BEAR CON 1 — RUSSIAN DIPCON I:
TOURNAMENT ASPECTS
FOR TOURNAMENT DIRECTORS

by Edi Birsan


It was my great pleasure to be present at the first Russian Diplomacy tournament held in Moscow August 15-16, 2009. Like all first events, the local group had to overcome from the beginning a lot of the classic problems of hosting an event, and to do so without some of the experiences that tend to help you avoid those problems. Additionally, like all events regardless of history, there are things that are very much appreciated by the hobby at large, and can contribute to the growth and knowledge worldwide of this wonderful game we share.

Scoring System

This having not been settled on far in advance, the TD (Alex Lebedev) went with a simple system of:

  • Games end in 1907
  • Win=34 points, and everyone else gets -0-
    Otherwise:
    • 1st center = 4 points
    • 2nd center = 3 points
    • 3rd+center = 1 point each
    • Lead bonus +5 points (not shared)
  • The best two of three rounds would be used.

So for a top of the board with 10 centers, the value was 20 points.

What was interesting was that at the end of the event (which featured a solo and thus a 34 point score), there as a serious discussion about whether the point award for a solo relative to a non-solo top score was too much. It was argued that a solo win by 1907 is not so much the achievement of the soloist as an aberration and a reflection of a very poor board. One of the odder comments from a French player was that a solo was the greatest humiliation one could experience in the game, and that he would probably quit the hobby if it happened to him. I did not agree with the arguments presented within the confines of the scoring system used, since two leads with 8 centers (not an unusual situation in the C-Diplo mentality of Western Europe) result in more points than a single win and an elimination. However, it should be noted that if they added a single point for each year of survival, then a 17 center lead would exactly equal the value of a 34 center win. This is part of the cultural divide between Europeans and Americans on the value of a win.

Regardless of the cultural bias or the mentality of the area/TD, the scoring system — like the house rules — should be laid out in advance, and the various common results scored out and compared to make sure that the relationships in results are acceptable.

Best Country/Outstanding Results

The hobby has become used to awarding prizes for Best Country performance. These are sometimes measured in absolute center count, or more commonly via tournament scores with the country. In San Francisco we use the concept of Outstanding Play of Country 'X', with the limit that a player can only get one, so as to spread things out. Typically a top finishing player will have two or more of theseg. This system, tried at Moscow, was no exception: thus awards were spread out. Also, what was not unusual is the counter argument that it is denying the recognition of the achievement and reducing its value in its award to the second best player etc.

A possibility for future TDs to discuss is the massaging of the two ideas — change the awards to simply 'Outstanding Play', then give out 7 of them. However, acknowledge the 7 Best Countries and who had them, allowing players with multiple Best Countries to get only one award for Outstanding Play. For example:

  • Outstanding Play goes to Edi Birsan for Best Countries with Germany and Russia
  • Outstanding Play goes to Gwen Maggi for Best Countries with Austria and Italy
  • Outstanding Play goes to Alex Lebedev for a 12 center Germany in game 8

This way we cover both aspects, and allow for fewer arguments.

Seeding

There were two boards on each of three rounds. The first board was randomly sorted and the second round was sorted based on the first, which placed myself on the weaker board based on my weak performance in round 1 (2 center Austria — which it turns out was the second strongest performance of Austria: the other was with 5 centers). The resulting solo in round 2 then caused all those players on the solo board to get -0-, meaning that on the third round the higher board had 6 of the same 7 players on it. Admittedly 1906 solos are rather rare, but the problem of seeding low-turnout boards again became a problem. Another way to sort the boards would be to take the top players who were not allied and put them in the next round together, but that brings in subjective calls by the TD. So maybe a seeding based only on center counts would be good, or simply random seedingfor rounds with 2 boards? Talk about it between your TDs and key players in the future events.

Misorders and TD calls

There was a fair representation of miss-orders considering that the games were kept on a central clock with some pressure but not overwhelming to get orders in. Most of the errors came from players not being use to timed rounds and the fact that they were new to tournament pressures. These are the errors that I saw:

  1. F Sev-Rum (Unit was in Black) Ruled a hold
  2. F Bul/ec-Bul/sc Ruled a hold
  3. F Con-Bul (no coast given) Ruled a hold
  4. F Mid-Spa (no coast given by England) Ruled a hold after France in Spain was asked if he would accept a late declared coast which he did not.
  5. A Yor-Nwy, F Convoy (fleet not specified) Ruled that this was allowed.
  6. A Boh-Ven Ruled a hold
  7. F Mid-NAf Ruled a go — this was a dispute because the player claimed verbally to have misread the conference map provided, and wanted F Mid-NAt .
  8. Build F Ber when unit there and Kie open. Ruled a missed build
  9. Two orders for the same unit — the rule used was that the second one counted

One of the things to consider for a TD is how strict you want to be in the games. Misorders can have massive effects on a game: the very first error listed was critical in starting my Germany on a path to a solo by running over the East, where Russia had no builds and an army stranded in Finland. Misorders also can help to demoralize new players, which is not good for the hobby as a whole.

