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KeyForge: Call of the Archons» Forums » Variants

Subject: Advanced Tournament Formats rss

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Michael Van Biesbrouck
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The best summary of possible tournament formats I've seen so far: https://community.fantasyflightgames.com/topic/280262-tourna...

This is a bit longer and more detailed....

Problems with Bringing Your Own Deck

Bringing your own deck and playing it exclusively doesn't separate your skill from the quality of the deck that you bought. Decks can be handicapped using chains but, as Richard Garfield pointed out, you are handicapping players at the same time. For that matter, if you played in tournaments where players were much weaker than you and then went to a higher-level event, you would have more chains than people who had been in competitive tournaments with better players overall.

The other annoyance with bringing your own decks is that faction combinations and mechanics will create metas that people will try to game around. This seems to run contrary to the spirit of the unique deck game.

Making your opponent play your deck in a loser tournament is probably one fun solution.

Otherwise, tournaments where players play decks they've never seen before or share decks with opponents seem to be most reasonable. I think that stores organizing tournaments will likely favour purchasing a deck as an entrance fee. The decks can be drafted as prizes at the end or randomly assigned to players (sleeving the first deck they play with).

Bidding Chains for New Decks

Xelto suggested looking at all the decks opened for a tournament and bidding chains to get your pick (you take home the deck you play with). This seems time-consuming, but there is no reason why pre-registered players couldn't be sent links to all the decks ahead of time. Without advance preparation, players could be divided into groups of four and bid chains on the four decks the group gets.

Designing an auction for decks is a complicated problem. For now, I suggest the Christmas Gift Exchange, Evo Auction or Simultaneous Auction.

If all decks are handicapped this way, you can proceed with single matches (or best of N) in any of the standard tournament formats (see below). The downside is that decks will have a rock-paper-scissors win pattern with each other; chains will be bid to get 'paper' if there are many 'rocks', but the deck might end up playing against only 'paper' and 'scissors'.

Playing Matches without Using the Same Deck

Tournaments consist of a series of matches which could be designed for variable numbers of games. We want each match outcome to reflect the better player, not the better deck (or even deck/human hybrid).

For a single-game match, you could look at both decks and bid chains for choice of deck. You might spend more time inspecting the decks than playing. I don't think that this would be fun. Duplicate tournaments (see below) can use single-game matches without bidding chains.

In a tournament with a large number of rounds you might play one-game matches and randomly assign decks to players each round, assuming that the results will even out. Statistically, that would take a lot of rounds.

For two games, you can swap and score. Players play both decks without changing which deck plays first. Each player can score the number of keys they have forged in each game and whoever forged the most will win. Since the game ends immediately after forging three keys, if the same deck wins twice then the match winner will be whoever did the best with the weaker deck. Commands & Colors tournaments are normally played this way. Aember could be used to break ties and rank outcomes in different matches.

Best of three matches can be played as two games swapping decks followed by bidding chains for the third game. Since players will have played both decks against each other the bidding should be quick and fairly painless. (See also Play, Switch, Bid.)

Playing more than three games probably only makes sense for the final match(es) of a tournament with elimination. Best three of five would be played like a three-game match, bidding chains for each game after the first two.

Standard Tournaments

FFG's tournaments generally use Swiss rounds to rank players. At higher levels, they are followed by single elimination for the top players. I suggest two- or three-game matches for Swiss rounds and three-game matches for the elimination tournament. Best of five games would make an epic final match. Swiss rounds can probably rotate decks, but new decks should be introduced for the elimination tournament. Letting players of each elimination match keep the decks (winner getting the choice of the decks) provides built-in prizes.

Double elimination tournaments are also a good format. They tend to pit players of the same skill against each other (as does the Swiss variation used in FFG's tournaments). Use two- or three-game matches based on time and number of players. Rotate decks each round so that players don't use the decks twice. Note that players that have lost twice don't need to actually be eliminated; they can continue to play in brackets for two-time and three-time losers. At the end of the tournament with this modification you will be able to rank players based on the number of times that they have lost and award prizes appropriately. Break ties based on the heat in which the last loss occurs (later is better; if still tied, look at the previous loss).

Duplicate Tournaments
In Duplicate Bridge, many players play the same hands of cards against each other and are scored based on how well they did compared to other players on the same hands. Each round players will play different opponents and hands (for Keyforge, pairs of decks).

Setup

You will need a 'table' for every pair of players and a pair of decks for each table. (If there are an odd number of players, you will need an extra deck to make up the last table and one player will have a 'sit out' each round.)

Movements

There are many ways to match up players and decks, called movements. The simplest movement is Mitchell/Skip Mitchell (determined by how many tables you have). Half of the players won't move; the pairs of decks and other players move in opposite directions. You can score one-game matches this way but the moving and non-moving players will have separate scores. Playing two games would allow all players to be scored against each other, but you would be scoring games where half the players knew the decks; it is probably better to just combine the scores. Howell movements require instructions on where players should go but they allow all players to score against each other with one-game matches; for smaller numbers of players they are ideal.

