The future of FOG-AM competitions...

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ChrisTofalos
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The future of FOG-AM competitions...

Post by ChrisTofalos » Fri Jun 09, 2017 7:57 pm

I'm getting a bit worried about the future of FOG-AM. People are drifting away to other rule sets, particularly MeG and ADLG. The, dare I say heady, days of one set dominating the period are gone and Madaxeman's excellent recent ancients' survey on his blog (http://madaxemandotcom.blogspot.co.uk/2 ... te-of.html) shows the number of FOG players entering comps are falling.

At MAWS we've been playing with a draft of version 3 for a few months and I think it's a definite improvement. However, although our own Warlord Trophy comp has now grown to three periods (Dragon,Sphinx & Jaguar, Classical and Medieval) and we gained one new player this year, we also lost two.

There could be a number of reasons why this is happening but I'm as convinced as I can be that it's the thrashing that some players too often get that's driving people away. I've got to say, the FOG-AM competition community is the most competitive - and gifted - bunch of players I've ever seen in over 45 years of wargaming. But, in the efforts of the best players to stay at the top, all too often the less experienced ones get a trouncing and, furthermore, stand absolutely no chance of winning the comps. That can't be a good thing and must be very disheartening for those on the receiving end. I don't think it's a coincidence that the two players we lost at MAWS finished at the wrong end of the last year's league tables.

So, what about introducing some sort of handicap system? For example, the top 25 players in the national rankings play with the points as is, the next 100 get a 25 point bonus and everyone after that gets an extra 50 points. Yes, it will make things a tiny bit harder for the players at the top but it just might lead to closer, more exciting games AND encourage some of the players we've lost to have another go.

Whatever the reasons, something needs doing or FOG-AM is going to drift into obscurity - and that would be a great shame...

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Re: The future of FOG-AM competitions...

Post by lionheartrjc » Sat Jun 10, 2017 9:30 am

Hi Chris,

First off I should state that I have played FoG version 1 and version 2 extensively. I have only tried one game of v3 (draft) and was not impressed by the changes as a whole although I thought some of the changes were an improvement.

I also need to say that I have been involved in the development of MeG and am currently choosing to play MeG over FoG in competitions. It is perhaps also worth stating that my ranking has reached #1 (temporarily and not at the end of the season) so I believe I am a reasonably competent FoG player.

I have also played many other rulesets including DBM and DBMM. I have played about 8 games of ADLG.

My position is that no rule set is "better" in an absolute sense than any other. Some are written and produced more competently than others. Other rulesets have different characteristics which I prefer but it may well be that other people have different preferences.

I may be wrong, but I don/t think offering some sort of handicap system would attract players back to FoG. I, for one, would get little satisfaction from winning a competition because I was given a handicap. What I would like to believe is that I could win a competition through skill and perhaps a bit of luck. (I have lost plenty through a lack of skill!).

One of the aspects that attracts me to ancient and medieval wargaming is the history. I want a game that at least "feels" as if it is historically right. I know enough history to realise that our understanding of ancient and medieval warfare is quite limited. I also want a game that gets into the action quickly and keeps me engaged. A 3 1/2 hour game where only one element dies (I have had this rarely with FoG and more often with DBM) is not for me. A game where only a limited number of armies can win is also not going to keep my interest. The relationship between army lists and rules is important - one aspect I will be interested to see how FoG v3 addresses.

I tried ADLG but found it didn't capture my interest. At the end of games I came away thinking - so what! That for me was a killer and I cannot see me myself playing ADLG again.

Wargamers are a fickle bunch. The important thing is to have fun whilst playing games. If the games are not fun, then players will desert quickly.

As you have correctly identified, the next few months will be very important for FoG. The number of players in competitions is increasing. I actually think that a single dominant set of rules is a bad thing. Equally, so many sets of rules that none of them can get a viable number of players for competition is also a bad thing.

All I know for sure is that the future is uncertain....

Richard

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Re: The future of FOG-AM competitions...

