Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Gentleman's League

So for the last 5 weeks my local game club has been running a Warmachine/Hordes League that has been escalating.  While it took some ideas from the Privateer Press Journeyman League, it had very different and separate rules for it.  It was really simple: you received 3 points for a victory, 1 point for a loss, and -1 if you didn't get a game in for that one week, and each person could only submit 2 game results per week (max).  This week is the last week of the league and when I was in there on Friday I felt some real malaise about the end of the League since the player at the top had such a huge lead over everyone else (he had 10 points more than I did) and with only 2 games allowed, there's almost no incentive for anyone to play anymore.  This got me thinking about the goals behind these escalation leagues and the goals behind them.  With those goals in mind, might there be, perhaps, a better way of doing it?  And thus, I propose: The Gentleman's League!  But first, some background.

I do want to say that I have participated in a Journeyman League before.  My old game store ran a Journeyman League where players not only could start with a battlegroup box but could instead start with a battlegroup of ~11-12 points instead with the warcaster/warlock of their choosing.  I chose to try out pBaldur with a Woldwarden and Woldguardian and I had a really great time with it.  Unfortunately, much like this last league, participation kinda dwindled out after a while because people saw that one player was painting up a storm and there was going to be no way to catch up.  In the end, participation dropped to the point where even if you wanted to play a game (which I did!) it was nearly impossible to find someone to play a game.

This is the same thing that happened in the local league, despite the differences in ways of earning points.  On top of all of that, the local club league had two mechanisms to encourage people to play games: 1) games could be played elsewhere and on Vassal could count and 2) games played in the Hobbytown store would get bonus points to encourage people to still get into the store to play games.  The problem is that so many players work jobs that are far away from the store and fighting traffic to get into the store would mean they would be unable to play a real game, since the store closes at 8 PM.  Consequently, there were many nights where I wanted to get a game in but couldn't because the store closed too early.  While there are about a dozen people playing in the league, I've only played against 3 of them because most of the rest of the players only play on Vassal or at other people's houses.  I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a bit frustrating, as I was hoping this league would give me a chance to meet and play against some new people.

So do these leagues actually help?  Well I guess we have to ask ourselves what the purpose of a league is first.  These are the goals that come to mind for me:
A League should encourage...
1) players to start playing.
2) ...players to paint their models.
3) ...players to get better at the game.
4) ...players to meet and play against new people.
5) ...expanding a force in a gradual - and sustainable - way.
6) ...casual and fun play.
If your League can achieve all 6 of those tenets then I think you'll have players who will be hooked and excited about the game.  As my two examples above show, however, even with those goals in mind, it can be difficult to achieve them in practice.

Just like my Gentleman's tournament, I think that there is a need out there for players to go out and have fun in a context that doesn't include winning.  If our first goal of making a league is to encourage new players to participate, then you can't have a system that overly penalizes new players from participating if they're afraid they're going to lose.  In the Gentleman's Tournament, winning didn't matter at all for the final results and everyone had a blast.  While winning is certainly a noble goal, I don't think it should be the only one and should actually be de-emphasized for escalation leagues.  Based upon my experiences with leagues, I propose...

The Gentleman's League
  • Player points totals will be kept secret throughout the League.  A player can always ask the organizer for their own score, but cannot see the scores of other players.
  • Players will register with one faction and their first warcaster/warlock on Week 1 and can at any point in the League can add an optional second warcaster/warlock to use in their games.  A player cannot register more than two warcasters/warlocks.
  • The League lasts 7 weeks
    • Week 1 - 12 points or battlegroup box
    • Week 2 - 12 points or battlegroup box
    • Week 3 - 15 points
    • Week 4 - 25 points
    • Week 5 - 25 points
    • Week 6 - 35 points
    • Week 7 - 35 points
  • At the conclusion of Week 7 there will be a 35 point Steamroller tournament.  While anyone could participate in the tournament, League players should have no entry fee.  Players will be required to wear a tie while they play - they are Gentlemen, after all!  Ladies can wear a dress instead, if they like.
  • Players earn 3 points for each game played during the League.  Wins and Losses are recorded but don't earn points.
  • Players earn 1 point the first time they play against a League player they have not played against since the beginning of the League.
  • Players earn 12 points for playing in the Steamroller Tournament at the end of Week 7 
  • Players earn points for painted models according to the Journeyman League rules.  Models must be at most primed at the time of registration in order to earn points for the League.
  • At the conclusion of the League there will be 3 prizes:
    • Gentleman General - The player with the best Win-Loss record
    • Master Artisan - The player who earned the most points from painting
    • The Renaissance Man - The player who earned the most total points
What do you think?
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