Friday, October 20, 2017

Running a Local Tournament - One Warcor Event at a Time

Recently I had the pleasure of running a small local tournament for the first time as a Warcor! Despite my placement and the event itself being nothing special, I was chatting to Pride of Rodina afterwards who said I should do a writeup on what it was like to organize such an event, and showcase any advice I might have for other people who are looking at organizing events of their own in the future.

For once, being no expert on the matter is the perfect position to be in, as most of us at some point in our tenure as a gamer find ourselves organizing (or helping to organize) amateur local events, and a writeup of the whole process might make an interesting bit of reading. So, while I’ll preface this by saying that I’m relatively new to organizing little tournaments, I think sharing my experiences as a Tournament Organizer (TO) might help some of you out there who are looking at doing something similar in the future.

I’ll divide this little writeup into different sections for consideration, which I’ll break down into Timing, Format, People, Setup, Playing, Judging, and Prizes.


Plan ahead, budget hours, be flexible. 

Timing is everything with an event, especially when you live in a city like Las Vegas where everybody has enormously varied work schedules (some weekends, some nights, some changing week-to-week…). A good month’s notice (or even 2) makes it much easier to guarantee that people will be able to request a shift, not make plans or take time off if they need to in order to make it the event. It also lets you anticipate potential problems, such as getting enough room for your scheduled event at the local store, or moving the date if there is an unexpected clash or a big change in availability among your locals.

In terms of timing for the event itself, you’ll need to anticipate having 2 hours for each round (ideally with 15-30 minutes in between for breaks), an hour before for setup, an hour after for prizes/packing up, and of course time for a meal/lunch probably in there somewhere, especially for a 4+ round event. All in all, we started our 3-round event late at around 1pm and finished up by about 7.45, so that can give you a rough idea of how much time you need.

Of course, it helps if everybody is on the same page here, so everybody getting there on time and with the boards setup beforehand is a massive help. The more newer players you have in your meta, the more flexible you need to be with timing, as they need enough to be able to not just play, but also pack/unpack and of course ask questions as they go.


Choose rounds, point limits, scenarios, extras, and house rules.

Usually this is the easiest part of the whole event, simply because it’s entirely down to you, the TO, to decide beforehand. While you can take in SOME input from the players (any narrative scenarios this is probably a good idea, along with unusual formats like Soldiers of Fortune), I would urge you to largely resolve this one yourself, lest you get swamped with input and spawn a big debate about what you are playing. If you DO want input, it’s better to list what you’re planning (e.g. “Supremacy for round 3, sound good?”) and then seek input, rather than ask open-ended questions (like “What shall we play for round 3?”).

Most of the time this is standard stuff – you’re usually playing 300 points, ITS scenarios, 3-4 rounds depending on your time, and then whatever house rules your meta is used to + any clarifications needed for specific terrain as needed. For example, my home board has a lot of stores and houses without internal stairs, so the house rule we have is “1 short skill to move up/down a floor, 1 long skill to go to any floor” (like an elevator). Once you’ve done one of these you can reuse the list of house rules and add to it as needed, so mercifully this only gets easier with each event you do!

- Working out my board layout at 2am the night before... haha (this was before the cars were all added as scatter). 


Experience, local meta, contact info, conduct

In contrast, this is one of the elements that you have almost no control over, and yet it’s incredibly important. For instance, are most of your players highly competitive and experienced, or totally new and might need a lot of help? Does everybody know each other and are familiar with how your meta handles local rules, or do you have people coming in from out of town who will need introducing and welcoming into your little community? Do you have everybody’s contact information to reach out to them as necessary? Will you have an even number of players, and if you do have an odd number on the day, will you randomize the byes and/or save one for yourself, so you can resolve matters as the TO? 

Long story short - You can obviously decide how many people to cap your event at, who to invite and so on, but it’s something else entirely to see who can actually go on the day and how everybody will get along. As with any social gathering, there’s no hard and fast “rules” for organizing a group event like this, but you will want to remind people to be polite, respectful and courteous, and work as a TO to ensure that people get along and can resolve disputes quickly. 


Space, boards, terrain, rotations

Setting up a good hour or so beforehand is a given, but your planning ahead really comes into play here in trying to make life easy for your players. Deciding which store you’re going to have the event at is a big part of this, as whether they’ll have enough tables for your players, terrain for them to play on, and enough space for everybody to move around in varies enormously depending on the size of the event.

The bigger issue of course is when you find yourself in a situation where you don’t really KNOW how many people are planning on attending, so you might want to think about a minimum/maximum headcount and ensure you have enough available space for either case scenario so that players can be comfortable accordingly. You don’t want people to be nudging elbows and squeezing past each other if you can avoid it, and if you do need multiple rooms/areas, you want to make sure people can communicate with each other/the TO as needed.

