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Tournament cost versus pricing (and why players should submit their lists correctly formatted.)


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There has been some recent debate on Twitter about how much tournaments should cost, and to some degree whether it’s either acceptable for an organiser to make money from them, or to run them at a loss. Whether it’s acceptable (if unhelpful) for an organiser to conform with consumer rights or whether the informal status quo is king. The conversation has focussed solely on the expected obligations of organisers but the obligations of players.. are as of yet untouched.

During the End Times, when things really did come to an end, tournaments were costing around £35-40. Most of the time, for that, you got a length of green emulsioned MDF and a request to bring your own terrain, or to use whatever was provided, suitable scale or not. Player brought terrain could range from the sublime to outrageous monstrosities. It didn’t matter that much as 8th Ed WFB had a more distant relationship to terrain than, say, 40k or modern day AoS. Food – from memory, was fairly industrial or absent. Streaming hadn’t been invented and excel took a pounding. If you weren’t there for the awards you might get your result in a couple of days, or not at all. You couldn’t Whatsapp your question to the TO but rather had to sometimes wait rather a long time for a reply to an email. I remember sending three emails over as many weeks to a prominent organiser to be rewarded with a one-word answer. There has been much progress.

Prices today, after inflation (2015-present), would be around £40-45. Tournament pricing is still pegged (should that be anchored) to the cost of tournaments at the end of 8th Ed WFB when the overall product incurred much less capital expenditure and, generally speaking, experience expectations of attendees were somewhat lower… the default expectancy now being mats, terrain, fancy venue, artisan hand-crafted stone baked flatbreads using first-press olive oil and fairtrade manchego cheese etc etc – and people do it. The standards have generally risen in parallel with Age of Sigmar’s ascendency.

The price of ticket, irrespective of the event, is responsible for only a percentage of the cost of the weekend. For example, if I’d gone on the train this weekend to Bobo or Carnage with some other dude, the costs might have looked like this:

Buying and speed-painting whatever I thought I need to safeguard a 3-2 : £50
Travel : £50
Hotel : £50
Ticket : £50
Meal and drinks, snacks, etc : £50

So, the ticket price total = 20% total outlay. I’d say that’s a conservative estimate if travelling for two day events at a distance. The second night at the hotel, the second evening of sustenance. Increased outlay in the latest and greatest filth unit that you need for that event. Merch. Unplanned taxis. It wouldn’t surprise me if I’d occasionally licked 10% as the overall percentage of costs spent on THE ticket to THE event. So, what’s the impact to the player if an organiser can add a tenner on top so not walk a tightrope but could instead enhance the event from a comfortable position? Almost zero. Perhaps the answer to that is more events – more local events, where the cost is a little higher, so that the break even point in terms of numbers is lower. The willingness to pay more for a ticket could, in theory, lead to a reduction in travel and hotel costs in particular. Upfront costs worry players, but players will often blithely onboard costs closer to events making the total cost greater than if they committed earlier. There might be some science behind that? I’m not especially well-educated.

A little bit of context, I’ve run some of the larger UK, non-WHW events since 2018 at various independent venues – doing a bit of research just now looks like the 6th,14th,17th & 18th / >323 by attendees. It’s been a lot of work and I definitely haven’t made any money. The first was a loss-making exercise buying mats, terrain and all-sorts. The second broke even in its own right, but didn’t put a dent in the loss. After the first two the venue costs became prohibitively expensive – doubling in two years. More than doubling actually. This left a financial loss was represented by the acquisition of hard-to-store assets which would need to be sold on or exercised in order to recoup money. Liquidising assets with questionable resale value is rather final, so I maintained a good amount. Latterly I chucked my lot in with another TO, running my events within the umbrella of a general ‘wargames convention’. He has his own astronomical fixed costs at the start of his project, and so I still carry the loss of my very first two day event. He does his thing, I do my thing, it’s a marriage of convenience in a landscape where price-efficient venues are extremely rare. I’m painting detail into this picture as I know this is NOT a tale unique to me. I mean, I absolutely know others are in the same boat.

But why bother with all the hassle, the alarming bank-account and the endless hours sunk into tournaments?

The search for a TOs motivation is a dive into the stygian depths of their anterior cingulate cortex. I’m certain purest altruism does not come into it, but rather ego, drive, competitiveness, perhaps exasperation, validation, self-worth, the desire to succeed.. who knows? Scratch any organiser and elements of the above will linger under the dermis, and if they weren’t running events they’d be organising some other ******. They tend to be the sort of nosey, have a go people that might end up getting shanked for interfering in a domestic in McDonalds. I really believe the notion of profit, or any financial calculations whatsoever, comes somewhat later in a rationalising stage, where you convince yourself of viability by reasoning you probably won’t lose money by embarking on the project. It does appear there is a vein of recklessness within TOs in which the impulse to ‘do’ is stronger than the impulse to ‘calculate’.

