The following was written by Jonathan Conley and hosted with permission on www.backtodials.com.
First, a little history:
My TO experience started ages ago, I’d put together small Magic tournaments of 8 or less, then I stepped into Star Trek Attack Wing, and TO’ed for a store for about a year. I’ve also done a couple years of Demoing X-Wing and Attack Wing and Denver’s Comic Con. I’ve definitely done the small scale stuff, but this is the first “big” tournament I’ve ever done.
Store wars wasn’t started by me. It was actually started by Dan Hars after similar ideas and tournaments in the Warmachine community. After the Colorado Regional (May 30), he pitched the idea to all the local Denver area stores. A bunch of the stores showed interest, but ultimately when it came time to run the tournament, only one store had the required 5 people. This was figured out a week before the event happened. Its no doubt that some of Colorado’s strongest x-wing players hail from the shop Total Escape Games. In one of the planning posts, a person from another store recommended that all lists be unique. That person didn’t want to play all day facing the same kinds of things that were the big bruisers of our competitive scene. We (Not just Adventurer’s Quarter, but sentiments were echoed in other stores as well) wanted something of our own, something different, and most notably “casual” fun. I had pitched a few different ideas to Dan, but ultimately the original Store Wars failed when many of the teams dropped out. In a pinch, I got permission from Jacob at Adventurer’s Quarter to hold a celebratory “Adventurer’s Quarter (AQ) Victory lap” tournament (August 15th). Same date and time, which happened right after GenCon. As it happened, I had a friend call me from GenCon and ask if I wanted anything… extra new ships please! In under a week we had a 15 person turnout with individuals flying 100 point lists, setup just like Imdaar Alpha. It was a “prerelease” tournament, with prizes being the stuff my friend had brought back from GenCon. Editor’s note: At this prerelease tournament, Jon ended up beating me in the final round with a list that ended up being 10 points under costed. *siiigh*
For the record, the original store wars was to be 5v5, store vs store with a best-of-5, and some funny selection, with a couple lists for each player. I’ve heard this sounds very “40k”ish, and it did sound interesting to me. I was the AQ captain for this tournament.
Immediately after the victory lap preview tournament we ran – I asked Dan if I could run with the Store Wars idea! He said I could, he was through trying to organize. He’d like to participate though. So I got it in motion.
The start, late August: Knowing it was hard for teams of 5, I dropped from team AQ to organize and TO Store Wars 2015. I put Chris Pine in charge of AQ, told him I had some stuff for the AQ players as team, and went on designing Store Wars the way I thought it should be. It took a couple of months gauging interest from the other stores, but I do know most of the stores and players in them. I just kept the idea up and going. People seemed interested! So I talked a LOT with the owner of AQ. His shop is too small for more than 16 players for X-Wing. He had access to potentially 2 locations: The Elks club behind the store, and Odyssey Beerwerks which is about a mile away. AQ sometimes shuts down and they go play games at Odyssey for the evening, it’s a beer tasting room that also has access to food trucks. Okay, sounds a little odd, but we’ll run with it. Jacob took over talking to Odyssey, I set about getting formats and such complete.
Good to know while all this is going on: Tyson Sparks and Asa Graf are now hosting a podcast called “Back to Dials”.
Formats: I think Store Wars should highlight a store’s formats, so I want to start with AQ’s favorite format – the 59 point cross faction tournament. I figure 2 rounds of this, 2 rounds of 100 point, and something else. I’d like to engage the players more, so I called for captains in the Colorado X-Wing Facebook group. We threw out a few ideas: team furball, team epic, couple rounds of escalation, etc. After some input by captains, a couple mentioned that team epic would be the most fun. So I looked, and officially team epic is two lists of 200 points, I need something that will fit in 3 hours. So I opted to heavily modify the Epic format.
September 4th: Force Friday. Important because I bumped into a couple other players waiting in line at Target to pick up the new X-Wing core sets. We spent a couple hours shooting the breeze, but also bouncing ideas back and forth for Store Wars. Two of these players ended up being captains of the stores they represented.
