Tournament Topics: On TOing ‘Paca: Musings on Tournament Preparation

Welcome to a new segment on Cybermask called Tournament Topics.  This will be the first of what I hope will begin a series of articles written by both myself and several guest authors.  This segment will focus on the experiences, stories, and reflections on various tournaments from the perspective of both an attendee and/or a Tournament Organizer.  This first segment is written by our first guest author, Jeremy Kinser about his experience and approach to being the Tournament Organizer for Waaaghpaca 2018.  Without any further ramblings from myself, I present The Other Warcor's thoughts on running the 'Paca ITS event.

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On TOing ‘Paca: Musings on Tournament Preparation


I lucked out, y’all.

Sometime in early August 2017, Joe Rogers reached out and invited me to fill the prestigious position of Waaaghpaca 2018 ITS Tournament Organizer. For me, this was a big deal for a few reasons.

First: It would be my first time TOing out-of-state. Sure, I’ve had a hand in organizing/running big-deal events like the Iowa Incident, but everything I’ve done previously was in my backyard. Despite being smaller scale, ‘Paca felt a bit more daunting because I was solo and it was in another part of the country.

Second: ‘Paca is an entirely unique breed of event. It’s this fantastic mix of avid gamers, avid hobbyists, and avid alcohol consumers who are there to first and foremost have a laid back good time rolling dice. In some ways the very nature of an official ITS Tournament feels a bit at odds with the ‘Paca spirit. ITS events are connected to global standings, have a mostly inflexible structure, and tend to be competitive. Many folks at ‘Paca are more interested in telling a cool story than adopting a highly competitive posture. I felt it was my job to find a way to make the ‘Paca ITS fit the spirit of the venue while still maintaining the integrity of the ITS structure.

To cater to the ‘Paca spirit, I included an achievement system with an associated “Over-Achiever” trophy. There were about two pages of achievements including things like, “kill 3 models with your own paramedic,” “keep a model in marker state the entire game,” “move at least 6 inches during your opponent’s active turn.” Some were easy to come by without trying and some were hard to complete even if that was your sole focus. Sean Poeschl used achievements at a previous ‘Paca and I appreciated how it gave players a secondary objective to pursue. I also gave out prize support from the bottom of the standings up. I figure if you took a high spot in the standings, that’s a pretty solid prize in-and-of-itself.

Third: I got to eat this- 



Holy shit gas station tacos in Waupaca, WI are amazing.

What follows are my thoughts on the planning and execution of ‘Paca. My hope is that aspiring TO’s will pick up some useful information and seasoned TO’s will find some thoughts worth stewing on.

Oh. Before we get started, I’m Jeremy Kinser, or “The Other Warcor.” I’m one of the Warcors based out of the state of Iowa. Here’s me:


Thoughts on Preparing for an Event:

To keep this short, I’ll share my musings in bullet point form.

     Start planning early. I can’t give a fixed time on this as it depends on what all you need to coordinate. In my case, I needed to coordinate prize support, tables, and event details. I would say I started seriously prepping about 3 months out from the event.

     Be organized and up to date. This is related to the above point and is integral throughout. I recommend keeping a spread sheet or some other record. For player data, include names, emails, ITS PINs, table/terrain offerings, ITS Names. I also had a section tracking prize support and who I had contacted. For many vendors, they prefer to be contacted about a month out. I’m sensitive to not wanting to burden folks who are helping the event out of the goodness of their hearts; thus, it felt very important to me that I follow-up with vendors in the timeline they provided.

     Prize support. I have an interesting relationship with prize support. Prize support doesn't bring people out, but it does get them excited. As mentioned, I really don’t like burdening folks by asking for free stuff, but I also want players to leave with the event with cool stuff regardless of standing. This event taught me that a few pieces of customized, memorable swag tend to be favored over lots of general-release goodies. For ‘Paca, both Nigel at Muse on Minis (https://museonstore.com/) and Chris at Top Down Terrain (https://topdownterrain.com/) made some fantastic custom swag. Nigel made sure everyone left the event with a custom Waaaghpaca 2018 datatracker token. One side says datatracker and the other features Skully, ‘Paca’s mascot.


Chris made custom interactable objective markers. These are perfect for Capture and Protect and/or Supplies. The small acrylic handle picture on the right slides out and looks like a miniature briefcase hard drive. Chris has a brilliant mind for design.
           
            Additional thanks to all of the other folks who provided prize support. Everyone left with
really great prizes. Warsenal, Frontline Gaming, Micro Arts Studios, Secret Weapon
Miniatures, Impudent Mortal, and as mentioned, Muse on Minis and Top Down Terrain:
Thank you. Your companies are boons to the Infinity community.
 
     Tables and terrain. This is the problem to solve when running a large-ish Infinity tournament. I recommend you start reaching out to folks as early as registration. Ask attendees to indicate their willingness to bring tables and mats as part of the sign-up. In my case, I was fortunate to have more than enough folks chime in. I worked to be selective and distribute the burden evenly among willing folks. You can see shots of all the tables at the bottom of this post (or wherever Scott sticks the photos for formatting purposes).

