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Subject: Novice GM Questions rss

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Kevin C.
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Bethlehem
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The first game I GMd was a late night game, and one of my 16 tables was going slower than the rest. To avoid the table running long, I adjusted their winning condition to be shorter (essentially I had them play to 35 points rather than 45).


That's funny...I was thinking about this very incident when I was reading the thread and agreeing in my head with what Max posted above about being the Alpha Dog.

My son was playing in that very game at that table. He was 13 at the time and quite put off by the other guy's outburst. It was late and the game was dragging. For my part, I thought you handled it correctly and as well as you could have.

Contrary to what Daniel says above, I think you do get to rest on "I'm the GM so there" from time to time. To my mind, it really is the bedrock idea of the convention: GM rulings are final and that is that.

You guys volunteer your gaming time to make the convention happen for the rest of us and you don't need arguments at 12:00 am about why you are moving the game along.

(My son actually made it to the finals and I don't think we got out of there until close to 2 am as it was.)

So, on the one hand, yes preparation for that sort of thing helps for sure. On the other, you made what seemed to me a pretty reasonable decision given the entirety of the situation with no ill-will.

That's all we can pretty much ask of you.

Kevin





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Daniel Blumentritt
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Austin
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It's not contrary to what I said if you have to resort to it from time to time. But it shouldn't be the default starting point. That will simply shut down reasonable ideas and mean that a guy upset for one moment will likely never return, rather than cooling off a bit and coming back to say "Ok, I still don't like it, but those were the rules and I get that." A lot of it depends on how maturely the complainer is behaving. If I were playing fast and slow players resulted in my game being altered, I would be upset. But I think I would comport myself like an adult while saying "I don't think I should be punished for what other people did, but I understand you can't watch 16 tables like a hawk."

It is very reasonable for players to expect a GM to have a system or plan ready to handle time issues as best as possible. In this case, the GM in question didn't, found out the hard way, and came up with an adjudication standard for the future. Well done. It doesn't have to be perfect the first time, but we all players and GMs alike can learn as we go and improve.
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Kevin C.
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Quote:
If I were playing fast and slow players resulted in my game being altered, I would be upset. But I think I would comport myself like an adult while saying "I don't think I should be punished for what other people did, but I understand you can't watch 16 tables like a hawk.


The upset guy was the slow player. He took a "long view" strategy and was taking a long time to think on his turns. He was upset because he felt the shortening of the game hurt his strategic choice.

On the one hand, he was technically right. His strategy didn't have as long to pay dividends. On the other, there are time constraints to be met at the WBC. Andrew made a judgment call to keep the tournament moving and I think it was a reasonable decision.

Quote:
In this case, the GM I question didn't, found out the hard way, and came up with an adjudication standard for the future.


I think many GM's have a "Don't make me adjudicate...you won't like it" standard. It's extremely hard to make those kind of decisions. You want to nail the guy that is slow-playing and not penalize the other players, but sometimes it is hard to know exactly how it went down.

In the case we are talking about, Andrew got it right by moving the game along, but I think a stern, "Play straight or you will be sorry" is a good stick to wave in front of the players.

Nobody likes adjudication, least of all the GM that has to make that call.

Kevin
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Michael McKibbin
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If the OP is still reading, one piece of advice I would offer re: slow tables and adjudication is to give fair warning to slow tables that their time is running out. For example, make an announcement 30 minutes before time is up that only 30 minutes remain, and games should be wrapping up. Give another warning with 15 minutes left that the current turn will be the last turn, and games which are not finished within 5-10 minutes will be adjudicated. This way no one will be able to complain that they weren't adequately warned.
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Curt Collins
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hgman3 wrote:
If the OP is still reading, one piece of advice I would offer re: slow tables and adjudication is to give fair warning to slow tables that their time is running out. For example, make an announcement 30 minutes before time is up that only 30 minutes remain, and games should be wrapping up. Give another warning with 15 minutes left that the current turn will be the last turn, and games which are not finished within 5-10 minutes will be adjudicated. This way no one will be able to complain that they weren't adequately warned.


