Tournament Practices

Contrasts in Extremes

By Edi Birsan

There are many debates on scoring systems and most of them come from different positions on what is worth recognizing as achievement and the relative value expressed numerically of those achievements. What we are going to do here is to look at some of the issues and see where there are extreme examples of those conflicting practices. These extremes lend themselves to the diversity and charm of our hobby and is something that all of the hobby an take as a fun reflection of what it is in Tournaments that are there to cheer for and boo against. There are many systems which are moderate compromises on the various issues touched on, but then, they are not contrasts in extremes...

1. Draw Bonus Vs Relative Supply Center Count Bonus

What happens when a game is not won? This is the classic problem that gets us into the discussions of scoring systems. Some systems give a bonus for the number of players remaining and in the 'draw' while others ignore the number of players and just look at the supply center counts and their ranking relationships. The extreme positions on the tournament circuit are:

Draws mean nothing and Supply Center Ranking means everything: C-Diplo as seen in Europe for example at GothCon, EuroDipCon and MasterCon (UK) to name a few. The C-Diplo awards a large bonus to the number one ranking player in a board such that the smallest number of supply centers that yield a number one ranking will always beat the largest possible score for someone who ranks second. Example in a game that ends 7-6-6-6-3-3-3 and a game that ends 17-16-1. The player with the 7 will always outscore the player with the 16.

Supply Center count means nothing and the size of the Draw means everything: As seen only in North America currently at Dragonflight (Seattle) and Armada (Denver) where ranking of supply centers or their accumlation mean nothing. Size of draw is everything. So every player in a 17-16-1 draw will outscore every player in a 16-3-3-3-3-3-3 draw.

Size of Draws mean nothing, Ranking means nothing, Supply Centers mean everything. There are system in play in Australasia and like the GenCon Best Country Tournament, where the only thing that counts is the number of centers and on an occasion a minor for length of survival.

Non-linear combinations: currently the more extreme middle ground....or if one was to take a three dimensional view of the problem with Draw Bias and Supply Center Ranking form two extremes then the z axis extreme could be represented by the New Zealand Championship system where some positions in a 4 ways draws can be better than some positions in 3 way draws depending on the supply center count and the RELATIVE value between the highest supply center count and the next and so forth.

Interesting enough, you find a combination for bonus values for Draw Size, Supply Centers and Relative Position in North America at only one convention: the GenCon Hasbro convention though this a recent system under development though there are various systems in Australasia that are looking to address relative rankings and quantity of players.

2. Time Limits

We know when the game/round starts but when does it end? Another problem for tournament directors. The extremes are:

No time limit: represented by DixieCon (Chapel Hill North Carolina) and to an extent by Dragonflight (Seattle), though you can not play in two games at once.

Real Time limits random or otherwise: it appears that a majority of North American and Australiasian tournaments use real time as the end of the round, or have a real time random factor known only to the TD and then announced as it happens when the round ends. Strict time is observed at GenCon-Hasbro (Milwaukee) while the random time procedure is common at the BPA (Baltimore), Origins (Columbus) and most non continuous Australasian tournament.

Game Year limits where the game ends on a specific game year are common in Europe with the C-Dip system though the shortest known game year limit is the GenCon Best Country tournament which has all its preliminary rounds going to 1905. ManorCon (UK) has a game year limit of 1911 which is the current longest of the game year limits that are fixed. In the UK there are random game year endings where the TD has a randomly chosen game year for the end of the tournament for each round.

Timing of the boards: in some tournaments around the world all the boards are run at the exact same time, where as in the other extreme the boards are each run by themselves.

3. Voting

Voting methods come into play when a game can be ended by vote. Then the issue comes in what the hell is everyone voting on?

NO STINKIN VOTES: The extreme is the C-Diplo used in Europe where there are practically no votes allowed and most of their House Rules do not even cover the possibility of it. The game goes to its designated year end and that is that for the most part. Draws are irrelevant to their scoring system and generally ignored.

Vote To End: In some systems such as NSW (Sydney) and most UK tournaments there is a vote to end the game, but there being no bonus for draws all it does is simply to end the game.

Vote to Change Supply Centers: In only one current system, is there the possibility to not only vote to end the game but to rearrange the supply center count as players want.

Vote Inclusion: DIAS vs N0 DIAS within a Draw Bonus system In most North American systems there is a Draw Vote allowed which ends the game on a draw. In many systems there is the possibility to vote yourself out of a draw or there are limits that require the Draws Include All Survivors (DIAS). Right now only Armada (Denver) has DIAS everywhere else you can have votes which allow players to vote themselves out of a draw.

Vote Exclusion/disenfranchisement: Currently only in North America at BPA(Baltimore), Origins (Columbus) and PrezCon (Washington DC) is voting done by supply center count with 29 or 30 centers only needed to force a vote to pass. This in effect disenfranchises some of the small powers.

