Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Running A Tourney - A How To

Well, I am WAY behind on my emails. But I promised Karvala I would respond to his first. So here goes:

Hi there,

I've been following your posts for a while, first on YTTH, and now on your own blog, and have been impressed with both the content you have delivered, and the tone you deliver it with.

Anyway, enough throwing compliments at you, on to why I'm writing.

Two topics really - asking for some advice on running tournaments, and wanting to bounce some SW ideas off you.

First subject - tournaments - I am starting to get involved in running events at the local game store, with a small tournament and a league-type game series to run. I'd very much like to hear from you on what are the biggest mistakes to avoid when running tournaments, and any other pointers you have for me. Some suggestions for good and interesting tournament deployment/victory conditions would be very much appreciated.

On the second topic, Space Wolves. I've been experimenting with some odd ideas to shore up weaknesses in my list and the initial results were quite promising. I've been feeling a lack of mobile melta shots and a diffficulty in pushing deep for contesting backfield objectives.
My first efforts to get around this was the obvious use of multimelta landspeeders. This did not work reliably - speeders seem to be just too fragile to get more than a shot or at most two shots off. I have run several games now, switching over to using a more expensive, but seemingly more effective solution.
Swiftclaw pack - 3 vanilla riders, 1 melta, 1 power weapon, 1 assault bike with multimelta, meltabombs all round, and a wolf priest with bike (and sometimes a wolf tail talisman) with them. The BS3 is the biggest problem still, but the mix of fairly potent shooting at vehicles, decent anti-infantry shooting from the TL-bolters, and a nasty assault capability with 4+ with rerolls to hit. I'm not sure yet whether the successes I've been seeing with this are because people are underestimating and ignoring the swiftclaws, or whether it really is a worthwhile unit. I'd value your thoughts on the subject.

I also noticed that Mark of the Hunter is also available to Wolf Priests as well as WGBL's. Whilst they are a little more expensive and their statline is not as good as the WGBL (I4 only darn it!) the free 4+ invuln and power weapon, and fearless/preferred enemy for the whole unit seems to be a worthwhile trade. I've seen you talking about taking WGBL's for the stealth, and I was wondering if you had thought about using a WP instead and discarded the idea.


Primarily I will be responding to the tournament information request. On the topic of Swiftclaws... I'm really not convinced that is a good play. For those points you could easily run THREE of the aforementioned speeders, correct? I don't know what the rest of your list looks like but I would venture to guess that this is not an optimal choice. If Saga of the Hunter could be taken by a character on a bike, well, I would throw the Wolf Priest on them and zoom zoom around for 2+ cover saves. Hells yes. But unfortunately the Wolf Priest cannot take the saga and a bike, so he ends up doing what most chaplain type characters do - not enough for their points.

At the very least I think a Wolf Guard would be a much better choice to lead the squad.

On your question about the Wolf Priest - I honestly had not seen that option. That's a thought, certainly. The free power weapon and 4+ invul is tempting but that's also on an I4 model. In the final analysis I think that the WGBL's ability to tack ablative wounds onto the unit, combined with the fact that the unit will have access to preferred enemy from Logan means that I really would prefer to throw a Frost Axe and two Fenrisien Wolves on a Saga of the Hunter WGBL than have the priest. Fearless? I have Logan with Saga of Majesty which is more than sufficient 99% of the time, and I can be Fearless from Logan anyways if I want to.

Just not seeing the dramatic upside there. In a different build (using a large unit of Wolf Guard Terminators, for example) the Wolf Priest might have some merit if you don't have Logan.

Anyways, on to the Tourney question. I have run two RTTs at this point. Both went well in most ways, but both could have gone better. The first was the larger of the two, with 24 players coming out.

The first tournament I was better prepared for. I spent a lot of time (and money) getting the tourney tool programmed, printing out the player scoresheets, etc. I even brought in donuts, and I showed up very early to make sure terrain was set up properly. These all helped me to be successful. So rule number one:


"Ok, jerk, but prepared for what?"


Well, you need to ensure that you have tables and terrain. The store owner set out 25% terrain on each table the night before, grouped by table themes. This made it MUCH easier come morning time when we set out the terrain. I had several people helping me set up the tables and I gave them specific instructions on terrain setup. Each table should have at least one larg-ish piece of LoS BLOCKING terrain somewhere near the center. Please note that you should never put a piece of impassable terrain in the exact center of the table if you are using the NOVA style five objectives rules, as you will end up with an objective no one can capture.

You should have significant pieces of area terrain in each of the four table quarters. At least one good sized piece. They don't have to be dead-center in the quarter, but they shouldn't be shoved against the board edge either.