Straight from the GM guidelines:

When necessary, GMs should be prepared to adjudicate slow matches. In making any decision, note which player or players have caused the delay, and give faster players the benefit of the doubt for close calls.
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Marty Sample
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Spleen wrote:
hgman3 wrote:
If the OP is still reading, one piece of advice I would offer re: slow tables and adjudication is to give fair warning to slow tables that their time is running out. For example, make an announcement 30 minutes before time is up that only 30 minutes remain, and games should be wrapping up. Give another warning with 15 minutes left that the current turn will be the last turn, and games which are not finished within 5-10 minutes will be adjudicated. This way no one will be able to complain that they weren't adequately warned.


Straight from the GM guidelines:

When necessary, GMs should be prepared to adjudicate slow matches. In making any decision, note which player or players have caused the delay, and give faster players the benefit of the doubt for close calls.


To take it one step further, be sure to make people aware of this before play starts. " I'll notify players when there is a half hour left" etc and when you'll start to adjudicate games; otherwise a slow player/table might feel singled out.
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Peter Stein
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ardrummo wrote:
Returning a little bit to the initial subject, one thing that a new GM should be prepared for is how to handle games going slower than anticipated.

The first game I GMd was a late night game, and one of my 16 tables was going slower than the rest. To avoid the table running long, I adjusted their winning condition to be shorter (essentially I had them play to 35 points rather than 45).

This upset one of the player greatly and he came to me after the event to complain. I apologized for inconveniencing him, but he still chose to harass me multiple times through the rest of the week regarding that decision.

While I know now that I should have approached the CD about that sort of behaviour, it also came from me not having a plan in advance on how to adjudicate slow players.

Just another thing to be prepared for.

(And as a side note, I really did enjoy that first experience as a GM and have happily GMd events since. One poor sport doesn't ruin your time)


Once upon a time people would fill out forms rating GMs. And I noticed the number of bad reviews I got usually equaled the number of people I had to rule against.
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Kaarin Engelmann
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We don't have forms to rate GMs any longer, but the convention director is still interested in feedback about GMs--both good and bad.

People who are unhappy tend to give lots of feedback. Thus, also please drop an email to the convention director after WBC if you were particularly happy with the performance of a GM. Such things are very helpful when deciding among applicants when there is more than one person who volunteers to run a game (okay--that doesn't happen often, but it does occasionally) and when choosing the nominees for GM of the Year and Hobby Service Award.
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Christopher Yaure
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Kaarin's comment led me to think about what makes me think a GM did a good job, and who those GMs are. Overall, a good GM is one who made the event a pleasant experience for me. This is a subjective evaluation, but I can often point to the objective acts that made an event subjectively more pleasant for me. Some examples:
1. The GM transforms the game into an event - e.g., John Corrado (and his AGMs), Facts in Five
2. The GM's preparation and organization makes a large event run like clockwork - e.g., Claire Brosius, Ticket to Ride, Ivan Lawson, Lost Cities
3. The GM stays on top of rules interpretations and competitive balance issues - e.g., George Young, Twilight Struggle, Kevin Wojtaszczyk, War of the Ring (Second Edition)
4. The GM brings energy and lightheartedness to a late night event - e.g., Jason Levine, Liar's Dice
5. The GM adds a bit of whimsy to the process - e.g., Duncan McGregor (and AGMs), Splendor
6. In a lightly attended event, the GM sacrifices his own gaming time to provide playing opportunities for as many players as possible - e.g., Bruno Sinigaglio, Star Wars: The Queen's Gambit




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Grant LaDue
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Tonawanda
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The overwhelming number of gm's are great, and all of them should be commended for doing the hard work to keep it running.
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Christopher Yaure
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ladue wrote:
The overwhelming number of gm's are great, and all of them should be commended for doing the hard work to keep it running.


