The Waving Flag: Competiton Player Numbers - Food For Thought

Thursday 5 September 2013

Competiton Player Numbers - Food For Thought

On the Slitherine Field of Glory (FOG) Ancient & Medieval forum there's a recent thread that started with a suggestion about adjusting the winner's attrition points in subsequent games so that the stronger players will have to try harder for the remainder of the competition.

Later the original poster, hazelbark, stated their assumptions which proved to be very revealing:

  1. There is an attendance and interest problem in [FOG AM] events.
  2. [M]ore people [are falling] away [at] the lower end of the standings than the higher end.
  3. [Gamers] don't like [being] repeatedly stomped ... Some will keep playing, but [some] will fall away.
  4. The 800 4x6 straight jacket is killing the game just as 400 killed DBM.

Sometimes these "the sky is falling" threads arise for no good reason but in this case there appears to be genuine concern about the speed of play in FOG AM, retaining existing player and attracting new players. The thread developed into a broader discussion and I was prompted to join in by this comment:

Being repeatedly stomped is always dull, but when players start to expect that they will experience some dull repetitive games even in the rounds where they aren't being stomped as well, the risk/reward ratio of entering a (more open, 800 6x4-type) competition starts to get too far out of kilter to be attractive.

Here's my contribution because it follows on from my 2103 review post.

[The] focus so far has been on the "hard" structure of the games. There are other "softer" player issues linked to structure that can be equally, if not more, important in attracting and retaining players:

  • Early starts, long days - linked to game length and points
  • Accessibility - distance travelled, parking & cost of same
  • Venue - room to play, table space vs competition size
  • Tea & toilets - basic but vital

To exaggerate to make a point: who wants to get up early on a Sunday, travel 75 miles, struggle with parking, just to play for eight hours plus in a cramped venue with basic facilities?

I suspect if you are winning then these issues are secondary but if you're middle ranking or getting thumped then they easily tip the balance in favour of something more enjoyable.

I'm not suggesting that all competitions are like this but I'm sure every organiser has at least one of the above issues they wish they could improve.

I've four other related points:

  • One benefit of breaking the 800 pt, 6x4, 3+ hour stranglehold is that it breaks the image of macho competition play; I know it's not true but how we are perceived by others matters. Plus lower points/smaller table would ease the pressure on the venues and shorter games would reduce the need for an early start.
  • [In the UK] Sunday competitions with an early start are almost impossible to get to using public transport if you live any distance away. It's not insurmountable if you have mates who can help but it's a real barrier if you don't.
  • Themes will restrict, if not exclude, newcomers unless they have an army that fits the theme. In fact themes favour established wargamers with large collections.
  • How often have you seen FOG AM v2 rules available for sale at competitions held at shows where traders are present? I've only seen it when Caliver were trading and they only had one copy. There wasn't any available at Britcon so anyone new, and inspired by the games, couldn't get started.

I hope this thread comes up with some positive suggestions. My own would be for more 650 point tournaments (5'x3' table played in around 2 hours) like those at Stoke & Stockport and possibly given it's own ranking.

What do you think?

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