What is a Tournament?
An Organized Play-by-Play on OP Fundamentals
It may seem like an innocuous question, but it’s an important one for anyone who doesn’t have much experience playing a game at a store, convention, or other public place; what is a tournament, exactly?
The short answer: a tournament is an event run by an organizer at a store, convention, or some other location, where you can show up with a squad/deck/army/fleet and expect to play against other awesome people who love the same game as you. The event is led by an organizer who makes sure the event runs in an orderly and smooth fashion. In addition, players get to play their favorite game multiple times throughout the tournament and compete for a chance to win exciting prizes!
A popular definition of tournament found in dictionaries is “a trial of skill in some game, in which competitors play a series of contests.” A game already tests a player’s skill within the rules of that game. Therefore, a tournament tests a player’s skill in a particular game across multiple iterations, ideally against a new opponent for each new iteration. In Fantasy Flight Games Organized Play, we call each iteration a tournament round.
After each tournament round, players receive points based on the result of their game. Generally, a player who wins receives the largest number of points, while someone who loses receives zero points. If there is a possibility of a draw or some other result beyond win-loss, those results are rewarded with a number of points between zero and the number of points for a win. At the end of the tournament, the player with the most points is declared the winner of the tournament.
Tournaments can use a wide variety of structures, and you may see different types depending on which store or event you go to. Each structure specifies a number of tournament rounds that should be used—often based on the number of players—and sets a time limit for players to complete their games. It is often a good idea to ask the organizer what structure will be used ahead of time, as the structure determines the length of the tournament and how much time it will require before its conclusion.
The majority of tournaments run for FFG games use Swiss rounds. During each Swiss round, players are paired against one other player in head-to-head games, attempting to match players who have achieved an equal amount of success in the tournament up to that point. In addition, Swiss rounds prevent players from playing the same opponent more than once. At the end of Swiss rounds, a winner is usually declared.
At some tournaments, instead of declaring a winner at the end of Swiss rounds, standings that show each player’s performance in the event to that point are posted. Then the highest-ranked players—typically the top 4, 8, or 16—move on to elimination rounds. In elimination rounds, players are paired against each other over the course of consecutive rounds, with the winners always advancing and the losers finishing their part in the tournament after a specified number of losses.
What to Expect at a Tournament
The majority of tournaments at your local hobby game store will be casual events, centered on making sure players are having fun and enjoying their time in the tournament. If you’ve never been to a tournament before, we strongly recommend starting out by going to a weekly/monthly game night or joining a casual league. Call your local store(s) and ask what events they run that would be best for a player joining organized events for the first time.
So, you have a rough idea of what a tournament is and you’re ready to go to your local store, but what do you bring with you? Generally, you want to take everything you need to play the game. This includes at least one squad/deck/army/fleet, tokens, and any other components the game requires. Outside of that, all you need to do is show up and be prepared to enjoy playing the game! The organizer of the tournament will tell you who you should play against each round and will be available should you have any questions about the event.
Before going, don’t be afraid to ask your local store or someone you know who has played in tournaments before! They are an invaluable resource and can help you understand what to expect when heading to your first tournament.
Tournaments are about having fun playing the games you love while meeting new and awesome people. It can be a little daunting to enter your first tournament, but everyone has started in the same place as you at one point. Let your opponents know that this is a new experience for you, and many of them will go out of their way to help you feel comfortable and have a good time!