Tuesday, August 31, 2010


PS - (that's pre script, no postscript, CONTEXT!!) This post is super long. I didn't mean for it to be, but I got sort of excited and started ranting at a few points. These things just make me so crazy sometimes...

The NOVA Open was basically a huge success. There's been a few dissenting opinions (mostly from people who didn't go?) but for the most part, it was an awesome event for all parties.

There's been one specific criticism that I've seen a few times that I really don't get at all. How can anyone hate on the scoring? It is very clearly superior to every other method both competitively and casually. So why all the hate?

If you don't like the transparent missions, whatever, that's your opinion. I mean, you're wrong, but it still is the type of thing where I could at least consider your argument for having secret missions*. Secret missions can be good in that they negate list tailoring in favor of balanced lists (or completely unbalanced lists, either you build a list to take all comers, or you build a list that focuses on tabling regardless of the scenario) and it seems to make games more about player skill. This, of course, assumes that all scenarios and codices are balanced. They tend not to be, however, so what might seem like an otherwise balanced force, might become unusable if the scenarios are bad. (see 'Ard Boyz 2010 round 1)Scenarios aren't something I'm remotely qualified to talk about, though, so I will just leave it at both sides of the coin have some decent arguments (providing *) and move on.

I've seen some talk about how the Nova's single elimination format was bad compared to the usual system with battle points and/or massacre/major win/minor win/draw/minor loss/major loss/whatever. This is quite untrue, if you ask me. Frankly, the single elimination format is the best there is**. Ironic in that it is especially the best option if you are a "less-than-competitive" gamer. (meaning that it is the best format no matter what you're goals are in the tournament)

How is it better?
Let's do a bit of analysis on both types of scoring and then in the end I'll give my thoughts on why one is so much better than the other for both parties.

GW created this system, and it has been used in basically every tournament since the game's inception. I know of two tournaments in all of history that have used anything else. (the NOVA being one and the other being the BMF tournament of recent infamy thanks to DashofPepper***) That's not to say other systems never get used but, frankly, they don't.

First of all, this system causes inaccurate rankings. So what if you went 5-0, if all your wins were minor victories then you'll still be far behind anyone with a couple of massacres and a remotely positive WLD. So prevalent is this, that I've almost never heard of a tournament that didn't end up getting ranked this way. It seems a given that, in any event, someone with the best WLD will be somewhere other than first place.

Maybe that's not so bad, right? I mean, the fact that someone with 3-0-2 got 3 massacres means he's probably better than someone that only barely won 5 times, right? Perhaps. Or perhaps the 5-0 guy played SW all day, when the 3-0-2 guy played against 3 Necron lists. This system makes matchups and pairings worth more to the rankings than the games themselves. Any good players facing each other are doomed to life outside the top 4, because it is unlikely either of them will get a massacre.

Which brings me to my second (and more important) point: massacres are necessary to win. Even a single game resulting in anything less than a massacre (especially a draw or a loss) basically eliminates you from the tournament. Therefore, it is necessary for all players to strive for a massacre. Meaning that the tournament format requires players to play like jerks.

Ah, so we finally get to the meat of it. Suddenly every tiny rules discrepency, every millimeter of movement, every cocked die, every everything becomes direly important. If there is something that you are even just barely unsure about, it is worth questioning because it could mean the difference between massacre and elimination.

Not only this, but forcing the massacre means your game plan in every game will be some variant of "table the opponent as fast as possible". Obviously objectives, table quarters, etc. come into play as well, but generally speaking the best way to ensure a massacre is to completely wipe out as much of the opponent as possible while sustaining as few casualties yourself. This is surely a good game plan regardless, sort of akin to saying "don't die, kill the badguys", but when it becomes absolutely necessary to rank well in the event, people are forced to play like rules-lawyer jerks and games often end with bad feelings.

