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Old May 6th, 2008, 08:03 AM
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A Points-Free Tournament System

Over in this thread I derailed the conversation by suggesting that a more general notion of a draw might have intesting applications to a tournament setting. I was a little off-topic to begin with, and my lack of thorough advance thought on the issue did not help the conversation. Thanks to the questions that were raised, and a vigorous session of yardwork, I have clarified my thinking and believe I have the bones of a system that is worth fleshing out.

I'd like to say upfront that I am not proposing that all tournaments adopt the idea, only that some might want to. I think a world where tournament directors have many successful models on which to base their tournament structure is healthier than one with a uniform set of tournament guidelines. Also, this is only an idea. I have not tried it. I'm seriously thinking of implementing it at the next tournament I run (probably in early 2009) but don't be expecting to read about a polished final product.

OK, disclaimers done with, onto the meat.

The system rests on a distinction between a tie and a draw that I thought was widespread, but wikipedia suggests is almost unique to cricket. For the purposes of this post, a tie is a dead-heat---a completed game with nothing to choose between the two sides. In kill 'em all Heroscape, the only way to achieve a tie is to finish the game with a DW7K explosion that takes out all of the remaining figures (I believe). A draw is a game in which no-one wins. If a game of kill 'em all Heroscpae is stopped early with both sides having figures remaining, then neither side has reached the win criterion and it is a draw (unless there is some secondary, points-based, criterion; more on this below). So a tie is a draw, but a draw is not necessarily a tie.

My system is simply this: Do not have a secondary points criterion.

If a game does not finish, then it is a draw. A Swiss system can easily handle draws. For example, one may give 2pts for a win, 1pt for a draw and 0pts for a loss. Strength of schedule is still available as a pairing or ranking mechanism. To give us some specifics to talk about, I will assume we are using 400pt armies and games are for a minimum of 10 rounds or 50 minutes (whichever is shorter). Give a number of players---say 16---and a number of rounds---say 4---and we now have a well-defined system. The question is whether it is any good.

Actually, the question of whether it is any good is, I think, three questions:

1. Is it Heroscape? In other words, is it within the rules as laid out in the rulebook?
2. Is it aesthetically pleasing? That is, does it sort the players according to our intuition of good performance? Does it provide an enjoyable tournament experience?
3. Is it practical?

My answers are "yes, without question", "yes, to me at any rate", and "sometimes, maybe" respectively. Let me elaborate.

1. Is it Heroscape? Here is what the rulebook has to say:
Quote:
Originally Posted by SotM Rulebook, p. 13
ENDING THE BATTLE
The game scenario sets the victory condition for each game. However, if the game hasn't ended by the time you've played a certain number of rounds, you may decide that the player (or team) with the most points wins. See scoring below.
That "may" is the crucial word. There is no indication that any given game must have a winner. The idea of a draw (as defined above) is built right into the rules. There is no question: the draw is not something being imposing above and beyond the rulebook---it's there already.

2. Is it aesthetically pleasing?

This is the fun one. From my perspective, American and/or modern competition is rapidly losing appreciation for a good draw. If you've got thirty or so hours to spare, and can dig up the tapes from somewhere, then watch the South Africa vs. England 1995 Johannesburg test match. I've just given the ending away, but that is one of the best games of cricket I've ever watched.

We are used to talking about emphatic wins or narrow victories, and similarly for losses. Why must the tie be a paper-thin borderline between winning and losing? A hard-fought game in which the slightly stronger player cannot quite eliminate the opponent is just as satisfying to my mind. Opening the tie category up to include the more general draw adds to the game. Sure, we need a winner. But in a tournament setting we need a winner of the tournament rather than of every individual game. As another example, soccer leagues are far more interesting and nuanced than American Football leagues. In my opinion, this comes down to the fact that individual soccer games are allowed to, and commonly do, finish with a tie. (This says nothing about the relative merits of the individual sports; I'd rather watch an isolated American football game than one of soccer if I had no allegience to any of the teams involved.)

One aspect that appeals about allowing draws is that the game has at least two plausible potential outcomes for much longer. Without draws, it is often apparent early on that one player is going to win. With draws, there is the question of whether the weaker side can hold on.

The appeal (or lack thereof) of draws is what I'm expecting to cause the system to sink without trace. We are used to each individual game having a winner and a loser, and that is going to be a hard attitude to shake. If only there were more cricket-loving 'scapers in Vermont

Does it rank the players sensibly? This is where I'm speculating. To win a game you now need to not only play better than your opponent, but to root out the remains of his/her army. Of course, this invites stalling. That is why it is crucial to have a minimum number of rounds. Stalling for time does not help beyond making sure that no more than 10 rounds are played in the 50 minutes (in our example). This leads us to question 3.

