Monday, September 13, 2010

Define "Tournament" or How Jervis Should Learn to Stop Worrying and Love the Blog

My guess is that you didn't read Jervis Johnson's latest "Standard Bearer" article in the September WD.  I did, since I went up to the local mountains over Labor Day weekend where my internet access is limited to spotty 3G coverage on my iPhone and I wanted some pretty pictures of High Elves and Skaven to look at whilst sitting in the beautiful San Bernardino National Forest, drinking beer and vodka tonics.  A one line summary of the article would be: wargames tournaments are really about meeting nice people and having fun - not determining a clearly defined winner.* defines tournament as: "a trial of skill in some game, in which competitors play a series of contests."  Trial, skill, competitor, contest.

In law school I was on the Mock Trial team and I took part in a nation wide arbitration competition.  The two teams of four students my school sent held weekly and bi-weekly practices for weeks leading up to the event, on top of our full class loads.  And then we flew out to Kentucky from So-Cal for the event.  I did not do all that for a single class credit, meeting other nice law students and having a swell time - although wherever law students go, boozing generally follows.  We went primarily to crush skulls and kick ass (in full disclosure, my team didn't get out of the first round but the other team from my school won the whole enchilada).  Yes, law students are bit more cut-throat than an average, sane person, but what about say, city-park-league softball?  Most municipal softball leagues have different divisions for the novice hodge-podge collection of office coworkers up to skull-crushing-ass-kickers who played high school or college ball and take it a bit more seriously.**

When my "word in your article" made the Intl House of Paincake's weekly top-X, John highlighted a theme he picked out that I kinda glossed over.  Gamers are consumers, not just fans.  To keep it short and avoid beating the bejesus out of a dead horse, GW is still missing the damn point.  Let people who want feel-good-hug-your-neighbor-tournaments have them.  Let people who want to crush skulls have the chance to do so.  My tourny experience is limited (3, maybe) but I want the option to have both as long as it's clear what I'm in for when I sign up!  Not to hate on Jervis, I have a soft spot for the old wacky GW design team, but this hobby is about personalization and customization that does not exist in similar mediums and curtailing the type of tournaments available to consumers will not encourage our hobby's growth.

*I suppose I should acknowledge that GW's rules, and perhaps wargames in general, are not designed and do not work perfectly for WAAC play, as good o'l Jervis points out in his article. I have an idea that might help things out - update army books and codecies at more frequent pace.  How long will Bretonnias be dysfunctional in 8th?  Will I ever get a 5th ed. space-elf book?

**I once singed up to be back-up player for one of these to help out a friend of mine.  Unbeknownst to me when I signed up, it was for a more advanced level league and not a novice-drink-beer-before-and-after-games league.  I suck at all aspects of softball and ended up playing in only two games.


  1. I predict GW's attitude is not going to change for another decade or so, and they will continue to sell a bunch of minis but fail to grow the hobby or their business. Fucking british bean counters, if only they knew they could get more beans from competitive adults than excited kids!

  2. I see your point, but he wasn't saying that tournaments should not take place or that they are impossible, just that the game was not specifically designed with them in mind.

    The blogsphere and forumites will only ever constitute a fringe to the hobby, and the company needs to keep pulling in kids (and their parents money) through exciting imagery and accessibility to keep things afloat. I think it realised it was wasting some of its efforts across 3rd and 4th edition to create a fully water-tight system (which I think is impossible given the staggered releases of editions and codecies which GW practices).

    Just be thankful that we have a wonderful game universe, with a largely coherent set of rules and great accompanying miniatures coming along with it. Anyone who has ever played any of the dozens of various game systems which have sunk over the years knows that things could be a hell of a lot worse :)

  3. I worked at two different GW stores (both in Orange County, California, overall considered an affluent area) and not every kid that walked out the door with a starter box bought with their parents' money came back for more. GW has a very diverse customer base in the sense that each hobbyist places various amounts of emphasis on its different aspects (another Jervis article from last year, actually), say as compared to a video game developer. While my business expertise is limited, I think it would be wise for GW to recognize that they need to retain customers and there are different ways to do it based on what people want from the product.

  4. I really dislike the standard bearer series. So boring and uncontroversial. *yawn* oh wait, he mentioned his opinion of what a tournament should be! Smithers! Release the hounds!

  5. Apparently I'm not the only one who got irate about some silly Standard Bearer article.

  6. I agree on the notion of the hobby being what you make of it, to each his own. I do not agree, in fact I strongly disagree with more frequent printings of codexes. They're expensive and I'd hate to have to buy more than one of the same book for any given edition of the core rules.

  7. Excellent point. I rarely buy another army's book because of the cost of keeping up.

    However, I don't think it serves the hobby or GW's bottom-line well to let an army linger for so long that it does not function well when the main rules are revised or when going toe-to-toe against newer books. Think of a younger player who picks up, say Necrons, for the appeal of the models but then looses interest in the game and falls out because of this effect.

  8. I play in lots of tournaments and read lots of blogs and I have to say that after a couple good years playing competitively- 40k is a horrible game fro tournaments. It's so unbalanced. So I tend to agree with Jervis. The only way this game could be made for tournaments, is if you handed everyone in the tournament the same army list and army to play and then you'd see who was really the best player.

  9. Eh, it is what it is. The fact it's not an airtight rule system doesn't mean that people don't want to compete, we all know different. A lot of attention is given to WHFB and 40K because of these competitions. Certain list builds tend to emerge from these events and in turn competitive players evaluate their own army and pick up new models and boxes. It certainly isn't hurting GW's bottom line.

    To say no clear winner is determined at a tournament I suppose is partially true. This is not chess where the only difference between the players is skill. There are a lot of variables in GW games, hell, we're rolling dice for outcomes! That being said, you may not have a 'clear' winner but you do have a winner for that day.