Post by ChrisTofalos » Tue Jun 13, 2017 2:03 pm

Hi Richard

I don't doubt that you're a competent player and, as such, you wouldn't have to worry about receiving any handicap - you wouldn't get one! :-)

I've done a quick scan on the BHGS site of recent competitions. About a third of MeG players had FOG rankings on the Slitherine site and they're mainly fairly decent ones. A quarter of the players in the ADLG comp I looked at also had FOG rankings, but these were not so high. Not sure that proves much but you (correctly) state:
If the games are not fun, then players will desert quickly.
I can't imagine something getting constantly thumped can be regarded as fun (although you never know, do you?!). I suppose the problem is really down to the Swiss system. You can't win the event unless you score highly and that means less experienced players are in for a hard time. Some sort of points handicap might just give them a better chance and may tempt some players back. Surely, it's better to try something than sit back and watch the player base erode?

Phil Powell once suggested running a comp as a knock-out but having a 'plate' competition running alongside. The winners would continue on to semi-finals and a final and everyone else would carry on playing for points. There'd be an overall winner and runner-up from the knock out part and a second tier of prize winners based on points totals. Might just work...

As for different sets of rules, wargaming has a tradition of rule variations (started off with Don Featherstone quoting 'house rules'). I can see why this has happened but I don't think it's done the hobby any favours. Can't see that other games such as chess would have gained such a respectable position if there were half a dozen different rule sets to choose from (and yes, I know there are variants - fairy chess - but these don't gain much attention at all).

You say you've moved over to MeG (I think Simon Hall should get some sort of marketing award for his efforts to promote his rules!). I recently tried MeG myself. There are certainly some interesting ideas in them but I found the attempt to be innovative at every stage to be, overall, quite irritating. And special dice (to go along with the special cards and special stand to put them on)? Why not standard dice and a simple CRT? NoT for me! :-)

Chris

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Re: The future of FOG-AM competitions...

Post by madaxeman » Tue Jun 13, 2017 6:36 pm

ChrisTofalos wrote:Phil Powell once suggested running a comp as a knock-out but having a 'plate' competition running alongside. The winners would continue on to semi-finals and a final and everyone else would carry on playing for points. There'd be an overall winner and runner-up from the knock out part and a second tier of prize winners based on points totals. Might just work...
I suspect this would be tricky in FoG as the sensible way to play such an event would be to go for an army which could concentrate forces to knock a dent in the enemy and then skirmish away with the rest to achieve a narrow 'win'.

It would therefore encourage the use of exactly the same sorts of armies that have led some people to choose to move to other systems.
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Re: The future of FOG-AM competitions...

Post by philqw78 » Tue Jun 13, 2017 7:36 pm

No Tim there would be a cut for each round, minor wins would be consigned to the plate.
It would need to be a big comp
Say 40 players
First 2 rounds all involved, random draws.
Top 16 scorers go through, remainder take their score to plate. Plate does Swiss for final 2 rounds and you get a plate winner
Round 3 top 6 scorers in round 3 go through, leaving top 2 for final.
Roughly
Those going into plate take their total score to the plate. In the knockout round 3 & 4 only the score in that game counts
The more players you get the better it works. It would be better to have 2 games,4 players, in the final. Highest scorer that round wins
phil
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Re: The future of FOG-AM competitions...

Post by madaxeman » Tue Jun 13, 2017 8:28 pm

philqw78 wrote:No Tim there would be a cut for each round, minor wins would be consigned to the plate.
It would need to be a big comp
Say 40 players
First 2 rounds all involved, random draws.
Top 16 scorers go through, remainder take their score to plate. Plate does Swiss for final 2 rounds and you get a plate winner
Round 3 top 6 scorers in round 3 go through, leaving top 2 for final.
Roughly
Those going into plate take their total score to the plate. In the knockout round 3 & 4 only the score in that game counts
The more players you get the better it works. It would be better to have 2 games,4 players, in the final. Highest scorer that round wins
Interesting thought experiment.

