40k Editorial: Bringing the Hobby Back to Tournaments

BBF here to talk about bringing the hobby back to the tournament scene. It can make everything better for attendees.

No matter what rules you change, the meta is always hungry.

Chasing the Eternal Meta

Note that I don’t advocate banning certain units or in general using army composition, nor rating your opponents’ army. Rules for army composition used to be a big thing in the US along with ratings… they don’t work. Here is a good example of why army composition does not work – back in 7th edition there was a system briefly en vogue called Highlander where you could only take one unit each from HQ, elites, fast attack and heavy support… everything else open was taken troops. It sounds okay in theory but some armies have much better troops than others such as eldar windrider jetbikes spamming scatter lasers (back then). Enforcing select rules for army composition does not eliminate the meta, it only changes it. There will always be a meta.

Making a list, checking it twice. Gonna find out who’s naughty or nice…

Making Things Better

There are things though that TOs can do that can overall fairly improve tournaments such as army lists being submitted in advance and properly verified prior to the event. Sure it requires time and effort but just like building terrain it’s just another task. There are big tournaments such as the American Team Championship (ATC) that has been checking army lists for years now and they have hundreds of attendees. One of the major drawbacks to not checking army lists in advance is that if a player is using an illegal army list and wins several rounds then is caught say in the semifinals or final round it skews the entire event since players that lost to them in prior cannot be properly compensated in terms of their win-loss record.

There should be a strict rubric in terms of models put on the table and painting requirements. Every army should accurately reflect exactly what it is. No one wants to play against lasguns painted with blue barrels representing plasmaguns. I will never forget a game at a major tournament versus a Tau player running Riptide Wing camping in a fortification. None of the Riptides had arms and the fortification was a cheap piece of terrain intended for aquariums. The opponent kept trying to use whatever weapon systems for his Riptides were the best each turn and his army list was totally illegible. The top of the third turn I stopped the game and asked a TO to force him to provide a legitimate army list, he ended up conceding the game. The larger the event the more important are these requirements.

Your army is gorgeous, have some cash!

Put Your Money Where Your Hobby Is

There should be equivalent prize support for the best looking army and the army that most accurately represents its background. There can be two categories – those selected by the TOs and those voted for by the players. It’s okay to spread around prize support, the most competitive players don’t need to take the lion’s share home. Another thing that could be voted on by players is the worst army in terms of designing a list solely based upon winning. Don’t dock any points, just let it be known.

Games Workshop used to run a Grand Tournament system in the US and it was extremely popular. You saw a lot of extremely beautiful armies because players were appropriately rewarded for their efforts. Of course now you can just pay someone to build and paint your army so it’s no longer necessarily representative of a player’s actual time and effort… however that in and of itself is not a good reason not to do so nor is it irrelevant. If we only reward players for winning their games the hobby suffers overall.

Without the hobby, we might as well be playing with cardboard chits.

The Hobby Matters

Bringing the hobby back to tournaments is not my idea but I fully support TOs and individuals that are striving to do so. The Long War has been an active advocate of this concept for several years now and just this year the ITC has put new rules in place for their system to make for an overall more enjoyable experience. I tip my hat to them for their efforts. Eighth edition is still fairly new and there is no better time to strive for this opportunity to improve the tournament scene in general.

~How would you support the hobby aspect of tabletop if you ran a major event?

  • Fergie0044

    “Another thing that could be voted on by players is the worst army in terms of designing a list solely based upon winning. Don’t dock any points, just let it be known.”

    The ‘No Retreat’ guys have a cheesiest army award that seems to fit this nicely. All seems to be done in good humour.

    • James Arnoldi

      I feel like this award would just encourage certain player types.

    • EnTyme

      Please tell me the army owner has to wear a Green Bay Packers cheese hat for the rest of the tournament.