September 15th: I have most of the ideas down for the formats. At $5 per player, we can plan on 8 teams of 4 it would seem. Almost every store in the Denver metro area is fielding a team! Jacob and I have prizes lined up. And I created a Store Wars group just for the captains of each store. I need their input on the 3rd format. A couple captains speak up and would like a team epic for the last 3 hours of Store Wars. By October 5th the final format was in place, so I copied it over to the event page for 2015 Store Wars (Event page created Sep 14th). I want everyone to be able to see what they are practicing for and have a chance to answer any questions.
October was mostly just lining up more prizes. I want something unique, so I’m in talks to have Litko cut wood coins for participation prizes. After scouring the internet and getting prices, Litko (Jim) assures me he can have it done in time with the proper format files. I work with my Dad (a former high school art teacher, and cartoonist) to get a design in place for the coins. The coins are ¼” thick “bases” and cut to 1.5” diameter. Jim from Litko gets me a good price on 50 of them, with customizing, and I can fit it into what we’ll charge for entry into the tournament.
November 14th: I get invited to talk to Asa and Tyson on their 4th podcast! The spot is probably about 15 minutes, and it was a blast! I’m starting to feel nervous about this.
Later that day: I drop by Odyssey, because Back to Dials will be doing a twitch feed similar to worlds! This is going to be SWEET! And they took something off my plate, which is going to be VERY helpful. Had a lengthy chat with the owner of Odyssey, and I believe the option will be there after 2015 to use Odyssey again if successful. Jacob is also going to have some core sets there to sell if people want, along with deck protectors and acrylic products. I have to keep in mind that this is less than a week before the new Star Wars movie is released… I’m starting to think this may get to be too big! But, that’s a problem I’ll have to tackle when I can. I set a cap at 40 players with the Odyssey store owner.
November 28th: First test of Store Wars formats and update on prizes
Grand Slam comics in Loveland put on a tournament for store wars practice. 2 rounds of 59 points, 2 rounds of 100 points. Looking around the tables there were 3 lists with Vader on a turret. There were 13 people in attendance. After seeing how well it worked in this event, I had to change up the format rules to simply allow people to bring 6 obstacles with their 59 point list. It just made more sense that trying to have one person bring all the asteroids and keeping track of them. Overall the event was tons of fun, I’m glad I was able to experience some of the Store Wars fun in competition!
Prizes: The tokens came in from Litko. Jim did a great job! They delivered about a week after I gave him the final design. He really does great work! I’m going to probably stain some of these tokens and see how they take to that, not to mention lacquer them up for longevity. Also, Aaron Utley who puts on “the Steele open” sent 3 coins! I wanted one for myself and offered to buy them when I contacted him, but knowing the other two would be handed out he just sent them free. I have also managed to almost finish 3 of the 4 prize ships. I’m still struggling with the Phantom cloak. But I still have 2 weeks to get it together!
December 2nd, I attend x-wing night at another local shop Wizard’s Chest. They have a full team, and the makings of a 2nd team when I start clearing up things about formats, etc. I put in a few good games, jokingly get accused of spying on everyone’s lists, and head out while they sort out the rest of their lists. I assure them I’m absolutely not playing, nor would I tell anyone about their lists. Likewise, I told them only what I played at the Grand Slam tournament the week before.
December 3rd: Joe (producer of Back to Dials) and I get together at Odyssey after work to talk about logistics with the owner. We figure out where everything is going to go (this took a couple hours). The extra space in the dock area will hold 8 tables, and we’ll fit 8-12 more down the middle of the seating area, with one table for the Twitch feed. He didn’t actually bring all the equipment to setup, but assures me it’s easy to setup, take down, and work with. Testing the bandwidth of the wireless, and finding a good spot is most important. We get it tested at 2Mb/s upload from the location and have a couple beers, talking about formats, prizes, and other logistics.
