure themselves against the perceived best of the best.
    What can we add to a non-competitive event to draw casual gamers?

  6. FAQing and Comp both give "random" effects but in different ways. FAQs won't penalize you for building a certain way.

    I remember hearing on the podcast (I am lagging behind but intend to listen to all casts since I enjoy them) that there was a suggestion that one could fix Necrons with a few fixes. Have you guys tried a few games with those fixes in place? No need to keep those Necrons gathering dust:)

    What would make me travel far to a tourney? Interesting people (BoLS, BFS, HoW, 11th, etc), smooth running tourney, a friendly environment, the chance to see some great armies and tables in real life.

    I would bring my A-game and try hard to play well, knowing full well that my lack of experience will hurt me, but doing it for the love of it.

    Loosing games is not a reason to stay away, but rules disputes, poorly run, unfriendly people is.

  7. I like the notion of mixing up events and possibly having split events. Adepticon does this to some degree, keeping the championship more competitive and free of some of the wacky stuff allowed in bothe the team tournament and the gladiator. However you run the risk of losing some of the comraderie and spirit of the event as a whole if you fractionalize it. I think it best to let amature competitors cut their teeth at local events, maybe get tips from those locally that have attended bigger events and then just play in them and get their butt handed to em. You learn more when you lose anyways and its a good lesson for anyone to be able to have fun despite not winning all the games.

    But mostly posting cause of the comments reagrding Astronomicon. Having attended an astronomicon event twice, and played in several club challenges mirrored after the astro event -- I have to challenge the notion that its geared for 'amauture' competitors. If you show up with a net list and a plan around the basic 40k missions and deployments -- you will be stomped. I know amature competitors and Astro is not for them. Their missions are rules intensive and usually takes a good player that can handle what they throw at them on top of what their opponent is bringing to the table. The missions might be more about fun and theme then evaluating who is the better player, but it also takes a vets eye to win games at astro and a bit of gamer maturatity as well to deal with mismatches.

    That said, I would agree that Astro is not really an evaluative competitive event, a term I am borrowing from Mike Brandt. Astro has too many wacky things happening to be considered as such. However it is a helluva lot of fun and most certainly anyone who can take a best general or best overall is no slouch when it comes to 40k.

    Also the comp is almost a non-issue. You know going in what your score is and at 1500 points its not as bad as it would be on a 2k list. I think veteran players can deal with it a bit better to be honest and many relish the challenge of making a competive list that gets perfect comp (something that the organizers admit is pretty hard to do and intentionally so; they don't expect perfect comp or encourage it). Honestly an amature competitive gamer could easily get too caught up with the comp system and fail to make a list that will do well. That said, I don't care for comp in any form and have mentioned this to Mike and Christian, but its there event and they like what it accomplishes.

  8. I am personally not a big fan of comp. What I would much rather see if people are having problems with their lists is to beef up bad dex than to try and restrict the way people play the game.

    That being said, what I think would be ideal for an amateur competitor is a way to have a tournament that they won't get destroyed in and also doesn't have to rely on a comp system. I'm not sure what they would look like, but it has inspired me to write a BLOG post about it.


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