After the expenditure of many wife points, the consumption of dubious food substances and coffee that was more expensive than beer I draw the curtain over my Yavin Open experience at the UK Games Expo.
This is my overview of the tournament in general and how it went down. My battle report of the games that I played can be found here.
In the lead up to the event a lot of people on the interweb were foretelling tales of doom and huge time delays that would cripple such large tournament. Almost all of the naysayers were not going to the Open and in the grand scheme of things it ran smoothly and mostly to time. A lot of the attendees have already gushed about the running of it on FacePage and waved a jolly two fingers at the naysayers. If I were to place my TO hat on, if I were in charge of it….would I be happy?
Vince and his FFG team did a good job with some clever touches to speed things along. The round pairings were especially well handled by having everyone listed alphabetically with a table number next to their name. Everyone therefore always returned to the same spot to find their next game. With a total of 414 players present this saved a lot of hassle and time rather than trying to find your name on a traditional pairing sheet.
You cannot fault the table space to physically play, clear numbering, comfy chairs, all the same deep space FFG playmates which meant lack of bum rubbing on the player behind due to adequate space between rows, (admittedly some may have missed that part) and working air con unlike a certain large Warhammer venue in Nottingham. Anyone who has been to Warhammer World will be able to tell you of the multiple variations of stench that fill the same sized hall by the Saturday afternoon but with a third of the competitors.
FFG for their part had flown in Christen Peterson the CEO, Frank Brooks, (one of the game designers) and the guy who is the software developer for Tome (He was the really stressed looking guy praying that Tome did not do something like our Sat Nav did for the journey home). Mr Peterson gave a thankfully concise but good little speech at the start to get things going. He seemed a bit short to be a Stormtrooper though. Tome seemed to behave for the most part although one feels that overall they needed a couple more bodies on the floor to compile results and resolve questions.
There was only a half hour delay to start the event although they retained the ninety minute lunch break after round two. I recall going for pizza and another below average pint of Guinness around 10 pm after round six was done with. The original finish time was slated for 9pm so in terms of player numbers for each turn around its not a bad over run. Both the two 30 man X wing events I have run have started 15 minutes late although finished on time without slashing lunch.
Sunday also over ran due to the first cut starting late. I failed to make it but was enjoying an eggs benedict at a Wetherspoons pub. The morning had no Hanger Bay Side event and only, (only), 130 or so players to sort out for the initial cut, which had a continuous stream of drops as players fell out of the running. This probably didn’t help as I gather Tome is not great at re-pairing rather than awarding byes. They also held up the start of the Hanger bay to allow as many players from the 9th round of Swiss to enter, which some had mixed feelings about. Hanger Bay finished a bit after 7pm rather than 5.45pm. This meant not being on the road, going in the wrong direction till about 7.45pm.
This is where my only gripe is aimed at, (and the sat nav as well as Burger King at the motorway services). The Expo team had decided to only run one Hanger Bay event stating it would be too difficult to run in conjunction with the initial cut in the morning. The Sunday did feel a bit disorganised compared to Saturday for those kicking around for Hanger Bay, especially by continually shunting the start time back whilst waiting to cram in anyone from round nine of the swiss which was heavily over running. By running only one Hanger Bay it did feel a bit like you three hundred can just go do one till the afternoon, ( I got an eggs benedict though), and you can now wait even longer as we don’t want to upset people who have already played games in the morning by missing out on more games. As it was quite a few players went home on the Saturday night as they did not feel the need to wander or sit around for hours on the Sunday.
I fully understand the fear and pressure of the “what if it all goes wrong,” from the TO’s perspective and understand the safety net of cutting down the logistical issues of running parallel tournaments. I have done it on a smaller scale with two totally different systems and it is tricky and requires your team being on the ball in different places all the time. As a TO it is not till those first result slips start coming in and your scoring system does its magic that you can take a step back and breath. Until you have run an independent tournament which at the very minimum is required to break even from a financial perspective you can’t understand the pressures involved. And in most cases you don’t get paid for it either.
