Hello! I’m Sean Lengenfelder, the Tournament Organizer (TO) for the Two Rivers Gaming Circuit in North Dakota and the TO for the Two Rivers Open which has been covered here on Goonhammer before. If you’re reading this, you’re either exceptionally bored while using the restroom at work or you’re thinking about running some tournaments yourself, and I’m here to tell you it’s much easier than you think to start doing that, whether it’s for Warhammer or any other system you might be thinking of.
But why run your own tournaments? The simple answer is, it drives a scene forward. Even if you have a fairly casual scene, having a monthly event can give your players something to strive for. I speak from experience on this; in my home town of Bismarck our 40k scene had disappeared over the course of a couple years. I had been out of state playing in Arizona in a vibrant community run by Don Hooson, so coming back to no games going on was a shock and meant I didn’t play much 40k for 3 years.
Then, during one fateful late night Perkin’s run my friends and I were talking, and I said “One of these days I’m going to start running 40k tournaments.” The moment it came out I stopped talking and my internal monologue all but screamed, “WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?” What, indeed, was I waiting for? The question was not “Why me?” but rather “Why not me?” But where was I to begin?
In a long lost TED Talk I saw, the speaker presented the following questions for starting a new project, “What can I do today to get the project going?”, “What can I do this week?”, and “What can I do this month?” We’ll use this paradigm to get you started on being a Tournament Organizer
What can I do today?
- Pick a name for your events – I started out my circuit as the Badlands Gaming Circuit. Why? Because I wanted a name to start the brand, so I just made something up. I didn’t keep the name and landed on Two Rivers Gaming later, but getting a name and using it to spread the word establishes brand recognition. Good branding is how you set yourself apart in a world of options. It’s how months after your first post, while hanging out at a GT in another state people you don’t know will ask you when your next event is. It’s not going to make or break you depending on your stated end goal, but having a name adds a lot of credibility to what you’re doing.
- Start a Facebook page – However you feel about the modern hellscape that is social media, it is the reality that most local gaming groups organize using a social media group. Starting a Page on Facebook allows you to interact with those groups using a consistent face to get the word out about your events. It’s also part of establishing the brand. “When’s the next Two Rivers event?”, someone might ask. Having a place where people can get the answer to that question immediately helps get people in the door.
- Use that Page to join local and regional groups – Every gaming group I’ve been a part of for the last 10 years has had a Facebook page to share events, hobby time, memes, etc. Being a part of those groups and interacting with them regularly builds the rapport to get people to come to events.
- Get the Best Coast Pairings TO app – If you’ve played in a Warhammer tournament in the last 6 years you’ve probably used the BCP Player app. There is a companion app for TOs called BCP TO available on both Android and iPhones that you can use to run your events. The app will also send the results directly to ITC if you have the requisite token. It’s a pretty simple app to learn and the developers are generally very responsive to issues. Corrode: BCP isn’t the only app you can use, but it’s by far the most common and the functionality is pretty strong now.
- Find a Venue – If you’re playing Hams, you’re probably already heading into a game store to play. Go in and talk to the store owner about running events for them. I’ve never met a store owner who wasn’t interested in working with someone who wants to put on events that brings customers into the store. If you don’t have a local game store or yours isn’t suitable, there are still plenty of options for you. There are plenty of spaces around towns that are empty for a majority of the time. School gyms, church community halls, veteran organizations, charity organizations, libraries etc. all tend to have large spaces they will rent for little or no money. More than anything, finding a space is about being willing to reach out to people and seeing if you can work together to make it happen.
- Decide your COVID Policy – As I write this we are in a strange time in the US. Vaccinations are happening, but not at the rate one would hope. A strong majority of players I know are vaccinated, but there are some holdouts. A lot of tournaments are happening and they’re happening safely. Whatever you decide: masks, no masks, sanitizer, vaccine confirmation, covid tests prior to events, etc. Make a decision and stand by it. You are responsible for running a safe event. By becoming a TO you are becoming a steward of your community and you need to make decisions on what’s best for everyone. I hope a world where this section is a thing of the past is coming soon.
