Responsibilities of Tournament Play

A commentary on the state of Warhammer Underworlds’ competitive scene.

Greetings everyone and welcome to a different article from my usual repertoire. This subject has been brewing on my mind for awhile now but my most recent tournament event I played this Saturday in Bournemouth has pushed things to the forefront. I played at LVL Up Gaming and I ended up walking out near the end of the event just because it was becoming such a negative experience. I was annoyed, not having fun and my later opponents would not have had a good time against me. As I side note I apparently finished 4th or 3rd at that event but I declined getting any prizes upon leaving.

Now before you go on thinking this is an article dedicated to whining, that is not my aim. The event just bubbled up core issues I’m having with Warhammer Underworlds and tournament games in general. There are 3 key issues I’m having with the game at the moment, these are:

  • Tournament Organisers (TOs) changing event rules and structure on the day of the event.
  • Players feeling bad about running toxic/hyper competitive decks.
  • Players constantly complaining about dice, even while winning.

I’ll expand on the 3 above points but I think it’s fair to add that I’ve been hitting the tournament scene pretty hard. While I don’t feel burned out this could all be an issue of over-playing the game and maybe I just need a break. It’s a fair point, however I’ve been burned out before on Underworlds and this is not the same feeling. Could it be just me bitching? Possibly. I’d like to think this article is only 10% bitching haha. At the end of the day I still feel this is my subjective view based off of the many tournaments I’ve attended.


TOs Changing Tournament Format and Rules on the Day

TO’s. I love ya all. You do a great job of taking time out of the day to run events for people like me to play at while you deal with the struggle of pairings and rules questions. But I’m getting really tired of turning up at an event only to either have the format change, number of rounds change, or even have prize support pulled.

Back in the old days of Warhammer Underworlds you had the risk of a tournament only getting 4 to 6 players and the TO deciding to hold on giving out the full prize support. This improved with time as TOs generally began stating an event needs X number of players for it to get full trophy support. That’s fine. You are usually the person running the store/event. What I’m sick of is tournaments having their round numbers changed on the day or the tournament going from best of 3 (Bo3) to best of 1 (Bo1).

In 2 out of the last 3 tournaments I’ve attended 1 had changed the rounds from 5 Bo1 games to 3 Bo1 games after round 3. The tournament I last attended changed the event from Bo3 to 9 games of Bo1, even when the majority of the players wanted it to be Bo3. I do not enjoy checking in advance for the format and prize support, paying £35 for a 2 hour train journey (excluding the 1 hour journey to get the train), then £5 for the tournament only to find out the event I’ve been practicing for now has a brand new format.

Such changes drive away potential customers and players. It even forced me to stop doing a tournament round-up and instead cover this. What made it worse was that generally everyone was a joy to play at the store plus the staff were fine. I just have no idea why a TO would change the format of a tournament on the day of the event.

A main defence of this is because Games Workshop (GW) advises in the Organised Play (OP) kit that Bo1 games are the preferred format, even though Grand Clashes are all played in Bo3 format and that’s what everyone generally plays. The game was even designed for Bo3 format. It’s such a confusing situation where GW will not tell stores to run tournaments in fixed Bo3 formats or even mention Bo3 format in the OP kit store guides. This point is exasperated when companies like FFG and other card game companies force a fixed tournament structure on all stores using their OP kits to run events.

Now I’m in a really rough spot for tournaments. What’s the point of even checking ahead what the tournament format will be when a TO will just change it on the day? Before I had to worry about prize support and how the TO was doing rankings either based off of who had the most glory instead of wins and glory differential. Now I need to worry about whether a store will even stick to their advertised format. I still recommend that players go to tournaments as they’re a great place to socialise and learn the game but from now on I’ll only be attending stores I’ve been to that have reliable TOs.

So how could all this be alleviated? I’d just hope GW in the next OP kit tells store to either run Bo1 or Bo3 events, clearly stating that Bo3 events are the norm for tournament play. At the end of the day stores are still buying OP kits from GW but if events continue to be so inconsistent it will only hurt future attendance.