2 weeks leading up to the event: I offer to help anyone practice, get the participation tokens all stained up, get confirmation that the 4 tournament kits arrive in time, finish the prizes and lastly start talking with Chris Brown who created Cryodex. This is the ONE spot I’ve been sketchy on the entire time: how to do pairings. Manually would be almost impossible in Excel. 5 rounds, can’t play previous opponents and can’t play other team members. I tried a few programmer friends given that Cryodex is open source, but none can help. I narrow down exactly what I need his software to do and pitch the idea to him. Of course sending him the event page link too. He’s on board! He and I bounce about 20 emails back and forth, I offer up some of a winter kit for his troubles modifying the software. I test it with about 10 tournaments, going back to Chris with timing errors, etc. He now knows the limits of his software and I have the stuff I’ll use for Store Wars. He actually modified his software again after the first go-around for quicker pairings, and if you want technicals just ask, but the important part is I’m confident it will work. (After the tournament, I sent him some of the winter prize kit, as well as a participation token and many many thanks!) Editor’s note: We cannot thank Chris enough for his work on Cryodex for us at this tournament. There was only one minor repairing and it was not due to a fault in the software. Because of his excellent work, the entire tournament ran like a dream.
Day of Store Wars: 8:30am – meet at AQ to pick up tables and toppers. Meet Odyssey owner at 9:00am to start setup and there’s already a group there. It was snowing the night before, so I know we won’t be starting on time because of traffic issues. Jacob and I figure out where he will sit, make sure my laptop is tied into the TV above the bar for pairing info, and we print out some tournament sheets for the players. I’m expecting 36 at this point. At least 5 people help me setup everything (tables, mats, chairs), and things are ready to go by 9:45am.
10:30 – I finally have everyone registered. One group was formed out of 2 from a store and 2 random players that showed up. I glanced over everyones lists to make sure things were put in properly, and format rules were followed. I didn’t even check epic formats, just 59 and 100. There’s only a small handful of cards in epic that I would have to worry about, so I elected to not have them put them in. I did the opening announcements, as well as how prizes would work out. I have been shooting ideas back and forth with Jacob, and each round will have some kind of prize ship (epic gets a store 6×3 mat). I explain that these are “achievement” prizes, and that I will either explain what to keep track of during the round, or just let people know when it happens. And here we go rolling dice at 10:45!
Process things I have in place: All players have tournament score sheets, but I request that both players come to me as soon as the round is over because I’m tracking achievement stuff. Throughout the tournament, this works very well and people stagger in to report, with their sheets in hand and filled out (mostly). I am the main judge, and have a home built laser (very bright and almost perfect) as well as range 1,2,and 3 clear neon green rulers.
Round 1 – Person that hits the achievement is extremely surprised. He’s the first person to turn in a sheet. I announce to all players and stop the clock, he is the first person DEAD and gets the Arvyl A-Wing. His opponent gets the consolation prize which is a beer, but he’s underage, so soda it is. Back to Dials is mostly setup at this point, but experiencing technical errors. They’re having troubles with the sound feed but video feed is working great.
Round 2 – need to track most dodgy ship, most shots taken without damage. Someone dodges 7 attacks from a TLT to win a Laetin painted scum interceptor! Back to dials is in full swing now, with guest announcers. People are drinking beer at this point, and the food truck finally arrives with breakfast burritos. They mention the full truck will be there with BBQ lunch at the right time, which at this point is probably 1:30-2pm.
Round 3 – first 100 point round, Back to Dials crew is on point now, with technical difficulties mostly out of the way. Unfortunately, viewership is way down. I’m trying to wait to get TEG and HGC teams on the show, because there is a very good possibility that Tyson will play Asa (the main back to dials personalities). Both Joe and I are thinking this would be PERFECT if it rounds out this way. This round was “highest overkill on a ship”, which goes to another player from TEG. Cheers, rounds of beer, etc.