For every endorphin-releasing ticket sale, nice message or socials ‘Like’ there will be cloudy thoughts of regret. Why am I spending my own money doing this? Why am I spending my free time doing this? Shouldn’t I be doing X, Y, & Z? Ultimately, the answer is that unless the event is a catastrophic failure and / or you have put yourself into a perilous financial position the feeling of pulling it off is often irresistible, and those feelings further nourished by good feedback. I can’t imagine someone thinking, ‘great, next year I will make an additional £200’ but rather, ‘next year I will change this and this, and the event will be better’.

Number chasing for its own end is very questionable and probably never about the attendee but about ego and revenue generation, and the thrill of being a contributing meat-sack in an organisers grandiose ambitions is soon diminished by being jammed in like a sardine and near-passing out with starvation. The Olympic Stadium LGT and SCGT at its WFB apogee spring to mind in this regard. Being the ‘biggest’ can be a tempting indulgence but aiming for the moniker is surely at the expense of attendee’s individual experiences.

So, how much do events cost to put on?

There are extremes. At one end big multi-system events at decent venues cost a fortune to organise. I wouldn’t be surprised if LGT just gone, incurred £40k (no pun intended!) of fixed costs, and B&G at the cool Roundhouse, or the tennis centre venue, well into five figures. There’s a lot of commitment there. Those events have to run as a business or in a business-like manner because the risk exposure is immense, and I don’t doubt it will have caused sleepless nights. The massive sink in time means any eventual profit (I doubt it’s there now, and we’ll get onto this later) is well-earned and even then, will be disproportionally meagre. Again thinly-veiled psychological and motivational reasons I believe drives big events not money. These people tend to have relatively successful careers / businesses anyway (which generally allows them to onboard large liabilities).

At the opposite end of risk-exposure you have folks running their events from stores. There are no capital costs and in the worst case the event may get pulled owing to slow sales. There are only a small handful of stores in the UK big enough for 60+ player events, so unless you already have that gig it’s not a big space to operate in.

I expect there is a significant minority for whom the idea of a tournament making any kind ‘profit’ is anathema, and believe that all ticket sales should be pumped back into the experience. If this is true then more enhanced, more expensive experiences and rewards will only confer greater risks on behalf of organisers as boundaries are pushed and opex rises in line with forecasted ticket sale revenue.

What’s a person’s times worth? It’s certainly not deemed worthy of anywhere approaching £8.92 an hour, or a conservative minimum of £700s worth of time for even the most basic, paint-by-numbers gaming store two-dayer. I don’t believe anyone ever sets out expecting this, nor vigouressly chases down explicit margins. I believe most people are primarily aiming to break even, and if they make a ‘profit’ it’s substantially less than the minimal wage for a task which at times is rather onerous, if not rewarding.

Here’s a two-minute list of potential costs at an independent venue:

Venue Hire
Table Hire
Chair Hire
Mats
Terrain Costs
Materials to construct and paint terrain, protective gear
Boxes for terrain storage
Terrain and mat storage
Terrain and mat transport costs
Food costs per attendee per day
Travel, hotel and food costs for organiser
Travel, hotel and food costs for assistant (s)
Travel, hotel and food costs for Stream Team (s)
Food and drink for spare player (s)
Printing materials and ink
Awards and Trophies (anywhere from 5 to 30+)
Prizes
Patreon or Ko-fi stuff for TTO
Free tickets in exchange for design / art.
Tape, pens, paper, extension cables and other ******

Anyone can do their own research on any of this. It’s too easy to think, ‘wow, £50 x 80 = £4000 = profit TO lolz!!!’ # TLDR version – Bloodtithe 2021 took over 5k from sales and didn’t make anything, save recouping expenses, at £40 per ticket. (too-low 2019 carry over prices) #

The hire for the chair you sat on at LGT probably cost £4, or 10% of the ticket cost. Not the table, the chair.

 

So, playing punters are getting a steal, a bargain of artificially low prices, that might be suppressed by both a TOs desire to improve their event year on year, or by fear of breaching the generally agreed price cap. The ceiling is currently around £65. That’s what WHW charges you for a tournament in the home of Warhammer. I used to think it was pricey, notwithstanding you get a tour bundled in and a decent lunch. Now I think its stellar value (don’t blame me if the price goes up, I know they read this.. in secret). They’ve made big improvements to tables and organisation and the venue is great. A lower end two-dayer is now, what, £40? – probably minus food and probably in a municipal-ish venue. I think that could be fine, and I believe there is plenty of space to inhabit between those two figures depending on what’s being offered, where.

