How to Run a Successful Blood Bowl Tournament
HOW TO RUN A SUCCESSFUL BLOOD BOWL TOURNAMENT
So you've decided to take the plunge and organize a Blood Bowl Tournament? While this can seem daunting at first, the end result can be a great experience for both you and your players. More than many other games, Blood Bowl lends itself quite well to tournament-style play. Just like an actual sporting event, a Blood Bowl tournament is a lot of fun to run, play, and watch. This article should help smooth your new job as a Blood Bowl Tournament Organizer.
THE THREE W's
Before you begin printing flyers, calling coaches, or preparing your awards, you need to answer the "three W's" of tournament organization:
Before you launch too deeply into your plans, you need to identify a good time during which to hold the event. If you want to run the tournament at a particular convention or other event, then this step will handle itself. Many tournaments are set up as independent events, however, and these events require a certain amount of "When Zen."
Ask yourself questions. What kind of players do you expect? If many of your likely players are students, planning events during finals week or on the Saturday of the ACT will hurt your attendance. Be sure to ask your players whether they need you to schedule the tournament around some upcoming event. You can't please all the players all the time, but you should do your best to consider other schedules. This approach will make you more successful in the long run.
So you've selected your day. Now what?
You've heard it before, but it bears repeating:
"Location, location, location!"
Your tournament's location affects a great deal, so take your time on this one. If you are running a tournament at a convention, most of this work is already done for you. Most independent tournaments are held in local game stores, however, so if you are lucky enough to find a store with the space, this is the preferred venue. Don't forget: supporting stores supports the hobby - and if you ask really nicely many times, the store may even help you out with prize support - so do as much as you can with or at the local stores if possible.
If you are organizing a large event and your local stores don't have enough space, however, then you'll have to make do at an alternate venue, such as a hotel or a community building. Regardless of your choice, make sure that it will hold your tournament and meet your expectations. Does it have suitable space? Is it centrally located near sources of food and lodging? Some neighborhoods provide free space at community centers. (I have even attended events in church halls - it never hurts to ask around!) Whatever you do, be sure to visit the locations under consideration in person, before you make a final decision. In many cases, you will be paying for services and space, so be sure that the area has everything that you need. Many tournament organizers utilize meeting rooms at hotels, which offers convenient rooming for players who are visiting from out of town. See if the hotel will offer you or your guests a discount, since you are renting rooms for your tournament. Keep in mind, however, that when it comes to hotels, you will need to transfer the cost of the location to your players unless you are willing to absorb the cost completely yourself. (The actual cost will depend upon the number of players you expect.) Traveling players may have to rent a room as well. These costs can mount quickly, so be considerate of player costs when determining location.
Once you have settled on the place, make sure that it provides enough tables and chairs. (This is rarely a problem at a hotel.) Be sure to factor in a few more tables and chairs for things like registration, staff, and displays of prizes and awards.
No, not "what game will we play?" - that's a given - but "what format will I use?" So you have decided on the day and you've secured a location. Now it's time to get down to the meat of the event. A tournament organizer has many choices when he sets up a Blood Bowl Tournament. Let's take a moment to go over some of your options???
Elimination-Style events usually come in two flavors, single or double. Single elimination means that one loss will put you out of the event. Double elimination gives each player two losses before he is removed. Both keep track of game results with a bracket system, which is usually posted for all players to see throughout the day. Elimination-style events produce a lot of excitement as well as a final single game between the top two players to determine the winner. Keep in mind, however, that the nature of the system ensures that only the winning players will get to play multiple games; players who lose early are out of the tournament (or seeded into the losers' bracket, if you allow for one). While this system is exciting for the winning players and the spectators, it is very unforgiving and will not give an equal number of games to every player. Elimination-style tournaments usually work best with a small number of coaches who won't readily lose interest if their teams are no longer involved in the tourney.
Round-Robin or Swiss tournaments are designed with a set number of games. Each coach plays a certain number of games and receives points for each game based on the result (win, loss, or tie). At the end of each round, players are paired up by points in such a way that most players are playing against opponents with the same record or ability in the following round. At the end of all of the rounds, the player with the most points wins the tournament.
This system ensures that every player gets to play a certain number of games, regardless of record. For the most part, coaches will play against opponents of similar skill each round. Since this system technically has no "final playoff game," however, some players may not consider it as exciting as an elimination-style event. But for larger groups, this can be the easiest and fairest method of running a tournament.
These two systems are not the only methods of determining a winner at your event - not by far! Most tournament directors have a preferred method, usually perfected over time, for running an event. Many do not include experience and SPPs between matches, preferring instead to allow coaches to simply assign a skill or two to players before each round. (This was the system used at the Blood Bowl Resurrection tournament.) This system is becoming popular because it calls on teams to "reset" injuries before each game, so that the coach is playing his original team each round. It is even possible to combine systems (e.g., a Swiss system in which the top two players play each other in a final match for the whole event).
It's all up to you as the tournament organizer. Whichever style you choose, just keep in mind three important points for any tournament:
Ensure these things, and not only will your tournament more likely be a success, but people will want to come back to play in your events again and again. They'll probably tell their friends about their experiences, and that will bring new faces the next time. (Hint, hint: that's what you want!)
Scheduling is a very important consideration when you answer the Three W's, because it determines how long your players will be at your event, how long you need to hold the space that hosts the event, and even what style of tournament you are going to hold.
