Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A versus B, Old hats, New shoes

No surprise we have a 3 to 1 majority in the “player” poll, Obviously Plastic Legions is “B player” style blog, as with exception of Battle Reports I don’t offer a ton “A player” content here so the people that do stop by here have interest in B content. I put the smart ass 3rd option for those the really feel they dont fall into either as I know there are out there. Yes, I am using the Spy vs Spy theme here because it seems just so appropriate.

When examining solutions and compromise let assume that breaking us all down into two basic player types covers the majority of people with the caveat there are always those in between or on the far edges but at heart they’ll still fall into an “A” or “B” slot when it comes to whether they’ll want to pay to play in a tournament. Let’s look at a new model that can simply be used as food for thought or in my own case what I’m going to use for an event I like to do next year. My goal is to appease both types of players you need to make both side feel equally as important. I'm not going to get ultra specific here but talk about new way to look at standard concepts and leave the future details up to the specific event.


Sportsmanship is most misunderstood concept in the tournament scene today. The way we are currently using it, It presumes everyone is raving a-hole and we are designing checklists that itemize how well someone behaved themselves on a given day. The current standard is to give everyone "X" amount of points that can only be taken away or give people of check list of things that should be requirement. Someone said to me recently “There is a lot to be said about a tournament player with a fully painted army who acts like a normal human being” Sad, but true. I say no more! We should not need to be worrying about hiring security guards to oversee games with toy soldiers. The ultra competitiveness of GW tournaments is one thing, but its gotten out of hand. Sportsmanship must be removed as “+” on your net scoring, being a good sport should earn you nothing as a base score- its expected. Being a Jerk will only earn you negative points, a forfeit or show you the door. lets take Sportsmanship as a category "off the table" in terms of a Soft Score and replace it with two different ways to punish people who cannot behave themselves and reward those who go above and beyond to give their opponents great games.

The card system-

I fully endorse the yellow/red card system used in the UK. Using a Yellow/ Red card system punitively against your overall points is a far more scary deterrent to the tournament player that a few missing checks on a checklist. Yellow Cards for subtractions to your overall score and Red cards for Forfeits and Ejections The criteria for this is up to the Tournament Organizer, but needless to say Yellow Cards can go for everything from excessive bad language, and rules gaming, While Reds are for outright cheating and or overly aggressive behavior or fighting.

Favorite Opponent- This is a great way to award the player bonus points for those who conducts themselves above and beyond the norm . Favorite Opponents points should be earned, not given and be additional points on a soft score. Details again I'd leave up to specific tournaments, Net scoring for giving your opponent a great game is a much better way to look at a Sportsmanship "soft score" than giving everyone "x" points for things that should be mandatory. Overall I see Sportsmanship as the smallest part of a soft score. The points should be well earned by the best players who see gamesmanship and fair play as important as anything else.


Beyond the stark contrasts of need for Composition in both 40K and WFB, lets keep two very clear points in mind. One- GW admittedly does not write rules for balanced tournament play, they write rules to help sell models. and -Two-we are trying to create a tournament atmosphere that encourages fair play, fun and diversity. Without accepting those two premises, I admit there is no need for Composition ever and may you find peace in "Gladiator" and "Ard Boyz" events. The rest of us need to find something that works.

Lets look at comp in a new way, not as punitive measure against those who want to bring hard lists but as a HANDICAP to encourage people to bring diverse lists. a Prejudged Composition score should be used as a handicap score, once your handicap determined, it should be used to seat your opponents always matching you up with closest handicap. A handicap as a positive on overall score will encourage non-cookie cutter lists and diversity for a better event. There are already plenty of events for meta-gaming the army books and in the spirit of a grand tournament, variety is key. Lets see it all and what better way than to give players a handicap that is a basis for a soft score. Again I'd leave up to the Tournament Organizer to base their player handicaps on the ability of the players to follow the composition guidelines of the event. Whether your using a WPS baseline in WFB or running a narrative based 40K event. Handicaps will encourage list other that most current 3 Codex/Army book power builds.


I’ve spoken tons on painting in the past, if you're running any kind of grand tournament the 3 color standard/ based is mandatory as an entry requirement. Again the problem begins with giving away Painting points for just showing up with the minimum. There should be judged paint with the the three color minimum being the lowest rating. No more full points for 3 color painted and based..its total cop out a slap in the face to the B player. Combine your judged base score with opponent rated paint scale on how well above the standard your army is and you have a real paint score. These points should be open to professionally painted armies as well. Great looking armies (no matter who paints them) bring a lot to the character of the event. As always Best Painted Award should not be open to pro painted armies and should be a separate contest for the hobbyist.. Since all your earned paint points go toward you Soft Score and overall, this should help bring non-painters with pro painted armies "out of the closet "so to speak.

I do reject the notion that people who bring sub, or non -3 color armies to events be allowed to play. If you want to participate in a grand tournament you need to step up. In short come up with an overall basis for a paint score based on player and judge feedback. Great painted armies add to the caliber of any events, Painting is a cornerstone of this hobby and should be appreciated as such.


