Why a Tournament FAQ Is Important


A tournament FAQ is a fan-made document that informs players how grey areas of the rules not covered by GW’s official FAQs will be handled at the event they’re planning on attending. There are some players and tournament organizers out there who feel that tournament FAQs are not needed and even worse, that these FAQs (such as the INAT FAQ) actually alter the way the game is ‘supposed’ to be played.

As the author of the INAT FAQ it’s obvious that I strongly believe in the use of tournament FAQs, so I thought I’d take a moment to explain exactly why that is. But first, I’d like to address the assertions against the use of tournament FAQs.

By far the two most common arguments made against tournament FAQs are that the rules are ‘clear enough’, as long as you have intelligent and well-briefed judges on staff, and that the use of a tournament FAQ changes the rules of the game into something that isn’t 40K anymore.

There is a really big conceit hidden at the center of both these claims: That there is a ‘right’ way to play the rules as written (RAW) which is clear to any intelligent player and only those who are rules lawyers (intentionally misinterpreting the rules for their own benefit) or are unintelligent get the rules ‘wrong’. Unfortunately this is a fallacy, as the pure ideal of the ‘RAW’ doesn’t exist.

Language is not an exact science like mathematics. Words frequently have several applicable definitions and the formatting and syntax of text creates different interpretations dependent upon the understanding of each reader. We only need look at how laws are parsed and argued about by highly educated judges and lawyers to realize that language is inherently vague. This is especially true considering the rules for 40K are written for ease of reading often at the expense of covering technical minutiae.

Having played 40K for nearly 20 years, attended dozens of large national (US) tournaments and been involved with worldwide forums dedicated to the game I can safely say that in many, many cases two reasonable and highly intelligent gamers can, and do read the same rules passages and on their own come up with two completely different interpretations of how the game should be played. Again, what this means is that there is no such perfect ideal as the ‘RAW’, but rather only the rules as you personally interpret them. If both you and your opponent interpret a particular rule the same way, then the RAW converges as one unified concept. But if you and your opponent interpret it differently, then the RAW diverges into two potentially correct interpretations. In short, the RAW are only the RAW when both players actually agree what they say!

Moreover, my experience has taught me that nobody plays purely by what they think the RAW actually says in every case, even those players that think they do. Often when the rules are broken down into their most literal interpretation you find incredibly ludicrous situations that even players who say they play ‘by the RAW' brush off with statements like: ‘only an idiot would try to play that way when it obviously doesn’t work like that’. However, the exact dividing line between where a player feels the RAW (as they interpret it) must be obeyed and where following the RAW creates an obviously ludicrous situation is often not the same from one player to the next. That means between the difference in language interpretation and what constitutes a ludicrous situation there really is a huge chasm of potential discrepancy of what any two players can believe the ‘correct’ way to play 40K is, even when following the supposed standard of the RAW.

Of course, the rulebook for 40K actually covers this issue and tells players who can’t agree to simply ‘dice-off’ to make a decision. I’ve even heard some tournaments actually eschew the use of rules judges and instead command players to resolve their disputes exactly this way. Since this is how the rulebook says to play, why shouldn’t all tournaments be run this way?

A good tournament is designed to pit player skill against player skill as much as possible and avoids placing additional random elements into the tournament experience. If a tournament uses a purely random method to determine all rules disputes, then each game at the tournament can easily wind up having a very different game experience and outcome based solely on how the roll for a rules dispute falls.

For example, many players believe that the RAW allow a unit comprised of only a single model (like a Monstrous Creature) to assault into base contact with more than one enemy unit in some circumstances, while many others believe the exact opposite is true (that a unit comprised of a single model may never assault more than one enemy unit).

If a tournament randomizes solutions to rules disputes, on one table the deciding die roll may dictate that a Tyranid Trygon can indeed assault multiple enemy units and this one model can then go on to rampage the enemy army and secure a Tyranid victory. But on another table, the deciding die roll could go against the Tyranid player making his Trygon much, much less effective then it is on the other table. In other words, the random dispute resolution can actually end up having a major impact on the outcome of the games!

Another reason this resolution method doesn’t work for tournaments is because players can easily abuse the system. When a player recognizes that a random ruling can potentially hurt their opponent’s army much worse than their own, there is no downside for them to attempt to dispute the rule at that point in the game.

