Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sportsmanship - Role & Scoring Method in a Tournament Setting

OK, next big tournament subject to go through, and I'm hoping for comment/input from ya'll (for the marginal "ya'll" that trolls here by now).

An early warning - I'm in a quotables mood today.

What is it, *really*?
Sportsmanship is a variable term.

Defined simply, and not in relation to Warhammer 40k, it goes a little something like this:

1. fairness in following the rules of the game
2. Sportsmanship is conformance to the rules, spirit, and etiquette of sport. More grandly, it may be considered the ethos of sport.
3. the behaviour exhibited in playing sports, either good or bad; the good attitude/behaviour displayed by players of a game; fairness, determination, winning or losing gracefully
4. An attitude of athletes that strives for fair play, courtesy toward team mates and opponents, ethical behaviour and integrity, and grace in losing.

I think one of these definitions in some capacity covers most real definitions of what sportsmanship is.

Regardless, to further bring forth thoughts about sportsmanship in your mind ...

Some quotes that I think have a lot of direct bearing on sportsmanship ... in fact, they're from the National Sportsmanship Day's website.

It must be true, they're famous!
Jesse Owens was an African American participant in the Berlin Olympics of 1936. He spent a lifetime of highs and lows pursuing good sportsmanship.
To quote him as he talked about sportsmanship, and what it took to be a winner,
"In the end, it's extra effort that separates a winner from second place. But winning takes a lot more than that, too. It starts with complete command of the fundamentals. Then it takes desire, determination, discipline, and self-sacrifice. And finally, it takes a great deal of love, fairness and respect for your fellow man. Put all these together, and even if you don't win, how can you lose?"
Near the end of his life, Owens argued against boycotting the Moscow Olympics, arguing the Olympic games represented a time to be separated from politics.

Famous football player and current 49'ers head coach Mike Singletary once said, "Do you know what my favorite part of the game is? The opportunity to play."

Finally, a quote that I think will be relevant later on from Mark Twain, " Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first."

Sportsmanship in 40k is (or, at the least, has become) something far different or more complex than the above, depending on what event you are at, and who you are. In 40k, instead of sportsmanship simply being something of an adjectival description of a person's behavior, it is often times a SCORE, and it influences the final placing of the participants in a tournament.

Let's take a few common examples of sportsmanship scoring, to highlight the variables in the hobby ...

1. Tournaments with NO sportsmanship scores at all
2. Tournaments where sportsmanship guidelines are in place, and where judge-determined penalties can be applied
3. Tournaments where your opponents rate their opponents in order of preference (most enjoyable to play against), and an individual's average rating is their de facto sportsmanship score
4. Tournaments with a detailed opponent-judged sportsmanship scoring sheet, with points given, deducted, or simply "not given" based upon their opponent's behavior and their opinion of it

OK, Mike, enough already, where's this going?

So what is the point of all of the above, anyway?

First off, Games Workshop provides a game for us to play (or games). These games have a set of rules and guidelines by which everyone must follow in terms of how to participate in the game, and how to design your "army" with which to participate. While often poorly written and in need of FAQs for clarification, these rules are generally pretty clear. Akin to my post about composition, there are no guidelines in the rules regarding sportsmanship, or the manner in which the game *should* be played, other than to say that it should be fun. On this, we can all agree, until we try to define what "fun" is and whose fun is being talked about. Then things get all messy. This is NOT a post about "fun."

I think it's critically important to understand the difference between "sportsmanship" and "trying to make the person you are attempting to beat also have a lot of fun." The former is something we should ALL aspire to when competing at anything, and the latter is an acute impossibility. If you beat someone, you directly inhibit their fun. Outside of a game where everybody draws, or everybody wins, all the time, no matter the result .... you cannot be held responsible for your opponent's "fun." If he loses, he's not going to have as much fun, and the OBJECT OF THE GAME is to win. Now, the object is also to have "fun," but again - outside of your own private groups, this is an impossible variable to evaluate.

Sportsmanship is a factor that encourages players to compete with integrity, ethics, honesty, and good will. It is one thing to not have to ensure your opponent has fun, while it is another entirely to not have to be a considerate human being at all. There's a key difference, and sportsmanship highlights this.

Let's reference the quote of Jesse Owens, a near-lifetime goodwill ambassador and all-around good guy who is still real enough to have had to struggle with his own mistakes as well. Winning is assuredly in part the manner in which you treat your fellow man. Winning is also about determination, desire, discipline, and effort.