After you have your center terrain and four quarters covered, smatter in some smaller pieces around the board. I usually try to "mirror" my boards so that neither player has an advantage. Remember that you can mirror with different terrain pieces if they have the same approximate dimensions and the same characteristics. Remember also that you don't have to mirror along the horizontal axis (the line that is 24" from each player's board edge and runs the length of the table). You can mirror along any axis really, which means you can have things "flipped" if you want (so the matching terrain is in opposite corners rather than directly across from each other). Hope that makes sense. The idea is to give a fair and balanced play experience at each table, that advantages neither player based upon the board side picked, and provides no advantages to any particular style of army. This is tough to accomplish, but should be the goal.

Now, speaking of objectives, you should either have them available (poker chips or empty 40mm bases work) or expect your players to bring them. How will they know to bring them you ask?


You can and should clearly explain to your potential players both what kind of tournament you are running and what they should bring to participate. I have a hard and fast rule that you must bring one copy of your army list for each of your opponents and the judge, and they MUST be computer generated.

Did I say Army Builder?


Excel, Word, Army Builder... hell, use Paint for all I care but it must be printed and not hand-written. I have seen too many players hand their opponents a chicken scratch piece of lined notebook paper with 16 thousand layers of eraser marks on it and assume that shit's gonna fly.

That shit ain't gonna fly.

I think it is supremely disrespectful to your opponent not to give them a list they can read and understand, and I don't allow it. Since I'm not going to be judging people's hand writing at registration, it's just easier to set the standard as "computer generated only." Note that I have offered assistance to players who do not have access to printers. I will type up and print out their lists if necessary. I'm not looking to turn anyone away.

It's pretty standard to require that players bring a codex and FAQs. State this clearly in advance. Ensure they have dice and templates. There will always be people missing some of these items, but in most cases it's not egregious. But stating it early is helpful.


You should probably have some kind of spreadsheet or software tool to do this for you. The more you can front load the work by making a smart tool, the faster you can calculate results and announce winners. Just make sure you TEST your tool before hand, or you will end up like me with a minor error that cost me a lot of time and money.

Make sure you have a paint judge and a rubric for the judge to follow. There are lots of rubrics out there. Don't be overly generous to your players. Try not to have a rubric where all the paint scores are clustered near the top of the scale. What this does is reduces the variance in the scores, and actually makes the paint scores less important to the overall winner. Ultimately this generally means that whomever did the best on the table will win overall regardless of whether their paintscores and sports scores were just "average."

On the issue of sportsmanship, I find the "rank your opponents in order of favorite game/least favorite game" to be best. You get a nice spread of scores and it prevents chipmunking to a large extent. Most players will get an average score and those who were truly pleasant/unpleasant will be easy to identify.


At some point you as a TO have to make a decision - am I going to do it the easy way and use Battle Points, or am I going to do the harder method (for a TO) and do a Win/Loss tournament. My advice is to do Win/Loss, for a variety of reasons which I'm sure you have read if you have been following this blog.

The most important thing to be aware of when doing a Win/Loss tourney is that the prize support will play out a bit differently. At the end of the tournament you will have several undefeated players. The exact number will depend upon how many players you have, but if you have more than eight players and only three rounds, you will almost certainly have at least 2, perhaps 3. All of these players should be rewarded equally as "Tourney Aces."

Once you have made the right choice and decided to do Win/Loss format, you have to either design or select missions. Most importantly, these missions should be designed in such a way that it is practically impossible to tie.

The NOVA missions are obviously a great first choice. If you aren't familiar with them then please check them out.

Tiered missions are a personal preference of mine but there are other approaches as well. I played a mission where every one of the book scenarios was in play simultaneously. There were two capture and control objectives (in the deployment zones) three seize ground objectives (placed as per the book outside the deployment zones) and then of course kill points. You have to win MORE of those three than your opponent, and ties go to Victory Points. I found it to be a fun game.


If there's anything you get out of this, it's this: get some help. No, not from a psychologist (though you might need if after are done with the tourney), but from some helpers for the tourney. My suggestion is that you have two people who will help you set up tables, walk tables during games, input data and double check data, and in general just help shoulder the load. It also helps if you have three judges so that if you have to make any controversial rules calls you can make it "as a committee" which makes the results easier to give to players.

Anyways, those are my thoughts. I hope they are helpful. Let me know if you have any specific questions and please keep in mind that I've only run two tourneys thus far. I'm sure there are others who read that can give you some pointers as well.

Thanks for your patience if you made it to the end.d