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Tournament Sportsmanship: Goals, Methods


amysrevenge
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Here's something that popped in my mind from a different thread.  I kind of don't know how to present my thoughts - I've done a rearrangement of this post a couple of times now haha.

Sportsmanship.

Section A : Introduction

Sportsmanship scoring at a tournament can be a varied and contentious topic.  To some people it is part of the hobby tripod (gaming, painting, sportsmanship).   To others it is a worthless distraction from competition - meaningless frippery.  There is no universal method of collecting and assessing sportsmanship in events.

 

Section B :  Goals

What is the goal of scoring Sportsmanship at events?

I can see three goals here.

  1. Discouraging bad behaviour from everyone
  2. Rewarding the very best behaviour from a champion
  3. Encouraging good behaviour from everyone

Where I see lots of room for interpretation is how much weight to apply to each of the above.

 

Section C : Methods

I know of a few methods of scoring Sportsmanship.  Sometimes these are combined, and I'm sure there are others, either variations on these or ones that I've either forgotten about or have never seen.

  1. Thumbs up/thumbs down (after each match, with each thumbs down quietly investigated)
  2. Favoured Opponent (at the end of the event, each player lists the favoured opponent, or a ranked list of 2 or 3)
  3. Sportsmanship checklist (after each match, tick off items on a list, come up with a score)

Each of these has strengths and weaknesses, and each can impact the Goals to a greater or lesser extent.

 

Section D : Applications

Here I'll talk about how the Methods can (or can't) work toward meeting the Goals.

Let me get this out of the way at the front: I do not think that Method 3 (checklist) can meaningfully aid in attaining any of the 3 Goals.  It is an exercise in paperwork, with a more or less arbitrary end result.  The checklist IN THEORY should be able to do all 3 Goals - it is technically granular enough to distinguish a champion, high scores can add to tournament points, and low scores can be a threshold for investigation/censure/sanctions.  However, in practice the checklist doesn't capture the right details (ie. the typical showed up on time, had all their materials, etc. are things that even the worst offenders will manage to do) or is too vague/subjective (ie. the also typical "good game", "would play again", "best game", etc.), and the scores all end up clumped (a 1-10 score where 99% of results are between 7 and 10 is not a ten point scale, it's a four point scale).  The end result of the checklist is that people are obliged to try to game it: not in a cheating way, but in an "OK, I need to reserve a 10/10 for my favourite opponent, but I just had a great game in round 1, so do I give the 10 now, or do I just give an 8 in case round 2 is even better" sort of way.  Or you run into the "default" problem, where I give a typical game an 8/10, but the guy at the next table gives a typical game a 7/10, and the guy on the other side gives every game that doesn't include a shouting match a 10/10 because Warhammer is AWESOME (this is a thing I have observed in real life, including speaking in all-caps the word AWESOME hahahaha).  Personally, I categorically refuse to give any score (on a 10 point scale) other than 0/1 or 8.  I've never had to do a 0/1, but I would if I had to.

Method 1 (thumbs) can do a very good job of meeting Goal 1 (bad behaviour).  If it is known, for instance, that 2 unreversed thumbs-down will result in removal from the event, and that slowplay is one of the things that a thumbs-down can be given for, people will adjust (the problem won't disappear, but should at least be manageable in the worst cases).  However, this method doesn't specifically encourage Goal 3 ( good behaviour) above-and-beyond the minimums, and isn't granular enough to meet Goal 2 (champion).

Method 2 (favoured opponent) can do a great job of meeting Goal 2 (champion) - it definitely narrows the field down to a few people tied for first, all of them by definition the sort of people to not be sore about whoever is chosen the ultimate winner by whatever tie-breaker.  It does nothing at all for Goal 1 (bad behaviour) and very little for Goal 3 (good behaviour).

