In my local scene I’ve been running the tournaments for several years now for 40k and Age of Sigmar (and WHFB before that). I’m not really a huge fan of comp scoring, as I’ve seen it applied elsewhere with a rather heavy hand, and where it just opens up the door to a different group of top lists that can game the comp system.
This article applies more to 40k than Age of Sigmar, which for a game which many initially decried as unbalanced, seems to have itself better positioned for everyone to have a fun game.
I never really had to worry about comp scoring because I’m spoiled with a great group of players locally who generally never have an issue with bringing a good solid list but nothing too over the top which causes people to have a really bad day. Netlists have been pretty foreign here actually.
A few years ago I changed our prize format to draw prizes only for all of the prize pool, with the exception of engraving winners names on a club trophy for bragging rights, and individual trophies for our big club championship 2 day tourney we have every year in February. So really there’s no monetary reward to stomping everyone’s face in.
This has resulted in us having a pretty friendly, welcoming community for newcomers, where someone can have less than a dozen games under their belt and still attend our tournaments and have a good time and feel like they’re in the mix of things.
Sure we’ve had the odd power gamer or two come to a tournament and stomp face, but generally once they find out this isn’t that sort of community, they normally assimilate quite well into our glorious cult of the broodmind… ahem… I’ve said too much…
So why on earth am I talking about comp scores?
Over the past year we’ve had more of the power lists creeping in than usual. It’s pretty easy to create a tough list in this era of 40K with powerful armies and pretty over the top formations and super heavies. I as a tournament organizer have gone with the “this will all sort itself out” point of view, much like an ostrich, which as everyone knows is the animal with the best perspective of them all!
This all came to a head a week ago when we had our two-day team event. We had 28 players signed up in 4 person teams. This structure was stolen inspired from Adepticon format. The four person team would have 1k lists and would face another team. Two players vs. two players. Add up the scores, and Bob’s your uncle, we’ve got a tournament!
I was happy this year because we had 28 players. This is a relatively new format for us, having only tried this style of tournament a couple of times, but we had grown this year by a full two teams worth so we were growing and things were good and all was right in the world.
To make matters even better we had 8-10 new players. Many of them were such brand new players that this was their first tournament ever. A few had less than five games of 40K under their belt. This wasn’t entirely new for our one day events but is pretty rare for our team event which up until now was always a small turnout of normally the “vets”.
At the beginning announcements day one I talked to the group about there being a LOT of new players, let’s be helpful make sure everyone had a great game, etc. etc. All going well in my brain, let’s get playing!
By day two of the tournament however we had an issue. A number of the newer players came to me and said that they were really having a bad time and getting crushed every game and were literally completely unprepared for the type of lists they were seeing. One full team was going to drop out completely and the team captain was trying to convince them to stick around for the last two games. They were going to leave even though there was over a grand in draw prizes to be won. Plus several were of the opinions that they wouldn’t be coming back to future tournaments because it was just too over the top.
Normally for our bigger tournaments such as our club championships I see lists beforehand to fact check etc. This particular tournament was one of the ones I play in myself, so did not want to see lists beforehand due to not wanting to have an unfair advantage with my own team’s list building. Therefore I left it up to team captains to fact check etc.
So as I went through the field I saw a lot of optimized lists. Riptide wings, Decurion necrons, Monstrous creature spam, skyhammers, etc. What made matters worse was not only were these new players facing rough lists, but they were getting crushed/tabled in a couple short turns, not ever feeling like they were “in the game”.
I took the team captains aside and had a very frank discussion with all of them about ensuring the new players had a good game and even though they can get all their points etc. they don’t have to be tabling people in two turns, especially if they’re brand new. Just not cool. We finished up the tournament, mended some fences with the new players, ensuring they had a good couple last games and thankfully the majority of prizes were won by new players, so karma helped out too.
Remember my ostrich maneuver above? Well that worked out in other tournaments as generally after round one, the competitive types were all playing each other anyways so the newer players or those with a fluffy list had to only endure a rough list for the first game if they hit an unlucky pairing. This time though, every team played each other. There was no escaping the rough lists, and the new players were just repeatedly being crushed in short order.
As it so happened, just prior to this tournament one of our long-term veteran players had been talking to myself and a few others about a comp system to rein in what we had been seeing up to this point. He developed a pretty decent system intended to curb some of our problem lists. Given I’m not a huge fan of comp, I was being super thorough and cautious about this, and a bunch of us were running lists through the system and trying to tweak it. In my well-meaning ignorance I thought it wasn’t ready for this tournament as we just finished it the week before it, and it didn’t give a lot of time to people to prepare.
