Wanting to run a large Dominion tournament in 2020
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Posted by adamhorton

Hi

2019 was the first year where Rio Grande Games didn't run their usual Dominion tournament. I believe they aren't intending to do this event anymore, and so I'd like to run my own independent Dominion tournament at GenCon in 2020.

I've never run an event at GenCon before, but I've attended GenCon a few times, run Dominion-related events at another much smaller convention a few years ago, and I have run eleven of my own Dominion tournaments in the Cincinnati area over the past several years. As far as what to do once I have a venue, a time, and table space, I think I have a pretty good idea of what to expect, plus I have all the materials I'll need.

I read over the intro guide for GMs and I had a couple of questions, particularly about what might work well in a convention setting. I have some ideas, which I'll talk about below, but I'd like to hear from some people on whether or not it would be appropriate to do something with this format and size or if I should make some adjustments.

I was hoping to have a pretty big tournament with up to 128 people who could enter, I'd have four qualifying heats of 32 people each, then the top 8 finishers from each of those would compete later in another round of 32, and finally the 8 top finishers from that would compete in the finals to determine a winner. I know RGG had done kind of a similar format for their tournament and had some success with it.

So four qualifying heats (each player only needs to attend one), one semi-final, and one final. Each session would be four games of Dominion, for a total of three hours each.

I had thought about doubling the size of everything if I could get the supplies for it, but maybe that's a bit ambitious for my first GenCon event...

So that's the format. The other big question I have is about prize support. I know there can be an entry fee, and I know it costs some amount of money to have table space at the convention. I'm not looking to make any money on the tournament but I'd like to have a nice prize pool to give out to the top finishers. A percentage of the prize pool could go to everyone who makes it to the finals with a nice first place prize. Is it possible to effectively use the leftover money from entry fees to make a prize pool to give the winners? And would people be able to walk-in to the event with generic tickets? I really have no idea how any of that works.

So am I anywhere close to the mark on this? Thanks for any feedback.

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Posted by divachelle

We run twice-yearly local Dominion tournaments as well, at a bit smaller scale of around 24-32 people, and my husband has run them at a small local con. That's my basic frame of reference for my answers, below. 

Some initial thoughts:
1. Time allotment - I don't think 3 hours is enough time for 4 games with 4 people. There is nothing currently built into this schedule for a game that runs long, and for variations in the ability of players to move through the games quickly. At least 4 hours is a better estimate.
2. Organization of tables - How would moving to the next game work? Would you reset at the table with the same set of 4 people or rotate everyone to a new table/set up? If people are moving, that takes time and would need to be built into the overall event time.
3. Costs - Events can be free or typically $2/hour/player. You can bill this is as a win a box, essentially your tournament prizes, and charge actual costs. Obviously, RG ran this is a free event. I'd say that you'd be looking good at a price point of $8-$10. That's  $1024-$1280 total, less any costs for Gen Con, and leaves you with a sizable prize pool allotment. 
4. 32 tables is a lot. Set up would be at least an hour on the beginning and another hour for clean up. You'll need helpers for sure. My husband calls them his minions. 
5. It seems that I remember that RG did their games as 3P rather than 4P to move it along.
6. Prizes - We've had really good luck with picking up reasonably priced Dominion and expansions at C&C Games, who has a presence at Gen Con each year as the main RG seller. For our prizes, the overall winner gets first choice of the boxes we have available. Winners at the top final game tables all get a prize (if you play all of the games, you have a chance to win a prize), ranging from a promo card pack to a used box to a new box to a new "big box."
7. Have you given any thought to how you'd deal with bailers, or those who don't do as well as they'd like and leave before the event is complete?
 

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Posted by rutherfordr adamhorton

adamhorton wrote:I'm not looking to make any money on the tournament but I'd like to have a nice prize pool to give out to the top finishers. A percentage of the prize pool could go to everyone who makes it to the finals with a nice first place prize. Is it possible to effectively use the leftover money from entry fees to make a prize pool to give the winners? And would people be able to walk-in to the event with generic tickets? I really have no idea how any of that works.
So am I anywhere close to the mark on this? Thanks for any feedback.