Scoring

When scoring the outcome of each game, you will want to convert the difference in keys forged (3 to -3, but not 0) to match points, where the best player(s) will score 100% and the worst 0%. Players score the average of their played games. We don't have a lot of experience with the variability of outcomes given a pair of decks. If people almost always get the same numbers of keys forged, then tournament play probably isn't very interesting. However, ties could be broken based on remaining Aether differences.

FFG's Variant Tournament Formats

Leaked OP rules: https://community.fantasyflightgames.com/topic/282318-organi...

Sealed Auction

All decks are seen and then auctioned in random order. Players leave with the deck the bought/brought, not the one that the play with.

My experience is that auctions like this have distorted valuations at the beginning and end. However, you go home with the deck that you brought, not the one that you play with so there's no incentive to sabotage your tournament chances to get a deck you want. That's worth considering for any auction. I suggest picking a different auction format.

Adaptive

Best of three, as above.

Survival

This is a double elimination tournament in which you have two decks. When you lose, the deck that you were playing with is eliminated. As long as you have two decks, you can choose to play with either.

I think that this is a cool variant on double elimination and is probably easier to explain. It does weaken the players who have already lost once but you only play against players with a similar win-loss record so this only matters for the first match of winner of the winners bracket vs the winner of the losers bracket.

Gauntlet

Players have three decks. Their opponents nix one of their decks and then players secretly choose one of the others to play with.

I think that this is great for metas with a perceived rock-paper-scissors play to the house combinations. If there are overly strong house combos then this format is great for sealed tournaments but bad if you can bring your own decks.

This format would be enhanced by players assigning chains to their decks at the start of the tournament, possibly through an auction.
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MGS
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Nice write up. I love running tournaments. I am still a big fan of bringing your own deck, play the tournament with it and let the best player/deck pair win. Swiss followed by single elimination.

Additionally, if card ou faction combinations prove to be strong overtime, handicaps could be given by FFG on those bases.
 
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Richard Garfield
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Very nice summary, ideas, and observation of associated issues.

I am particularly happy with your writeup of duplicate. That is a format I love in bridge, and we tried in the early days of magic - we made wacky decks and faced them off in a manner you suggest, and player's scores were based on their relative performance. Winning with a deck that won a lot was worth 1vp, winning with a deck that hardly ever won was worth 5vp, etc.

There is more luck in these matchups than duplicate bridge because your hand in duplicate bridge is the same - in these games - Magic and Keyforge - your deals will be different. You might get mana screwed in your magic play, you might get the wrong houses at the wrong time in keyforge. But, a strong player will definitely be able to adapt to the matchup more quickly and influence their result. We have tried fixing the decks so they are the same order in both cases - not worth the trouble (in general), and you have to get rid of reshuffle effects or the deals spin out in different directions anyway.

The christmas gift exchange is very cool. I hope to try that.

Some other observations:

Switching Decks: I think switching decks in general, whether bidding chains or giving people your weak deck is a negative for some people. Most people won't mind when playing with friends but in a tournament situation the deck is pretty personal and letting everyone handle it is a negative. I find these very exciting formats, but there will be some who don't like that. I am not sure this is bad for the duplicate - because those are (I am picturing) public decks that are set up. Perhaps those decks are given as prizes after the tournament.

Bringing decks without switching: There will be a real desire among some to find out how their deck stacks up against other decks, knowing that this might be unfair - but hoping that their skill and deck quality can rise to the challenge. This also won't appeal to everyone because it will be frustrating thinking you can't compete because of the tools you have. As long as we take the winners and promote them in some fashion so they don't win the same tournaments again and again (though possibly they win different ranks of tournaments), some players will like this mode of play. Horse races have "maiden races" which are races for horses that have not won a race - we would want something similar.

"Sealed Deck": This would be a freshly opened deck. I like this mode of play, although we may not need both this and maiden tournaments. In conjunction with the losers bracket you could have an interesting tournament - where you open your deck and decide whether to play sealed for the good decks or sealed for the bad.
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The idea of maiden tournaments sounds interesting but the name is not so hot♥
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Michael Van Biesbrouck
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Most of these formats assume sealed decks as a matter of fairness/surprise/prizes/payment to the organizing store. I hope that players won't feel too attached to new decks. OTOH, if everyone gets the first deck they play with then there is a chance to sleeve it before anything can happen to it.

Someone with sufficient decks could organize a duplicate tournament with balanced/interesting options. The decks should be new to all players, although the fixed decks could be used at one table. If the tournament is made up of decks the organizer didn't want, it could be an elaborate way to sell them off....

