Overall on the Case

The Case For Overall

473410766_640In recent years, I’ve seen a decline in major tournaments when it comes to a best Overall prize which includes a combining of Sportsmanship, Painting, and General scores. At one time, Best Overall was the top prize, but somewhere along the way it was pushed aside for Best General being the main event. This seems to be true at least in my area of the NW, and in some of the bigger ITC events that I see around the country. How and when did this phenomenon take over? Should the person with only the best win/loss ratio be the top dog?

The Problem Intensifies with Greed

cash-money-1110One of the great things that I see about larger events like the LVO, Nova, and Adepticon is the big prizes being awarded. This is very fun and brings a big element of surprise and envy from the attendees, but it can also bring about unwanted problems. Greed can make people do very foolish things and in the chaotic world of a 40k tournament, especially one with hundreds of players.

Just in general I worry about players changing lists between games with a player asking what army their opponent is playing and then choosing from a bevy of lists in their game bag. Ad Lance? List A. Pentyrant? List B. Centstar? List C. It would be hard for TO’s to check on this in our paper and pencil system.

With big prizes like what was seen at the 2015 LVO, there are going to be issues with players gaming the system.


chipmunk-cheeks-peanuts-g-427474Chipmunks were the main reason for Best Sportsmanship and therefore the true Best Overall prize going away. I’ve heard of players “chipmunking” or purposefully giving a player a bad score to ensure they wouldn’t get the top best overall prizes. This kind of situation led to some TO’s removing the Sportsmanship portion of the prize pool and therefore removing what I consider a vital part of the best overall prize.

The 40k Hobby Trinity

imagesTo me, 40k is equal parts hobby, competition, and sportsmanship. I know people that focus more in one of these areas with guys that love the hobby side more, just want to compete, and those guys that just love the game and to throw dice. I feel that these branches of 40k are of equal importance. There is nothing like have a really close game of two fully painted armies with a great opponent.

Of course, there will be those that embrace one more than another, but there is no reason at a competitive event for these things to be equally celebrated. That is why, to me, Best Overall was my personal top prize. The person that could do well in all of these areas is the kind of person I admire and hope to be like. I try to be pleasant to play, give a tough game, and work to make my army look good. I don’t always succeed, but it is something I try to do every game I play.


So what are we to do? Are there any solutions that would bring about a revival of the Best Overall prize? Is there a way to stop chipmunking scores and keep the integrity of the award in tact? At the Guardian Cup, we use a ranking system where you rank your opponents from the top down. You might think this would spread everything around and not work, but every time we have done this, a set of players rise to the top with strong sportsmanship scores. Can there be chipmunking in our system? Probably, but I think we honestly worry about this kind of thing too much. There will always be a small percentage of poor sports, just as there will always be a small percentage of cheaters. I think we as TO’s should just try to put forth the most honest and transparent system we can and address problems as we go on.


a_winner_is_you20110724-22047-1nd3wifIt is my hope to see Best Overall and Best Sports return to big events like the LVO. I feel that the award puts a certain amount of pressure to those who might misbehave and that it can and does have meaning. I know that the LVO and BAO have the Renaissance Man, but it feels a bit hollow without the Sports portion added into it.

Maybe I love Best Overall so much because it was the one prize I had a good shot at winning. I’m an above average player, with average to above average painting skills, and a winning smile (at least that is what my mom tells me). I always tried to shoot for best overall and was sad when an event didn’t have it. I think there must be a way to get it back into the mix.

What about you? Do you miss Best Overall as it used to be? See any other solutions? Post below!



About CaptainA

Aaron is a longtime gamer of many systems. He is an avid community builder of 40k and after running many 40k events in Portland, Oregon, has recently moved to Boise, Idaho and continues to host and run leagues and events. He has also recently expanded his repertoire and entered the second hand Warhammer business. Check out his website at www.trader-a.com to see how he can help you get rid off your old and unused models.