How we vote: Votes can be open or secret. Open votes simply means that everyone raises the hand or says yes and everyone knows who voted which way. This was done last at Piggyback (Portland) as well as at NSW (Sydney) and most Australian tournaments.

The more common voting is secret where a TD is used to receive hidden yes/no counters of some sort. There is currently no place in Europe or North America known where the vote tabulation is announced (3 for 2 against) however this was one of the voting extremes that was current about 10 years ago in parts of North America

How Often Do We vote: Only one tournament has a limit on how many times you can vote on an issue by player: GenCon Hasbro (Milwaukee) where a player may only make one vote call per game until everyone else playing has also had a vote call. Other examples - one vote per board per season (all Australasian tournaments) . In the UK Tournaments votes can only be done at time of adjudication and you can not propose the same draw twice in an adjudication, so if one is turn down you can not go back to it in the same turn if a different one is also turned down.

4. Posting Interim Results

Most C-Diplo tournaments in Europe post the results of the prior rounds at least daily with exact points. In the UK at MidCon there is a posting of ranking but not points. North America at Dragonflight (Seattle) the results are posted immediately in large 1 inch letters on the wall for all to see as the rounds are played and individual games completed regardless of whether the whole round is done or not. The non posting of interim results is the more common in the Non C-Diplo conventions.

5. Initial Seeding

By initial seeding we mean the placement of players at the start of a tournament based on their rankings in a scoring system prior to play or by definitions of Novice expert etc. There are plans for a novice seeding system for GenCon Hasbro (Milwaukee) next year, and Dragonlfight (Seattle) used an outside rating for the first round but otherwise there are no known systems in North America in play for initial seeding based on prior achievement perceptions. In Australiasia the D.A.A.N.Z. has an extensive seeding system using masterpoints and Bismark Cup points for the current year. At NSW (Sydney) the seedings used the D.A.A.N.Z. results database and they are available to all D.A.A.N.Z. affiliated TD's.

6. Interim Seeding

By Interim seeding we mean that during the course of the tournament rearranging all the players in the next round based on their performance in the prior round(s). This was done at Dragonflight (Seattle) and is not known to be used elsewhere. The New Zealand Diplomacy Championships (Auckland) has a Split in the field at the end of two rounds which is large 2 group seeding. The use of Top Boards is somewhat of an Interim seeding but in European systems and elsewhere that employ them only the top 7 are seeded and the rest are random.

7. Known vs Unknown Scoring

Currently only North America has experiments going on with unknown scoring systems. The most extreme of which is Tempest In a Teapot (Washington DC) in which there are three scoring systems and three rounds but players do not know which round is which system. Also at Origins (Columbus) there is an unknown bonus factor for draws which is not revealed until the end of the system.

8. Known vs Unknown House Rules

CanCon (Toronto) and Dragonflight (Seattle) operated this last year without written House Rules, though both may change for the future. The Diplomatic Corps ( has a free form module House Rule guide for Tournament Directors to cover most common situations and propose different ways currently being handled so that TD's can pick and choose what they want. In another approach, the Australasian group D.A.A.N.Z. has documented a single standardized Tournament Rules which all D.A.A.N.Z. affiliated TD's are encouraged to base their tournament rules

9. Dealing with less than 7 players

The bane of many a tournament director is what to do when you do not have exactly 7 players for the next game in the round. The following are some of the extreme solutions: Australasia: they have volunteers (usually highest ranking players prior tournament results) play two positions in the round. The best of the two games are used for their round results in some cases in others there are different ways of handling the double score.

It is common that the TD is asked to play if it is to make up the magical 7 difference. In at least one tournament (GenCon Hasbro-Milwaukee) a rule book 5 player game was used. Future plans for an Escalation Style resolution have not been put into place. At Armada (Denver) less than 7 resulted in the delay of a game in a round till the last two players could be recruited and the corresponding additional time allowed (they use real time as one of their control factors).

In D.A.A.N.Z. continuous tournaments this problem is handled differently... the first seven registered players start soon as there are another 7 entrants they start at the next deadline (still done with a centralised clock) this goes on until there are less than 7 entrants left who form the waiting plyers pool... as players are eliminated they go into the waiting players pool, and as soon as there are 7 players a new game starts... there are no rounds.

In the UK they ask for volunteers to come forward or to step down and if that does not work they start to remove players baased on the last to sign up.

In North America it is more common to ask for volunteers but to protect those that have traveled the most distance from being randomly knocked out after some experiences with trans-ocean players being denied a spot on a random draw. Some conventions have a knock out for those who have not specifically signed up for the event.