Whether it is clear to you as the reader or not, he is speaking of sportsmanship. Doing your best to win with determination, desire, discipline and effort is a critical component of sportsmanship. You insult your opponent and yourself if you do not attempt to win. Similarly, winning and losing with grace and compassion for your fellow man is equally important to sportsmanship.

I see a lot of things in this hobby that make me feel the least sporting individuals are those who most complain about it. The second that you accuse someone of bringing an "overpowered" army, are you being sporting? The second you blame a loss on someone not playing the game in the "spirit" of the game, is that a sportsmanlike thing to say? Rest assured, that when someone is playing like a "colossal douche," it's not difficult for the wide variety of people to ascertain. It certainly has nothing to do with the army he brings to the table.

Let's reference Mark Twain and replace "world" with "40k," eh? 40k was here before you as a hobbyist, no matter when you started. It does not owe you anything. Your opponent is required to play the game within the bounds of the rules, not within YOUR bounds of opinion.

I found interesting note when speaking with a fellow 40k player who attended the St. Valentine's Day Massacre this past weekend with basically the same army he played in the tournament I attended 2 weeks ago. At that event, he considered my army "overpowered" and broken, and insulting to bring. He considered his own army fluffy, balanced, and appropriate. When he attended the SVD Massacre, he was graded poorly on composition b/c the organizers considered his army overpowered and broken/cheesy.

I don't disagree with ANY of those evaluations. I think my own Straken guard is suboptimal, while someone else thinks they're overpowered. That same someone may get the same treatment from someone else with a different perspective.

Does any of this have a bearing on sportsmanship? Should it?

There's a deep discussion to be had here about sportsmanship, but I will try to abridge it and leave it to contributors in the comments section to further investigate. What I will say is that the more power you give to PLAYERS to judge their opponents meaningfully on their "sportsmanship," the less integrity the judgment contains, for as much as people who win disgracefully are unsporting, those who lose disgracefully are just as wrong. More importantly, you punish people who play within the bounds of the GAME'S rules, but not within the bounds of their random opponent's opinion.

To those people who target people for lower sportsmanship because of the army they bring, and because they don't think it fits within their idea of the game, you are who Mark Twain is speaking to, and the world owes you nothing.

A tournament is responsible for ensuring some level of sportsmanship management, but it must work both ways. To that end, what do you think is the best way to judge sportsmanship? Should it be player judged and a significant portion of the overall score? Should it be not judged or contained at all? It should be clear that I sit in the grey, but I don't want to argue yet for a specific position.

Hopefully this has all given you - at the least - some food for thought.


  1. Mike you and I have discussed this before, but by using me as an example its like calling me out to make my point, again. Sportsmanship is a key component to gaming of any kind. Having the respect to consider the effect you showing up with your army is going to have on your opponent and choosing not to take advantage of the "Rules as Written" is what sportsmanship is all about.

    If you put that list together and play your game and table someone once, you should be happy you have a good build. But if it starts to happen repeatedly, you have the responsibility as a good sportsman to look at your list and figure out where the break in your list is and fixing it so that while you are still taking a strong list, that list does not wipe you opponent off the table quickly, so that they have an opportunity to play the game too and have fun while doing so, other wise

    If I knew going in that I had a more the 50% shot of losing I would rather not play the game then let you shalk me again. Eventually, people are going to want to stop playing that army and then you can't play either, so you have wasted your time. Why not approach the game with your opponents enjoyment in mind as well as your own and skip the step of Alienating yourself in a community?

    If the games ends and both players did not enjoy the game the game was a loss for both.

  2. I think your comment, Jay, has extreme value within the bounds of a community of players, but not necessarily within the bounds of a tournament or competitive league, which was the context of my post.

    If you were to take the community I game with on a regular basis - my friends and acquaintances - my army is tailored to be competitive with them. Nobody is ever tabled, and most games are intensely close, just the way you would presume they should be within a community.

    When heading to a tournament, I personally do not "tweak my army up" to a higher competitive level in preparation - I attend and play "my game," which is the game of my own gaming community. Here is where everything I posted comes into play and perspective, and I hope you'll apply it to that medium.

    Also, I did my best not to call you out by name, but am glad to have you come and drop some input. We have differing angles of view on this one, and so it provides an excellent comparison point for conversation!

