The Rollercoaster that was Las Vegas Open 2018

by | Jan 31, 2018

I really don’t know where to begin, I am still recovering from it, the Las Vegas Open 2018 was truly one bonkers event. Things started off well enough with Games Workshop announcing a new slate of releases; to the joy of players everywhere as the Xenos races finally get some love. The real fun started when the 40k championships was 30 minutes late, as the pairing app became overloaded by the enormous size of the event, around 460 players! Then you had some amusing drama in a first round match-up of between Aaron Aleong vs. Geoff “InControl” Robinson digging a salt mine of epic proportions.

These type of things are what you can expect for any large event,  it was all a preview of things to come. The climb to the top of Drama Mountain begin around round 3 and the hour and half wait for it to start! It seemed the pairing app had two meltdowns causing data to be lost and disaster to set in. Impressively, players didn’t seem too angry about the situation as the break did wonders for many, but still many players had plans that night with family and friends so the tension was palpable.

There was also the first rumblings of slow play starting to bubble up; as top players made it into the deeper rounds, not so much on the skill of play, but on the time of clocks. Worse, one of the slowest and terrible games was streamed on Twitch getting through only turn two. By Saturday, it seemed that any game involving Eldar or Imperial soup could only get to turn three at most in 2.5 hours. Including player options to play into lunches and breaks. By round six the top 20 players I guess had at least half their games not come natural conclusion and ones that did were mostly because of tablings.

The slow play fever seemed to drown out any other complaints, even as four five of the top eight were playing close to identical Eldar lists. Well at first their wasn’t five Eldar players it was actually four, but that all changed two hours after round six scores were tallied. It seems that if you complain enough and are a known player you can get your score changed. The story was simple, a very tense game between Joshua Death and Brad Chester ended with Josh winning by one point. After much stewing Brad remember he didn’t score a few secondary points that would put him over the top. So while TOs were pulled in and Joshua Death ate dinner a call was made to change the scores. When Joshua finally was brought before the council it was determined that indeed Brad was right about the mistake… well after some pressure was applied to an initially unwilling Joshua.

Personally, I have no problem with scores being changed and Joshua was convinced of the error and gracefully DQed himself out of the Top 8. I also don’t have a problem with Brad knowing something was wrong and asking for a change. What I do have a problem with is doing it hours after the fact. The time for retroactive changes had long past and if it wasn’t for the players involved and that stage of the tournament it would never had been allowed. All players should be treated equally and I have seen this sort of thing happen before at Frontline events and the answer had always been, tough luck no going back. Why Brad got special treatment is beyond me and really leaves a bad taste in my mouth about the whole situation.

If that episode and slow playing been the only issues at LVO, than Drama Mountain would have been more of a hill. It wasn’t until the final rounds got streaming on Twitch that the mountain rose to Himalayas heights. Sorry for everyone that already knows, but for those living under a rock for the last few days, let me tell you a story.

The leader of the ITC going into the event was Tony Grippando a nice and friendly chap that showed no signs of bad behavior and every opponent that he had played against spoke highly of him. So it came as a total surprise at what happened next. By this time the organizers of the LVO were well aware of the slow play problem plaguing the event, Tony and his semi-finals opponent Alex Fennel decided to play as fast as they can. Tony and Alex knew each other fairly well and both agreed that wouldn’t be a problem. So they went ahead and helped each other move models and even pre-measure things out to help speed up the game.

It was in this awesome spirit of sportsmanship that the unthinkable happened. Alex attempted to do his movement turn out of sequence. He had a unit Deep Strike at the beginning of his Movement phase, which by the letter of the rules happens at the end of the Movement phase. So Alex after placing the unit moved on to the next unit to move, it was at this point Tony jumped in telling him the movement phase was over. A flummoxed Alex I assumed, didn’t know if Tony was joking and decided to just remove the Deep Striking unit and start the phase in the proper order. Tony wasn’t having any of this and demanded Alex end his Movement phase because Alex removed his hand from the unit and clearly moved on. Making it even more appalling was Tony had helped Alex measure to make sure the Deep Striking unit was the right distance away from other units.

