ITC 2017 Year in Review

Hi Everyone! Uncle Heffelfinger here with the legendary Captain Sunshine aka Reecius aka Reece “don’t call me Dick” Richard Robbins with a delightful year in review*

(*now with DATA!)

Contrary to what you might have heard on Signals from the Frontline, I am neither a statistician nor mathematician. I am but a guy with B level excel spreadsheet skills. While I understand that to mere mortals this makes me appear to be some sort of numbers wizard, I promise you that this is not the case. I am but a vessel for dropping these incredible factbombs.

Furthermore, to those who’ve listened to the Chapter Tactics or the Signals episode where some of the below numbers were first reported – you may notice some differences. This is due to my having subsequently cleaned up the data some more to reduce duplication and otherwise make it an even more accurate picture of what last year looked like.

Mmmm… cleaner data.

Finally: the vast majority of the below would not be possible without the mind-bendingly awesome innovation that is Best Coast Pairings. I cannot say this enough: Best Coast Pairings is what will allow us to take a feeble step forward from vroom vroom sounds and bashing toys in the air to an actual, metrics driven, functional 40k gaming meta. Just imagine how useful these types of real world results could be to, I don’t know, the ongoing rebalancing of the matched play rules?

Please, if you have ever said “hey that’s cool – there’s an app ON MY F#*(%^$ CELL PHONE that I’m using to enter results for this ten man RTT VIA OUTER SPACE” please… buy a subscription. More subscribers means they can keep the lights on and keep innovating and provide us even more insights and actionable data to use in the future. Best Coast Pairings for President.

With that all aside, open the bomb bay doors, switch targeting to manual, and get ready for some retrospective FACTBOMBS.

2017 may well go down as the year in which it all changed – where GW found their stride and started making and supporting the game that we all wished it was. Outside of caps lock wielding internet commentators, many actual things point to this being a not insane thing to say – for example, the story of GW’s share price:


Only one year ago GW was sitting at 730 GBX per share (that’s £7.30 m8). A year later and their share has increased more than 3.5 times over. Now that may not be sexy cryptocurrency numbers, but for a humble small cap stock it qualifies as one of the top performers in Britain.

Oh and by the way – there’s about 32 million Games Workshop shares up for grabs. Doing a little math that means that all of GWs stock is worth roughly £867,682,200. Using our friends at google to convert that to freedom dollars you get: $1,172,672,493

For those overwhelmed by the decimal places – at some point in December Games Workshop became a billion dollar company in good old fashioned USD and no one noticed or cared.

So, in the era of virtual reality, a company that sells genocidal toys to grown-ups has grown into something that other companies go to Tony Robbins seminars to try and become. How could that be you ask? The answer quite simply is sales. We are eating this shit UP and GW has repeatedly beat their own and outside expectations on revenue. Will this pace continue? DO YOU LIKE PLASTIC PRIMARCHS?*

*full disclosure: the author indeed holds GW stock, and by no means do the above rambling paragraphs constitute cogent investment advice, rather, an observation of a crazy thing that happened.

But I digress…

What about our sweet, sweet Independent Tournament Circuit brought to us by the more humble purveyors of hobby product at Frontline Gaming? How did the year pan out vs 2017? For that, we have a look at the numbers again:

In contrast to my original stab at this, these numbers do not include any duplicate entries (sorry John Smith: THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE). I believe that this will provide a better snapshot of how the ITC looked in 2017.

These figures include tournaments up until the first week of December and yet there’s already a significant 12% increase in participants from last year. With a number of events yet to be put in the books it’s a guarantee that unique participation will be up even more significantly by season’s end.

On the downside, of the 5411 noble nerds that attended events last year 59% of them have only attended one event. Notably though, this number is down from 2016 where 65% of all ITC players were one-and-done. That’s a good sign! However it highlights the need for us to encourage and coach first time players. You can’t be “pwning noobs” 24/7 if there aren’t any noobs around now can ya?