Looking at the Challenge this year, with 24 players, the first 2 rounds produced a top 10 (out of 24, so the same-ish as 16/40) who basically all had scored a big win and a draw from what I can see:

(Player / Club / Round 1 Round 2 Total )
Dave Ruddock MAWS 25 10 35
Steve Murton Reigate 24 11 35
Paul Bartlett Plymouth 24 10 34
Graham Briggs Reigate 12 22 34
Graham Evans Pinner 9 25 34
Terry Shaw Reigate 11 22 33
Pete Dalby Hampshire Hogs 9 23 32
Paul Longmore MAWS 7 25 32
Graeme Caroll Durham 22 9 31
Derek Bartlett Plymouth 3 25 28

Although Round 2 was Swiss drawn.

Interestingly 8 of these 10 still ended up in the top 10 at the end of the competition anyway, so Andy & Dino would miss out on playing in the A-League event, and Terry and Steve would both have avoided the Plate by doing a Scottish League at the 2-round. stage.
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Re: The future of FOG-AM competitions...

Post by philqw78 » Tue Jun 13, 2017 9:06 pm

Dino and Andy would have good chances of winning the plate. 24 actually works quite well for 4 rounds.
24
24
10 KO + 14 Plate
4 Final + 20 Plate
phil
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Re: The future of FOG-AM competitions...

Post by madaxeman » Tue Jun 13, 2017 9:14 pm

philqw78 wrote:Dino and Andy would have good chances of winning the plate. 24 actually works quite well for 4 rounds.
24
24
10 KO + 14 Plate
4 Final + 20 Plate
Still means a big win and a draw gets you comfortably through the first 2 rounds, after which eke'ing out a narrow win is still then the sensible thing to do.

If you are trying to change play style, it doesn't appear to encourage that.
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Re: The future of FOG-AM competitions...

Post by philqw78 » Tue Jun 13, 2017 9:19 pm

Change the score to IWF style, double points for kills.
phil
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Re: The future of FOG-AM competitions...

Post by ChrisTofalos » Wed Jun 14, 2017 12:56 pm

I've got to admit, I do prefer knock-out events (the old Nationals used to be run that way) to Swiss style ones. The plate idea does combine the best of both but there could be some complications. For example, who would 'make the cut' if two (or more) players scored equal points?

I think this system is better suited to events with 16 players. In a 4-game weekend the knockout stage would start from the first game; all losers would then continue playing for the plate. Britcon could be reduced to 5 games (longer and with more points?) but allow 32 players to start.

I started this post to discuss how to prevent FOG-AM losing players and to tempt some back. I'm as convinced as I can be that the main reason many players switch or drop out altogether is the habitual drubbing they receive. Of the two we lost at MAWS, one is trying MeG and one no longer playing at the club (I'm leaving out a third who has real difficulties travelling). Some sort of incentive is needed to produce closer games and/or prevent too many annihilations.

A points handicap might help. Phil Powell also came up with another interesting idea: Rather than stick with one army list throughout the comp, allow players to choose their army before each game. We have adopted this. It is more feasible because our comp is played over the year and it is possible to, for example, replay a game if there are any major blunders. An alternative would be to allow players to enter two army lists (e.g., one selected for use against a mounted army and the other against infantry) and select one of them once they know what they're up against. The idea is to produce closer, more exciting games and the latter might just do that.

Version 3 is going to provide more interest but because there are some truly excellent and highly competitive players, without some sort leveller, we are going to continue to lose players. It's in everyone's interest to stop that...

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Re: The future of FOG-AM competitions...

Post by madaxeman » Wed Jun 14, 2017 2:32 pm

ChrisTofalos wrote: I'm as convinced as I can be that the main reason many players switch or drop out altogether is the habitual drubbing they receive.
I'm not sure that's correct, as it doesn't appear to be supported by facts.

Here's a link to the Top 30 players from June 2014 : http://www.bhgs.org.uk/uploads/9/3/2/3/ ... 014-06.pdf

Looking at the list, I reckon that almost half of these are now no longer playing AM at all, or no longer playing it as their main game.
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Re: The future of FOG-AM competitions...

Post by Robert241167 » Wed Jun 14, 2017 3:15 pm

Hi all

I joined the Halifax club a number of years ago where the only game being played was FOGAM V1. There would be around 10-12 of us playing the same game each week and a good club turnout at competitions.

