Sunday, February 27, 2011
Inferring from Tournaments
Alright folks, today I am going to do a brief overview of the tournament systems in Warmachine/Hordes and Warhammer 40,000. What I mean by "tournament system" in this context refers to the type of tournament used by the parent company of these games. My goal is to show that both systems require an overhaul. After this, I will briefly touch on the relative balance of both games, regardless of tournament structure.
To begin, I want to link the documents used by Games Workshop to show how they do their tournaments. To begin, here is a link from the RTT Handbook from GW's own website.
I want to begin here with their Gamer's Bill of Rights. Read it. What does it say? Then ask yourself: what is a tournament? This is what a tournament is. The term originally refers to medieval war games, in which men would fight with blunted (or not) weapons in order to get some prize. I want to focus on one thing here with the definition. Etymologically, a tournament entails competition. Does this "Bill of Rights" include anything about my right to play against competent combatants that are out to kick my teeth in? No? So, right off the bat, the First Amendment of Games Workshop's "tournament" pack tells us that it has little to do with what a tournament is. Keep this thread in mind. What the Bill does tell us, however, is that you should come to a 'tournament' to meet new people (fine), to "battle against other painted armies" (I'll be the first to admit I don't enjoy painting, and what little hobby time I do have I would rather spend it...I dunno...playing the game?), get questions settled by impartial judges (whom may or may not actually know the rules, because I'm still waiting on a main rulebook FAQ that actually makes the Scout Move its own movement phase, instead of a half-assed inference from the BA FAQ), have the tournament finished in a timely manner (duh), and play in a comfortable environment. If I want to go to a tournament, I don't care if I'm ass-to-ass in a basement crammed with people, cause I'm havin' fun. :P So, this is the baseline of GW's format. For the purposes of this article, I wish to skip scenarios, and consider how they score rounds instead, and what we may learn from that.
From here I want to address their scoring system. To begin, there are different values given on the scoresheet and in the RTT guide, so let me set this up as I've seen it in RTTs I have been to. So, we're just going to use the link in this paragraph to analyze the manner in which games are scored. For a given game, with a particular victory condition, a victory is worth 17 points, a loss 3. These 'tournaments' consist of three rounds, with 20 points max for each round, then a possible 40 for painting, which I will attend to later. There are modifiers for these scores, ranging from killing certain enemy units, to losing certain things. So, your score can go up by 3 points. Initially, when I read this, I wondered "hey, where does this "table opponent, perfect score" stuff come from?" Got me, because it is not to be found on this sheet. However! Regardless of the scenario, if you kill the entirety of your opponent's army, you will get 20 points. You get the battle points because you have no opponent left, and you army is "free" to just pick up the objectives as needed. Your opponent gets 3, possibly 6. Ties give about 50/50 when it comes to the mission, then the +3 extra for Battle Points. Now, bring back in the point I made on the nature of tournaments. If I wish to excel and win in this environment, what is my goal? To score as many points as possible. How do I accomplish this? Well, I can play each scenario as stated for one, and work to come out with a major victory in each. OR, I can take the easy route, and just destroy every single model my opponent has to ensure victory. Furthermore, ask yourself this: does this tournament system reward close games, or ones in which one person will dominate? The answer is obvious. This is a tournament system in which dominating one's opponent is rewarded, while close games (y'know, the good ones?) are penalized. Blood and ashes, wasn't this supposed to be a friendly system, in which we get together to meet new people, see painted armies, and be civil to eachother? So, we take from their scoring system that players whom obliterate their opponents are greatly rewarded for doing so, and harm others' enjoyment of the game...so they are blatantly violating their own First Amendment. Moving on.
From here, let me just touch a tad on that "sportsmanship score" sheet. If they actually thought people would be civil to others and be good sports while kicking teeth in and having a close game, then they would not need such a thing. Yet they do, igitur they do not think that people will actually be civil to others. Modus tollens, learn to love it. Furthermore, this subjective sheet factors in to one's overall score, and it becomes so flaming easy to harm another's score just to advance one's own standing. So hey, be deceptively nice, then screw your opponent on his sportsmanship score! Because we're about civility and being nice!
At this point, what do we have?
The Bill of Rights that forms the basis of these events lacks any guarantee of a competitive event in which I am allowed to enjoy myself by playing and winning/losing by the width of a hair.
Their scoring system is such that it rewards dominating weaker players, harming others in their sportsmanship score due to subjective douchebaggery, and DOES NOT reward close games, which contradicts their "Bill" because people don't have fun when they get dominated. Simple enough.
I said I would get to painting earlier, so here we are. This. What do we know from this sheet? Well, it says "max 40" points, yet when one adds up that various factors that go in to finding the total paint score, there are actually 46 points possible. So, what score might an "average" painted army get? Well, let's assume it's fully painted, 3 colors, based, and the details are alright. Oh, and to that "painted uniformly, except where appropriate" point: fuck you! My Tau suits will each be a different Power Ranger, so stick it. So, from this, our theoretical player would get a 24/40 points. Let us compare this to someone that paints well, to such an extreme that he walks in, gets a 40 easily, even the extra points that would have given him a 46. So, we have a difference of 16 points between these two fighters. Let us leave the Sportsmanship score out. They are both decent persons. With the entirety of this format in mind, it is time for a thought experiment.
Let's assume that round one, the fellow with the perfect score tables, but the other guy ties, yet gets 3 battle points. Also, assume that ties in scenario X result in a 10/10 spread. So, at the end of round one it's 37 to 60. How can the lesser painter possibly catch up to the guy whom already has over a tabling above him? Well, by tabling his two next opponents, which would take him up to a 77. Unless the better painter drastically loses the next two rounds, he's still in the running. Assume two more ties for the greater painter, 10/10 spread, no bonus points. He's at 80. He still wins. Why? Because he had nearly a perfect score for a game round (16) above the guy that only had average painting abilities. So, guess what: the existence of this system further forces one to club weaker players to even have a chance at defeating the guy with 16 points on him before they even hit the tables! So hey, the guy with the 24 has to be a far better player than the painter to have a chance at winning, and if he even meets ONE worthy opponent, then he is out of the running.
So really, does anyone want to defend a 'tournament' system that entails dominating weaker players, and painting to a professional level lets anyone with either the skills or money to buy a painted army to walk in with an absurd lead on every player that has not done so? How is this about meeting people, seeing pretty armies, and being among civil people? All I see is an infrastructure that rewards abuse and winning without having to play well.
I ask you: will you have fun in this environment? I suck at painting, but I know how to play the game, yet I cannot possibly catch up to someone that is able to paint to get that score of 40. Hell, I would probably have less than that 24 were all my stuff painted.
Furthermore, does anyone believe at this point that these events, run by Geims Workshap, are actually built to be fun? So much involves not playing the game that these events are meaningless, and no test for someone who desires close games. No wonder these events appear to be dominated by excellent painters, yet are mediocre to terrible GAMERS.
The existence of a Win/Loss system, as opposed to this horrid seal-clubbing points-based abuse fest, takes care of many issues dealing with how events are won that I have posited, and it also becomes the case that close games are rewarded, not turning a new player off of the game because some asshat decided to table him. If painting is so important, then make it its own event. If you want to get players motivated to paint their armies fully (like me), then make it necessary to have a fully-painted, 3-color standard army to even sign up for the event. I did not even get to mission types that range from fun to horrid; this only deals with what occurs as the result of the games and painting.
Wait, wasn't I supposed to contrast this system with Privateer Press' tournament format? So, I am going to make this Part 1, and I'm going to further research the implications of Privateer Press' claim of competitiveness in Warmachine.