Bay Area Open 2013 in Retrospect

Hey everyone, Reecius here to discuss the BAO 2013 and reflect on some of the very interesting data we gathered on the event!

The Bay Area Open is our signature event at Frontline Gaming, and a ton of fun. We had significant growth this year, and to be honest, grew a little too much! We had 144 40k Championships players, 50 Fantasy Championships players, 54 40K Team Tournament players and 12 in the 40K Narrative Event. That’s a LOT of people! It was quite a spectacle to see that many folks in one place enjoying the hobby we all love though.

While the event was a lot of fun, we did have some logistical issue such as starting late day 1 due to registration taking far longer than anticipated, and some issues with getting scores in fast enough to get pairings up on time. Also, our hall was a bit too packed (all 7,000sqft of it!) and as such, getting around was a bit more time consuming than it should have been.

That said, it was a really enjoyable event and while at one point I thought I was going to have a panic attack when the event was starting late, people couldn’t get int he front gate, the printer decided to crap out on us and our normally super smooth process was showing that it didn’t scale up as well as I had thought it would, we did finish strong and the vast majority of our attendees said they had a great time and were looking forward to coming back. That’s what counts: that folks have fun. We do this because we love it, certainly not for the money as there isn’t any to make!

So let’s talk about what happened, how folks felt about it and what it means for tournaments in general.

First of all, we had the first go with the much discussed BAO 40K FAQ, of which an iteration will be used at Adepticon, WargamesCon, Feast of Blades the Broadside Bash and any other event that chooses to use it.

The document is an independent FAQ that serves to fill the gaps in GW’s errata and FAQs. It is free to use and modify by any TOs out there that wish to do so. A document like this will never make everyone happy as it is making calls on hotly debated rules issues, but the bottom line is that it is needed for tournaments to function smoothly and there isn’t exactly a line of people willing to do the hard work required to write one.

At a great expense of time and energy (2 to 3.5 hour conference calls on a weekly basis for several months) it was created for community use and was generally very well received, serving its function to streamline play and answer important questions that impact organized play BEFORE they are an issue at the table. While not everyone agreed with every call, it was understood that it is better to have answers than nothing at all and end up with widely divergent rules interpretations and arguments at the table.

It is a living document as well, and constant testing and feedback will help to streamline it greatly. I wanted to publicly thank everyone involved for helping to get it out ASAP so that we could use it for the BAO. Also, thanks to all the community members who offered up constructive feedback on it.

Secondly, we allowed Forge World in all of our 40K events. Not just “40K Approved” units either, but any non-super heavy, non-gargantuan creatures. This was a fairly hotly debated topic prior to the event. Folks felt it may destabilize the game, throw balance out of whack, etc. We took a really big risk both in terms of the money we invest and potentially lose by throwing an event this expensive, and the reputation of our event by walking this path. We decided to throw caution to the wind, listened to community feedback, trusted our instincts and went for it. Now, I am not saying we are the first to do this, and I am not trying to steal anyone’s thunder, but we are the first large-scale, competitive event to go this route and the results were very positive.

To illustrate this I want to share some numbers. This figures come from an exit poll of the event using email polling through Google Docs (awesome program!). We got a 50% response rate from our attendees which was a lot better than when we used physical, paper exit polls in previous events, and the data was really interesting. This also makes me feel very confident that the numbers are an accurate representation of the field.

This first chart shows what attendees’ attitudes regarding FW was coming in to the event. As you can see a majority of folks came into the event positive about FW, and about a third were worried about it, with a smaller percentage either unaware FW was going to be allowed or that flat out just didn’t care.

This next chart shows attendees’ reactions to FW after the event. What we can see is that there was a shift to people preferring FW after having used it in a tournament setting. Just as I had expected! Exposure to FW led a lot of people to see that it really isn’t that big of a deal, or that they enjoyed having it. Only 1 person that came in positive on FW reversed their opinion and said they no longer liked it, whereas just about 40% of those opposed to FW coming in to the tournament reversed their decision and said they were for it after. Also, interestingly, all but one person that came in negative on FW, left negative on FW. That to me says a lot of folks had their minds made up about it before the event.

This table shows total army representation at the BAO. Frankie called it here, Chaos was out in force! Below is another chart with allies counted as 0.5 of an army to make the data a little easier to manage (thanks to Shinkaze for that suggestion).

Every army well represented (apart from poor BT, but at least there was 1!), that is awesome! I know a lot of that has to do with the fact that we offer the very popular “Best of Awards” that we give to whoever does the best with each army. Any TOs out there that want a more diverse field may want to try this as this is easily the most popular awards we have used. You do not often see such a nice spread of armies at tournaments.

Even more interesting, let’s compare the top 15 armies (top 10% of the field).

And again condensed with allies counting for 0.5 armies.

Again, a very nice spread of armies in the top 10% of the field! Compare that to Adepticon last year for example, where the finals was 50% Grey Knights!

Now any tournament is so much more complex than any 1 factor can possibly account for, but I feel that the inclusion of the “Best of Awards,” essentially using modified book missions, and FW were key contributing factors to having such a wide variety of armies at the BAO.