For this kind of prize pool you're going to have to float the money for the prizes, because you're not going to get the money from the tickets until a month or two after the convention ends.
 

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Posted by adamhorton divachelle

rutherfordr wrote:For this kind of prize pool you're going to have to float the money for the prizes, because you're not going to get the money from the tickets until a month or two after the convention ends.
 

I don't have any problem doing this, as long as I know how much I expect to get so I can make the prize pool the right size. I assume it's just the money from entry fees minus whatever the convention charges for table space and time -- how do I find out what I would expect to pay for table space?
divachelle wrote:
We run twice-yearly local Dominion tournaments as well, at a bit smaller scale of around 24-32 people, and my husband has run them at a small local con.
That's my basic frame of reference for my answers, below. 
Some initial thoughts:
1. Time allotment - I don't think 3 hours is enough time for 4 games with 4 people. There is nothing currently built into this schedule for a game that runs long, and for variations in the ability of players to move through the games quickly. At least 4 hours is a better estimate.
2. Organization of tables - How would moving to the next game work? Would you reset at the table with the same set of 4 people or rotate everyone to a new table/set up? If people are moving, that takes time and would need to be built into the overall event time.
3. Costs - Events can be free or typically $2/hour/player. You can bill this is as a win a box, essentially your tournament prizes, and charge actual costs. Obviously, RG ran this is a free event. I'd say that you'd be looking good at a price point of $8-$10. That's  $1024-$1280 total, less any costs for Gen Con, and leaves you with a sizable prize pool allotment. 
4. 32 tables is a lot. Set up would be at least an hour on the beginning and another hour for clean up. You'll need helpers for sure. My husband calls them his minions. 
5. It seems that I remember that RG did their games as 3P rather than 4P to move it along.
6. Prizes - We've had really good luck with picking up reasonably priced Dominion and expansions at C&C Games, who has a presence at Gen Con each year as the main RG seller. For our prizes, the overall winner gets first choice of the boxes we have available. Winners at the top final game tables all get a prize (if you play all of the games, you have a chance to win a prize), ranging from a promo card pack to a used box to a new box to a new "big box."
7. Have you given any thought to how you'd deal with bailers, or those who don't do as well as they'd like and leave before the event is complete?
 

Thanks for your reply! I'm interested to know about the other Dominion tournaments you host, btw.

As for your points, here's what I have so far:

1/2/5. I plan to have all games be 2-player games, this is because 2P games are pretty much always the most competitively viable format for any game, particularly Dominion. At my tournaments I operate on a schedule which allows for 45 minutes per game. Each game has 40 minutes for playing and then there's a 5 minute period in between each game for getting ready for the next game. I've built in an additional time-based game ending condition so that games don't run long, in 11 tournaments I've only had a couple of games actually use this endgame condition and there have been no complaints, mostly because I was up-front about it before we got started.

4. So with 2P games, there are 16 tables. This is about what I set up for my tournaments and I'm able to pack things such that setup takes about 10 minutes for me to do all by myself. Tear-down takes a bit less but it's close. I understand that setup and tear-down should be included in my event times, so I guess that makes each heat 3 1/2 hours so I can have a few minutes at the start to go over rules, format, and answer questions from people before they start playing. Does this sound about right?

If I have qualifying heats back-to-back at the same tables, I could skip the setup and tear-down in between them, but I don't know if that's realistic.

6. I was hoping that I could give a prize to everyone who makes the finals (top 8) -- some merchandise would be OK but I was hoping I could give most prizes out in cash if possible (that's what most people who show up to my tournaments prefer, but I guess they already own lots of Dominion things if they're doing well enough at tournaments). Are merchandise prizes more popular at conventions?

7. So the format I use should definitely be robust enough to handle any number of players at any point. If someone leaves during a game that counts as a resignation, but past that and some backup plans, I'm willing to assign byes to people if they have no opponent at a given time.

Here's a Google Doc where I'm working on the format: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1OvmD5QLA0bQRbwuErnBsDbWdwQ6ucWWSfiCmir3u64I -- I haven't figured out quite what I'm looking to do for the finals but there are probably a couple of good options.