Alex in a pure moment of grace acknowledged the “mistake” and acquiesced to Tony’s insistence. It was at this point the Twitch feed exploded and a fiery discussion began about the “gotcha moment” Tony had just done to Alex. It was the sort of thing you find in other games and systems, but in Warhammer 40k we typically have unwritten sportsmanship rules. In fact, we used to have Sportsmanship enshrined in almost every event not that long ago. It though was a shocking act by a millionaire that broke 40k internet. Marc Merril Co-Found of Riot Games maker of the global phenomenon, League of Legends posted to twitter the following message…

Tony’s dick move and Alex’s grace under pressure completely turned everything upside down, as tournaments been steadily moving away from things like sportsmanship scores this opens a whole new discussion about the type of community we want to be. In response, after Alex had lost the game to Tony, he immediately said the money would be donated to a children’s charity of either Marc or his choice. This had Games Workshop alum hailing the return of sportsmanship like Andy Chambers on his Facebook feed.

Still it doesn’t end there! Tony still needed to beat Nick Nanavati to claim both ITC and LVO champion. The final game would determine which one won both. The game was streamed as well, Tony accidentally did something he wanted to take back, and Nick told him he couldn’t citing what he did to Alex as the reason. This karma punch was two-fold as Nick went on to win the game causing Tony to lose everything.

The aftermath of the events at LVO will be felt long after; a good question is what compelled Tony to behave like this? Tony by all measures was an excellent person and player, nothing in his past screamed asshole. There is though one possibility one I have railed against before, and something I should continue to vocalize. The ITC champion is a awarded a large cash prize, now through the course of a long ITC season this isn’t a big deal, but when you are only two games away, it can become one, especially if you are young like Tony.

Cash prizes shouldn’t be part of Warhammer 40k, it is not a game that lends itself to it. 40k isn’t Magic the Gathering, a video game, or a sport, there is too much variance that goes into the Warhammer soup. Frontline Gaming should remove the money motive from its events as it most likely had an adverse effect on Tony and who knows who else.

Next something has to be done about slow playing. Much discussion was made about chess clocks, but with proper enforcement being expensive, that will be hard for a mostly hobby loving community to get on board with. The obvious answer is penalties, if you cannot get past turn three neither side wins or move to a Battle Point system where turn penalties can matter. The risk of chipmunking doesn’t out-way the terrible game experiences people are constantly encountering at all skill levels.

Then there is another solution, less points, I had initially thought 8th edition 2,000 was the new 1,500, but as GW has tweaked units and more codexes come out it is clear 2,000 points is more like 2,500 from 5th edition. A combination of penalties and lower point levels should do the trick, but taking away people’s toys is very hard to accomplish. Since GW has its tentacles wrapped around the largest events, don’t expect that to happen anytime soon. It might just come down to GW and what they want to do about the problem, they are well aware, as lead designers were in attendance at LVO watching and taking feedback.

That gets us to the Eldar, don’t worry it is pretty clear GW will bring the nerf bat by the next scheduled FAQ at the latest. We also have a problem that feeds into slow play, too many re-rolls, instead GW should move away from extra dice rolling and to plus/minus modifiers to diversify the factions and character buffs.

Through it all amazingly LVO didn’t have any illegal lists by top players, but LVO did have a shit storm of everything else. Frontline Gaming and other large events really need to put on their big boy pants and stop the cash prizes, also take some responsibility for player behavior (slow play), and especially don’t look like you playing favorites by adjusting player scores after the fact. It will be interesting to see if GW does enter the fray when it comes to sportsmanship, I wouldn’t put it past them to use their weight and force these large events to make changes.

All in all LVO was a success, but you wouldn’t know that as things got hijacked really fast and 40k Internet is now involved, driving the least flattering narratives possible.

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