33 Responses to “Overall on the Case”

  1. Reecius
    Reecius March 7, 2015 10:55 am #

    Good article, CaptainA, but, the only problem I have with Sportsmanship scores is that it practically invites coercion and cronyism. Also, how do you measure something as intangible as another person’s friendliness or sportsmanlike behavior? It is inherently subjective. How do you measure it from player to player fairly? If you are going to throw in prizes that include that metric, the odds of it becoming falsified due to player bias increases exponentially.

    If someone could show me a system that fairly measured sportsmanship in an unbiased manner, I would be willing to consider it, personally, but I have never seen anything that came even close.

    • Avatar
      CaptainA March 7, 2015 11:10 am #

      I think the ranking system we use works pretty good.

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        DarkLink March 7, 2015 11:26 am #

        The problem with literally every sportsmanship score is that your score is not really based on your performance, it’s based on how willing your opponent is to cheat. There are absolutely and unquestionably players who will intentionally chipmunk people, and the way they do so will simply evolve based which system they use. But it’s not just about the blatant cheaters. A lot of gamers will get a little butthurt over stupid things. Otherwise cool people might be a sore loser, or they might not like how you run a “cheesy” army, or whatever bullshit it might be. You might not get tanked on sports, but you will lose points to no fault of your own if you have the bad luck to face one of these people. While blatant chipmunkers are rare, this latter type is actually pretty common. If you want a good sportsmanship score, you had better hope you don’t face one of them.

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          Hotsauceman1 March 7, 2015 12:01 pm #

          I think sportsman is best done as a Thumbs up/down and NOT a system factored into who wins.
          I remember someone telling me that he would give me a thumbs down for poor sportsmanship, buts its not his way. Same here with me, Most of the guys are bigger than me and if I give them a thumbs down and they find out, I might get my ass kicked if they are really upset. You are encouraged to not give bad sportsman too. so IDK

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      AbusePuppy March 8, 2015 2:25 pm #

      I’m with Reecius on this. Good sportsmanship should be an expectation of every person you play, not an award people are competing for. If your opponent is displaying poor sportsmanship, that’s when you talk to the TO or other official.

      Sports teams don’t give out “sportsmanship” awards- they give penalties to players who violate the rules or spirit of the game in egregious ways. Likewise other gaming leagues (chess, go, etc) and most other forms of organized play or competition.

      Playing the game is part of the hobby. Painting is part of the hobby. Converting is part of the hobby. Fluff is part of the hobby. All of these things are important to 40K, and there are good reasons to reward them at events. Sportsmanship is not part of the hobby. It is part of being a decent human being, and if you can’t consistently manage to do that, you deserve to be kicked out of the event.

      • Avatar
        Andrew March 9, 2015 7:27 am #

        +1 for AbusePuppy’s comment.

      • Reecius
        Reecius March 9, 2015 9:31 am #

        Yeah, I agree. I always felt like it was a bit childish to try and bribe players into behaving like an adult be giving them goodies for doing so. The expectation should be good sportsmanship.

        • Avatar
          CaptainA March 9, 2015 11:06 am #

          But But….

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        Greg Verzosa March 12, 2015 10:01 am #

        Lady Byng Trophy – NHL

        That aside, I have an idea for creating a ‘Tournament Player’s Hand Book’ which goes over the tenants of good sportsmanship, in general. It could go over general expectations and behavior, what is straight up considered cheating and penalties for each level of infraction, what isn’t considered bad sportsmanship, how to identify these, encourage players to be considerate of each other, etc. I don’t think it’ll be that difficult to create because while there are a few gray areas, sportsmanship is pretty black and white in our community. Those grey areas which most of us don’t consider bad sportsmanship could be identified so players know it isn’t an appropriate measure of docking someone for sportsmanship.

        I think it’ll pan out to be a better way of increasing attendance across all events since it seems that events in general have to put in a tremendous amount of work reacting to each GW/FW release in terms of their mission design, terrain set up, and FAQ editing.

        • Reecius
          Reecius March 12, 2015 10:45 am #

          We actually do have a set of guidelines for sportsmanship and have since the first BAO. THe only issue is that no one seems to read any of it, lol.

