Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sports - That Old Bugbear

At present there is a bit of controversy raging on the Face-Twitter because somebody lost a tournament in the UK due to a Sports hit that they took in the final round.

Now either one of two situations occurred. One player was being a prat and was marked down by his opponent or, more sinisterly, the player doing the marking down was doing so to secure an advantage for himself. Now I don’t know the ins-and-outs apart from hearsay on the net but in either case I would think that the Umpire would be able to make a call as to the justifiability of the hit. Especially given that this was occurring on Table One.

The kneejerk reaction from the vocal tournament goers has been to suggest removing sports scoring from future events to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

That logic seems to be all about face – the point of sports scoring is to ensure that a minimum acceptable set of behaviours are adhered to.

The suggested replacement for sports scoring is a yellow card/red card system as per soccer where you receive one warning and then you are ejected from the event.

Now I see numerous problems with such a system:

1. As long as you behave like a choirboy in the other rounds, it gives you free rein to run amok in any one given round. Effectively you have a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.

2. In a lot of cases TOs and Umpires are friends of the participants. It takes a very strong individual to put a friendship at risk by expelling somebody from an event.

3. Building on this, the participants are also customers. I can see situations where events risk patronage based on the perceived justice of previous decisions. If you ejected a high profile player (maybe because he was having a bad day) you may find your future events struggling to attract players due to its placement on a “blacklist”.

4. This system is just as open to manipulation as any other sports system. Perhaps a group of players decide they don’t like a player or his attitude then it is possible for collusion to see a player evicted from the event.

Those are just some of the problems off the top of my head. I am willing to bet that if adopted the general level of sportsmanship would deteriorate markedly lowering the average overall enjoyment of events.

I strongly believe that a checklist sports system is the way to go which details expected behaviours with the ability for the player to penalise. However I also believe that if a game is going down that route most TOs and other officials are aware and will watch the protagonists. A good TO should be able from observation and a few questions be able to ascertain if a sports penalty is vindictive. He then can make a call to ignore it and warn the individual who gave it.

The tournament gaming community in most countries is a small enough community for most TOs to be aware of “problem children” and to watch them a little more closely than others. This smallness is magnified by the internet.

Throwing out sports scoring is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It would have enormous adverse consequences.


  1. Yellow and red cards, fantastic . . . Well maybe not but would certianly be entertaining for the masses. May a survivor style sport system, where after each round someone gets voted out of the comp, noe that would be great entertainment.

  2. I'm thinking of running a system similar to this at the Auckland 40k Open in April, but if I do end up using it it would probably be sitting on top of a standard check list system which people are more used to. My thinking was to basically extend the favourite player voting system (that's pretty common at tournaments) to allow for an optional bad opponent vote, 2 down votes means you can't win any prizes, 3+ means you aren't being invited back.

    Tbh issues 2-4 can apply to a standard check list sports scoring system as well, even with a checklist its still subjective to some extent - I'm not sure there is a perfect system. Either way I think a good TO is one of the most important factors, in both systems you mention a good TO should be following up Yellow Cards/non full marks on the check list and ensure they are legit.

    The whole get out of jail free issue again should be solved by a good TO, its really only going to be an issue on the top tables (bottom tables tend to be relaxed and focused on having a good time since they can't win anything at that stage) and in the final round (i.e when you would realistically do this, since if you do it early you risk a second issue dropping you out of the running) so you should be able to keep a close eye on things.

    I don't really buy that the general level of sportsmanship would suddenly drop with a different system tbh, the fact that 99% of people get full sports tends to suggest that people aren't really pushing the boundaries atm so why would that change? I agree that you need Sports scoring in some form though. Even if its really only there to catch the very rare bad apples you can't discard it completely as otherwise as TO you are removing your ability to easily deal with in game issues. Its a real tricky one though and when it does produce issues it tends to be even more of a hotly contested topic than comp scoring.

  3. The rest of the story is great.

    Game was between 2 brothers, table 1. One of the brothers was visiting from Oz for a "family do".

    'Oz brother' tanked the other for sports costing him the event. He had dropped most of his oppoenents for sports, I think, cos he's a dick. He has a VERY bad reputation in the UK (and I think now in Oz too - could be wrong).

    Has, I believe, caused falling outs between the family (their dad also plays and was at the event).

    Generally I don't mind sports, but needs to be moderated to stop 'tanking' - problem is most UK events are quite big (this was a smaller one at 76 players), so moderating can be quite hard. In this instance, if I were TO I woudl have ignored all 'Oz brothers' sports hits as we was doing it to everyone, for some really "odd" reasons.

  4. I have to say it was the most mind-blowing thing I've ever seen. Talked with andy afterwards and he was jumping between stunned mullet and raging. Massive pity cause Andy's such a good guy too. Can't believe leggy let Ant do it tbh.

    The other issue with sports at the Slaughter was that it wasn't a clear system and noone knew what the hits were and if you hit some one you had to say how many points out of 6 to dock but my mates didn't know and one would've docked all 6 for one of his games but it was defaulted to 1 point because he didn't say... Just gotta make sure it's a clear concise system for any sports scoring ( and painting tbh)

    But I don't get it, it's just toy soldiers. Sit down at the table with a beer or two in hand and roll the damn dice...


  5. James and Dave, good news.

    Apparently the Sports Hit that one brother gave was an accident. It was all just a mistake. I'm relieved.