I’ve always enjoyed reading player reports from tournaments describing the games and the after hours comraderie and debauchery, but I’ve seldom seen reports from the perspective of the TD and tournament organizers. So here goes my attempt at it.
A bit of history first. Edi Birsan and I organized the first Whipping in 2004 when we felt that the Bay Area Diplomacy Association (or BADAss as we affectionately call ourselves) had reached a reasonable size and interest level. Edi had long run small Diplomacy events at the big gaming conventions that pass through the area, but we felt it was time to have our own serious stand-alone event. The first problem that comes with this is finding a suitable venue, and the one of the first issues with finding a suitable venue is cost. Fortunately, we were able to procure relatively inexpensive space at a games store in Fremont (~30 miles south of Oakland, 40 from San Francisco) for our first tournament. The games store closed over the course of the next year, but we managed to find another games store with sufficient space in Oakland, and this venue was used in 2005-2007. While the space was adequate for 4-5 boards, we found playing in a games store lacking in a number of regards – limited hours access to the gaming room, having to share the room with other gamers, and being at the mercy of the staff for pretty much anything. So in 2008 we began the search for a more “traditional” conference room-type venue, predominately looking for rooms at hotels in SF, Oakland, and near the airports. Finally, we came across Hotel Tomo in SF Japantown, which turned out to be a perfect venue – good sized room, 24 hour access, and a nice area with shops and restaurants. Moreover, we moved the tournament from October to April to coincide with the Cherry Blossum Festival, held each springtime in SF Japantown.
Once a venue is secure each year, we then get to the hard part, which is an ongoing process from 6 months before the event till the night before the event: recruiting, recruiting, recruiting! The key to a great Diplomacy event is getting great people to show up, and we’ve been very successful at this, but it takes a great deal of work. Recruiting travelers takes place at other tournaments around the country attended by California players, as well as personal communication by emails. Local recruiting is a lot of emails, both to local lists and individuals, as well as recruiting at local gaming events, Diplomacy house games, and any other venue where Diplomacy players might be interested.
The other piece that needs to be taken care of before the event is developing a set of house rules and a scoring system. House rules are fairly straitforward, but it helps to have certain issues taken care of in writing in case they come up during an event. A few that immediately come to mind are: What happens if someone makes an illegal order and the unit is supported (A Mos-Par, A Sev S A Mos) — does the support count? What happens to a position if a player has to leave early? If there’s a replacement who scores for the round? What happens if someone writes and extra build or disband? What if a game is still going and the next round is about to start? And so forth.
Finally there’s the scoring system. The scoring system we used this year was tweaked from what we’ve used in past years in order to have relatively equal weights to center count, draw size, and board lead. Furthermore, we use a strictly DIAS (draw includes all survivors) rule for ending games, meaning if you want to have a 3-way draw instead of a 4-way, you’re going to have to dig out that fourth power — the idea here is that in trying to do so is often when interesting things happen such as players making solo runs because of threats to throw wins and such. Indeed, although there were no solos, there were at least 3 positions that got pretty close.
Which brings us to the tournament itself. The biggest problem that I’ve had to deal with as TD is how to handle odd numbers of players. Counting myself as an extra, the system I use to deal with odd numbers of players is (here assuming two boards plus extra players, not including myself): 15 = one local sits, 16 = two local players sit, 17 = three local players sit, 18 = myself and one other local play on two boards, 19 = I play two boards, 20 = I play one board. I’m of the opinion that having more than two players play on two boards at once is disruptive to the tournament, but thankfully, we’ve never been stuck in the situation of having 16 or 17 and needing multiple players to sit out.
The other issues that arise during the tournament are usually badly written orders. One example that came up this year was a Fall 1901 set of Italian orders that included: A Apu-Tun, F Ion C A Apu (no destination indicated). These orders were ruled invalid because a destination is required when ordering the convoying fleet, even though the intention of the orders is clear. Consider an alternative situation where Austria is in Aeg and Italy is in Gre. Italy orders A Gre-Con, Austria orders F Aeg C A Gre (no destination specified). Or even assume that both units were ordered by the same country – was the misorder the lack of the destination from the fleet, or did the player actually intend to convoy to Smy but wrote the wrong thing and also left off the destination? Obviously as TD I can’t interpret such things, so these orders would have to be invalid. Therefore the much simpler case of Italy trying to convoy to Tunis must be ruled invalid as well.
I did get the opportunity to play on two boards at a time during rounds 1 and 4, which is always an interesting experience. In both cases the players on one of the two boards were kind enough to let me focus on the other game by taking me out early. I don’t really remember the details of the other games that well except that one had a 15 center Germany that wasn’t me, while in the other game I managed to position my Germany such that Austria was able to walk into Munich and Berlin in the same year. So much for the expected elite play by the TD! One of the most fun parts of the weekend for me though was after the games ended on Saturday evening, finding a bar and getting to hang out and rehash the day’s events with the local and traveling folks I only see a couple times a year.
As a final point, I need to mention that the work for putting together the Whipping each year is done by a group of great people; this past year Edi Birsan, Andy Hull, and Condy Creek were all instrumental in putting the event together. Hopefully we’ll see you all at next year’s Whipping!
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