Single Elimination
In this type of system, at the end of the day the winner is 5-0, then everyone else is ranked in order behind that: 4-1, 3-1, etc. There is never any question of how anyone is doing, or who will come in first, or anything like that. Like Stelek said over at YTTH, (paraphrasing) "In this system, I know whoever wins has to go through me to get there." This is an especially good point. In this type of system there will never be a case of somebody winning because they got lucky and dodged all the hard opponents. It's a safe bet that in order to be (legitimately) considered better than Andrew in a tournament, you're going to have to either beat him or beat someone else that beat him. This system ensures that this happens, meaning that only the person who could beat everyone else wins. (ie, the best player)

Best of all, nobody ever has to worry that they aren't doing well enough as long as they are winning. This system encourages games to be fun. Sure, players are still trying to win, but playing hardcore, balls-to-the-wall games isn't necessary. Pairings and matchups can and will still cause one-sided games, but in these situations rather than mercilessly slaughtering the weaker player, the stronger player can play a slightly more casual game. Go ahead and charge solos Mephiston and Logan Grimnar into each other just for fun to see what happens. As long as it doesn't necessarily affect the outcome of the game (in the case of a veteran player facing a novice, where it's fairly obvious who will win anyways, for example), you can do fun things like this. In the end, everyone has enjoyable games, even if they lose, but it isn't necessary to play like a dick in order to win.

Any system utilizing BP, or massacres, or whatever, necessitates grabbing every advantageous opportunity and running as far and as fast as possible before the other guy can do anything to stop you. Not only does this type of system cause strife between various player groups, but it also makes the final rankings a bit less than accurate.

Elimination systems, on the other hand, encourage more enjoyable games (because it doesn't matter how you win as long as you do) and give more objectively accurate ranking results in the end.

For these reasons, it is fairly easy to see that an elimination style event would be more enjoyable for all parties. "Competitive" types because of the more objective rankings, and "fluffy" (or otherwise "less-than-competitive") types because of the more enjoyable games. Now, when I say things like "less-than-competitive" or "fluffy", I don't mean it in a derogatory manner. It is an undeniable fact that some people attend tournaments to try to win them (those being "competitive" players [not to be confused with WAAC players!]), and some people attend them because they like the environment and just want to play games (those being "less-than-competitive" players). Both halves of the hobby are not wrong, and we should strive to include everyone in our events. This is the real benefit of the elimination style****: everyone who is part of this hobby can and will enjoy themselves in this type of event.

BP/massacre rules don't especially lend anything to less-than-competitive events, unlike things such as soft scores, for example. For this reason, I do not really understand why so many people have been resistant to this new style. Perhaps it is a matter of it being new and scary. Perhaps it is a matter of GW made it so it must be good. Perhaps there has been such a long-standing rivalry between the two "factions" of 40k, that the "goodguys" can't accept anything done by the "badguys" no matter how great it might be. I don't know what the case may be, but it seems to me like where "competitive" gamers everywhere should be happy about how great a change the NOVA's rules were for them, "less-than-competitive" gamers should be hoisting Mike on their shoulders and parading him through town like that kid on TV that invented tacos with square bottoms. Mike has put together an incredible competitive event, but I'd think he'd be more accepted as the champion of "less-than-competitive" gamers at this point.

What do I think?
I think this scoring system is an incredible step in the right direction. This single change will probably lead to uniting this hobby more than anything else from the NOVA. (other than, perhaps, Mike himself, obviously) Ultimately, uniting the hobby is what we all want. There are some people out there on their internets who seem to want nothing less than this very thing, however I can assure you this is the ultimate goal of every reasonable 40k-playing human in the world. Every reasonable "competitive" player and every reasonable "less-than-competitive" player out there would enjoy the game more if everything were unified. WAACs and CAACs****** obviously need not apply. (but they're all jerks anyways, so nobody cares) More enjoyable games in tournaments, means more tournaments, means more GW support, means more... you get the point.

So what do I think about the format itself? It's good, but double elimination is better. Double elimination is more complex and can easily take twice as long or more, but I believe it provides a more fair and objective outcome while still maintaining the same level of enjoyment for all participants. (more even since you will ultimately get to play more games, which is good right?)

Both single elimination and BP/etc. systems can be ruined by a single game. Even if everything is completely balanced, how hard is it to lose a single game? Maybe your dice turn up less than average and your opponent's turn up better than average for a game. Maybe you've been up since 7am, have been playing a number of seriously intense games all day, and your brain starts to crap out on you. Who knows what the reason may be, but it is quite conceivable to lose a game "on accident", so to speak. I'm not talking about a game that you should have totally won if it had ended on turn 5 instead of going to 6, or anything like that. Just, it's possible that perhaps your one loss may not have been a fair representation of your ability.

