Monday, September 10, 2012

Sports Scoring 101

Every now and then you hear that Sports scoring at tournaments is evil, that it is open to abuse and that it only encourages sore losers.

I am strongly of the view that this is not the case.

When considering Sports scoring it is important to look at the system that is in place. There are 3-4 common systems that are used.

System 1 – Mark on Scale of 0-5.
This is usually accompanied by some basis for each score – which nobody ever reads and subsequently the score reflects the internal mechanism of the scorer. If you play the happy bunny who gives everybody “5”s then you are boosted; if you place the Russian Judge you probably get a “2”. (If you were unlucky enough to play a certain Australian 40k gamer known as “Torpedo” then you get a “0” if you beat him, which New Zealanders habitually did). So the system suffers from being too subjective and the fact people have different scales

System 2 – Yellow Card/Red Card.
This system is big in the UK/Europe and works on the same basis as soccer. The “stick” is that you can be ejected from the tournament for bad behaviour. However, the big flaw in the system is that it gives you a free pass to act like a dickhead in one game. It also relies on a player calling over the umpire and detailing the problems and then the umpire taking the not-undrastic step of warning a player and eventually expelling a player from the event. For me, this system sounds fine in theory but in practice penalties are hardly ever used and it encourages poor behaviour.

System 3 – The Checklist.
This has a serious of 5-6 questions about game etiquette that a player ticks off after the game. It has the benefit of the umpire being able to isolate recurrent problems and provide feedback to a penalised player. Its flaw is that behaviour is only crudely defined into the 5-6 categories and it is binary i.e. yes or no. Therefore the most you can lose – regardless of how much a dick you are is one point in the area. For you to be punished significantly you need to be an offender across many areas.

System 4 – Default Setting.
This system has three scores – typically 5, 3, 0 and a default setting of 5. It has two step punishment system but unlike the 0-5 no reward. The Umpire’s expectation is that all participants will score a 5 and that deviation from that score will be discussed with the player that assigns the score. Generally this results in 90%+ of players getting full Sports marks, so sports has no outcome on tournament result. However where there is a problem a mechanism exists to punish.

Locally, System 4 has become the most prevalent. Certainly I have used it for all the events I run for the past two years. I would suggest that Wellington events are characterised by a lack of rancour, both in 40k and Fantasy.

I believe Sports systems should punish poor behaviour and when a good system is in place it generally does. One thing that amazes me is the denial that those who consistently score poorly for sports go through. They convince themselves that the score is reflective of their opponent rather than themselves. If the Umpire gives clear instructions as to what the default score is, then sports hits are generally a rare thing. If you receive them regularly then the fault is generally with your behaviour rather than that of your opponent. Everyone can have a bad day but consistent bad days should encourage you to look within.

For me, Sports scoring encourages a collegial atmosphere. If I am having difficulties with an opponent I generally try to address them early in the game to ensure that we both have fun. Typically I find slow play is the most prevalent and an early word gets us both focused on ensuring the game progresses. I can say that the last time that I gave less than full for sports was over three years ago because communication addresses most problems and the system provides deterrent to poor behaviour.

Without Sports this doesn’t always exist. Recently I attended NiCon in Auckland where they used a variant of System 2. Players were warned about behaviour problems by the umpire. This only occurred when a disagreement was sufficient to attract his attention. I saw firsthand the flaws of this system – which effectively amounted to no sports system.

In my third game I was playing Thomas van Roekel, the NZ ETC Dwarf player. As the game progressed I felt Thomas was becoming increasingly nit-picking in his approach. Please be aware that this may not have been the case, however it was my perception. Rules were queried, distances re-measured, rulebooks consulted. Now Thomas was quite within his right to do this but I felt it was as a result of the game turning my way. Again I stress that this may or may not have been the case, but it was my perception. I appeared to lose my temper with Thomas and vented my displeasure, ranting for a couple of minutes. The thing was – and I’m not proud of this – I could do this with impunity because I knew that I could not be hit on Sports.

My behaviour deserved a Sports hit however knowing I couldn’t be disadvantaged, I vented to let off steam. Now Thomas shouldn’t have to put up with that and I apologised both during and after the game. However it shows the weakness in the system if you are a cynical prick. Again, I am not proud of my behaviour and in future I’d endeavour to not do it again. However at the time I felt Thomas was “playing” me and I didn’t appreciate it. But here the system gave me an out for no points penalty. Personally I prefer to play where there is an obvious “stick” in play.

Interested in people’s thoughts on Sports scoring.


  1. I have preferred System 3 as it clarifies areas of improvement for the player without the umpire having to interview players and without it being as subjective as System 1 - the only thing is you have to ensure the questions are correct.