There are a lot of events in the calendar and I expect a deluge to come in 2022, Covid permitting. A lot of events that haven’t run for a couple of years ago will re-enter the space. It will never be easier to attend a tournament and there will have never been more choice. Amongst TOs there will be ruffled feathers as some big beasts return to the fray and new people bring new projects. There have been a few silly games recently with date matching and player poaching, but at the same time no one has a mandate to protect any date. It’s courteous of course to communicate with fellow TOs and for the majority it does happen more often than not, even if dates continue to clash. It’s not 2016 and no one owns ‘the scene’.  I talk to some other TOs, I expect others do likewise. We may not always see eye to eye all the time but there is probably enough of us in each other that at least the lowest level of feeling is grudging respect is present. Regardless, 2022 will be a fantastic year to be a player in the UK.

‘Some people would rather play in a bin for free than pay 50p for a table,’ so said a store owner recently. We’re no less an economically diverse bunch than other strata of society, and in some cases this is true. Many an event review I’ve listened to has been marred with exclamations of, ‘A can of coke was £1.10!’ or similar, which seems a curious thing to stick in the mind – but it surely does. Not the formatting of the pack, nor the fancy tables, nor the smoothness of the event or even the games played at a tournament. I’m still regaled and reminded of tournament food memories – good and bad – years down the line. ‘Great event – loved the burgers!’ -  a compliment that makes me die inside a bit. ‘Did I bevel all that MDF for nothing!’ I silently spit… grimly accepting that such efforts are almost totally in vein.

Two day events in gaming centres – these probably make a profit.
Two day events in municipal halls – these will possibly make a profit.
Two day events in ehh ‘more upmarket?’ places – these will likely make an initial loss which might be recouped some years later.

Extrapolating the latter, the TO will gain some assets in return for financial loss… mats, terrain etc. Their partners will not be happy with the space it takes up. Every subsequent tournament reduces the loss. Eventually they might break a ‘profit’ for their four figure outlays, though I expect most of the ‘profit’ would be reflowed into increasingly better events. Initial costs can run into thousands of pounds. When places refer to our clammy-handed wargaming friends as ‘delegates’ you know you’re for a rinsing.

In light of this, I contend it’s not unreasonable to afford a dutiful TO of any kind of event the opportunity to make their hobby ‘cost neutral’ and use whatever profits they might take to buy the odd box of models. I think almost universally that’s the subliminal aim on the financial side – get a little something out of it, at some point, fairs-fair. As a ‘job’ per hour spent it would surely be more lucrative spending that time picking loose change up off the pavement.

And, finally, what about players obligations? Does the entry ‘fee’ the organiser is ‘paid’ dictate an abdication of responsibility?

Yes, it does right now.

Forgiving for a minute some cba attitudes towards list validity, submission and punctuality, more serious issues like dropping from events, during or shortly before is not really talked about – since supply outstrips demand and few people want to alienate the small pool of potential ‘customers’. Over the last week there has been a lot of flak about refunds a long way out, but recent events have been hit hard by refunds so close to the event that they incur losses. You can still see people listed for attendance at multiple events on the same day. Hedging their bets? Seeing who’s going where? Condemnation is absent and in complicitness exists that silence. There is near absolute power for a ticket buyer to do whatever they like with very few repercussions.
 

In summary I draw some conclusions:

·         Events are too cheap because supply outstrips demand.

·         Cheaper to run events impart artificial caps on other types of events.

·         People can save money by paying more to help local events get better.

·         Practically no one makes any money which is not, at best, scant reward for time sunk.

·         People don’t usually strive to run bigger and better events to get rich.

·         Some players need to take greater responsibility themselves.

 

I doubt much here is controversial; I felt there was quite a bit to unpack and Twitter is an especially bad medium for writing anything.

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It’s an excellent conversation to have. 
 

the tournament scene will reach new heights when a commercially viable event company gets involved and is able to charge the money required to hold spectacular events. 
 

look at the prices of the same spectacular events in other industries. 
 

Extreme example, but how much were tickets to Fury/Wilder fight at the weekend?  £500 for a few hours in the nosebleeds? 
 

I just paid nearly a grand all told for an overnight trip to Legoland. 
 

Cinema tickets with popcorn and drinks easily run to £30-40 per person for a couple of hours. 
 

Comic-Con, League of Legends worlds, and lots of other major nerd events are amazing. But the tickets price needs to be high enough to cover the cost of it. 

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7 minutes ago, Ben said:

I just paid nearly a grand all told for an overnight trip to Legoland. 
 