  3. My concern for HuronBH's comment is this: Yes, you should completely endeavor to insure that both you and your opponent enjoy a game of 40k. But why, if I am playing as a good sport, do I bear any responsibility for my opponent's feelings? Are we not both adults (in most cases)? How does their feelings about my constructed list come into play at all?

    "If I knew going in that I had a more the 50% shot of losing I would rather not play the game then let you shalk me again"

    How is this the responsibility of your opponent? Every time I have lost a game of 40k, I don't concern myself with the list my opponent brought, and I certainly don't have the audacity to expect an opponent to take my feelings into consideration and "fix" his list so I can beat him. I would think a better way would be to elevate your own game rather than throw the blame flag elsewhere. People's losses rest with themselves, their list choices, their in-game choices, and to a certain extent things they can't control, like probability, mission expectations, among others. Yes, certain list "matchups" are more beneficial to one side or the other, but are you not constructing lists that can handle a variety of opponents and units?

    I fail to see how anyone, while maintaining their own "sportsmanship" and playing a good, courteous and fun game, bears any responsibility to look at their own list and decide "I need to change this so I give the other guy a fair chance."

  4. (1) As a teacher and long-time gamer, I think there is a certain aspect of 40K that you might be under-emphasizing: the fundamentally *social* nature of a game. Even in a tournament setting, the *social* aspects of the game are necessary in order to have a game run smoothly. Given local practices, local dialects, and any number of potential ambiguities in rules -- an inevitability given that human language is involved -- the *social* aspects will be the ones that determine how effectively and smoothly a game runs.

    In other words, a 40K game is in large part a cooperative effort between two players.

    Now it will certainly be true that sometimes one player or another will "take the lead", while the other player defers. This may be a back-and-forth exchange, or it may be a blanket deferral on the part of one player. However, this doesn't change the fact that this is at heart a **negotiation**.

    And from that perspective, a key component of "sportsmanship", often encapsulated in the pithy "don't be a dick", is the ability for two players to successfully manage an on-going negotiation to the mutual satisfaction of both parties.

    Note that this isn't the same as "winning the game". The fact that this is a NECESSARY outcome for some people, is a completely different matter which I try to address below in (3).

    (2) This doesn't ignore the crucial aspect of sportsmanship that involves not cheating. That's obviously the aspect that Jesse Owens is talking about. But note that Owens was participating in activities that did NOT involve a social negotiation between competitors. As a result, I feel it's insufficient to use his definition of "sportsmanship" as a starting point to understanding sportsmanship in wargaming.

    (3) You state that as a player you aren't responsible for the other player's "fun". While true, I think you're conflating two different concepts here: (a) trying to determine what 'sportsmanship' is in 40K, and (b) trying to determine how to police 'sportsmanship' in 40K.

    Noting that sportmanship is a social activity that fundamentally involves a negotation between two parties (within the framework of a tournament organizer's vision, or a club's "metagame", etc), isn't at odds with the observation that sometimes a negotiation will not occur due to the intransigence of one or another parties involved.

    This is, of course, known as "being a dick", and has the potential to result in a very bad game for one of the players involved -- usually the one who isn't "being the dick".

    (continued in next comment)

  5. Coming from this perspective -- of a game as fundamentally a mutual negotiation, more so than a purely competitive enterprise -- I understand what you (and mccallahan) are trying to say about competitions and tournaments. However, I think you are fundamentally misunderstanding what (for example) HuronBH's critique actually states. Let me attempt to translate:

    MVB/mccal: It's a tournament. I negotiated in good faith given the guidelines and expectations I thought that we shared, and expected you to do so as well. As I did so, I do not take responsibility for your enjoyment of our game, and find it bizarre that you would expect me to voluntarily handicap myself in order to accommodate you.

    HuronBH: It's a social event. I feel that you have violated one of key tenets of this social activity by repeatedly choosing to dominate the negotiations (the complaint about always going "RAW" is a stand-in for an opponent being significantly and overtly pushy about negotiating their vision of the rules), and by repeatedly fielding a list that is designed to be extremely unfriendly to opponents.

    While as a competitive player (albeit one out of practice due to RL intrusions) I am sympathetic to MVB and mccal, particularly in a tournament situation, I have realized that the perspective of a HuronBH is relatively common in the gaming community.

    Certainly this is true the further afield one goes in the miniature wargaming field. From my experience, a desire to dominate the negotiation process (and thus the game) is highest in WFB, less so in 40K, and becomes more and more anathema as one moves to (for example) Ancient Battles and historicals.

