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40K Op-ed: What IS the Role of Judges?

5 Minute Read
Feb 6 2018
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What is the real role of judges at major events?

Recently there was some drama at a major event. This is not the first, nor last time, there has been some sort of drama around a big event. From accusations of poor sportsmanship, to cheating, to illegal lists issues have come up in many many events over the years.

Now it is fair to point out that normally these issues only negatively effect a small portion of the event’s attendees. Most players get through events with absolutely no issues whatsoever. In addition, many of the issues are unintentional and honest mistakes. They often only get brought to light due to the increased scrutiny placed on the top tables. Still, issues do arise, and they do alter the results of major events. Because of this there has been a lot of debate about how to deal with cheating, slow play, illegal lists, etc. at major events. One thing that needs to be addressed is the role of judges. Lets take a look at a couple ways they can act in a game.

Judges As Arbitrators

Traditionally judges have taken a very hands-off approach at events. Judges are generally there to answers questions, settle debates and make rules calls. They tend to be reactionary rather than proactive in their work. Unless players call them over to rule on something they will stay out of a game and not get involved. Judges at most events do not watch games, and are not there to force people to play within the rules.

It is largely expected that players will self regulate and keep each other honest. If one player has an issue with something the other is doing, it’s up to them to call the other player out on it. It’s only if the issue persists after this that a judge would be called. While there have been cases where an event had a “problem player” that got a judge assigned to watch their games this is rare.

Judges As Referees

It is possible that judges could start acting more like referees. In many other games and most sports, the judges or refs are there to take a proactive part in the games. Their job is to the watch the games and call out mistakes, illegal moves and even unsportsmanlike conduct. This is a very active role, where a judge would be inserting themselves into games. While it would be hard to pull off, this kind of judging would help cut down on issues.

What if all tourny judges had to dress like this!

Not Enough Judges

One issue this more active type of judging would run into is a lack of judges. According to reports LVO, the most recent large event, had about 7 judges for around 460 players. That’s around 1 judge per 65 players. Now I personally feel that’s far too few judges no matter how you want to run your event. But in particular with that ratio there is no way your judges can do anything but address people who come to them. One judge can’t activly watch 32 games at once. You’d need a lot more judges to make it work.

Finding judges isn’t always easy ether. Good judges are knowledgable about the game, its rules, and are confident. Generally these kind of people are going to be good players. Good players that are going to want to play in the event itself. Asking 40-50 good players to judge an event is not only unfeasible but it could hurt the event’s attendance.


The Internet Judges All

Playing into all of this is the internet. With the rise of streaming many of the top games at events are watched by hundreds or thousands of people. All of these people are going to catch mistakes and errors the people playing the game are making. I’ve seen it happen in person as we streamed local events. Most of these errors don’t bother the players and are minor but are called out by lots of people watching. It’s easy to go from this kind of environment to thinking that tournament players are all cheaters. While the internet can catch a lot of mistakes, they can’t be judges, they don’t always have all the info and ultimately its not the place of the watchers or the people streaming to interject themselves into the live game.

No One Plays 40K Right

Looking back on the all of 40K I would bet there has never been a 100% correct game played. Not once. Every single game has had mistakes and errors, or players have misinterpretated a rule, or chosen to play it one way. 40K is a big complex and imprecise game. There is a reason they have a rule for dicing off on issues.

Most of these issues have no real effect on a game. Most of the time the players are fine with what is going on. Because of that it most likely fine if things aren’t done 100% correctly as long as the players agree on it. Oversight from the internet will never be a viable option.

A Good Solution

The fact is most players go though events with no issues. Many players never talk to or need a judge, and most that do might have a single interaction during the course of 5-6 games. That is fine. As long as players are having a good time it doesn’t really matter.

However when you start getting to the top tiers of events, with prizes and pride on the line, you do start running into issues. Up there you can get a lot of questionable play. From slow play to “forgetting a rule”, to outright cheating, it all happens. I think it would help a lot of events to have some very proactive judges watching the top few tables. These judges would interject into the game, with the job of keeping games moving and ensuring that the rules are followed. This would not only help with issues like cheating and slow playing (is there a difference?) but also help provide for a more uniform and balanced experience.


~What role for 40K judges would you like to see at big events?

Author: Abe Apfel
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