Cinema tickets with popcorn and drinks easily run to £30-40 per person for a couple of hours. 
 

Comic-Con, League of Legends worlds, and lots of other major nerd events are amazing. But the tickets price needs to be high enough to cover the cost of it. 

There's a sizeable group in the hobby with an extreme aversion to spending money on anything but models.

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I agree @hughwyeth, and there should certainly be events that cater to those tastes. 
 

It seems that sometimes all events are geared towards that level. 

Our local pub charges £2.80 a pint.  Half a mile down the road it’s £6. 

Both are full on a Saturday night. 
 


 

 

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9 minutes ago, Ben said:

I agree @hughwyeth, and there should certainly be events that cater to those tastes. 
 

It seems that sometimes all events are geared towards that level. 

Our local pub charges £2.80 a pint.  Half a mile down the road it’s £6. 

Both are full on a Saturday night. 

Exactly right. I do find the AoS community tend to be more ok with spending more money for a better experience thankfully. 

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I’d rather events were priced so that TO’s are not losing money running events. Even if they are having to do a lot of unpaid work and losing some hair over it all.

I think it’s probably important that we have  a variety of tiers of events with associated costs to keep the hobby accessible but also have options for nicer events 

cheaper events

- tables/chairs/ but no food and Bring your own terrain and mats 

medium size events 

- tables/chairs/scenery and mats. 
 

premium events

tables/chairs/scenery/mats and food or even entertainment in the evening 

what I don’t particularly want to pay for is bigger events. I’d much rather we had 4 60 man events in the uk each month than 1 200 man event. 

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Through my late teens I used to organise hardcore punk / metal gigs etc. When I started doing it, it was because no one else was putting much on, we live in one of those towns where people get to a certain age and ****** off to a city, and so no one had picked up from the generation before me.

Being DIY punk gigs, money never came into the equation, tickets were supposed to be dirt cheap or free, because punk. Bands would play just for petrol money, because punk etc.

Gradually I started to get asked by labels to put on bands from all over the world, bands people in the community loved. Arguably it was the best music scene out town had. We had people travelling from all over. It was great, but a those bigger bands from the USA etc aren’t only playing for petrol money anymore. All of a sudden I needed to make more money to pay them. But people weren’t happy with admission price increases, I started having to get tonnes of flyers printed to spread the word and get more people in. Hotel costs, food costs, better equipment hire. Bands started staying on my parents floor too after shows haha.

Eventually I had to pack it in because the financial risk to myself was ridiculous. But the bit that tipped me over the edge was that no one cared. They expected me to be doing it just out of love. If I made extra on a show, the thing to do was to share the money around the bands more, or extra to the venue or sound guy etc the idea of me ever taking anything away was unspeakable, I was just the promoter.

I found myself working bar jobs just to pay for putting shows on. So when you had people who were apparently part of the community and who love the music, complaining about a £6 ticket for a show with 5 bands 2 of which from abroad or flat out sneaking in etc without paying, it killed my love for it.

I packed it in, moved to a city and never put on a show again. I think I only even went to shows a handful of times after.

No one picked up after me in my town either, shows became more rare and it’d just be some local bands. Incidentally ticket prices went up loads anyway, even just for the local bands. I live in that town again and I’ve been asked countless times to put shows on again but I never will.

Anyway, my point is. If you have someone willing to put in the work and take the risk, to bring you something you love, don’t take it for granted unless you’re willing to put up yourself. You might end up with nothing.

Some people just expect others to do for them. Doing stuff like that out of love is great but it’s not sustainable.

 

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Having been involved in running a few events myself (Albeit on the small side) its worth investing the extra time in venue hunting sometimes, there are some absolute gems out there if you dont mind splitting over smaller rooms and the like that let us run extremely cheap events. That said it still relies a lot on free labour from the organisers and between the team having a lot of relevant experience to call on.

Still i dont think im particularly unusual in preferring a couple of tickets to small events over a pricier one at a premium venue, the games themselves are still essentially the same at the end of the day.

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There should be room for both big and small events. Around here we got a community of around perhaps 50-60 regulars where a fair amount usually drops by the various events in the area. Helps put stuff up and pack it all down. Prices around 40 EUR for a weekend event.

I think that is fair enough, all I am using as a player is a table and some terrain, heck I could bring my own folding table and terrain box, I am simply there for the amount of people. As a regular I like to go to events perhaps once every 2 months. If events were all like 100+ EUR events, I would not go to many and would overall lose some motivation and interest I think, but still do some. If all you had available was events at that price range, you effectively close off the wider tournament and event community for anyone but "working dads", which I consider myself, I can afford stuff like that now, but when I was a student in my teens and early twenties? No way. Everyone who has been a student knows it would be bonkers to fork out such cash to go to board game events, and I think this already niche community of plastic doll lovers would be poorer for it.

