Thursday, February 5, 2015

Canadian Shield Wrap-up

A few updates:

I've been informed of a few mistakes in my article below, please see the following bullet points for clarifications:
  • First off, I forgot to mention that this is the first Canadian Shield event. There are always growing pains with new events, so be sure to keep that in mind.
  • The Player's Pack outlined that terrain on tables could be moved around. It seems that I missed this (and I suspect several others did as well). With that said, that issue is on me, not the event/TO.
  • Scenario #4 in the tournament was not Battle Lines, it was "Pincer", which was similar but with an 8" gap in the center of the deployment zone to force heavier flanks.
  • The event was originally promoted as a 60-man event, not 40. My thoughts on this are more about the perception of capping the event at 22 people with only five days notice instead of ongoing communication about event plans and attendance.
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With the Canadian Shield tournament out of the way, and with a few days to mull it over, I figured I'd bring you my thoughts about the event.

The Venue

The event was hosted at St. Paul's University. Hosting a tournament for a grimdark game about evil gods in a seminary school is an interesting choice, but hey, it didn't really make any difference.

Overall the venue was great, clean, and well lit, albeit a little bit tight. The school also catered the event which was wonderful - pizza, cookies, and drinks for everyone after round 2... Zero complaints from me about that.

Side note for TOs - if you're running a 4 round event that starts at 8 or 9 in the morning, have lunch after the 2nd round instead of after the 1st. If you aim for a Noon lunch and your event ends at 8-9 in the evening you're going to have a room full of hungry and cranky nerds.

The Player's Pack & Scenarios

The Player's Pack had some typos and a rather confusing scoring system. The TO opted for a novel approach to scoring with customized objectives as well as a new take on soft scores.

Customized Objectives - Effectively there were a list of 7 objectives that you could choose from (1 per game, and couldn't use the same one twice in the tournament) that would grant an additional 200VP if achieved. These were things like "kill a wizard", "kill the general", "keep this unit alive", "kill this unit", "be in the enemy's deployment zone at game end", etc... For my 2 cents, these were great, especially not being able to reuse them. They added a little bit more depth to the games, and were generally just fun.

Soft Scores - These were very difficult to understand based on the Player's Pack, and I think most people ended up ignoring scoring them after about 2 rounds in. The TO has already confirmed that future events will use the "standard" scoring system for soft scores.

Scenarios - The scenarios were a little bit hit or miss. 

  • Round 1 was Battle Line with objective markers just outside each deployment zone in the center. These granted 100VP per round held, required full command and/or 1 full rank to hold, and could be contested by a unit within 3". This was a pretty solid scenario and it played out well. It perhaps could have done a bit better to punish deathstar approaches since it only required 1 rank to hold (so your archers, etc... could just sit on it), but it was still fun.
  • Round 2 was a very novel scenario. Each player had to split their army into two buckets (not required to be equal size) and their opponent would choose which of those "buckets" would be on the table turn 1, and then the rest would be Ongoing Reserves for turn 2. This lead to some very interesting choices and extremely dynamic gameplay. Really cool idea! The only issue here was that some players thought the two buckets had to be equal size, which really screwed some folks over - can be fixed by clarifying in the player's pack.
  • Round 3 was Battle for the Pass, but with only a 1" split in the middle for deployment zones. This scenario was widely considered to be an abysmal failure. Yes, you could still turtle at the very back of the table, but as a result you'd have nowhere to run. For larger armies and/or MSU armies it was also a bit punishing just to get everything where you wanted it to be. From my perspective this lead to a huge win since it was quite trivial to box in my opponent.
  • Round 4 was back to Battle Line, but with no objectives. Not much to say here.

The Tables

For a tournament it's tough to complain about tables. There was nothing that was necessarily sub-par quality, though some tables were un-textured boards... even then, not too bad. The big issue was frankly terrain placement.

Some tables were a touch sparse, but others were significantly overpopulated, sometimes with very large objects that could effectively remove 1/3rd of the board from viable gameplay.

Overall, stuff that's easy to fix. Good height, reasonably good quality, and comfortable to play on.

N.B. I understand that in the 40k event the following day there was still some "Fantasy" terrain being used. From a flavour perspective this is a big NOPE... something to change up for next time, but not a deal breaker.

Scheduling

Canadian Shield was a 4 round event run in a single day. Scheduling was very loose - some rounds went under time, some went way over. For the 40k event (the following day) there was a timer left up on the projector and announcements of time left - that would have helped a lot. Once again, stuff that's relatively easy to fix and the TO now knows.

Personally I feel that four 2 1/2 hour rounds in a single day is one hell of a grind since you end up with 11-12 hours of gameplay and don't get home until usually 11 at night (or later if you're out for beers after). This is also very restrictive to people coming in from out of town. Either spread out to a full GT and do 6 rounds over 2 days (4/2 tends to work best from what I've seen), or just opt for 3 games in a single day event. This varies person to person, and the TO has already contacted me to let me know it may change for future events.

Meta Thoughts (about the event, but not the gameplay)

The website needs a massive overhaul. The current one provides very little information, was not well maintained, and is incredibly hard to navigate to find the information that is available. This made the weeks leading up to the event a bit stressful since it was very hard to find out what was going on.

Another note is that as a TO, or staff in an event at all, you really need to have a social media presence. I say this from experience - our upcoming event sold out in 2 days whereas Canadian Shield was only sitting at 13 sign-ups a month in. You need to get out there so that people in the community (both local and remote) know who you are, so that you can relentlessly promote your event yourself, and so that you can quickly respond to questions/concerns that come up about your event. In this case we were dealing with 1-2 week turnaround for clarification on questions, and many went unanswered unless I met the TO in person (PMs and forum posts went largely ignored). 

One bit of drama was that the event was advertised as being a 40-man tournament, however it ended up being capped at 22 players. If the event is going to be advertised at a certain size, that number of spaces must be available. It doesn't matter if there are going to be empty tables, it's better to undersell than to have to turn people away. This left a very bad impression with lots of people even before the event actually happened.

Prize Support

I'll have to defer to the community here as I only got 5th, but I'll give a couple thoughts - 

The Shields - These were a pretty cool addition for best general, best overall, etc... as it's something great to hang on the wall in your game room.

The Silly Prizes - I got a bag of Cheetos for having the "cheesiest" army, and a copy of Visions for having some unpainted stuff (Pink Horrors that I had forgotten at someone's house and only got back on the day of the event). These were a ton of fun, and provided laughs all around.

Last Place - A Warmachine starter kit. Hilarious, and hopefully not discouraging. Even if I sucked and did that badly I definitely wouldn't complain about a $100 consolation prize.

Note - honestly not positive if this was the last place prize, or if this was a joke.

Grab Bags - Everyone that showed up got a White Dwarf (albeit very out of date), a $5 coupon for FDB in Gatineau, and a custom objective marker. The objective markers were pretty cool, but they were 3D printed and very brittle. Going the normal poker chip route may be a better choice, as 3D objective markers are also a bit tough to deal with in Fantasy since they're tough to balance things on. It would also have been great if these were painted (even just red) instead of bare resin/plastic.

Overall Thoughts

I had a lot of fun at this event, and would definitely go to future ones. The scoring stuff can be sorted out, the issues in the Player's Pack can be addressed with a bit more time and care from the TO, and the scenarios can be playtested a bit more if they are released much earlier on.  Hopefully the event staff can be a bit more involved in the community (forums, twitter, etc...) to help the event grow further.

- Logan (@1PlusLogan)

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