Wednesday, 13 April 2016

The Bugbear in the Room

Or why I don't like VP in Tournament Play

Ok so thats a lie, but I have seen problems with VP being used in Tournament scoring systems and I really want to highlight why.

Clearly you need to judge positions in a tournament, and the normal way of doing this is to score points based on a win/lose/draw scale.  In almost every situation, given enough games, you will get a winner out of this situation.  Generally speaking though, below the outright winner will be a lot of players all with the same score.  So the best way to resolve this is to work out how well each player did during all of their games combined.

This year, with any hope, I will be able to get to a selection of Guild Ball tournaments.  I'm also hoping to repeat last year a little bit and do some Malifaux tournaments as well.  I have to get back into the top 100 somehow after all.  However, I feel I'm going to enjoy Guild Ball more, and the simple reason is the way in which VP tiebreaking is worked out.

I might be wrong, but so far everything I have see shows that Guild Ball uses total VP as a means to deal with ties.  This encourages play which maximises the amount the player does, drives them to score as much as they can and generally, from what I can tell, means that the games are played with a high risk, high entertainment mantra.  I would imagine this is only amplified at the top level, with games going to the wire and being very tense, with a feeling that they can go either way at all times (unless someone is being very unlucky or their game is cancelled out by an excellent opponent).

More importantly I have a feeling here that it promotes the concept of a good fun game for both players.

Now, before I get going on this rant section, I would like to point out that I love Malifaux as a game.  I think its a hell of a lot of fun when played in the right spirit, and this is therefore where the problem lies.  You see, Malifaux uses a VP differential as a means to break ties.  Scoring big isn't the answer, making sure you score well and your opponent doesn't score a thing, that is the key to doing well.  At the lower levels of the tournament pool this doesn't matter much, you probably don't know (I certainly didn't) how to stop your opponent scoring, so it just ends up being a fun chase for the high points.  The higher up the tables you go, however, the more malicious (yes a strong term I know) the games become.  You stop caring about if its a good game for both players, what you are after is that crushing win where smashing your opponent into the floor is the pinnacle of the player.  If you happen to be pulled against these ranked players in the first round, then I'm sorry, but you are going to be sore and unable to walk.

Its a cutthroat affair.  To be a high ranked player you need to build up that tactical viciousness, and don't get me wrong I understand that entirely, but I actually feel it damages the game to put an emphasis on how well you can suppress your opponent.  I don't know about anyone else, but I find failing my plans due to bad luck, but still having an entertaining game where everyone has a chance makes my day go far better than just not having the option to even try due to flat denial.

Please don't misunderstand though, Guild Ball has plenty of situations where my opponent will do what they can to get in the way of what I want to do, and I may feel like I'm a spectator to their game, but the thing is getting the ball, going for goals and the like are a mutual task and again its only being done because they need those things to get points as well.  If I ever felt like the reason my opponent went in for the tackle was not so they could score, but just to stop me having a chance at all even though I'm already going to lose, then I might get the same angst, but so far it hasn't happened.

Malifaux is a great game, I just don't think I could ever be the kind of player, that in a winning position, would deliberately shut down my opponent.  I wonder if running a Tournament where points scores are more important than points difference.  Would this change the spirit of the games?  Would it be better, more fun, just a little less oppressive for the newer/weaker players?

What do you think?

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