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EDITORIAL – Designing Good Missions for 40k Tournaments • Part 2

7 Minute Read
Jul 3 2011

Back in early May I wrote the first article in a series of three about designing missions for 40k tournaments.   Lets keep that conversation going…

These articles are intended to covers aspects related to larger events such as a Grand Tournament that have a large number of players and run over the course of two days. I discussed aspects such as things to avoid  – e.g., overly complicated missions and crazy special rules that introduce completely random effects that can have a huge effect on who wins or loses. I also touched on the importance of playtesting the missions and soliciting feedback from both veteran tournament players and your own potential player base.

Each of these articles also discuss the overall scoring system so you can see how everything should mesh together. This second article covers more in depth the topic of how to actually design your missions – that is, this article focuses more on things to implement rather than aspects you should avoid.

The system I propose here is based upon how many other large tournament organizers are currently running their GTs such as Adepticon, EndlessCon and WarGamesCon. I’m not saying the system I’m proposing is identical to any of these but it does draw heavily  upon aspects taken from these three as well as others. Also I’m not saying all tournaments should necessarily be based upon what I’m proposing – it is simply provided as an example to point out the aspects I support to create a competitive tournament environment.

These articles are intended for designing a competitive tournament. Hopefully with some careful thought and planning you can incorporate a system that also promotes good sportsmanship and encourages players to want to bring beautifully painted armies. If you simply choose to focus solely on the competitive aspect then you are risking losing players that enjoy playing in tournaments for the softer side.

Win|Loss System
There are no ties – players either win or lose each round. There should be enough rounds played so at the end of the second day there is only one player who is undefeated and is crowned the Best General. This approach means that you will need at least a number of players equal to 2 to the power of N where N is the number of rounds to be played. For example if you want to have five rounds then that would require at least 32 players (i.e., 2*2*2*2*2 equals 32). For this particular example it’s okay to have more than 32 players for five rounds but you’ll have to split the playing field so that there is one bracket at the start of the second day that is solely composed of the undefeated players from the first day – they will be in the running for the Best General award. You can take the rest of the players whom suffered at least one defeat the first day and place them in a second bracket and they can play for other awards. Everyone that enters the tournament should have the opportunity to play the same number of games.

Deployment should come from the main rulebook – Dawn of War, Pitched Battle or Spearhead. The players should all be familiar with these; they are all well understood and thus no potential for any confusion which could lead to mistakes that end up costing a player the win.

Multiple Objectives
Each mission has three objectives. Whichever player wins the most objectives in a mission wins the game. This approach helps to mitigate bad match ups. For example if a player brings an army that gives up a lot of killpoints (Annihilation) then they could focus on winning the other two objectives such as Seize Ground versus a player with a small elite army.

I think a good choice for two of the objectives for each mission should come from the main rulebook (i.e., Capture & Control, Seize Ground and Annihilation). The third objective could be something different such as table quarters or have the most scoring units in your opponent’s deployment zone. So for example if one player takes one of the objectives and the other two objectives are drawn then that player wins the game. Switching one objective each mission helps to keep up the level of excitement and I think there should be a certain element of surprise. If everyone knows exactly what to expect then some players will design their army lists solely based upon those parameters… For example this could encourage the use of MSU style armies. If there is some element of surprise then that will encourage players to bring more balanced armies.

You should use all three objectives from the main rulebook over the course of the tournament. For example if you decide to completely forgo killpoints then you’re providing an inherent advantage to certain types of army lists such as MSU style armies.


Tie Breaker
If you choose to implement a Win|Loss system then you’ll need a tie breaking mechanism in place to cover any game when players draw overall on the three objectives. I like to use victory points as the tie breaker- that is whichever player has the most victory points wins the game in case they draw overall on the three main objectives. If you use victory points as the tie breaker then it’s very important that you tell all the players ahead of time how this works as newer players that have only played 5th edition would be at a disadvantage if they have never used victory points before. If in the extremely rare case that two players also draw on victory points then they’d both take a loss as neither were able to win. I’ve never actually heard of a case where both players had the exact same amount of victory points but then again anything is possible so it’s always best to plan accordingly. There is one important exception to the tie breaker – that is what if the top two players in the final round proceed to tie on the tie breaker. It could happen so have a second tie breaker in place in case it does. You can never be to careful and obviously you probably wouldn’t want to use sportsmanship to decide the outcome of a critical second tie breaker.

Overall Battle Points Scoring
Have the players record each round which of the three main objectives they took. The total number of objectives scored over the course of the tournament is used to track how well everyone did overall in terms of overall battle points so you can rank players from 2nd to last place using this metric after the final round.

Tracking the Number of Turns Played Each Round
Have the players also record how many turns they were able to play each round. This metric can help you to spot slow players (i.e., intentional).

Use random pairings for the first round. Pairings are then based upon the Swiss system after the first round. For example if a player is 3 – 0 after the first three rounds then they’ll play someone else with three wins in the fourth round. That is, the players always play someone else with the same record (wins and losses) each round after the first round.

Army Composition
No composition – let the players design their armies however they wish with no penalties or restrictions. You should follow the guidelines for the standard force organization chart (FOC) in the main rulebook. In my opinion it’s impossible to design rules for composition that is fair for every army… There is simply too much divergence between certain codices.

Often players say that composition can come across as a group of veteran players telling others how they should design their armies. We all play for different reasons and what is poison to one player can be nectar to another. That’s just the way it is.

This is a prickly subject and most players are on either side of the fence… Either they fully endorse it or they totally abhor it. Those that support a score for sportsmanship claim it is necessary to keep WAAC (Win At All Costs) players in check. Those that are against it point out that it’s an opportunity for a sore loser to punish their opponent and I think this can happen from time to time. If you want to include an award for Best Overall then I believe a score for sportsmanship is necessary in my opinion. I have seen a check list I liked – it included items such as did your opponent arrive at the table early and did they provide you with a legible army list.


If you opt not to include sportsmanship then remember there will be people who’ll say you’re basically promoting an Ard Boyz style event so keep that in mind. If you want to design a purely competitive tournament that’s fine – that will define the majority of the players who decide to attend. If a player prefers to attend events that have a significant portion of the overall score tied into categories such as sportsmanship and composition then why would they even consider attending a purely competitive event? Sure it might work out that they enjoy playing all of their opponents and have a great weekend but that’s certainly not a given and they are potentially setting themselves up for an overall unenjoyable experience.

Battle Points versus Soft Scores
Battle points and soft scores are kept separated except for the Best Overall award which is based upon battle points, sportsmanship and appearance.

Transparency is very important. Everyone should know how everything works and all the rules should be readily accessible prior to the event. Overall scores should be posted soon after the tournament is over. Let everyone know well ahead of time what is your policy regarding how disputes involving the rules for 40k will be handled.

So there you have it from soup to nuts how to design your missions for a competitive tournament based upon my observations made over the past decade or so of gaming at large events. I don’t claim it’s perfect – in fact I’m sure it could be improved upon just like anything else in life. Soft scores are still important and should be used to decide awards for appearance and sportsmanship. My third and final article will be based upon my experience running an event that will occur this fall.

~So take a look and let me have it.  We want to know what you think the ideal tourney breakdown and scoring metrics should be.  Without dedicated players, talking these things out, TOs have to do a lot of this based on a certain degree of guesswork.

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