 

Section E : Conclusions

In the end, it all comes down to what you think scoring Sportsmanship can and should do.  I feel like Goal 3 (good behaviour) already happens - any game of Warhammer where nothing bad happens is good enough because Warhammer is AWESOME.  I don't need to go to great lengths to elevate average behaviour, because it's already good enough.  So I want a scheme that heavily targets Goal 1 (bad behaviour), and can also be used to attain Goal 2 (champion).  For me, I would combine Method 1 (thumbs) and Method 2 (favoured opponent).  The thumbs will nail the worst offenders in the least confrontational way (a thumbs down can be reversed after investigation by the TO), and favoured opponent will hone in on the best performers.  I think Method 3 (checklist) is worse than doing nothing, as you feel like you're doing something but you're not actually meeting any of your goals.

Edited by amysrevenge
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I never attended such competition so I also never came across this sportsmanship score.

However, the points you make on the drawbacks of the checklist method seem to only relate to the way you saw this method implemented.

For instance, job interviews also happen to look like a subjective evaluation of someone's qualities. This is why the more structured these interviews/questionnaires, the less prone to subjective biases (e.g., similar-to-me effect, stereotyping, etc...).

Perhaps designing robust questionnaires for assessing "sportsmanship" (whatever this means) is overkill regarding to its importance. Or perhaps it requires resources that event organizers do not have. Or players may just not want to spend ages answering pages-long surveys. But I'm just saying that the drawbacks you highlight can be easily overcome with some knowledge on questionnaire design / attitudinal surveys / statistics.

Edited by Num
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I'm a big proponent of method 2, and firmly believe all TO's should use it. The idea that you rate each and every opponent after each game feels a little too rigid for me, and as I've said elsewhere on this forum, I think it discourages friendliness because people aren't given time to evaluate their experiences. If somebody doesn't know a rule or has been playing wrong, and gets angry when corrected, the sportsmanship rating could serve as a way for that player to voice their frustration. These are the sort of gripes that people get over by the end of an event; so leave any sportsmanship scoring for then. Competitive players get told their armies are overpowered all the time at events, and 9/10 times the person telling them that is plain wrong. I don't think people should have any forum to voice their saltiness at an event where players have paid hard earned money to attend. Angle shooters and rules sharks will be weeded out by players knowing their rules, not by any sort of sportsmanship gestapo. 

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An alternative coming to mind (although, again, I never came across sportsmanship) could be to just ask people to answer a couple of open-ended questions. For instance on "the moment they enjoyed the most in the game" or on "please describe what you thought of the player's sportsmanship (examples are appreciated)"

It would require someone having to actually read all the small answers, but it may (A) be a more enjoyable experience for players (compared to filling surveys), and (B) provide organizers with some nice quotes to highlight the best moments. Also open-ended questions can be converted into quantifiable scores if the questions are properly designed and understood.

Perhaps it's done already in tournaments, I don't know... If so, I'd be interested in hearing how it played out

Edited by Num
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When I teach my son about being a good sport, I always frame it something like this:  "The point is to play the game in such a way that  everyone involved (your team-mates and your opponents) would want to play with you again.

Implicit in this statement are at least three things:

  1. Try your best.  Neither your team-mates nor your opponent wants to play with/against someone who disrespects the game by not making an effort.
  2. Don't cheat.  The game is only a game insofar as there are a set of rules that govern it.  Violate the rules and the game falls apart.
  3. Don't be a ******.  Be graceful in vicotry, be graceful in defeat.

I think it is important for the community to make some sort of effort to promote sportsmanship.  But I also think when this kind of normative activity gets over-complicated and itself opens up to unsportsmanlike behavior, it needs to be examined.

Edited by Lemon Knuckles
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We ran a sportsmanship score in several events in our 40k days. Like, 0-2 points or less per game.

What we found is that such a system did pretty much nothing but watering down the game play (like all soft-scoring stuff) and in several cases it even had the opposite effect. (players not granting points because they lost, didn't like the other player, or just to not give him points and make it easier to get ahead)

We tried a couple iterations, like ignoring the lowest X results for each player and so on but in the end we decided to abolish it entirely. Usually people behave anyway without some artificial motivation and this way people didn't have the chance to "play" the systems.

