Thursday, December 1, 2016

Group Building: Planning a tournament

Who plays tournaments these days?! 

Tournaments are a great community growth project. Starting off with small 4-person tournaments and showing people that there is a community to join and show prospective players what the game is about, how big the community is, and to see that there is fun competition to be had.
Today I will go over the different types of players and what each may be looking for. I will also go over how to set up a Dropfleet Tournament, what you will need, and what can be changed by you as the Tournament Organizer (TO) to adjust the fun level of the tournament.

Who are your players?

Many people do not play in tournaments because they feel that it is too competitive and they just want to have fun. They may also feel that they are little fish in a big pond as was pointed out to me by the leader in tournament organization of Hawk Games (at least in the US) JD Welch. Players who are "top dog" in their home meta can get rude awakenings when they travel. However, there are ways to get around this. Mission selection, crowd, prizes, the age of the tournament, the prestige, and environment are all vital factors in a tournament.


Let us start with the environment. This is important because it is the draw to your players. Can they access the area easily? Does it have access to food, drinks, restrooms? Is there an area for smoke breaks nearby? These things matter to potential players. They want an open environment that is not cramped, properly cleaned and allows easy access to the table. All of that promotes a relaxing atmosphere that draws people in. Ask yourself this, would you play in this space for 6-8 hours with 10+ other people?

Age of a Tournament:

When I talk about the Age of a Tournament, I am talking about how long it has been around, take Hawk Wargames Invasion tournament. It has been around for what, 3 years now with a Spring and an Autumn Invasion. The last Invasion a few months ago had roughly 70+ players. That is a good amount of people playing the game but it took time to build up to that level. It will take a few times in a location to draw higher numbers but stick with it. Keep focused on the goal and advertise.


Advertisement cannot be emphasized enough. You have to get the word out. Not everyone uses Facebook, not everyone uses the forums, so you have to spread the word! Create posters, talk to store owners, do demo games leading up to the event. If your store has a miniatures case to display minis, place those in there. Get your store (if you have one) to advertise, bloggers, podcasts, and those who are sponsoring your tournament.You can always ask Hawk Liam to add your event to the News Letter. Make it big by drawing interest.


When setting up your tournament you will want to see what prizes you can offer. If you are working through a store, see what they can do. Some (like my FLGS the Portland Game Store) will take some to all of the entry fees and put them into store credit. Others will do a trade in prizes. You can go the route that some have done, where they collect the money, pay for a space and the prizes through your players paying prior to the event. If you do this last one, do not go crazy in your space selection, choose a place that can hold 10-14 players and if you need more room look for that when it comes.

Ask sponsors! This one is important. For Dropzone Commander and Dropfleet Commander you have a few great options. There are the two sponsors of The HotLZ, WarGaming Mats and The Model Exchange. Then there is Dark Ops Wargaming Terrain and Accessories who is sponsored by Hawk Wargames for Terrain and their accessories. They make some BEAUTIFUL models and I do want a sponsorship from them! You can also go through Hawk Wargames as well as they love to help out. I asked the guys at Orbital Bombardment (who are the ones in the main picture as well) and they told me that Blotz and Warmage, are great options for sponsors for Dropzone Commander Terrain. With all of these potential sponsors you will likely have to buy products through them but they may work out a deal with you. Use the links to contact them and work out Ask around and see what works best for you in this area. You would be surprised on what sorts of prizes you will be able to find.

Prestige of the Tournament:

Nothing draws people like a well known and prestigious tournament. Now setting something up for this takes years. You will likely start small and grow. Holding one of these requires a certain panache to get it to succeed. There are a few exceptions but unless you are the games designer you don’t have access to them for the most part. You need a high degree of motivation and a love for the game. A willingness to go through the highs and lows and the ability to make the event a fun time for pretty much every. This takes a lot of organizational skills so never start with this as the goal, but if it grows to thing than all the better!

Designing a Dropfleet Tournament

When setting up a Dropfleet Commander tournament you need to consider a few things. The first is, how many players are you expecting? The second is how many rounds will your site allow you to do? The third is how many days can you do this tournament? Fourth is how long can your rounds be? Fifth is what missions will you pick? As an add on to 5, and only for Dropfleet Commander, what Approach Types will you choose for each mission? Sixth is how many points will the tournament be per player? What terrain will you need? Lastly, and maybe one of the more important things is how will you score each round?

Now, for a 20 person tournament, you want 4 rounds at a minimum. The reason is because it gives a much more accurate result to tournament scores and you will want people to play as many people as possible. The times for each round will want to be about two and a half hours. This means a ten hour day of gaming and you want to figure out a lunch break, set up breaks, and such in there as well. For your smaller tournaments that are using less points you can reduce the time of the rounds to save you time but you cannot reduce them too much. With a new game like Dropfleet, 2 hours is still too short since players do not have the game experience to play fast or consider their options faster. So always take into consideration your player base.

Mission selection can really help you out. Giving out those missions out as well as the Approach types being selected (for dropfleet only) will allow your players to build their lists for those missions and help speed play up. This seems like a small thing but in the end every bit helps! This compounds with how many points the tournament will be. Will it be a Skirmish 999 tournament? Maybe a Clash 1500 tournament (what is balanced to be the norm)?

What terrain you will need? In a Dropzone tournament you will need buildings, tiles, maybe some scatter terrain (not wanted for the higher level tournaments due to balance of a playing field). In a Dropfleet tournament you will need space stations, clusters, sectors, and debris fields as just a start. Some Missions need Large Solid Objects (LSO’s) like moons and maybe a passing comet. Each system will need a number of things and it will get higher as the player count rises so consider asking players to bring their own or get more!

Scoring is important as well. Dropzone has its own scoring system created by Hawk which is perfect but Dropfleet does not. I have used a Win/Draw/Loss system that ranked everyone by the number of wins and losses they had and ties were broken by the points each player scored in all of their games combined. This allowed for a relatively easy system but It might be too simplistic.


Overall, Running a tournament is a deep endeavor that will take time to set up and get right. Take your time, ask for help from those around you or those online who have done many tournaments (Orbital Bombardment, and JD Welch are great sources of information)

As always folks, thank you for reading, make sure to subscribe by email, follow me via Facebook on my page the The HotLZ, remember to check out WarGaming Mats for their beautiful line of vinyl 4x4 and 6x4 mats for Dropfleet, Star Wars Armada, and X-Wing (and maybe a few other games!) and some new Cluster vinyl sets. 
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