Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Running a Tournament without Record Keeping

Over the years I have seen many different systems of scoring miniatures tournaments. They mostly involve mathematical equations, some quite complex, that measure the degree of victory or loss based on a number of factors. Generally, the intent is that whoever wins the most games should be the tournament winner, and along the way, players of equal ranking should face each other. Often (if not always) arbitrary "other factors", such as the loss of a general, or number of troops lost, are used as a tie breaker between those on equal wins. Some scoring systems even tend to value "other factors" to such a degree that their cumulative effect can be worth more than a win even when you lose or draw.

Another common aspect is that after each game, the players are required to fill in accounting sheets, calculating the various factors from the game, and then totalling them for each player. The tournament organiser then collects the results, and works out cumulative totals for every player to determine the next round draw. This sometimes requires a computer to work it all out.

So my goal is to run a tournament without pen and paper, and not need an organiser to run things between rounds. I realise that there are some formats out there that do this. I have read with real interest about the concept of a "King of the Hill" style tournament, such as detailed at this site. Here rank is determined by seating positions at tables set up in a line like a ladder that you have to work up. The players on the top table are the "King" and "Challenger". It is intriguing in having some sense of narrative to it, and physical locations, giving the feel of a quasi campaign. However, the main downside seems to be that every game must have a result, it does not cater for draws very well. (Draws are the bane of any tournament system).

The idea I have is that only numbered cards and poker chits are used, as in the picture below.

It is meant to produce the same results as a typical Swiss chess type draw, with a tie breaker mechanism between equal ranked opponents. The poker chits are a proxy for ranking; if you have more poker chits, you have more wins. The numbered cards are used as a tie breaker.

It is also meant to provide some narrative for a quasi campaign - the poker chits are called Resource Chits (the more wins you have, the more territory is conquered, or resources acquired). The numbered cards are called Influence Cards (the higher the number, the more influence you have).

So, the tournament rules are (assuming an even number of players);

Influence Cards
There should be a set of numbered cards, without duplicates, from 1 to the number of players involved. So in an eight player tournament, there are eight cards numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Before round one, each player randomly receives an Influence Card. These help with ranking.

At the end of a battle, the Influence Card may be swapped between players. In a win/loss game, the winner gets (or retains) the lowest value influence card between both players. In a draw/draw, there is no swap, both players retain their existing cards.

Resource Chits
Each player starts the tournament with a number of Resource Chits equal to the number of rounds in the competition. So in a four 4 round tournament, each player starts with 4 Resource Chits. When a player wins, they take one Resource Chit from the loser. In the case of a draw, neither player gains or loses a Resource Chit. Accordingly, a player losing all 4 games will end up with no Resource Chits at the end, whereas a player winning all 4 games will end up with 8 Resource Chits at the end. Resource Chits are to be placed on the table during the games so that ranking can be easily determined.

Matching Opponents
In round one, match players from the lowest Influence Card to the highest. So in an 8 player tournament, 1 fights number 8, 2 fights 7, 3 fights 6, and 4 fights 5. This is important so that the highest value cards end up with the winners after round one.

From the second round onwards, group players based on the number of Resource Chits. The player with the lowest value Influence Card in the group with the most Resource Chits will be matched against the player they have not played yet with the next lowest value Influence Card in that group. If there is an odd player left over in that group, then one is chosen from the group with the next highest number of Resource Chits they have not played yet with the lowest value Influence Card. The main thing is that players face equally ranked opponents but not face an opponent they already fought in the tournament.

After Final Round
The player with most Resource Chits is the winner of the tournament. If there is more than one player with an equal number of Resource Chits, then the one with the lowest value Influence Card wins within that grouping.

I intend to use this at in the MOAB Hordes of the Things tournament in 2016. I ran it in the 2015 tournament, in parallel with a traditional scoring system as a double check, and it produced the same results with a lot less work and organisation.

One thing I am not sure about is whether players who draw should both lose a Resource Chit rather than retain them - as this then places the draw on the same footing as a loss (so as to discourage players aiming for a draw). Retaining the chit didn't cause any issues in the 2015 tournament, so I don't see the need to change this at the moment.

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