  • ellobouk

    Every event I have been to required wysiwyg and fully painted armies. I have no idea what kind of mickey mouse operation allowed armless riptides in a fish tank scenery piece but that absolutely should never have been permitted on the table at any event.
    Completely assembled and painted armies, 3 colour minimum is pretty univeral from my experience.

    • Charles Lowry

      I started to see a trend in 6th edition and really take hold in 7th edition where painting standards were getting lower and lower. The explanation I was receiving was the fast release schedule from GW. I saw local and some larger events become more lax and it swung too far in my opinion. Some events did have requirements but players and TO`s were not overly zealous enforcing the rules.

      • Magnus

        If you are a Tournament only player you should learn how to paint quick and easy imo

        You can churn out a pretty nice army if you just cut the right corners while painting.

        • Neil Burns

          This. I painted 80 Solar Auxillia Guardsmen with bases in an afternoon. Army Painter, and running washes through an airbrush are your friends!

        • KingAceNumber1

          Yep. Base, wash, drybrush, and some line highlighting goes a hell of a long way.

          • AEZ

            Well line highlighting can be done very wrong… and base coloring smaller pieces can be hard… washing and drybrushing is easy and gives a great improvement on models.

    • Fredddy

      As it should be. Painting requirements on tournaments is a decades-long debate in my local gaming community. Problem is, that lower standards attracting more people is a more direct feedback than the higher quality resulted by the higher standards The best idea I saw was on a 3 months (4/year) tournament series, where the standards got higher and higher during the year- so people could improve their models continuously. On the other hand now some folks question even the wyswyg which was previously an universally accepted thing being obligatory for tournaments. Quick codex changes do not help of course, this year I had to rearm my Ecclesiarchy Priests twice.

      • Karru

        But this can backfire hard. While 3 colour minimum is a good standard, I have heard some lovely stories of neckbeards demanding people remove models from the table because they weren’t “finished” to gain an advantage. This one time friend of mine went into an event with his almost fully painted army, only model that wasn’t 100% painted was his Knight. It lacked some highlights and decals, but was mostly done.

        Game is about to start, he pulls out his knight and plants it on the table. His opponent goes “that isn’t fully painted, is it?”, he goes “Nope, just needs a few details and it would be done, but I didn’t have the time to finish it”. “It’s illegal, remove it.”

        My friend goes “What? It only lacks the finishing touches, but still fits the bill of ‘three colours minimum'”. His opponent goes “Yes, but it isn’t finished and the Tournament rules say that even if it is three colours minimum, it also says ‘no un-finished models’, your model isn’t finished so it is illegal”.

        Best part? The guy calls in one of the judges and the judge asks him “Are you going to finish painting that knight?”, again he goes “Yes.”

        “Sorry, he is right, the rules say no unfinished models.” End of story, he just conceded against the guy and left the tournament.

        Worst part, this isn’t the first time I have heard this happening. The main issue was that the “no unfinished models” rule was meant to be there for people that just do base colour and then paint like two different coloured stripes here and there to make sure it fits the “three colour minimum rule”, not because someone didn’t have the time to finish the highlights on his big guy. But if you put the “no unfinished models” in the rules, unfortunately you open yourself up to this kind of bs very fast, because tournaments will always have “that guy” in there.

        • Dave Bacon

          This is exactly why I couldn’t get into the tournament scene. At this point I would be forcing the opponent to eat the knight whilst simultaneously inserting the table into the anus of the judge. Or the other way around. Whichever. You never know what will happen in the heat of the moment.

        • Fredddy

          Never heard this happening- this high level a@holeship is only worth if you have no chance to meet those people again and my community described above is much smaller than that. The concept of “unfinished” shall be a little bit clarified before the tournament, since there is quite a difference between 1% done and 99% done.