Hopefully this is making some more sense?

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Posted by the orange mailman

Hey, my wife (Divachelle) tipped me off to your post here.  I attend Heroscapers at GenCon each year and participate in their tournaments.  I have run Dominion Tournaments at a local con and at a friend's home.  So here are some tips.

Heats, hmmm.....  Heroscapers runs the tournaments so that we are all playing at the same time and there is a comradery that happens when you are all together.  The same happens at Dominion Tournaments.  There are some people bound to show up to win and then drop when their stats are down, but if you do it right, you can minimize that.  So what follows is what I have done.  Feel free to take any ideas.  BTW, I have thought about running a Dominion Tournament at GenCon as well based on Rio Grande not running theirs anymore.

I run a 5 game tournament.  Each round has a theme.  First round, basic stuff, no attack cards.  Second round, one attack card and one appropriate reaction card.  Third round, Adventures/Seaside/Nocturne with 2 events.  Fourth round, Prosperity with Platinums/Colonies including some Empires with 1-2 Landmarks.  Fifth round is the Championship round.  During the first four rounds I am rotating everyone so that people are playing against different people.  I try to seat people in 4 player games.  4 points for 1st place, 3 points for 2nd place, 2 points for 3rd place, 1 point for 4th place.  In case of a tie, the winner is the one with the least turns as per Dominion rules.  No other tie breakers.  So if there is a 21-21-21-18 point game with one 21 point person with less turns, that person scores 4-21, the other two score 3-21, then that last scores 1-18.  I track placement points and actual points.

For the Championship round, everyone is seated according to their rankings with Placement points counting first, actual points second.  That's why the Prosperity Round in the fourth round is such a big deal because of the possibility of big points.  So the top 4 people play for the big prize, or the Championship.  The next 4 people compete at the second table and so on down the line.  I offer a prize in the final round for the winner at every single table.  I found a lot less people drop after I started doing this.  I tell them up front, if you play all the way to the end, there is a chance you will win a prize in the fifth round no matter how bad your stats are.

I have not utilized the cash back thing at the cons (including GenCon as I have run Trench the past couple of years) but for prizes have just provided them out of my own pocket.  Same thing with at our friend's house.  It's not a big deal for us.  I would recommend something more like a trophy for the overall champion and a prize for the winner of each final game, perhaps a promo card.  I think my wife mentioned that in her post.

At the Championship table, I put out 14 cards and allow each player to reject one card beginning with the #4 ranked player up to the #1 ranked player to have the final determination.  I also allow them to draw 3 random events, landmarks, and choose 1.  Now with projects I have been doing that as well.  This allows the players to have some say in the cards that will be in play and determine what cards they play well with or that they think are a threat.  This adds a "meta-game" feel to it.

Pluses:  Over the years these are the things that people have said about the tournaments I run.  They are very well done.  You get to play with a variety of cards and play against a variety of people.  It's challenging.  Even if you don't do well, you have had the experience of different combinations of card, events, etc.  You get to know the people.  The same group comes back each year.  (This has been the case with Heroscapers for me.  They are like my tribe is what my wife tells me.)

Minuses:  The big drawback people have expressed to me is the 5 hour time commitment.  I always finish on time.  But 5 hours is still a big commitment.

I have a tournament we are running on October 5th at a friend's house.  Here is the championship table plan.  Note, every other round is predetermined.  This is the only round where the players have some say in the cards.Throne Room ~ 4 (This card cannot be rejected.)5 random from Renaissance, 3 Random from Nocturne, 2 Random from Cornucopia, 1 from Prosperity, 1 from Dark Ages, 1 from Empires.Player #1 draws 3 random Projects from Renaissance and chooses 1.Player #2 draws 3 random Landmarks from Empires and chooses 1.Player #3 draws 3 random Events from Empires and chooses 1.=11.0ptPlayer #4 rejects 1 card, then Player #3, #2, #1. Then the big surprise.

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Posted by selene314

You should read the Event Host Policy and https://www.gencon.com/host/eo-gm.

