Tournaments – Win Big or Go Home

TournamentsI’m far from an experienced tournament goer since I’ve only played in five of them and all of them local. That being said, at my FLGS we’re all discussing our current method of scoring, from army composition scores to the very core of determining the overall winner. I won’t touch on army comp scores, that’s a hot topic for another day. Most of the discussion has been around determining the overall winner. The method we currently use theis  massacre, major win, minor win and draw system (MMMD).

Nobody is 100% happy with the current method. The inherent problem with the MMMD system is it penalizes weaker armies, the armies that are in desperate need of a new codex or a good FAQ. The MMMD system grants you points depending on how big of a win you get. Naturally a massacre gets you the most points and a minor win the least, other than a draw of course. People who are playing these weaker armies are usually already fighting tooth and nail for a win, nevermind trying to pull out a massacre. The reality is that if you aren’t pulling out big wins with each game then you stand no chance at all of winning the tournament. It doesn’t matter you went 3-0 if you didn’t go 3-0 big enough.

I am not the most competitive player you’ll meet by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve been enjoying the tournaments and I enjoy winning but it’s just not my nature to try and beat down someone as brutally as I can for points. To me, a win is a win is a win. Is the person who can massacre their opponent and also claim 3-5 battle points on top of it the better player than the person only taking minor wins? They very well may be but unless those two people face off then you can’t be sure. So much depends on your list, your opponent’s list, the mission being played, etc. With so many variables can we really say the person ending the night with the most points is truly the best player? You could have ended up with ideal matches, facing an army and list that your list was meant to destroy. On the other hand, the person playing the outdated army is getting wins and doing well but isn’t clearing the points needed to win. This person isn’t getting those ideal matches. Is that person truly the weaker player or the victim of circumstance? Don’t get me wrong, I’m taking nothing away from the person clearing major points at the end of the day, just food for thought.

In a normal local tournament environment the reality is that you don’t have the time to do a tournament style that will ensure the victor of the day is indeed the best player there. Instead we have to use approaches that give the best results possible in a limited amount of time. I’m not sure that the MMMD method is the best for that. Other than the players with weaker armies taking a hit, the fact is that someone who scores a draw their first game and is a good player could win the tournament. Player A takes a draw on game #1 and then goes on to win the last two games. Player B won the first two games and then lost the last. In this case Player A can have more points with a MMMD system depending on how big those wins were and how big Player B lost. The fact player A has more points just doesn’t seem right. The first draw put Player A against others who got losses or draws while Player B moved on to fight other winners. Player B won again and the last game was against another equal, a much harder game than the one Player A was playing yet Player A scores higher. Doesn’t seem fair that Player B who did well for the day and fought much harder matches should lose to a player who had, in theory anyway, the easier games for the day.

Another system is Swiss Pairings. This was something someone at the FLGS had mentioned and so I did some research and found this great post. This takes on a WLD (win, loss, draw), approach. If you go 3-0 and someone else went 2-1 then you have a higher standing, pretty simple. That link also shows some great approaches to dealing with tie-breakers, which will naturally arise in a much simpler system. However, this system also suffers a problem that the MMMD system does, that being Player A who draws the first game and goes on to win the next two compared to our Player B who wins the first two and loses the last. Swiss Pairings do get around the problem of weaker armies not placing well since it’s all based on wins and losses.

I rather like the idea of Swiss Pairings, it suits my style, but how do you rectify the issue of Player A? You could award more points for the first game than you do the last two and that would avoid the Player A situation but is that the right approach? Your first match is unpredictable. You could face a really new player or a long time veteran. If you’re facing a new player and utterly destroy them then should you really get more points for that first game? It makes sense to actually award more points for the last game since theoretically it’s going to be your toughest one of the day but that only promotes the Player A syndrom.

So my question is, what do you all think? Is there a really fair approach to 40K tournaments on the local scene that does not take an entire day to get through and offers up a reasonable way to ensure the overall winner is indeed just that?


I began playing Warhammer 40K in 2006, and have been an avid player and hobbyist since then. I have also been blogging about 40K for almost as long as I've been playing it, having started Creative Twilight in 2009.

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