Create a schedule by first deciding how many games you would like to play. If you plan to have visitors play more than five games, your event should definitely be more than one day.
(NOTE: If this is your first tournament, strongly consider running a one-day event if at all possible the first time around. A multiple-day tournament increases the cost, time, and stress by at least a factor of two! Blood Bowl is a lot of fun, but you shouldn't lose your mind over it...)
Be sure to plan time for registration, between-game breaks and setup allowances, meals, and a wrap-up ceremony. Two hours per round should be considered the bare minimum time per round. Allowing each round to extend to two and a half hours will accommodate the possibility of overtime and allow additional time for early finishes to clean up and relax. Any extra time for Blood Bowl players to meet with each other and talk about their favorite game can't be all that bad, and it's part of the fun of the tournament. Also, don't forget that this additional time exists for the tournament organizers as well! Time, you will quickly find, is a commodity in short supply during a tournament.
Don't be afraid to start your event early in order to fit your rounds and events into the day, but be sure that your players have enough time to play each round. After all, it's one of the main reasons they spent all that time and money traveling!
THINGS TO BRING
Create a checklist of things to bring for your tournament. First and foremost, make sure that you have plenty of boards! Perhaps among your usual gaming crowd you will find all the boards you need. If you have someone in your group that is skilled at making scenery, ask that person to try making a few custom boards. You could use one of these special boards as "Finals Field" for the tournament, hosting all the top games on it. Also, don't be afraid to ask players to bring their own Blood Bowl boards. Unfortunately, many times it is not space, but the number of boards available that determines the number of players allowed in a tournament. Most players will be happy to provide a game set or two if it means that more people can play.
Some tournaments are designed to make everything as easy as possible for the visiting players. You have to decide whether you want to provide everything for the players or whether you want them to be responsible for some of the necessities. The recent Blood Bowl Resurrection is an example of the latter. Not only did players bring their own models and game sheets, but they also brought their own dugouts, templates, dice, and reroll counters. This certainly made it easier on the tournament organizers. Be sure to protect yourself, however. Try to keep as much on hand as possible. Remember that if one person doesn't bring something, it can hurt not just his experience, but that of his opponent as well.
You should also arrange to print your own tournament forms, which are used throughout the tournament to keep information as organized as possible (i.e., to keep you sane). We recommend the following forms:
A registration sheet keeps track of your players and (where appropriate) which of them have paid their tournament dues. Team roster sheets are usually made available before the tournament, but be sure to keep extras around on the day of the event for any latecomers or forgetful coaches. Results sheets record all game results, although you can simply enter results as they are brought to you. A tournament standings sheet allows players to see where they rank throughout the tournament. Judging forms can be used to vote for painting point or sportsmanship points if your tournament uses these additional qualifier categories.
Finally, your tournament may wish to feature a quiz filled with Blood Bowl trivia. Samples of some of these forms will be available for download from the NAF website and are included in the NAF tournament package.
Finally, a word about laptop computers: a functional computer at the tournament location can be your best friend when it comes time to track players and scores. Tournament tracking spreadsheets are available for download on the NAF web site.
While you can do all of this by yourself, it takes more than one person to ensure a smooth tournament run. A good rule of thumb is one official for every 12 players, which translates to one judge for every six games going on at once. Of course, you can run a tournament with less help, but assistants will free you to prepare for the next rounds, field questions, and generally make sure that everything is running smoothly. If you have the personnel available, one or more officials should be responsible solely for tabulating games, scores, and setting up matches. Referees should be on hand to answer any questions and help with rules disputes. You may also wish to appoint judges who will be responsible for any painting competition if your tournament has a Best Appearance award.
Awards are not the sole reason for people getting together to play, but winners do deserve some special recognition of their accomplishments at such an event. Many tournaments give a single award to the top player only. Try to create a few rewards and prizes. For instance, if you wish, a common award is for the best-painted team. An award for Best Sportsman based on player votes is also easy. In addition to giving your coaches something to shoot for if they can't take first place overall, these categories can also help break ties when you determine the overall winner. While the player with the top record could be considered Best Player, how about a Best Coach award for the player who scored the highest in all of the event categories? Feel free to make up a few additional prizes too. Make the awards memorable -the wackier, the better. How about "Most Entertaining Player Death"? Or perhaps you could find some cheap large foam dice to give to the "Poorest, Unluckiest Chap."
Ultimately, the main trophy is the one that all players shoot for. It should proudly display the name of your event. Feel free to come up with something original, yet recognizable to Blood Bowl players. For instance, two current NAF tournaments are the Halfling Dinner Mug and the Galadrieth Goblet. Miniatures, medals, and gift certificates also make great prizes. (This is why you talked to the store owners about support, remember? It's a great prize for you, and good advertising for them!) You might use some of the tournament entry money to buy gift certificates from a store's owner, or you might ask if the store could match whatever you buy in gift certificates to increase the number of prizes you are able to give out. This promotes goodwill as well as supports the store. Some tournaments go as far as to supply a small prize for anyone who plays in the tournament from beginning to end. Think about any other people who may wish to donate something to your event. You'd be surprised at how many people are willing to help!
So there you have it: some quick and basic ideas for your next Blood Bowl tournament. Whatever you do, remember that with some pre-planning you too can have fun at the event right alongside the players while creating an event that will be the talk of the gaming community for months and years to come.
If you have any suggestions of your own, or if you have specific questions that this didn't cover, feel free to check out the NAF web site for contact information!