Agreed. Calling the special ones "good" was an understatement on my part. I appreciate all of the GMs, AGMs, and other volunteers who help make possible the best 9 days of the year!
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Daniel Blumentritt
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Quote:
The upset guy was the slow player. He took a "long view" strategy and was taking a long time to think on his turns. He was upset because he felt the shortening of the game hurt his strategic choice


Haha, well no sympathy at all then. Even if he had stayed calm and avoided ranting, he'd have still been in the wrong. No consideration for how taking more than his fair share of time hurt everyone else's strategic choices by forcing them into the unpleasant choice of "speed up my play to mistake-missing levels" vs "have a game that doesn't make it to the finish".

Think of this way - a 2 hour time slot (just for an example) doesn't mean you have 120 minutes to play the game. Mostly likely the games will actually get going a few minutes after, and then you have to wrap up about 10 minutes early b/c you have to set up for the next round, clear the room for the next event, etc. So you really need to finish the whole game in about 105 minutes which means if it's a 5 player game, each person needs to take 105/5 = 21 minutes at most to play. Anyone taking significantly longer is saying "I have the right to spend more time thinking than you guys do".

Quote:
On the one hand, he was technically right. His strategy didn't have as long to pay dividends. On the other, there are time constraints to be met at the WBC.


I wouldn't even say he was technically right if he was the slowest one. There's no direct correlation between "taking a long time to think" and "going with a strategic plan that favors the late game". In fact there should be an inverse correlation. The longer you take to think, the less a late-game strategy is good, because you are directly decreasing the chances of a long game. Even if the GM didn't lower the VP level, he would have had to cut the game short anyway, which still would have hurt the slow guy given his strategic choices - he made his own bed and had to sleep in it.

Those guys are, I think, comparatively easy to handle because the fact that the game has to end by time X punishes them. The problem is the people who go for a strategy that peaks sooner rather than later so that their odds of winning go up due to their delays making the game end sooner.

Quote:
Andrew made a judgment call to keep the tournament moving and I think it was a reasonable decision.


I think so too, I think the only issue was not having it decided beforehand as the way slow games will be handled. BTW, not jumping on his case at all - he seemed to be posting to say "I had this happen to me, so now I come to the event already having listed what will be done about slow play, so you, new GM, will know that this is important" and I'm just agreeing that yes, new GM, it is important.

Given that in the moment he had to come up with something on the spot, something that punished the slow player most of all was probably a great way to handle it.
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The Pariah
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Spleen wrote:

Quote:
using sports is somewhat misleading though, since each team will eventually play the same number. There is never a tie breaker used for teams who have unequal games played. (at least not that I'm aware of)


College Basketball as well. Some teams play in extra tournaments, some play in weird conference brackets where it's possible that one team could play 2-3 games just to get to the point that they play a team that was seeded higher in their first game.



College basketball is a horrible example. There's only three places where seeding even matters:

1. Weekly ratings -- done by the eye-test (individuals VOTE for the teams).
2. The actual Field of 68 (again, done by some obscenely complicated methodology).
3. Conference tournaments (where, if two teams have the same record, the head-to-head outcome is the deciding factor.

For example, this week:

12 West Virginia 21-6 908
13 Florida 22-5 822
14 Purdue 22-5 807
15 Cincinnati 24-3 733
16 Wisconsin 22-5 713
17 SMU 24-4 554
18 Virginia 18-8 427
19 Florida State 21-6 419
20 Saint Mary's 24-3 375
21 Notre Dame 21-7 322

All decided by votes and the eye test (and RPI, of course, but now we're deviating a bit ....)
 
