Monday, December 02, 2013

Building A Better Blog Wars - Lessons from BW6

I've already talked about the bad (the tabling problem) and the ugly (me winning) so it's about time I looked at what was good about Blog Wars 6 and what it means for BW7. From the feedback I've had from various people it seems that despite my perception the event actually went quite well. Don't get me wrong, I didn't think it was a total disaster but I'd certainly say from my perspective the organisation was poor in comparison to previous events. Anyway, this was meant to be positive...

Custom Scenarios
Whilst I enjoy tournaments where the scenarios are completely unique, what often happens is that players write their lists to exploit some unforeseen loophole. It's how 40K is played I suppose but I was keen not to stray too far from the rulebook missions when creating the Blog Wars scenarios in the hopes of having a fairly level playing field (if such a thing is possible).

I think the Purge the Alien variant that I ran actually worked for the most part. I decided to make it the first mission of the day as, although people were probably half awake, the round would be followed by lunch so there'd be time to crunch those numbers without delaying the next game. This would've worked had I not messed up the scores for the stand-ins. Having an old school VP (let's call them Blood Points/BP to avoid confusion) based first mission meant the scores were more varied and people were less likely to end up with identical scores and/or duplicate matches. I recorded the raw number of BP in the spreadsheet so that if all else failed I could use it as a tie-breaker. I was tempted to make people record BP in every game but no-one likes adding all the numbers up and I think once in a day is enough. I know they're a ballache to calculate but hopefully people can see the need for it.

The "Emperor's Relic" mission seemed to achieve it's aim of making people push for the central objective and/or opponent's objective rather than sit back and play for First Blood like the Emperor's Will encourages. Perhaps that's just my perception though, how did everyone else find it? There's very little to say about Crusade as it was essentially the same as the rulebook mission but with 5 VP per objective but I think it was a good way to end the day. Having a mission with a large number of objectives encourages people to tailor their lists accordingly and hopefully not just rely on cheap scoring units to do their objective grabbing.

Generally speaking the scenarios seemed to work well. There was the tabling issue of course but I've explained why I believe it works despite it's many detractors. I think the missions were pretty straightforward and with the exception of a few exceptions (see below) I don't think there was anything to cause problems.

Scoring System
The idea this time around was to have all of the rounds be worth 25 VP each. In practice this didn't totally work thanks to the wonder that is 40K. The first mission in particular had a number of units which caused problems. Tau Ethereals give an extra VP when they die, Lone Wolves give up points when they survive, Bjorn gives up multiple VP if he dies, Tervigons and Portalglyphs create extra points, etc. etc. Some of these also affected the objective games but they were more of a problem in the Purge the Alien mission.

There'll always be exceptions to the rules, it's the way 40K is made. The difficulty is in deciding how to incorporate these into the scoring without making things too unfair. Despite the theoretical 25pt limit there were a couple of games where more points were scored. I'm not really sure why people were spawning termagants in a game based on Blood Points but each to their own. Before the next event I need to go through all of the books and try to identify any possible bonus points that could be scored so that I can list them in the rules pack to clarify everything before the event. It's difficult to know if people were adding the 150 bonus points on for killing the special character but next time I'll probably alter the score sheet so it's easier to see.

I think in round one I ought to consider giving the scores with a decimal place. This will help differentiate better between the scores and should clear up why someone seems to have an identical score but actually places above someone else.

Other Stuff
I've changed my mind a few times about whether to allow Forge World or not. For now at least, I'm going to keep things as they are and not permit it at Blog Wars 7. Despite the "official announcement" that people seem to think is necessary for it to be legal in 40K, I actually believe it is perfectly legal to use it in regular games of 40K.  I'm not the only TO to stop people bringing FW units and I hope people can understand the reasoning. I may have to review this when the new expansion comes next month but I can't see me changing my mind.

I'm having difficulty deciding about the Inquisition codex and supplements at the moment. On the one hand I love them from a fluff perspective but they make the game even more complicated than it already is. I think BW7 may be the last time I allow supplements depending on how well they work and what new ones are released between now and then. In the same way as FW models, you don't want to stop people bringing something fun and fluffy but I want to minimise the amount of dirty combinations that are possible without specific comps.

Conclusion
Despite a couple of notable failures on my part, I know what went wrong and I know what I can do to stop it happening at Blog Wars 7. I've already put work into improving the scorecards and spreadsheet to make the scoring smoother and more reliable.

The main thing I need right now are comments from you guys. What worked, what didn't and what should I be doing that I'm not or vice versa? If you don't want to comment here then by all means email me. I'll be announcing BW7 shortly so keep your eyes peeled for that.

18 comments:

  1. Hi Alex,

    Firstly and most importantly, I think the community all appreciate the massive effort and energy you put into running Blog Wars for us! So chin up, and thank you for continuing to put in the work and running the tournament for us.

