Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Friday, August 7, 2015

Clash of Cultures: Tournament Play

by "Dirty" Jon Baber

I really like to participate in Flames of War tournaments.  Making lists, predicting - often incorrectly - what the current meta-game lists are, thinking up mission strategies - all of these things are really fun for me.  In talking with other tournament participants over the years, I have heard a ton of thoughts on tournaments.  In my mind, I have broadly divided the admittedly nuanced thoughts and approaches into Serious and Casual tournament participants.

So, what do I mean by these VERY broad categories?  When I talk about Serious tournament players, I mean the people who are trying to win it.  In addition, I mean people who will find their ranking in the tournament important - perhaps they are trying to finish in the top 10 or top third or improve their standing from the last tournament.  These people have usually spent some significant time thinking through their lists and tailoring them for the particular tournament.  Perhaps they have painted up some new units or tweaked an existing list or gone through some specific changes and plans for the missions to be played.  In any case, the Serious tournament player has invested significant time into tournament prep and is keenly interested in the outcome.

The Casual people are all the rest.  These are the folks that range from mild interest in their own tournament result to none at all.  Often, these folks are just playing a list they are comfortable with and enjoy getting in some games.  You may even find some people are playing goofy lists (guilty!) and are looking for a good social encounter.  In the end, the results are just not very important to this group of folks.

Now, this is an oversimplification, for sure.  People will fall all over the place on the continuum of Casual to Serious and may even vary from tournament to tournament.  The reason I bring this up is to think about the different objectives of the two groups - one is more concerned with the process and the other is more concerned with the results.  This can make for some frustration.

Not Serious?
I started to think about this after hearing tournament stories about opponents that "just didn't care". In my mind, that categorization was slightly incorrect, and should have been "just didn't care about the results."  This observation was from a Serious noting the difference between himself and a Casual at this event.  This observation was linked to one of the hobby's most frustrating aspects - slow play.

In thinking about the reasons for slow play, I think that there are two classes of slow player:

The Oblivious - this player has no idea that they play slowly.  They get through four turns at a tournament and have no clue that this is bad and not normal.  Most slow players fall into this category.

The Calculated -  this player plays slow on purpose.  This is uncommon, but these people are out there.  They play Infantry companies and hope for defensive missions where they win by default - slow-roll to victory. I have no solution for these people.  Note: I am NOT describing ALL Infantry players!  Our friend Tim Grimmett plays Infantry all the time and is very, very quick.

To me, most of The Oblivious are also The Casual.  So, Casual/Oblivious players, let me describe how your slow play is terrible.  If a Serious - especially a REALLY good Serious - runs into a slow-playing Casual in the first round of a tournament, it can ruin the  Serious' entire day instantly.  I have had this feeling before.  You look up from the table at the top of round 2 and do the math - if the slow play continues, there is no way to finish.  The game will be a 3-1 loss and you just lost any chance at winning the tournament.  This really sucks.  While the Casual is endlessly discussing his painting technique or the history of his company or reading rules or talking through Ambush options, the Serious is thinking about the ton hours of prep time and wasted day of gaming only 30 minutes into the tournament.  Thankfully, most Casuals will get beaten in Round 1, so the subsequent rounds are less risky for matchups.

Now, some of you Casuals will say, "Get over it, Mr. Serious!  Just have fun!".  This attitude is bad and frustrating.  By saying this, you are doing a whole lot of terrible things.  One, you are elevating your definition of "fun" over the Serious' definition of "fun", implying that wanting to actually win the tournament is somehow a bad thing or less important than the social interaction that is important to your "fun".

For sure, Serious!
The second thing you are doing is dragging your Casual play into an event that is being held exactly to cater to the Serious player.  I mean, what is the point of a tournament if the standings don't matter? Some folks are very militant about this, which strikes me as just plain silly.  If you don't like Serious events, then stay home - don't try to "convert" tournaments to casual play.  Go host your own casual event, OR accept the fact that your opponents likely do care about the results, and find a way to meet both of your goals.

They have a name for events where the standings don't matter - Game Night.  What if someone came to Game Night with chess clocks, put everyone in brackets, assigned points and made standings and final scoring and ranking for Game Night?  That's crazy, right?  How is it different when Casuals are flippant about tournaments by dragging their Game Night ethos into a tournament?

I often hear people going to tournaments saying "I don't care how I finish" and that is totally fine, as long as the tournament is not ruined for the Serious.  Now, the perfect thing would be to have the Casual and the Serious all enjoy themselves at every tournament.  I have had this experience many, many times.  However, I submit to the community that the Casual is obligated to either keep out of tournaments or (preferably) ensure that their pursuit of fun at tournaments does not ruin it for Mr. Serious.  Recognize that you are in a tournament and that some people actually want to do well.

If I hear another Casual complaining about "man, that guy was WAY too concentrated on winning the tournament - I didn't have any fun at all" I am going to scream.  Think about that.  Going to a tournament and complaining that people want to win it.  What?  Now, that doesn't mean that win-at-all-costs (like cheating or being nasty to people) is acceptable - that is something completely different.   But whining that you ran into Mr. Serious that actually wanted to win is just stupid.

Here are some not-so-subtle suggestions:
  1. Everyone should strive to eliminate slow play.  This would solve 90% of the problems.  If you find yourself regularly unable to complete six turns in two and a half hours, you should stay out of tournaments until you can.
  2. Players should self-identify, especially in Round 1 of tournaments.  Mr. Serious should not feel ashamed - or be shamed for - explaining exactly why they are there if they encounter a  Casual playing slowly.  Speak up, explain that you need them to finish the game in order for you to have a chance at all of achieving your objective - have fun by doing well.  People are generally very nice, and I would guess that the vast majority of players would be very happy to try to get done on time.  I think most slow players have no idea how slow they are or have considered the impact of slow play on tournament standing.  
  3. TO's should avoid matching Casuals - especially slow ones - to very Serious players.  This is already happening, just not in the open.  Ideally, matching would be random, but putting Bill Wilcox up against someone who can barely get four turns done in Round 1 is just a bad thing.
  4. Avoid missions where Infantry Company slow-players can win in Round 1 by just playing slowly.  In subsequent rounds, these slow-playing people are likely to be weeded out from the top and can just get the draws together in oblivion.  
Hopefully, people can self-identify where they stand and have a reasonable discussion about this.  I enjoy casual play and I enjoy tournament play.  I even enjoy being casual at tournaments!  What I do not enjoy is seeing someone's tournament experience ruined by people who probably should not be playing the tournament anyway.

Popular Posts In the last 30 Days

Copyright 2009-2012 WWPD LLC. Graphics and webdesign by Arran Slee-Smith. Original Template Designed by Magpress.