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Just now, Lemon Knuckles said:

Would it be simpler and more effective to manage some kind of warning, points penalty, ban system instead of trying to work sportsmanship into the actual scoring?  Yellow card, red card or some such? 

That's often a better solution, at least for us it was.

In most cases you know the guys who are likely to cheat or walk into the grey area (like selectively forgetting rules or especially slow play) and punish them accordingly if you see it or getting complaints about these players. 

Depending on the offense, they got a tournament point penalty, they auto lost the game in question, the points gained from the game got retracted or if both players couldn't settle their ****** and no one saw what happened, the game didn't award any points for either player.

Overall, all those things happen a lot less frequently than the last couple topics might suggest.

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10 minutes ago, Lemon Knuckles said:

Would it be simpler and more effective to manage some kind of warning, points penalty, ban system instead of trying to work sportsmanship into the actual scoring?  Yellow card, red card or some such? 

This is my preferred system. A few large and notable tournaments already do something similar.

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1 hour ago, Lemon Knuckles said:

Would it be simpler and more effective to manage some kind of warning, points penalty, ban system instead of trying to work sportsmanship into the actual scoring?  Yellow card, red card or some such? 

Yes, this is pretty much the sort of thumbs up/down system I also like (thumbs down = yellow card, second one = red card/ban, can argue your case to get a card reversed)

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5 minutes ago, amysrevenge said:

can argue your case to get a card reversed

This is a key component for the system to work. With all sports you just want to make sure that the incentive is not to just give everyone a 0 score as to increase your relative position, by allowing cards to be reversed its no longer optimal to just give everyone thumbs down as you will be quickly tagged as the guy gaming the system and your complaints ignored. It promotes only the real problems  being reported.

Edited by svnvaldez
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For my events I use a 2 part sports system

1) Binary per game 'was this opponent a fair and fun opponent'  or 'would you happily play this opponent again' (the wording varies but can be translated mentally as 'was your opponent a cheating ******?')  2 points each 

2) Nominations per player for their first and second favorite opponent. 3 points each first place vote second place only used for tie breaker.

Combined score gives sports score. In a five game event that's 10-13 points for sports for the average player with the maximum player being 22 (I get the part 2 evaluations after round 4 so as to speed up tallies)  

I've seen lots of different ways to approach it over the last 28 years of running Warhammer events but I like mine (or at least some sports scoring) because it curbs the 'this guy is a ****** and no one wants to play him' behavior.  

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9 minutes ago, gjnoronh said:

For my events I use a 2 part sports system

1) Binary per game 'was this opponent a fair and fun opponent'  or 'would you happily play this opponent again' (the wording varies but can be translated mentally as 'was your opponent a cheating ******?')  2 points each 

2) Nominations per player for their first and second favorite opponent. 3 points each first place vote second place only used for tie breaker.

Combined score gives sports score. In a five game event that's 10-13 points for sports for the average player with the maximum player being 22 (I get the part 2 evaluations after round 4 so as to speed up tallies)  

I've seen lots of different ways to approach it over the last 28 years of running Warhammer events but I like mine (or at least some sports scoring) because it curbs the 'this guy is a ****** and no one wants to play him' behavior.  

The problem with this system is if I was playing this event I would:

1) Give all games No and No for 0 points

2) I will give nominations to the players who I feel like were losing all there games as they will not be in contention for top places and my votes will not benefit them.

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Sure if you wanted cheat the system you could.  Of course you could just cheat on the table top as well.  Either would help you win the overall award and either would require you to break the rules the TO had asked you to play by.   Why not just use loaded dice if you want to have an unfair advantage over competitors?  Heck could tell the paint judges a better painted army is actually yours when they come by.  

 

I'm not being facetious nor am I calling you a cheater but if someone is willing to cheat to up their chances of winning that's really up to them and not much I can do as a TO to prevent that.  But the ability of players to cheat the system isn't unique to Sports scores.

