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"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
"...generalship should be informing list building." - Sir Biscuit
"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Thoughts on Centurion/NOVA format

I've been a big supporter of Mike's NOVA format but having only watched NOVA from the sidelines, Centurion was my first practical experience in this matter outside of test games. Time to get my thoughts down!

Obviously the major question is did I like it and enjoy myself? Absolutely. The next question is did the system do its job? I think it did. Most of the players who finished in the top 8 based on W/L record had hard games from Round 2 which knocked guys out who had the ability and lists to make it to Day 2. Round 3 there were simply no easy match-ups for those who were undefeated and obviously Rounds 4 and 5 were good players and good lists matched up against each other. Whilst I think Centurion had a skewed sample due to 'minimal' SW/BA/IG players compared to what is seen at other tournaments, hard matchups were had from Round 2 and this was based off of actual winning rather than how much you won by (except Billy; he played no one of any consequence ever. I mean seriously 2x Necrons and 3x Nids :P?).

Now fester did random pairings from Round 2 onwards whilst I think the majority of NOVA styled tournaments use seeded pairings after Round 1 to match the 'best' winner of Round 1 against the 'worst' winner, etc. Basically each Round the seeds are re-organised and the match ups based off of their overall score within the W/L bracket. I think this is preferable and whilst at large events it may give some players two 'easy' rounds compared to one, it still forces potentially tough games on the 'best' players and ensures good players with good lists will meet up further down the track. In a tournament where winning the games is important, it's important to be able to claim you had tough matches and beat good players and were therefore the best on the day/weekend. What's this paragraph of gibberish mean? I would HAVE preferred re-seeded pairings at Centurion to give that little bit of extra reliability and try and have the 'better' players meet later whilst still providing tough games in the earlier rounds. With a smaller event such as Centurion, Round 2 was always going to knock out some potential contenders but I'd love to see it in the future and look forward to seeing how this works at Event Horizon.

So summary of all that... I think the system works. You have the W/L bracket where people can aim to go undefeated (or have as few losses as possible) and do well. In the end it doesn't matter how much you beat your opponent by but how well you play the missions. This is very different from standard battle points which often rewards crushing your opponent and completely dominating on the table-top and therefore doesn't reward closely fought games between two good players/lists. This is reflected in this type of tournament as you don't have to consistently table your opponent (which also means armies which are less capable of tabling are not at a disadvantage). At the same time, losing doesn't mean your weekend is trashed as there is still the painting and overall side of things.

Let's get back to specifics and one of the main points of this article... NOVA opted to remove Kill Points and include Victory Points as the tertiary objective (needing 250+ more than your opponent to win) whilst Centurion used the pick 5 KP system by Stelek. Mike has moved NOVA back to straight up KP and Event Horizon is using KP margins (need 2 more KP than your opponent to win this objective). I was a big fan of the 5 KP system but after lots of practice and then the actual tournament, I don't think it does what we want it to do or what it was designed to do. The main issue many have with KP is it handicaps MSU armies and benefits KP denial armies which for all intents and purposes, are bad (think Nob Bikers). In a tournament setting, a good general with an MSU army could meet a bad KP denial army in an early round with KP as the primary and have a very difficult time winning as there is such a huge discrepancy in potential KP for both armies. The 5 KP system aimed to adjust this by maximising the number of KP each army can have (it maxes at 5 btw...) but in the end I feel it doesn't help re-balance the system. KP denial armies virtually need to be tabled to access all 5 KP or at the very least, claiming their 5 KP can be quite difficult. On the other hand, most MSU armies generally have quite easy KP across the board which still leaves MSU based armies on the back foot and gives the KP denial army more tactical options. This therefore doesn't appear to be addressing the discrepancy seen in KP missions between these two types of lists.

However, when games come down to MSU v MSU armies or even more 'traditional' lists with less KP whilst still maintaining balance and not actively seeking KP denial, I think this system is much more capable of working. A certain amount of tactical acumen is required to identify targets which you need to kill and are also essential to your opponent's gameplan. Furthermore, by choosing certain units generals must understand how  this might affect their opponent's gameplan and how they will act accordingly. Same in the reverse. If a unit is picked as a KP will you play it more defensively or still throw it in your opponent's face? If you are holding an aggressive unit back because it has been picked as a KP your opponent has altered your game plan and can seek to gain from it. At the same time, using your aggressive unit aggressively opens up that KP to your opponent and since there are only 5 maximum KP, potentially provides an advantage to your opponent. In the end the 5 KP system adds an excellent game mechanic when the right lists are involved but doesn't address the key imbalance the normal KP rules generate.

Long story short: I know I asked for this in Centurion and was pleased fester implemented it but after quite a number of games with the system using various lists and against various opponents I think normal KP (or KP margin) is currently the better way to go (unless someone else comes up with a genius idea). I know the imbalance issue is still there and adding in the 5 KP mechanic can make for much more interesting games between MSU lists but I feel since it doesn't really address the imbalance issue advocates of MSU play point out, it changes the way the game is played. This is great as I think it does it for the better (more thinking = better games right?) but in a tournament setting where we are trying to be as close to the rulebook as possible, I think for the moment the standard KP template is a better option.

I'd love to hear opinions on this from those who have used this system (both in casual play and at tournaments) and what TO's who have used the 5 KP mechanic in their tournaments have noticed and/or felt. I'm happy to be proven wrong here; as I said, I think adding another tactical dimension to the game is great but I think at its core, it doesn't address the imbalance perceived between KP denial lists and MSU lists in KP based games.

Again, great tournament by fester and I am pleased to say I still support the NOVA system and hopefully see many more tournaments like this in Australia and around the world. Thanks Mike *wink*!

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