    But not fussed either way about using Systems 3 or 4 as they both achieve same aim :)

    I also would be unlikely to support any tournament without sports scoring (or using System 2...) no matter how mature the local scene was - I think it's like insurance for good behaviour that doesn't really need to be policed.

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    1. I've always wondered about the usefulness of this process particularly in your Wellington events as the field generally consists of the same people who over the years have worked out a good set of social guidelines when it comes to playing. In larger tournaments where there are a lot of new faces then I see the need for sports scores at it reinforces the need to keep things friendly and enjoyable, but in most cases in my experience 95%+ of any field get perfect scores regardless.

      But then again it is nice to see what you get - although when your marked down (don’t think I have been although I’m not always that great to play against) it would be nice to know why, or preferably to just have your opponent say what bothered them e.g. at my last event I had an opponent pick up my dice after I rolled them to tally my hits, not something I like. So I just said it bothered me and left it at that.

      I've attended 18 tournaments now 12 of them WHFB, and I think I’ve only ever marked down 4 people at most so that’s 4/90 odd games across various game systems. In each case it was generally because the other player was young, immature, annoying and I was just a being a grumpy old git - but in a couple of cases it was for "rubber rulers and dodgy movement"

      Maybe a simply system with 1 Question - Was your opponent a good sport, would you play them again - Yes/No? Add up the No's if anyone gets them and take a couple of marks off for each one.

      But other than that the present system is fine - just as long as the questions aren't too ambigious.

    2. Yes, we youngin's can be preeeety dodgy sometimes ;D.

  3. Since coming across system 4 at OTT years ago, I have used it in every event i have run and pushed for it to be the norm locally. I like to know that someone deserved to get hit for being a bad sport, whereas the 1-5 and checklist system can produce some odd 4s for sports from tourney newbies where realistically there should not be. Combined with an overly generous paint scoring system, my personal experience is that the events will become based purely on battle without the need to remove soft scores from the equation. Punish those who do not meet the expectations, but do not introduce random factors which can influence final results. IMO

  4. Sports scoring is always useful, if someone wants to be a dickhead, they can be all they want, but then they will be scored appropriately. But as I can see 'aboot' 95% of the time everyone is always scored well and I don't remember seeing anyone with a score below 5.

  5. I like System 4; simple, fast and it sets an expectation of behaviour. I think the latter is quite important, we should expect gamers to be good blokes, and not have to be forced into it. There is still a stick there if it's needed too.

  6. Talking from personal experience, it's not the system that's used it's the preconception that tournament goers have of what a Sports system is that is lacking. Too complicated a system and you open yourself up to wargamer fiddling or just down right confusion for the tournament goer. I've had an example of someone who marked me down for beating him too thoroughly and his reason was "I didn't enjoy the game because you played too well. Plus the sports scoring encourages me to differentiate who was the guy I enjoyed playing from the others I've played in the tournament", (ummm yeah, special times that). For me I try my hardest not to sports hit anyone as I view anyone willing to sit down and play 3 hours of toy soldiers a top bloke.
    This has not proven to have been the case on reflection over my warhammer career so far for a select very few in the community. I am proud to say (some what stupidly) that I have not sports hit anyone in memory. From what I do know about sports systems I should of certainly given a few individuals a big fat zero for their sports for inappropriate play. So having played for a few years it has dawned on me to just now to sports hit people and I hope that everyone out there will if the need arises. 'Wargamers try it on', is my summary and a simplified system that limits this is less open to fiddling. I've found that system 4 is pretty concrete to fiddling and you get the opportunity as a TO to chat to the guys why there was sports hitting and the outside objective opinion is a great help. (Was gonna write an essay but refrained)

  7. In my first tournament I ever participated in(FluffyCon 2011), I played a certain undead player who was rather odd to say the least. Anyway, we were playing the Blood and Glory mission with the truncated board edges (9" either side), taking turns to place our units, my opponent realised he had made a huge mistake with his deployment and had run out of room for the many units that his army contained. Being my first tournament, and being a reasonably beneficent guy, I told him that he could re-order his units at his discretion.
    We had a (at least I thought) rather amicable game, chatting about gaming stuff every now and again. The only issue that arose was measuring a distance to one my war machines, where he was 1" short. He was adamant, that they should have been on bases, I told him that this was not so. I even showed him in the book where it states that all measurements are to the war machine and crew aren't counted.
    I ended up 20 zipping the guy, unfortunately for him, and for his trouble he docked me a sports point.
    It was the dumbest f***king thing ever and being my first tourney I didn't have the gumption to challenge it.
    I am totally in favour of option 4. I feel that if a 3 was given it should be up to the TO to subjectively judge and then dock a point ( or two for really terrible behaviour).