 

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13 minutes ago, gjnoronh said:

But the ability of players to cheat the system isn't unique to Sports scores.

What is unique to sports is the system is set up entirely by the TO and the TO can either opt to implement a system that incentivize up-voting/down-voting or opt implement a system that does not.

Edited by svnvaldez
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I don't like Sportsmanship as part of an Overall Score. This coming from someone who will probably never be voted Best Sport Ever or Worst Player Ever.

You get your WAAC players, you have team/club-mates who will all vote for one another, collusion between opponents, biases for/against someone because of x-political stance, bad luck of the dice, he curbstomped me, he got curbstomped by me, he shared his booze, he used profanity, etc.

If you absolutely have to do it, here's what I'd do: Ask one question: Would you play your opponent again, Yes or No? Then, you deduct a game (or point total equivalent) if a player received at least three Nos (They aren't a likable person, or have done something horribly wrong), or gave at least three Nos (They don't seem to like anyone else).

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@svnvaldez

Still not sure how that changes the fact that a player who wants to cheat to maximize their chances of winning can do so with any aspect of these competitive games Sports, Paints or Generalship.  Yes this system of sports may allow someone to cheat to try and win but  is there a generalship measure  that doesn't also allow and arguably incentivize cheating behavior to secure a win?

The good news is players willing to cheat to win are relatively rare.  

Paint systems  and various table top achievable bonus points or graded scoring  are set up by the TO as well.  

Heck again you could just falsify the results of your game when you hand it in.  If you are willing to lie about what actually happened in the tabletop in terms of sports why not do both  generalship and sports while at it? 'Hey buddy I'll hand in the scores for both of us' and then just change your opponents result.

Again I've been running this sports system for years and haven't found 'chipmunking'  to be a particular problem (chipmunking is what we used to call the behavior you are describing in various other sports and paint systems we've used in our region during 6th and 7th ed WFB in particular .)  

 

That being said it's really up to you when you run an event what you want to incentivize.  Go with straight battle if that's all that matters to you.   I know what kind of player I want to win my event.   You are the potential TO create an event that you think best fits your desires and those of your community. 

 I don't think any of our measures (battle, sports, paints) actually perfectly measures what it's supposed to (Battle may not find the actual most skilled  general it may find the one who had the most favorable matchups or dice!)  they just happen to be the data we can collect.

My system  seems to work in my event which has been as large as 64 players in the past and seems to encourage the kind of behavior I want out of my overall champion.  

Edited by gjnoronh
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41 minutes ago, gjnoronh said:

Sure if you wanted cheat the system you could. 

It's unclear from your initial post so forgive me if I'm wrong, but do you specifically lay out that what @svnvaldez would do as cheating? I don't doubt it goes against your intent, but if it's not spelled out in the rules then you can't really fault players for doing that.  If the goal of a competitive tournament is to win (especially with prizes on the line), then would you not expect for players to do everything within the rules to win? 

There's definitely a difference between breaking the rules found in the Core Rulebook (cheating) and taking advantage of a TO's system that isn't airtight.  I think your examples of modifying score sheets or using weighted dice are far too hyperbolic, you'd be hard pressed to find someone who doesn't consider that cheating.  Plus whether or not those things happen is entirely objective, me torpedoing an opponents Sportsmanship score and saying "I didn't like his tone" is far more subjective.

More to the point of the thread, the goals of Sportsmanship scores are fundamentally lost on me.  As @amysrevenge said, Goal 3 is generally met already.  Why bother dealing with the potential for abuse just to recognize a good sport? Isn't bad behaviour more easily discouraged by a system of warnings and bans with clear cut definitions than a wishy-washy, subjective, scoring system?  Did something happen 20 years ago that instigated the implementation of Sportsmanship scores? How can the game get to a competitive place with your performance attached to something so subjective?