For example, if a player doesn’t have any units comprised of a single model but his opponent does, he can wait until his opponent with a Trygon is about to attempt to assault several of his units and then dispute the rule. If the random ruling happens to go in his favor, not only does he greatly reduce the lethality of his opponent’s Trygon, but he also deals a devastating blow to his opponent’s overall game plan, who up until that point had deployed and moved his army under the pretense that the RAW allowed his Trygon to assault multiple units.

Because of these serious issues, I believe that random solutions to rules disputes are not appropriate at tournaments. Of course, if both players want to resolve their disputes this way they can (and will), but if either player is not satisfied with this type of resolution, every tournament should have rules judges available to provide a consistent ruling to every table throughout the event.

Of course, the vast majority of tournaments do utilize tournament judges and most of these judges in my experience (thankfully) do always give a ruling (as opposed to just telling players to roll-off when the rules are unclear). Which brings us back to that other claim: that tournaments don’t need a tournament FAQ if they have intelligent and well-trained tournament judges.

However, as discussed before, there is no such thing as the RAW that everyone agrees on. Therefore, even if a tournament says its judges are only going to follow the RAW, how do players know exactly what this will mean in a particular situation? What are each judge’s biases and tendencies when interpreting the RAW and at what point do they consider something to be ludicrous? If there is no set of public guidelines that judges adhere to (i.e. a tournament FAQ), then from a player’s perspective every time they ask for a ruling the result they get is effectively random. Not that the judge answers randomly, but since they don’t know the judge’s bias, calling one over to make a ruling is essentially a gamble of which player’s interpretation of the rules will match that of the judge’s.

The lack of a tournament FAQ also allows players to abuse the system by only calling over a judge when the situation is favorable to them. To use the example from before, if a player is about to have several of his units assaulted by a Trygon he can wait until that exact moment to call over the judge to make a ruling. If the judge happens to rule in his favor not only has he reduced the effectiveness of his opponent’s Trygon, but again, this ruling can end up completely disrupting his opponent’s game plan (as he was operating under the belief that he was playing by the RAW).

Many events try to circumvent these issues by allowing players to contact the organizer by email and get rulings to specific questions beforehand. However, players cannot possibly hope to think of every potential question they may or may not encounter in a tournament, so they end up asking questions only about the army they plan to bring. The result is players with knowledge on how judges will rule that their opponents do not have. This actually worsens the potential for abuse because players can use this ‘inside information’ as a weapon of sorts: to be revealed to their opponent only if and when it suits them.

A tournament FAQ helps to alleviate these issues by providing events with consistency and transparency. Transparency because all players attending the event know exactly how tournament judges will be ruling on particular situations involving both their army and every potential enemy army they may face. Since this information is provided in advance of the event, players are therefore able to adjust their army or strategy to compensate for any rulings that don’t match how they typically play.

Consistency is created by the fact that every ruling by every judge on every table will be exactly the same across the entire event. Therefore, every table that seeks a judge’s ruling will be playing a given situation exactly the same way, meaning player skill, not a random judge’s bias, will be deciding the outcome of games. It also takes a tremendous amount of pressure off of the tournament judges to always be perfect lest they make a game-altering incorrect ruling. Not only can a judge go double-check the FAQ when he’s not sure of a ruling, but players that are well versed in the FAQ can also request that a judge double-check their ruling.

Of course, even with a tournament FAQ players are still potentially able to abuse the system by calling over a judge over to enforce a ruling in the FAQ only when it benefits them. While this criticism is valid, you may have noticed that it is just a variation of the same issue that exists no matter how a tournament handles its rules disputes. The only difference is that with a tournament FAQ, every player at least has the OPTION to learn the information ahead of time. While some players may show up to the event having memorized more of the FAQ than others, ultimately that information is available for all players interested in accessing it.