    Too, as I get older, and my gaming time becomes more precious, and my understandings of human nature and societies improve with experience, I grow more and more supportive of a concept of sportsmanship that encapsulates more than the "Jesse Owens" definition.

  6. As for your concern about scoring sportsmanship, I understand the desire to make the score more objective and more comparable across players (and judges). In the format of a three-game tournament, opponent-judged soft scores can be wildly subjective.

    That said, there are any number of statistical methods that can be used to "level the variation" between scorers, and methods like a short pre-tournament quiz (to determine how a person tends to score opponents) can be used to provide additional data points to make the outcomes of a score leveling more statistically significant.

    Short of that, I think you're stuck either tossing sportsmanship as a soft score entirely (which I have found tends to attract rather more "dicks" to a tournament than not), or living with the variation inherent in an opponent-scored system.

  7. Orcboy,

    I agree with everything you said, though I'd ask the following questions:

    1) Is it impossible to have a 'tournament' setting and both players have a good game? I enjoy my time playing 40k be it win or lose (i.e. the "At least I'm not at work" thoughts).

    2) I play in tournaments, narrative games, intentionally 'fluffy' games, and territory campaigns in 40k, Fantasy, and as much of the specialist games as I can. Using 40k as an example, I use the exact same Space Wolf list in all of the above. I think it's exceptionally strong, and probably (and has) received a poor composition score. Yet how do my regular opponents and my 'new' pickup game opponents have an excellent time playing against me?

    I think the point I'm making is that it is NOT the list someone brings. It is the PLAYER playing it that makes the difference. Yes, the entire game is a social contract. The PEOPLE participating in the contract should be the only determination on if the game was "Fun" for both - I find it in extremely poor taste for someone to complain about what their opponent brings. I have been involved in the GW hobby for twenty years, and I can count on one hand the number of games where my opponent has had a poor time playing due to my or their own actions. Naturally, a player can choose not to play a particular opponent after being beaten by them. But who is losing in that situation? Certainly not the player who won - The player who lost, and chooses the "I'll take my ball and go home" approach has missed a golden opportunity to really LEARN 40k and become a better player. "Better" player doesn't have to be a "winning" player - For some people, "better" player could simply be playing the "hard" opponent again and having a good time.

    All of this, obviously, is some sort of nebulous "sportsmanship" idea. As long as YOU insure that you play fairly (within the rules), courteously, and have a good time yourself, I fail to see how another mature adult can have a "bad" time at playing 40k. Those players who, in spite of your efforts, have a bad game, are the ones that DO complain, call cheating on things that are not, call 'cheese' and 'beardy' (haven't heard that in a while). Ultimately, those players will never be happy regardless of however "sporting" you are (or whatever list you bring).

  8. Having no wish to dominate MVB's blog, I'll keep my responses short:

    (1) No, of course not.

    (2) "I find it in extremely poor taste for someone to complain about what their opponent brings". I often find this to be a stand-in complaint for the opponent themselves. There is a rather substantial swath of the country that finds it to be extremely poor taste to complain about the personality of their opponent. I found it more than a little peculiar how deeply this sentiment can run, the first hundred or so times I ran across it, but it's still there. ;)

    (3) "Naturally, a player can choose not to play a particular opponent after being beaten by them. But who is losing in that situation? Certainly not the player who won..." Were it just that, I would agree. However, having seen, met, played, befriended, and even been one of those extremely hardcore competitive players, there is a flip side to that coin. Sometimes it's just as important to recognize that the other person is walking because you're the dick -- particularly if it seems like you are running across a rather large number of "bad losers". Sometimes it's not them.

    (4) "As long as YOU insure that you play fairly (within the rules), courteously, and have a good time yourself..." Ah, but that "courteously" element is really the key. There's just so very much packed into that one word.

    (5) Agreed, there are some people who are just bad losers, for real. However, there are also people who defer despite not being happy with what you're saying, just to be polite and avoid a confrontation, play the game and have a miserable time, and will never directly tell you about it -- because that would be **extremely poor taste**.


    Please note, I'm not accusing you nor MVB. I've only met MVB once in passing, and I don't think I've ever played either of you. But I do think this is something that every gamer who considers themselves to be a "competitive" gamer really needs to be conscious of -- especially if they are espousing concern about what counts as sportsmanship, and how to be sporting.

    I submit that playing within the rules and having a good time yourself isn't sufficient for "being sporting", not if it's a negotiated social activity between two players.