3. Is it practical?

The minimum round limit is the big issue here. This is not going to work for the huge GenCon tournaments. However, in a smaller 10--20 person event that is not squeezed for time I think it could work. One of the few advantages of holding a tournament in rural Vermont is that you know that you're not going to be dealing with hundreds of people. At the last one (also the first one) we were expecting sixteen but, thanks to a snowstorm and flu outbreak, we only had eleven. On this scale, with smaller games (that's why I suggested 400pts rather than something higher), I think that this could work.

I don't have any intuition for what the number of rounds should be. I don't usually track rounds. As well as thoughts on the system as a whole, I'd appreciate any insight into the details like this too. I chose 400pts for the army size because it was small. Smaller games should lead to a smaller absolute overrun.

So, there it is. What do you all think? Worth trying? Best thing ever? Obviously stupid? Stupid, but not obviously so? Your observations, thoughts and suggestions are all very welcome.
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Old May 6th, 2008, 08:30 AM
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Re: A Points-Free Tournament System

I don't have a problem with the 'draw system' could definietly make some matches that otherwise would not have raised an eyebrow, very exciting.

But, though I imagine it wouldn't happen very often, this system would invite for the occasional game that ended with both sides having units alive but one side severely out numbers the other, yet you only get a draw for nearly annihilating your opponent (a game where one side dominated but due to luck, good game play by the other side, or even stalling nets both sides the same result).

I'm not sure that would be an issue most of the time since if you have the numbers eventually there will be nowhere to run for you opponent, but pretty much every possible outcome will occur at one point or another.

Maybe add a stipulation where even though the scenario is Kill em' All, since a draw is possible, if both sides have units on the board at the end of the match if one side has 50% or more points (still alive) than their opponent, then they still net the win.

I just chose 50% randomly, maybe it would work better with 80% which would indicate that one side dominated. I realize though that this opens a new can of worms in where to draw the line.

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Old May 6th, 2008, 01:08 PM
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Re: A Points-Free Tournament System

Quote:
Originally Posted by nyys View Post
I don't have a problem with the 'draw system' could definietly make some matches that otherwise would not have raised an eyebrow, very exciting.

But, though I imagine it wouldn't happen very often, this system would invite for the occasional game that ended with both sides having units alive but one side severely out numbers the other, yet you only get a draw for nearly annihilating your opponent (a game where one side dominated but due to luck, good game play by the other side, or even stalling nets both sides the same result).

I'm not sure that would be an issue most of the time since if you have the numbers eventually there will be nowhere to run for you opponent, but pretty much every possible outcome will occur at one point or another.

Maybe add a stipulation where even though the scenario is Kill em' All, since a draw is possible, if both sides have units on the board at the end of the match if one side has 50% or more points (still alive) than their opponent, then they still net the win.

I just chose 50% randomly, maybe it would work better with 80% which would indicate that one side dominated. I realize though that this opens a new can of worms in where to draw the line.
I think there is another aspect to the "tie" that might be appealing. Large armies (many common squads) like my stinger army I fought with at BatB have a tough time getting the enemy wiped out completely before the 50 minutes are up. It's because they take more rounds to activate and do damage. When not completely wiping your enemy of the board results in a tie, HeroScape (as opposed to SquadScape) will be promoted...

The question becomes: should you run a timed game (50 minutes) or a round limited game (10 rounds). I am for the second option, but that might make a tournament more chaotic as start time for each round cannot be predicted.

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Old May 6th, 2008, 02:19 PM
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Re: A Points-Free Tournament System

My biggest concern with the draw is that some players will play "not to lose" rather than play to win. I'm not talking about a player who has been playing aggressively for 9 rounds and then scrambles to preserve the draw when time is about to be called. There may be some issues with that, but its not as bad as a player who plays for the draw from the beginning. In a tournament, most players will have a competitive enough nature that that won't happen, but I can see the case of an inexperienced player who gets matched up against spider_poison. He may decide "I can't win this, but I'll make sure you don't either", resulting in a boring game of turtling and/or running away.

I'm also concerned that a draw may not accurately reflect what happened in the game. For example, in my last tournament, I was playing on Broken Skyline which has several "pillars" accessible only by ladders. At the end of the game, I was left with only a Marrden Hound (which could not climb the ladder), and my opponent had several valuable figures on the pillars (with no reason to come down). This would have ended in a draw, but in reality, my opponent beat me. He played the map better and made fewer mistakes than did, so he deserved the win (and got it since we used point differential).