The final issue that has to be addressed is the ever-present claim that using a tournament FAQ changes the game into something other than 40K. This argument is first and foremost predicated upon the false assumption I previously addressed that there is one 'right' way to play 40K. Of course, as long as both players in a game agree on the way to play, no tournament judge or FAQ can force them to play differently. It is ONLY when two players disagree on the rules and require an outside party to make a ruling that their game is changed by including the decision of the tournament judge. The difference is that when a tournament FAQ is not being used, the game is changed solely by the bias of the tournament judge's opinion; something neither player knows before they get the ruling. Whereas when a tournament FAQ changes the game from how an individual naturally plays, at least those changes are transparent (publicly accessible before the event).

Of course, it’s obviously possible for a tournament FAQ to go over the line of addressing grey areas and literally change the rules of the game. Unfortunately, because of the different way people interpret rules, exactly when a FAQ stops clarifying and starts changing rules will always be a matter of contention. When it comes to the INAT FAQ in particular, I know many people feel it steps over that line too often. To that criticism I stand pat by the belief that all of our rulings represent how at least some portion of the gaming populace naturally interprets the rules and plays the game; if we find this not to be the case for a particular published ruling, then we strive to change it in subsequent iterations of the INAT.

To those players and organizers out there who don’t want to use a tournament FAQ because you feel it changes the game, I challenge you to reconsider the idea that your particular interpretation of the rules is so important that it is worth giving up the consistency and transparency that utilizing a tournament FAQ provides. And lest you think I’m trying to sell you on the particular rulings in the INAT FAQ, first let me remind you that there is not a single player on the planet (myself included) that agrees with every ruling in the INAT. It is not humanly possible to create a fan-made FAQ with rulings that everyone could agree on. Second, if you feel that the INAT has just too many incorrect rulings to use, please remember that the INAT freely grants anyone and everyone access to use its questions as a base to create your own tournament FAQ.

Tournament FAQs offer such tremendous benefits to participants, organizers and judges that it is really a disservice to both attendees and rules judges to run an event without using one.

- Jon 'yakface' Regul, INAT Author

16 comments:

  1. You are going to make some bad calls. That is just the way it is. Any TO is in the same boat. The main thing is to be as fair as possible. This is the BIG problem with roll your own FAQs. We do not know everything like GW does. I honestly dont see how a council of nine guys is large enough to get this massive undertaking done. I have heard people say it is an elitist group - I dont agree with that but then again there are it seems far too many clarifications Jon - that is why some people call it yakhammer. The FAQ is much too big as well and could easily be condensed. Time and time again it is said that most feedback by far and large falls on deaf ears.

    I would suggest in the future you break up these into a series of articles... it is a bit long and I think some people will TLDR xD.

    G

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh and by the way I am not trolling you. HA HA

    G

    ReplyDelete
  3. Keep in mind the above article is about the generic use/need of a tournament FAQ, not the absolute/authoritative use of the INAT in any shape or form - it's merely used as an example. Bringing up off-topic, negative stuff about the author, or the people involved (even if you don't believe it - but hey let's mention it anyways!), is trolling.

    GW knows everything? I'd challenge you on that one...

    On topic: I am in agreement with Jon. From the viewpoint of the convention, our initial desire to have any type of FAQ for AdeptiCon was well beyond making rules calls at a single tournament. We were drawing people from a variety of different areas, each with their own play-style and view of the rules. Additionally, we were running multiple events over three days and wanted to make sure that rules calls occurring Friday evening were the same as those being made on Sunday. We were interested in limiting or eradicating inconsistency when judges got involved in games and providing transparency to the attendees prior to purchasing plane tickets, hotel rooms and the like.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Like I said the INAT FAQ has a lot of clarifications - they are not RAW. This is in my opinion a danger area to lightly tread as a TO. Clarifications can and do change how we play the game.

    No GW does not know everything but they have the most resources and are official. There will always be situations not adequately covered by the rules. Typically two reasonable people can resolve these issues. Every time a new codex is released everything is affected.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oh I miss your old avatar Matthias... :'((

    ReplyDelete
  6. And...back where we started. Two reasonable people can and should resolve issues at the table using any amicable means they see fit. This happens prior to involving a judge, who then might then have to reference the INAT. This how AdeptiCon has always worked. Last response document and all that, but I have covered this multiple times.

    The FAQ at AdeptiCon exists for those rare instances where both people are not reasonable...I've seen it plenty of times...

    ReplyDelete
  7. I guess I have been lucky and never had to use it. You being a judge though are going to come across a much larger number of issues. My philosophy as a TO has been to take a conservative path.