Most of this issue in my mind didn’t have anything to do with lists, but were more cases of sportsmanship or lack thereof. In my mind, you can still get full points for a game and have an exciting engaging experience for both sides.
I did not bring a soft and fluffy list to this tournament. I brought Necrons. Not Decurion or wraiths but even so Necrons aren’t an easy time. My team also brought good solid lists. We won the majority of our games. By all accounts we were some of the “competitive players” above.
We also had brand new players cheering and excited during our game with them. We drew against an all new player team. Hell, we even danced (as agreed upon before hand) when our ridiculous luck netted us a lychstar from the shooting of two venoms. Make no mistake that NEVER should have happened – we agreed to dance for our opponents if it did. And I’m an old fat guy, it’s funny when I dance. We had fun, win or lose, and I’m proud of my team for that. From what I understand, our opponents had fun too.
A turn two tabling isn’t fun for anyone… ever. What could be done instead when you vastly outmatched your opponent?
I’ll give you an example:
Let’s say I brought riptide wing and my partner has Corpse thief claw. My opponents are brand new, never played in a tournament before and brought okay lists, but had nothing that was going to stop this many 2+ and 3+/4+FNP MC’s. No poison, only a few heavy weapons. You basically know when you look at the lists across from you (because you’re a vet and this isn’t your first rodeo).
If your opponent has to get tabled in 2 turns for you to win, that is not you winning. The outcome wasn’t in doubt. Move to your objectives, take out key targets etc. and explain why you are shooting what you shoot. You get the same points either way after all.
Maybe you don’t overcharge the riptides, maybe you don’t bother with the double fire from your formation. Maybe you let your warlord die and give up line breaker to your opponent because it doesn’t affect your score at all. Maybe you teach them target priority so they know what they should be shooting from the outset. Help them do their best to beat you (while letting them make their own decisions of course). Not only do both have an enjoyable game, but the new player grows in skill and is likely to come back for a rematch in the future with this knowledge.
But regardless of how I FEEL this should be handled, it wasn’t in our case, and we were left in the position where new players felt that they shouldn’t come back. Which is unacceptable in my books.
So pulling my ostrich head out of the sand, I talked to some of the other vets in our club and brought out this comp system we’d been tweaking to our local community and said let’s try it. It might not be my ideal choice to have comp but I needed to do something. At least with this making a good chunk of points, those who wanted to win best overall would maybe try to maximize their chances with a better comp score. Win-win right?
So this isn’t my work, all credit goes to my buddy Tom (and I believe he took pieces of this from other comp systems he researched) but here is what we’re going to try:
Starting comp score for everyone would be 20.
-1 : Duplicate MC units in same FOC category. (Yes, a singular MC would count as a MC unit choice in this regard.)
-1 : Duplicate vehicle squadrons in same FOC category. (TROOPS dedicated transports are exempt up to Three, then are subject to the rule. And yes a single Vehicle would count as a Vehicle squadron choice in this regard.)
-1 : Each duplicate unit after the first two in same FOC category. (Troops are exempt unless if possessing a Rate of Fire above 2.)
-5 : Super Heavy Vehicle or GMC present in list. (This way a basic Imperial Knight list would start at a 15 by default and would be subject to other point drops as the list is constructed.)
-2 : A Formation is present in the list. This way it isn’t too punishing to make a formation because it’s fun to create flavorful themed lists that gain the benefit of a formation, but generally most are pretty much CADs with extra benefits tacked on.
-1 : Each subsequent Formation after the second. (So if you make a list with 2 formations in it you’ll only be dinged the -2 comp listed above for having a Formation present, this additional -1 for people with each Formation after the 2nd will help avoid abusive Formation spamming.)
-1 : A Fortification is present in the list
-2 to +1 based on judge’s discretion.
EXCEPTION: A Tyranid Tyrannocyte counts as the dedicated transport limit (same as a rhino) to the limits above of 3 and NOT an MC unless you exceed three in a list.
The Vehicle / MC spam being doubled down by two different comp hits was intentional as MCs and Vehicles are some of the more efficient ways to spam out high strength low AP shots, or in the case of Forge World can get pretty abusive.
So I’d love to hear your feedback on your experience, good and bad with comp systems and how they’ve helped/hurt your tournament experience.
Side note, be cautious about searching Ostrich memes at work. The internet is a very dark place.