Lunch round: I had a prize lined up from Miracle – he does really awesome acrylic tokens, etc, from Germany. They are unlike anything in the US, its printed stuff on acrylic and very popular and sought after at AQ. Since Colorado loves its mods and paintjobs, I say the lunch round achievement is a voting of best ship/fleet that’s painted/modded. I have to repeatedly explain to players that they can’t vote for their own! I had a couple bar height tables in the back with numbers on them for players to place their ships. One player emerges victorious with 10 votes! That’s 1/3 the votes, and nobody knew who did the ship. He gets probably the most expensive prize – a full set of 18 acrylic obstacles from Miracle (Shaadea on the FFG forums). I also ran around the room a few times trying to round up votes from players (I had them write a number on the back of their sheet, and bring it to me – I was tracking a few items in an Excel sheet on my computer) Editor’s Note: Stephen Sherry won the painting contest with an AMAZING graffiti’d Rebel Transport! If we can track down an image of the winning ship, we will edit this post and put it in!
4th Round: 2nd 100 point round. Right before 4th round I realized I made an error when I got the results for Jim and Jayme in round 1. I had the opposite of what really happened! So I fixed the results and re-paired. Jayme was constantly in tough matchups, and Jim was walking over his round 2 and 3 opponents. Error out of the way we moved on. This was the only input error throughout the entire tournament, but it should be noted this may have affected both players considerably. Achievement this round: fastest time to complete gets a falcon. Someone who had already won actually accomplished this, so I let them know even though they did they wouldn’t be getting a 2nd prize, they have no problems with this and the prize goes to 2nd place, who is very thrilled.
5th round: This took forever to setup for. At this point, it got going around 5:00pm. I had originally planned for the event to be over at 6pm, so I could get to my company xmas party and only be fashionably late. A 3 hour epic round would make sure I’m very late. During round 4, I arranged to drive my date downtown if she brought me my suit, so when she arrived at 5:30 I exited for an hour to get her there while Jacob backed me up with judging. Epic was not our forte on knowledge, but I did have the PDF’s on my computer for quick searching. I found out I didn’t have the latest ones, nor could I find them online. So I wasn’t the best at judging the epic format, but did go back and straighten out when I did find the proper rulings for energy, etc. Achievement for this round was highest MOV, which I’m not sure anyone really cared about because nobody remembered and I had to arrange to get the prizes to the recipients another way. In the software, I had to set ties for everyone during round 4, pair round 5, then enter in round 4 as they came in while fixing pairings for round 5. Since its team epic, I just divided all results by 2 and split results between team members. I had to manually pair this round due to format restrictions I had in place, and a couple people ended up playing people they had already played. It was still a very fun round, but could have been done a LOT better. Editor’s note: Jon did very well considering that Epic is still kind of an unknown format – during the game, several questions came up and both he and Jacob did a great job of resolving rules issues from a sometimes-ambiguous rules set that is spread across three different expansions and an FAQ.
Prizes! Prizes were split out when I got back during the latter half of round 5. I got everything on the back counter, my camera to Jacob to take pictures, and had pre-tallied up the previous rounds of tournament points. TEG won the whole thing with 75 tournament points, AQ was in 2nd with 62 points and Grand Slam was in 3rd with 60. That last epic match made ALL the difference, had a couple of games gone differently the top 3 would have been in a MUCH different order! I felt good that it was this close for a fun tournament!
Announcing: There is no PA system in the bar, so the whole day I was basically yelling at the top of my lungs in a big booming voice. You may be able to hear it on the twitch feed, I dunno yet. My voice was getting sketchy later in the evening. Not to mention, other bar patrons would look at me a little weird. I gave up trying to be nice and just went with it, which seemed to work well. I later found out that there was one table that didn’t quite hear me, so I’ll have to think about that for next time.
All in all, for my first “big” tournament run, I felt we all did VERY well. Things I have learned:
- Accept help. I took on EVERYTHING, to make absolute sure it worked perfectly. I didn’t need to do this. I will be accepting help for sure next time! The last week before this event I was an anxious wreck, in both work and home. I’m so thankful that there were a handful of people willing to setup, and especially tear down the event as I was very late to my xmas party.