We need new blood to have the game live and I think a bunch of TO's know that, and I adore them for their initiative and passion to make it happen and bring many kinds of people together that love a good scrap.

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I'm not a tournament player in the slightest and there are many reasons for that, but prices are in those reasons for sure.

A small cheap €5 ticket doesn't seem worth it- what can a tournament provide at this cost that I can't already provide myself in my own home.
An expensive €100 ticket doesn't seem worth it- Sure now they can probably afford nice terrain and there might be a spot of lunch but for a €100 I can buy or build a new bit of terrain, have lunch at home and still have some cash left over.

I'm not even sure that there is a sweet spot, where a tournament would be cost effective enough to be both worth the time and money to go to and still feel like its good value.

(another good reason I'd not pay to go to a tournament is things like that tournament a few years back in London where the terrain was a bunch some old unpainted packaging. I felt sorry for anyone paying for that) 

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Very good topic @Marc Wilson

7 hours ago, Marc Wilson said:

In summary I draw some conclusions:

·         Events are too cheap because supply outstrips demand.

Just to offer an alternative perspective on this, from the viewpoint of a different tournament scene (Australia and more specifically Victoria / Southern States).  We have the opposite problem here, with the same root cause.  Most people or potential TOs don't want to be seen to charge through the nose for events, or be perceived to be making coin off the back of the community.  The outcome being that there are nowhere near enough events here to meet demand, because it's a huge job for basically a pat on the back if you're lucky, or more likely a lifetime of whinging for your troubles.

I would love to see a cultural change that meant TOs actively raise the price on their events to make a few bucks on each ticket.  Partly because it's the right thing to do - they deserve compensation for the huge amount of time, love and effort that goes into it.  Partly from a purely practical viewpoint - I want more people to think it's worth the immense hassle, so I have more events to go to.  

I'd also love to see gaming clubs hiring out their terrain at some kind of commercial rate, since terrain and mats are a huge upfront cost (time and money) for potential new TOs.  There is an attrition rate with this stuff getting used at events, and a huge amount of work in painting it up or repairing it, so they deserve compensation.  I'd love to see clubs make a few bucks off that stuff if it removes / lessens that barrier to entry for new TOs - again, reflected in the ticket price.

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I can toss in my two cents from my own TO'ing experience. I run my tournaments in partnership with a local gaming lounge/cafe with lots of floor space. That means the venue is flexible, food is already on site and all the tables and majority of terrain and mats are provided by the venue with only a few being outsourced from the community as needed. Our ticket prices are pretty cheap ($20 CAD) and it nearly all goes into prize support as the venue makes it's profit off of selling food and drinks to 20+ sweaty nerds for the day. As for myself I get free food, drinks and the occasional bit of plastic being thrown my way, whether that's a fair exchange may come down to how much I can drink while still being able to run an event but I never got into TO'ing with profit in mind in the first place.

Organizing an event has been an interesting experience, especially running events during Covid with the added health and safety concerns and procedures we've had to put in place. Ticket sales are handled by the venue so that's a monkey off my back but I've still gotta make sure the tickets sold match up with the BCP signups. Players packs are thankfully easy after the first time around, just altering a template with new plans or house rule changes (we enforce a strict no-faq no-play rule at my events for example). The real struggle is of course dealing with players. I'll end up with players dropping out on BCP without contacting me first and sometimes it's intentional and sometimes it's an accident so I try to get in touch with the player to find out what the case is so I don't give their spot away and have them show up on game day anyways. Or you end up with problematic players that don't read or "misremember" their own rules. And sometimes a player will disagree with a call you made on a ruling "This isn't how they rule it in *insert country here*" but thankfully most players respect that the TO call is final and I try to find the most universally agreed ruling on a poorly written rule or ability afterwards to avoid further disputes.

So even with the majority of material costs handled by the venue, how much do you value the time and effort of someone who handles the prep work and roster management in the lead up, sets up the tables the night before and manages an event of 20+ people with differing personal dynamics for 8+ hours?

Peoples takes on the psychology of TO's has been fun to read. I myself picked up the torch from a previous TO who lost interest in the hobby... which may be connected to him having been a tomb kings and brettonia player... So I took over after the venue struggled with having to dedicate staff to trying to organize events which exacerbated the issues of trying to take food and drink orders for 20+ people + walkins with on a good day 4-5 staff members. Good on them for being a popular location but even after taking over as TO the most consistent complaint for events has been getting food on a timely matter.  I approach being a TO as being a community leader, the guy you can point new players to and tries to keep up interest and involvement in the hobby. I remember being one of like 5 guys who played AoS locally and we hardly ever got anyone from out of town show up and now we get players from all over the province coming in for games and events and a growing local community. It's all about seeing a game you enjoy grow, I've been slowly doing the same with Infinity by introducing people to the game and getting them involved in the group chats the local players have.

