Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A few simple tips to ensure your tournament is a success...


This post is probably aimed more at TO's, but over the last decade I've attended a fair few tournaments. There are a few key factors here and there that jump out and make certain events stand out ahead of others, but very rarely (never) does a TO manage to nail all of the below points.

Building some of the peripheral aspects of your event can really edge you ahead, and believe it or not, the below points are some of the biggies participants consider when weighing up whether to return the next year and so on...

In no particular order:

Table Numbers: This sounds straight forward, and minor, but it really adds a much more organised feel to your event. Don't make it some scrappy torn piece of exercise book with a number crudely drawn on, have the numbers fixed, and clear to see. As a TO, this will save you what will feel like four score and seven years worth of time in answering the same damn question again and again; "no, that's table 1, that's 2, and so on and so forth".

Yeah, maybe don't use these for numbers.

Trophies: It's simple, and it doesn't need to be expensive, but with a little effort and thought you can get something unique and fantastic looking for a low budget. Pitfalls to avoid are medals (there are countless jokes about these behind the scenes, needless to say don't leave this part of your tournament to become the laughing stock) or common off the shelf at ye olde trophy store pieces. Hands down, some of the coolest trophies I have seen were thrown together with pieces from a hardware store tastefully by Sean Lincoln (apologies if the credit or spelling is wrong there). Other notable entries are the plaques provided at Fields of Blood, and the old framed pictures GW used to do at some of their GT's. A few events have gone the whole hog, dishing out faux weaponry, though I'm sure this leads to some interesting conversations on the plane.

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner.
Food: I've not seen many NZ events do this. A little more logistical work and putting on some food at an event can make for a fantastic environment. Typically when it comes to lunch time everyone scatters near and far, depending on how close to food you were able to position your venue. People trickle back in at various times and it's not exactly the most communal aspect of the event.
By throwing on some food, you wind up with everyone sitting down and eating together, getting back into it around the same time (and around a schedule you have a little more rigid control over) and as a competitor at the event, it really adds something special.
There are 2 main ways to implement this, either a) pad the ticket cost, and provide food for all, or b) have an opt in. Option b works better with something like a BBQ, so that you don't wind up with people seagulling around and winding up with food they didn't contribute to, which although really minor, will really wind up a few personality types who observe this behavior :P

Don't let some fatty eat too much however.
Projector: Bit of a no brainer, a projector hooked up to a computer lets you show the draw in giant lettering (saving your throat), running people through the mission if you have to, works great for the prize giving, and most importantly; lets you display a giant counting down clock which tends to keep your players a little more on time and keeps your schedule better in line.

Avoid everyone cramming in on your monitor while you read the draw.

The midway night: Depending on how large your field is (and thus how practical this option is), gauging interest and making a booking at a bar/restaurant can go a long way towards further building an enjoyment level for your entrants.

This is actually a photo from the recent Masters event.
Venue that provides alcohol: This one you can take or leave, but there are a few events that utilise a venue with a bar on site (usually an RSA), and it normally goes down pretty strongly with a lot of people. James Milner for example, will travel half way around the planet if he can have a beer while he plays.
A common fear with this suggestion is that someone will take it too far. Generally speaking, there is a reason why it's called the Dave Millar rule, and that's because no one has been that much of a twat since then to claim the name for themselves, not that far off a decade ago. That being said it's a fair concern, so take or leave this one. The combination of this, and the food was the nail in the coffin ensuring I will always go back to Natcon when Christchurch puts it on, so it's worth considering if a venue like this is available to you for a decent price.
Go home R2, you're drunk.
Prizes: Let one person win multiple trophies if they finish first in several categories, but for gods sake don't hand them all the loot as well. Its simple and straight forward to pass their subsequent prizes down to the next eligible participant.