  9. This isn't a Mike's Podium Blog.

    The real purpose of this is to get a lot of positive input regarding the various components of a proper tournament. As such, don't feel like you're dominating anything - the more commentary, the better.

  10. "Having no wish to dominate MVB's blog, I'll keep my responses short"

    Fair Enough :)

    As a fellow adult gamer, I certainly will take everything you mentioned into consideration. What this discussion really did was allow me to look at how I play other people, and I'll be certain to pay closer attention to how/what/why I do things when I play, and see what the reaction is. Thanks for the conversation Orcboy - And I am confident enough to know that should we ever play I know both of us will have a great game :)

  11. By the by - we met in passing? Your name / when we met?

  12. Well I was going to make a comment about assuming that just because your point of view is one way, assuming that others are acting inappropriately based on your point of view and not taking theirs into account also is in the same way inappropriate, but it seems Orcboy has managed to finally get across the message I have been struggling to put down. Thank you.

  13. Ok -

    You have a baseball game, let's just say it's the NY Yankees vs. the Baltimore Orioles. If you don't know baseball teams well, suffice it to say that the Yankees play well, and the Orioles generally don't. Now - That does NOT mean that every time the Yankees play the Orioles, the Yankees will win. Nor does it mean that Orioles players have "bad" games when they play the Yankees. Now, if we have that situation - it's a game that includes competition, sportsmanship, and general social contracts (you don't run up the score, you don't hit and run when you're ahead, you don't steal when you're ahead, you don't throw aggressively at a teams weaker hitters, you generally try to not hit people with the ball), wouldn't you find it ridiculous if the Orioles just decided, after losing to the Yankees the day before, that they wouldn't play them anymore?

    I understand that there are differences with the example I just used, but it's ultimately the same thing. In no way am I picking on you HuronBH - Everyone is certainly entitled to their own view. That DOESN'T mean that unhappy people (I'm not saying you are) can mask their own discontent with using what their opponent brings as an excuse. If you played and lost - YOU played and lost. This is also why I fundamentally disagree with Composition scores - Their goal is noble, but it's ultimately stunting creativity in a creative hobby. Or, it's encouraging someone to write a list a certain way - which is exactly like forcing your (or a third parties) idea about 40k onto someone else. Choosing an army, and picking what you want to include is one of the most basic individual and personal choices someone can make in this hobby.

    I think we can simply agree to disagree, but like I said to Orcboy, I am 100% certain that if HuronBH and I ever play a game, we'd both have a good time regardless of whatever people bring :)

  14. mccallahan -- I think your Yankees/Orioles analogy might work with regard to 40K tournaments, but falls apart more generally. A better analogy might be to think of most 40K games as being one-off exhibition matches or "barnstorming" events. Walking away in that situation would make sense, as there is nothing forcing you to keep playing matches, even if outmatched and not enjoying it.

    MVB -- I was at the Inner Circle Pancake Tournament. I played one of the Sisters Immo Spam lists.

    If you're interested in putting together a statistical leveling tool to more objectively implement opponent-scored sportsmanship (or any other opponent-scored soft score), I'm happy to offer pointers. There once was a time when I used statistics professionally. :)

  15. OK, so there's a lot to ponder and go over in regard to the things said, but I think it boils down to a simple fact of equality that MUST be covered.

    The notion of a social contract between players is one that is bandied about often, but is almost never bandied about with equality in mind.

    That is to say, that you sit down to the table with your army, your opponent brings one that YOU think is overpowered/broken, and you immediately (at least internally) accuse him of violating the social contract of the game by bringing a list you can't compete against.

    Within the confines of a community or group of gamers, this has value and merit - I agree with it and practice it *personally* ... there's no point to constantly bringing a list that your opponents' collection of models simply can't manage.

    When you arrive at a tournament, here's where "army list" social contracts instantly fail on all measures. Going to a tournament, you KNOW for a fact that you are not playing with your community. You'll be playing with a wide variety of opponents, some of whose lists you can easily handle, and some your list may not be able to handle. Their rationale for bringing these lists is varied - they don't know any better, they don't want to be different, they're great big "power gamers" or pure "fluff bunnies." It really doesn't matter. What matters is that their capacity to meet some kind of social contract with each of their opponents that has any relevance to ARMY BUILD is a great big walloping 0. They've brought their list, they can't change it mid tourney, they can only change and adapt regarding the MANNER in which they comport themselves in the game itself.