So here I am organizing one day tournaments monthly, and a 2 day event annually (before covid anyways). Makes you wonder how much that's really worth. I certainly wouldn't mind making money off of my events but I wonder how it would affect the community to pay more for events for no visible benefit.

I also find it interesting to see the difference in tournament availability between countries/regions. It seems Europe has a lot that are easily commuted between while countries like Australia barely have any. I can't speak for all of Canada but at least for the Ontario/Quebec area there's 2-3 a month. Thankfully that's due to a very passionate collection of hobby shops with some bigger venue events scattered throughout the year.

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Out of curiosity have you tried some sort of crowd funding? I'd definitely chip in for storage costs, upgrades, and labor costs for events that I attend as long as everything is transparent.  A higher ticket price wouldn't bother me, but I'd also probably be less willing to try new events the quality of the ones I've attended has varied dramatically. 

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So much nodding of the head I’m worried I’ll get whiplash.

Thank you @Marc Wilson for the original insight.  Just went to a tournament that was a bit of a drive for me and required a hotel and meal purchases.  While Kings of War was the focus the AoS side was by no means underserved.  What showed through was the passion of the TO’s who clearly take a lot of pride in hosting a great event.  You’re right though that the cost of the event was a small fraction of the cost of the weekend for me and I would’ve happily gone a bit lower cost on my meals to shuffle more of the budget towards the event itself.

@ArkanautDadmiral it’s not just punk.  So many “scenes”, whether music, sports, hobbies, heck even volunteering rely too heavily on passionate organizers who are not just willing to give of themselves but often take on financial risks to keep programs going through lean times or, as you described, painful growth spurts.  All too often you’re right that the “free riders” feel not only like you should just be happy to get to do what you’re doing but that they can give you as much grief as they feel like about what you’re doing.  Then they are “SHOCKED” when the organizers burn out and leave, seeing it as a flaw in the organizer not the way they’ve allowed the program to (d)evolve.  

I’m with @PlasticCraic and others on this thread who would love to see wargaming culture grow to where TO’s are properly compensated so that both the quantity and quality of events could improve.  That this would happen by doing the right thing all the better.  It seems the best way to get to that healthy mix of small, medium & large events people on this thread seem to want and which I agree is ideal.  

And thank you @Lucky Snake Eyes for a reminder that not all compensation need be monetary.  I ran Zoom League for over a year, making a not insignificant monetary investment to enable it, and an even greater commitment in time to operate it.  I didn’t expect any “compensation” for it but can’t say how much it meant to me when an Archaon was delivered to me as a gift in gratitude from the other players.  Archaon a great model but this was truly a case where it was the thought behind the gift that mattered most.

And to me all of this gets to a broader issue.  While I see plenty of criticism on these threads and others about practices by GW that people perceive as being “unsustainable” (bad for the long-term health of the hobby) I see less about the unsustainable conscious or subconscious actions of the players that are wholly outside of GW’s purview and wholly within that player’s control, such as ensuring that TO’s are properly compensated for their time (whatever the preferred form of compensation) but just as importantly properly respected.  Hard to imagine many things worse than taking all that is described above for a community and then have that community not just take all that work for granted but actively be disrespectful to you because they feel it’s their right for having bought a ticket…

While AoS is riding high at the moment and I would love to see it continue to grow I’ve been around long enough to know how cyclical these th8ngs can be and how fast and hard the crash can be after a peak.  Thanks again to all of the people above for highlighting ways we can work against that by making our local gaming tournament communities more resilient.

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@Marc Wilson You should have risen your prices a long time ago. How quickly did Bloodtithe 2 sell out? Supply & Demand economics are a thing, and if an event is good people will pay more.

Everyone has different preferences on what an event should be, but one thing your didn't cover in the above is the TO experience & reputation. Someone with a history of putting on good events should be able to charge more because they have more experience, whereas for new TOs (or those with a history of bad events) should be charging less.

There are some great TOs out there that should be incentivised to put on more (or at the very least, keep motivated to do it).

 

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I did type out a long and waffly post, which didn't really contribute much.  As a consumer I'd happily pay £60/65 for an event.  I wouldn't expect a TO to make a loss - but also wouldn't expect them to make a massive profit (making money to invest in future events isn't profit).  For that money I'd like to think that I'll get a decent venue (i.e. bright and airy rather than dark and dingy), some kind of "shop" where I can purchase bottled water at a sensible price, some kind of food either in the venue or just outside.  Ideally there would be some kind of "freebie" too - movement gauge, dice etc - basically an event memento so that you come away with "something" that only attendees would get.  I'd also happily pay an additional £15/20 to add a lunch into the equation for two days.