For regular events, Gen Con's price is $2 per 2 hours, and you can add an additional fee. So if you have a 4-hour event and want to take home $2 per player, the ticket will cost $6.
Players can use a $6 event-specific ticket or three $2 generics.

I believe elimination tournaments do not charge for the later rounds (because players can't buy a ticket to get into that round).

The danger of getting reimbursed after-the-fact is that you don't know how many players will show up, and therefore how much money you will get.

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Posted by adamhorton selene314

selene314 wrote:
You should read the Event Host Policy and https://www.gencon.com/host/eo-gm.
For regular events, Gen Con's price is $2 per 2 hours, and you can add an additional fee. So if you have a 4-hour event and want to take home $2 per player, the ticket will cost $6.
Players can use a $6 event-specific ticket or three $2 generics.
I believe elimination tournaments do not charge for the later rounds (because players can't buy a ticket to get into that round).
The danger of getting reimbursed after-the-fact is that you don't know how many players will show up, and therefore how much money you will get.

So the price is $2 for a player every two hours my event goes... so if I have two 3-hour heats with 32 people each, will I be charged for 6 hours total with 32 people ($192) or will the heats be charged individually and rounded up ($256)?

And would I be able to say that the prize pool consists of whatever profit I make and have it be variable on how many tickets are bought? Or do I need to name an amount for the prize pool when the event is submitted? By the time I need to give out the prize I'll know how many tickets were bought so I should be OK there...

@orange mailman -- I assume these are the tournaments that are at a friend's house? In any case, it looks like there are a lot of differences between the way you do things and the way I do things. If your crowd is having fun then that's all that really matters.

For what it's worth, in 11 tournaments I've only ever had someone leave before they played all of their games one time, and this includes all of the times people were mathematically eliminated but still had games to play. At a convention, I expect things to be different and people will probably have other things they would rather do than play Dominion when they can't advance, but of course I won't know until I get there. The format allows people to leave at any point.

As for having heats, well I sort of wanted the tournament to be larger than 32 players, and with my current supplies I can only accommodate 32 people playing at once, so the only answer there is to have heats of 32 players. Sure, if it was possible I'd have them all playing at once; it's the supply card sets that have me constrained there (Copper/Silver/Gold/Province/Duchy/Estate/Curse).

---

...so will there be a way for me to submit this event so that I can have my qualifier heats not on top of each other? And will I be able to have some say when they are?

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Posted by the orange mailman

Thanks for the reply.  That is the way I run the tournaments at the friend's house and at the local con.

Being short on supply cards can be fixed by buying base cards.  At first I didn't see the value in them, but with running tournaments now with 4 sets of base cards that's 16 people handled right there.  Plus I leave those set up throughout the entire tournament changing out kingdom cards when necessary.

I believe you will have to list each heat as a separate event.  Then the finals will also have to be listed as a separate event.  As opposed to one 5 hour tournament which is listed as one event.

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Posted by matthias9

The "heat" system you are describing is essentially the same process that is used by the Diplomacy Tournament every year (and probably lots of other things).

Each of the four qualifying events looks like this:  "34th Annual Diplomacy Tournament is now the official United States Diplomacy Championship. Square off in 1 or more of 4 qualifiers. The top country overall from all qualifiers advances to the final."

Then, the final itself is listed as a separate event and has this:  "Prerequisite: This event is only open to participants who have been invited."

I don't think the system will let you register for the final, even if you wanted to.  Presumably there is some way to configure the event like this at event submission.

My advice would be to consider building in some alternates to your qualifying players.  People have a lot going on at the convention and sometimes, even for a tournament, you could have qualifying players drop or no-show the final.
 

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Posted by adamhorton the orange mailman

the orange mailman wrote:Being short on supply cards can be fixed by buying base cards.  At first I didn't see the value in them, but with running tournaments now with 4 sets of base cards that's 16 people handled right there.  