          • Karru

            That falls to the TO unfortunately. The problem is that the rules are usually written by a single person, even if the rules were “designed” by a group. They write them but don’t really place the effort into defining certain parts, such as when they say “no unfinished models”. While that sounds absolutely clear that it is aimed towards people that have no intentions of painting their army and just gather up cheap models to make up the current meta build real quick, only to sell it and replace it once the meta shifts again, it still requires more definition in case of @holes.

          • Fredddy

            Yes, the final word is always from the TO, but you can always ask for a clarification, they usually have some kind of a forum for things like this. (I dont blame the guy with the 90% model ofc, the opponent was an @sshole with an inflexible judge on his side, but still a lesson learned from the case).

          • Check this out… I was at a tourney where there was a big award for the best painted army. My friend had painted a gorgeous White Scars army – it was pretty much sure to win. Armies had to be setup for display during lunch so the TO could take a look and pick. My friend goes out for lunch and leaves his army. This tool who had brought an army he paid to have professionally painted puts an unpainted Lizardman model right beside my friend’s WS army then later points it out to the TO while he’s judging the armies (found out later the tool did it). I caught on and told the judge the lizardman wasn’t part of his army. The tool gets very abrasive saying “Look it’s there so it must be part of his army. It’s unpainted so the army should be DQd for the painting award.” My friend’s army list was beside his army so I hand it to the TO. Tool is very upset now and tries to grab the army list. Every unit is bikes and I tell the TO why would my friend use a fantasy model. The TO then asks around did anybody who played him remember him using the lizardman. No one does and my friend comes back from lunch. I tell him what happened and he laughs. Another player at the tourney then tells the TO he saw the tool place the lizardman beside the WS army… TO confronts the tool asking him it it’s true. He hems and haws a bit and the TO says to him answer the question. Tool gets even more upset and starts packing his army and demands a refund which he doesn’t get so he says he won’t play there anymore… by now everyone is listening and laughter breaks out as the tool goes out the door then the TO tells him “Hey don’t forget your lizardman.” 😂

        • Fergie0044

          This sounds like a catastrophic failure in common sense…

          • Karru

            It is the tournament scene, common sense is left at the door.

        • The tournament scene is all about a very autistic-like adherence to the written letter of the rules and a very predatory waac approach to enforcing those rules when it suits you (and being a good enough lawyer to get around when it happens to you to get out of it)

          The correct answer when asked if a model is finished would have been to say “yep its all done”.

        • Magnus

          That opponent guy should get the award for “No Sportsmanship”, because that’s really low.

        • Damistar

          That is ridiculous. The TO judge did trap him by making him say he wasn’t finished painting the model, but that shouldn’t have mattered if the completed work met the minimum standards set by the event.

          • Karru

            One of those moments where you realise common sense has no place in tournaments.

        • memitchell

          “3 color minimum” is a minimum standard. An “almost fully painted army” is not fully painted. We can assume the other participants conformed to the rules. Your friend was cheating. His opponent called him on it. The judge agreed. End of story. The “neckbeard” is the victim here, not the villain.

          • eMtoN

            As jacked up as the situation is, I agree with you. If the rules are “Fully Painted” then anything short of that is against the rules.

            The store I go to runs a ton of 40k tournaments. They range from the Fully Painted kind on down to “I just put the legs on the base this morning”. When the tournament is posted you know exactly what’s going on – and there are reasons for the strictness, or lack thereof.

          • marxlives

            Ya, I feel the same way. I feel for the guys friend but if there is a rule that says fully painted, then that is what the rules are. I mean, not being able to adhere to a 3 color minimum is pretty sad. That is literally 1 main color, different colored gun, one more different colored item (should pad), and quick shade from Army Painter. Boom, you are done. Like I said, small local gigs, sure who cares, something that people are going to see who are not wargamers? Why wouldn’t you have a standard? Is that how you want your game to be perceived by potential customers? Grown people pushing detail absent masses of grey plastic and metal flash?

        • Should have told the TO it was finished.