I thought about the randomness issue for duplicate tournaments and decided to suck it up. I'm assuming that over many games PlayerSkill > ShuffleOrder and DeckConstruction > ShuffleOrder but don't know how to rank PlayerSkill vs DeckConstruction on average. If ShuffleOrder is dominant then you need to play a lot of games.

My preference is to try many decks and oppose many decks. Thus formats with lots of new decks are desirable. If players brought their own decks to a tournament, I would prefer one where you play your deck and then swap (possibly bidding chains for the third match). It has the advantage that you can learn the new deck by playing against it, reducing overhead.

Finding the best deck/human hybrid is a reasonable goal. In a game where no deck construction was dominant and play was about coping with the weirdness of your deck, then this format would be great as players would merely be finding the deck that is best for them. It would be great if that were the case, but even so the format that would force players to adapt to many decks would still appeal to me.

Many years ago I organized a Button Men tournament where each player played against all opponents using preselected match-ups of buttons. (The game involves combines randomness, skill and button construction in a way that could be considered similar to Keyforge.) Players played all the match-ups. Each button also played all the others. I scored victories and losses in a match-up based on the negative log (base 2) of the win rate the buttons had (the entropy of the result). (There were a few possible variations to handle ties and strength of victory, but they didn't seem to have a material effect.) This worked quite well except that there was one match-up that should have been a guaranteed win but one player screwed it up, giving his opponent a lot of points.
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David "Davy" Ashleydale
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“Bringing your own deck and playing it exclusively doesn't separate your skill from the quality of the deck that you bought.”

I thought that one of the main premises of Keyforge was that any deck could hold its own against any other deck — that it really was the skill level of the players that determined the outcome. All decks are the same “quality”. Unlike Magic, there are no good decks or bad decks. And that even if there were slight variations in quality, chaining during play or during a series of plays would even everything back out again.
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Xelto G
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Phelddagrif wrote:
Bringing decks without switching: There will be a real desire among some to find out how their deck stacks up against other decks, knowing that this might be unfair
<stuff removed>
As long as we take the winners and promote them in some fashion so they don't win the same tournaments again and again (though possibly they win different ranks of tournaments), some players will like this mode of play.

I've really liked the thought of having decks be promoted, as opposed to banned, as has also been floated. FFG might want to push that end a bit more, by announcing a 'winners' tournament' for the next GenCon (or some other major event), which, in order to join, you need to have a deck that has been promoted at least once.
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Xelto G
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randomlife wrote:
“Bringing your own deck and playing it exclusively doesn't separate your skill from the quality of the deck that you bought.”

I thought that one of the main premises of Keyforge was that any deck could hold its own against any other deck — that it really was the skill level of the players that determined the outcome. All decks are the same “quality”.

Generating flawlessly balanced decks is essentially impossible. There will be power differences. But, unlike CCGs, the power differences shouldn't be anywhere near as noticeable: a bad deck will still win a decent amount of the time. Just not 50%. Maybe not 40%. Probably at least 30%, though, if you're any good.

I'm hoping, for casual play, that the companion app they mentioned will be able to recommend handicap levels, so you can meet random people at the store and get a decent challenge.

For tournament play, I'm hoping for a mix of tournaments where the deck you bring will play a part in the final outcome, some where you see a new (or a bunch of new) decks that you play with.

I've been following the various tournament threads here and on FFG's site, and I've seen a lot of interest in the white elephant/Christmas exchange ideas, as well as the loser deck tournament ideas. That, to me, means that there are a decent number of people looking for tournaments where the end goal is to have fun, rather than to win any way possible.
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Michael Van Biesbrouck
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randomlife wrote:
I thought that one of the main premises of Keyforge was that any deck could hold its own against any other deck — that it really was the skill level of the players that determined the outcome. All decks are the same “quality”. Unlike Magic, there are no good decks or bad decks. And that even if there were slight variations in quality, chaining during play or during a series of plays would even everything back out again.

This isn't expected. Decks don't have unusable cards ('Play: Foo a Bar', without any Bars to foo) and they seem to have rares in at least two factions. Otherwise, pretty much anything can happen. Having great synergy (or total uselessness) is unlikely, but there are going to be a lot of decks printed. See the 'what we know' section of my article on generating your own decks.

If you know your decks you can bid chains to balance them. Several of the options above allow you to bid chains.
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Richard Garfield
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randomlife wrote:

I thought that one of the main premises of Keyforge was that any deck could hold its own against any other deck — that it really was the skill level of the players that determined the outcome. All decks are the same “quality”. Unlike Magic, there are no good decks or bad decks. And that even if there were slight variations in quality, chaining during play or during a series of plays would even everything back out again.

There will be a wide variety of deck qualities, and I don't want to be responsible for misrepresenting that. I wanted variety over 'fairness' and counted on chains to balance when players were looking for evening things out.

