A view from behind the booth…

The inaugural Four Foot Snake Grand Tournament has come and gone, and damn was it a blast!

Initially conceived by the Four Foot Snake podcast guys, we decided very early on that we wanted to run a tournament that would be unique to the UK. Two day events are fairly rare in the UK so when they do occur they tend to follow a very standard pattern of simple gaming rankings with maybe a yes/no option of 5 tournament points if you have a painted army.

We’re all big hobby fanatics and have either enjoyed American style events with full soft scores or in the case of Paul, rather jealous of those of us who have! We wanted to emulate that, as well as the fun little hobby elements that Americans put into their events.

We liked the soft scores for hobby, so we emulated them. We liked the Lone Ranger living legend from Lonewolf, so we did our own version of it. We liked the terrain placement rules from Lonewolf, so copied them. We enjoyed the Americans pretending to be able to drink, so we decided to actually drink.

All in all, it went really fucking well. As always, there are improvements to be made and learnings learnt but we’re really happy with how everything went.

The event itself

It’s always nerve wracking in the days leading up to an event. Is there something you’ve forgotten? What if x goes wrong? What if there’s an argument or an incident which overshadows the event? What if the food doesn’t arrive? What if…

As it happens, almost everything ran perfectly without a single hitch.

We greeted our players with a complimentary mimosa upon arrival and soon had them briefed and starting their first games. After a few minor hiccups, we got the livestream going and we settled in for a great day ahead. Everyone enjoyed their games and, as always with Kings of War events, we had very few rules queries to deal with.

It’s always a warm fuzzy feeling when you look around a room full of gamers enjoying themselves at an event you helped to organise.

Lunch saw us do our paint judging and there were some absolutely stunning armies out on display. We’d originally said amongst ourselves that most tabletop armies would be around 5-7 points out of the 15 available for judging but on the day we loved all of the effort that people put in, and I don’t think any one of us scored any of the fully painted armies less than a 9!

After the last game finished and scores were entered, it was time for an evening of merriment as Element Games very kindly kept the bar open (with their extremely affordable prices) until midnight. Me and Paul retreated to his house shortly after last orders were called and… continued drinking. Paul soon sparked out and fell asleep on his sofa, and I noticed a tub of sharpie markers on the bookshelf next to me…

Sadly he noticed it and washed it off before we set off the next morning…

The next morning had gamers return, some looking more weary than others. We also had a few people who hadn’t turned up by the time the first round started, so we had a few quick table swaps to pair up people whose opponent was still in bed! When the stragglers did arrive, they agreed to take the missing time off their clocks for that round…

Going into the final round and we had to have a bit of a debate. At first we’d said that we would fudge table placings in the first four rounds to avoid duplicate matchups, but that matchups for the final would stick regardless. After discussing it amongst the organisers and with the top 4 players, who would be playing duplicate pairings, we decided that we would do a fudge for the last round as well.

Timings were an issue over the weekend (more on this below) with many games continuing past the allotted round time. We were starting the final round on time, but did a mini briefing saying that this time we would be calling time at the end of the round and anyone still playing would be forced to end their game there and then. Luckily we only had one game which was still ongoing at round end rather than the three or more we’d been seeing so far, but frustratingly it was one of the top tables.

Still, people had to catch trains and we’d run out of admin work to do so it had to be dice down for them.

After a quick topping up of points and writing names on certificates, it was time for the awards ceremony. Lots of happy smiling faces all round as we handed out 7 trophies and several minor awards such as best FFS Characters. A big round of applause and thank you’s to Element Games and it was all over!

Learnings

Everything is a learning experience and this was no different. There were several things for us to improve on for next time.

Round timings as mentioned above were an issue throughout the event. We had allocated a very generous 2 hours and 15 minutes per round and an hour on the clock per player each round. Despite this we still “finished” most rounds with multiple games still going. To combat this in future, I think we need to:

  1. Issue guidelines on when a clock should and shouldn’t be stopped. We don’t want to go down the route of Warmachine where only a judge can stop a clock, but we had feedback that some players were pausing their clocks unnecessarily – e.g. to check line of sight. Bathroom breaks and rules disputes are fine, but basic checks like LOS and range should not need a clock be stopped.
  2. Call out the time remaining and have it visible on the venue monitors.
  3. Have the terrain placement “minigame” table place on the clock.