    • William Jameson

      I remember attending a tournament in Q-con a few years ago where a player turned up with a Grey Knights army where not only was it completely unpainted grey plastic, but not even one of the minis even had arms. I couldn’t help but wonder if the dude put them together that morning or the night before.

    • marxlives

      I feel the same way. I mean, for small local tournaments sure…but if it is something that is going to be streamed and put up on the YT then it really needs to have a painting requirement. This is something that people are going to see from outside of the hobby. It is already an uphill battle playing with toys essentially but from outsiders (aka possible customers) seeing a tournament, with grown people, pushing around metal flash and grey plastic is really, really embarrassing. There are already prepainted games (Heroclicks – X-Wing/Armada) which allow a game without the hobby aspect. But tabletop gaming is largely a game AND hobby aspect and both need to be represented on any televised events. This is akin to playing world class tennis in pjs.
      It is more than different strokes for different folks. We are talking about branding (consumer perception), community standards, and what is the culture of major tournament scenes. If it is a small local thing, no problem. But if someone is streaming a major tournament then you are right ellobouk, that is some pretty mickey mouse BS. Even on a local level, when my friend and I play and we have all painted armies there is a different response from outsiders then when they just mickey mouse stuff being played.

  • Drpx

    Yay I can win with money.

  • Shingen

    Should be separate prizes. Gaming ability and painting ability are not the same thing. Its not fair to lump them together.

  • I agree. The tournament scene shouldn’t be comped or restricted nor should you award points to army score because the tournament scene is 100% about being the top waac and bringing the most OP list you can. Thats the point of attending.

    From a tournament standpoint, to me the only thing that should matter is how much waac did you accomplish and who has the highest score at the end. Painting scores should not factor into your ability to waac the waaciest.

    However I feel that painting should be enforced and requiired, and I’m not opposed to having a painting score given out secondary.

    I’m also against sportsmanship scores in tournaments because those are chipmunkable and as part of a good waac strategy you can get you and your buddies to tank the scores of your rivals, and thus win through social waac instead of gaming waac. I suppose that it could be argued that the social waac is the same as the gaming waac. But regardless… it should not be a thing.

    People also get extra butt-hurt when they lose and will tank a sport score just out of spite, or because they feel they were cheated in some illusionary way.

    Also proper enforcing of the rules will label you as a rules lawyer and tank your sport score as well. (not to be confused with rules lawyering advantages when you can get them and then “forgetting” when that could hurt you, but thats also part of being a good waac and is expected IMO)

    • Magnus

      Sportsmanship sounds great. But you are right it’s next to impossible to judge unless you have a TO at every table overlooking each game.

    • Fergie0044

      Sportsmanship awards only works in the more casual tournaments. The sort that usually also restrict you to one detachment (or formation back in 7th) and WYSWYG + fully painted is mandatory. And usually only attended by folks who have no issues with such requirements – so no drama.

  • Munn

    The only thing I worry about when discussions like this come up is that it doesn’t leave room for being bad at painting.

    There’s this ridiculous, stupid, idiotic myth that gets tossed around ‘oh anyone can be good at painting duh hurk a dur XD lol emoticon.’ Some people can’t ever get to the point where they would be considered ‘good’ by the elitist buttholes that make up the fluff and hobby centric side of the community. Other people COULD but with hundreds of hours of investment that not everyone can make.

    Just keep in mind that when you’re getting upset about how badly you’re getting thrashed by a 3 colors and based army and griping about ‘cheese’ and ‘powergaming’; chances are your opponent is getting just as upset at you because he spent 100+ hours doing the best he could to get his army done to the best of his limited ability, only to find out his opponent didn’t even try to build a coherent, competitive army so now HE has to have a bad game.

    • Karru

      The best part here is that the people the comment about requiring mandatory “hobby” things like at least 3 colours and fully assembled stuff is aimed towards people that never, ever even considered the idea that they are going to paint their army, or even assemble if that is an option in the event. They will get the cheapest stuff they can find in various places like Ebay and then come to the tournament with that. Once the meta shifts, they get rid of that lot just to start it with another army.

