An interview with Yann Clouet, Toby Harris and Cyrille Sevin

In Europe, the Team Tournament is a very popular style of competition. The winning team at the WDC in Berlin (Yann Clouet, Toby Harris and Cyrille Sevin) have collectively been on an impressive number of team victories, probably more than any other trio. The Pouch asked them about the whole Team Tournament experience and concept:

Question: Team Diplomacy is far more popular in Europe than in the US/Canada- any idea why? What makes Team Diplomacy attractive?

Yann Clouet: Because it makes the game less egocentric. For some (most people) it is the occasion to do "something together" with friends rather than just for yourself. For others it just means "one more trophy possible", even if everything else falls apart. A lot of people also play on a team for a different reason : I don't want to play with THAT guy. As for US/Canada disliking, I guess it comes from the meta-gaming aspect it introduces.

Cyrille Sevin: Two possibilities for me: either we are more greedy (after all, it just gives the opportunity to take one more trophy ;-), or we just want to be sure not to play on a board with one of our teammates ;-)More seriously, it may have to deal with our competitiveness, and it just means a tournament inside the tournament. How many times did I hear "at least I won the team tournament"?

Question: What does a team do that is different than a non-team?

Yann Clouet: I don't really understand the question. I would say sometimes individually you will "hold back" in a meta-game type of way, whereas when fighting for the team you will not hesitate to go "full power" and get the best possible result (which is the aim of the game, after all).

Cyrille Sevin: At least for most of the players, cross-gaming sometimes, when you know that someone is in a given team, it may help you to determine who you're going attack at a given point. It will then not be a free attack, but a normal one assuming you play to win the team tournament.

Question: What are interesting formats for a Team Round and your views of them? So far as I recall the following are the main ones:

1. Most popular Single Team Round. Team members' scores on that one round are counted for the team.

Yann Clouet: I like it. It limits cross-gaming, it's just a short distance race. And it doesn't intrude too much with the individual competition.

Cyrille Sevin: Well, this is an interesting question. For me no doubt, the best one is in Manorcon, with 7 players playing 7 countries, and a captain allowed to give orientation to his players for team purposes. It is from my point of view the only real team tournament. Most of the others are just the addition of individual results, with usually the best guys together and that's all. The Euro-GP, as well, is nearly nothing but the addition of individual results. There is no strategy at all. It is, for instance, the same difference between the Davis Cup in Tennis and a basketball game. If the basketball World Championship were played one player against another, and then adding all the scores, the U.S. would ALWAYS be Champion. As it is, it is more a team game, the only reason why U.S. players do not always win. They do win a lot of course, but not always ;-)

2. Tournament wide. Team scores for people throughout the tournament are added and compared.

Yann Clouet: I don't like it at all. Too much cross-gaming. At least you MUST set conflict between the teams.

3. 7-player teams (one for each country) vs. 3 or 4 player teams.

Yann Clouet: It's good because there is a "team building" aspect in knowing who plays what country. Also it evens out the luck of the country allocation. I prefer a team of 7. Or even 8 (with a non-playing captain, a "coach") like the French Team Cup the event I organized for the first two editions in 2004 and 2005. It is a stand-alone Team Event (only one round, no individual ranking) and despite this it has more than 50 players and is the third largest in France (after the French NDC and the Paris area Championship).

4. The Euro-Grand Prix method of teams.

Yann Clouet: It works fine! It is the main reason people go to GP tournament at the moment. People are not really interest in the indiviual race; they are much more concerned by the team race. The drawback is that most tournament directors don't set the GP teams in conflict, which results in lots of meta-gaming (be it "positive", two teammates allying and not stabbing, or "negative", two teammates being murdered just because they are teammates). If you do such a thing you had better enforce conflicts as much as possible!

5. The e-mail tournament methods of teams.

Yann Clouet: Ask Fabrice Essner (DLD). He has run 18centres' team tournament for years and knows well how it works. It is way too complicated and meta-gamey for my taste. But I know some people are real fans because PBeM really allows for cross-gaming alliances, which brings a different dimension to the game. If you stab on one board, your teammates have to be prepared to be stabbed on "every board" by the other team in retaliation. I find it kills the individual Diplomacy and is fun only for the "captains" who conduct the supra-dip, but the success of the tournament speaks for itself. Also it creates various "communities", small groups who chat all year long and finally become friends. So that's a positive.

Are there other methods that I have missed?

Yann Clouet: Toby's nation-based method that he used for the last EDC (2006)? Everybody HATED that one! :) Ask him.

Yann Clouet: An alternative (which I have never seen used): The team score is the sum of its members' best single-round score. I suspect it works better with a scoring system where the score vary largely (like Australasian Cricket or squares) than the contrary (like North American-style Draws or C-Diplo).

Toby Harris: Explanation of a unique Team Tournament done at the EDC in 2006: Each player represented their home country, although they were unaware of this until after the round had completed (i.e., players thought round three would be the team round and just after round two I announced that round two was the team round instead.) I did this so as to avoid a potential international war; we have seen a few of these in the past and they have yet to prove to be a positive thing. A nationality score was the sum of all players from that country, and then this was averaged by N+1 participants. It was unfortunate that the UK got a "home advantage" because their N was large. But I didn't want a sole player to win just by topping his board- it had to be a genuine best nationality result. Besides, the top three players in that round were from the UK, so they won with ease. The trophies didn't, however, go to these three top players. They went to the top player from each of the three top-performing countries. In this case, UK, then France, then Germany. So the best player from each of these countries won a trophy. This was done to (a) create a National Hero, an individual the country could say was their best on that day (like a "mini one-day tournament") and (b) be 100% certain that at least three countries took home a trophy. At WDC this year it seems that the trophies were all headed for La France for example ;-) So the concept was complex, but with true forethought and genuine intentions. It was documented before the tournament (and in a sealed envelope for David Norman & Shaun Derrick) and afterwards it seemed to work. But it was also something that can't be repeated; I never intended that it would be.

The Editor

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