Warhammer 40k and other miniatures games is known as having a social contract or gentlemen’s agreement. I always thought GW proper thought each game of 40k should begin like this:
Gentlemen: By jove, thank you kindly for meeting me for a game of the grim dark future, Warhammer 40k.
Gentlelady: Thank YOU good sir. What type of game would you like to play.
Gentlemen: Please, join me for some tea and biscuits if you please so we can discuss terms.
Gentlelady: Excellent! Mmmmmm. Early Grey, my favorite. Well I just purchased, assembled, and fully painted my Stompa, only using GW paints mind you, and would love a good tallyho and what for!
Gentlemen: Oh, sounds lovely! Shall we play an Open War or ITC Champions mission? Your choice good lady.
Gentlelady: Champions for me good sir!
Gentlemen: Then let’s finish our tea and forge our narrative!
Most games don’t start like this, especially in the tournament setting. At a tournament you get your pairing, head to the table, greet your opponent, swap lists, and start into the predetermined mission. There is a certain detached element to it that can make it impersonal and therefore easier for some to manipulate the experience to win.
Why is this Important?
Tournaments already have a bad reputation for many players. WAAC (Win At All Costs), Tryhards, Nitpicky players, just people that make the event not fun for others in their goal to win as many games as possible. Recently at the LVO 2018, many stories surfaced about players behaving badly on stream and in front of lots of other players to see. There were stories of players breaking gentlemen’s agreements, slow playing (taking 1 hr. turns), salt mines, players needing to be babysat by judges, and more. A lot of this was even captured on Twitch. The world is looking at our events and when people see us behaving like that, I feel it paints all tournament players in a bad light and drives people away. The more this continues the more our beloved game could suffer. This article is going to focus more on solutions and less on what happened. There are lots of other places to get all the “dirt” if you will so I’ll leave that to them.
We the People
One of my personal favorite podcasts, Heroic Intervention, coined the phrase, “Casual Competitive”. I think that term encapsulates many, if not most of us out there in tournament land. The guys that generally win and are in that top percentage of placers is something like 10% of the population. That leaves the rest of us, the money, attending the events. It is our money that is driving these events time and time again and is used for rent, prize support, trophies, and more. Without us, there would be not tournament circuit.
I think if more people ask for change, then we will see it. I am looking at how I can do some things at my events to discourage poor sportsmanship and encourage the kind of attitude and play that brings our hobby into the kind of light it deserves.
The main causes of this kind of behavior as I see it is prizes and ego. Something like four thousand dollars cash and peizes was on the line for the LVO, but is it really worth the kind of pettiness we saw at times through the event?
Ego is another big thing that drives many of us to do regrettable things. Being first in a faction or a chance for bragging rights drives people to do some odd things. You see it even in pick up games with “that guy” who does stuff just to be able to say he/she beat you. But if you cheated in doing so, did you really?
Include Sports as a part of the Score (at least overall/renman): Many events (mine included) have a sportsmanship element to it. We pick 3 of the top players we liked the best and rank them 1 to 3. These are then added a value and a score is generated. Person with the top score wins best sportsman. Pretty simple and it has worked rather well in my opinion. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this in my events due to our structurebut understand the concerns.
The argument against it is that opponents can “chipmunk” others and hurt people they don’t like and help others they do in getting the prize. There is an element of gaminess to it that people can and have manipulated, however I’d say that is the minority rather than the majority. Time and time again, those best sports have risen to the top in my events.
Remove Money and prizes From Top Spots: With thousands of dollars and prizes on the line, human greed can get in the way. I know I could greatly use that kind of money, my furnace is going out, countless projects, paying for next year’s LVO, etc. etc. This puts an added amount of pressure on the players to get that prize. I use a raffle system for my league and events with the top placers at the Boise cup getting cool trophies. I think taking all the money and giving it to the top three, while matches other game events, is a mistake as it doesn’t match our hobby very well. This is not a sport, but rather a social game where players try to out maneuver their opponent and out play them with some random luck added in. 40k is far from and never will be similar to the NFL or even Esports in my opinion.
An argument against is that it doesn’t take money to drive that kind of behavior. Ego, being 1st and getting ITC points all drive people different ways. Also, at an event like LVO, it would be very hard to do a raffle system with that many people, though I do have an idea for it that I think would work. Just use a raffle board and pull prizes on Sunday, posting results on a board or on the FLG website. You could have the vendor donated prizes and even use something like LVO bucks where people can go spend at the vendor tables or at FLG.
Add Sportsmanship to Players Packet – I think some verbiage for sportsmanship needs to be added to player packets. One thing I noticed is that there is no mention in the 40k champs packet about sportsmanship. Certain things have been talked about in the past such as the thumbs up/thumbs down system, but none of that or expectations for players about sportsmanship, but none of that is in the packet. I think this is huge mistake on the part of FLG and really needs to be addressed. How can we expect players to act in a certain way if it isn’t spoken about as an expectation for the event? I really hope this changes for next year. Now, it is in the overall ITC guidelines page, but for such a large event as LVO, this verbiage and more needs to be present. There were a lot of new players there and many would not know about those rules. I know I’m going to add a section in my packets from now on about sportsmanship and talk about it at the opening of the event.
I really like the X-Wing tournament packet that has a lot of talk about margins of error for model placement, not abusing rules, not stalling or rushing, and general play expectations from players. I’m going to adopt some of those for my packets.
Put Consequences in Place and in Print: There needs to be some kind of consequences in place for these kinds of infringement. One of the great things about the internet is that now we can all be more connected and share ideas and stories. There is a TO FB group that I’m a part of and perhaps we can brainstorm ideas as to what kind of penalties we can enforce for broad behavior that impacts events.
Police our Own: Teams really need to do this, and we need to help as well. If there is a player behaving badly, their teammates need to intervene. Bad behavior needs to be put up to the spotlight and shown for what it is.
The negative side of this, and I think we are seeing some of that, is that people get vilified for one bad choice. Memes are made of their names and they may live with the stigma for perhaps too long. We all make mistakes, and if a player admits their mistakes and works to not repeat their mistake, then they shouldn’t be labeled with that mistake forever. There are some players though, that have and are building a reputation of bad behavior. Again, as our community is small, and people start sharing their stories, this bad behavior is not staying secret at that event but is spreading out amongst the masses. Again, it’s a double-edged sword. People know about more of a player’s actions now, but perhaps certain information is not whole or is stretched. We need to be careful.
It’s sad to me that we have to come to this, but people have done worse for less. One thing I love about this game and got me excited for it in the beginning was the concept of a combined score of general, paint/hobby, and sportsmanship. This game is built equally on all three pillars, and if one is missing than the whole structure can fall. I don’t like our game tarnished with this and hope players and TO’s will work together to make our game a better place for us and players of the future. I am bringing my son into the folds soon and he is excited to get started. I worry how a kid like mine could be treated by another player and be burned from wanting to play a game, system, and community I love so much.
Anyways, what do you think the solution is? Keep it civil and full of sportsmanship down below!