- Making sure that players knew the formats, rules, etc, at least 2 months out was a huge key to the success of this event. If you’re going to put on an event like this, get everything straight well beforehand, and make SURE the players know what they’re getting into so they can plan! Contact all relevant parties, get it as far ahead of time as you can because if something goes wrong it won’t cancel the event, you can recover.
- Really, REALLY brainstorm ideas to make things fun (or make the event yours). Achievement prizes were one-off repaints of ships that no one has seen before. To be honest, I’m not sure the players noted the differences in the ships because I repackaged them in their original packaging. Make it special! The wooden coins are imprinted as “2015 Store Wars by AQ”. I went well out of my way to make sure AQ’s team stuff was… team stuff that has also not been seen before (custom range rulers in 3 different colors of acrylic, all glued together). I’m not even sure anyone cared about the Winter kit stuff that they got, not near as much as the coins and experience. It wasn’t an “official” FFG tournament, just one I did to shake things up and focus on fun in the game. And IT WORKED!!! Whatever your event, put some serious thought into making it yours, and make it special if you can. Give players an experience they won’t get elsewhere and they’ll greatly appreciate it!
- If you’re above 16 players, have 2 TO’s. I’m glad Jacob was there to help me out when I needed it. He fielded more TO duties than I saw for sure. Not to mention being able to roam around and get pictures is good for your event!
- Plan time accordingly. Give yourself an hour or so of makeup time throughout the day. I made sure people were placing obstacles before I started the clock, which I probably didn’t have to do. I made sure they had 30 minutes for lunch, time to ask questions, get beer, etc. I’m sure that’s why the event went over by 2.5 hours. 15 minutes is probably the right amount of time between rounds, but definitely NOT when changing formats throughout the day. Also, don’t do more than 2 formats. Listbuilding is a nightmare!
- You can’t thank your help or sponsors enough. Yes, Jacob sold some core sets, acrylic sets, and the prize ships were “sold” to the tournament at cost. And the tokens were mixed in there. But he closed his store for an entire Saturday to do this tournament. I had a board/plaque created for the winners with all sponsors of the event on it, and I made sure the Back to Dials announcers properly announced sponsors, etc. The last part of this is… the sponsors did the time, so please buy stuff from them. I didn’t have any worries about the brewery, but these things don’t get done on the goodness of people’s hearts. They have to financially make sense!
- A final note on the prizes again – I originally asked for help with the repaints, but in the end decided to push my own limits on repaints and modifications to make them special to this event. I will probably be doing this again in the future, and welcomed the chance to give someone something they can’t get anywhere else. Check the pictures and you’ll see what I mean. While the players were probably okay with just getting the achievement ships, I had people calling me out to run something like this again, and soon! I think the “original” prizes had something to do with this.
All in all, it was a great event! Turnout was awesome, players had a TON of fun, things were mixed up, and I think it brought some friendly competition to the stores of Colorado. We all practiced formats, put together lists cooperatively (format restrictions and all), and had a great time. People are VERY excited for this again next year, and I think the timing is great between competitive seasons. I’m sure Joe at Backtodials.com learned a great deal as well which he may talk about, and I’m anxiously awaiting a callback to do the post event interview J
Miracle Acrylic Asteroids (German site): http://www.miracle-versand.de/
Adventurer’s Quarter: http://www.adventurersquarter.com/
Odyssey Beerwerks: http://www.odysseybeerwerks.com/
Total Escape Games: http://totalescapegames.com/
Haunted Game Cafe: http://www.hauntedgamecafe.com/news/
Enchanted Grounds: http://www.enchantedgrounds.com/
Wizard’s Chest: http://wizardschest.com/wordpress/
Time Warp Comics: http://www.time-warp.com/
Store Wars photo album: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1684540521762187.1073741844.1405204749695767&type=3
Back to Dials YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqXMgklRdhY0vDrpnk-xNVw
100 point Summer tournament: https://www.facebook.com/events/1000498046650901/
Store Wars Prequel by Grand Slam: https://www.facebook.com/events/1530626033896006/
Store Wars event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/122335728121254/