My goal was to make most decks 'playable' against most other decks, meaning that luck and player skill could overcome overall deck strength a non trivial amount of the time.

When we encounter a powerful deck in my playgroup we usually take turns trying to beat it without chains, just to get a sense of how strong it is, and players vie for the glory of being the first to beat it. I am guessing that there will be people who embrace an uneven landscape even with the handicapping available.

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With regard to tournament formats, what we do think about that handy decklist card: public information?

I feel like assessing a deck's strength and how to play it or play against it is a big part of the skill in this game.

However, the very idea of exchanging decklists before a game set off a mini-firestorm in the Facebook group.

That the decklist exists suggests to me that sharing them is the intent. However, the counter argument is that the presence of mavericks proves that the intent was to preserve the surprise during gameplay.
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Michael Van Biesbrouck
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Whether players should see deck lists is going to be important, although FFG's tournament rules will probably set a standard that people follow.

Any tournament that bids chains needs to expose deck lists. In a match where decks are swapped, it would be weird to only have surprises the first time. If decks are reused between matches, hidden deck lists would mean that talking about earlier games is cheating. OTOH, the rules imply that the deck list side of your card will be face-down with Æmber on top. Studying deck lists can also slow tournaments down.

On balance, I think that you should show your deck list and let your opponent scan the QR code. However, there is a place for events where people bring decks intended to surprise and amaze; also casual sealed tournaments where players don't even get to look at their own deck lists.

Known mavericks don't seem to involve more surprise than other cards.

Android: Netrunner makes extensive use of face-down cards. I remember that one expansion made a faction stronger even if you didn't own it because there was a threat that you might have one of the cards in it. Keyforge could do something similar with the archives, but current cards aren't like that. Maybe a future set of cards will focus on bluff mechanics, but right now it is more a matter of whether your opponent has Common Cold to wipe out your Martians.

 
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Richard Garfield
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mpowers wrote:
With regard to tournament formats, what we do think about that handy decklist card: public information?

This question has broader ramifications than what many people appreciate - we ran into this with Magic in the early days. In Magic decklists are public, but they weren't always - when they weren't scouting was a large part of the play. That could be having friends scout for you, or getting done then running to the table where your likely future opponents are playing.

This observation is not a deal breaker - but it has to be seriously considered. In duplicate bridge players can't walk around when they are done for exactly that reason - scouting other hands would break the game. But that will lead to a very different tournament environment, and one that I think is going to be difficult to rely on creating.

Personally I like both playing with surprise fresh decks and playing against decks I know well. My guess is that there are ways to get both but in the more serious tournaments you will either have to have open deck lists or people not allowed to leave their seats between games. In more casual tournaments just frowning on the practice of scouting is likely enough. When playing bridge with a club players weren't as restricted as a tournament because it was more casual. Also, it is always possible the first match with a deck is always secret since scouting is not an issue for that match.

(I am not speaking for OP, I don't know their thoughts on this matter).

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Michael Van Biesbrouck
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Phelddagrif wrote:
(I am not speaking for OP, I don't know their thoughts on this matter).

They are in the post above yours :), although apparently not much different from your own.

Organizers should figure out if they are running a 'fun' event or a deadly-serious one and choose appropriate rules. If I were in the middle ground, I would pick the options that will result in the fewest misunderstandings, which probably means open information. From a social perspective, I wouldn't want the serious (possibly overly-serious) players to get into an argument over scouting; even if they have thick skins it will leave bad memories for the other players, some of whom probably just wanted a fun afternoon getting to play against a bunch of different decks. From a technical perspective, I dislike exploitable structures.
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Thanks for posting this interesting thread. It made me have some thoughts about a possible tournament format for KeyForge. I call it a Durga Closed Fist Auction format. Even if nobody else wants to try it out, I’ll try it at some point if I can get enough players.

I don’t want to hijack your thread so I’ve posted about it here.

I mainly wanted to thank you for the inspiration Michael!
 
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Michael Van Biesbrouck
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I've updated the main article to include FFG's variant tournament formats.
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Alice Moore
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Very good idea for the duplicate option! That way no one can use the excuse of a “bad” deck.
 
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Michael Van Biesbrouck
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alicelouise58 wrote:
Very good idea for the duplicate option! That way no one can use the excuse of a “bad” deck.

You wouldn't know it from all the griping I hear on Bridge night; some people aren't satisfied by losing less-badly for the win. OTOH, many of these people have been playing for decades so it can't be that bad.
 
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in auction format,can i see the oppnent's deck before bidding?
 
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Michael Van Biesbrouck
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I think that sensible auctions require that players see deck lists before bidding. The name and art is actually supposed to indicate cards in the deck, but as far as I know nobody has decoded it.
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