Monday, May 2, 2011

A History of Tournament Scoring

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.

The Future

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?


  1. Good post, I tend to agree with 100% of your views.

    And yet I always look for new ways to redo the same system. Scoring that is.

  2. Yo, that was dblahag/Swags poasting that. :)

  3. I like the three objective system - whoever wins the most wins the mission - go to pure victory points in case of a draw on the objectives.


  4. I prefer the points approach - with three objectives based on the missions in the rule book - with each objective worth the same points - 1/2 points for ties. This approach keeps people in the game and rewards close competitive games.

    Without a way to seed players in a pure w/l/d tourney - it skews things.

  5. I read an interesting comment that said between the players, the armies, and the table there are enough variables that you don't need complex missions. Having the simple rulebook missions is enough for a great game. I'm not 100% behind that but I do think that for example the Adepticon missions are needlessly complex. I'm talking more about the wacky special rules than the PST scoring.

    I was originally super excited about the ATC mission(3 objectives from the rulebook all worth equal points) but after about 20 games with Marc I noticed that whoever went first won the game. It's a really cool way to play 40k but it's still a Massacre style and so it ends up giving a lot of the stronger armies a boost, which they don't need. I'm still super excited to attend the event though. :)

  6. One thing I don't like is to not know what the missions will be before going into the event, or for the T.O. to pull out some whacky bull shit out of nowhere. At least give me a chance to plan.

    I'm not really a fan of the ATC missions either. There's just too much in the air. That being said the 5th ed missions leave alot to be desired. Opponents of nearly equal ability will almost always fight the 2 objective mission to a draw, and dawn of war is just bizarre. I thought battle missions might fix that, but they just didn't put the work and effort into that expansion that they could have. This is an area I'm really hoping they'll improve on in 6th.

  7. Yeah Capture and Control requires too much army design just for it. It really emphasizes assault and speed over shooting which takes the lesser races out of the competition.

    Since I didn't get to attend Adepticon this year I forgot to mention that they have gone to a W/L/D system based on each mission having 3 objectives. In effect you choose which objectives to fight for and just need 1 to 0 or 2 to 1 to win the mission.

  8. Al has a really good point about keeping people in the game. When you travel far and spend alot to play 40k you want every game to be a good one. Even if you get hammered from the beginning all the way to the end if you can squeak out an objective and go 20-10 that is a great morale victory.

    It is for this same reason that I think the 5th edition Random Game Length is horrible and should be 6 turns, 4+ for a 7th.

  9. Though it doesn't really reward close competitive games because those are likely to be scored 15-15 or 20-10 when a guy stomping all his opponents is getting 30's.

  10. Yeah it's too bad so many newer players find tournaments discouraging. It's really important for the organizers to focus on keeping them involved IMO, because the 3 or 4 guys at a local event who know what they're doing can't thrive without the 15-20 who don't. Rewarding the stronger players with excessive margins of victory just doesnt make sense from the perspective of overall involvement in the hobby. If 1st place wins by 5 points or by 50 it doesnt really matter, 1st is still 1st. So why not keep the points close to each other so that when everyone looks at the score sheet in the end they can say "oh I was only a few points away. maybe next time!" I think that's a much better system for everyone.

  11. Yeah that is one of the problems with W/L/D is that people say well I lost a game I'm out. They don't realize in the Massacre system the same is generally true. It is good to keep people involved and interested so battle points do have their place. I also agree that the point spread should be smaller.

    There is more discussion on the WC site, here is a link,