Players Feeling Bad About Running Toxic/Hype Competitive Decks

Now this is more of a bugbear of mine but it’s becoming increasingly common to see. Bottom line is this is a competitive game. In a tournament it’s your prerogative to run such decks if you just want to win. However you should own such decks and not continually apologise after winning then feeling bad when you’ve designed such a deck to play that way and your opponent doesn’t have a great time.

For example at my last event the second-last opponent of mine was running a Mollog deck that sat back and killed you via passive ploy damage such as Shardgale, Encroaching Shadow and Lethal Ward. My opponent told me he built this deck to troll try hards and counter the meta when in reality it just destroyed horde warbands like my Godsworn Hunt and Zarbag’s Gitz. He was now feeling bad he was not playing against the opponents he intended and felt terrible that no one was having a great time against him (Bo1 format does not help playing against such a gimmicky deck). After apologising to me I asked him why. He paused in confusion. I stated that he came here to win and was running a very efficient deck in Bo1 format that was just boring to play against. He did not disagree.

While I’ve chatted on endlessly about the example above it’s not to shame the guy, not at all. As I stated earlier if your goal is to win then you shouldn’t feel guilty because your deck is doing what it’s designed to do even if it is very toxic to play against. Own it. I was more annoyed that he continued to apologise over it. I’ve had the same experience back in the past when Katophrane Relics were alive and people kept apologising for abusing them. Once again I find it more insulting to the opponent to apologise for winning. I’ll just say this. Did you expect to go to the tournament with your highly honed competitive/toxic deck and lose?

At the end of the day I personally try to run stuff that is competitive and fun to play against. Yet at tournaments I know the main aim of the game to win. I paid for it and I knew what I was getting myself into. Just please don’t apologise for winning. Unless you’re actually cheating of course.


Players Constantly Complaining About Dice, Even While Winning

Dice. Oh dice. How I love and hate thee at the same time. Now this is something I’ve noticed getting worse for a looooong time now. Heck even I’m guilty of bitching about dice. But after really bad comments by myself I thought back to an article I wrote about analysing your losses and competitive etiquette. Dice happen dude (or dudette). Just accept it. Playing the Godsworn Hunt has truly allowed me to appreciate the mystery of rolling dice. Did you know rolling more dice makes you less accurate?

Seriously though I find it really bad when everywhere I hear “I lost because he rolled better”, “He got all his attacks off”, “I think that John guy rigged his dice as all he rolls is crits My opponent just rolled crits”. Unless playing against Mollog I feel none of this is really justified. Yeah bad dice rolls suck but they’re a core part of the game. Mollog gets a pass because he skews the game into this weird aggro plane of existence were the entire match comes down to dice.

Once again think what got you into doing those attacks instead of that they failed. You made a risky charge but now it has failed you’re in a bad position that your opponent can capitalise on. It’s all about gauging whether the rewards outweigh the risks.

A bigger gripe is when people complain about bad dice rolls while winning. My last 2 opponents both did this. It is not fun playing against someone who is loudly complaining about your dice rolls while they are in the lead or have won the previous game. For example my last opponent was upset I rolled a crit for defence while the score was 7 glory to 1 for him at the bottom of action phase 1. Even while he was miles ahead he continued to complain when rolls such as Last Chance saved my fighter (score was 5/15 at that point).

I’ve encountered this occurance so regularly now that I feel it does need to be addressed. If people are that upset about crits and dice rolls, there are other games that don’t used dice. Like chess. Just imagine being in that position you’re putting your opponent in. Yeah dice rolls can suck but a) dice are random and b) it makes you come across like a dick. The most important rule is don’t be a dick. Heck I named the blog about how important dice rolls are. Embrace the dice. Love the crits.

Once again I’m not trying to focus on that guy solely, it’s just an example. I spoke to him after the game. It’s just I’ve seen this happen so regularly and I know the community is better than this. Dice are dice. Good rolls come with the bad. You’ve just got to accept them unless you play magic and get innates where you’re just rigging the game technically and always ask yourself; Can you roll a crit?


