Bodger Bowl Retro – What Worked

It is often valuable to look at an event or set of work after it is completed and determine what went well and what didn’t go so well.  These are often called “Retros” or something similar (“debriefing” is another almost synonym).  Given the huge success of the Bodger Bowl, some might ask why I would want to do this.  It went well – obviously, everything worked out, right?

Well, sort of.  There were hiccups along the way, and although it went amazingly well for a first attempt, I am always looking for ways to make things better.  So, I thought I would collect my thoughts on what went well and what went wrong with the first Bozeman Bodger Bowl, and see if I can make improvements for next time.  Today, I want to start on a high note and cover what worked with the Bodger Bowl.  Next time, I will cover what didn’t work so well, and I will finish with some ideas for improvement for the next Bodger Bowl.  Yes, there will be a next one.

What Worked

Format

The general format of the league worked phenomenally well.  People had signed up to play a single game a week, and in general everyone was able to do that (more on the exceptions to this tomorrow).  The nice thing about this was people who didn’t normally show up every week began to, and when someone couldn’t make it, they were setting up alternate times to play so that the games got played.  It was gratifying and exciting to see everyone watching the standings and rooting for different players like they would a sports team.

Another side effect of the format was that people who don’t have a ton of time to play – either because of school, kids, work, or other interests – found that this worked very well with a limited schedule.  I received a lot of positive feedback about the fact that there was only one game a week that COULD be played, so you couldn’t get people playing many more games a week than anyone else could possibly get in, and thereby winning by sheer number of games.  Also, the win conditions were based entirely on whether or not people won their games.  This was huge, as people really felt that their playing directly lead to how well they did in the league.

Schedule

I spent a lot of time thinking about how to schedule the league.  I wanted two divisions to help simulate “division rivalry,” and I wanted people to play as much variety as possible.  Interestingly enough, we had 2 Trollblood players, 2 Cryx players, 2 Khador players and 3 Cygnar players.  I wanted to keep people from having to play their own faction as much as possible, and I wanted as much variety as possible.  I also wanted everyone to play their entire division once, and to have some “cross-division” play.

So, I had a semi-random way of splitting out the divisions.  I chose one of the “paired” players and randomly assigned them to division one or two, and then had the other one be placed in the other division.  In the case of Cygnar, I chose randomly until I had two people in one of the divisions, and one in the other.  The rest of the players I doled out randomly between the divisions.  I did this to keep myself from unconsciously “loading” up a division, or separating out the divisions unintentionally.

I also had to figure out who was going to play in the cross-division games.  Here I also did a random roll, with an attempt to not have the same faction play itself wherever possible, and not have people play the same person more than once.  Since I was doing this all by hand (more on that tomorrow), I made a few mistakes with it.  But over all, the concept of the schedule worked very well, and is something I will continue to do.

Gameplay

I required scenarios to be chosen from the Steam Roller 2012 list, and I set up a set of three that were chosen from every week.  I chose the set of scenarios randomly, guaranteeing that the different set were not chosen more than twice, and each set of scenarios was played at least once.  This made for a large variety of scenarios being played, and the players all seemed to really enjoy the changes.

I also changed the point level from week to week, from 35 to 50 points alternating.  I feel this was also good, as it allowed people to play at the point level they were more comfortable with, and it also forced some people to play outside of their comfort zone.  One of the things I have learned about this game is playing many different point levels is good for learning the game inside and out.  Some models are not as good at 35, but are phenomenal at 50 points, while others might start to lose their luster as the point levels go up.  Building that in to the league was a really good way of introducing variety and giving people the most options available for play.

I also required the players to bring 1 or 2 lists, as per the standard Steamroller rules.  This also forced them to think about list construction, and gave a bit of a “tournament” feel to the league which added to the excitement.  Since they knew who they were playing, they were able to tweak or custom design a list against that player.  But, by being restricted to two lists at most, and their opponent having the same option, it was interesting to see the mind games people started to play on each other by the end of the league.  One person went so far as to include a “dummy” list as one of their lists, to try and force their opponent to choose a poorer matchup.

Bonds

In the league, I allowed ‘jack and ‘beast bonds.  I would do this again in a heartbeat, because the players all really loved it.  I saw at least one player playing the same warlock the next week, even if it wasn’t ideal, because they wanted a better chance at a bond with the beasts.  While the record keeping we did wasn’t ideal (more on that in the next post), the bonds themselves added a nice continuity to the league.

Injuries

This was probably the most “controversial” part of the league.  I wanted to simulate the sports-like environment, and I figured injuries were an important part of that world.  Injury is probably the most common reason for a player to suddenly not be able to continue on for the season, or even ever.  It is why older players are often considered to be worth “less” than younger players, even though they may be more skilled.

To simulate this, I wanted to focus on characters.  Anything that wasn’t a character, I assumed there were enough of them in the army that they were easily replaceable.  Characters are not.  So, if a character was destroyed (or a character unit was destroyed), I wanted there to be some sort of chance for them to be injured and have to sit out a game.  I also wanted this to be somewhat dependent on the Warcaster or Warlock being played.  So, I made it a command test based on the Warcaster or Warlock’s command.  If it passed, the leader of the army’s exhortations convinced the injured party to “play on.”  Otherwise, the character was too injured/tired/underpaid/whatever to play the next game, and they were unavailable for the next game.

This included character Warbeasts and Warjacks, as I wanted to make fielding characters a bit of a risk (as it would be in real life).  I didn’t want to make it a horrible blow if one got removed, hence the single game restriction.  Overall, I feel this added a strong dimension to the game, especially during the playoffs.  I know that the week before the playoffs, in Division 1 people were weighing whether or not they wanted to play a particular character since the games were locked in – i.e. the win/loss ratio was in such a state that everyone knew who their matchup was the first week of the playoffs.  Conversely, in Division 2, all of the positions were up for grabs, and a few people considered not playing a key character so that they would be available in the first week of the playoffs, even if it meant getting a less desirable seed.

Like bonds, keeping track of injuries was difficult at times, and I will discuss that more in the next installment.

The Location

At our Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS), we have a large playing area.  And the owners were 100% behind the game, as were the staff.  I want to take a minute to thank the staff for their hard work around the league, and the owners for their support.  There is no way we could have had this league, or had it be nearly the success it was, without the full support of such an awesome store.  I could gush for hours about Rook’s, but it boils down to the fact that it is the best game store I have ever been in, bar none.

Next Time

Next installment I will be looking at what didn’t work as well, and why I think it didn’t.  I am really looking forward to the next league, as this one was a huge success.

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One response to “Bodger Bowl Retro – What Worked

  1. Pingback: Bodger Bowl Retro – What Didn’t Work | Sustained Attack

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