OKAY so maybe this prize is a little OTT.
Finalise the Players Pack early: THEN DON'T CHANGE IT. Fortunately I've avoided being impacted by this one (because I am usually so disorganised that I don't show up until the last possible second) but I've seen more than a couple of people pull out of an event because the TO kept changing the pack late on in the thick of things trying to please everybody.
Don't we all?
Lastly, but very importantly: After several years of success after success, your event will kind of sell itself, and you won't have to work so heavily in this area, but until then, your list of entrants is only as big as the effort you put into marketing it. Phil Wu is an absolute master at this. He has his events filled to capacity (hint: bigger venue, more tables/terrain, push your limits Phil!) 6 months out. A few methods he employs to achieve this are directly contacting participants, vocalising how big it is getting early, and falsely creating a sense of time running out.
Events are like fat people. The bigger they get, the bigger they're going to get, and quickly. That's not a very good analogy, but it's been a really long time since I've made fun of a fatty, and I'm getting a little antsy. The point however, is that that first 20 or so people are the hardest to get, once you reach a decent size, you will quickly build towards your critical mass, at which point only mastering a few points from the above will help you encourage enough people from out of town/overseas to attend.

Be a master like Phil!

So there you have it. By implementing even just a few of the above, you can begin down the path of taking your event from being just another tournament in a bleak calendar of bland, to a fanfare extravaganza!

Gogogo! Make your tournament a winner!


  1. These are all good points Charlie.

    I would add the following:

    ARMY LISTS: Require them to be in two weeks before the event to allow them to be checked properly. Have a penalty for lists not in on time or if you are a child of modern times, a bonus for getting it in on time.

    TEMPLATES: Use an army list template and insist players use it for submitting their lists. It makes it easier to check, reducing your time. It also allows you to collate lists and distribute them to players.

    PEER SCORING: Where you are using peer scoring e.g. Sports, be very clear what default expectation is. That way you avoid "Russian Judge" problem

    TIMETABLE: Publish a timetable and stick to it. This allows out of towners to book travel knowing that they will not be rushed.

    RULINGS: Make it clear that Umpire's rulings are final. There is nothing as unhelpful as a player wishing to argue the toss after a ruling has been given.

    I'm sure I'll think of others.


    1. Agree regarding rulings, but imo where possible every effort should be made to clarify things before the tournament/before lists are due in. Often TO rulings can effect how a unit is played and thus can effect an entire army dramatically, which is something you want sorted before lists are finalised. In part this is on the players as well, since its hard for a TO to cover every possibility without people asking questions.

      Great post though Charlie. Shameless plug, the Auckland Open has all these bases covered :)

  2. Thank you for the post. Very informative. Could you go over some pointers for running Campaigns as well? Planning on one for my store, but lack the necessary experience. Thank you.

  3. Great article broham.
    Phil really is an unstoppable force of event running here in Auckland and to be honest, our scene has absolutely thrived under his initiative.
    That pic gives me ideas for this years atc XD

  4. I would say medals aren't exactly a bad thing if they are given out in conjunction with a trophy, it means that if you win the trophy one year and either fail to or are unable to defend, you still have something to say that you won the event.

    Personally in addition to what Pete said about Army lists I think that they should be pre published for everyone to have a peruse of. It would mean someone like me could do what I am planning to do for Battlecry and Printing out and Binding all of the lists in a single book.(yes I am aware that I am not quite all there in the head thinking of doing that.)

  5. Battlecry is one of the worst tournaments run on the nz calendar. It singularly typifies the ineptness that this post is pointing at. What ever charm it had died when they came up with the idea of a giant ginga mascot waving a big wooden stick at the start of the tournament.

    1. Anonymous - spitting out truth bullets like a minigun.

    2. I only said Battlecry because of the fact that lists are prepublished, and is one of the first few tournaments in the year nothing about the tournament as a whole.

    3. Battlecry has prepublished lists yah. What about how they have the tournament draws done by alphabetical order in round 2! I won't make the mistake of going to it again. Mascot was funny hahaha.

  6. Guys, can I ask as a courtesy that if you are posting under the Anonymous log-in that you sign your name. It makes the interaction easier and much more personal and pleasant.

  7. Plus it avoids Nikola and I texting each other back and forth.
    "Are you the anonymous poster?"
    "No, I thought it was you!"
    "Then who the hell is it?"