As part of this, once you have a rough idea of who is coming, you want to plan out your boards. Work out who is bringing mats and terrain, and ideally get them to think about their layouts in advance so that things like overpowered fire lanes or seriously unbalanced tables are less likely to occur. You can’t cover every eventuality – some boards will have not enough terrain, be too open, or have other balance issues, but planning can at least help mitigate this to some extent and cut down on possible complaints. You might also want to do a last-minute review of all the boards before the event from different angles, and suggest a few changes just in case something stands out to you as a potential problem.

Finally, work out which table is which in terms of numbers (table 1, table 2 etc.), and if players are rotating. Should you have more tables than players (e.g. last-minute cancellations), then it’s important to decide which aren’t getting used so that all of the terrain and variety is maximized. As part of this, it can really help your space situation in a cramped setting if you spread people out a bit more if you know tables aren’t being used, and otherwise work to supply spare “side tables” or even chairs so people have a place to put their stuff. Most important of all, you’re going to need space for your laptop (or whatever you’re using to run the OTM on) and any other equipment you need to do your job as TO.


Participation, breaks, lists, photos

This section really revolves around one central questionWill you also be playing in the event? If it’s a small event it’s entirely possible to play in your event (and perhaps recommended to keep the player numbers up!) but the bigger the event gets (or the newer the people), the more issues you’ll have to resolve and the more interruptions you can expect.

Of course, another key point here then is to consider taking a break in your own game every now and then to check on how other folks are doing. Sweep around the room and ask If anybody needs help, and of course encourage people to politely come and talk to you if they have any issues. This is also a great time to get some photos (if you want any), so don’t forget to bring that camera.

If you are playing in your own event, then you’ll also need to think about how you handle lists. To maintain the “surprise” of closed information, I like to inspect them at the end but at least have all participants show me their “ITS check mark” so I know they’re legal. For your own list you might want to opt for something straightforward and familiar to reduce your own personal stress because you don’t want to be juggling a complex build and models you don’t know or wasting time looking up a ton of stuff AND running the event.

Now if you aren’t playing in the event at least this won’t be much of an issue for you – just inspect the lists as normal, and be prepared for a more active role in…


Looking up rules, checking LOS/distances, courtesy, responsibility

It’s one of your main duties in running the event, and while in my experience most issues are more rules questions than actual debates about interpretation, you do have to be prepared to resolve disputes as they come up.

Where possible, I like to refer to the wiki/rulebook and then closed rule threads to resolve most questions about the rules, which makes having a device important to look things up quickly and show people the relevant section. Always provide the caveat though that if you’ve overlooked something that you’re happy to talk it through with people, but that they will need to show you relevant sections/rulings if it does come down to challenging your particular interpretation.

When it comes to more physical questions about the state of play (is X in range, can X see Y etc.), then it’s also worth following a few extra guidelines. Move as little as possible, and always ask the respective players if you do need to move something (with the caveats about not being liable here…), take a deep breath and move as slowly as is reasonable to avoid changing the state of play. Once the answer is found, ask both players to verify what you’ve found (yes that is in range). I also find a cellphone camera can be helpful in certain situations to show LOS, but space won’t always allow for this. If nobody can agree, they’ll either have to dice off or sadly, you might have to make a best judgement call.

Really the most important thing here is that everybody maintains courtesy and manners at all times, and take responsibility for their own game or any necessary rulings they wish to highlight. You’ll do the best you can to resolve things quickly, effectively and fairly, but you aren’t infallible and sometimes it’ll go wrong, and people will get upset. All you can do is be careful, considerate and remember that while on the one hand you’ll sometimes have to take charge and upset people, on the other hand you’ll sometimes have to apologize and admit that you were wrong. It’s just part of the job.


Prizes, painting, photos, packing

This is the fun part, and probably the most rewarding. The games are done, the scores have been added up, and you’re ready to give out prizes. Now before your event you probably want a rough idea on how many people are coming so you can plan ahead for prizes. Little events will probably just be the tournament box and maybe the odd blister or bit of terrain, but the more people you have playing, the more you might want to consider bigger boxes, unique trophies, gift certificates and more. If you are requesting prize support from other companies, remember to contact them well in advance and let them know what you’re planning and how many people can be expected for the event you’re running.

Once you’re giving out the prizes, lots of clapping and cheering is a given, and I always think it’s nice to do some photos as well (at least for the top places). If you’re doing a prize for painting (as I like to), it’s often good to have the players judge their favorite submissions during the break and issue a prize at the end for whoever had the best painted model/list etc.

 - Our first, second, and third place winners!

Last but not least is packing up. Don’t forget to do a last-minute sweep for anything that might have been left behind, and touch base with folks afterwards to thank them for coming! J


Well I may not be the most experienced event organizer out there, but hopefully some of these guidelines come in use someday for a few of you, and you’ll maybe read through this and be tempted to organize some tournaments of your own! Organizing an event like this can really be exhausting work, but it’s immensely rewarding both for yourself and your local community, and if everybody has a good time playing, that’s really what it’s all about!

Best of luck!    


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