          • Avatar
            Greg Verzosa March 12, 2015 11:04 am

            Haha….wellllll that’s a bummer. I was more thinking of a rubric/handbook that is used in every event, all over the country. There’s never really going to be a perfect format, mission design, FAQ, or terrain set up (no offense intended) due to the reactionary role we have to play with GW’s releases, but expectations of sportsmanship are universal and unchanging. Just thinking it’d be easier to implement for creating a larger sense of community among all events rather than the discussion between who does it the “right” way. Y’know?

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      Kurt March 10, 2015 7:19 pm #

      Maybe, just maybe, there could be TO’s that actually walk around and watch for the Non-sportsmanship at the tables..

      It just seems alot they just walk around and talk with there buddies, which makes some people a little edgy with favoritism maybe going on..

      My 2 cents

    • Avatar
      Greg Verzosa March 12, 2015 9:51 am #

      I have an idea for sportsmanship being added back to all events in order to try and build a better attendance across all events, wrote about it a few weeks ago, but haven’t edited it. I’ll send it your way and see if it’s something you think the community could use.

      It doesn’t quite address cronyism completely, but there could be a way to do it if we keep people accountable for the scores they give other players equally as much as we try to keep bad sports accountable. It’d take a lot of bookkeeping and sharing of results across events similar to the ITC/ToF data, but could be a worthwhile endeavor if it gives new players confidence that they can go to an event and not feel cheated by anyone at the expense of the event’s reputation.

      You can also over the span of an event throw out the highest and lowest scores given to each player with a case by case basis for inclusion if they either went above and beyond to earn that high score or if they’re straight up caught cheating, which would disqualify them from sportsmanship in the event altogether. If we keep track of infractions, it could even carry over to the next event or two depending on the severity, kind of like red cards in soccer or the NHL handing out bans for dangerous hits.

  2. Avatar
    Dr.insanotron March 7, 2015 12:08 pm #

    I don’t really see it changing much. In the past 90% of the time the guy that one best overall was the best general. And they just reall gave best general to the second best record. So really you won’t end up changing anything so what’s the point

  3. Avatar
    NickW March 7, 2015 12:29 pm #

    It’s a tournament, not a painting competition or an art gallery. If you want a fluffy game with only painted stuff, you can do that any time by setting up your own private games. At a competition, the people who performed the best at that competition should win. That’s how a competition for anything else works. You don’t have a chess tournament and give fourth place the first place award because the guy who achieved fourth place had nicer looking chess pieces. If I play with a fully painted army and someone else with fewer painted models totally outplayed me at the tournament, I would feel like a total sham if I got a higher standing/prize than the better-performing player just because 4 years earlier I had a lot of time to paint models while looking for work (or because I make more money at my job now and can hire a commission service). Besides, there are lots of other motivations for painting stuff (best painted award, the pride of showing off your models, etc.), and it’s not necessary to punish people with artificially diminishing their tournament performances.

    (Not to mention that painting scores and sportsmanship scores are inherently subjective and lead to lots of complaining and debating and headaches for players and TOs).

    • Avatar
      Avi March 7, 2015 2:50 pm #

      Nice straw man with the chess comparison…

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    Skari March 7, 2015 1:01 pm #

    Hi! At the Barrie Bash, we run sporstmanship. I think it is an integral part of the “best overall” award and should be a staple at any event. There are pros and cons to the “grey” zone it can create, but this is also the beauty, and hence for things like Generalship it does not come into play, but for overall rankings ! absolutely… I think its huge.

    The ranking system is good.
    The Thumbs up or down system is good.
    The questions after every game + votes. Are all good!

    It really just makes the playing field more than just dice, and objectives, and list building.

    I believe that making the choices black and white goes a long way… rather than:

    Score your opponents attitude: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

    Make it more like:

    Opponent was prepared and ready to play. Y/N (dice, tape, rulebooks, and not late)

    Now, it falls to the TO to make sure that they call people out on their sport scores… not just allow chimpunking, but to inquire if the sport scores are crap for a certain player, and make judgement on that. Or what not.

    Now, with large events, this could be logistically improbable and a bit of a pain in the ass to keep track of. Anyhow, thats my 2 cents.