     To OTM or not to OTM? I OTM’d. The Corvus Belli tournament manager worked well for ‘Paca. I know many folks use third party systems and then import the work later. I can’t speak much to this. The OTM held together for ‘Paca. Thankfully.

     Schedule, schedule, schedule. I’m a little neurotic when it comes to being planful. This is probably why I enjoy TO’ing as much as playing. Get schedules out to your players early and often. Be thoughtful about timing. Schedule in lunch and breaks for folks to use the bathroom. These additional breaks also give folks time to wrap up games, account for lateness, and for time spent fiddling with pairings and technology. Here was the ‘Paca schedule:
 
Schedule and Mission Order
Saturday
     9:30am – 10:30am: Event Check-In
     10:30am – 12:30pm: Round One (TicTacToe)
     12:30pm – 1:30pm: Lunch
     1:30pm – 3:30pm: Round Two (Power Pack)
     3:30pm – 4:00pm: Mid-Day Break
     4:00pm – 6:00pm: Round Three (Capture and Protect)

     Bring tournament packets with important information. I recommend providing everyone with tournament packets that include (in order):
     scheduling information,
     regional rules and guidelines for buildings, terrain, how you’re using objective markers, how to play cocked dice, etc,
     Scoring rules
     Rules about rounds and time limits
     Game tracking control sheets with game rounds in descending order (round three at the top of the page). This allows players to simply record and rip the bottom of the page off and hand it in for reporting.
     Missions in descending order (round three is first in the packet followed by two and then one). This allows players to flip to the back for the mission and then tear it out of the packet to avoid confusion after the round is over.
     Somewhere in the packet you can put a shout out to your prize support sponsors too. Sing their praises often.
     Table set-up considerations... This is one of those hotly debated topics in Infinity. Terrain is so damn important. Everyone has their preferences for table density, elevation, objective marker placement, and firelane philosophy. When setting up the tables I knew I wanted all 3d objectives. This was mildly crazy since I was running Tic-Tac-Toe. (Thanks again to Muse on Minis for cutting me a solid deal on 107 pre-painted objective markers). I also knew that I wanted to ensure that for each round the objective markers were in a fair position. This meant that I had to review each table and consider how it would look round to round. I needed to be able to quickly configure objectives between rounds without a lot of terrain manipulation.
Add to the mix that I was running Power Pack with its bizarre corner deployment zones. My general thought process is I was cool with a few nasty firelanes, wanted some variable density across tables, and wanted to make sure that board edges and deployment zones had good terrain coverage. Somehow I made it to the end of the event without any loud grumblings about specific tables. So, ‘Paca attendees: Either you’re welcome for my fantastic table configurations. Or, more likely, thanks for keeping your complaints to yourself. You can submit your complaints and feedback to joel@rempresence.com or greg@rempresence.com.

     I believe that part of TO’ing is public speaking and part of public speaking is showmanship. Be loud, energetic, and fun. Be all of those things, and don’t be a pushover. As TO, you’ve invested considerable effort and money in crafting an experience for a group of folks. Communicate your expectations and what you need from them. For ‘Paca, I worked hard to instill a sense that this was to be a beginner friendly, laid-back event. I didn't want bickering or whining. That said, I tried to normalize calling for a TO for a decision. Some folks come from backgrounds where calling the TO is tantamount to tattle-telling. It’s not. It smooths things over in an otherwise very complicated and nuanced game. In short, engage your players, build good TO-player rapport, and then let them know what you need from them as their TO.

     You don’t get to go on autopilot once the round begins. Keep eyes open for how folks are interacting. Have the Infinity wiki ready on hand for quick and easy rule’s consultations. Be agile and responsive when folks call out for you. I also recommend intercepting instances where you see one table asking another table rules questions. This is especially common when folks from the same area are at the same event. They tend to go to their rules guy rather than the TO. I try to prevent this so the rules guy can focus on his games.

     I recommend situating your top tables in a localized area so that you can be responsive to them in the final round. Even at the friendliest event, pressure can set in when you’re vying for first place. I like to try and hover nearby to soak up the action and keep things smooth.

     Finally, take pictures and post them to WGC. It boosts your ego, gives something pretty for the community to look at, and makes others appropriately envious that they are not at your awesome event.

Ultimately, I’d call the event a success. We made it to 24 players and had 3 last minute drops. Having a bye sucked, but folks were gracious (or even grateful). There were no fights, people laughed a lot, people got sexy unique swag, and I survived the weekend. A “W” in my book.



These people were having fun, I swear.

I hope this semi-stream-of-thought reflection on ‘Paca prep was worth the read. I’m sure there are some other things I forgot to mention. You can feel free to message me on facebook or reach me at jeremykinser@gmail.com if you want some support thinking through your own tournament prep.

Thanks for tuning in. Until next time, make good choices.
Jeremy Kinser- The Other Warcor

Blurry Moondoggy says goodbye.
           


















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