What I will say (and this is controversial) is that running an event isn't a job - albeit it is a massive amount of work.  As with many similar items across hobbies it's an unpaid and often thankless task that is undertaken as a contribution to the overall community.  It'll consume huge chunks of the organisers life and often require an upfront cash investment, that's without mentioning that significant others will often step in and help out.  What I do feel is that the players do need to recognise this commitment and take every opportunity to make the organiser's life as straightforward as possible.  Events are put on for the participants enjoyment and not for the TO to rake in the cash.

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4 hours ago, RuneBrush said:

What I will say (and this is controversial) is that running an event isn't a job - albeit it is a massive amount of work.  As with many similar items across hobbies it's an unpaid and often thankless task that is undertaken as a contribution to the overall community.  It'll consume huge chunks of the organisers life and often require an upfront cash investment, that's without mentioning that significant others will often step in and help out.  What I do feel is that the players do need to recognise this commitment and take every opportunity to make the organiser's life as straightforward as possible.  Events are put on for the participants enjoyment and not for the TO to rake in the cash.

What counts as raking in cash though? as you state the effort put in is always high, even for small events, so why would making a few $/hr of time spent be seen as a bad thing. Marc outlines the costs involved so you can see even a modest increase in event ticket price wouldnt yield big returns.  There will always be small cheap events, because they are relatively easy to put on, enough for an organiser to still get enjoyment from their efforts for free.  But when you get to big events the amount of time put in equates to 100's if not 1000's of hours total effort. At that point its not unexpected for the organiser to consider it a job and need to pay its way, afteral they could just not do it and get a paper round, and the participants dont get an event to enjoy.

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22 minutes ago, stato said:

What counts as raking in cash though? as you state the effort put in is always high, even for small events, so why would making a few $/hr of time spent be seen as a bad thing. Marc outlines the costs involved so you can see even a modest increase in event ticket price wouldnt yield big returns.  There will always be small cheap events, because they are relatively easy to put on, enough for an organiser to still get enjoyment from their efforts for free.  But when you get to big events the amount of time put in equates to 100's if not 1000's of hours total effort. At that point its not unexpected for the organiser to consider it a job and need to pay its way, afteral they could just not do it and get a paper round, and the participants dont get an event to enjoy.

To clarify - raking it in isn't the same as making a few quid for your efforts and I wasn't suggesting organisers should be running events and be out of pocket for it.  The reason I made the comment is because there have been examples in the past where TO's have basically run an event as a purely money making exercise to line their own pockets - that's normally been accompanied with minimal effort with poor scenery combined with the event not being that well run.  In short they were focused on cash rather than delivering an event - and that type of organiser will actually do more harm to events in the long run.

As I pointed out I'm more than happy to pay £60/65 for an event - the vast majority of events I've been to would have easily been worth that, probably even more.  I'd also be more than happy for the TO to have had that in their pocket.

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1 hour ago, RuneBrush said:

To clarify - raking it in isn't the same as making a few quid for your efforts and I wasn't suggesting organisers should be running events and be out of pocket for it.  The reason I made the comment is because there have been examples in the past where TO's have basically run an event as a purely money making exercise to line their own pockets - that's normally been accompanied with minimal effort with poor scenery combined with the event not being that well run.  In short they were focused on cash rather than delivering an event - and that type of organiser will actually do more harm to events in the long run.

As I pointed out I'm more than happy to pay £60/65 for an event - the vast majority of events I've been to would have easily been worth that, probably even more.  I'd also be more than happy for the TO to have had that in their pocket.

Thats fair, i understand.  Only example i heard of, dont pay much attention, was LGT. The organisers are often talked about in these conversations as their first 40k event was badly run a few years ago, but its just ran this year and was very well attended and talked about, so people obviously think they provide a good value. I am going to assume they make more than break-even, its such a huge undertaking as Marc pointed out in the first post that i cant see how they could run it with that much risk of no-profit.

Personally i will happily enter events hosted by someone who is making a career out of event organising, i do for many other hobbies (sports) multiple events every year.  If i get a great time out of it and good value (and that can happen even at £100+) then it doesnt matter how much profit/salary they make.  A close friend organises cycle events as his full time job, he puts in a huge amount of work to make them good and now his events sell out in hours. Could we have full time warhammer (and other game) event organisers? im sure there must be some, but it seems streaming and building up your patreons probably is an easier way to make profit from hobbies 😄 (joke; even streaming is never as easy as it looks, at least not to do well so you build a following).

