Sportsmanship, The ITC, and You!


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!


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 to see how he can help you get rid off your old and unused models.

14 Responses to “Sportsmanship, The ITC, and You!”

  1. Samuel Valdez February 2, 2018 8:22 pm #

    “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.”

    I would disagree with this at the top tables… I believe chipmunking is rampant when the pack allows it.

    • Samuel Valdez February 2, 2018 8:34 pm #

      I would go as far as saying I will flat out not attend a event with even the potential for chipmunking. I have seen it happen to many times and will have no part of it.

    • zazoo February 2, 2018 9:16 pm #

      This just isn;t true and is nearly impossible to prove. Players that act like brats often have garbage introspection and claim chipmonking when it was well deserved. There is more to sportsmanship then not bullying or throwing a tantrum. I have seen my fair share of players that act salty and childish when their opponent is doing well or their dice go cold only to act self congratulatory and sanctimonious when they turn things around, often giving advice or explaining their win.

      This is considered poor sportsmanship by a lot of people, especially the meat and potatoes of the event. Besides none of this really defeats his proposal. Simply have a separate trophy for battle points as well as sportsmanship and overall. Give the prize support to best sport, how about we reward and encourage outstanding play rather then outstanding results for a change.

      PS this has nothing to do with sportsmanship but rather speaks to the three pillars described by captain A, I think the painting standards are an embarrassment. There is no reason for broken or barely primed and washed armies. I am tired of the argument that not everyone can paint. YES everyone can paint, you just have to define a set of objective standards that are not overly specific. BTW not everyone is a good general yet you don’t give them safety rails. Makes zero sense that its fine to reward generalship which is a trait not every mind can master but suddenly paint standards are elitist?

  2. Samuel Valdez February 2, 2018 8:28 pm #

    The FHGT player pack is the best implementation of sports I have seen. Small weight and difficult to chipmunk with the votes required for the bonus… A player would need to play 2 of 5 club mates to chipmuck and no negatives are given to the players not receiving votes.

  3. Valeli February 3, 2018 12:00 am #

    I don’t see the need for… this.

    Acting wrong-headed is self-obvious to any Half decent person. This includes the “big” lvo issue (if we are to believe the article on this self-same site where the player at fault showed contrition after the fact).

    Money? 4k isn’t a big deal. For real, guys. That’s not a fortune. Especially considering the fact most armies can cost many hundred of dollars…. And many of these tournament people go through multiple armies on a regular basis. 4k is only a bit better than breaking even.

    I don’t think there /is/ a good solution, unless things become even more competitive.

    For now, unlike other competitive you-go-i-go games like basket ball or football, there isn’t a rule on turn time. It’s assumed to be self evident that you shouldn’t spend over an hour a turn or deploying. Because you’d have to be an intentional blow-hard to do otherwise.

    If you think abusing the lack of written rules in a tournament is clever…. Good for you, I guess. Whatever. You’re not someone I want to talk to or argue to.

    A rule could be added for time. Sure. But that’s just one. This goes on almost indefinitely and, barring individual judges, won’t be killed as long as “tfg” is present.

    There’s better fights.

    The lvo doesn’t illustrate the problem people make it out to (although that problem is sadly real).

    You know what it does/should illustrate? The other guy. The one who got a spontaneous donation of 5k for sportsmanship, and gave it to a children’s hospital, but not before securing a matching 5k donation from work.

    For everything bad with humanity/gamers showcased at the lvo, not nearly enough attention has been given to this. Some amazing stuff went down there too.

    There are plenty of good (not to mention normal) gamers hanging around. Let’s not stress the tools in our midst.

    • CaptainA February 3, 2018 10:21 am #

      Although 4k isn’t the biggest amount. I’ve seen people behave very badly for just hundreds at a couple of tournaments. While not the only factor, adding larger cash prizes ratchets things up just a bit more in my opinion.

  4. Laurence February 3, 2018 1:08 am #

    Sportsmanship scores have been a standard part of tournaments in the UK for years. It works well both as a way of rewarding great sports but also as a way for TOs to identity the ‘Tonys’ and take appropriate action if necessary

    • Rob Butcher February 3, 2018 4:05 am #

      I agree and was surprised it wasn’t part of the LVO package.