    • Avatar
      CaptainA March 7, 2015 3:03 pm #

      Thanks for the reply Skari! Agreed.

    • Avatar
      NickW March 8, 2015 9:25 pm #

      I think sportsmanship score is a lot less controversial, either as a principle or in practice, than painting. I don’t mind sportsmanship as long as it is not outsized in relation to battlepoints and as long as the execution is handled carefully.

    • Avatar
      Alex Yuen March 10, 2015 11:03 am #

      every players should be and expected to be “prepared and ready to play” or any other basic stuff like do they have their BRB or codex.

      painting score – like any art, how good is that art?

      So like this articles said. 1/3 is sport and 1/3 is painting. total you got 2/3 of the overall score that is judgement call, subjective, bias, to down right corruption.

      So instead of paying money going into a tournament to compete, i really paying into an event to show how much above and beyond what is already expected of me and have a judgement on my painting skills by an questionable artisan.

  5. Avatar
    Ghost Valley March 7, 2015 3:41 pm #

    I wouldn’t mind seeing a Favourite opponent option at LVO. At the end of day 2, every player submits his favourite opponent out of the 6 games they played – the player with the most votes wins the Best Sportsman.

    There wouldn’t even need to be prize support. Just a plaque or certificate or something. The way the pairings work it would seem unlikely that someone would play against 3 or 4 opponents willing to write someone in as favourite with no prizes or tournament points at stake.

    As an aside, up until LVO this year, I had only played in GW GTs (later changed to GW Conflict) and Hall of Heroes GTs. I was lucky enough to win 2 GTs and tie for best sportsman at GW Conflict and only the won best overalI wouldn’t mind seeing a Favourite opponent option at LVO. At the end of day 2, every player submits his favourite opponent out of the 6 games they played – the player with the most votes wins the Best Sportsman.

    There wouldn’t even need to be prize support. Just a plaque or certificate or something. The way the pairings work it would seem unlikely that someone would play against 3 or 4 opponents willing to write them in as favourite with no prizes or tournament points at stake.

    As an aside, up until LVO this year, I had only played in GW GTs (later changed to GW Conflict) and Hall of Heroes GTs. I was lucky enough to win 2 GTs and tie for best sportsman at GW Conflict and only won best overalls I did because of combined scores. I was never best general. People always complained about the spectre of chipmunking, but if never seemed to actually be a factor. I’m by no means suggesting it doesent happen, just saying that it didn’t seem like a big deal almost a decade ago in my area.
    l because of combined scores. I was never best general. People always complained about the spectre of chipmunking, but if never seemed to actually be a factor. I’m by no means suggesting it doesent happen, just saying that it didn’t seem like a big deal almost a decade ago in my area.

    • Avatar
      Ghost Valley March 7, 2015 3:41 pm #

      Sorry about my copy/paste error

  6. Avatar
    NafNaf March 7, 2015 3:45 pm #

    I think you have opened up a can of worms Captain A :D.

    I enjoyed your article and agree with your sentiments. I think people forget that a large portion of tournaments are made up of your middle of the road gamers/hobbyist’s who have no chance of best general, but go to have a blast and play some good games and show off their army. Should these guys be penalised because they are not awesome at gaming? I think tournaments are more than just playing the game now, certainly the larger ones are more like conventions. I personally would love to see best overall back up there, as something that can be attained by someone that maybe is not the best player. Saying that I have nomidea how any of the issues like chipmunking can be addressed, as Reece is right that it is very subjective, and I have not come acroos any of the methods you and Skari have mentioned as alternatives.

    Sorry for my ramblings, I hope it made some sense 😀

    • Avatar
      AbusePuppy March 8, 2015 2:27 pm #

      Failing to win an award is not the same thing as penalizing someone. By definition, most people who enter an event won’t win it- I mean, that’s kind of the POINT.

      • Avatar
        CaptainA March 8, 2015 8:17 pm #

        I think a lot of us enter tournaments because we enjoy playing the game, travelling, meeting new people out of our pond, and try to do the best we can. I know I don’t feel that I will “win it”, but rather try to set a goal for myself for the weekend. LVO i was hoping for 4 and 2.