We’ll be tweaking the stats of some of the FFS living legends. Lil Paul was extremely popular with 17 of the 34 players choosing him, and all of the top 4 spots also using him.

We were already planning on improving the food for the next event but we also had some feedback that it wasn’t suitable for vegetarians, despite offering vegetarian offerings (they were stored on the same plates as fish dishes and had been handled alongside meat). Subway was a simple and safe option that we decided to go with for our first event, rather than try and get hold of something more exciting, so we’ll definitely look to improve it next time.

We’ll be tweaking the soft scoring system used. We didn’t give enough of a spread of paint judging points and after review we felt that there were too many points for sporting.

Behind the scenes my spreadsheet decided to misbehave. It was supposed to automatically show matchups and repeat matchups but unfortunately something was going wrong somewhere and I ended up having to do some manual amends to keep things ticking. The issues also lead to some results being entered wrong. We caught them immediately after but I ended taking everyone’s score sheet in round 5 to manually check all results – luckily there was nothing particularly egregious, just a few kill points astray.

Also, not sure how to fix this, but apparently a few of our players struggled to add up… One person in particular made a mistake, tried to correct it once it was pointed out and still got it wrong… I guess being top painter doesn’t mean best mathematician…

What went really well

Honestly the whole event. While there are a lot of words above, I’m always quite critical of myself and look to improve what I do.

Having five games over two days was ace. Two games on the Sunday meant that players were able to leave relatively early in the day. Three games on Saturday meant a fairly late start, meaning more people were able to attend without taking out overnight accommodation on the Friday or getting up at stupid early o’clock on Saturday.

The checklist portion of the paint scoring worked brilliantly, though as always, some people were a bit harsh on themselves! We ended up adding extra ticks to several sheets, but the sheets gave a guide on how to achieve a very solid hobby score. The overall hobby standard at the event was great and it felt awesome to reward players for their effort and results at painting.

The effort that people put into their FFS living legends was jaw dropping, from Jan heavily converting an Ogre holding a FFS board (complete with freehand logo) to Rusty building all five characters. He then extremely generously donated said models to their namesakes! I need somewhere special to store my Nick The Dogmaster model. It just doesn’t seem right sticking it on my model shelf.

I really liked having multiple TO’s at the event. While three might seem a bit excessive for an event of this size, we generally had two handling livestreaming while one handled all the admin or rules queries.

Element Games were brilliant hosts, providing excellent terrain, plentiful and affordable booze and above all, the best gaming venue in the UK (In My Opinion). Truly grateful to Tim and his team for all the hard work they did over the weekend and how well they run the gaming centre. The turnaround from the original Northwest Gaming Centre is truly remarkable.

Above all, the players were outstanding. Timing aside (!!!), dice were rolled, games were played, laughs were had and the friendly and enthusiastic atmosphere was just infectious. Thank you to everyone who came along and helped make the event a success.

Going to a tournament is often a knackering experience. All day gaming really takes it out of you, but I tell you what – running an event isn’t any less tiring. On the way home I fell asleep sharpish in the car, waking up just a couple of minutes before being dropped off, and then promptly falling sleep again.

Absolutely knackered. Absolutely worth it.

 

3 thoughts on “A view from behind the booth…

  1. Well done guys 🙂

    About the clocks: getting people to actually START their clocks is very important in my views; some seem to be able to look at the opponents list almost indefinitely, and do not get going with deployment. (once deployment is under way, the clocks are also running, so from that point things roughly take care of themselves, barring the odd bathroom break)

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    1. Yeah we should have paid more careful attention to why people were running over while it started. I think the fact that we also had a minigame at the start of the round (taking it in turns to place the terrain) significantly affected things…

      As you say, once the clocks are started, they take care of themselves assuming players aren’t pausing them unnecessarily 🙂

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