The Evolution of a Tournament by Franco Marrufo

28 Jun


At the beginning of the year I went to the Throne of Skulls tournament at Warhammer World and was blown away. It was the first time I had been to there and could barely get much more than “Ooooh” and “Aaaaah” out of my mouth for the first couple of hours – it made for an interesting game against Dave who happened to be my first opponent of the tournament. After remorselessly crushing Dave beneath the might of my superior Tau weaponry (needless to say he did not roll well that game) I went for a proper look around. I just couldn’t get over the place. I’m not one for getting starstruck, but when I came face to face with the actual Ghazghkull model from the pages of my Ork Codex only a thin pane of glass stopped me from immediately asking for an autograph.

I had great fun at the Throne of Skulls, and almost immediately found myself wondering how I would go about organising my own tournament at Warhammer World. I wanted something that was fun like ToS, but did not lose its competitive edge in the process. Something that would produce a clear victor, but at the same time I knew that a tournament cannot be run for just one person.

In deciding upon a format I analysed several common formats for tournaments which, for simplicity sake, I’m going to call The Playoff System, The Victory Point System, and The Tournament Point System. In working through this process I created a hypothetical person I call ‘The Best Player in the World’ (or BPW). BPW has earned this title by virtue of the fact that they win every single game they ever play. They might not win by much, they may even consistently be at a victory point deficit, but they always win – and that’s the most important thing really. So we wanted a system that ensured BPW always wins but, very importantly, that wasn’t all about the winner and had something for everyone regardless of overall position.

So first off there is the Playoff System, whereby everyone plays through a set number of rounds, and in each round half of the players are eliminated until there are only two left and those two decide the victor. This produces a clear victor (which is good news for BPW), but the main issue I have with it is that after your first game you could be completely out of the running. In our tournament we have capacity for 128 players, if after round one 64 of those people could no longer win and couldn’t even make it into the top 64 it would be a little harsh. So I disregarded it, even if not completely.

Then there’s the Victory Point system. Typically this means that tournament points are used, but that victory points split the difference between the players for ranking purposes. This a solid system and the only issue I have with it is in determining the overall winner of the tournament. This is because VPs, to me, are kind of beside the point in terms of win, lose or draw. A win is a win is a win, and it doesn’t matter if you tabled the guy or had one squad of 1 left while they had their entire army almost completely untouched. If at the end of a VP tournament there a few folks on the same game record/tournament score then one of them will take the prize because their VP difference is the highest. BPW won’t always come out the winner in this system, so on that sole basis I disregarded it, even if not completely…

Then there is the tournament point system. Typically it will award tournament points (out of 20 say) depending on your performance in game. It allows for having some bad matches early on and it encourages a kind of gung-ho ‘all or nothing’ style of play that can make for some dramatic (if vicious) games as everyone constantly strives for the big 20-0 win. The main problem is that a close win might as well be a close loss as far as the points are concerned. If you get 11 points for a close win, and 9 for a close loss, what’s real difference? BPW probably won’t win this tournament; they might not get much above mid-rankings under these rules in fact. So we disregarded this system and, despite the fact I do personally quite enjoy it, it was completely disregarded this time.

So after all that what do we have? We’ve got one system that passes the BPW test, and another 2 that don’t discount half the room after one round. So what we wanted was a tournament that has aspects of each of these – one that both passed the BPW test, but wasn’t just about BPW. One that was fluffy without being silly. Most importantly we wanted to run more than just a tournament, we wanted to run an event. We wanted something that would really get people talking, and talking about more than just the games they played.

So first of all we created a theme, and this was The End Times. The enemies of man are all around, and the time of the Imperium is rapidly coming to an end. Will it go out in a bang? Or a whisper? Can it survive the tide of xenos and daemonic filth that threatens to overwhelm it? Or will it be irresistibly consumed with barely a whimper before the end? This is what our event would be about, a massive team event that pitted all the xenos players in the room against the Imperiums finest. There would be individual rankings and scores, but the theme of the event would be clear throughout – these are The End Times. Regardless of why any of us play 40k now, the fluff is what got us here. Superhuman Space Marines and elegant Eldar are just so much cooler than cowboys v Indians and it was important to us to make a point of that.