FW provides a lot of crucial AA options that through allies are available to a wide variety of armies. Now, to counter the argument that FW dominates flyers, only 1/3 of the top 15 had FW, and just shy of 1/2 had flyers. So that provides very compelling evidence to me that FW does not invalidate flyers at all, but does mitigate them. In fact, we saw a plethora of Hell Turkies (Heldrakes) all over the place. This is also very strong evidence that you do not “buy” victory by using FW. 2/3 of the top 10% didn’t have any.

Another important factor to consider is that on almost every table we had at least 1, very tall piece of terrain that allowed Flyers to at least protect themselves from Interceptor/Skyfire units. Most importantly, WHICH players were playing which armies is the most important factor to consider, and player skill is difficult (if even possible) to measure, so take these numbers with a grain of salt. Different players with the same armies would perform differently. Hell, the same players with the same armies playing the same opponents a second time would likely give us very different results.

What I will be VERY interested to see, is how these numbers compare to other, large tournaments that do NOT allow FW. My prediction is that without FW to level the playing field, Flyers will be a very dominating force. If we see 50% of the field at the Adpeticon finals Flyer Nation armies, that will be very interesting, indeed.

That to me is awesome! The vast majority of folks really liked our format. We play-tested the crap out of it, so it ran quite smoothly. We essentially run 2 book missions at the same time with book deployments. This creates a very fair, tactically complex scenario that rewards smart play, mitigates bad match-ups and is fairly intuitive to pick up. The combination of battle points and Swiss Style W/L/D worked very well, too, and I am very confident our system is approaching a polished state. If any TO’s want to see our system to use or modify, the complete guidelines can be found here.

This chart shows how frequently games did not finish on time according to player feedback. For reference  we play at a 1,750 point limit with 2 hour and 15 minute rounds with preset terrain. As can be seen, a lot of games were not finishing on time within that time frame. There were other factors to consider here too, such as the logistics of moving through a large, crowded hall, and only having 15 minutes between rounds.

This really interested me. The community is very evenly divided on what is the best points limit to play for tournaments. 1750 won out by only a single vote with almost a perfectly equal amount of votes for that, 1500 and 1850. However, I through in 1650 as a new option and it took a small amount of votes (only 3) but had that option not been there, I would be curious to see if those folks would have gone 1500 or 1750? The point that is being conveyed in my opinion is that people are realizing that while more points means more toys (I prefer 2,000 myself for casual play), logistically in a tournament setting with real world limitations of hours in the day and player fatigue, lower points limits makes for more enjoyable games that are more likely to finish.

This next chart is really interesting, too. Fantasy players were fairly strongly divided on comp. Typically I associate comp with Fantasy events, but as you can see here, it was fairly evenly divided between the positive and negative on the topic of comp in Fantasy. We will definitely have to look further into this topic to see what is the best way to proceed.

Our venue has been the topic of a lot of discussion with strong feelings both for and against. It is essentially a giant warehouse (fondly referred to as the Barn!) that has a lot of space, but is nowhere near an airport, in a bit of a questionable area safety wise, and having nothing in the way of amenities to offer. As an added bonus, the dang venue staff decided not to let anyone in through the front gates and didn’t deem to tell me until the day of the event! That was annoying to say the least. However, it has one VERY strong point in its favor: it’s cheap.

Renting a hall in the Bay Area of California is crazy expensive. This was the only venue we could find that we could afford to get the ball rolling. It allowed us to charge a very reasonable ticket price ($55) and still provide a TON of prize support. I feel that the time has come for us to take the next step and grow into a hotel, but the data above shows that you really don’t need a fancy hotel to throw a big event. It’s more about the experience and the people than the setting. If you’re out there contemplating hosting a large scale event with your club, don’t be overly worried that you need a big expensive venue.

And of course, the biggest news of the event was that a woman won the 40K Championships!

A big congrats to Lyzz Foster! She went 7-0, undefeated through some REALLY good players (Alan “Pajama Pants” Bajramovic, Blackmoor, Blood Lord Soldado, SCP Yeeman, Doc Dragon to name a few) and won it all in style with a Daemon list (5th ed) that yes, did have Screamer and Flamers, but not an excessive amount. She used Horrors as troops and was rocking Blood Thirster and Tzeentch Chariots for HQ!

She was the winner of the very cool (and very expensive to make, yikes!) Belt of Russ! It cracks me up that this intentionally over-the-top, hyper masculine first place award was won by a woman in the inaugural year! I think it is fantastic that the gender stereotype is being challenged and if this means more women are encouraged to get into organized 40K, than great! That only benefits us all.

You can watch her championship game against Alan below. Alan was the winner of WargamesCon, the ETC Singles and a member of the USA ETC team, a very skilled player.

The 40K Team Tournament was also a blast, and grew over 100% this year! We had a ton of folks in costume, and the vibe of the event was very laid back, with lots of beer to drink and enjoyable, somewhat wacky missions to play.

