Sunday, February 6, 2011

Tournament Structure Deep Dive: Part I - What Makes a Great Tourney?

So, for those of you who haven't been following along, I had the opportunity, nay, the privilege, of organizing and running a Rogue Trader Tournament for the first time this last Saturday. I had 24 players attend the event, and overall I came away from the experience very glad to have done it. I can now say that I have attended numerous RTTs and several Ard Boys, attended a Grand Tournament, and run my own RTT.

Every new experience in this hobby has opened my eyes and helped me to learn more about this hobby and about myself.

So, like I said I was very glad to have done this tourney. But here at Best Overall we not satisfied with the rousing cry of "good enough!" No, there is always room for improvement, and we should always be striving to better ourselves in every aspect of our lives and (more relevant for our purposes) our hobby.



Ok then, let's get started. I have all the lists and documents so now I can "piece together" the results in a way that are useful and interesting to me. I wanted to start with some basics. What are the goals of a tournament?

Well, ultimately a tournament has one overriding goal, which is the enjoyment of its participants. Now we can't guarantee that EVERYONE is going to have the time of their lives, but to the greatest extent possible we should be keeping the good times of our attendees in mind. I hope on that point we can all agree.

Now, the thorny issue that immediately arises is that different people have different definitions of "fun."

I view players as falling on a grid with two axes. One axis covers the "competitive/non-competitive" nature of the player, and the other axis covers the "hobbyist/non-hobbyist" nature of the player.

So we get something like this:

Ok, so hopefully that makes sense.

To start with, I'm somewhere in the "Competitive Hobbyist" quadrant, though I am probably further along to the right (Competitive) than I am near the top (Hobbyist). So I would probably put myself somewhere around here:

See the red asterisk? That's supposed to be me. Honestly I'm probably a tad higher up (more of a hobbyist) than this asterisk but there's, ya know, text in the way. 


The point is that when I put myself on this chart I am definitely in the "Competitive Hobbyist" quadrant, and probably further to the right than I am up (more competitive than hobbyist). It's good to be able to know that about yourself. I highly suggest thinking about that for everyone. 

The nice thing about this kind of a chart is it doesn't divide people up into black and white, us vs. them. It shows that we all exhibit a mixture, and you can fall lots of different places on this grid. It's a big tent people.

So, what does a player like myself enjoy at a tournament? 

Well, I enjoy competition number one. The best possible lists, the best possible tactics, two smart players clawing for every (legal) advantage within the context of a balanced mission on a well put together table. That's awesome. Secondarily is that it has to look good. I truly appreciate armies that look stunning on the table, and even better if that army can tell a story. I say secondarily because that's just the honest truth. It doesn't mean it's not important to me, it just means that competition is slightly MORE important.

My personal nerdgasms occur when I find BOTH of those elements in one place:

Two highly competitive players with really nasty armies that also LOOK awesome, fighting it out on a beautiful table with a nice theme that's ALSO fair and balanced in terms of terrain... OH JOY!!

The best example of this that I saw yesterday was the game with Nardy versus his Imperial Fists opponent. Could the armies have been better? Well I think the Fists army leans a bit towards theme and away from effectiveness but it's certainly a good army. And both players really knew their stuff. And the armies were... gorgeous, made even more so when they were right next to each other mixing it up.

That was a great game to watch.

And it wasn't the only one. It was really nice to see as the day went on the number of matches that I observed that just seemed "right." Both players were on the same wavelength with really nice armies and having good games. More on that later.

I think there are a lot of people like me. Somewhere within the Competitive Hobbyist quadrant. Some more hobby focused and less competitive, some more competitive than me (gasp!) but less hobby oriented. But all in the same general group.

The other two large groups that exist out there are the Non-Competitive Hobbyists and the Non-Hobbyist Competitive. These groups tend not to mix well, and I think a good tournament will minimize the interactions of those who are absolutely non-competitive and those who are. The nice thing about being a competitive hobbyist is that you can appreciate (and hopefully be appreciated by) games against both groups.

The fourth category does exist, by the way. It's just very small and frankly the people in it baffle me.

Why do they bother? But I've seen them.

Anyways, the main point here is that different players enjoy different things. A good tournament will allow for fun times to be had by all three player types that have solid representations in the hobby. I don't think there's anything that a TO can do to include those who refuse to compete OR hobby. It's just not possible.

Ok, so now we have a goal in mind. We want people to have fun, and we know that "fun" can be different for different folks. How do we reconcile the two? I'll keep talking about this in a Part II soon.