Running a Sprue Posse Open tournament: A How-to.

Most people are aware of the ruleset of our tournaments. I post them with every RTT announced and they all follow the same formula. What I thought I might add some insight on is why we run them the way we do. Every detail of our tournament is set for a specific reason. Here is a brief rundown of our tournaments deconstructed for other TO's and players who are interested.

1500 Points.

This one is asked quite a bit. Why do we run our tournaments at this point level? 1750, 1850 and 2000 are more conventional. The reason is simple: Time. We require more than the conventional 3 rounds of most RTT's (more on that below) and in the interest of adding more rounds to our events we have to keep our rounds down to a slim hour and 45 minutes. That mandates a smaller point size, at least at the RTT level. In an event where there are less rounds or more time, we are happy to feature different point levels. In fact our 3 round invitational in December will be at 2000 points and have longer rounds to accommodate that.

4 Rounds.

We use the Swiss pairing system and that mandates a certain number of rounds based on the number of players in the event. In an event with more than 8 players 4 rounds are required to ensure two players don't finish the tournament with undefeated records while never playing each other.

Consistent terrain.

It's really unbecoming to me when I show up at a tournament that has terrain with zero thought put into how it will impact game play. I went to a tournament once where one table I played on had major line of sight terrain all over the table but zero terrain that provided cover. Another table I played at was the equivalent of a city fight with over half the table full of buildings. We take terrain placement seriously at our tournaments because we know how much it can impact a game of 40k. All terrain is carefully measured to only 25% of the 4x6 game play area. We then use an equal amount of three types of terrain: area terrain, line of sight blocking terrain, and cover granting terrain that doesn't hamper movement. We ensure it's like this at all of the tables in use. I never want to hear a player complain about the terrain at one of our tournaments for not being in line with the rule-book. If they do then we aren't doing our job.

Swiss Pairings.

Unlike some tournaments which often have random pairings or opposite seed pairings, Sprue Posse Open tournaments use Swiss pairings and we use the swiss perfect software to automate this process.


Some tournaments offer secondary objectives or game tie breakers to prevent this. With Swiss Pairings we don't feel it's necessary. A tie is simply that. We do offer tie breakers but that's at the overall standings level and not the game level (see below). The primary reason for this is simplicity. I want games to be a black box from the standpoint of the TO. Beyond judging calls, we only want to know if the result is a win, loss or tie. We don't care about margin of victory, victory point totals, or tracking of additional objectives from round to round. The game result is all that matters, and we look at all games in a vacuum and simply tally the results for pairings each round.

Swiss Scoring.

1 Point for a win, 1/2 a point for a tie, zero points for a loss.

Swiss Tie-Breakers.

Battle points are a more conventional tie breaker method in RTT's. We use W/L/D instead and therefore resort to Swiss pairing tie breakers instead. I outlined how that works in this article and explained here why we don't use battle-points.

Byes and not Ringers.

I went over this concept in this article here. If there are an uneven amount of players, byes are then issued. We never use ringers in tournament matches.

Standard Book Missions.

We use book missions and deployments. All of our missions fall under the standard 3 deployment or missions outlined in the 5th edition rule-book.


Our tournaments are interested in providing transparency on how judges are going to rule to all participants well ahead of the dice roll. The most fair and efficient way to achieve that is by using a FAQ. We use INAT FAQ because it always defers to GW FAQ's first, is readily available, extremely thorough and routinely updated by those who authored it. We use INAT FAQ so we don't have to create our own.

No painting required.

I like looking at pretty painted models as much as the next 40k enthusiast but I also like people fielding the best possible army and that's why we don't have painting as a requirement for entry. If that brand new codex that just came out 2 weeks ago means you can cobble together some models but not paint them, I'd prefer you introduce that to the meta-game, rather than using your old tournament army which has been painted for the last 6 seasons. Likewise if you read about some exciting new tech that you can add to your army to make it better, we don't want painting standing in the way from using that in our next tournament.

Reward for Best Painted.

Conversely, just because we don't require painted armies doesn't mean we don't celebrate those that look good. If your army is painted and painted well you may get a piece of the prize pool. It just won't impact your generalship score in any way.

No Comp.

Comp is really just an arbitrary way to enforce list creation rules. If we wanted to do that we would just enforce things like: "Only 1 HQ choice" and "No more than 2 Elite slots" or "Limit one Fast attack when playing Blood Angels" instead of having some murky panel of judges who rated your list for theme, fluff, or whatever other arbitrary variable we wanted.

However we rather not have weird rules about force organization or special characters to begin with. Any list that confines to standard force organization and the latest codex of any army is legal and just as valid in our eyes as any other. Pretty simple.

No Player Judged Sportsmanship.

I want to stress that our tournaments do care about sportsmanship. We just don't use player judged sportsmanship because we feel it is often used as a hammer between opponents to impact who wins the tournament. From a scoring standpoint we only care about generalship. We don't have sportsmanship "scores" at all. We simply use a yellow and red card system. If you cheat you are warned, if it's particularly egregious or you're a repeat offender you're given a game loss (yellow card). If you continue unsportsmanlike behavior you can be disqualified from the tournament or our circuit entirely (red card).

So far so good on that. In the past we've had some minor rules disputes that were easily resolved. I haven't had to give out any cards yet at any of our tournaments. I'm sure I probably will some day. I hope and expect it to be a rare occurrence.

ELO Rating.

All games at our tournaments are ranked and all tournaments have a K value. Currently our 12 man RTT's have a K value of 10. In larger tournaments we'll assign higher K-values and each game will have more weight.

I think that about covers all the details about how we run our tournaments. If you are interested in running something similar shoot me an email and I'm happy to answer any questions about using this method for your FLGS.

3 Response to "Running a Sprue Posse Open tournament: A How-to."

  1. Chumbalaya September 15, 2010 at 7:19 PM
    Sounds good to me. I'd like to give this a try.
  2. Loquacious September 17, 2010 at 7:43 PM
    Have you given any thought to a sportsman award where you have to vote on a scale of 1-4 for each person you play, and you can only use each number one time? (Or something akin to it?)

    I understand in a bigger event, sportsman can become a popularity contest- I do. I just hate to see it completely bypassed when IHMO the point of the game is to not be an ass, and have a good time.
  3. Kevin Nash September 21, 2010 at 10:35 AM
    I wouldn't have a problem with sportsmanship scores or voting so long as it has zero impact on the generalship rankings.

    If we did something like that it would be a completely separate secondary reward like best painted.

    I agree with your sentiments regarding the point of the game is to have a good time, but I don't necessarily think sportsmanship scores help achieve that.

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