I'm not totally against the draw system, but there are flaws. But the same can be said for any other system, including point difference.

FYI - The next Ann Arbor Tournament will try a different scoring system that may be very interesting (http://www.heroscapers.com/community...ad.php?t=17526). We will not rank by win-loss record, but will count total enemy points destroyed. Final ranking will be based on cumulative points for all games played. Sorry to get off-topic, but I wanted to show that there are tournament directors willing to try different approaches.
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Old May 6th, 2008, 03:17 PM
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Re: A Points-Free Tournament System

Quote:
Originally Posted by MI_Tiger View Post
My biggest concern with the draw is that some players will play "not to lose" rather than play to win.
Very good point. That actually makes sso much sense I might have to revise my own opinion on the draw.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MI_Tiger View Post
FYI - The next Ann Arbor Tournament will try a different scoring system that may be very interesting (http://www.heroscapers.com/community...ad.php?t=17526). We will not rank by win-loss record, but will count total enemy points destroyed. Final ranking will be based on cumulative points for all games played.
I like that a lot. Let us know how it worked out!

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Old May 7th, 2008, 10:40 AM
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Re: A Points-Free Tournament System

Me like the idea, but the thing is that every sport that uses such a scoring system also has further tie breaking rules (number of away goals in football (soccer to you yanks)) so what you are doing is basically delaying the application of those tie breaking rules. Not a bad idea, but...

It would encourage people to run away a lot at the end of the game. With the points system they still come out fairly badly, and with the current standards that point system is referred to fairly often.

With your scoring the points will be referred to less (but still have to be calculated) and the benefit of the "run away 'til the end" strategy increases. I am not sure this is a good idea.
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Old May 7th, 2008, 10:43 AM
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Re: A Points-Free Tournament System

I agree with Kroc. There has to be a tie breaker system that rewards aggressive play.


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Old May 7th, 2008, 11:12 AM
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Re: A Points-Free Tournament System

Quote:
Originally Posted by RobertDD View Post

The question becomes: should you run a timed game (50 minutes) or a round limited game (10 rounds). I am for the second option, but that might make a tournament more chaotic as start time for each round cannot be predicted.
I think you would find that using a round-limited game, like you are proposing, would actually take longer to play than an actual time-limit game. I only say that because most tournament games, at least in my, albeit, limited, experience, are usually settled by about the 5th or 6th round, and that's usually about 45 minutes into the match or so. I'm not trying to harp on your idea at all, just pointing out some potential problems that could arise with it.


I'm not saying it's a bad idea, but perhaps a tournament setting isn't the best place to implement that idea unless you're using some funky rules like R˙chean's 'creeping fog' idea.

Again, just playing devil's advocate on the round-limited game. Personally, I like the idea, I just don't think tournament settings are the place to go with it right now.

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Old May 7th, 2008, 11:44 AM
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Re: A Points-Free Tournament System

Quote:
Originally Posted by rym View Post
I think you would find that using a round-limited game, like you are proposing, would actually take longer to play than an actual time-limit game.
I think that would entirely depend on how many rounds and how much time you are talking about, wouldn't it?

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Old May 7th, 2008, 11:50 AM
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Re: A Points-Free Tournament System

Just to ask for clarification, ollie... what need or deficiency are you trying to address with your proposal?

Also, have you tried using the Tournament Director program found in the Software section? If yes, what did you think of it?

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Old May 7th, 2008, 12:06 PM
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Re: A Points-Free Tournament System

Quote:
Originally Posted by ej View Post
Just to ask for clarification, ollie... what need or deficiency are you trying to address with your proposal?
I know you asked Ollie, but I like to hijack: the points addressed in this fashion are
1. No more time spend calculating at the end of the match (note the matches where a lot of calc is done are also the ones that already went over time, because they havent finished)
2. If you cant kill your opponent within the set amount of time, you shouldnt get a win
3. the system of victory points favours the player that goes in, takes out weakest fig of opponent and comes out unscathed. (Kill points works much better and this is actually not so much of an issue, although you still get the "what should I shoot to get the most points from it" thing that can be annoying)

Quote:
Originally Posted by ej View Post
Also, have you tried using the Tournament Director program found in the Software section? If yes, what did you think of it?
Yes, its great!