So keep that in mind next time you’re at an event and it’s the first one that your opponent has played in – there’s a 60% chance it might be their last if they don’t find it to be a good experience. Only you can help prevent salty modeler syndrome – have lunch with the rookies, chat lists, high five ‘em for no reason, do whatever – just show ‘em a good time! This is supposed to be fun on some level, right? Kinda?
Ok moving on…

So who are the real “playerz” out there? Assuming that attending more than one tournament suggests that you are an “active” competitor – here’s how the meta breaks out:

While the single event set saw piddly growth of 2% since 2016 – the active tournament crowd has increased 30% since last year! That means that there are 30% more people battling for the individual faction crowns and overall ITC rankings. This is a sign to me that people are not only trying ITC tournaments more, but they’re also seeking out more ITC tournaments to play in.

That’s the whole reason for the ITC to exist in the first place, and the more these numbers grow, the better the party on this crazy train gets!

Reece was right! Exclamation points rule!

Shifting gears, I feel the need to call out a significant elephant in the room. He used to be our only friend, and well, none of us have called him since June. That’s right folks – I’m drunk dialing 7th edition.

We remember those abusive days don’t we? Formations and monobuild armies, those crazy Ynarri… seemed like there were like two lists to choose from and like a high school boyfriend both made you feel bad. So I axe a simple question: what did the 7th edition meta really look like at the end of it all?

Oooooohweeee. There you have it! Feels about right doesn’t it? Half of the meta was comprised of Space Marines, Craftworld Eldar, Chaos Space Marines, Tau and Chaos Daemons. The only real surprise to me here is that Chaos Space Marines were so prominent. However, I’d be willing to bet that it was really just one Chaos Space Marine in particular: with ripped abs and nipple horns. You know – this guy:

Rounding out the top tenish you’ve got Ad-mech (no surprise) followed by Guard (these are the real guard players) and then of course, the super friends.

So we get a text and it’s time to see the sidechick on the regular. No more blurry cell phone pics for us, it’s time to make things official. 8th edition is our bae. So how did the meta shift in the months since 8th dropped?


While this doesn’t include the soup factions of Chaos or Imperium (we’ll get to them later) on a faction to faction basis you can really see that players were ready to move on in a big way.

Sure power armoured murder monks still rule the day – but look at Orks and Tyranids! And where did Eldar go? Answer: devoured by the slaneeshi pleasure of no longer being bound to a faction you’re just not that into. Seriously – Eldar’s usage implodes with the switch to 8th edition. Combining Ynnari and Asuryani still gets you barely half of the total eldar players that were present in the meta just six months ago.

For full harshness – here’s a chart showing the swings in usage:

Sure the Ynnari seem to have really blown up, but that’s really just the desperate remains of the pointy-eared meta clinging to the only lifeboat they had. Otherwise 8th edition has been a boon to many underpowered but beloved factions.

RIP Eldar Corsairs: you were neither.

On that topic, let’s have a look at the relative strength of each faction in 8th edition. To do this I took every tournament result from each faction and simply looked at the average tournament points earned by it. Note that this does not control for sample size, so less used factions can be over-represented here (because I’m not a statistician, this will just have to do).

All factions together on average score 62 ITC points – anything more than that and there’s a chance your faction is giving you a boost. Below that suggests that playing Deathwatch is indeed, a handicap.

In the above average camp – there are certainly some outliers buoyed by small sample size here. I wouldn’t be anticipating the dark mechanicus meta, or understating the death of Genestealer Cult (they are basically extinct since NOVA). However armies with large samples and excellent results like Chaos faction, Daemons and Ynnari are either attracting skilled pilots, or are every bit deserving of the significant nerf bat that they collectively just took to the face.

Average results are interesting and all but who cares about average? This is America: what about winning? Which factions walk away with more hardware than the others?