Big Jim from Deepstrike Radio, did a great job with the 40K Narrative event, and as usual, it sounded like they were having a great time with a story driven, cooperative style format and some seriously gorgeous models.

Lastly, here is the chart that matters most to me, personally, complied from all of the events in total.

That tells me that yes, we definitely had some growing pains, and there is plenty of room for improvement, but overall people had fun! That is the goal. We work our asses off to make these events fun, and they really matter to us on a personal level. We don’t make money on them (turned a very light profit this year, lost money year 2, broke even year 1) so if folks aren’t having fun, there’s really no point to do all the work.

Event results can be found here!

I wanted to say thank you to everyone that came, to all of the very useful feedback (even the negative feedback can be used to improve!). We listen to it and use it to shape our decisions for future events. We are already thinking about next year, how we can make it better, smoother, and even more fun! We also want to drop hints on the upcoming Las Vegas Open, which we are going to go all out on to make it a can’t miss, war-gaming experience! We’re still in the early stages of planning, but count on it being either this or next year, and count on it being EPIC!

Any TO’s out there that would like some insights and tips on growing their event, feel free to email me as I am happy to share what worked really well for us, and what we goofed on. Learn from our successes and mistakes!

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About Reecius

The fearless leader of the intrepid group of gamers gone retailers at Frontline Gaming!

17 Responses to “Bay Area Open 2013 in Retrospect”

  1. Douglas March 13, 2013 5:41 am
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    Whats up May, June, July? Anything?

    • Reecius
      Reecius March 13, 2013 12:12 pm
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      As soon as I know, I will post. I am thinking either the fall or put it in the BAO time slot next year and move the BAO.

  2. Chris Bryant March 13, 2013 8:02 am
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    I am looking for some information on your narrative event. What rules, scenarios, format, etc. I am interested in holding a narrative event around here (TN) and am always looking at how others do it.

  3. sumo55 March 13, 2013 9:06 am
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    Congrats on a successful event! I hope I can make the trek up from LA next year.

    Out of curiosity, how did you rule on deep striking skimmers that scattered over models? Did you reduce the scatter (per BRB p83), or did they suffer a mishap? I’ve seen a lot of debate over this point, and when I looked over your BAO 40KFaq I couldn’t find an answer.

    I love your tournament Faq. Knowing how grey areas will be ruled ahead of time is a great help as a player, and I expect it nullified many potential arguments.

    • Reecius
      Reecius March 13, 2013 12:16 pm
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      We’d love to have you!

      We actually didn’t make that call, I will look into it though and see if we need to address it on the BAO FAQ.

      • sumo55 March 13, 2013 12:28 pm
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        I’d appreciate it. One interpretation makes DSing monoliths/raiders/land speeders relatively safe, the other terribly risky.

        • Reecius
          Reecius March 13, 2013 12:52 pm
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          Very true.

  4. David Key March 13, 2013 10:01 am
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    I LOVE METRICS!!

    Nice dude. Really, really nice. Great job on the event. It is really great to have seen it grow up around me over the last three years. I had a blast.

    My only suggestion is to make sure I am NOT matched up against a Dark Eldar player again next year. Just adjust the system, cheat, whatever. If you aint cheating you aint trying, right?

    HA. j/k

    • Reecius
      Reecius March 13, 2013 12:19 pm
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      Thank you, sir! We definitely had our issues this year with logistics, but it is apparent that most folks really enjoyed themselves which is what matters most to me.

  5. Dok March 13, 2013 12:49 pm
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    If you’re taking requests, don’t match me up with David Key either. He’s too good.

    • Reecius
      Reecius March 13, 2013 3:38 pm
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      Haha, will do!

  6. DeoSangre March 13, 2013 4:18 pm
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    Reec, I consume almost all of the FLG content you guys put up, I find your opinions fair and honest and some time eye opening. I really appreciate the extra effort you all put out to keep the community interested and actively sharing ideas. You seem like a very intelligent, educated, well-read guy. That being said I have one humble request/criticism/poke…

    The word is cavalry. Cav-al-ry. Calvary is where jeebus died… that is all.

    Much love…

    • Reecius
      Reecius March 13, 2013 7:17 pm
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      Haha, thanks. I always get that one wrong. I don’t mind folks pointing out grammar errors at all, helps me improve!

  7. Cameron March 13, 2013 8:09 pm
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    Awesome analysis!

    Looks like game completion was a noticeable issue. At this point are you thinking of addressing this by decreasing points or increasing round length? Or are you ok with having incomplete games?

    • Cameron March 13, 2013 9:38 pm
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      I’m concerned about this because, as you sort of mentioned on the podcast, short games creates new meta. My tyranid army is awesome in short games because it’s fast, durable, and has a ton of troops… I just run it into the center of the board, park it, and the opponent doesn’t have enough turns to kill everything.

    • Reecius
      Reecius March 14, 2013 8:46 am
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      I think we can speed games up with better logistics and maybe increasing the time limit by 15 minutes per round. That should resolve the issue. I would love to see us go down to us go down to 1650 or 1500, but the community feedback was seriously a perfectly even distribution with 1750 the exact middle ground.