Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tournament Tuesdays: When Scores Don't Add Up

A group of friends and I went to a partners tournament a few years ago in northern Wisconsin. Overall, the tournament was well run and the players in general were a nice group who I would eagerly play again. The thing though that stands out about this event was what happened at the end of the tournament when awards were given out.

While I forget the exact award, my partner and I were declared the winner of one. The award included a nice gift certificate that had to be redeemed that day at the store. My partner and I preceded to walkabout the store in the hopes of finding something to purchase with our new found “wealth”. As we explored the overstocked isles of closest filling materials, we heard the TO announce that a change was being made to the results and that my partner and I would not receive the award we had been bestowed. Instead another team upon further “review” by the judge should have been awarded the prize.

My partner and I made a beeline to the judge to verify what we had just heard him announce. Upon questioning, the judge claimed that a math error had been made that resulted in another team not getting all the points they should have been awarded. We asked to review the raw data as it sounded odd to us, but were refused the request. The end result was us not winning anything, which is fine, and my partner, who was usually a laid back guy, swearing off the TO and gaming store for life.

Those are the facts as I remember them. On the trip back, the other team we travelled with mentioned that after the rewards they had overheard complaints about guys who were not regulars coming in and winning stuff. They also said that the team that received the award made a real stink to the owner and TO about the fact that they hadn’t won anything. With these points, I did not witness them first hand, so while I believe the folks that told me this information, I didn’t observe it myself, so I am not certain I have the exact details of what may have occurred.

My point in sharing this story is to talk a little bit about what should happen in situations like this one. When a mistake is made and it is not caught until after the conclusion of the tournament, what should be the appropriate response from the TO and what should be the expectations of the players impacted by the mistake?

When it comes to events that I am running, I always do an audit of the raw data a few days after the tournament has concluded. I like to go over the data not only for errors, but also to see if I can find any trends in what had happened. (As a side note, I strongly suggest anyone that runs an event to do the same. Not so much because you are afraid to make a mistake but because you may find it very insightful.) I have found in two instances, ones were I was manually tracking, that I made minor mistakes that caused players to shift their final standings in a tournament. In both cases, the errors did not impact who received any awards, but they were still mistakes that I needed to rectify.

In the case though that if a mistake was made that resulted in the wrong player winning an award, my standing rule is to award the correct player with the same prize, or an agreeable equivalent, while still allowing the original winner to retain their prize. It seems like the only fair thing to do that doesn’t punish either player for a mistake made by the TO. Personally, the integrity of an event is more important to me than a small hit to the pocketbook.

So while I can comfortably state what I would do in such a situation, it doesn’t mean that other TOs would do the same. Like professional sports, some TOs will make public a scoring mistake, but will declare that the original “ruling on the field” stands. Since I only attend “small” events, I am fine with this approach, but I could see how people would be upset if it happened at a “major” event. Another approach that I have seen, though only once, is for the TO to ignore the mistake, even when confronted about it. While this may seem like the worse approach, I can understand why someone might employ it.

In the end, a mistake made in the scoring of a tournament has the potential to impact everyone who participates. How such mistakes are handled will depend upon the TO and the nature of the event. While I cannot say there is an absolute right way to resolve a mistake, I do feel it is important for TOs to be prepared for such a possibility and be honest with themselves on how they feel best to handle it. A good tournament begins with an organizer knowing themselves and how they will handle a given situation.


  1. I completely agree. Any store owner who sanctions this or allows this sort of thing to happen is playing with fire. One can kill mini gaming in their store if they aren't careful. I myself have run many tournies and would agree with you that keeping things honest and open is the best way to keep players coming back again and again. I would also say that the "out of towners" are your lifeblood. Most people LOVE to play against new opponents and new armies ... you can only play against the same people so many times before you start getting bored. In any tournament I ran I had at least my laptop with me and I would run all the scores in an excell spreadsheet ... I'd have sportsmanship in a different column off the screen or just blocked off (or if I had a printer handy I'd print it all). The reason I didn't show sportsmanship is that in a three game tourney its really easy to figure out what each opponent gave you off of a raw score. SO the players could see exactly how they'd done. I encouraged players to double check and verify everything. In addition to this ... each round I"d look at the sportsmanship scores ... and if they didn't add up (like someone got a 1 out of five and I knew they were a super nice, honest person... I'd go pull the player aside who burned them and find out why ... on more than one occasion I had a player decide to change the score) I also kept a percentage of the overall sportsmanship points to be distributed by the judges (usually like a point a round or so and that is when players could earn 5 from their opponents per round) it wasn't huge but it helped break ties and kept the field honest. Anyway it sucks that you had that experience and hearing stuff like this makes me mad as even its half way across the country from where I am ... its a ripple in the pond of GW games and it effects us all :(

    For you I'm sorry you had the 40K "Deliverance" experience.

  2. Another thing our club had is an award called "Stuck Among Champions" and we usually made sure we had the certificate/plaque .. and a reasonable prize for that. We would hold off on that award and only hand it out if something happened ... any TO knows what I'm talking about. You'll have players show up with amazingly painted armies, have great games where everyone is having fun, and they'll win two games. Then of course they get paired in the final round with the other best players ... soetimes those people will get trounced in that last game and fall out of the rankings ... or jus miss best general by a point, missing best overall by a point, and perhaps another player deserves best sportsman the most for some reason. So you have one player who is "stuck" ... just a point or two away from every award yet winning nothing. Some tournies that doesn't happen ... its all cut and dried. But like I said we'd save that award and not give it out unless we legitimately had someone who was in that situation ... if we made a scoring error ... we'd work it out so the error was corrected with the stuck amongst champions award. Just a nice get out of jail free ... good will ... award. We also did "Shoddy Dice" and had a funny prize (alot of times a new set of dice) for dead last.

  3. I fully agree with and support Equinox's views on this one. Once the prizes are given out, they should stand. If an error occurs it's up to the TO to fix it so that everyone is happy. Prizes should be certificates, once they are given out they are like cash: property of the one it was given to.

    @Lord of Excess: My store did the same thing, often combining the two prizes you mention into one "Murphy's Champion" prize to be given to either last place or to someone that dropped their army or otherwise had a bad day.

  4. You can't build a good community by giving a prize and then taking it away. I ran monthly tournaments for a number of years... my policy was that if there was a mistake, I'd cover it from my own pocket. Never had to, but it was there. (Note that I was just the TO and was not even a store employee.)

    On that note, I also believe in full disclosure of tournament standings. Of course, I also didn't bother with sportsmanship... (Except that the TO could ascribe negatives for argumentative or abusive players.)

    I also have to agree with LoExcess that "out of towners" are the lifeblood of a good tourney. I've had the same complaint from a local/regular about "prize snatching". Every time I showed them the scores, told them they lost fair and square. I'd then suggest that they get the traveler's phone number. schedule some practice matches, and figure out how not to get beat the next time.