10. TD Plays

In CanCon (Toronto) and a number of the Australaisn tournaments, the Tournament Director plays in the games as a regular player. Elsewhere the common situation is that the TD only plays to fill in for a missed 7 or as a replacement for a dropped position and then his/her score is not counted for tournament ponts.

11. Hobby Meetings

At the North American DipCon, the Euro-DipCon and at World DipCon there are semi formal hobby meetings generally tied or grown from the selection process for the next convention. In Australasia there is a DAANZ general meeting at least once a year. Elsewhere, there is almost no general hobby meeting.

At Armada (Denver) there is a seminar time where players can be addressed by various hobby folk on aspects of the game play or other subjects.

12. What is Winning?

Only one place has winning with less than 18 centers: Armada (Denver). They have a declining scale starting in 1905 that goes from 17 to 12 in 1910 before the game is forced over on time.

Some system count supply centers in excess of 18 towards your score if you win, while others simply award a fixed number of winning.

13. What is Losing?

This is all over the place in what it means. In some systems losing is not being the winner. In others losing is being eliminated or were not in the draw. In still others if you did not win and are not in a draw, then you did not Lose but survived.

14. Non Linear Draws

There has been suggestions to have draws other than one power one share, so that you could have a three way draw with E-E-F so that England gets 2/3's of a three way and thus presumed more than a 2-way. This extreme has never been carried out though kicked around a lot in the early 90's.

15. Simple vs. Complex systems

Without a doubt the current British tournaments have a fascination for the most complex formulations in current use. (The Swedes and the Americans also experimented with complex systems but have changed their methods). The current method of ManorCon deals with a sum of the squares of supply center count relative to a fixed value for a board and some other features guaranteed to be beyond the quick computation of most of the players. The past, the title of most complex probably relates to DipCon San Diego in 1989 which was originally a hidden system. At the end of the Con, after 30 minutes of explanation by the TD, no one still understood the system though someone did ask what a logarithm was.

The current simple systems have one or two factors in them. Common are the Draw Only basis such as Dragonflight (Seatlle) which has only one factor. C-Diplo which takes into account two factors: supply center count and relative placement are also fairly easy for players to compute what their score is.

The bulk of systems fall between complex and simple but tend toward the simple with the key factor being can a player figure out his own score in his head.

16. Size of Turnout

The largest tournament on the current curcuit is the World DipCon which in the last three years has had more boards and players than any other tournament in that year. This last year had 149 players. The smallest of the regular tournaments in the last year was CanCon (Tornoto) that had 13 players.

17. Number of Rounds

The smallest number of rounds was 1 which was used at the London Trophy and OxCon both in the UK. The largest number of rounds last year was at GenCon Hasbro (Milwaukee) which had 6 rounds not counting 2 Gunboat rounds and Victoria (Melbourne) Easter 2000 - 6 rounds .

There is in Australia a continuous 2 day tournament where there is in theory no limit to the number of games or rounds that can be played, however, realistically we have no record of more than 6 scores for any individual.

18. Number of Days

The most common Diplomacy event tournament is two days next is the three day affair typically starting Friday evening/afternoon. The longest last year was 4 days such as Victoria, (Melbourne) Easter 2000 (April 21 - 24) was 6 rounds over 4 days.

The shortest was one day: the London Trophy and OxCon in the UK.

19. Best Country

It is common for most tournaments to have a Best Country award however only one tournament is totally built around it: GenCon Best Country Tournament (Milwaukee). This tournament which has had the same format for 15 years has 2 preliminary rounds where the top 4 supply center scores for each country regardless of results relative to their own table go to a semi final round. Then the top supply center count for each country goes to the final board. The winner is the player with the most centers on the top board. No other current tournament has country bias weighting in its tournament system for determining championship.

20. Smoking

Only one tournament in North America: CanCon (Toronto) allows smoking at the game table. In Europe, the London Trophy and MasterCon allow smoking though most others do not. There may be some tournaments in Australasia that do allow smoking at the table.

21. Drinking

There are various rules at tables in regard to liquor with some tournaments having a bar adjacent to the game table room or next to it. DixieCon (Chapel Hill, North Carolina) has a prohibition against drinking in the convention hall. There are no House Rules that prohibit players playing under the influence of substances legal or otherwise.

22. Top Boards Bonus

C-Diplo in Europe and GenCon Hasbro (Milwaukee) are the extremes at using Top Boards with bonuses of some sort for being on the Top Board (top 7) in the final round.

In the New Zealand Championships there is a top half created at the end of round 2 with half the players placed.

23. Country Assignments

Countries are assigned by the Tournament Director at C-Diplo European systems and at Dragonflight (Seattle). Most other tournaments have the players randomly pick their own countries. Amongst the variations there are:

Edi Birsan

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