    Personally, BW6 was just as good for me as all the other Blog Wars. I had three fun games (against Franco, Adam and Mike - thanks, guys!) and a lot of good banter with all the other folks there. The pairings mix-up after round one was just one of those things that happens when processing large amounts of data, and the rules judgement regarding full-points-for-a-tabling was a bit of a storm in a tea-cup. When it happened it was a mild surprise, but I don't think it was as big an issue as the Internet blog posts made it out to be. In fact, listening to Franco on the 40k Global podcast last week, he had lots of good things to say about Blog Wars, despite his personal decision after game 2.

    Anyway, I'm rambling!

    So, here's my two-cents as to the future of Blog Wars:

    1. Standard missions with tweaks are good, and keep things fresh for us long-time gamers. Simplicity is the key to success! How about not publishing the missions - keep things a surprise on the day?

    2. To counter the increasingly-unbalanced nature of the latest codexes, can I suggest we consider allowing each player to bring two alternate lists (from the same codex, naturally!). This would give us players a little flexibility in tougher match-ups.

    3. With regard to the fluff-vs-competitive nature of our game, I think more (yes, more!) 'tournament' players might actually help as there would be more players of each similar level, leading to 'fairer' match-ups.

    4. To help the first game match-up, is Seeding an idea worth persuing? Could be based on previous BW standings or even personal request?

    5. I like the spot-prizes, so more of them please! The raffle is also good fun. And a smaller prize for the winners means more 'fluff' prize-money for the modellers and painters.

    6. Regarding the full-points-for-a-tabling conundrum, I would suggest leaving the rule in (ie you don't score full points for a tabling) BUT recognise the tabling somehow - perhaps +5pts (up to normal maximum mission points) or allowing the player to move/run his models up to a normal turn-five finish?

    7. Compared to the wealth of LOS-blocking scenery at Maelstrom, I found the tables a little open at NWGC (though I was playing Nids, so there is never enough scenery!). Is it possible to get a bit more LOS-blocking scenery on the tables to prevent static gun-lines from dominating as much?

    8. With the amount of filthy lists possible from pure GW codexes (ie Tau, Eldar, Daemons etc) I don't see how 40k-approved Forge World can be any 'worse' than standard GW nowadays!

    9. It's your tournament, so please continue to play in it - but try not to win next time!

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    1. Thanks for your kind words (as always) Graham. I'll try to respond to all of your points:
      1. Some armies really can't be made into "all-comers" and this would be more obvious if the missions were secret. Random rulebook missions aren't all that varied so you can still bring a decent list but if you have no idea at all about the mission then you risk feeling beaten before you even start.

      2. Bringing two alternate lists is something we've discussed before. It comes down to the size of people's collections. I'd have no problem fielding various lists for each army I own but not everyone can do that and I don't want to put new players off.

      3. It's difficult to get a balance. The problem is only having three rounds means potentially people could be totally mismatched right up until the final game. I don't necessarily discourage the competitive gamers but they tend to stick to the ranked events and I don't want to go down that route.

      4. Seeding is again something I've looked at in the past. Fine for those who've been several times but new guys are "wildcards" by default. You can base it on lists but then you don't know if someone has brought a netlist and doesn't actually know what they're doing. In general I don't like telling people who they have to play.

      5. More prizes is definitely something I'm keen on. If we can hit the magic number of 40 then I've got some ideas in the pipeline.

      6. I'm happy with tabling as it stands. I don't want to encourage people to table by giving bonus points as some armies simply can't do it a lot of the time. I don't like the idea of watching your opponent play his turns when you army is destroyed. The rules actually allow for you to finish a turn anyway as they state "at the end of any game turn" as the victory condition.

      7. Scenery is something I want to look into. I agree there wasn't enough and that 6th needs more really.

      8. Forge World probably isn't that bad but the difference is that people aren't as aware of it. There's no question that they're legal in 40K though.

      9. As I've said, I'll only play if there's odd numbers. It solves both problems.

      Sorry if some of that seems negative. I've toyed with a lot of these ideas before and at some point you realise that whatever you do there'll be people penalised so I'd prefer to keep things simple.

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  2. Good to see you taking your event seriously... Looking at your thoughts on Suppliments, and such I think your straying into that "punish" territory too much. I think a lite touch is all you need, so since a theme players have come to expect from BW is the mandatory SC, why not extend that and say each codex used requires a SC... You wanna play SM? sure, but you need a SM SC... Wanna add IG to the SM? OK, the IG need a SC too.

    If you feel it needs more, then extend the bonus for killing the SC to the allied SC too (maybe at 50% the primary, so +75pts?)

    Just a thought.

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    1. I do take it seriously, perhaps too seriously! I was actually recently thinking about the opposite kind of comp though with allies not being allowed SCs rather than being forced to take one. Again, it's something that benefits some books and punishes others but I don't like the idea that you see an SC in a 500pt allied detachment just to get the benefit of his rules. Something to think about though.

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    2. Hmmm, it is a tough one... Maybe cut out allied HQs entirely. Whenever someone allies its for that Fateweaver, or maxed out Tau Commander.

