Is Banning Soft Scores Damaging the UK Tournament Scene?

Tournaments are finally starting to make a real come back in the UK with the events calendar filling out nicely. As the Northern Kings finalise our Tournament Pack for the Northern Kings GT 2022, its reminded me of something I was really annoyed by, but didn’t have the time to talk about at the time – the UK Masters Committee’s decision to exclude soft scores from the UK Kings of War Masters rankings.


What are the rankings?

The Kings of War Masters rankings is an online leader board where players can compare their tournament performance against the other players in the UK.

You can check out the rankings at www.kowmasters.com.

In a nutshell, players are awarded a score for each tournament they attend based upon where they placed and how many players attended. You can read the full formula for how rankings scored are calculated here. Your four highest scores in a year are added together to give you your season score – at the end of the season the players with the highest season scores are invited to the UK Masters.

It is managed by the KoW Masters Committee, a group of volunteers who give up their time to represent their region on the committee.

As it should be, the Rankings and the Masters are of interest to some people and not to others. Everyone has their own thing that draws them into this hobby and some people (myself included) enjoy the ability to see where their tournament performance ranks them in the UK.

It has been demonstrated that whether or not an event in ‘ranked’ has a significant impact on the number of attendees, with unranked events consistently seeing fewer people.


What does this have to do with hobby scores?

The Masters Committee have made the decision that hobby and soft scores should not be taken into account when awarding players ranking points. I think this is a massive shame that encourages a negative style of play and is holding back the UK tournament scene – at a time when it needs all the help it can to recover from COVID.

Hobby and soft scores are the points awarded to players at a tournament for anything other than the pure outcome of the game. Generally, soft scores are used to reward players for doing the things that make events more pleasurable experiences for everyone – for example good sportsmanship or using a fully painted army. They often include;

  • Points for handing your list in on time, or keeping games to time
  • Points for having a fully painted army
  • Variable points for how well your army is painted
  • Points for favourite game votes, or sportsmanship

To be more accurate the Masters Committee have decided that some hobby and soft scores are allowed, but others aren’t. The current position isn’t very well defined, but the rule seems to boil down to:

If it is a ‘Yes/No’ question then you can award soft scores, for example ‘Is your army painted’. If it is anything other than ‘Yes/No’ you cannot award soft scores.

Of course a Tournament Organiser (TO) can include whatever rules they like in their tournament, but if they want to submit the results to the KoW Masters website then they must submit the results using only the scores that the Masters Committee deem to be appropriate.

To give a real world example, the Northern Kings GT in June will include a possible 20 tournament points (out of a total of 160) based upon how well you have modelled and painted your army.

We’re doing this because we think it rewards a wider range of hobbyists. An average painter like me is never going to win the Best Painted trophy – I don’t have the time or skill to get to a place where I would have the best painted army at an event. But because the hobby at the NKGT is scored /20, I could definitely make the extra effort to improve my army and maybe score 1 or 2 additional points. Its an achievable goal whereas Best Painted is not.

These extra tournament points will count towards determining who will win the tournament and who gets the prizes etc. But when it comes to submitting the results to the KoW Masters, we are forced to remove them and submit what the result would have been without them. This means that you could win the tournament on the day following all of the rules the Tournament Organiser set out, but end up being penalised in the rankings.

What we’re being forced to do at the Northern Kings GT

So why does it matter?

My annoyance with the Masters Committee’s decision boils down to four points:

  1. The wargaming hobby is about more than just the game
  2. It encourages a more negative approach to tournament play
  3. It limits variety in the events that tournament organisers can run
  4. All of the arguments I’ve heard in favour of it don’t stand up to any kind of scrutiny
  1. More Than Just a Game

Table top wargaming is by its very nature a multifaceted hobby. Unlike video games or board games like Chess, tabletop wargaming specifically encourages you to collect, build and paint your armies – personalising them in a way that simply does not exist in any other style of game. This really is what sets our hobby apart from other strategy games.

Most wargamers will spend orders of magnitude more hours getting their armies ready for the table top then they ever do actually playing games with them.

The other thing that sets table top wargaming apart is the need to have an actual in person social interaction with another human being.

When you actually stop and think about it, tabletop wargaming is a stupidly inefficient way to play a strategy game. It would be so much quicker and easier to just play with blank bases, using 2D terrain. Or better still, on a computer so you don’t even need to be in the same room as your opponent. The reason we don’t do that is because wargaming is more than just a strategy game – its a wide reaching social hobby.

So that’s why I cant understand why the Masters Committee refuses to embrace the thing that makes table top wargaming unique? Why only award points for pure gameplay, when we all clearly acknowledge that gameplay alone isn’t why we play table top wargames.

2. Encourage the Behaviour You Want to See

Soft scores have traditionally been used to reward players for the other aspects of the hobby that make the game more enjoyable for your opponent (as well as yourself).

While you can beat your opponent to bloody pulp on the tabletop, soft scores reflect the fact that as a community we’ve agreed that its preferable to play against a fully assembled and painted army, and against an opponent who follows the unwritten rules of good sportsmanship.