So what to do in the end? I hope GW improves OP kit guides so TOs run standardised events so no one gets confused over formats. For the last 2 points that’s more down to the community. While the above points are not hugely commonplace occurrences, they are becoming far more frequently seen. Warhammer Underworlds has the best gaming community and we should strive to keep it that way. Never have I met a more welcoming or friendly gaming scene. It’s such a boon that I’ve made many a great friend from. Let’s just keep striving to be better than we already are, don’t be a dick (as my club HATE emboldens) and most importantly keep rolling crits!

12 thoughts on “Responsibilities of Tournament Play

  1. I agree with a lot of what is said here. I had an issue at the last tournament I played at. It’s a small shop and normally 4 people play though we hope for more. The TO is great and format is always the same so no issue there. The problem I had was everyone but me ayed the same warband. I went against the briar queen 3 times in a row. It was the most morning time I have ever had. By the end I was pretty salty because I just want enjoying myself at all. I even played 3 different warbands, Magor’s, Zarbags, and Axes. It’s just not very enjoyable when you show up to play and people decide these warbands are overpowers so that’s all your going against. I play in the US. Do you see this a lot on the UK?

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    1. Ah I’m afraid generally things I different in the UK. Most tournaments I’ve been to have a wide number of different warbands used.

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  2. Thanks for caring about the community enough to think about this and write about it. Thanks also for stating your concerns to your opponent when their behavior was not up to snuff.

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    1. Ah no worries, thanks for reading. I just think the Underworlds community is the best around so we should keep ourselves to our high standard haha.

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  3. Number two is a tough one. A lot of people love the game but dont have time to commit to it for even weekly games. Tournaments serve as a opportunity for many less competitive (by choice or due to still developing), casual, and newer players to get some games in. Unfortunately nothing will kill enthusiasm, or the intent to commit more time to a game system, than getting crushed by a “toxic” play experience from a highly competitive player. Ultimately, it’s a tough balance between nurturing the community to grow and satisfying more competitive players. Yes it’s a competitive game system, but not everyone is as competitive as each other. If you turn up to a Grand Clash, players should expect it to be ruthless. An eight man tournament with four new players playing Ironskullz at an FLGS would be different matter, and turning up to the former will have a different atmosphere and the expectations of players will be different on either side the spectrum whether it cost a fiver or not.

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    1. I agree it is difficult but generally tournaments are competitive environments. Personally I think people should always run positive experiences to play against but if not then you still shouldn’t really be ashamed about what you’re running if it isn’t. Just be pleasant about it.

      I find it’s also difficult to gauge tournaments unless you’ve been there before. For example when I attend GW tournaments I always try to take more casual warbands as I know the environment will be less competitive than normal but then again that’s just me and I don’t expect others to do that.

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  4. Right, before I say anything else I need to do some ‘full disclosure’. I’ve attended LvL Up a lot as it’s very local to me, I know the owner and I’m friends with people who I’ve met there that I would not have met otherwise and I’ve played Infinity tournaments there too. I was not playing in that tournament as I’ve not been playing anywhere recently for non gaming reasons. Had I known that Underworlds Royalty was attending I might have made the effort but that’s another story. That means I don’t actually know who attended or who the TO was even though I may know them if names were mentioned. (which I don’t think they should be). So what I’m about to say is from personal experience.

    I totally agree with event format changes being a bad idea. I even commented as much on a previous article of yours. I will try and reach out to make that point to the owner and TO in a constructive way. They are, on the whole nice people and the shop tries hard to support what people want to play which often means that a TO is just some guy stepping up to try and get something organised. They sometimes have no experience of what it means to be a TO and may be unaware of the negative effect of last minute changes when people have committed time and money to attend from afar. Especially for the more ‘competitive’ style of game which Underworlds is supposed to be.

    That leads me into the comments about competitive tournament etiquette around dice rolls and playing to win. There are two things that might shed some light as to why it happens a lot in my area.

    Firstly it’s a cultural thing. From experience that shop tends to have a more casual oriented player base. Now that is not a criticism as in general the hobby can and should have places where players can play and enjoy the hobby no matter what part of the hobby they are more attracted towards. What it does mean is that I suspect a lot of your opponents are just not used to playing in a tournament setting and slightly outside their comfort zone. That unfamiliarity is the problem. This leads to a certain amount of awkwardness. Which in turn can lead to people apologising for winning because they don’t want their opponent to have a negative experience. Sadly this can and is sometimes the cause of a negative experience in itself.

