Hello 40k aficionados SaltyJohn, a Head Judge for the Las Vegas Open, from TFG Radio here to discuss some important topics pertaining to Competitive 40k event organization.
Dear Warhammer 40k Tournament Organizers, Competitive 40k is more popular than ever. There are a plethora of events to choose from, week in week out, month after month. From GT to Major status the number of events has ballooned. In the past we were lucky to have 4 events a year that numbered over 100 players, now there is easily 1 to 2 a month depending on the time of year. Along with this huge growth in the number of events, we’ve experienced a large uptick in the number of Tournament Organizers, which means that with the majority of organizers who are great, we have had a few who are not meeting the standards the community expects.
If you are running an event that features 30+ players over two or more days, and charging a premium price, meaning over $50 a ticket, there are certain standards you really need to meet. I understand the pressures of running an event can be overwhelming to a first time organizer. I also understand the allure of running a large event, trying to make a name for yourself, maybe make some extra cash. None of that though is an excuse for putting on a sub-par event. There are a few places that Tournament Organizers this season have fallen short, and I think it behooves us as a community to publicly address the issues.
- Terrain. There have been a few examples lately of some horrendous terrain layouts, designs, and general terrain standards at events. From unpainted, and partially assembled foam core, to near paper-thin boring MDF NOVA Ls that don’t even live up to the NOVA standard. Some of it is truly horrendous. If you’re going to run a large Warhammer 40k tournament your number one concern should be providing quality, and varied, the terrain on the tables. This hobby, whether being competitively played or not, is still a visual exercise. Would participants in a DOTA, League of Legends, StarCraft 2, or even NFL event be ok with playing their match(es) on unfinished, poorly executed terrain? No. 40k players shouldn’t be subject to that kind of nonsense either. The players at your event are paying money to attend a quality event, providing them with less is unacceptable.
- Terrain set up. This is a separate problem from item number 1. While the terrain itself needs to be of high quality the way it is set up is also very important. You can’t just throw standardized, cardboard thin, MDF terrain out on tables and expect it to provide a good experience. I wrote another article all about this topic here.
- Organization isn’t something you can phone in. TFG Radio not only has 3 LVO Head Judges running the podcast but TFG Radio has also helped run the Hammer of Wrath GT in Pasadena for several years, started the Battle for Los Angeles GT last year, Adam helps judge and organize several large tournaments including Slaughterfest and the Gentleman’s Major in Vegas. Not to mention we are routinely contacted by TOs and Judges for advice on running events and to help shout cast on Twitch. What I am getting at with this resume is that when it comes to organizing an event we know what we’re talking about. Biting off more than you can chew with events is a common problem, but that is exacerbated when the organization of the event is left on autopilot. Putting together a decent crew to help not only set up, but tear down the event is important there’s no doubt. But having a group prior to the event to organize the logistics, and double-check for mistakes is equally important. Showing up to an event and having the tables not ready, timing thrown off, late starts, no posted table numbers, the BCP event not set up properly, long line for registration, nowhere close for food, or on-site food, adequate toilet facilities, the list can go on and on, is bad for your event. All those issues are easily resolved though, through proper organization.
- Event integrity matters. It is not fair to your paying customers when your event is invalidated because you choose to inflate the number of participants for your personal ego, or the “prestige” of your event. Not only is falsifying the event going to result in you, the organizer, being penalized but it can cause your customers to not receive ITC points.
- Provide first, profit second. If you are running an event and it is your third year then expecting to have some money in your pocket at the end of the day is acceptable, but if it’s your first rodeo you shouldn’t be thinking about the end of the event profits, you’re probably going operate at a loss or break even. Players also need to accept this as well, players cannot expect their tournament organizer to run events out of the sheer goodness of their hearts. Local game stores don’t run events because they lose money on them, they run them because they make money off them. GTs and Majors are no different. Putting one on is a lot of work, but you cannot expect to be making a bunch of money out of the gate. You need to put in the work putting together a quality, well organized, event with a lot of solid terrain first.
- Underpromise, over-perform. I can’t stress this enough. Nobody is going to complain if they come to an event and it is as advertised. However, if you promise the world to people and fall far short of those expectations, or you promise something specific and fall flat in other areas to try to keep that specific promise it won’t look good. It probably won’t end up going well either.
The biggest issue continues to be inadequate terrain and poorly executed terrain. Not providing quality terrain is unacceptable. While attendees want prizes, the idea that most of the money should go to prizes is a misconception. The money should go to the event being a fun and quality event, which means investing in terrain, and the other items previously discussed. Here are some examples of what not to do for your terrain.
I understand the draw of MDF terrain. I myself own Frontline Gaming terrain kits, our local tournaments use MDF terrain (in addition to GW plastic kits and foam core), the Hammer of Wrath and Battle for LA GTs we run also use MDF terrain.
However, MDF terrain is not good because it’s cheap and easy to build. It is good when it is a high-quality design, built well, painted well, and put onto the tables in an aesthetically pleasing way. This is an immersive hobby, yes even at the competitive level, and providing that immersion to your attendees should be very high on your list of priorities.
I am not writing this to discourage you from running events, or if you’re thinking of hopping into the Competitive Event planning scene for 40k, or any tabletop game, think of this as a guide to doing better. The player base will begin to react more and more negatively to events that are phoning it in and appearing to gouge their participants by charging a premium price but providing a subpar event. There are plenty of options out there, and some events are killing it in terms of quality and that disparity will only become worse. If you’re not careful you might find your event dwindling into irrelevance or history before you know it.
And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!