By forcing Tournament Organisers to omit soft scores, the Master Committee is opening up the possibility for someone to be on their worst behaviour and not have to give a damn about the consequences (at least from a rankings point of view).

Using the Northern Kings GT 2022 as an example there is nothing stopping someone… submitting their army list 3 days late, bringing an unbased, half assembled army spray painted with the minimum 3 colours and being a thoroughly unpleasant arse to all of their opponents. Normally if you did this, you would be pretty heftily penalised in your soft scores and this would significantly impact how well you could do in the tournament. But under the current system that person could take the hit to their tournament placement on the day, but still maintain their position in the rankings. Do this four times and they’re in invited to the Masters as supposedly one of the best players in the country.

In reality I doubt anyone would choose to exploit the system like this, but it is possible.

More importantly though is the message the Masters Committee are sending. By banning softscores, they’re telling the world that the UK places no value on these aspects of the hobby. They’re telling new players that tournaments are win at all cost, hyper competitive environments where the only thing that is valued in the outcome of the game and nothing else matters.

3. Variety is the Spice of Life

The UK Rankings and the Masters Committee were originally set up in order to support and complement the growing Kings of War tournament scene in the UK. The whole point of the Masters was the celebrate everything Kings of War.

When it was first formed the Masters Committee stated very clearly that it would never get involved in dictating how Tournament Organisers should run their events.

The Masters Committee’s own rules on not interfering with events

That is why I was one of the biggest advocated for Doubles events being added to the rankings, because by not including them the Masters Committee was suggesting that one style of event was preferable to another.

By banning soft scores, the Masters Committee have failed to uphold their own rules. They have blatantly come out and said how a Kings of War event should be run – and its without soft scores.

Very very few tournaments in the UK currently use any kind of soft score. Its actually even less then it used to be, because the inability to submit their results to the rankings was one of the factors that killed off the last big event to use them. There is no suggestion that if soft scores were allowed, suddenly every tournament in country would rush out to use them, but some might.

Giving players a greater choice in the style of events they want to attend can only be a good thing – it encourages TOs to try new things and expand. As it stands at the moment the Master Committee isn’t supporting the tournament scene to grow, they’re stifling it.

4. Give Me a Genuine Reason Why Not

The most common argument I hear against allowing soft scores into the rankings is that its not fair, because not everyone is good at painting.

That argument is total crap. In response I give you Exhibit A…

This is Tom Robinson. Tom is better at Kings of War than you are. Tom is better at Kings of War than pretty much anyone else in the world. Out of the last 40 games that have been individually recorded on the Masters site, Tom has won 37 of them. He has a freaking win percentage of 92.5%.

I will never be as good at Kings of War as Tom, I simply don’t have the natural ability he does. Does that mean that the rankings should not take into account the result of games because its unfair that everyone isn’t as good at the game as Tom is?

Of course not. So why is your hobby skill any different?

Some people are better at some things than others, in fact the entire point of a leader board is to quantify who is better at certain things. The suggestion that it would be unfair to rank people based on skill is a fundamentally daft argument for a rankings website the make.

The second most frequent argument against allowing soft scores is that if they were allowed, we would see people who aren’t as good at the game but have beautiful armies qualify for Masters.

I cannot begin to even fathom this argument.

The whole point of the UK Masters is to be a celebration of the game and the hobby. If a player is a strong enough hobbyist AND is also good enough to get themselves in a position to qualify for Masters (don’t forget soft scores usually only account for ~10% of the available point), then I want them to be centre stage at Masters showcasing everything that is great about our hobby.


So What is it That You Want?

I’d like the Masters Committee to re-think their decision to ban soft scores. I think in doing so in the first place they have overstepped their mark and have negatively impacted the UK tournament scene as a result.

Lets try it for a year and see if the sky falls in. If its a disaster then it can always be reversed for next year. But while the tournament scene is recovering from the pandemic lets support all tournaments, rather than stifle and restrict Tournament Organisers to only running events in a very specific way.

And if you agree with me, let the UK Masters Committee know. They can be contacted through their Facebook page and email.

https://www.facebook.com/KoWUKMasters

KoWMasters@kowmasters.com

But please make sure to ONLY contact the Committee through their official channels. I disagree with the decision that the KoW Master Committee has come to as a group, but I have nothing but praise for the committee members as individuals.

Its important that we debate and discuss how we all want the UK tournament scene to look, but please please keep it constructive and positive.

One thought on “Is Banning Soft Scores Damaging the UK Tournament Scene?”

  1. I agree in principle. As someone with a dog in the fight I would wouldn’t I?
    But in practice it seems like a somewhat subjective thing to translate into ‘points’, and even with the creation of a ‘rubric’ as many US events have, it seems to turn evaluation of hobby skills into an exercise of box ticking.
    Someone can paint something freehand on banners, use a wide variety of basing materials, paint the eyes on all their minis…..REALLY BADLY. Others will do it masterfully.
    Would we be rewarding skill or just effort?
    Those are my thoughts!

    Like

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