In recent years about a 3rd of the club have moved around the UK. Those that are left have moved on to other rulesets, mainly DBMM, FOGR and ADLG or made rare appearances at the club. There are various reasons given for these moves: the predictability of some FOGAM games, avoidance of certain individuals who play FOGAM and the bad rollout of FOGAM V2.

It has now reached the point where I have not been able to get a game of FOGAM at my club over the last 12 months but those still attending prefer to try and influence me to join them in their rulesets. I now generally attend once a month but just for a board game evening rather than a wargaming evening.

I have managed to attend 1 small competition since Britcon last year which is partly due to my lack of local opponents as well as the missed camaraderie that came with us all competing in the same ruleset at the same competition.

I'm now hoping that FOGAM V3 is released at Britcon this year as I fear that more people will move away from FOGAM if it is delayed too long. For myself I'm not sure what direction I will go in but from what I have seen of FOGAM V3 I'm hoping it will inject some enthusiasm into me to compete again and try to work out what will and won't work under the latest edition.

I will be at Britcon this year, if not competing then to have a look around and see how everyone is getting on.

See you all there.

Rob

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Re: The future of FOG-AM competitions...

Post by philqw78 » Wed Jun 14, 2017 3:30 pm

ChrisTofalos wrote: I'm as convinced as I can be that the main reason many players switch or drop out altogether is the habitual drubbing they receive.
Also Swiss chess should prevent constant drubbing as as the competition goes on you are more likely to be playing an opponent at the same level as you, on the same score
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Re: The future of FOG-AM competitions...

Post by ChrisTofalos » Wed Jun 14, 2017 3:51 pm

Looking at the list, I reckon that almost half of these are now no longer playing AM at all, or no longer playing it as their main game.
I wonder is it possible to find out why these players have dropped FOG? There aren't that many of them. And that's the big question, isn't it? Why are players dropping out of FOG-AM?

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Re: The future of FOG-AM competitions...

Post by madaxeman » Wed Jun 14, 2017 5:39 pm

ChrisTofalos wrote:
Looking at the list, I reckon that almost half of these are now no longer playing AM at all, or no longer playing it as their main game.
I wonder is it possible to find out why these players have dropped FOG? There aren't that many of them. And that's the big question, isn't it? Why are players dropping out of FOG-AM?
Here you go: Top 30 with detail

Pete Dalby
Graham Evans
Andy Ellis
David Handley Playing ADLG, still in AM rankings but has only played 2 AM events in last 12 months
Dave Ruddock
Robert Taylor
Graham Briggs
Lance Flint Playing MeG (still in AM rankings but has only played one event in last 12 months)
Phil Powell
Alan Cutner Playing ADLG, still plays FOGAM also
Richard Jeffrey-Cook Playing MeG, also plays DBMM and I think FoGAM occasionally
Bob Amey Playing MeG, still plays FOGAM also
Paul Longmore Still in AM rankings but has only played 2 events in last 12 months.
Dino Monticoli Has played both MeG & ADLG recently, as well as AM
David Fairhurst
Paul Johnston
David Bannister
Gordon Jamieson Playing ADLG
Steve Brown
Dave Morrison
Dave Saunders Playing ADLG
Richard Case Playing ADLG
Nik Sharp Playing ADLG
Leslie Mitchell Did play in one MeG event last year but nothing since
Hunter Hope Playing MeG, still in AM rankings but has only played 2 events in last 12 months
Hugh Cameron Did play in one ADLG event last year but not since, still in AM rankings but has only played 2 events in last 12 months
John Muir (still in AM rankings but has only played one event in last 12 months)
Jon Akers
Bob Medcraft Playing FoGR (still in AM rankings but has only played one event in last 12 months)
John Munro Playing MeG (still in AM rankings but has only played one event in last 12 months)

I'm not sure it's really that big a question - it all boils down to "after many years of playing the same game, some players will inevitably move off and try something new".

They will all have various reasons, ranging from boredom, finding something new they prefer, or in some cases lack of clubmates to play AM against, as their clubmates also fall into the first 2 categories. I would also guess that people like Rob who would continue to play a ruleset and do so only in competitions after their club moves onto a different system are fairly rare.