Most people accept the premise that in any Tournament that Soft Scores should never be worth more than Battle Points. The problem again comes with how do you create meaningful soft scores that attract "B players" that are not just giveaways in terms of extra or "empty" points, Lets look at a model that lets "A players" relish in what they do and gives "B players" a little extra for bringing what they bring to an event.

The 5 Point System-

Battle Points, Objective Points, Paint Score, Favorite Opponent Points, Handicap

Using these 5 categories, Battle and Objective being "A player" scores and Paint, Favorite Opponent Points and your Handicap being your "B player" score is a great baseline to determine an overall winner, if you use these 5 categories correctly it's clear the person with highest point total is actually the overall winner., The B player points are not giveaways but well earned as votes from your opponents while the Handicap is determined by what kind of list you brought based on the rules of the tournament.. In this model I envision Objective points being very hard to get, and a feather in the hats of the best "A players". The Best General award being the highest BP + OP score. I'd recommend 70/30 ratio between A/B scores..Allowing "A players" to overcome low "B" scores while enticing "B players" with a chance to be competitive. Will this work? and is it any better that what we are already seeing?, I think so- as recently its clear soft scores have become purely punitive for A players or total joke when it comes to the B player. Down the road a bit I am going to go into details on Tournament I like to run in 2010 based on this model, so more on that soon.


ahschmidt said...

I think that you have a kernel of a solid system here. Balance is the key, and another way of looking at it is that B players need to play up to a level, just as much as A players should 'present' (for lack of a better term) to a level.

Sportsmanship is an interesting one. I think it is vital, as playing against someone who is being a total tool really can mess up the fun for everyone. I like the idea that behaving well keeps you above water, as opposed to earning more points. This sends the message that how you carry yourself is important, but not bribing your opponent for points by being chummy (not that being friendly is a bad thing).

A name will be forthcoming. said...

We can't use yellow/red cards. We're Americans. Americans want nothing to do with soccer :)

Tim Kulinski said...

John, at Gathering in the Desert, I use the Sportmenship scoring you mentioned by having the players vote for the Best Sportsmenship. It works rather well and awards points to the people that are B players.

I also agree with the painting comment, if your going to a GT than step it up. I do the judging at GitD and it's pretty intense. I also have the players vote on the best painted as well so that adds points above & beyond the regular score sheet. I also do not have a problem with folks bringing armies painted by someone else, but we make it known that you will not be eligable for Best Overall if you did not paint the army yourself. The only problem we have is when we can't verify that it was not painted by the player entering it. We have had a problem with this in the past and certain players are suspect.

The other item that I do is award fun goofy awards out to people during the event, like the "Can't hit the Table" award for the first person to roll a dice off the table. Giving these awards out took the stress off the event and folks had a great time. Heck one of the owners of the venue has his trophy for one of these awards displayed along with his army in the store case. This is something that the B players really enjoy.

Also bottom line is that it's up to the organizer to stand there ground on their rules for the events. If you show up to my event with an unpainted army, I will send you home. Too often organizers don't want to be the bad guys so they don't get a bad review of their event. But it's the responsobility to up hold the rules laid out to have a successful event.

Chicago Terrain Factory said...

The only problem with Composition is that any comp rule set changes the playing field. Type A players will analyze the comp system, find the soft spot & field an army which maximizes results from the comp system. Its a vicious circle that I don't think can be broken (unless you can write the perfect comp system - good luck with that).

John@Plastic Legions said...

That's the point of the "judged" handicap Rich..You (the judge) are basing the Comp Score or Handicap on how hard or meta-gamed the list is in context of the tourney rules..if the DoC BT/Triplet Herald combo is the Soup Du Jour..that's your "0" handicap
,etc..Of course someone will always come up with something new that may be deceivingly powerful but that could always be chalked up to a good player until you start seeing it all over the place.
Its works in theory, in practice we'll see. The easy thing for WFB is if you using WPS (which is becoming more and more common)
I'd just use the WPS score as you baseline comp the point difference between you opponents being you handicap..its a pretty flexible idea too..depending on the game and its current condition.

Chicago Terrain Factory said...

Using an undocumented Judge ranked system could do the trick. So long as you trust the judges to do a good job.

As for WPS - can't stand that system. Seems to crush all the creativity out of the game. Not that I play tournaments any more, but I would refuse to attend any event using WPS.

ahschmidt said...

I hear a lot about the WPS system, and have no idea what it is. Is there a page someplace where it is documented that someone can point me to.

I agree with you guys that an undocumented judging system is probably the best way to go. This would be great for larger tournies where the organizers may have an opportunity to draw on a larger pool for judges. Smaller events may be held up by lack of proper judge candidates.

One of the tournies in Australia has an exam, and some training for their judges.

John@Plastic Legions said...