    G

    ReplyDelete
  8. BBF,

    I know the above article is long, but your comments here are directly addressed by the exact article you're commenting on! First and foremost, this is an article on why a tournament FAQ is important...that FAQ can be the INAT FAQ or one of your own creation. The point is that having a tournament FAQ is what is important, not where that FAQ comes from.

    Second, you say that the INATFAQ is not 'RAW', which is an assertion directly covered in the article. What is RAW? Take the INAT FAQ simply as a list of questions and you go ahead and fill in all the answers. Would that FAQ now be 'RAW'? Would everyone on the internet agree that your answers were 'RAW' or would they say that your FAQ goes too far into making the game into 'BBFhammer?'

    More importantly, at an event you run, if you don't have a tournament FAQ and people have a dispute in their game and they call over a judge (let's call him judge Bob), the answer they're getting is 'Bobhammer' since its his bias and interpretations that are being used. The problem is, without a tournament FAQ each judge is separately enforcing their own opinion on each table. So if you have three judges (Bob, Steve and Tim, for example) each giving rulings on three different tables, then each table is now playing 'Bobhammer', 'Stevehammer' and 'Timhammer' respectively. And the bigger problem is that each table has no idea which 'hammer' they're going to get when they call over a judge!

    THAT is why a tournament FAQ is so important, to make sure each judge has the same basis to fall back on for their rulings. And again, this DOES NOT need to be the INAT FAQ. The NOVA open is a great example. They went ahead and used the INAT as a base, but then created their own FAQ to something that fit their need. I just personally think every event should be using a tournament FAQ...how you create that FAQ is up to you!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Steve - Glad you feel strongly about your opinions on the INAT. Interestingly, there are a lot of other people that feel strongly as well, but with different and even completely opposite opinions.

    1. Some want a longer document with further explanation on the decision process for each answer, while others want the same rules questions from different sections consolidated into a general section.
    2. Some feel more of the clarifications are RAW, while others see them as rules changes.
    3. Some feel an independent FAQ is not needed, while others feel an independent FAQ is needed.
    4. Some want a larger peer review group, while others do not think it is necessary.

    From my personal point of view, I feel the document is a well constructed, well organized reference. The user friendly innovations allow people to quickly reference questions that may arise.

    1. Rulebook and codex page referencing that allows a user to quickly navigate to appropriate topics.
    2. Consolidated sections so if a user wishes to just have a specific codex or the rule book they only need to print out that section.
    3. Electronic links to quickly navigate to various sections.
    4. Color coded text to indicate rules that were changed from the previous update.

    Some of these innovations are used in industry (ie: ISO 9000).

    As a large event coordinator and seasoned international traveler to events, I also believe that it or a similar document is needed for events. I have run into enough instances where differences in play styles and rules understanding have caused big problems in outcomes of matches.

    Finally, considering there are over 800 pages that reference rules between the rule book, codices and GW FAQs, your reference of “TLDR” for 121 pages is exaggerated.

    ReplyDelete
  10. If you guys could produce an INAT FAQ Lite (TM) version I think you would find a lot more TOs would use it. It would be very easy to do.

    G

    ReplyDelete
  11. Post or send in your suggestions. The team has been and continues to be more than willing to look at ways to improve the document.

    ReplyDelete
  12. If you want an INAT Lite - by all means make one! That is what the INAT is there for! If the INAT guys pulled 25% of the questions and made a Lite version, I can guarantee you they would not be the questions you think should be included in such a document. These are decisions that are dictated by your locale, the players in your immediate group/club and the general approach and atmosphere of the tournaments in your area.

    The INAT is meant to be a source document to aid TOs in pulling together an event FAQ. What good would a source document be if it wasn't comprehensive? Creating mini versions of the INAT that would/could appease every subset or faction of gamer out there....impossible.

    ReplyDelete
  13. If I can get a copy of the Word document for the most current version I would be glad to produce a lite version of the FAQ. One easy way to reduce the number of pages is to reference any Q/A that is repeatedly copied such as many of the SM chapters.

    G

    ReplyDelete
  14. BBF, Send me an email request at INATFAQ@dakkadakka.com and I will send you the file.

    ReplyDelete