      These are the people these comments are aimed at. Call me elitist as much as you want, but if you don’t have the time to even assemble your army, undercoat it and splat at least some paint here and there on the models, but somehow have time to play dozens of games or even attend 6+ hour events just to play, you just might be very bad at time management.

      Sure, there are people that have legit reasons why they can’t paint their army. Older players for example might have problems where their hands are too shaky to paint properly or their eye sight isn’t cooperating with the small details on the model. It should still go without saying that at least assembling the army should be possible and if you can’t manage even that, again I start to question, how in the world can you play the game as much as you do if you are attending tournaments.

      • AEZ

        I think at least 80% of an army should be painted and unpainted models should at least have a color sprayed on it. Models should be assembled. WYSIWYG is not important to me, proxying 1 models of the same type for the same one with another weapon is fine with me. And in AoS I’d not mind people using one monster for another if it’s visually a better fit (I’ve not done it yet.. but for my wood elves i’d consider using an old forest dragon as a proxy for a phoenix for example – oddly enough the former which was in their army is now not a possible ally and the latter is).

    • SYSTem050

      Sorry but I disagree sure not everyone can paint to a golden deacon stultifying standard, block base coats washes and dry brush are easily obtained skills. Far easier than learning the constant shifting meta playing multiple practice games and dedicatedly working out min/max lists

      Can everyone be bothered to learn basic painting skills. No but neither can everyone be bothered to do the above research to win tournaments. Different strokes for different folks

  • marxlives

    I think this is really an aspect most tournaments can adapt from PP Iron Gauntlet. The idea that someone can show up with an unpainted army and not a pre-submitted list to a major tournament and participate is weird to me. I would expect at a local tournament or a semi-major tournament but something you are going to record and stream really should have that qualification. You are representing the best the game AND hobby has to offer in those type of events. I know there are people that hate that, but 40k, Warmachine, Malifaux are a game AND a hobby. Not bagging on X-Wing, it is a lot of fun AND it serves a purposes for people who want a game AND not a hobby.

  • Bredkooler

    I have a friend who did a futurama themed guard army. Every single model is lovingly converted featuring a TON of green stuff work. Then, just because he’s a bit off, he painted everything grey and the bases black. At a glance it looks like a freshly assembled army, but none of it is bare plastic. He’s taken it to our local tournies repeatedly and everyone finds it hilarous.

  • I can’t agree with this article more. Hats off, Black Blow Fly, for saying this. It’s 100% truth.

  • Inquisitor Corwin

    I think the core issue is not one of ‘what kind of tournament should we be running?’ but of ‘what is a tournament?’
    Imagine, if you will, a world where stores and organization ran your traditional tournament, say, once a month. Cheese, spam, wretched paintjobs and ‘those guys’ as far as the eye can see. WAAC and meta. The 40k equivalent of Tekken.
    Now, the next month, it’s something very different. Weird missions, weird deployments, weird terrain, points for paintjobs and naming your HQ’s. Fair? Not all the time, but you can make back some of those points with good painting, good composition and good sportsmanship. Fluffbunnies and beardbros to the walls. The 40k equivalent of WarioWare.
    This way, the MtG playing loonies and MMO players can have their, ‘my armee iz dur best’ wankfest and the painting autists and flufflords can argue over who’s the sexiest primarch.
    Everybody wins.

  • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation

    I never go to tournaments. The problem about them for me is that GW has bent over backwards to accommodate tournament players with 8th and had it playtested by tournament players, and now it is dull as hell and the game is ruined with all the fun random and cinematic stuff gone.

  • palaeomerus

    The people who want to make the tournament better AKA the way they want it, are bad for the tournament. Lots of rules and kicking those who disagree out will make everyone flock to the tournament! Nah.