I'd like to introduce you all to my friend Brian. We play together about once a week down here in South Florida. He's a really canny competitive player with a wealth of experience and amazing sportsmanship. I've learned alot playing against him, so I invited him to share some of his thoughts, and he was good enough to accept. I hope you enjoy the article!
This article is about tournaments and specifically 5 or more game Grand Tournaments. It is mostly about how these events are scored, specifically the outcomes of the games themselves. The type of scoring systems it describes are also used at smaller events whether they are Rogue Traders, weekly/monthly store credit tournaments or Primers for the major events.
The Dawn of Time
Until recent years there was basically only one kind of 40k tournament in the US. The kind that scored Battle points with a Margin of Victory. The more of your units you managed to keep alive and the deader you made your opponents units than the more Battle points you scored. I will refer to it as a Massacre system in this article.
Here is an example of a Massacre system for a 1850 point game. This was generally how Battle Points at Games Workshop Grand Tournaments were scored.
If you beat your opponent by 1300 Victory points or more: Massacre 20 Opponent 0
If you beat your opponent by 700 Victory points or more: Major Victory 17 Opponent 3
If you beat your opponent by 100 Victory points or more: Minor Victory 13 Opponent 7
If you both had within 100 Victory points of each other: Draw 10 points per player
While this example is Victory Points and not some other objective like Loot Counters or controlling Table Quarters(popular missions at the time) you can see that way you win this kind of tournament is by winning 4 or 5 games with a Massacre result. Unless the Sportsmanship, Comp and Painting scores made up a lot of the overall score then the person with the most Massacres usually wins. If Battle scoring is 60% or more of the total points that can be achieved during the course of the tournament than the person with the most Massacres almost always wins. The reason for this is most of the hobby related scores are about the same across the board. Some people might have near or the maximum but if that were 40 points then most other players would have a 25 or 30 so you really have to win your games in a big way.
The Recent Past
A more recent version of a Margin of Victory tournament was the one created by Adepticon. It is the Primary, Secondary, Tertiary system or PST. Here is an example
Primary Objective(12) - Kill Points, in case of draw both players get 6 pts
Secondary Objective( 8) - Table Quarters, in case of draw both players get 4 pts
Tertiary Objective( 4) - Kill your opponents most expensive unit.
Both players can claim this objective for 4 points.
Generally the Primary is worth a little more than the other two combined but for the sake of making the draw scoring in the example easy to understand I made them equal.
While I don't know if it is any fairer for the weaker armies than the more traditional Massacre system it sure is a lot more interesting. This kind of scoring is good for keeping players spirits up as well. When you get beat it's sounds better to tell your buddies “I only got the secondary” than to say “I got a minor loss”. Also no one wants to report back to their group, “I got massacred”. No matter what happens there are 3 things to do to win and so getting maximum points is more difficult than when you only have one goal. So you end up with a system that is a nicer version of the Massacre.
The winners are usually determined in the same way as the Massacre tournament.
I always enjoyed the missions at Adepticon but they are a little much to keep track of when you are new to competitive 40k tournaments like I was at the time. If you are planning on attending an event that uses this kind of scoring then I suggest you spend some time playing missions of this style. You can find a bunch on Adepticon's site.
A New Age
The new kid on the block is the W/L/D method, I think it has been prevalent in at least the UK if not all of Europe as well for quite some time. It is not a Margin of Victory format at all, it entirely eliminates the need for battle points. It also reduces the amount of record keeping needed. When the winner is determined solely by the virtue of being undefeated after the last round, all of those tiebreakers are no longer necessary.
I don't know for how long now but it seems like for awhile now people have been looking for an alternative to the Massacre system. From reading forum posts I got the impression that this is because they see the Massacre system as unfair. Armies like Necrons and Tau have generally done far worse than the more powerful books so I tend to agree with this viewpoint. Having a strong assault element that can steamroll your opponent is not nearly as important in a W/L/D tournament. Now that you can always deploy your whole army in reserves this format is unfair for the more traditional Assault armies. It(and the rulebook missions) have forced people to build armies that are more balanced to do well. However recent developments like Storm Raven Rush and Dreadknight Alpha Strike threaten the new balanced army approach.
The major criticism to it is it can produce ties but there are multiple solutions to that if you can't run enough rounds to find a single undefeated player. It only takes 8 rounds to produce an undefeated opponent out of 256 opponents so it's really not a problem at all. Since you are unlikely to have more than 128 players and that only takes 7 rounds it's still viable for a 2 day tournament.
In my opinion the Massacre system reduces the number of competitive lists. I like the PST style more but you are still looking to table opponents to get maximum points. Both of these systems promote armies that try to kick you in the jimmy and effectively end the game by the 3rd or 4th turn. In these Margin of Victory formats I have often seen a strong players have their opponent concede on turn 2 out of sheer hopelessness. It's just not a fun way to play(well it's fun for the kicker, not so much for the kickee) so I endorse W/L/D. I must say though that none of the three scoring methods I mentioned is perfect. There are numerous advantages and disadvantages to each. However W/L/D system creates games I think offer more options to their generals, are more exciting and allow more armies to compete than a Massacre system does.
Which system do you prefer? Have you seen any different formats in your area? How does the tournament format effect your planning?