      And I do value it when a tournament selects the best sportsman for a certificate etc. Is this just a British thing ?

  5. AngryPanda February 3, 2018 1:49 am #

    That prologue is so great, I don’t even know how what words to pick to praise it.

  6. Davis Centis February 3, 2018 7:03 pm #

    I was discussing this with my father, and we were talking about how this has come up before in other sports that were becoming bigger and bigger. Ultimately, in sports, the rules win out. The rules are what they are, and they are that way for a reason. For most of us, the game is going to stay the same if the rules enforcement at the top events is brought up a notch, but stringent enforcement, with real and consistent consequences, is the way we’ll need to go if monetary prizes are going to grow. This is the case for every other professional sport, and if we want to get there, we will have to do it as well.

  7. Mike February 3, 2018 9:39 pm #

    -First, yes sportsmanship expectations should be in print. This kind of hobby, especially at a competitive level, tends to draw people that don’t have…the greatest…of social skills or ability to read an unspoken social expectation.

    -Second, yes the prizes should, at the very least, be more spread out. This isn’t magic. Many players can’t afford to constantly chase the meta and thus have no realistic chance at the top, but show up anyway because it’s a fun game. One of my favorite local event runners splits up his prize pool in such a way that the podium still gets a decently substantial prize, but his goal is to make no one leave empty handed. Even though I tend to be on the podium, I love that approach, and even after moving a couple hours away, I still go to every small event he runs.

    -Third, also yes, consequences of breaches of sportsmanship need to be standardized so that we don’t have a guy that mumbles a gripe under his breath getting kicked from an event at one place and a guy pretending he’s on jerry springer getting a light warning at another.

  8. WargamerShawn February 5, 2018 1:44 pm #

    Having experience running events for 6+ years and having run a gambit of events I have switched gears in events. I do generally equal amounts for all awards and I do an award for Sportsman, Paint, Overall and Theme (this is hard to do at a big event). But I do think giving more even awards for not just winning but different aspects of the hobby does help attrack a diversity of people. Heck when you are talking about thousands of dollars you could do prizes for Best sports, 2nd , 3rd best, 1-3 best painted, 1-3 battle points etc. It takes some of the pressure off being just the winner. I hate to say it but events like LVO and Adepticon have generated people like this to come play them. By de-emphasizing the best player in JUST battle points you will start to attract more people from different aspects of the hobby. Look all of us love the hobby otherwise we would not invest a lot of money and time into assembling, painting and hotels to come out and play. We all want to socialize and be appreciated for the aspect of the hobby that attracted us to it in the first place. Taking emphasis off winner take all or only support (or main prize support) being to best battle points will help the tournament circuit grow and bring some people back who have left becuase of WAAC players. If people refuse to play in these events then I believe many of those would be the kind that would result in bad experiences for players so it may be better for them not to come anyway. Just my 2 cents. My events are called events now and not tournaments. I set up a narrative and there is not prize for best battle points just for paint, sports, theme and overall (which includes battle points) … I am not saying it the only way to go, but at least the people that come know what expectations to have and do not come into the event cut throat or hellbent on only winning as they are not really rewarded for this. Cheers.

  9. Jural February 7, 2018 7:46 pm #

    Honestly- it’s a competitive game played by people with limited social skills (in some cases) with nerves, ego, alcohol, and exhaustion. The lists are not particularly well balanced against each other, and the rules are complex. Some of the “grey areas” (like time limits for a game) aren’t even agreed upon universally, so one player may have an experience that set-up is OK to last for 90 minutes, and his opponent may think 15 is pushing it.

    The rules are meant to play one game in an evening, with little consequence but wins or lose, and with luck being a significant part of it. Tournaments stretch the format considerably. I think the game does a pretty good job on average with this, at the low and high tables.

    All of that said- I do think the LVO could improve the final day by having designated set-up times and each turn timed, with a judge nearby to enforce rules. More scrutiny on a top table would be a burden on the players, but a boon on the presentation, with less chance of a negative impact.

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