The people that put out WPS have worked on it alot lately the current version is much better, While it still has it problems if you use it as designed the evidence shows- it works. example that WoC list you just played against me, unorthadox, creative and scores well on WPS 3K/ 15 or so maybe more.

Aaron I'll email it to you-

Conspyre said...

I am a big fan of the "favorite opponent" sportsmanship rankings. I use a graduated system where you MUST rank your three opponents best to worst, and I think it works out very nicely, usually there is a good spread of scores. The carding system is nice, but it requires very close referee supervision, or players that are quick on the call to the judge.

On balance between soft scores and game points, I've been making sportsmanship and paint both about equal to a game in terms of maximum available points. Basically score-wise, it means that everyone is playing 5 games- 3 of 40K, one of "don't be a dick", and one extra win available for people who place well in painting. Just for showing up with a painted force, players earn 5 points, which is enough to turn a loss into a draw in many cases, and in several cases, a player with a top painting score and good sportsmanship has jumped to the top of the heap because players with 3 wins lost their other two "games".

I like your handicap concept, but I don't think it's an easy thing to codify. The Adepticon seeding system seemed fairly well designed, so long as people take a good hard look at their actual power level, both in their army, and their play style. I could show up with a VC death star list, and I'd probably still rank myself very low, because I'm just not a great player. A phenomenal player with Ogre Kingdoms or Tomb Kings probably wouldn't be at the top seed, but certainly higher than you'd expect with the power levels of those armies. I think ultimately that sort of thing has to be a statement by the player of their own perception of their skills, as while a judge can look at a list and see if it's one of the big internet boojums, odds are good that they do not know all of the players well enough to make an informed decision taking into account the skill of the player. (On that note, anybody want a High Elf army? They've got a pretty good army book...)

The WPS comp scoring just creates a new metagame, as Rich has said. It profligates a very specific style of play that seems to be intended to minimize the effect of powerful magic and single, expensive units, which I think does help limit the power level of some armies, but ultimately, WHFB is practically a rock-paper-scissors game anyway. Knowing the metagame results in the armies to beat, and the armies that beat them, and ultimately, people are going to figure out what fits within any system. Taking out the big explodey units may make it seem more balanced, but if that also makes it harder to use the fun units, I think it makes the game less fun. I'll have to run it through the newer version, but I know a few revisions ago, my standard High Elf list (for those of you playing at home, the same list that I did not win a single game with) was too powerful to be allowed, mostly because of my wizards. Most comp systems are flawed in the same way that comparing points costs between army books is flawed. To make a 40K analogy, basic Assault Squads in a Blood Angels army are not such a big deal, since they have other, more specialized assault troops, so they're relatively inexpensive for their stats. Give the Tau a unit with the same stat block, and they'll cost a billion points, because they fill a giant hole in the army structure.

Felix said...

I can't remember if I took your poll.

The current Warmachine system does not award points for paint, sports, or comp. It's simply a different system with more similarities to competitive Magic than Warhammer tournaments.

Points are awarded on a 1/0 system, where a win is 1 point and 0 points is a loss. Ties for placement are awarded based on strength of schedule (how good were the people you defeated) and finally you are ranked by victory points.

That's pretty much it.

I don't know if this system will remain in place for Warmachine MK2, so we'll keep an eye on it in the coming year.

Jwolf said...

I think having the points around 70/30 works pretty well. I'm loathe to have a lot of the 30 be painting, especially opponent graded painting, because I'm in favor of an entirely separate prize pool for painting, not shoehorning a "best appearance" into the tabletop portion. 3 color minimum scoring is something we tried, and I wasn't entirely happy with it, so I will probably have a wider range of paint scores for the fully painted armies for next year at BoLSCon, but I'm going to stick with less than a primary objective of points difference between 3 color and Golden Daemon on the tabletop.
Sportsmanship cannot be overvalued on a tournament, from a TO perspective. And it requires the most work from the judges, but it is worth the work.
Composition in 40K isn't worth judging for anything past initial round pairing pools, but it certainly is an issue in WFB. Handicapping on a blind system and flat banning some things is probably best. Lord level SCs and all Daemon SCs seems like a good place to start.

Mike Howell said...

I like the favorite opponent idea as it rewards rather than penalizes. A baseline score for sportsmanship of 100% that only goes down for excessive asshattery never made a lot of sense to me. Choosing a favorite rather than doling out a points punishment also takes the confrontation out of the mix... if someone is already being a jerk I really don't want the added hassle of getting him riled up over a poor sportsmanship score.

As for painting... why not just require 3 color armies to play and then judge and award painting as a separate competition from among the players?

John@Plastic Legions said...

Hi Mike

The painting scores are in context of trying to develop a "real soft" score for B style players. If that isnt an issue for the event in question your suggestion is fine. But if you want a GT style event that incorporated all sides of the hobby -B players are going to want a soft score for bringing theme and eye candy to the event. The painting contest is great but only a very few people win..Soft points cover everybody who participates from the guy bringing the amazing fluffly army to motivation people to paint up a little to earn a couple extra points


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