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"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
"...generalship should be informing list building." - Sir Biscuit
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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Standardisation in Tournaments: Why it's necessary

This is a follow-up to the recent Conquest Toronto review and focuses primarly on objective missions but applies to all aspects of tournaments. It's really simple: the less random everything in a tournament is outside of the players' actual armies, the better. This means set number of objectives, set objective size, missions without random factors (unless they are included in the rulebook, i.e. reserves), etc. One of the major issues for Conquest's missions were random factors such as searching in terrain for artifacts. It's great for narration but has nothing to do with player skill. Why not roll a bunch of dice and see who get's a 6 first? Okay, you get an extra 6 battle points. Obviously the missions are mildly more complex than this but they will favor some armies over others and are inherently random. Here's the kicker to most random factors in tournaments and tournament missions: they do not seperate general skill level.

Remember, most tournaments which strive to actually produce valid results (i.e. NOVA, Centurion) are attempting to pit the best players against the best players in a dog eat dog world where only the doggiest of them all wins (and there is no weighting of scores based on comp, etc.). It is very unlikely in these type of W/L systems that the overall winner will not have played at least one if not more good players. To win these types of tournaments it is therefore very likely you are going to actually have to beat good players. No draws, no battle-point victories, beat. If the missions these sorts of tournaments used were based on random factors like digging up artifacts or a random number of objectives which could benefit one side of the table, etc., the results are not valid because game alterting factors were not in the player's control. If Player A has 3 objectives on their side and Player B has 2 objectives on their side and Player A wins, Player B was at a disadvantage based on something out of their control but within control of the tournament organiser.

What a tournament and tournament missions aim to do (assuming they are persuing valid results) is create missions which are completely and utterly balanced where it is the difference in general skill level which decides the outcome of the game. This is why the 5x5 system with 5 objectives, 1 per quarter and 1 in the middle (which are all the same size, not the some 25mm and some 40mm crap) works. Whilst it adds a tactical complexity in being able to appropriately identify and pick what your opponent's KPs should be, no matter where each army deploys (unless you screw it up) there will be an equal number of objectives within range for each army. Same with table quarters and limiting KP to 5. Rather than random mission rules like night fight ending on a 4+, objectives deep-striking or random number of objectives and allowing player placement (I do enjoy this aspect but it does lead to lopsided tables on occasion which for a tournament is bad), needing to search for artifacts, protect/kill HQs, etc. is different from game to game and army to army. This. Is. Bad.

Again, if a tournament wants valid results the winner needs to be determined on differences of general skill level as much as possible. Sure this means Player A with skill level 100 can lose to Player B with skill level 90 and thus not be able to win the tournament but Player B and A know it was based on player skill (or dice rolls) rather than the missions which produced this result. If a tournament is aiming for valid results, this is a must. By providing every single gamer with the exact same mission parameters (and providing the information well before hand) which are not going to change based on dice rolls, the end results are as much based on general skill as possible (assuming equal list strength which if running competitive lists should be true).

So what does this mean for aspiring TO's? Well Mike from Whiskey & 40k has already done a bang-up job in doing most of the development for this type of format and missions like those used at NOVA and being play-tested for Centurion emphasis this. I know what mission parameters are being played by everyone at the tournament at any given time and I know this well before the tournament even begins. This is why I jumped up and down on fester to change the final mission being randomly rolled for. A tournament wants all randomness to be based on initial pairings (and if there was a reliable way to rank players, this should disappear, too) and then be based completely on general skill level and dice rolls. This means other people can point to the tournament and go these armies/players are good/bad because everyone was dealing with the same parameters. It will take a large amount of tournaments like this to determine who's good and bad and what armies are good and bad (sample size issues) but for this to even be possible, standardisation needs to occur within a tournament. If a tournament is not aiming for that, then who cares. Go for narration and random missions, etc. But overall, the less random a tournament the better in terms of valid results and determining who the best generals are.

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