Monday, April 15, 2013

Dust Regionals, Games And Stuff Style

If you like, I can save you some time: it didn't happen.

Want the fuller course?  I suppose I can oblige.  As with the Huzzah qualifier, I headed up to Games and Stuff on Sunday with little preparation, running late, no list, and only a general idea of what I wanted to play.  I nearly stuck the second Horten that arrived on Saturday in with the rest of my army, but my previous attempts to forge a dual plane list were unsatisfying so I left it at home.  The trip into the heart of darkness (aka Maryland) was uneventful and I found the new location with only one U turn.  Now GNS is in a strip mall with lots of obvious parking, food options, and a lack of the general unease for your bodily well being that I always got while walking from my car to the old location.  I arrived right on time, a minute or two before things were to kick off, paid my entry fee and rumbled into the gaming room where I found...the TO and the guy who won at Huzzah.  Without breaking my arm trying to twist it around to properly reach my back, I'd like to draw your attention to a bit of prophecy that I dropped in my Huzzah post a week back:

"I had hoped to see some new faces at Huzzah and still hope to delve into a different meta next weekend though I'm a little worried about the turnout there [GNS] as well."

Turns out my concerns were, for once, justified.  I was hoping to meet new players and perhaps play against some different approaches to the game, but such was not the case.  We played a three way game to salvage the afternoon and called it a day.  Since I'd paid my fee before finding out that there wasn't an event I could have, in theory, claimed victory and the ticket to the "world championship," but it took very little contemplation to discard that option.  I want one of those tickets, if only to hang it up on the wall, but I want to win one by actually winning instead of by default.  Fortunately GNS let me roll what I'd already paid into other things (Braineaters), which was nicer than it seems on the surface considering the outlay for the regional tournament kit that they got no (0) return on.  The silver lining in all this was that I made it home in plenty of time for the usual Sunday night family dinner which was a tasty steak with all the trimmings.

Bonus Negativity Speculation

Green = yes, pink = no
So what went wrong?  I don't know, but I have some ideas.  First, it seems to me that the whole
system of Dust Warfare regional qualifiers was done with too much haste.  I'm not an experienced FFG gamer so I can't speak to their past performance in the organized play arena, though I hear they've done these things before.  The registration window for the qualifiers was pretty slim, at least from when I found out about it, and while I have no way of checking it looks like anyone who applied got one.  While I'm all for inclusion, I wonder what (if any) vetting was done on the locations.  It seems odd, though welcome, that there are three qualifiers (VA, MD, WV) that are "local" for me, plus four more that are close enough to consider (PA, NJ, NY, OH) while large swathes of the country have no close option (the remaining four qualifiers are AZ, CA, MN, WA).  I made a visual aid for those of you who, like me, are not adept in geography.  This isn't terribly scientific as I just colored in states that have a qualifier without regard for where that qualifier was in the state, but you can still see the issues here.  I'm fortunate to be in the right place to have my pick.

Second, and related to the first, is lack of publicity.  Knowing where to look on the FFG site (hint: here) means that I can get to the information, but what if I didn't know where it was?  I thought there was a post on the forums about the qualifiers in general, but I haven't been able to find it to link to it now.  There are a pair of posts about the Huzzah qualifier (one is a repeat of the first), but these are from a local player here.  One of the changing banner type things on the forums does mention the qualifiers, but it's one of 4-5 rotating things that you can easily miss if not looking for it.  My rambling point here is that FFG appears to be doing little to support their events.  Maybe this was part of the deal for hosting a qualifier, that promotion is entirely in the hands of the stores, but that seems silly and also contrary to what I remember from the ad they had to entice stores into hosting.

The third point here pains me, but journalistic integrity and all that.  While having dinner before the heart attack that was Saturday's Caps/Lightning game, I realized I didn't know when the GNS qualifier was supposed to start.  I'd checked their site a couple times over the past few weeks but hadn't found any details.  Another check at dinner showed no new information, so I called the store to find out when things were starting.  It took longer than it should have, but I did get the information.  Today I see there's an event listing up on the site.  Maybe it went up yesterday, maybe it went up during the game on Saturday, but it wasn't there during the lead up to the event...which is when people (like me) will want the information.  Mistakes happen and I'm more than willing to give GNS a pass on these sorts of things (my own upcoming events list is hardly well maintained), but it underscores the problem with having little or no information coming out of FFG.  Redundancy is great since one can cover for the other, but if both assume the other is doing the thing then the thing problem doesn't get done.

This is taking a turn I didn't expect or necessarily want, but here we are and I might as well finish.  My last point is about player base.  I had assumed (always dangerous) that because there was a regional qualifier at GNS that they would have a player base to be served by it.  I found out the fun way that this was not the case, though there were a few red flags on the way which led to my bit of prophecy from earlier.  My local Dust organizer has gotten a pitch from GNS to run Dust events there, which I assume is the same pitch we got on Sunday.  The TO there said (paraphrasing) that there was a faltering community, but if you're trying to recruit people from other, not entirely local stores to run things at your store then there's a bigger problem.  This ties back into the (probable) lack of vetting for venues and reinforces concerns about the whole system.  More to the point, it makes me less likely to go to other qualifiers.  I've already scouted out the WV event and have found it isn't too far to be unreasonable to drive to, but I'll be doing some extra investigating now.  There are two other weekends with events between now and then (5/11 in NY and NJ, 5/19 in OH) that are unreasonable drives that I had been considering, but now not so much.  Ohio is a big stretch for a day trip, while NY and NJ are more doable, but it would be table flipping time if I drove 3+ hours to find I was the only one who showed up.  This should not be a concern.  The result of this is that now I'm less inclined to travel to new metas than I was before without knowing that I'll find people when I arrive.  Thus if there were a qualifier down in NC (where the Dust War crew is located) I'd be more likely to make that (5-6 hour) drive than I am to go to the NJ qualifier (3 hour drive) simply because I know there would be people there.  Of course there's not a qualifier there, which brings us back to vetting, which springs from doing things hastily, which is too much negativity to keep indulging in.  I like the game and want to see it do well, I just wish FFG seemed a little more invested in that same goal.

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