Lets talk about why now is the time for Games Workshop to take the reins of organized play.
It’s a refrain we’ve heard over and over again, another tournament, another cheater. Pretty much every major event since 8th came out has been marred by some case of cheating, and unsportsmanlike like conduct. We’ve covered it again and again and again. This is not a new or a US phenomenon, its happening all across 40K, and in fact has been happening for some time. While there have been attempts on a small scale, banning individual players, trying to institute Chess Clocks, etc. there has been no across the board attempt to really curb cheating. And that is in large part do to the lack of any centralized control over organized play. There is however a simple (not easy) way to fix this, and a lot of other issues with tournaments.
GW needs to step in and organize things, lets talk about why this is a good idea.
How We Got Here
Unlike pretty much every other major game company out there Games Workshop has taken a pretty hands off approach to tournaments. This hasn’t always been so. In the past they did run their own events, from the Grand Tournament, to the divisive ‘Ard Boys. They also provided prize support and sometimes terrain, to independent events, both large and small. Though they never went so far as Wizards of the Coast and DCI, they did at one point even issue player ID cards that you could use to track some event information. Don’t believe that? Well just look at this little beauty I still carry around in my wallet just waiting to whip out and impress people with:
And yes you might say, I’ve uselessly carried that in my pocket for… 10? 12? 15 years? But if I hadn’t I wouldn’t have it now for this article, so it was all worth it!
Even when they ran events they were pretty few and far between, and handful of major national events. At some point in the late oughts GW made the choice to get out of tournaments. The GTs died, ‘Ard Boys got soft, and prize support was ended. This left the slack to be picked up by independent events. Without any direction each event started making its own rules and regulations, sometimes these could take the form of mission packets, at other times they were their own massive FAQ meaning different events were playing fundamentally different games. And we haven’t even talked about local events.
The Local Scene
The fact is most 40K (and Age of Sigmar) events aren’t large tournaments. Most of them are held at FLGS and are between 6-30 players in size. While there aren’t any good numbers on them, I’d say its a fair bet that a lot more people play in these local events than in major Tournaments. Yet they’ve also suffered from lack of direction. Many of these events have either just had to muddle through, or have adopted the rules of one of the major independent events. This has lead to even more decentralization and fragmentation.
How We’ve Gotten Here
While a lot of what I’ve said about cheating and decentralization was true even when GW ran events it really feels like it’s gotten worse since they stopped. In in a recent twist the advent of streaming means that cheating has gotten a lot more obvious. People playing on camera, even if they don’t cheat, are going to be held to higher standards than others – and more shady behavior is being noticed by viewers.
To be fair, what has happened isn’t really anyone’s fault. GW made a business call to get out of tournaments, and it’s hard to blame them for that. The major event TOs and judges, some of which are good friends of mine, are all trying their best. They all just want to put on a good event where people can have fun. But its clear something has to change.
GW Needs to Take Charge
Like I said, it’s a pretty simple thing that needs to happen. GW needs to take charge of the organized play scene. Pretty much every other game company already does this, FFG, WOTC, Privateer Press, etc. all do this and make it work. Now to be clear, I’m not saying GW needs to hire a bunch of staff and start running their own events again. What I mean by taking charge is something like what these other companies do. They need to make a standard tournament packet that says how events are to be played. Maybe make a few variations for different event types.Included in this packet are rules defining cheating and how infractions should be dealt with. Enforce this at all “official” events and you’ve got a good start on getting rid of cheaters.
Of course that there are more things this approach could accomplish. A code of conduct for legal/prohibited behavior means we could also have a code of conduct to prevent harassment. All of this would help cut down on negative behaviors toward attendees and also help make sure we are all playing the same game globally. As an incentive to get TOs to use the official rules GW could also supply prize support packets (or sell them like some companies do).
This doesn’t need to free product, but can be unique dice, artwork, tokens, medals, etc., something they are already doing for Shadesprie. Add in the factor of the known to be coming 40K list building app (Age of Sigmar already has one), and you’ve taken away the “list-building wild west” that can result in illegal lists.
GW Needs To Do Something
I want to be clear. Nothing that is happening is GW’s fault. They’ve always been against bad behavior and pushed for fair and sportsmanlike play in their games. However their are two simple facts: These unfortunate things are happening, and 40K is GW’s game. 40K simply cannot be allowed to develop a dinged reputation of being the game of iffy behaviors and grey area sportsmanship. That kind of thing can hurt any game, and ultimately the bottom line. That’s simply not a reputation you want your game to have. GW can continue to wash their hands of the tournament scene; roll the dice and hope for the best. Or, they can own it and make things great.
It Can Work
While it may not be easy, the fact that multiple other companies just as large or larger than GW do it proves it can be done. By GW taking control of standards for organized play you would improve all events globally. Not only would we for once all be playing the same game, but we could seriously reduce bad behavior, making the game a more open and friendly one. Small local events would benefit from easy to run events with cool prize support and standardized rules. Large events would have a lot of the stress of trying to “fix” the game taken off them. In short it’s a better system for a better future.
Let us know what you think about GW taking charge of organized play down in the comments!