There we have it folks: Though Astra Militarum may own first place in the first half of 8th edition, Chao Space Marines own the podium by a mile. When you lump in Daemons and the Chaos faction – it starts to feel like the “good” bad guys might be in tough vs the “bad” bad guys.

A final note about the data:

The above comes from all tournaments entered into the BCP app (including some but not all manual submission results.) This works out to 8200 tournament results from 368 tournaments in 8th edition alone. This is a tremendous wealth of information about our game, and though this article feebly gets the ball rolling – there will be more to come. In the weeks ahead we will go deeper not only on tournament results – but the even more useful realm of round by round results. That means knowing how each faction fares against each faction at the matchup level, individual player statistics, and probably a bunch of other cool shit.

However, interesting insights and actionable data is not possible without you. If you have a T.O who is either unaware or reluctant to use BCP or won’t submit scores to the ITC, remember that it’s not just about that little store tournament. It’s about being a part of a wider, quantifiable meta that now touches nearly every continent. The excitement of being a part of that bigger “thing” is why I’ve spent way too long writing this. I am super excited to share with you that there is tremendous possibility presented to us by using a silly damn app.

Ask yourself if you’d pay attention to your favorite pro sport if you didn’t know whether your favorite team was good or how many points your favorite player scored. Participating in the ITC and sharing your results through BCP is how we get to that kind of a world for competitive 40k. That is something worth supporting.

You don’t have to use someone else’s comp pack. You don’t have to swear allegiance to Frontline Gaming where you can save 15% on GW MSRP. You just need to make use of an app that makes T.Os lives easier, is way cool – and I will bet dollars to donuts – will play a role in improving this game in the future.

In Closing: Best Coast Pairings for President.

Subscribe today!

I was going to add some flavor test to this but Val did such a good job I don’t feel it is necessary beyond this: the more data we collect through active participation in the ITC and use of the BCP app, the more accurate model we can build of how our game exists in the reality of how it is played and not just in our individual opinions. So by all means, please continue to play, have fun and go to events!


And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!



About Reecius

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

39 Responses to “ITC 2017 Year in Review”

  1. Avatar
    Venkarel January 3, 2018 9:11 pm #

    After all the articles FLG BCP data related articles are published you could reignite attention by releasing the data into the wild for others to analyze.

    • Avatar
      Chris Sardo January 3, 2018 9:13 pm #

      And so the replication crisis in ITC Studies begins…

      • Reecius
        Reecius January 3, 2018 11:06 pm #

        Hmm, what? Mind clarifying that statement? Or more pointedly, what part of sharing the data creates a replication crisis? I think Val’s methodology is pretty clear…

        • Avatar
          Chris Sardo January 4, 2018 8:53 am #

          Sorry, was just joking. I’m a political scientist, and there’s a ton of debates in the social sciences right now about people making their datasets available for everyone so that they can replicate studies out of a concern that some findings can’t be replicated. I didn’t mean to imply that the methods here were suspect, just forgot that most people aren’t in both of my circles lol

          • Avatar
            Venkarel January 4, 2018 9:10 am

            This is truly a problem, and not just in the social sciences. Not a lot of funding or will to repeat experiments as they are not headline grabbing or “sexy”.

          • Reecius
            Reecius January 4, 2018 9:30 am

            Ah, got you. All good, thanks for clarifying.

    • Reecius
      Reecius January 3, 2018 11:09 pm #

      Yeah, there’s lots of ways to look at it. Obviously, there are some outliers here that skew the perception of the data a bit. I’d like to see how often specific players bring up or down the performance of a faction, or even which factions perform better against which other factions as that can potentially help guide choices with design.

      Also, it will be cool to see where we’re at in a year with more data and more codexes. It’s fun to looks at it 🙂

  2. Avatar
    Venkarel January 3, 2018 9:12 pm #

    Whops no edit function and hit the wrong button. Otherwise good article and I look forward to reading the series.

  3. Avatar
    rvd1ofakind January 4, 2018 12:09 am #

    Reece was right about AdMech making a big splash in the meta. Too bad he forgot to add that they have an anchor tied to their feet and will drown to the bottom.