    Secondly there is a bit of history involved in the area. We are blessed that there are 3 independent gaming shops in about a 10 mile radius that all hold events (and 2 actual GW stores as well). We are cursed in that they came about in a less than cooperative manner and that, to some extent, fractured the community. This means that on the whole we seem to have 3 different communities all trying to exist in a single space. In general they don’t mix well and can be insular. This sadly leads to an environment where a ‘new’ person in a shop is not the norm and people are not sure how to cope with it. They are all welcoming and want people to attend their tournaments but in some cases are just not sure how to handle it when it happens.

    I would put a lot of the things you mention in your article down to the fact that, as someone who is on the competitive scene you are used to, and expect, a certain etiquette and behaviour. that is an environment that this local scene is not really used to. I’m sure if they run more events they will get more comfortable with them and things will improve in general. They just need to make sure that they don’t put people off attending whilst they are going through the growing pains.

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    1. The players I mentioned are actually tournament scene regulars and not actually locals by aha. I found the shop playerbase to be amazing and they were a blast to chat with.

      While speaking with the players they told me the guy who was TOing has a history of doing these things. I’ve purposely left things vague and not included the other problems I experienced but organisation/TOing was the main problem.

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      1. Fair enough. I obviously wasn’t there so can only go on things that have happened in previous times I’ve played there. Shame that the TO does that. I can only suppose that other events have been either more casual than Underworlds is or that they had a small local attendance where mucking about with the schedule doesn’t cause a problem. Hope they change that going forward for the sake of the store as they are generally nice people.

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  5. This comes down to persons playing the game and their views on several matters, but –
    If you are fine with players taking every advantage to win, you will encounter two approaches to that goal: Creating best deck possible is one option, creating superior position in game by goading opponent in suboptimal plays is another option. “Trashtalk for the win” was a problem that plagued MtG circuit for a long long time… for most of us former is acceptable but later is not.

    But for a new player that encounter opponent aiming for win at all cost – there is little difference between the two, whether his warband is destroyed by ploys or his opponent berated the dice rolls all game and won while he was disturbed by that – it’s negative play experience.

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    1. Totally agree. I think that if we are careful we can, as a community, learn from the MtG tournament scene. When I was involved with it I was fine with whatever deck my opponent had because that was playing to win ‘inside the rules’ but the trash talking angle shooting and rules lawyer-ing I hated because it always felt to me to fall ‘outside the rules’.

      I also noticed that there was a strange sort of pattern as to how much bad behaviour was brought to a game.

      At the grass roots level of people playing because they like the game who, in all honesty, didn’t have much of a chance at the top spots there was none. These guys just loved playing the game.

      At the higher levels (I was lucky that my group at the time had a couple of guys who at least got to experience the pro tour) there was none. These guys had every chance at top spots in local events and they let their skill at the game do the talking.

      Then there were the people who might grab a top spot at a local event but just never manged to break through to the higher levels. This is where all the nonsense was concentrated. It was almost like they felt they were so close that they should be very good. Anything was OK with them if they thought it could give them that little edge to ‘make it’ and when that didn’t work it was always the fault of ‘luck’ or ‘bad draws’ or some sort of conspiracy.

      My hope is that GW will start to understand that they have a game here that deserves a better set of tournament rules (the current ones are a bit flaky in my opinion) and maybe even go as far as instigating something like the MtG Judge program. Sure they don’t have the money and the exposure that MtG is currently enjoying but if they can tidy up the competitive side they have a game that could be around for a long time.

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  6. I completely agree with you on TO changing format, it’s a very unrespectful decision. It never happened to me but I would leave the tournament and vote with my feet.
    As for toxic decks I don’t like them, I don’t play them, but I feel that it’s a legitimate decision to bring them at a tournament in that case, if the player feels sorry he should have the decency to shut up and play. Fortunately UW is not all about deck building. Anyway it never happened to me.
    Whiners and dice: they are everywhere, as for myself I make a point to never comment a dice roll, I usually let the whiner to his own misery. A better player will always prevail in the long run.

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