YMMV: Goatboy's Tournament Types

My good friend Goatboy posted an article on Bell of Lost Souls this morning. In the article, he talks about tournaments in broad strokes -- breaking them into four categories. Most of my regular readers won't be surprised when I say I have some issues with Mr. Boy's article.

My favorite articles are ones that inspire me to do some digging -- so many thanks to Goatboy for giving me something to complain about. The point of his article is getting players thinking about the events they attend -- and to have a good idea of what kind of event awaits them by looking at the event's scoring. He creates four broad "types" of events and then talks about the good and bad elements of each.

Thomas' Tenebrous Tournament Taxonomy:

Beauty Pageant: This is an event where appearance heavily influences the final rankings.
Heavy Comp(osition): This is an event where army composition is heavily considered in the final rankings.
Wacky: This is an event where special rules and missions skew the final rankings.

"Competitive": This event only considers battle points in the final rankings.

After reading the article, my gut response is to say these tournaments "types" are more based on our collective bad memories than actual events, but Goatboy could be right -- these events could be happening every weekend (not likely, but definitely possible). I pulled up some data on a handful of events to see where they landed.

(Note: I picked events pretty much at random. The only criteria is the event had to be part of the North American Tournament Circuit, a large planned attendance and have their official scoring rules available on their website.)

The first thing I noticed is almost every tournament gives out a variety of prizes. Adepticon has a TON of awards, including Best Overall (factoring in battle score, sportsmanship, appearance and several other factors in the final rankings) and Best General (tosses out "soft scores" and only considers battle score). These events are further complicated by awards like Best Sportsman (only considers sportsmanship scores) and Best Appearance (looking only at your appearance scores) awards.

So what is Adepticon? A competitive event because they have a Best General? A beauty pageant because they consider appearance into Best Overall and Best Appearance? A wacky event because they create custom missions?

For the purposes of this article, I'm only considering the event's "top" award -- meaning most events will be judged by their "Best Overall" awards (almost all of which factor in several criteria in addition to battle score).

Note: To be completely fair, none of the events I researched fit into a single of Goatboy's types. They actually met just about every criteria in one way or another. They were all competitive and beauty pageants -- most of them gave big prizes to top "soft" scorers and the majority designed their own missions and/or published a non-official FAQ).

Here's a graph showing how the events weighted their scoring for Best Overall:

(click for a larger view)
At first glance, it looks like many of the events weight appearance and sportsmanship very high -- so high that these non-battle scores could dramatically skew the results of the event. But is that the case? Let's dig deeper by looking at each of Goatboy's tournament types.

1. Beauty Pageant: Appearance heavily influences the final rankings.

Goatboy says "gives more points than any single game" when he defines how much it has to influence the event, but he isn't really considering the very narrow appearance score ranges in these events. For example, WarGamesCon's Best Appearance award went to a score of 25 (Goatboy was the appearance judge). That seems like a lot of points - certainly more than the primary objective in any mission. But when you consider over 90% of WarGamesCon's players scored between 20 and 25 points in appearance, then you see the appearance scoring had almost no impact on the results (unless you failed to bring a painted army).

Even events like Adepticon (where appearance is more heavily scored) wouldn't be considered a "Beauty Pageant" event unless the variation in appearance scores were so broad as to substantially influence the results. From scanning the scores of the 2010 Adepticon events, you can see that the vast majority (84%) of appearance scores were within 10 points of the average.

If all appearance scores are within a narrow band, then it doesn't matter how much you weight appearance. It won't heavily influence the overall rankings.

2. Heavy Comp(osition): Composition heavily influences the final rankings.

I had a really hard time finding an event where Composition (or Theme) was considered at all. This seemed most prevalent in Team events (perhaps where it is used as a reward or a deterrent). But I did find one awesome test case -- DaBoyz GT. This event scores composition at 25%, which is a huge percentage -- more than appearance and sportsmanship added together.

So does Composition determine the winner at DaBoyz? It doesn't seem to. The event publishes an extremely detailed composition matrix that explains the scoring system. It shows page after page of examples, including ones for every army type. The scoring is judge-based and extremely transparent. From their website, it seems the vast majority of composition scoring is within a narrow range. Only players choosing to completely ignore the scoring system are penalized.