Edited by relic456
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25 minutes ago, gjnoronh said:

Heck again you could just falsify the results of your game when you hand it in.  If you are willing to lie about what actually happened in the tabletop in terms of sports why not do both  generalship and sports while at it? 'Hey buddy I'll hand in the scores for both of us' and then just change your opponents result.

In the USA: Events that use the BCP app, such as NOVA and LVO have players enter the game score into the app, both players are then required to enter their PIN. If a PIN did not match up the score would not be recorded.

I would suspect the large UK events would have a system that prevents score falsification as well.

Edited by svnvaldez
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While I recognize BCP allows score correlation.  The existance of that function doesn't again mitigate the option of cheating your opponent on the tablet top if you so desire in other ways.   "Hey was I on that objective for three rounds or two" Just lie and say they were on it for 2.  They go to the bathroom  push their models back an inch or so or yours forward.

If you are asked a straightforward question about your game by the TO (or your opponent as in the above example) and you are willing to lie - so be it.  That's on that player.  My sports system is binary per game to reduce that grey area of subjectivity. We get  very few 'bad sports' votes.  

@relic456  As to whether existing systems meet the OP's listed goals . . .I'll just point out we are having a discussion in this thread about whether it's okay to lie about your opponents behavior to maximize your chances of winning the event.  Maybe that suggests that "good" behavior can't be assumed from all players. 

I can tell you what my experience has been  events with sportsmanship scores tend to have  players who treat each other better.  That's true in multiple systems I've played in, and TO'd in since 1990.    But that's my experience at a couple of GT's a year, and a couple more small scale tournaments a year in my region, it's hardly definitive data.    Does sports scores change behavior or does it just encourage the players who can't manage to be 'nice' to stay home - I don't know.   

But really man sports is   not 'necessary' no more then a paint requirement or paint score is.    The TO should create the event  scoring system that encourages the kind of event they want.   I want people walking away saying "I played some talented opponents who were fun to play against and had awesome looking armies" my rules pack tries to incentivize that kind of opponent to show up.   But if I really only cared about generalship  I could just drop paint and sports scores.  

There isn't a 'right' way to write a rules pack - there are just different ways for TO's to incentivize what you want to see happen.    

Edited by gjnoronh
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1 hour ago, svnvaldez said:

The problem with this system is if I was playing this event I would:

1) Give all games No and No for 0 points

2) I will give nominations to the players who I feel like were losing all there games as they will not be in contention for top places and my votes will not benefit them.

Someone was asking if this would be considered cheating. For me yeah. Would consider it fair to trow that person out. Contacting TO's of other events that person goes to and tell them to watch out for the cheater would also be fair.

 

Edited by Silchas_Ruin
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I usually find the people complaining about bad sports on tga to be people I would not want to play with. (If Warhammer were a big enough game to be able to do so and continue playing as often as I want ). This is why I think the sports scores don't even serve the purpose they intend to.  Bad sports complain about their opponent when they lose.  Good sports just play the game and probably wouldn't complain about their opponent.  As for "best of" sports scores, I would guess 50% of the time a player from biggest gaming group in attendance would win. I personally have voted for a best sports because they bought me a beer.  Not to cheat anyone, I just value alcohol more than someone else values talking about movie reference x that they like or meme Y etc etc.  

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As far as whether it's cheating goes - of course in a rules pack it won't be described casually in half a sentence.  There would be actual words, a whole paragraph even!

The main reason I was inspired to put up the topic, and to organize it the way I did, is that I think there are some TOs out there who have Sportsmanship goals, but fail to think through fully exactly what their goals are and how best to implement them, and end up using a method that will not actually help achieve their goals (mostly, thinking a general "I want to reward sportsmanship" leading directly to "so of course I'll just use this checklist" without considering whether the checklist will actually help) .

There are lots of ways to run an event.  I just encourage TOs to think through what they actually want, and then think about whether the way they intend to go about organizing their even will actually work.  :)

 

(There could be a similar discussion about painting, and making sure that a TO's goals match up with the method they go about attaining those goals.  But even though it's still subjective, it is an easier thing to manage than sportsmanship.)

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