  7. Avatar
    Black Blow Fly March 7, 2015 3:56 pm #

    Everyone should be a good sport. I like the thumbs up-thumbs down system. If there are over 100 players there is no way to fairly determine who was truly the best sport and it can turn into a popularity contest.

  8. Avatar
    fluger March 7, 2015 4:04 pm #

    I will say that the rating 1-5 of one’s opponents is a good option.

    I’m a fan of TSHFT’s set up. Essentially part of the scoring is “Did you have fun with your opponent? Y/N” If someone gets 2 “NO”s, then they get docked 10 pts (a win can be up to 20 pts). If they get 3 “NOs” then they lose 20 pts. 4 is 30 and 5 is disqualified.

    The advantage of this is that you have to be a dick to at LEAST 2 people before there’s a drawback, so a random chimpmunking won’t hurt you.

    The other thing I like about this is that everyone gets the same points as long as everyone is cool.

    Then there’s a separate “Favorite Opponent” vote at the end. In this, I like the OFCC Invitational version. You get a small pin and a raffle ticket. You give that to whoever was your favorite opponent of the day. They get to receive something from you personally and then they get a chance at winning a prize. Get 5 Favorite Opponent pins/tickets and you have a real chance at winning a cool prize. I can tell you getting 3 last year was a point of pride for me and I have them displayed proudly on my dice bag.

    Basically, if you combo that idea with the TSHFT idea you cut out chimpmunking and incentivize good sportsmanship.

    Only drawback is, as DrInsantron already pointed out, that if you equally weigh sports/battle/painting and sports is almost always a tie, and there’s not a lot of differentiation between painting scores, then best battle points is usually best overall ANYWAY. I see no way to resolve that without making really byzantine sportsmanship scoring systems and incredibly complicated painting scores which are both VERY time-intensive (either for the players or the judges) and end up with a lot of hurt feelings (a flashy color scheme might draw lots of attention and votes from paint-stupid people like me, while a more technically competent army might escape notice, etc).

    Basically, I think if you keep all three separate but equal in terms of awards, then people who value those things can strive for them however they wish.

  9. Avatar
    Chip March 8, 2015 11:27 am #

    Sportsmanship should be required. It is not something that should be voted on nor awarded. If you are a poor sportsman, you won’t be asked to return. If you are a proper sportsman, you should be in the large majority as it is expected.

    Thumbs Up/down with no awards.

  10. Avatar
    adam Fasoldt March 8, 2015 3:35 pm #

    I agree that good sportsmanship should be required. I also prefer to give a favorite opponent prize as well as some split best general/best Overall prizes. Every tournament organizer is welcome to do as they please in this regard. I’ve never had a complaint.

    Also, some folks like to see their Overall score and go back to a tournament year in and out to compare overall scores and improve over time in all paradigms, even sportsmanship. Very few people will win a prize, but for some (myself included), exceeding my previous Overall score is a benchmark that I shoot for whenever I return to an event.

  11. Avatar
    winterman March 9, 2015 1:00 pm #

    What is sportsmanship? In my opinion peoples definition of it determines how they treat it.

    To me as a TO and player, sportsmanship is a collection of the following:

    * One part playing by the rules of the game and event. This is self explanatory and the focus of comments here. For 40k the thumbs up/down helps cover this just fine, at least so far as each player knows the rules well enough to catch someone and takes the time to check the list, etc.

    * One part playing by common customs. Something others missed above I think and is not just a 40k thing. Shaking hands, laying off when the game is well in hand, not ‘sweeping the leg’ (eg making a penalized move but calcultaed to still have the desired effect), etc. These are things that are customs and conventions in most any competitive event but not strict rules a ref would call you on. Yet they will generate the ire of your peers if not followed and would get you called out as unsporting.

    In 40k I’d add things like picking up failed dice rolls, stating what you are rolling for clearly, cocked dice handling, touching opponents models with consent only, etc.