If all composition scores are within a narrow band, then it doesn't matter how much you weight composition.

3. Wacky: Special rules and missions skew the final rankings.

This one is a lot harder to prove with an event's scoring system -- and it's crazy subjective. Adepticon and WarGamesCon are two of the best known events that keep their missions secret. Jwolf from WarGamesCon has spoken frequently about the desire to reward skill over preparation in his tournaments -- and it's a compelling argument.

The major issues come into play when missions are badly designed and favor one army type over another (for example, removing kill points as a scoring criteria favor armies with lots of scoring units over an army balanced for both objective management and kill point based missions -- if attendees aren't aware of this fact then it could skew the final rankings).

While I agree with Goatboy's assessment that custom missions and custom rules can skew final rankings (the first few Ard Boyz events come to mind), that's not always a bad thing. For example, few events have more custom rules than a team tournament -- but these events are a tremendous amount of fun. It's all about how those custom rules are applied.

No event I could find defines itself as a Wacky event -- none spotlight the fact they design their own missions or have aberrant rules. If this type of tournament still exists, I hope the organizers do a great job of creating and balancing their content.

Unless missions are poorly designed, all players are on equal footing when it comes to "wacky" missions. This should reward more flexible and more skilled players, leading to a similar end result as events without "wacky" missions. That means we are back to battle score to rank players.

4. "Competitive": Events where only battle score is considered in the final rankings.

First of all, every event I examined had a major reward for the player with the highest battle score. In most cases, the prizes were almost identical to the Best Overall awards. So it seems every major tournament sees the value in recognizing the strongest tactical player -- even if that player scored low in appearance, sportsmanship and other disciplines.

Only the recent NOVA Open awards the Overall Winner Best General (the event's top prize) to the player with the highest score (putting no real weight on sportsmanship or appearance - although the NOVA also offered an overall winner prize that factored in appearance and sportsmanship). There may be other strictly "competitive" events out there, but they are probably relegated to the individual store level where organizers don't have the attendance or prize support available to award multiple prizes.

Secondly, every event I examined heavily weighted battle score into the Best Overall awards. Once you normalize for narrow ranges of sportsmanship and appearance scoring, the only real variance is in battle score.

Let's use WarGamesCon as an example. I already mentioned 90% of the players were within a few appearance points of each other. This was also the case with Sportsmanship  (over 77% of players were within TWO points of the average - the Best Sportsman winner beat the average by less than SIX points). The same is true for the other soft scores. The only score with wide variation (enough to actually skew the rankings) was Battle Points.

Since we're talking about it, I hope you don't mind a little tangent...who gets affected by soft scores?

From my research, almost no one. Let me be more specific. According to my WarGamesCon data for the last two years, the only players affected by soft scores are players who put almost no effort into them (e.g., generally players with unpainted models and who are consistently unpleasant to play).

Thanks to narrow score ranges, soft scores have a minimal impact on rankings for the average player. If you can pull average scores on appearance and sportsmanship, you will land almost exactly where your battle points would put you. In an over-sized event (e.g., like Adepticon with lots of players in very few rounds), this might move you up or down a few spots. In smaller events with better battle point spreads, like WarGamesCon, soft scores only penalize players who earn minimum scores (i.e., the reward for excelling at these disciplines is very minor).

For example, a low sportsmanship score costs you five or so overall points (about 1.5% of the best overall winner's points). A low sportsmanship score COMBINED with a low painting score will cost twice that (and probably push you down 5 to 10 spots in the rankings). Getting MINIMUM scores in both (painting of 5 and sportsmanship of 14) would cost you about 17% of the best overall winner's points. This would push the average player down about 15 spots. That's not bad for completely blowing 20% of the event.

>> If you feel like I missed any important events in my graph, let me know and I'll add them. I'd love to hear how your experiences confirm or differ from my own. Do Goatboy's tournament types really exist -- or is it simply our collective imagination (or memories) re-defining those events? You can leave comments here or email me at mkerr@chainfist.com

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