An outstanding Warmachine and Hordes tournament remembers to give awards to everything that’s worth rewarding.
Chalkboard here from Chalkboard War with some ideas about how to improve the play experience of tournaments by giving awards for things other than pure victory.
Last week I talked about the Rewards of Awards: an argument that every Warmachine and Hordes tournament should endeavor to give out trophies. This week my focus is on the other side of that coin: if our goal is to recognize accomplishments and let people have access to moments of glory, then we should endeavor to expand the pool of available glory. Put simply, tournaments need to give out awards other than for first, second, and third place finish in competition. Tournament organizers need to remember what’s rewarding about the hobby and think about giving awards for those things as well. From making comebacks and improbable game moments to painting and even trying to paint, there’s a wealth of rewarding moments that with a little work can have really cool awards attached. With the right spirit, they can really inspire the player community and have every player plugged into every game. That makes it so more than just the overall winner is celebrating, which can help minimize the “silver is the first loser” problem.
The eternal face of silver medal woes
So I came up with a short list of things that Warmachine and Hordes tournament organizers big or small might consider in order to provide some depth of awards at their events. By sharing out a few more opportunities for glory, even just a couple, you can generate a lot more good feelings being accessed by players. Which means an overall better attitude, and better general community for everyone.
For excitement: Comeback Kid
Sometimes a first-round shellacking in a game can instantly ruin a player’s enjoyment of a tournament. It’s all the more prominent in Warmachine and Hordes because of the caster kill condition–sometimes you’re caught an inch too far forward and get knocked out before you’ve even started. Players who lose in the first round are now facing two or more rounds of play with only the slimmest of chances of clawing their way back into things. While most players tough it out and end up having fun, there’s a definite opportunity to layer in a bit more excitement among the first-round losers at an event.
Thus, I love the idea of a “Comeback Kid” award. This would be awarded to the player with the best record among those who lost in round one. Exempt all the stats from the first round games (caster kill, death clock, points destroyed, control points, etc.) and treat everyone who lost as “lost round round” candidates. Then have a separate count for rounds 2, 3, and beyond to the end of the tournament. The person who gets the best score in all those rounds, using normal tiebreakers for the tournament, would then be crowned the Comeback Kid.
With an award like this, round two is just as exciting as round one for everyone. Every single player is still in the running for an award, all the more so because half the players (the 50% that lost once) recognize that their chances of winning an award actually improved–there’s a smaller pool, and they’re the folks who lost the first game. Few things are more glorious than losing initially and then fighting your way back to glory–so reward that among your players.
Heartwarming moment optional
Classic with a twist: Best Painted Model
Many tournaments offer a best painted army award, and I fully support that one. Nothing is more impressive to me than seeing a fully painted force on the table. And while I support this classic award from tournaments, there’s a modified version of it that is worth considering. Add a small award for the best painted model within an unfinished army. If you’re rewarding painting, it’s good to reward those who have it all complete. But it’s also good to recognize people who are working on it. Knowing that a tournament has this prize may get someone to at least tackle a few more models for their force. While progress is its own reward, it doesn’t hurt to be recognized for doing a great job on that one model. It could be the impetus that the player needs to break out the paints a bit more often and finish up the force. It makes everyone care a bit more about the quality of the painting that they’re putting on the table. By having both a best painted army and a best painted model in an unfinished army award, you’re nudging every single player to care a bit more about what they’re setting down on the tabletop–and allowing another source of someone feeling the glory of being recognized for their painting efforts, even if they’re still in progress.
A good “surprise” award: Worst Tournament Record
I say surprise here, because this is an award that you cannot announce at the start of a tournament. If it was announced, then players would endeavor to purposefully lose the rest of the way. It’s like those poor-performing teams in professional sports leagues that tank a season on purpose for a better draft pick to nab a star.
So as a surprise, during the awards portion the tournament organizer can take a moment when they’re about to announce the overall results and make a special recognition. It takes a little bit of showpersonship and the right tone, but it can be a really fun moment to recognize the person with the worst record at the event–if you give them a prize of a different starter box. The joke becomes “it must have been your army” or “anyone can win with Cryx” rather than making the person feel bad about their record. Even though the person who finished last had a frustrating day, they get to walk out with a pretty healthy prize. If handled right and in good spirits, it can be a way to make people all think “this tourney is worth attending even if I have an off day.” It’s a simple award, but can help even the bleakest day end on a positive note.
Here’s a Cryx starter box. Turn around your losing ways with a healthy application of Deneghra
One that anyone can win: Feat of Strength
This one takes a little bit of prep, but certainly pays off. The idea is that we all have those moments in games that are truly epic. Facing a high defense caster behind a wall and in combat, but you pull off the ranged attack with an absurd roll and manage to assassinate them? String together an unlikely combo that manages to seal the deal after all when bumping an enemy away from an objective? Watch that lowly one or two point solo suddenly become the master of combat and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat? Some other occurrence that is out of the norm so worth commemorating? Have an award for Feat of Strength.
The set up part is that you have small sheets available to players to record their feats of strength after each round. Encourage them to name the feat: “The Hail Mary”, “The Unlikely Solo”, “The Essence of the Agonizer”, etc. And then write down their best account of what happened. What made them laugh? What made them gasp? What made them shake their head in awe of the absurdity of what happened or skill that was demonstrated? The tournament organizer can then review them as they come in, and keep a short list of the best “feats of strength” from the event. If they have multiple small awards, they can decide on the ones that fit each. If they only have one award for this one, the short list can be shared with the full group at the end of the day for their vote.
The fun part of this award is that it recognizes that the innate rewards of gaming are worth celebrating as well. That epic tale of the time things went spectacularly right (or disastrously wrong) makes games worth playing. And makes a great thing to celebrate with a little award. It brings players’ attention to the fun they’re having in each session, makes them take riskier chances, and makes them practice telling their own stories of glory.
You could swap “Achievement Unlocked” for “Feats of Strength” as well
These few ideas are only the tip of the iceberg of awards that can be given that recognize and celebrate the other rewards of gaming. They can inject a level of fun into events that mere “top three finishers” trophies cannot match. If you’re a player, request these or something similar from your local tournaments. Or make your own trophies and bring them along and do the awarding yourself for moments like these. And if you’re a tournament organizer, give a thought to including even just one of these other methods for spreading the glory across multiple players. Your tournament scene is sure to thank you.
~What “award what’s rewarding” things are given out at your local events? Can you think of other fun ideas?
Want to see Chalkboard’s award-losing lists? Check out his blog at www.chalkboardwar.com.