What can I do this week?
- Make a plan for getting terrain – I’m going to be honest, my first set of terrain was not great. I was using a lot of makeshift options, repurposing Styrofoam from TVs and cardboard out of iPad boxes. But it worked for a time. My players just wanted to play, so even if it was a bit crummy to start we had fun regardless. If you’re fortunate to have a game store that also has terrain that can be a great stop gap, but I would recommend you building your own terrain over time. Whatever you decide, make sure you can cover at least 25% of each board you intend to have. Line of sight blocking terrain/obscuring terrain is also a must in the current game state. Obscuring ruins have been relevant for at least three editions now so they’re a good first investment.
- Answer the Game Mat Question – Besides terrain, game mats will be the single biggest upfront expense you will have for running games. You’re in luck however, as many places that sell mats will offer discounts for bulk orders and/or if you mention you are a TO. Your players also might have some mats, and worst case scenario you can tape of sections of cardboard/plywood on the table to size and play inside that. We played on painted plywood board for months before I put together enough to buy mats. Again, people don’t care overly much as long as games are happening.
- Pick a date and post an event – Give yourself a date to shoot for. Put it a little more than a month out. Start small; an 8 person event is a great day of gaming, and you can have an official tournament with as few as 4. You don’t need to start by running a GT – and probably shouldn’t. Just get an event under your belt so you have experience of running one. Create the event in BCP, and then get the signups on to an event on your Facebook page. Other things to consider are points level, time per round, which missions you want to play, when to start. I personally have registration at 1030, dice roll at 1100, 2:45 rounds with a 15 minute break between rounds, which gets games finished around 1930. Your mileage may vary, so do what you think is best for your community. I started on 1500 points so my casual guys could get used to tournament pace. We upped to 2000 a few months later.
- Reach out to other TOs – Did you know the ITC has regional reps? Or that any GT has people more than willing to give you a few pointers as you get started? I didn’t starting out, but in my experience competitive 40k is one of the most welcoming communities there is. I’ve never known a TO that wouldn’t answer an email. Just introduce yourself, let them know where you’re at, and what you plan to do. I’m 100% positive they’ll be a great resource for a long time. If you’re nervous about reaching out to strangers, feel free to email me with questions at email@example.com
What can I do this month?
- Play more games – With being a TO, you’re also the judge for the event, so you need to know your stuff. 95% of questions are answered by reading the relevant rules and FAQs, but the more you know off-hand the better. You do this by getting games and purposefully learning the rules as questions come up. Playing more also will help build up hype for the events, and get your community more involved.
- Be the driving force in your community – Start a Friday Night Fights at the game store. Host a hobby night at your place. Be the one pushing the game and pushing the experience. People don’t play this game in a vacuum, we play it because it gives us real human connection with our friends, and if you’re all having fun, more people will see that and want in on the fun – and so the community grows.
- Post about the event – I try to post weekly in my regional groups about my event. Just sharing it around and getting eyes on it. You never know who’s gonna show. I had a gentleman once drive all the way from Denver to play a tournament. Wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t gotten the word out.
- Start building your terrain – You need a table of terrain for every 2 people you have coming to an event. Depending on your anxiety levels, this is either paltry, or a daunting task. Start early; get it built; get it painted. It doesn’t have to be great, but it’s a lot like armies: painted is better than not painted. You’ll also need a way to transport all the terrain. I use 64 QT tubs from walmart, and each tub is 1 table’s worth. Find what’s good for you.
- Don’t worry TOO much – Not to say don’t worry and not to care, but don’t get caught up worrying. Get your materials in order, get the event started on time, keep people accountable to the time, and enjoy a good day of gaming. When you make it through the day, call it a success.
I hope this helps make becoming a Tournament Organizer a little less daunting. Being a TO takes a lot of work, but it’s also very rewarding. I can truly say the best friends I’ve had in my life have come from the decision to start running 40k tournaments, and I hope you make the same decision. You won’t regret it.