 

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I do think part of the issue is transparency. I've been to several events I have no idea what it costs to rent the venues that there in, and why would I? I'm not going to rent out those event halls. People are going to draw conclusions that aren't fair simply by comparing events to each other, because we don't have a lot of information. For example I go to Adepticon every year, and when it was cancelled because of covid they gave us the option to refund our tickets and merch. I choose to donate the money from the tickets and paid for the merch. That said I have no ideal what costs they were on the hook for, it was a decision made in blind faith. Adepticon is basically a holiday for me, so I have no regrets but it wasn't an informed decision.

 

Personally I would've expected TOs were making some money. If for no other reason than I can estimate the initial costs because I have my own table so I know what mats and terrain goes for. I would expect them to be confident they could recoup them fairly quickly because I couldn't afford not too. Granted I live in the US and I do think renting a venue should be cheaper here (we have a lot more land mass, and our population is a lot more spread out). Regardless its interesting to read about your experiences because its a side of the hobby we aren't exposed to.

 

For what its worth as I think an average tournament goer, I don't think most events need to put as big of emphasis on prizes and awards. They're nice but I don't think the majority of the people entering the event have any expectations of getting them.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I don't want to sound too insulting for all the work you've probably done as a TO. Only a little

On 10/11/2021 at 10:44 AM, Marc Wilson said:

I’m still regaled and reminded of tournament food memories – good and bad – years down the line. ‘Great event – loved the burgers!’ -  a compliment that makes me die inside a bit. ‘Did I bevel all that MDF for nothing!’ I silently spit… grimly accepting that such efforts are almost totally in vein

This whole comment makes you sound bitter and jaded. It's a compliment. Take the gaddumb complement. Don't assume they thought your comb-over is creepy and disrespected everything else you did because they didn't say anything about it. They had fun and they'll probably be back.

On 10/11/2021 at 10:44 AM, Marc Wilson said:

And, finally, what about players obligations? Does the entry ‘fee’ the organiser is ‘paid’ dictate an abdication of responsibility?

My obligation is the entry fee(s), following the tournament rules, being a civilized human being, and keeping myself alive. I have no other responsibilities beyond that.

On 10/11/2021 at 10:44 AM, Marc Wilson said:

whether it’s either acceptable for an organizer to make money from them, or to run them at a loss.

It is literally no concern of mine, nor of anyone else's, despite what the Twitter-stasi would have you believe (They are seriously terrible people. Get off that platform). If you make hundreds-thousands on it, good on you. If you have to reverse mortgage your house to do it, I personally think you're making a mistake, but I'm not gonna stop you.

The biggest concern is whether I think I'm getting my money's worth to play at the tournament. $20 entry fee, I'd assume 2D terrain (a la warmahordes). $250, and you better be paying my hotel room (not sure if custom for tournaments, but if using a hotel conference room, you can usually book a block of rooms for visitors so they can make their own arrangements at a slightly discount rate, which I would assume the tournament would offer because there's no charge outside of calling to tell them to close the block a month before). I don't need food if there's a Subway in the same shopping center or across the street, but would expect a catering truck outside if the nearest restaurant is 10+ minutes away and we have five minutes between rounds. By the way, whatever catering you hire is probably operating on extreme profit margins as well. I don't know why you have a cost spot for tables and chairs, because that should be something your venue should have bundled in the rental cost.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I just get this feeling that you're working harder, when you should also be working smarter.

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Organizers (or at least locally) have a HUGE upfront cost and things cost more than people expect.  The last 25 years+ have shown us cheap and convenience wins and people are entitled to free stuff.

I would nearly always side with the TO in a price argument since my old best friend was one for a tournament of upwards of 150-200 people.  

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Just out of curiosity without having that friend would you have any ideal of what the event costed? I've been wargaming for a long time, I've never been to an event that has provided that information. The main argument I can think of not to provide it, is because the event hall may try to take a bigger cut. I think they will anyways, because they are a for profit business. 

 

I think its awesome that you love the hobby enough to put a personal stake in growing the scene. I couldn't afford to do something like that, I just couldn't. That said I don't expect you to lose money on it. I wouldn't want you spending money on catering, prizes, and awards with margins that tight. Ask your players what they want to make sure if they expect some of this stuff, and see if its more important than keeping the ticket prices down. Maybe look at other ways to increase profit and value for the player like bundle in a T-shirt with their entry.

 

IF their expectations are still unreasonable than cut your loses it isn't worth it. Its probably not the advice you want to hear but its clear your frustrated with your current position. Don't stay in it, but send out an email to people you have attended your events and hear from them not just the people on twitter.  

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