    While within my group my Imperial Guard may be considered underpowered on purpose, so as to level the communal playing field, it may be considered wildly "broken" by some other opponent. The same can be said of many lists ... certainly Orcboy's Immo Spam is a potent competitor in any circle.

    You are INSTANTLY violating the social contract between gamers, then, if you unsportingly hold that list against an opponent. In fact, it's a cheap shot at best. By the time he reaches the table with you, he can do NOTHING to change his list. He chose to bring it for any number of reasons, and I can guarantee you in 9 of 10 cases it wasn't purely "to win hardkoarz yaaa!" ... but even if it was, that's the reflection of his gaming circle, not a reflection on his personality or attitude. He has as much right to be angry at you for judging what he cannot change.

    Regardless, there is NO defense whatsoever against accusations of ARMY LIST tomfoolery, other than to take a list that one does NOT wish to take (and buy models) in order to hopefully meet some vacuous, imaginary opponent who "won't like it" if he doesn't.

  16. Making an accusation toward someone as a result of your opinion of his army list, in complete disregard of his ATTITUDE as a gamer and the style in which he plays with you, is unsporting in the extreme. It's indefensible, and constructed to be. You’re accusing the player of violating a social contract that he could not possibly have upheld.

    What matter is how a person PLAYS vs. you in the game, because that is a variable he CAN change from game to game, based upon his empathy, his compassion for other human beings, and his social ability to read and understand your preferences, and to react as a result.

    For me, it then comes down to a position where a person must be judged on his behavior - the variables of his play. He should not - and in fact it would be a gross mistreatment to - be judged on constants of his list and nature.

    If you are playing within a circle of friends, or local gamers, and you consistently bring a list that they have no answer for, in complete disregard for their concerns and feelings, there's something probably wrong with you. We can all agree on this.

    If you are attending a tournament, and you simply bring the army list that you typically use when playing your friends, and it happens to be more powerful than certain lists you run up against ... it is a violation of the inherent social contract between gamers when your OPPONENT chooses to hold it against you.

    My $.02

    I greatly appreciate the input from all sides, especially those who clearly show a willingness to see both sides, yet politely retain their own viewpoint. This is such an opinionated topic that there's no "wrong" or "right." It's pure opinion, and one of the positives of our hobby that we can often disagree on such things yet still retain a love and passion for the game.

  17. So following along the line that MVB set out, since there is no way for 2 players that do not play together regularly to have a pre-agreed on social contract of level of play and list building, then it falls to the tournament organizer to setup and clearly define the nature of the social contract that all players should expect to play under.

    In my experience in recent events, the organizers have done a poor job of making it clear what level of social contract they are shooting for and their fore have had people attend their events expecting different levels of play. Without a clear definitions of what the organizers expects and an example of what the players at his or her event should expect there is no way everyone can have fun all the time.

    To achieve this I think a clear definition of army composition, sportsmanship requirements, and all other components (Theme, painting, etc) needs to be clearly set out and made public well in advance before players gather to play in that event. This way everyone is on a even foot, and has a predetermined level of social contract defined for that event. Players may still feel overwhelmed by some players choices as any good system will still allow players to take what they want, but usually by rewarding (with no negatives) players who stay within the designated contract and penalizing players (with negative points usually) those the exceed the limits defined by the contract set by the organizer.

    Recently, organizers have strayed farther and farther from setting guidelines for players which is a problem as things can only result in players attending with different levels of social contract in mind for their games. What organizers need to do is clearly define all aspects of how the tournament will work so that everyone can attend with the same attitude or choose not to attend if they are not willing to conform to the defined contract or take the penalty.

    My $0.02.

    Oh, and I was the Howling Griffons player at both the IC High Stakes tournament and VSDM.

  18. Now you're talking, Jay.

    The goal I was getting at was to see that feedback start to surface where the responsibility is on the TOURNAMENT ORGANIZERS to set a standard and broadcast it.

    If they go "army theme will be a scored component of Best Overall, judged in terms of paint job + conversions + thematics, but there will not be a composition requirement or composition scoring directly," now you know what to expect.

    You're absolutely correct that the failure lies with Tournament Organizers who either go "NOBODY CARES ABOUT DA WHINERS" or simply are oblivious to the extremely wide variety of play and hobby style in GW games. Address those varieties, both in the manner in which you host your tournament and the way in which you advertise it, and you have the ability to avoid serious complications.