    A pure pass/fail system won’t recognize this. Adepticons Up/OK/Down might or might not catch this. Player votes/rankings might or might not. A checklist could but oftentimes people will just check all the boxes anyways (although if you have an event geared toward new players I think this is a perfect time to have the checkboxes so they know what is convention).

    * One part meeting social norms. Not gonna dwell on this here, most of this is obvious, some things might be debatable. Ultimately any system will catch the more heinous stuff (punching someone in the face or breaking their stuff malicously) and only votes/rankings would really track the milder things via trends.

    * One part meeting the social gaming contract. Basically the idea that I am having fun only if you are having fun as well — or better put we can’t play this game by ourselves, so don’t just play for yourself. Lots of other ways to put it of course. I’m personally avoiding the term WAAC or similar because I think that term gets overused, but you get the point.

    This is the component that always gets the most debate and lies at the most divisive part of our hobby and tournaments in general. Because its intangible, subjective, often times an enemy of outright competition. Yes it is where certain folks will do better either because they are famous, or friendly or their lists are fun to play against for anyone. There are also those whose personality makes this very hard to garner favor. But as a social game this is part of the hobby whether you recognize or care about it.

    This is the part that is probably less ‘sportsmanship’ and more about personality and empathy and the like. This is where the prize for best sports should ideally be decided on if it is at all possible and where perhaps favorite opponent is more the right term. But it is also the part that should have little to no impact on an overall or who ‘wins’ an event also.

    Those points above are what I think about when crafting a sportsmanship scoring mechanic. I don’t always try and score them all — some events are more about the competition where others are more about the whole hobby. I also try and minimize the affect that subjective stuff like this has on the overall. I do the same for favorite army votes (which is even more subject to cronyism and the like). But I still like to award and encourage these when feasible.

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    N.I.B. March 10, 2015 1:20 am #

    “Did I enjoy the game?”
    The answer to that question is often depending as much on army list discrepancy, as on how pleasant the opponent is. Players will enjoy the game less if they felt they lost to your army list. I doubt it’s possible to separate that feeling from an estimation of opponent behaviour.

    Tournaments in my region have minor rewards for best sportmanship, with the twist that if tied, it goes to the guy with the lowest battle scores. Because it’s harder to be nice and friendly when you are losing.

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    MVBrandt March 10, 2015 5:04 am #

    This may be less of a problem than you think. I.E. Best Overall and the largest prize at the NOVA Open is based 50% on paint score.

    I think it’s important for players themselves to fixate less on whether or not they can beat everybody in a tournament, and fixate more on whether a tournament rewards a wide enough variety of ways to “have fun.” I can’t speak for the BAO/LVO format on my own, but the big ones mostly all do this all within the same formats.

  14. Avatar
    Jural March 10, 2015 11:47 am #

    My biggest problem with all of the “Soft scores” (painting, army composition, sportsmanship) is that they are just so damn subjective.

    I have entered the same army in multiple events and had it place very good in terms of painting and very bad. The army is just average, but it sometimes outpoints armies which close friends have spent many, many hours on.

    The same thing with Sportsmanship, some people chipmunk, but even that aside, a 1-5 scale is completely subjective. OK, we know what to do with cheaters and asshats, but what about the guy who is quiet the whole time and isn’t laughing at your jokes? What about the guy who is super intense but in a friendly manner? What about the guy who takes every event (good, bad, for you or for him) like it’s the 4th of July or a sucker punch from Mike Tyson?

    And finally, Comp… WTF. Ok, maybe my 4 Hive Tyrants and 3 Knights deserves a low comp score, and your vanilla Ultramarines list with it’s awesonme backstory backed up by three novels deserves a high score…. but I have been “comp’d” because I brought a second vindicator, or had two units of genestealers, or too many models who infiltrated (when I use Lictors.)

    Lame, lame, lame.

    When you put subjectivity in the hobby, it sounds like the right thing to do, because the game isn’t WAAC all the time. But I haven’t seen a way to implement a system which doesn’t screw people randomly. So until I see a system which I like, I agree best general is the prize that matters, with a sportsmanship clause that allows the TO to kick asshats to the curb.

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