As Phil says, Swiss draws mean you end up playing people at your own level pretty quickly in all of the UK competitions, and the data suggest that "winning" players are also drifting away, so "losing loads of games in competition" really doesn't stack up as a reason. Maybe "losing loads of games at the club" could be, but competitions are geared to give you competitive games.
Last edited by madaxeman on Wed Jun 14, 2017 7:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The future of FOG-AM competitions...

Post by hazelbark » Wed Jun 14, 2017 7:01 pm

I do think there is something to constantly being drubbed. But it is the nature of the drubbing. Did they feel like they were fighting going down. Or did they feel it was a 3.5 hour exercise in futility? The former is not as much a problem as the later. A broad range of armies particularly of a historical nature is important too.

There are many different aspects to our hobby. The trick for any rule is find out what its player base wants and support that.

We still have 7th edition going in the states. 3 comps a year. They are happy.

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Re: The future of FOG-AM competitions...

Post by AlanCutner » Wed Jun 14, 2017 9:51 pm

I play very little FoG-AM nowadays. Mainly to support friends and the tournaments they help to run. I will be playing ADLG at Britcon this year. The reason is simple - I find FoG too predictable and it has become boring. FoG v3 doesn't enthuse me but best wishes to those to move to it.

I can see that some players may drop out of vertain rules because they get hammered. I also agree this may be down to the type of hammering. I don't like the 3-1-0 scoring systems (as basically used in ADLG) because it doesn't adequetly reward someone fighting to avoid defeat in a game where they're compleyely outclassed. An inexperienced or weaker player should always feel they're in with a chance of scoring decent points. Thats not the case in a system where only a win wil do.

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Re: The future of FOG-AM competitions...

Post by Vishnu » Thu Jun 15, 2017 1:12 am

My first foray into Ancient gaming was with the FOG rules, they made sense, easier to understand. Though i lost more than I won, it was always enjoyable and challenging. Once the scene dried up in the US at Cold Wars and Fall In, everyone switched to ADLG. I personally do not like the mechanics of ADLG, its basically DBA or M. I played a few games but did not hold my interest. I havent tried FOG3 yet but looking forward to the rules and playing a few games.

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Re: The future of FOG-AM competitions...

Post by AlexandersChiefEunuch » Thu Jun 15, 2017 7:54 am

As a long-standing but still ‘casual’ competition gamer, I thought I’d add my two penn’oth into the mix, for what it’s worth.

I have been in and around the ancients competition scene since the mid to late 1980s. My main period of activity was up to about 1997 during the heyday of WRG 7th edition, though I do still playin the odd FOG AM comp. DBM never worked for me, I found it way too abstract. Back in the day when the worlds were at the Assembly Rooms Derby, Roll Call at the Queensway Hall, Dunstable and Campaign at Woughton Campus in MK I was a fairly regular competitor, though rarely if ever bothered the scorers even in those days. I give this background to establish my bona fides as someone who has put the time in at the coal face of competition ancients wargaming and so can compare then with now.

I have always been a casual ancients wargamer. Ancients has always been only one of an eclectic mix of periods I have dabbled in over the years. What first attracted me to ancients was the variety of armies available; the colourful, the regular, the gimmicky, the historical. All are there for you to choose from. Back in the days of 7th edition most competitions were ‘open’, allowing the use of any army from the published lists. This meant that I could plan, collect and paint an army knowing that I would be able to use it in competition in the coming year, whilst I collected and painted another army for the following year. For me, the overwhelming majority of my hobby time consists of painting figures. Their use in games is merely the culmination of that expense and effort over several months. One year at Roll Call I fielded New Kingdom Egyptian under 7th edition. I knew it was going to be an uphill struggle, but at least I could plan my army at leisure and know I would be able to use it. That is no longer the case today. The more focussed the themes for particular competitions become, the less likely I am to be able to field what I would like to field. And this chimes with something Chris was saying in his original post. It is one thing to endure 4 thumpings over a weekend with the consolation that you are at least getting to use the army you have lovingly collected and painted, and knowing you can go away and make adjustments from the lessons learned ready for next time. Enduring 4 thumpings with an army you have cobbled together from bits and pieces you’ve borrowed at short notice and for which you have no affinity and are probably not going to use again quickly loses its appeal. We increasingly have to wait until just a few months or even weeks before a competition to find out what the theme is going to be. For the casual competition player this is very off-putting. If I have to (or just want to) collect and paint an army to be used then I need a much longer lead time of knowing what armies I can choose from.