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Hank Griffin
United States
East Fallowfield
Pennsylvania
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Thanks to all for the feedback. I got answers to all of my questions plus some useful information and advice. Since advancement rules got so much interest, I'll share that section of the event description:

16 players will advance to the semifinal. Semifinalists will be selected on the following:

1) Most Wins
2) Most 2nd place finishes
3) Most 3rd place finishes
4) Highest game score
5) Die Roll
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Glen Pearce
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Call it "Modified HMW". Just be prepped to stick to your guns when someone winds up on the outside that thinks they belong on the in.
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Max Jamelli
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gmpearce wrote:
Call it "Modified HMW". Just be prepped to stick to your guns when someone winds up on the outside that thinks they belong on the in.


Yep. Make sure it's in the preview text on the website and you're gin.
 
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Gareth Williams
Morocco
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actuaryesquire wrote:
1. If you cannot be at the game location early (e.g., if you are demoing the game immediately before the event), arrange for someone else to begin collecting names, probably 15 minutes before scheduled start time.


Late to the party but:

Avoid doing the demo immediately before the event because you will regret it unless your GM team is awesome and your event small and your game simple.

Leave at least an hour between the demo and the event, and keep the hour before the demo free if you can too (or get someone else to do the demo)


In between getting your kiosk where it needs to be, seeing that the tables are free (because the demo using the table before you may overrun), asking questions and handling signups at the event you do want to eat, drink and attend calls of nature.


Also:

11 You do have to submit the AAR, have a plan for getting data and anecdotes for that during the con. Don't wait until further down the line when Ken is asking you for the write up in October and you can't remember what happened

12 Related, but be on top of your GM paperwork and admin, find time to do it (like if your game finished early but you are still waiting for others) Players can't collect their plaques until you have submitted the paperwork, or, ask if you can take the plaques before the final.

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Peter Stein
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actuaryesquire wrote:
ladue wrote:
The overwhelming number of gm's are great, and all of them should be commended for doing the hard work to keep it running.


Agreed. Calling the special ones "good" was an understatement on my part. I appreciate all of the GMs, AGMs, and other volunteers who help make possible the best 9 days of the year!



Agreed. If you don't think about the GM much during the tourney, then he or she is probably doing a good job.
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Andy Latto
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Marty S wrote:
Whatever you do, do not rely on a system that involves calling out players by name, it can take forever. One year I entered a heat of a short game, I think it was Thurn and Taxis. It took nearly a half hour to get started due to some arcane system the GM was using that involved each player having to fill out an index card and god knows what else.

I've GM'ed Thurn and Taxis for the past 8 years, and played in the event every year it was run. For the past 8 years, it has used a "pick a card, find the table with the matching card" system for assigning tables. My memory of the tournament 9 and 10 years ago is hazy, but I don't think it used a system with calling out names and index cards in either of those years, either. I generally have people starting to play by 5 minutes after the hour; it's hard to get started sooner than that, because there is always a rush of people registering at the last minute.
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Marty Sample
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It was before your time Andy, I don't recall you being the GM.
 
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Christopher Yaure
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There are a number of events that use the fill out an index card and listen for your name approach, including some run by experienced GMs. You are right it generally increases the time to start the event. On the other hand, it makes it easier to avoid pairing family members or players from the same club than the playing card method.
 
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Gareth Williams
Morocco
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Actually working with the player names is a lot easier for me than adding an extra level of abstraction of the "Who did I give low clubs to again?" variety, especially when I am shuffling back and forth to try to get the right number of games of the right size.
 
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Kaarin Engelmann
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It depends a lot on the size of the event for which method you use. Calling out names with 15 people is totally different than with 100 people :-)
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Eric Brosius
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AmadanNaBriona wrote:
I don't understand. You're saying that if two people both have a 1st place win, but one of them played two games and one played only one, that it's unfair for the person who played more games to get the spot?

For context, Curt lies on the extreme end of the spectrum for wanting to be able to win as many tournaments as possible. Thus, he sees playing a second game in a tournament once he's won one as inefficiency. (I am not making a value judgement; I'm just explaining his viewpoint.)
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Curt Collins
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I'd rather not be a part of this conversation at this point thank you.
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