A League of My Own
Building a Warhammer community is often hard, with so many things competing for our time, it is a miracle we ever get a chance to play even a single game of Warhammer much less try something more organized. I am personally blessed by the many things that allow me to play as many games as I do with as many players as I do. For many though, our community seems at times very fractured, with online dialogue and local store loyalties overshadowing the communal nature the hobby should bring out. This often means players stick to the groups they are use to and only engage with others under an organized settings. One way 40k players have used to bring more folks together is through Warhammer 40k leagues. Leagues over the ages have come in many shapes and forms, but the most standard is shop or club leagues where either a store owner or club decide to play some sort of round robin set of matches.
As someone who lives in a major metro area, the amount of game stores and players is pretty huge, but conversely this means committing to something as time intensive as a league can be daunting. If you are going to run a league yourself it means wrangling enough committed players.
These barriers didn’t stop me though from trying, so over the last few months I had the rewarding experience running my very first Warhammer 40k league and with it I learned a lot about community. The league was set up because a few of my Warhammer 40k friends had gotten tired with a more loosely organized regional league, that ran a few times a year with ever diminishing success. By setting up my league I look at other leagues trying to take lessons I thought would help create my own league.
Before I talk about my experience, I want to give a big shout out to all the supporters of my league.
I want to start with Gamermat.eu by supplying two wonderful mats for the winners.
Then we had Kromlech providing an awesome burned plaque, like the one seen below.
Last but, not least there was Spellcrow providing an insane amount of bits so that every player in the league would go away with something!
Now on to how I set up my league, here is a few things to consider when planning a league.
- How many games
- Prize Support
This list is very simple about, but were critical to the success of my league.
League size will determine a lot; the goals for my league was about picking a size where you can easily get a true winner and also create different tiers of players able to compete against each other. Since I had an almost unlimited supply of people to choose from because of where I lived this gave me great flexibility, but for folks who live in less densely populated areas plan accordingly. I ended up going with 16 players which allowed me to divide the league into 4 different groups, running a World Cup style format.
Now that I chose a World Cup format it meant those 16 players were locked into 4 games at the minimum and 6 games at most needed to be played. I didn’t want a league that dragged on and on, so I felt like 4-6 games over two months was easy enough.
The who is tricky, because forming a league can go a few different ways. Store run leagues usually let anyone come in and out of the league; a shop league is ultimately about generating sales for the store. The other popular type of league is a club or group of friends playing each other, this can be done in a garage or club house requiring minimal effort or thought. Then you have online leagues where a organizer tries to find as many people as possibility in an given area.
My goal was hybrid, I wanted a league of friends, but I also wanted a league that could create new friendships. To find this balance I had to also look at making sure I knew everyone was going to get along, because everyone knows a league or tournament can self destruct if “that guy” is invited. I have to admit I kinda had a leg up in my community; since of my internet persona, just meaning I am lucky enough to know a ton of players. I tried to pull together players who I knew could get along with each other. If you are considering people to join your league, watch the players you plan on inviting and ask yourself, “Would they get along with anyone”?
The where is important, it can be as simple as picking your local store and choosing a weekly league night. Thanks to the internet you don’t have to be locked into one place, and this was the route I took. Besides, my league spanned a pretty large area, with players traveling up to 20 miles from home, so locking everyone into one place didn’t make sense. This also means trusting the players to organize themselves for games. Using the World Cup starting Group format was now to my advantage, by grouping player groups by home location as best as possible.
The style of my league focused on being “casual competitive”, meaning taking players who attend tournaments, but don’t always beat face and/or take lists designed more around what they like playing and less around what wins. By extension this created a great variety of factions people chose to play. No matter how much you might try to balance the players, you have to think about providing ways for everyone to compete. By using the World Cup group system and personally assigning people to each group I could create what I felt was balance. Keep in mind most leagues like to pull things out of hats and randomize pairings, often creating unintended variance of who moves forward or not.
Next I had to settle on rules, typically leagues force players to stick to one main faction or army. I felt this really represented what a league is all about and helps prevents he who has the most toys able pick whatever faction he need to beat his next opponent. Beyond that leagues use whatever rules, missions, restrictions that fit your group’s playstyle. In my area, I went with the ITC format because that is what everyone knew and were use to, but ask your group what they are looking for first before picking for them.
I also had rules that made house keeping easier for me and create a fair and fun environment for the players, for instance I had every player turn there lists in to each other 24 hours before their match. This allowed for some pre-strategizing and I even went as far as posting the lists to our Facebook group, so players could chime in on who they think would win or lose. What makes leagues so much fun compared to a tournament is list tailoring, depending on faction and previous list postings. Keep things simple, let Games Workshop resources and what you can search online do the work for you. The more complicated you make a league the more you should considering running a campaign instead.
Finally, there is prize support, charging something is very important because it means players have some skin in the game. I settled on $20 bucks, but depending on the age or means of your average player adjust this accordingly. Without charging an entrance fee, players won’t be invested. Take that money and either turn it into a local store gift card or just give it out as hard cash. I decided to divide the money 60/40 with 60% of the kitty going to the sole champion and the rest to the winner of what I called the Consolation (losers) bracket. You don’t want to split prizes 50/50 because you don’t want someone submarining in the kitty pool.
Another thing is don’t be afraid to ask for prize support, many 3rd party companies gladly give prize support for free or with some minor promotion on social media.
Here is a list of companies I would suggest reaching out to.
Tricks & Tools
Here are a few of things I felt that made my league running experience a great one.
Even if you hate it, use Facebook Groups and Messenger, this made organizing everything so much easier. Create a Facebook group page made announcements, a place to upload files, rules, lists, and matches so easy. It also creates a community where people can talk about the league. More important than a group page is using Facebook messenger, because almost everyone has it, still if you have people afraid Zuckerberg is going to steal dick pics, I would then recommend Slack instead. When using Facebook messenger, I started by creating one giant group chat for all players, then I divided those players by there groups, so they could organize when and where to play easier.
Next thing was finding a place to host match rankings and results, since I was using the World Cup format, it had to be specific.
I decided to go with…
This free online service, was amazing, allowing me to track and link back all the results for the league seamlessly. Here are the links to what it looked like for me.
Then you have the ITC which allows league scores to be used in overall ITC score. This is another easy incentivizer and Frontline gaming will gladly help you get your score in and/or Best Coast Pairings. If your players are at all competitive, ITC is fantastic way to get players to commit the league from the start.
I can’t say enough always think of ways to give players reasons to take part in a league, it is easy for players to get distracted by life, so keeping them engaged with various tricks or treats that fit your particulars is important. Lastly one final tip, don’t play in your own league, just run it! Not playing saves you from drama of knowing way too much, and also allows you to judge and devote all your time to making the best league possible for your friends and players.
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