Everyone knows that flukes happen, but with double elimination you get a second chance to prove yourself. In this system, the winner will be the only one with one or less losses. (instead of just the one left with no losses) The only awkward problem that could happen is the final table having to play twice. A scenario:

Final Round:
Player A is undefeated
Player B has one loss
Player B wins, but since it's only A's first loss they have to play again

This happens occasionally in fighting game tournaments which very often employ this type of ranking. It is fair in fighting games and not such a big deal, but due to the nature of 40k (or more specifically, its average game length) it might be sort of annoying to have to do another. Especially if it was a close, tiring, or otherwise mentally draining game.

I'm not exactly sure how to circumvent this, but it really won't happen every time, and if that's the only bad thing about the format then I still say it's fairly clear that it's superior.

Ah, I mean, other than the fact that double elimination is a lot more involved. The complexity and sheer number of games/ammount of time required might make it less than ideal for something with more than the NOVA's worth of attendees. If we're talking about sheer objective ranking power, though, I say it can't be beat.


* - I am referring to actually secret missions, not the 'secret to everyone that doesn't live here and playtest' missions.

** - Personally, I prefer double elimination. It takes longer and is significantly more complicated, but I feel like it is a more balanced ranking system. It is entirely possible to have a bad game, or get some unlucky dice, or whatever else that causes you to lose a single game, but with double elimination you get a chance to redeem yourself and to balance out any unfortunate happenstance.

*** - Such a shame, all that nonsense. Hits home with me especially because I too live in Jacksonville. I'm on the other side of the city from Dash though, and the store in question is a much longer drive than I'm willing to put in so I've never been there before. And now I never will.

**** - I prefer Sosetsouken myself.*****

***** - Totally. Lame. Pun...

****** - WAAC is obviously "Win At All Costs", but what is CAAC? CAAC is an acronym that I just invented for "Casual At All Costs".******* It's a term that I really can't believe hasn't been invented yet.******** I feel like it really deserves to exist though. If for no other reason than to prove a point. CAAC gamers are people who are completely insane about casual games. They will do everything in their power to keep games they play as casual as possible. Regardless of any consequences to others. (people like that don't exist...) They are not above having people banned from gaming venues if they feel like they play too competitively. (starting to sound more like reality?) At the very least, they will verbally berate "competitive" players at every turn, tell them they are ruining the hobby, 'how dare they not play the correct casual way', and will most likely refuse to ever play in a game against anyone branded as "competitive". Hope to The Emprah that you never accidentally mention anything other than casual gaming around these guys. There will be hell to pay.

But, "less-than-competitive" gamers say, that's only a small portion of us. Most of us are actually fairly reasonable. We just prefer to play casual games.

You don't say?

See where I'm going with this? Playing petty name-calling games may not get us anywhere, but the situation is the same on each side of the coin, and that is what needs to be understood. One of the things I saw in the DashofPepper fiasco that enraged me the most (other than the BMF thing, ARGH!!!! Seriously Jacksonville? Fucking, seriously? He brings a hard list (as hard as DE get, anyways) to your so-titled BADDEST MOTHERFUCKER tournament advertised as "NO WHINING, NO CRYING, WIN OR GO HOME", wins it, and then gets completely torn apart because "that's not the scene in Jacksonville" well what the fuck else did you expect him to think when the tournament was calledBADDEST MOTHERFUCKER, and the tagline was "NO WINING, NO CRYING, WIN OR GO HOME"? he was probably relieved that the scene was now supporting such things. Just imagine how he must have felt when everyone started yelling at him because he won. Imagine being adrift at sea for a few weeks, a ship happens to come by and pick you up, what's better they're the same nationality as you! Huzzah, you're saved! Nope, they say they're going to execute you the next morning because you might be a spy or some nonsense. A bit more extreme than what happened to Dash, but seriously guys. Fuck. Makes me ashamed that I live in the same city as these people. At least I'm way on the other side, but still. Just, fuck.)