I’m not saying that you should be splashing loads of prize support down into the middle orders or below but having a gaming experience in the morning for those knocked out on the Saturday would have been a better and more welcome option. Even if having just the one Hanger bay, running it in the morning would have been a better logistical option for the Expo team in terms of clear up and exiting of the venue, maybe starting half an hour or so later than the top 130 cut.
In general the reason that you have a successful and well attended event is not due to the upper echelons of the playing field but the general masses. If you want repeat customers and bums on seats you need to be attractive to the whole gaming community and offer an enjoyable experience to every player of every level. In any business repeat customers are a fantastic staple regardless of the amount of cash they drop.
When I run a tournament I can almost do what I want. Vince had to work within FFG’s frame work as well as the Expo’s, hence the needlessly long lunch break that could not be cut into. The Expo want players to spend money during the ninety minute lunch break on the Saturday and the Sunday morning. Personally I have little interest in looking at swathes of miniature games that I’ve never heard of or will never play or expensive gaming tables which require an extension to the house to use. Apparently the best day to buy stuff is the Friday. I do accept I have slight geeky tendencies, (I play toy space ships as a hobby), but when the wife mentions Roleplay I’m thinking nurse’s uniform or gimp suit, not get dressed up as David Bowie from Labyrinth, a Dr Who, an Elf or bright Orange Fish Lady. Saying that the lady in the Fish Lady costume wore it well but sadly they did not have one in my size.
How long is too long?- A wider problem
In some ways Yavin highlighted the issue that X wing tournaments now face. Playing five or six rounds with maybe a top four or eight cut is doable in a day. With the increased popularity and player numbers we now face 100 player events with six rounds and top sixteen cuts played in one day. (16 hrs plus of gaming). This frankly is getting ridiculous and dangerous, especially if you have to travel to it. When do we say that maybe finishing the later rounds in the small hours then combined with a long drive home is not a great idea? When someone gets killed by falling asleep at the wheel or ends up under the wheels of a bus when walking back home early hours not being fully alert to the red menaces around London or elsewhere?
The Open system seems to be a test drive to how to format a large X wing event over two days for all participants. At the moment some regionals are splitting into two days but it then leaves issues for venue hire and ticket pricing and the question for the participant about whether or not to book a hotel as you cannot guarantee playing the next day. Even for a store it is not so great to only have a few players in on day two. Furthermore it’s a bit of a bummer to get knocked out in the first sixteen on day two and that’s your day done.
My personal solution for a two day event on a regional scale as Epic play and escalation are not everyone’s cup of tea would be to run the top sixteen in a score reset super sixteen event on day two. That could be round robin groups of four followed by knock outs, 3 or 4 round swiss followed by top 4 or 8 cut or a straight 5 or 6 round swiss event to determine the champion. The remaining players from the day before who did not make the top 16 cut could play in either a new swiss event or a couple of hanger bays.
So If I were running it would I be happy? Considering the size and potential over runs plus running a 144 player regional on the Friday all in all I would. I personally would have wanted to find a way to run two hanger bays on the Sunday, which maybe if the format is repeated next year they will as at least Vince and his team have the experience now of running an event of this scale. Even when running the smaller events that I have, (comparably everything is smaller), I’m always questioning about what went well and what didn’t and what can we do to improve. I would be a bit disappointed to have run an hour or more behind on both days but otherwise pleased with the way it turned out and ran.
Would I go again? Most likely, although I would prefer to have the option of a full day of X-wing available on the Sunday regardless of how I perform on the Saturday. When one calculates the total expenditure and time away from the family, you would like two days gaming like back in the bad old Warhammer 40K days. You could say fly better, (not travel at 5am on the Saturday morning would help), but as I stated before you need to appeal to all of the gaming community and field to get the repeat business.
It will be interesting to see if FFG continue with this Open format or improve it in some way. Other than that well done to Vince and all his Expo team for pulling it off.