  19. As an addendum, the real challenge is in developing a tournament format that caters to as wide a variety of the tourney-loving population as possible. That's the real goal I'm trying to get at with this blog leading up to The NOVA Open - is to get the input of a wide enough variety of opinion to hone in on the components of an event that are most sensitive, and most important to work through in order to have a tourney where everyone comes out of it going "you know, that was worth the price of admission."

  20. @HuronBH - Now those comments are something I can agree with 100%. I was most likely assuming a different environment of play than you were (I defaulted to a no-one-knows-their-opponent-tournament).

    The issue, quite well known to tournament-goers, is that the idea of Composition or soft scores in general immediately invalidates certain choices people make for their armies (i.e. infringing upon THEIR choices or how they want to play 40K).

    @MVB - There are several options for TO's to still use soft scores while not impacting the games of the tournament so much. Painting is integral to the hobby, though can be scored in such a way to make a "Best Painted" award and not impact a Win/Loss/Battle Point record. Composition, while you'll have to figure out the specifics, can simply be used to 'rank' army lists based on 'hardness' and assign first or second round matchups - the Comp scores are not used or included in the overall scores.

    Are these methods perfect? No - but I think they'd go a long way to making a Tournament a more enjoyable and fair experience.

    And for NOVA (Which I assume is Northern Virginia?) I'd love to attend - I'm only up in Philadelphia, and barring actual date conflicts I'll bring down my Space Wolves ;)

  21. I agree with Huron -- absent clear guidelines from tournament organizers, people will look at the soft scores you include, and the way you obtain them, to try to figure out what sort of tournament you're running.

    For example: no sportsmanship score = more likely to encourage unsporty folks to attend

    no painting score = much more likely to encourage people to bring unpainted armies

  22. So to summarize:

    Tournaments: It's on the shoulders of the organizers to clearly outline ALL the rules for sportsmanship, painting, and army comp. Dare I say they should also be up to date on rules debates and put out a FAQ to outline how specific "questionable" rules work for thier tournament. That way you can skip the tournament if you decide that your ability to paint or army comp should or shouldnt have a factor in your ability to beat your opponents.

    Casual play: You CAN make an absolutely nasty list that destroys armies, but don't be surprised if no one wants to play you. If you "have" to tone down your list so the locals will play so be it. If you're not playing you're not winning.

    Sportsmanship: It's simple, play to win but be respectful of your opponent. Don't pull punches, at least dont make it obvious. Be mindful of your oppoents body language; if it looks like he/she is not enjoying the game or things aren't going to plan you might want to curb some of your enthusiasm when things go your way. If you win DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT complain about dice rolls. Pay attention to the game. Making sure your opponent plays by the rules shows that you are taking him/her as a serious opponent.

  23. In addition to the ideas shared here, I think it is important for the tourney organizers to be clear on what they are "judging" and "awarding" at a tournament.

    For example, If a tournament has a "Best Overall", "Best General", "Best Sportsman", and a "Best Painted" award, what exactly makes up those awards? Should the best overall be a even split combination of the other 3 categories (sports, general, painting), and if not... why? Is "Best Overall" really just an additional level of "Best General" and primarily based on win/loss ratio? Further, is Best General only going to reflect win/loss/victory points so its really a "Able to BEAT FACE the most" award? In 40K, does/should the "Best General" at a tournament encapsulate how fun the games were (sportsmanship), or not?

    As an extreme example, if Best General is based on only win/loss, and victory point/win/loss is the largest component of Best Overall then there could end up with very strange situations. i.e - What if before the tourney I eat nothing but garlic and onions, rub garlic, onions, and curry all over my body, and then stand on your side of the board all game encouraging you to forfeit. As long as I do not forfeit, then each game my opponent forfeits in is a massacre. If I can pull this off in 2 or 3 games, chances are I will have the most "victory points/battle points/etc" for the tourney. Was I really the best general? Should I win best overall? Extreme example, yes. But.... think about if this is possible in a less extreme setting.

    I have a whole lot more to say, but I need to get some of my thoughts straight before I drop it into writing.

  24. I think these are all good comments.

    What drives everything for me is that I feel great empathy (personally) for all practitioners of a hobby, and am deeply concerned with an event maintaining integrity toward all components.

    As a result, I deeply feel that the "Best Overall" must absolutely reflect ALL of: wins, losses, battle points, painting capability, converting capability, army theme / reflection of understanding of setting, and sportsmanship.