...Ok, where was I? ah yes: one of the things I saw in the Dash fiasco was that a lot of people were yelling at him with things like "how dare you try to push your beliefs of the right way to play the game on us..." I'm going to yell at you for trying to change the way I play to conform to the way you play, and then yell at you for not playing the way I play. See how hypocritical this is? This is the argument I see get used at pretty much every argument against "competitive" gamers. If I say that I expect that the people that use this argument tend to be CAACs, then I hope you will see what I mean by the term and why I think it is necessary to prove a point.

******* - Alternatives include: Fun At All Costs, Fluff At All Costs, or Hobby At All Costs. None of these really quite capture the point though. The point being that these people are the same type of asshole fuckshits that WAAC players are, except they are that about non-competitive games. Also, it kind of sounds like a funny way to say cock, so, you know. Win.

******** - Sorry for all these footnotes, but I need to say something. Yes, I can believe it's never been invented before. WAAC was a term invented by "less-than-competitive" gamers about "competitive" gamers. It refers to a type of person that is a complete asshat that all competitive players get stereotyped into being. The fact of the matter is the reason CAAC has never been invented before, is because where "less-than-competitive" players feel like they need this sort of thing, "competitive" players are almost universally laid back about the whole thing and have never had a need to create petty labels like this. "Fluff bunny" and other such terms aren't quite the same, because it doesn't really hold any detestable attributes to it. Nobody thinks fluffy games are bad. Perhaps not for everyone, but if that's what you like to play, nobody is going to hold it against you. (unless you try to pull that shit in a tournament) WAAC on the other hand, is someone who is completely without any redeeming qualities. For potential reasons why, check out a previous article I wrote with the part about "less-than-competitive" players feeling victimized because they never get to win. That, or perhaps "competitive" gamers are just more mature. (obviously I mean that with the greatest amount of sarcasm and/or facete)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Tasty Ice Cream

If all you had was fat free ice cream your whole life, you'd still eat it right? I mean, it sucks but it's all you have, and it really isn't that bad. Maybe you won't eat it every night after dinner, but every once in a while you'll give in because you forgot how much it sucked last time, or just because you haven't had dessert in a while and you just want something.

The NOVA was the Warhammer community getting its first taste of real ice cream.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Misconceptions About Comp Scoring

Comp scoring sucks.*

Comp scoring (or composition scoring) is where you get or lose a certain number of points added to, or reducto'd[] from, your overall (rank-determining) score based on the composition of your army list.

Best case scenario: The TO's put out comp requirements ahead of time (ie: you start with 10 points and are allowed 2 troops plus 1 of each other FOC, -2 points for special characters, -1 for every extra FOC, -1 for every duplicate unit, etc or some other set of written rules, whatever). This system seems the worst because of how inflexible and UNFAIR it is, but at least you know what to expect.

Worst case scenario: There is a panel of judge(s) that reviews each list and assigns comp scores. This might seem like a good idea because having a set of rules like the above can cause pure Deathwing armies to score very low even though they're terrible, but having an actual person reading your list guarantees that you'll get scored appropriately. Except that it doesn't work that way irlz. The judge(s) usually use some sort of standardized criteria like the above anyways for the basis of their scoring, except they also put their own personal spin on it.

Either way is bad.

So why do people insist on comp scoring?

It promotes variety
I don't know who came up with this reason, but I imagine they had to queue into the meeting using the tele-conference equipment in their padded bedroom. How does restricting the use of some units promote variety? It discourages the use of special characters, many of which shuffle the FOC around and create diverse lists. In fact, it discourages just about anything that shifts the FOC.

Bloodwing? Can't do it (competitively) without at least 1 character (but probably more) and several troop options, netting you major comp deductions.

Loganwing? Can't do it (competitivel) without at least 1 character and basically maxed troop options. Fortunately, SW are super-customizable so it's easy to game the system and make all your squads unique, at least.

SM Bikers? Granted you technically don't need to use a character to get it, it still pretty much requires absolutely optimized maxed troops to work properly. FAIL.

Nob bikers? Ironically, this army list fits very well into the usual criteria. No characters, it can live on min troops, squads are incredibly customizable and so duplicates are easy to avoid, etc. NOTE THAT THIS IS THE EXACT TYPE OF LIST COMP SCORING IS TRYING TO GET RID OF!!!