    It’s because they’re not using fistellans PJSalt

    • Reecius
      Reecius January 4, 2018 7:37 am #

      If you’ve only got one drum, bang it loudly, lol.

  4. Avatar
    happy_inquisitor January 4, 2018 5:07 am #

    The funny thing about putting those two sets of figures together in one post is the disparity in scale.

    If we take a “regular tournament goer” as going to a tournament every couple of months then that has increased to a bit over 500. Unless those 500 players are spending crazy money they must be a tiny proportion of the total. With extreme rule-of-thumb on a few things like what proportion of sales are in the regions where the ITC is significant we end up with something approaching a $1000 spend per regular tournament player (with GW, not ebay/recasters or whatever) since 8th dropped for them to account for more than 1% of sales.

    Which with hindsight helps explain their previous failure to really value the tournament side of the game – but also means there is vast room for growth in the tournament side of the game if someone can work out the right formula. The only way is up folks.

    • Reecius
      Reecius January 4, 2018 7:36 am #

      My thoughts exactly. I mean, without knowing how many people play the game in total, it’s hard to say where we’re at but yeah, so much room to grow! It’s exciting. And yes, the casual player represents the vast majority of people who play the game as we always guessed, but the tournament player has a very dedicated and vocal presencd.

      To me, this says that if you can strike the right chord (as you noted) we can grow organized play massively! We can also get people more engaged and energized about the hobby as the numbers show more people are becoming involved and those already involved are becoming even more active which is cool.

      Plus, there’s still loads of people who’ve never even heard of the ITC. We still have a long way to go in that department which again, means tons of room for growth which is exciting 🙂

      • Avatar
        happy_inquisitor January 4, 2018 7:42 am #

        Well really broad brush estimates are that by sales:

        90% of players do not go to a tournament in any given year
        Of the 10% of players who go to a tournament 90% only attend one per year

        So if someone can find ways to get organised play to appeal to more players and keep them coming back the tournament scene could grow massively. Factor in increasing sales which imply an increasing player-base and really the only way is up if someone can just broaden the appeal.

        (speaking as one of the once-a-year crowd myself)

        • Reecius
          Reecius January 4, 2018 8:26 am #

          Out of curiosity, where are you getting that 90/105 ratio from?

          • Petey Pab
            Petey Pab January 4, 2018 9:50 am

            I’m sure that’s just speculation, but I don’t think those numbers are crazy far off.

            I would say that about 10% (probably a bit more) of all 40k players attend tournaments. Unfortunately we can not get the accurate number without help from GW, and *gasp* other tournament organizations like ETC.

            I agree with Happy Inquisitor’s theory though, there is a ton of room for tournament growth in 40k.

          • Reecius
            Reecius January 4, 2018 10:47 am

            ETC is very different though, they are focused on a single event and a very small number of players per country. So while I would love to work with them to build a bigger picture, they are a very different animal than the ITC.

            And what makes you say 10%, though? It feels like we’re just pulling numbers out of the air. For example, I would guess more than 10% but it is still just a guess. As Val noted GW’s customer survey is probably the best source of information out there on the topic and I hope we get to see that information.

          • Petey Pab
            Petey Pab January 4, 2018 12:40 pm

            I understand that, but who else do you think could possibly try and get those numbers? ETC aside, we would still have to work with TOs from outside the ITC umbrella to get those accurate numbers.

          • Reecius
            Reecius January 4, 2018 1:33 pm

            Honestly we don’t even want to just go to TOs, we want a hobby wide survey of all active GW enthusiasts, and that will give us a more accurate picture of how many people actually participate in matched play style gaming.

          • Avatar
            happy_inquisitor January 4, 2018 1:17 pm

            Like I tried to explain I am making a leap from sales on the one hand to numbers of people on the other – starting with an assumption that even regular tournament players did not on average spend over $1000 (new stuff, retail) since 8th dropped. I do not even have a solid figure for proportion of sales in the regions where the ITC is dominant (and with on-line sales etc that is unlikely to exist) so it is all very handy-wavey estimating.

