Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Running a Tournament without Record Keeping

Over the years I have seen many different systems of scoring miniatures tournaments. They mostly involve mathematical equations, some quite complex, that measure the degree of victory or loss based on a number of factors. Generally, the intent is that whoever wins the most games should be the tournament winner, and along the way, players of equal ranking should face each other. Often (if not always) arbitrary "other factors", such as the loss of a general, or number of troops lost, are used as a tie breaker between those on equal wins. Some scoring systems even tend to value "other factors" to such a degree that their cumulative effect can be worth more than a win even when you lose or draw.

Another common aspect is that after each game, the players are required to fill in accounting sheets, calculating the various factors from the game, and then totalling them for each player. The tournament organiser then collects the results, and works out cumulative totals for every player to determine the next round draw. This sometimes requires a computer to work it all out.

So my goal is to run a tournament without pen and paper, and not need an organiser to run things between rounds. I realise that there are some formats out there that do this. I have read with real interest about the concept of a "King of the Hill" style tournament, such as detailed at this site. Here rank is determined by seating positions at tables set up in a line like a ladder that you have to work up. The players on the top table are the "King" and "Challenger". It is intriguing in having some sense of narrative to it, and physical locations, giving the feel of a quasi campaign. However, the main downside seems to be that every game must have a result, it does not cater for draws very well. (Draws are the bane of any tournament system).

The idea I have is that only numbered cards and poker chits are used, as in the picture below.

It is meant to produce the same results as a typical Swiss chess type draw, with a tie breaker mechanism between equal ranked opponents. The poker chits are a proxy for ranking; if you have more poker chits, you have more wins. The numbered cards are used as a tie breaker.

It is also meant to provide some narrative for a quasi campaign - the poker chits are called Resource Chits (the more wins you have, the more territory is conquered, or resources acquired). The numbered cards are called Influence Cards (the higher the number, the more influence you have).

So, the tournament rules are (assuming an even number of players);

Influence Cards
There should be a set of numbered cards, without duplicates, from 1 to the number of players involved. So in an eight player tournament, there are eight cards numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Before round one, each player randomly receives an Influence Card. These help with ranking.

At the end of a battle, the Influence Card may be swapped between players. In a win/loss game, the winner gets (or retains) the lowest value influence card between both players. In a draw/draw, there is no swap, both players retain their existing cards.

Resource Chits
Each player starts the tournament with a number of Resource Chits equal to the number of rounds in the competition. So in a four 4 round tournament, each player starts with 4 Resource Chits. When a player wins, they take one Resource Chit from the loser. In the case of a draw, neither player gains or loses a Resource Chit. Accordingly, a player losing all 4 games will end up with no Resource Chits at the end, whereas a player winning all 4 games will end up with 8 Resource Chits at the end. Resource Chits are to be placed on the table during the games so that ranking can be easily determined.

Matching Opponents
In round one, match players from the lowest Influence Card to the highest. So in an 8 player tournament, 1 fights number 8, 2 fights 7, 3 fights 6, and 4 fights 5. This is important so that the highest value cards end up with the winners after round one.

From the second round onwards, group players based on the number of Resource Chits. The player with the lowest value Influence Card in the group with the most Resource Chits will be matched against the player they have not played yet with the next lowest value Influence Card in that group. If there is an odd player left over in that group, then one is chosen from the group with the next highest number of Resource Chits they have not played yet with the lowest value Influence Card. The main thing is that players face equally ranked opponents but not face an opponent they already fought in the tournament.

After Final Round
The player with most Resource Chits is the winner of the tournament. If there is more than one player with an equal number of Resource Chits, then the one with the lowest value Influence Card wins within that grouping.

I intend to use this at in the MOAB Hordes of the Things tournament in 2016. I ran it in the 2015 tournament, in parallel with a traditional scoring system as a double check, and it produced the same results with a lot less work and organisation.

One thing I am not sure about is whether players who draw should both lose a Resource Chit rather than retain them - as this then places the draw on the same footing as a loss (so as to discourage players aiming for a draw). Retaining the chit didn't cause any issues in the 2015 tournament, so I don't see the need to change this at the moment.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Mock Battles 2

In the never ending quest in finding a set of rules for larger scale "mock battle" gladiator fights, I tried Ronin with Martin last Friday night at the Sutherland Shire Gamers. My previous attempt at using the now OOP Warhammer Historical set in my previous post at Mock Battles.

Even though Ronin is meant for battles using Samurai in Japan, Craig Woodfield (the author) wrote a supplement in the Wargames Illustrated #318 (April 2014) called Gladius. This provides a conversion to Roman gladiatorial combat - not "one on one" fighting as such, but more for one group up against another group.

Just as an aside, I bought a set of rules at MOAB many years ago called Gladius by the same author. At the time I thought they had a very clever combat mechanism that involved a pool of dice, and allowed for some tactical decisions in how those dice were used. It seems that those rules became Ronin, which Craig Woodfield stated (in the WI #318 article) that "Ronin started life as a set of gladiator rules". I can see a some similarities, but there are a lot of differences as well. Anyway, enough of this aside.

We tried a refight of the "Attack on a Celtic village" scenario that was the subject of my previous post. It took place on a hex grid, we just converted one inch of movement to a hex. Here is the initial setup;

There were 8 "Romans" (gladiators in legion armour) who were level 3 and wore heavy armour, they also had skill with the gladius which gave them a reroll (24 points each). The "Celts" had 7 level 2 fighters in light armour (12 points each), and 5 level 2 fighters in medium armour (14 points each). They also had an additional hero figure (al la Maximus), who was level 5, wore medium armour, had skill with the gladius, had Fast (bonus to initiative) and Intuition (boost to defence) for 38 points. So a total of 13 "Celts" and 192 points per side.

Both sides rushed up against each other, with the Romans pushing up through their right to initially limit the superior number of Celts. After a couple of turns, the quality of the "Romans" with the extra level, gladius skill and heavy armour made quite a difference - the celts couldn't really stand up to this unless they could outnumber. The Celt hero (who we called Russell), was quite capable in his own right. We actually found that Russell probably should have had the Inexorable attribute rather than Fast. He was winning the initiative anyway without needing Fast, and he would win a combat with pool dice to spare. In such open terrain, he could have been freed up for extra attacks in other areas.

Below is the situation by the end. The Romans won. They only had 3 losses (all at the hand of Russell), and eventually, Russell himself was surrounded. I think the result could have been a lot different if Russell had Inexorable. However, the game did do what I thought it should - the Romans were superior to the Celts, and the Celt hero was superior to the Romans. The morale rules never came into play, apart from one Roman who was grievously wounded and kept failing morale to enter combat.

As the game was quite fast to play, we had time left over for an actual game with Samurai figures. Martin had brought a lot of these, and we had time to plan both sides (100 points each) and set up terrain as below;

It was basically a small group of heavy armoured Samurai with a powerful leader (4 figures) needing to cross over bridges to get to the enemy (5 figures), who had no armour but were armed with yari (bow). They also had a very powerful boss as well (but also no armour). The game also took place at dusk, so line of sight was diminishing with the falling light. It was a close result, the Samurai were (as expected) very powerful in attack, but they took wounds from bowfire closing in, so that the lightly armoured defenders won at the end with 2 figures remaining. However, like the gladiator game, morale didn't really come into it, with both sides passing tests easily. Not sure if this was being played wrong somehow, or whether it is the intention of the rules that fights were often down to the last man.

The Ronin rules were good, they provided for a fast game and simple mechanisms.