Necrons/DE/GK/etc? Well, your codex only has 1 or 2 options for each slot so to even hope to reach the points level at all you're going to be forced into a bad comp score due to maxing your FOC. Great.

So there are some just off the top of my head. (and in events where SCs are banned altogether, some of these won't be legal at all) How does making a number of army configurations basically unusable promote variety? Oh wait, it doesn't...

It levels the competitive playing field
Actually, no it doesn't. If anything, it makes it worse. Let's see...

Imperial Guard - Easy to game most comp systems using giant squads that only take up single FOC slots and the fact that they can take big guns everywhere.

Nob Bikers - Easy to game most comp systems using minimum troop units and extensive customization options.

Anything single-rock - Generally speaking, single-rock forces have one giant, mega-unit and everything else is just there to take objectives, or whatever. Without the need for a lot of synergy or extra support, these lists can really just max their rock and then take min of whatever else and get relatively decent comp scores while basically crushing most non-optimized lists.

IG, Nob Bikers, and Single Rock armies are the "cheese" lists of 40k. Whether or not this title is deserved, that's still the reputation they get. "Cheese" lists are the exact things that comp is trying to discourage, and here we have three of them that can do rather well in a comp environment. This really hurts considering some of the older codices (Dark Eldar, Witch/Daemon Hunters, Necrons**, etc.) have trouble putting together competitive lists in the confines of comp scoring. So in the end, strong codecies can still make strong lists and some strong lists can game the system to maintain decent comp scores, while poor codecies really get hammered. Seems rather counter-productive to me.

Perhaps that's a bit cynical. It's easy to imagine a comp system that fails just to prove my point. I might argue that that's exactly what I just did. What can't be disputed, however, is that comp scoring causes hurt feelings worse than non-comped events for the simple reason that not everyone cares about them.

Maybe you're spiteful and bring the hardest list you can irrespective of comp scoring. Maybe you're a fluffy gamer, and your army of choice happens to be hard and score badly on comp. Maybe you only own the exact models for your single army list that happens to be hard and score badly on comp and you can't afford to change. Whatever the reason may be, some people are going to bring hardcore lists anyways.

On the other hand, some people are going to go "huzzah, a comp tourney, I can bring my fun list and not worry about anything". Or, if you'd rather me be more fair, some people will just bring normal lists. In either case, when this group of people meet the hardcore-anyways group, bad things are going to happen.

So, even being generous, some people still come with hard lists, some people still get hopelessly crushed, and variety is reduced***. Please stop with the comp already****.


* - This is actually a well-known fact, so not really a misconception. I'm getting there...

** - Necrons, arguably, don't matter since it's pretty hard to make a competitive list out of their codex regardless of comp score. Or points limit, for that matter...

*** - I can't stress enough how much this confuses and enrages me. We're going to promote variety by banning certain units. ARGH!

**** - I think comp scoring is one of those things that everyone pretty much unanimously hates, but is still popular anyways. (3D movies? Neopolitan ice cream?)

Seriously, how often do you hear about anyone enjoying comp? At best, they are indifferent, but usually it's more akin to "sigh, another comp tourney..."

Friday, August 20, 2010

Bad habits

So I have this really bad habit of writing things and then not posting them. This post, for example, I wrote several weeks ago and then did nothing with it. Because of working and going to school so much in the last 2 years, I have sort of developed this mindset that any second of the day that I'm not working, doing school, or doing something leisurely (playing videogames or reading, usually) is a complete waste of my time. Despite being graduated, this has sort of still stuck with me to some degree. I'm trying to get over it, but it's hard sometimes. This mindset is what causes me to go a long time without posting anything here. I might start several articles, but if I put more than a few minutes in at a time, I feel like I'm wasting precious time that could be spent elsewhere.

In any case, here is the article I wrote a few weeks ago. It's about a topic that was relevant at the time when there were conversations going on at YTTH about it. Without further ado:

Yet another reason 40k should be more like fighting games.

