Recently I have been reading alot opinions and editorials about Tournament Sportsmanship and Soft Scores on various blogs and the more notable websites out there. I've been talking to a bunch of different people privately via email the last few weeks about the subject .I know I've touched on the soft scores before right after Adepticon and its own controversy, yet the topic lingers on as more and more events happens and we continue to hear about conflicts over the same issues. I wanted to take another moment six months later to revist this issues with a bit more clarity.
Lets start with the big pink elephant in the room, that I don't see getting addressed much. Which is when it comes to miniature wargaming, there have always been two types of players and its been this way since I started fooling around with miniatures over 30 years ago. For easy sake of references lets call them "A" players and "B players, of course they'll will always be people who are some of both, but the people who cause the conflict are always rooted in one camp or the other.
"A players" see wargaming first and foremost as "a game" and a game they want to win above all else, sure they like the miniatures, they may or may not like the rules but like something enough, whether it be the models, the fluff, or just the other people playing, to want to be involved. "A players" see winning as the most important thing, the challenge for them is how to outsmart their opponent, work the rules and win the game, everything else is secondary.
"B players" see miniature wargaming as a "Craft" (notice I didn't say "Hobby") They like the models, the back story, etc...They don't care too much about the rules as long as when they play the game they have fun. First and foremost, B players just want to build stuff, they want recreate what's in their mind and in the books on table top, they love to slave away painting hundreds of troops and fiddle with their models into the long hours of the night. B players don't see this a chore, but believe it or not, see this as great fun.
Allot of this is all common psychology Left Brain/Right Brain stuff, but within the context of the miniature Wargaming hobby, A players and B players really can't survive without each other, in fact they compliment each other, its often the A players planning and running events while the B players are building the Tables and Terrain, of course it's more complicated than that and while I am a self described B player, I have no problem filling the role of an A player if need be. The problem arises when you get everyone together and try to score a tournament. Everyone immediately turtles up into either the A camp or the B camp.
Lets now throw Games Workshop, the biggest name in the Miniature Wargaming Biz into the mix. They have awesome stuff that everyone wants, and enough games and rules to suit just about everybody. GW HQ is well aware of "A" versus "B" but want to sell as much product as possible to everyone they can so they write rules that try to appeal to everyone and will help sell lots of models. Even though they know their rules are always in a state of flux and are admittedly open to a little bit to much interpretation, they promote "A" and' "B"'s as a group hobby putting everyone together and hosting Grand Tournaments that are designed to appeal to any and everyone.
Here we are in almost 2010, Games Workshop is massive and wargaming as a hobby is a multi- billion dollar business worldwide. However Games Workshop has dropped their Grand Tournaments due to hard economic times and the success of independent tournaments and full blown hobby conventions that celebrate their product and they don't have to pay for it. The problem is without the GW figure head to look to for guidance-The good people who run independent tournaments and conventions start getting pressured by the A players and B players to cater to each own individual needs- it's constant struggle of pushing and pulling.
Nowhere is this more glaringly apparent than when it comes to competitive tournaments. The "A players" covet their wins and battle points, while the "B players" relish in racking up those controversial soft scores. The route of the "soft score" problem is this- "A players" feel slighted because they feel the "Best Overall" award should go to an "A player"- the problem is that Soft Scores, (Painting, Sportsmanship and Composition) are the bane of an"A players" existence but weigh majorly in choosing the "Best Overall" player. So "A players" spend their time between tournaments on message boards at your Favorite FLGS trying to marginalize soft scores so they can also win the big enchilada..because you know Best Overall, sounds alot better than "Best General"
"B players" of course feel "Best Overall" should go to a B player and "Best General" is the "A player" award, "B players" don't care about the best General Award, they care about being appreciated for the hard work they put into their army, that they can be good sports and that they'd never put an army on the table they'd wouldn't want to play against themselves. It's not that "A players" don't also have some of these qualities, they are just secondary to winning.
Of course this is all semantic bullshit, why not just change the names of the stupid awards and add a few more to appease both sides?...sounds easy right?, but it's more complicated than that. Because "A players" kind of want to be like "B players" and vise versa. "A players" say "damn I sure wish I could paint like that B player, and "B players" say "Damn I sure wish I could win a few more games like that A Player". "A players" want both pieces of the Pie..and they want to be able to win it their way- by crushing the opposition. "B players" want to be like A players too, they want to win some games. They just want that other stuff (the soft scores) to help them score better than the "A players" who they feel don't try as hard as they do. So both players want to be like each other to an extent but also want to keep eachs own self centered motivations at heart.
So how the hell do you make "A Players" and "B players" work together in a competitive tournament?, that's the tough question everyone seems to be addressing. The problem is if you cant get past the basic premise I've laid out here- you are just beating your head against the wall. In part 2, I'm going to revisit Painting, Sportsmanship and Composition and look at it as a new model to hope to try to bridge the gap for 2010.
Until then fess up are you an "A player" or a "B player" say so in the poll on the top left.
And don't worry I have more of my "B player" pretty pictures of various things coming soon.