      It would still allow flavorful units, and the MCs, but keep out the HQs and their force multiplying powers.

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    3. If you cut out allied HQs I would shift the allied min requirements from the 1 HQ & 1 Troop to 2 Troops.

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    4. The only other allied limiter I can think of you could use without needed to go further is to not allow allies to break the FOC... For example your only allowed 3 Heavy Supports, and that includes your allies (2x Broadside teams and a SM Pread for example).

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  3. I think you've pretty much got the balance right so far. As for some armies scoring more than 25 in the first round, why not just cap things at 25 pts and 1850 pts per round?

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    1. I want to have a flick through all of the codices to see just how many of these bonus points there actually are. Trouble with capping the points is that something like an Ethereal doesn't have any downsides then. The bonus points are theoretically there to balance out a low point cost (Ethereal) or excellent special rule (FNP/EW on Lone Wolves). Again something I'll be looking at more closely beore BW7.

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  4. I thought BW6 went really well - I didn't even know about the tabling issue until after my 2nd game and my middling placing reflected by middling performance on the day (unlike BW5 - which was nice, but silly).

    My only comment is probably aimed more at the gaming centre than you - but mimics Grazer comment about terrain; I read a really good article a few months ago (cant seem to find it now) about how tournaments (and regular players) are still using 5th Ed terrain and it is becoming really disadvantageous to some players - sometimes without them realising it.

    6th Ed was written with lots of terrain in mind (6xD3...so 12 pieces per board on average) and is intended to use more LOS blocking terrain. With a armies now being able to take away cover saves and alpha strikes returning, a couple of trees and a big ruined building full of windows doesn't really cut-it.

    In my 3 games, there were 2 pieces of terrain on the tables that were true LOS blocking...

    I understand that terrain is more down to the centre and they might not have enough to double up/change the terrain type, I just wondered what other people thought?

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    1. I would like to use more terrain. What I'm considering is actually rolling for each segment like the rulebook suggests. I wouldn't have time on the day to mess about rolling for them but I can randomly generate the numbers in advance so that there are a mixture of tables with loads of scenery and some with less.

      We went round and tried to add LOS blocking terrain to tables that didn't have it but it's always difficult to figure out the right balance of terrain as you don't know who'll be playing who on the tables.

      I'll take it on board though and try to introduce more terrain. There were certainly pieces available that we didn't use.

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  5. personally I feel Blog Wars just keeps getting better, and yes this time there were a few hiccups with the scoring/results etc but that's to be expected considering you run it on your own! I agree about there not really being that much terrain, but that doesn't really bother me being one of the "gun line" armies. maybe you could encourage people to bring a LoS blocking terrain piece with them?

    I disagree with banning supplements, as I really want to bring a fluffy inquisition list. I know some of the combos become really cheesy and broken but hopefully people attending blog Wars know that it's not "that" kind of tournament.

    I thought the scoring system and scenarios were pretty fair, and as closed to balanced for each army as you're ever going to get in 40k!!

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    1. As I said above, there were plenty of bits of terrain we didn't use and with hindsight we should've put more down. Hopefully people will find the situation has improved for BW7.

      You would hope people knew BW wasn't about that and indeed that's why I don't want to ban supplements. A lot of the guys who come regularly want to bring something themed and I don't want them to feel restricted.

      I'm glad the scenarios seemed fair. I'm aiming to keep them pretty much unchanged.

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  6. I've nearly finished my '40k Missions & Maps' supplement. If you want to borrow missions or deployment maps from that, you're more than welcome!

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  7. LOVE THE MISSIONS FROM BW SIX AND LOOK FORWARD TO USING THEM AGAIN. THE BALANCE OF TWENTY FIVE POINTS PER MISSION IS GREAT. THE SUGGESTION TO CAP AT TWENTY FIVE POINTS SEEMS LIKE A GOOD ONE> IF YOUR OPPONENT SPAWNS A MILLION TERMAGANTS AND YOU BEAT HIM YOU EARN TWENTY FIVE. IF YOU LOSE YOU MAY STILL EARN TWENTY FIVE POINTS BECAUSE YOU WERE GIVEN SO MANY FREEBIES! CAN SEE NO DOWNSIDE TO EITHER PLAYER. MORE TERRAIN IS AN ESSENTIAL THOUGH. COULD IT BE ROLLED UP FOR ALL TABLES THE NIGHT BEFORE? THERS USUALLY A BUNCH OF US AROUND> NOT SHOUTING BY THE WAY. MY SHIFT KEY IS JAMMED AND I NEED A NEW KEYBOARD!

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    1. Hey Hippo! This is totally unrelated to blog wars, but is a trick ive used in exactly your situation. try using your caps lock key as a kind of inverse shift key till you can fix the keyboard, in most systems, it should get you back to lower case. Reading your post as if you were shouting it all definitely gave me a chuckle :-)

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    2. You're right I think capping them is the way to go. As I say I want to read through all the dexes to make sure I'm not missing something though.

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    3. Thanks Andy! Look I'm a Happy Hippo again!

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