  8. I heard a really good podcast on Sportmanship scoring earlier this year but after several days of searching I can't seem to find it. So here are my two cents... It depends what you are trying to achieve.

    Of the methods above only the check list and the 1 to 5 are attempting to actually score someone on sportsmanship. The other two are really negative systems designed to report when someone has been 'bad'. In addition I believe that all these processes result in the tournament relying on a secondary process to actually award someone a sportsmanship prize if one is available.

    The 11th Company discuss an intriguing scoring system in episode 111 of their podcast where they use a 1-X system where X was the number of rounds but the top two and the bottom two numbers you could only assign once. This apparently helps to curb both the 'happy-bunny' and the 'torpedo' and should hopefully result in an accurate representation of someone's sportsmanship over the course of a tournament. It's sounds like something worth investigating.

    So, if the aim of sportsmanship 'scoring' is simply to penalise bad sportsmanship then I would say Option 4 is the best of the options presented.

    However, if the aim is to actually score sportsmanship, then a different method needs to be found, something that accurately ranks your games and can result in a final 'winner'. Ideally the system would also remove the need for the 'name your favourite game of the weekend' question to allocate the sportsmanship award.

    Actually on the 'question' solution to sportsmanship awards... unlike the other metrics that are scored - generalship and painting - the question at the end tends to be a hidden result. You have no idea in which game you gave your opponent an awesome game, nor do you have any idea if anyone even found you great to play against. There is simply no feedback.

    Hopefully you find something useful in these thoughts :)


  9. Sorry old post I know... however I was writing an email on Sportsmanship to someone and thought I would post my thoughts here as well as they are relevant to the discussion.

    "I've been thinking about the sportsmanship discussion that we had at the end of Guardcon and I now understand where you were coming from and the reason why the 'favourite opponent' question exists, and I agree that the question is needed [to avoid giving someone a hit if you thought all your games were great, and to avoid chipmunking].

    (as an aside, I thought that the way Matthew released the full results for Guardcon was really great [see City Guard forum])

    After a bit of looking around these links both had some interesting points:

    I particularly thought the idea of dropping the top and bottom scores to arrive at an 'average' to avoid the occasional chipmunk, and the single question with an increasing deduction, were interesting ideas.

    However, sticking with everyone getting a default 5 and subtracting for bad behaviour, what could be a possible idea is to incorporate the 'favourite opponent' question into this scoring by making it worth +2 sportsmanship points, effectively allowing you to score 1 opponent as a 7. I think it would need to be 2 points rather than 1 to account for the occasional 4 chipmunk . This way the 'complete' sportsmanship score is truly part of the overall score.

    Over six games this makes sports out of a possible 42 with a default of 30 if you're decent fun bloke.

    If we take a sampling of the top Guardcon sportsmanship results, realising that the underlying scoring mechanism was different, you get the following when applying either a +1 or a +2 for each 'favourite opponent':

    Guardcon | Guardcon |
    Sport | Favourite |
    Score | | +2 | +1
    28 | 3 | 34 | 31
    28 | 2 | 32 | 30
    28 | 1 | 30 | 29
    28 | 1 | 30 | 29
    27 | 1 | 29 | 28
    26 | 2 | 30 | 28
    26 | 1 | 28 | 27
    26 | 1 | 28 | 27
    24 | 2 | 28 | 26

    Is it worth the trouble? I personally like the idea of a single score that applies to both who gets best sports and contributes to your overall score. The current way, using the Guardcon example, 4 players got 1st equal sports scores contributing to their overall score equally, but if you factor in the suggested extra points there was a clear 1st, 2nd and tie for 3rd. I think this should contribute to, and be represented in, their overall scores."

    Again sorry for the old post - hope you don't mind :)

  10. Thanks Shawn, appreciate the input.

    I guess my base is that I think that participants at an event should have the expectation that their opponents will be enjoyable to play. I don't necessarily think that they should have an expectation that their opponent should "entertain" them.

    For that reason I don't necessarily support a system that creates any variance except for poor behaviour.

    What this generally leads to is scoring where 90-95% score full marks. Is that a bad thing? Sure there is little differentiation but where there is it sticks out like dogsballs.

    For me the favourite opponent voting captures the intent of rewarding the truly good sport. If you score 3-4 votes then you are doing something right!!

    So I'm not sure that more complicated schemes deliver better (or even equivalent) results to the System 4 I outline.

    Of course I'm biased, as it is the system I use. I do think though that for a switched on TO it delivers a superior result. Why? Less fiddly. And he can talk to disgruntled opponent and tease out real story. This forms basis of feedback to penalised player if penalty still in place after discussion.