This week, there was a friendly discussion (oddly enough, I do mean that it was actually fairly friendly) over at YTTH about the way 40k tournaments should be scored. I've had some thoughts on this that got completely neglected in the midst of MVB being awesome (come on guys, I even submitted the clutchest-shit-ever video) so, in an effort to practice putting thoughts into words I'm going to write about it here.

Seeding and pairing is something that is also quite important to establishing a "winner" in an objective way, but since it doesn't really have a correlary in fighting games* I won't be talking about it here.

40k tournaments are ranked using a system that seems very alien and, well, wrong to me. Ok, obviously, there are a lot of soft scores thrown into the mix; comp scoring is stupid and does more harm than good**, painting scores I am very supportive of but they should be their own category**, and sportmanship should be a requirement. I am strongly against these in their own right, but that's not what I'm referring to.

40k tournament rankings are based on a points system that is itself based on strength of victory. By that I mean, if you eke out a win in a close game you might get 5 or 6 points, but if you seriously paste someone you might get 4 or 5 times that. This causes things that shouldn't happen like someone going undefeated being ranked second after someone who went 3-0-2 because of total points earned.

This is bad.

Like I said over at YTTH, Daigo Umehara didn't get less credit because he only barely won. In fact, he won that match by literally the smallest margin possible and it still only counted as a W. This is the way it should be in 40k too.

The scoring is usually done with objectives. Primary objective grants X points, Secondary objective grants Y points, bonus objectives... etc. This is good for tactics and such ensuring that games aren't all about last man standing, but it really hurts the rankings.

I understand that Warhammer games take a lot of resources to play. A fighting game tournament can take place in a day or two and can easily accomodate hundreds (or thousands even, in the case of EVO) of players, where Warhammer in this format would be basically impossible; the NOVA Open had 88 players and it was a fairly solid two-day event. (this is a fairly interesting thing, in my opinion, that I will probably talk about at a later date) This is how it needs to be, however.

The point is that the way Warhammer is typically scored is flawed and can lead to unfair rankings. Not only this, but it necessitates being a complete waac asshole in order to place well.

At the end of the day, I feel like BP scoring creates rankings that are more objectively accurate towards the end of the list, where WLD is more objectively accurate towards the front.*** Obviously in a tournament, nobody cares about how accurately the bottom players are represented (or anyone out of the top 4 or 5, really) so if we can ensure the top 4 are reported accurately, then why not?


* - Fighting game tournaments (usually) use a double-elimination bracketed ladder system. (except most of the big national ones, which I believe are single elimination ladders) There is probably some basis for round 1 pairings (qualifier round performance, region of origin, TO's wanting to keep big names away from each other to keep big hype games from happening until close to the end, or whatever else) but I am not especially familiar with what mechanisms they use, and considering the double elimination it doesn't really make that big of a difference in the long run anyways. Pairings in later rounds are obviously determined by the brackets.

** - Comp scoring is bad. Please stop it. I was going to write about it here, but I think it deserves its own post. Perhaps later.

Painting scores are also bad. I love the creative half of the hobby as much as the next guy that loves the creative half of the hobby, but figuring creative scores into generalship scores hurts both halves of the hobby. Not only does it hurt the good generals who are bad painters (or who can't be bothered to paint their stuff), but it also hurts the badass painters who aren't such great generals. Both tactical and createive geniuses get swept under the rug, unnoticed, in favor of people who are maybe slightly above average at both. Bad.

I understand that games involving painted armies are a lot more interesting than games without. Want to give some incentive to bringing painted armies? Fine by me. Make it a requirement (3 color+, or whatever), make it some sort of fair extra scoring (1 for paint 0 for no paint, or best painted as tie-breaker or something - although, that doesn't quite seem like a good idea either), or I bet if you make a secondary painting tournament with equal rewards to the gaming side enough people will make an effort to paint their stuff just to increase their chance of winning something. In this regard, the NOVA Open did it right.

*** - BP rankings will have people who have lost and done mediocre spread fairly accurately in the lower half of the list, but the top will be more about whoever got lucky with their pairings and such. On the other hand, the WLD system will have undefeated in first place, X-1 in second place, X-2 in third place etc, but as you get to the bottom it gets a little less accurate because many people probably went 1-X or 2-X.

Monday, August 2, 2010