One possibility is to have a more liberal house rule that reads something like "An order, no matter how poor, that allows for only one reasonable interpretation (excluding the possibility of an intentional miss-order) is to be allowed." In that case the orders above of:

  • F Sev-Rum would have been corrected to F Bla-Rum
  • A Boh-Ven would go to A Boh-Vie
  • The build of F Ber would have been F Kie

In social games in the Bay Area and in our Recruiting Conventions (Non-Whipping) we are very forgiving, and enhance the prospects for painless correction by reading the new players' orders first, so that we can correct things before much knowledge of other moves is known.

However, there is still a very strong majority of tournament players who prefer the 'no mercy' sort of TD'ing regarding rulings. I question whether we are doing the hobby as a whole over time any good here, but then again it could be that we are taking a lot of pressure off of TD's by asking them to be strict and thus not exposed to any subjective areas of ruling.

Nevertheless, all of this should be spelled out in House Rules, which is something that needs to be developed for future BearCons.

The last aspect of misorders that needs to be considered is the intentional pre-emptive ruling as in case 7 above: going to NAf instead of NAt. The player actually intended to go to North Africa, and wanted it to look like a misorder that the TD ruled against him. He had gone to the GM in advance and asked which way he would rule on the order as written, and then made the case in front of the players that it was a TD call. I saw this done in Chicago a few years ago, as well as in a hand adjudicated email game many years ago. Personally I feel that including the TD in such schemes is not wise for the player or the TD, and that pre-emptive ruling should be made not on the basis of intentional misorder techniques, but on complex or reasonable adjudications such as a Coastal Crawl or dislodged support of convoys and the like. I caution TD's to avoid being pulled into the game and made the 'bad guy' for the player's manipulation as something which the hobby does not need.

Central Clock

As there were two boards a central clock was used, David Norman's excellent program. Unfortunately, the pleasant English accent of his sister's voice was totally lost on all the participants except for me. After a first attempt at letting the clock run during adjudications and order writing (since Drop Dead deadline — where orders have to be in the box at the time limit — was not used) there was a little scrambling on stopping and starting the clock. I had thought that there was a program adjustment that allowed for 2-3 or variable minutes for order writing, but I did not see it at work. This irregular starting and stopping of the clock caused one turn in my second game basically to have only 2 minutes for the turn, and again this turned out to be critical because my English ally forgot to order a bounce in the North Sea, and I am sure it was because he was rushed for time. (Did I mention that EDI was my 18th or19th center as Germany?)

Central clocks work at peak effect when there are Drop Dead Deadlines. When there are not and you want to have adjudications off clock, then you need separate clocks for each table.

Time Management

We were originally scheduled to do two rounds on Saturday starting at noon, which with 1907 games and 15-18 minute deadlines had a reasonable chance of happening. However, the game start was delayed (shocking in a Diplomacy event anywhere in the world, right? Not really — maybe 3 out of the last 30 events I was at started on time, and then only because they lied to the group). As a result we did not have enough time to plan a second round before the event location was to close at 9PM. Sunday we started earlier (11:30), had better discipline and shorter time limits (12-15 minutes), and were able to get two rounds in. So a little more care needs to be given to set up and deadlines, but also you need a greater cushion of time on the late side to protect yourself.

Venue Selection-relations

Going into the event it was not clear whether the venue (a game playing center in the basement of an apartment complex) was going to give us 50% of the space and charge us 6,000 rubles ($200 US), or if we were to get a break for using only half of the allocated space or just 25%. In the end we wound up being charged the full amount for 25% of the space. This was the clear problem of not having a written agreement, and a reminder for me that after all we were playing in Russia. The cost was totally borne by the 4 or so oldest players, which I would not advise for the future, as players should learn from the beginning to contribute to the cost of things, even if it is a nominal amount.

Awards

The original plan was for paper certificates, and this was quickly scrapped by the donation of Bear Figure heads and a couple of special pen sets combined with labels written in Cyrillic. This went over very well with the players and I hope becomes a regular feature there.

Edi Birsan
(edibirsan@astound.net)

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