Ultimately, the responsibility lies with the tournament organizer(s) to enforce a level and fair playing field for all. Certain aspects and personality flaws will always be beyond an organizer’s control, but there are steps everyone can take to ensure a pleasurable gaming experience for all.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of a few different methods:
1. Early List Submission
In theory, early list submission seems like a good idea. Using this method, players are required to submit lists on, or before, a specific date for verification and possible revision. Most importantly this method allows tournament organizers to make sure lists adhere to the rules of the event, don’t include any units from illegal sources and are within the prescribed points limit.
In smaller events this very well may be the best solution. Lists could be collected, checked, stamped, duplicated and then returned to the players prior to the start of the event. This places some additional burden and cost on the shoulders of the event organizers, but in most cases it should be manageable.
The problems with this method mainly stem from player procrastination and the lack of a unified submission format. Tournament gamers are meticulous when it comes to crafting army lists (in terms of both tactical planning and physical presentation), and most are often swapping out units and changing wargear right up until the night before the event. You also always run the risk of a new codex or official FAQ being released that will drastically alter a submitted army list. That said, a majority of these issues can be resolved by setting a definitive cutoff date for army list changes and allowable new rules for the event. Furthermore, an event needs a dedicated verification judge that is willing to handle the inevitable back and forth with players.
As an event grows, this method becomes less and less appealing. Policing up 120-240 army lists, dealing with corrections, answering questions and replicating lists for the event starts to become a monumental task. Without a definitive and restrictive method of list submission, and an extremely regimented method of list distribution, tournament organizers are asking for a massive headache.
Final Thought: Fantastic for smaller events. Beneficial in catching honest mistakes. Becomes unwieldy in larger events, although not impossible. Requires a dedicated verification judge. Without a solid set of controls, still allows for ‘sleight-of-hand’ intentional cheating/list swapping.
2. Day of, Judge Verified Lists
Smaller events have the luxury of examining and verifying army lists the day of the event. This method allows players to make changes and tweaks to their lists right up until the last minute. While it doesn’t allow for pre-compliance with event rules, most events that would use this method are generally comprised of local players who are already accustom to playing the game in a specified manner.
Another benefit of this method is that it actually checks the lists the players arrive with. Lists can be verified, marked and returned without the added burden of replication and distribution.
While extremely similar to early list submission, this method is really only functional in small, local events. Larger events would be hard-pressed to employ this approach. Another possible drawback to this method is that list verification often doesn’t begin until after the first game is under way, and any errors discovered would still have some impact on the event.
Final Thought: Fantastic for very small events. Real-time army list verification. Often isn’t completed prior to the event starting. Impossible to implement in larger events.
3. Opponent Verified Lists
One possible solution for larger events is to involve the players themselves. Good tournament players already take a minute or two to study their opponent’s list…so what if you were to ask them to verify the list in the process? While in theory this method works, in practice it could be quite cumbersome and annoying for the players. In larger tournaments, the scramble between rounds to find your table assignment, move your army and get settled is already a rushed process. You are also subjecting the same list to verification multiple times without any control on lists/list swapping in-between games.
While this method gets around some of the issues associated with early list submission, it will also add a considerable amount of time to the event and could still result in some serious list manipulation. While asking the players to share in the responsibility of army list checking is perfectly acceptable notion, this method shouldn’t entirely absolve the tournament organizer of his/her obligation.
Final Thought: While it retains some benefits from the day of verification process, it doesn’t really address the issues of list consistency. Added burden on the players across the day.
Of the three methods listed above, not one fully addresses the issues of army list verification in a large tournament setting. In larger events, the issues of player procrastination, list submission deadlines, post-deadline changes and the sheer amount of communication required all exponentially increase.
One solution I have heard suggested is an approach combining elements from the day of and opponent verification methods. Prior to the start of the first round, just following table assignments, a 15 minute period would be added where players would be responsible for looking over and verifying their opponent’s army lists. Barring any issues, the game would begin as normal. During the first game judges would visit each table, collecting army lists and stamping them verified for the remainder of the day.
While this method alleviates some of the consistency and repetition issues of the previous proposal, it still places a majority of the responsibility in the hands of the players. It is debatable whether or not this is an acceptable, but it might be a satisfactory compromise in regards to larger events.
Final Thought: Undecided. Errors could postpone the start of some games.
What are your thoughts on the matter? What methods of army list verification have you employed? What happens when the method fails? What can be done to save the sanity of a tournament organizer?