    At the same time, I believe that the sub-awards inherent to each of those components should be judged independent of one another. That is to say, that if your tournament has a "best painted" award, the prize's value and prestige should not be weaker than "best general" or "best sportsmanship," but those things should not influence it. The best painted miniature should be the best painted, not the almost best painted belonging to the guy who went 4-0 also. Similarly, sportsmanship should be divorced from army theme (that's what Players' Choice and Best Army awards are for). Obviously, Best General should also be divorced from the other influences.

    There are two levels of sportsmanship in 40k, when you get down to the brass tacks. There's the subjective sportsmanship your opponents evaluate, and the objective sportsmanship of Jesse Owens and others in my original post. Someone who wins Best General or ANY competitive event must be held to the standards of objectivity, but the standards of subjectivity should really have their greatest impact on a Best Sportsmanship award, and subsequently on Best Overall to the degree that Best Sportsmanship is a component.

    It is the responsibility of me and others as tournament organizers to try and aggressively, wholeheartedly and completely address the various passions of every hobbyist, without unfairly sacrificing the needs of any of them.

    To wit, while Best Overall must by needs to be a fair and equal evaluation of ALL components of the hobby listed above, Best General must be as protected from the poisons of Best Painting or Best Sportsmanship as they should be from it.

    My $.02 at present

  25. The entire idea of an opponent, subjective system for sportsmanship is absolutely absurd.
    I have been to many tourney’s and what I have seen is the friendly person who loses the most games gets voted “Best Sportsman”, what a load of crap. This happens because anyone who wins their opponent trashes them on their sportsman score. What this type of system does accomplish is to give opponents the ability to trash you because, I don’t like you, I don’t like your army, I don’t like the way it was painted, I think your stupid, you don’t know the rules, your ugly and you smell bad. But if I win it doesn’t matter so I won’t trash you because you cant win the tournament any ways.

    The way it should be handled is by the Tournament organizers. Make sure you have enough T.O’s to watch what is going on. If they catch a player cheating they “Remove Them”. So it follow if they see a player being a disruptive dick “Remove Them”. Follow the old rule “ IF YOU CAN’T PLAY NICE THEN YOU CAN’T PLAY AT ALL”, take your toys and go home. If you put this rule in place you will find that you will have fewer dicks at your tournament. Especially after you boot the first one out on his butt. No refunds, No second chance, and don’t come back.

    Sportsmanship, I have seen a lot of references to baseball team and the like; However; these are team games not one on one. And how many times have you see one team end up on the field in a fight with the other team? Is that sportsmanship? I think NOT! I think a more valid comparison is a chess match. It is One on One. Two opponents bring their wits to the table and battle it out. Granted in 40k there are more pieces to choose from, but a tactical game is nothing more than an expansion of a basic game like chess. Move, counter move, thinking ahead of your opponent, and doing your best within the rules to win.

    Now the way it should work would be more like this.
    You come to the table with your army.
    Introduce yourself to your opponent.
    Shake hands. (hmm, boxing starts that way. Wonder why?)
    Discuss the table contents (rough terrain, impassable terrain) and come to a mutual agreement.
    Roll for who goes first and start the game.
    If there is a dispute during the game be it cheating, rules or anything, a judge or referee should be called to the table and consulted. His ruling is final, you may discuss the point and bring up items like FAQ’s but don’t argue. Being disruptive is not part of sportsman ship. Not only do you look like a total dick, but you also disrupt the people at tables around you.
    During the game avoid belittling comments to your opponent. “turn 3 and your almost wiped out, man your army sucks.” And the 10,000 other stupid comments that we have all heard.
    Or you might say “ Leave the above the table game at home”, too many times I have seen people trying to play the above the table game (psychology) to rattle their opponent during the game.
    Finally, the game ends. Win, Lose or draw, be gracious, tell your opponent it was a good game and offer a friendly handshake.
    Now if you’re a real gamer you will have enjoyed the game no matter the outcome and after all that’s what you’re here for is to play the game.

    You might be frustrated the game didn’t go your way, or your dice sucked or your girlfriend dumped you that morning. None of this matters in the game and damn sure shouldn’t be taken out on your opponent.
    But if you’re the type of person MUST win at all cost and shows his butt if he doesn’t. Throws a fit if you don’t get your way. Maybe 40k isn’t for you.

    You came to the tournament to play the game. So play it to the best of your ability, and play to win, give your opponent the best game you can. And if you lose, well its not like that hasn’t happen to all of us. Shake it off and move to the next game.

    Ok, enough of my 2 cents.