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Old May 7th, 2008, 12:29 PM
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Re: A Points-Free Tournament System

Thanks for all of the comments; plenty more food for thought. Here are a few responses (working backwards up the thread). Sorry for the lengthy post.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ej View Post
Just to ask for clarification, ollie... what need or deficiency are you trying to address with your proposal?
No need or deficiency, I'm just trying to expand the already existing wonderfulness of the Heroscape tournament scene. I've been to half a dozen tournaments now, and no two of them have used the same system. All of them have been good. Some variations are minor (Marvel or not, glyphs or not, points totals, SoS considered), others are more controversial (whole card vs. fractional scoring), others even further off the beaten track (teams, sidebar). While I have my preferences within these options, far stronger than my preference for one of the individual systems is my desire to have the variety that these systems represent. Heroscape is a flexible game system; I enjoy it when that is reflected in tournament play.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ej
Also, have you tried using the Tournament Director program found in the Software section? If yes, what did you think of it?
Yes, indirectly. It was used at Battle of the Border. It was smooth and clear (at least from the point of view of a participant). It's a great resource and one that I'd fully recommend to anyone that wants to run a tournament that fits within that structure (I'm not sure how flexible it is).

Quote:
Originally Posted by rym
I think you would find that using a round-limited game, like you are proposing, would actually take longer to play than an actual time-limit game. I only say that because most tournament games, at least in my, albeit, limited, experience, are usually settled by about the 5th or 6th round, and that's usually about 45 minutes into the match or so. I'm not trying to harp on your idea at all, just pointing out some potential problems that could arise with it.
This is the biggest worry I have with the system. You can't simultaneously guarantee a finish time and have a minimum round limit that overrides the time limit. However, I think with small armies, the round limit could be such that it would be very unusual for a game to take over an hour. How much that "very unusual" weighs against the need stop playing by a particular time will depend on the individual circumstances.

Thanks for the feedback on how many rounds it takes. Would you say that eight rounds would very rarely take longer than an hour?

Quote:
Originally Posted by grungebob
There has to be a tie breaker system that rewards aggressive play.
I don't think so. Why do we need a tie breaker at all? That's the whole ethos of the system---we don't have to be so focused on winning and losing.

In a 4 round Swiss tournament with 16 players, any player that wins all four games is guaranteed to win outright. The more widespread occurrence of draws will also make ties in the tournament less likely, and there is strength-of-schedule too. Does it really matter if we can't distinguish 5th place from 6th? They finish equal 5th and roll a D20 to see who goes first at the prize table.

As for rewarding aggressive play, I agree it needs to be encouraged. It is built into the system. If you want the points for winning you have to wipe out the opponent. On average, I think that is going to require aggression above and beyond what is currently required.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MI Tiger
My biggest concern with the draw is that some players will play "not to lose" rather than play to win.
...
I'm also concerned that a draw may not accurately reflect what happened in the game.
I half agree. Yes, the game is changed. My point is that this is a good thing. To win you have to show a large degree of dominance. You can dominate without winning in this system. It's not that this does not accurately reflect what happens in the game; it's that how we think about the outcome has changed.

Playing not-to-lose is perfectly acceptable. You can try and guarantee some points and make your opponent really earn them from you. You won't win any tournaments if this is your strategy, but I think it adds richness to the meta-game.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MI Tiger
We will not rank by win-loss record, but will count total enemy points destroyed. Final ranking will be based on cumulative points for all games played. Sorry to get off-topic, but I wanted to show that there are tournament directors willing to try different approaches.
This system was used at Roll Shields and Die and Chaos in the Capital last year. It worked well, as long as you are OK with someone with a 2-2 record beating someone with a 3-1 record (something like this happened at both events). If you care about such things, it also means that you can use fractional scoring and stay within the bounds of the rulebook.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nyys
Maybe add a stipulation where even though the scenario is Kill em' All, since a draw is possible, if both sides have units on the board at the end of the match if one side has 50% or more points (still alive) than their opponent, then they still net the win.
I don't think a condition like this is desirable---it cuts against the grain of the proposal. The system only works if you adjust your thinking to allow a player to dominate without winning. It seems to be unusual in modern sports, but cricket and chess both provide examples of rich and exciting gameplay with such an attitude in place.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kroc
football (soccer to you yanks)
As a Brit in the US, I now never say "football" as an unqualified term. I talk about "American football" and "soccer". It's reached the point where soccer has become fully internalised, and I don't even think "football" any more.

Thanks again everyone; I hope I addressed all the points, including the ones I didn't quote directly.
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