            It was really just a way to try to estimate the total pool of people who are spending money on this hobby and then contrasting that with the numbers in the ITC. So it is far from solid figures – someone would need to put in the time, effort and money for serious market research for that.

            On the other hand the sheer scale of sales suggests that the potential pool of players is a *lot* more than either the occasional or regular tournament players at present. From what little we have 1/10th of players being infrequent tournament attendees whilst around 1/10 of those being frequent once-every-couple-of-months attendees looks like around the right general scale and therefore useful enough to spark a conversation about how much room there is for growth. I would not be using that figure for a business plan that I was taking to financiers to raise any funding!

          • Reecius
            Reecius January 4, 2018 1:38 pm

            Haha, fair enough. But, I agree with you: there seems to be tremendous room for growth in the hobby in general and specifically in organized play!

      • Val Heffelfinger
        Val Heffelfinger January 4, 2018 9:37 am #

        I was going to comment along these lines too Reece.

        The “tournament Pie” as it were has a ton of slices… of which we are only able to quantify the ITC portion.

        So if we think of tabletop wargaming in general, and GW games in particular, (afaik) there’s no credible source of data on how big this community really is.

        The reason I start the story with the share price is to demonstrate that there is a significant appetite for GW’s output that has come on in a big way in the last 18 months or so. I suspect the demographics are lining up to drive people back to the hobby from their massive 90s retail presence (used to play, have a job, some free time, like me) … but also, the general upsurge in gamer culture, nerddom, and a nostalgia for tangible craft-like things seem to hit GW right in the sweet spot too. Hence why I also see a lot of younger people all of a sudden.

        But I digress – the point is that demand for GW’s products has perhaps illuminated a larger pie that neither the company nor the investing public seemed to appreciate.

        I’ve often wondered “how many people could there possibly be like me out there…” it’s just such an incredibly specific thing to do with one’s time. The answer seems to be: more than anyone thought!

        Bringing it back down to earth, I will be very interested to see whether GW is transparent with its recent customer survey and shares the numbers of “gamers” vs. “hobbyist” types. If we can get an idea of the tournament playing public, then we can get a very good feel for the opportunity to grow the ITC further. I would suspect, that even now – the ITC has a very small share of all tournaments that exist, and a very high share of all larger ones.

        That was a ramble.

        I should go back to work.


  5. Avatar
    happy_inquisitor January 4, 2018 7:45 am #

    (No edit function. hmm)
    Of the 10% of players who go to a tournament 90% are not regular attendees.

    Of course more than 10% of players at a given tournament are regulars because they go to lots of tournaments but in terms of potential audience and potential growth the 90% who do not go regularly are the ones to look for!

  6. Avatar
    Paul McKelvey January 4, 2018 8:20 am #

    Great article guys!

    There are decently large patches of the US that dont participate in the ITC, yet. The other thing that can make the ITC go bananas is if more countries hop on board. In reality, we only see a majority of events from US, Australia and Canada with US events making up 75% of that number.

    • Reecius
      Reecius January 4, 2018 8:28 am #

      Yeah, 100%. It is catching no quite a bit in the UK at present, too. I think with some of our very cool features that are rolling out at or right after LVO, we will be able to appeal to a lot more folks, too.

    • Petey Pab
      Petey Pab January 4, 2018 9:52 am #

      Just curious Paul, what patches are you talking about? I know in the south the ITC in general is not as accepted, and on the west coast it’s almost biblical.

      • Reecius
        Reecius January 4, 2018 10:49 am #

        What makes you say that? The ITC is quite popular in the South. We have tons of events throughout that region.

        There’s still room for growth countrywide (and world wide, of course) but yeah, the West Coast it is much more the norm largely because that is where it came from.

