This is part of a series of posts on a tournament from a tournament organizer’s perspective. The introductory post can be found here: http://www.bugeatergames.com/?p=703
One thing that you should make sure you have in the initial stages of planning your tournament is a vision of what kind of tournament you want to have. Over two years ago, I wrote a post about the issues I had with the battle point format for tournaments (which can be found here). After years of going to RTTs, it always irked me that you could have someone go undefeated, but not win the tournament simply because they never got to play the other undefeated guy(s). The fact that was somehow also occurring at two day events really bugged me at the time. If you read through that post, you can see that at the heart of the post I preferred win loss. That was the really the only idea that survived to be implemented in the Bugeater GT (the specifics, such as four preliminaries and two elimination rounds wasn’t reasonable and meant most people only got four rounds to play). Why? Because that post was also written around the same time the NOVA format first got introduced, and if there’s one rule a prospective tournament organizer should follow, it is shamelessly steal other guys’ ideas (while providing them due credit, of course!). There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel, and if you align your tournament with a similar format that already exists you’re more likely to get players in your first year because it will be a format that they are at least somewhat knowledgeable about.
Unless you’re having to build your own terrain (hopefully you have found some nice stores, game groups, or friendly individuals for most of your terrain in your first year) in the first year of your event, for the first few months there isn’t much you need to do / can do. Take that time to talk to other tournament organizers, because there are little things that you won’t think about implementing until you’ve done it yourself. It’s kind of like owning a house – when my wife and I bought our first house we were excited because it was in great shape, on a nice cul-de-sac, really close to work, etc. What we didn’t think about was that it’s a north facing house (which is terrible in the winter time), and we’re at the top of a hill, on a street that is on the lowest snow plow priority because it is a circle, making it a nightmare to get home in our tiny corolla and civic. When I mention those things to my non home owner friends who are thinking about looking for their first house, they often say they’d never think about those things. Running a tournament is the exact same way. In the year leading up to the first Bugeater, I also made sure to shadow some of the various TOs to see how they set up their scoring rubric, their scenarios, etc. You need to be a sponge.
In devising your tournament format, you obviously have your vision that you want to implement, but you also need to temper it with the perspectives of your potential tournament base. Look at how other tournaments in the region are run, because again if your format is so alien to nearby folks it might drive them away, particularly in the first year. We adopted the NOVA format from the get go for 40k, and that really helped us out because although there had never been a GT in Omaha, the NOVA format was nationally known. And for those unfamiliar with the national tournament scene, the format was simple enough (win/loss, three tiered missions) that people could understand it. I would also recommend reading reviews of a) all the big national tournaments (Adepticon, NOVA, Wargamescon, Feast of Blades, etc) and b) the regional tournaments that people attend. If the first rule from today’s post is to be shameless in stealing from other tournament organizers, the other rule for today is to never forget the perspective of the gamer. While I knew we had the people and infrastructure to do it, the deciding factor for providing lunch at the tournament site was reading reviews of other tournaments, and people complaining about either a) not having adequate time to eat out somewhere or b) going to a tournament where there were no food places in the near by area to even think about going to. Lots of people put up very objective reviews, Xaereth has one here for this year’s Bugeater: http://rumorsofheresy.blogspot.com/2012/06/bugeater-gt-tournament-report.html, here’s one from Hulksmash on the Indy Open: http://hulksmash-homeplace.blogspot.com/2012/03/gt-review-indy-open.html. Be sure to read through lots. I got the idea for swag bags after reading a Danny Internet’s review of the first NOVA Open. Many GT “reviews” are just the bat reps of that person’s games, but give those a read anyway. Often there is built in commentary on the functionality of the missions, the timeliness of the rounds, etc. The people I linked to will always provide quality reviews, with others you’re sifting through game reports for little gold nuggets.
Take notes on everything, because once you get to be about a half year out (if not sooner), you should take everything you’ve got, synthesize it, and share it with your tournament staff. ESPECIALLY this year with sixth edition looming. Seeing how others implement, and sharing that with your staff and locals to get their feedback is going to be huge. But remember, you have to be willing to commit to a certain direction, don’t be pulled apart by committee. Your crew is hugely important though, and you should be meeting with them regularly (once a month for a while, up to twice a month or more as you get closer), but we’ll talk about that next time.