Chris is also right about the standard of competition in FOG AM these days; it is very high. I think this is both a cause and an effect of the gradual extinction of the casual player. Back in the days of Roll Call at Dunstable I would know that I was likely to be in for a couple of rough handlings on day one, but that the operation of the Swiss chess system would then put me ‘down among the dead men’ on day two. I can remember some really fun and pleasant encounters on the second day of competitions. The atmosphere on day two was much less pressured and much more easy going as we chaff had already been separated from the wheat and had no unrealistic hopes of ‘submarining’ to victory. The problem for we casuals nowadays is that there are no ‘dead men’ in most competitions. I am at a distinct disadvantage….as I don’t get to play myself !! Day two of the competition is just as likely to see one handed one’s nuts on a plate as day one.

My final point is by way of an observation ‘from the outside’ and should not be seen as pointed criticism to anyone on this forum. The advent of forums such as this one has been very positive for the development of the hobby. However, for the casual player such as myself, the banter directed between individuals on the forum who all clearly know each other well gives the impression of a clique which newcomers and/or casual gamers would find it difficult to break into. Individuals with a more robust and forceful personality might not find that off-putting; I can only speak as I find, though. That sense that there is a clique at the heart of the system I do find off-putting.

So, my recipe for revitalising FOG-AM (and ancients war-gaming in general) is:

- More ‘open’ competitions to allow a much broader choice of army

- Where themes are used make them as broad as possible to encourage a range of armies (Campaign in particular has become very restrictive).

- Annual competitions with themes should set the theme for the following year at or very shortly after this year’s. This would give casuals plenty of time to commit themselves and to prepare.

- Have some prizes for things other than winning; for example, a best painted or presented army. This would give us casuals some consolation prize to aim for when we know full well we won’t be competing for a
podium finish.

- Organisers use the forum to reach out for casual entrants. Go out of your way to be welcoming so as to counteract the impression that the (perceived by me) ‘clique’ is a closed system which doesn’t really want
outsiders muscling in.

Please be gentle with me in any comments. I have thought long and hard about this and these points would certainly encourage me to involve myself in more FOG competitions in the future. Perhaps they might find favour with other casuals and lapsed casuals too?

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Re: The future of FOG-AM competitions...

Post by hazelbark » Thu Jun 15, 2017 6:24 pm

There are a LOT of really good points in here. I snipped a bunch to emphasize the stuff I really thought should be uplifted. (Not disrespecting the rest).
AlexandersChiefEunuch wrote:
For me, the overwhelming majority of my hobby time consists of painting figures. Their use in games is merely the culmination of that expense and effort over several months.

If I have to (or just want to) collect and paint an army to be used then I need a much longer lead time of knowing what armies I can choose from.

The problem for we casuals nowadays is that there are no ‘dead men’ in most competitions. I am at a distinct disadvantage….as I don’t get to play myself !! Day two of the competition is just as likely to see one handed one’s nuts on a plate as day one.

- Annual competitions with themes should set the theme for the following year at or very shortly after this year’s. This would give casuals plenty of time to commit themselves and to prepare.

- Have some prizes for things other than winning; for example, a best painted or presented army. This would give us casuals some consolation prize to aim for when we know full well we won’t be competing for a podium finish.

- Organisers use the forum to reach out for casual entrants. Go out of your way to be welcoming so as to counteract the impression that the (perceived by me) ‘clique’ is a closed system which doesn’t really want
outsiders muscling in.
In our comps (USA), I try to give the prizes for new stuff like lead or terrain or books to people who are newer, or lower down in the ratings. a shiny plaque and a hardy handshake for first place. Most winners have plenty of lead, etc to begin with.

I am completely convinced that competitions of all stripes need a better solution for the less frequently competitive players to enjoy themselves. I am not convinced I have a viable solution, but the people who find one will have success.

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