        • Petey Pab
          Petey Pab January 4, 2018 12:48 pm #

          I guess it depends on what you would define the “south” as.

          Anyways, yes there are ITC events in the south, but if you look at those events they largely don’t use ITC missions, and from talking with several people from/in the Carolinas, Florida, Georgia, etc. it just seems more like ATC, and Casual Homebrew country.

          Though, I didn’t use an absolute, and I wasn’t implying that the ITC was not popular in the south, but compared to the westcoast there is no question.

          Anyways, that’s why I was curious about which regions Paul was referring to.

          • Reecius
            Reecius January 4, 2018 1:32 pm

            Again though, your basing this statement off of anecdotal evidence, we don’t have hard facts. A few events use their own or alternate formats true, but a lot also go full ITC (which these days is just playing out of the book with different missions). We don’t care so much but that isn’t the point. The point is to use data to avoid making sweeping generalizations based on a few conversations here and there and observations. That’s what we’re trying to build: real data driven knowledge.

  7. Avatar
    Logan January 4, 2018 8:55 am #

    Reece, you may want to consider using the median for each faction instead of the mean, it is more resistant to outliers. You could also use a weighted average which should scale the ns better. The other option would just be to include the standard deviation or variance so we can see if the data is tight or all over the place.

    • Reecius
      Reecius January 4, 2018 9:31 am #

      Yeah, good ideas. Some of the less represented factions that have very strong players skew the data quite a bit.

      • Val Heffelfinger
        Val Heffelfinger January 4, 2018 9:40 am #

        These are all very obviously better ways to parse things, certainly.

        In my rush to get things out I just went for the easy pickings! Happy to integrate that thinking into future analysis – I could have easily set an arbitrary bar for inclusion too but went with “good enough” for the time being : )

        • Reecius
          Reecius January 4, 2018 10:45 am #

          No criticism here, you did a great job. Was just thinking out loud.

  8. Avatar
    WrentheFaceless January 4, 2018 12:59 pm #

    So what this tells me, is buff Ad Mech, nerf Chaos

    How about giving Enginseers the reroll 1s to wound that Lieutenant equivalents get in other dexs?

    • Reecius
      Reecius January 4, 2018 1:35 pm #

      There’s still a lot of other data to consider, though. The AdMech codex came out later, so this includes Index play. Into next year we will have a much better picture as all the data will be based off of their Codex.

      • Val Heffelfinger
        Val Heffelfinger January 4, 2018 6:00 pm #

        For chapter tactics I did a breakout of pre and post NOVA usage and Admech definitely gets used much more once their codex is out.

        In future I will be very interested to look at a sort of “pre” and “post” codex usage comparison… especially when it comes to predicting the field at LVO – it will be tough because basically 5 books have come out since the last large ITC major. So the GT meta will be in serious flux I figure.

        gawd I could just hang out with this spreadsheet all day. We’re such good friends.

  9. Avatar
    Ellis January 5, 2018 9:27 am #

    BCP TO app for android plx!

    • Reecius
      Reecius January 5, 2018 9:53 am #

      It is being actively worked on =)

  10. Avatar
    Adam Vollrath January 5, 2018 12:19 pm #

    2018 data will be much more interesting. hopefully they get tau, necrons, and orks out early enough in the year.

  11. Avatar
    Greyknight12 January 9, 2018 2:53 pm #

    Something that probably needs to be addressed for tracking is the definition of “faction” by either BCP or ITC since allies are so prevalent this edition. I would suggest in general your faction should be equal to the most restrictive faction that encompasses at least half (or even 2/3) of the list. So if you have one imperial knight with your AM you’d have to be AM, if you have 2 you might be imperial knights (or Imperium under a 2/3 rule).
    Also, it’s not surprising to see that army selection follows largely follows rankings; my guess is that in a year the big sections of pie chart will be the factions generally regarded as “strong”: Players aren’t generally going to play armies that suck. Another reason why the importance of balance cannot be understated.

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