For our format, we went for a combo. We wanted to use the Victory Point system initially, because it’s clear and reliable, but we wanted to determine the overall victor by way of a playoff system. So what we settled on was 5 games using tournament points (and victory points to split the difference), and then an invitation to the top 8 players in the room into a 3 game playoff system to determine ranks 1 to 8. 5 games gives everyone enough time represent themselves well and get in the top 8, then the playoffs will give us a clear victor overall. Everyone who does not get into the playoffs will continue on with their tournament points for the final 3 games and will continue to take part in the massive Imperium v Xenos team event. We made sure that the best prizes you can take home are for those who did not take a place in the playoffs, as playoffs participants have enough in the way of pride to play for.

The players who do not get into the playoffs will be playing to determine ranks 9+, but also for a special title – The Champion of the Imperium, and The Scourge of the Imperium – for the top Imperial and Xenos players in the room who are not in the playoffs. The Champion of the Imperium will be the top ranked Imperial player in the room who is not in the playoffs, and the Scourge will be the top ranked likewise Xenos player. For the Champion we have life sized Fists of Ultramar to take home (that you can actually put on and bop people with!); and the Scourge will get his very own Claw of Horus.

In order to build on the theme of this massive team event, we wanted a big show down between the Imperium and Xenos for the final game of the weekend, and that’s where the grudge match comes in. This will pit the top 8 Imperial players from each Imperial Codex against the top 8 Xenos players from each Xenos codex. If either side wins more matches than the other (so say the Imperium beats Xenos 5 wins to 3) then all the players on their ‘team’ get a small tournament point bonus. This won’t be enough to equal winning another game (not even as much as getting a draw in fact) but will serve as a primary separator between ranks before the VP difference is applied. It’ll mean that if someone has the same win/loss/draw record as you for the weekend but don’t get the bonus then they will drop a few ranks compared to your position. Hopefully this will offer some encouragement for people to take a little more of a range of codices, because if you’re the only (and therefore top ranked) Witch Hunter there, then come game 7 it doesn’t matter what your game record is like, the fate of the Imperium is as much in your hands as it is in all your top rank Imperial brothers hands. The whole room will be paying attention to your game (and 7 others), and you’ll be really playing for something more than just a rank on a board.

In order to build the crescendo of the event to make players feel as if they were moving towards something big over the weekend, the points values of the games start small and work towards something quite large. So it will be 1000pts for the first 4 games, then 3 games at 1500pts, and a big final at 2000pts. This doesn’t give you a huge game at the end, but it’s bigger than the normal tournaments in the UK, which hover around the 1500 and 1750 mark. To further add to the theme of the event we’re going to have folks who are refereeing dressed up as Tech Priests, complete with vocoders in order to sound like Mr Roboto (I say ‘folks’ but more than likely it’ll just be muggins here that will have to put that costume on).

Hopefully what we’ve created is not only a tournament that will appeal to competitive gamers (results will be submitted to RHQ) but also folks who have not really been to a tournament and have previously not really been interested. Hopefully what we’ve done is created more than a competition, we’ve created an event.

It’s worth mentioning that tons of input from tons of sources went into the planning of this event. My local gaming group, friends, and other tournament organisers have been invaluable. Even right up to the tournament pack release, last minute changes were made on the sage advice of Mr Neil Kerr (aka skcuzzlebumm). So thankyou thankyou thankyou to everyone who helped us along this journey, it wouldn’t have been half as well formed if not for you guys, and I would thoroughly recommend seeking likewise assistance for anyone else thinking of running a tournament. Hope to see you all there in August, I’ll be the guy dressed in robes with a funny voice 😉

The End Times will be running on the 20th and 21st of August. Tickets are on sale now and you can pick them up and a full rules pack at, in the Events section. If you have any questions you can send them to or leave a comment below.


3 Responses to “The Evolution of a Tournament by Franco Marrufo”

  1. Sam June 28, 2011 at 19:38 #

    Hmm. I’d like to be bpw but those fists of ultramarr sound….. interesting ^^

  2. Dan Harbour June 30, 2011 at 17:06 #

    I will 100% be buying a ticket for this!

  3. digital unicorn July 2, 2011 at 22:45 #

    I would have been going if it wasn’t so soon. it looks great, i just wont be ready in time.

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