So between what I own and what I can borrow, I can get up to maybe 20 sets of base cards. This has been enough for my tournaments, but I would need 32 sets to accommodate 64 people at once (having all 2P games is very important to me even though it requires more base cards). So I would have to just buy 12 sets, at like $15 each. I'm not about to just drop $180 on base card sets when I'm sort of slowly accumulating them over time in various ways. I'd consider doing something like that maybe if the 128-person 2020 tournament completely filled up quickly I suppose.

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Posted by selene314 adamhorton

adamhorton wrote:So the price is $2 for a player every two hours my event goes... so if I have two 3-hour heats with 32 people each, will I be charged for 6 hours total with 32 people ($192) or will the heats be charged individually and rounded up ($256)?

YOU will not be charged at all. (unless you want to rent a space for the entire 80 hours or so of Gen Con, or need special equipment)
The players pay for tickets. For a 3-hour heat, Gen Con will round up the time and take $4 from each ticket. If you add $2 to each ticket price, Gen Con will sell the tickets at $6 each and then give you the $2 after you turn in the tickets you've collected at the event.
And would I be able to say that the prize pool consists of whatever profit I make and have it be variable on how many tickets are bought? Or do I need to name an amount for the prize pool when the event is submitted?

I've never run a tournament, so I don't know what the rules are for offering cash prizes. I assume you can write anything you want in the description of the event. You might attract fewer players with a less-certain prize.
will there be a way for me to submit this event so that I can have my qualifier heats not on top of each other? And will I be able to have some say when they are?
You submit a desired time for each event. And you can email Gen Con staff to change it if they schedule something impossible.

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Posted by nscott

While anyone can run pretty much any game at Gen Con, I would not just drop this into the events system when it opens with no warning to the event staff. Be sure to contact [email protected] ahead of time and have a conversation with them about it. The Event approval process will likely go more smoothly if you’ve let them know ahead of time about your experience and ability to run a large event like this.

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Posted by adamhorton

Excellent, thanks for the advice. I'll definitely send an E-mail to work out the more specific questions.

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Posted by derekguder

Looks like folks answered most of your questions, but I just wanted to pop in with another suggestion of "start small, get some experience, and grow."

Instead of launching out of the gate with a 128-player tournament (whether in heats or not), I'd suggest running a single 32-player tournament (just as an example) and seeing how it goes.

Running a smaller-scale event allows you to get some experience with how events work (both in the Gen Con system and operationally in general), provides an opportunity to recruit other Dominion fans to help when it's not mission-critical, and to gauge overall interest in an un-official tournament, as there is always a bit of a gap for events that don't have an established name, basically.

I'm not discounting going big if you are certain you have the data to back it up, but don't discount starting small and scaling up over the next few years. As an individual running events because you love them, I would recommend prioritizing stability and smoothness of operation over scale and grandeur, if only for your own stress and enjoyment.

-
Derek Guder
Senior Event & Program Manager
Gen Con LLC

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Posted by adamhorton

I know that last year a 16-person unofficial Dominion tournament was run at GenCon, and tickets for that were gone within a couple of hours of them being available. It's the only data point out there but it suggests that going larger than 16 people is probably OK. I had originally thought about going for a 256-person tournament but I had read the guidance about starting smaller and decided to only do 128 people. It sounds like you are suggesting something much smaller.

If the options were to do a 32-person tournament or to do nothing, I guess I would still do the 32-person tournament, but I've run my own local tournaments before of roughly that size (I've also hosted smaller events at other conventions), and the main reason I'm drawn to running a tournament like this at a convention (as opposed to spending that time doing other things) is because I want to try to run something much larger. That's just where my interest is at this point -- if this goes well at 128 people then next year I'll probably aim for 256, that's where I really want to be some day.

So the concern I have is that I'll sign up for this big event and tickets aren't getting bought. I'd be on the hook for $600 worth of table space and I don't have enough in entry fees to make that up plus have a respectable prize pool. If it gets to be close to the convention and there just aren't enough signups, is there a way for me to downsize the event at that point (I would just ask for less table space, effectively) or am I committed to paying for all of the table space once the event is available for signup? If I was committed no matter what, that's the main thing that would convince me to go for something smaller.

...another thing, I E-mailed the [email protected] with some questions last week and I haven't heard back, is that normal?

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