When Mike Brandt ran the NOVA Open tournament last year, he created a revolution in the tournament community. A number of novel concepts were introduced into tournament strategy and scoring:
- Two major winners - Best General and Renaissance Man (33% each of battle, painting and sports)
- 3 simple missions that are not too hard to draw; but...
- All three missions are played every game, with one being primary another secondary and the last tertiary. If you tie the primary mission, the you determine win or loss from the secondary mission and so on.
- Victory points are used instead of kill points, and to resolve ties.
- Once a winner is determined, nothing else matters when determining the overall. There is a battle points score, but it is only used for future pairing offs and determining the Renaissance man.
- Within each bracket of winners, best is paired off with worst. Traditional Swiss format pairs off in a less extreme manner, in an effort to give players "better games".
The NOVA system doesn't allow for draws - every game results in a win or loss. The reason for this is to ensure an absolute winner - if you play the right number of games. When draws are introduced you might end up with no clear winner with the same number of games.
With the mission and scoring innovations first showcased at the NOVA Open, the previous traditional methods of running a tournament have been called to account. Whereas previously determining a winner with battle points was the done thing, now the competitive community is starting to like idea of just using a straight win/loss record.
It's common practice after the first round is played to pair off players with the same win/loss record for subsequent rounds. Often the two highest scorers end up playing each other in round 2. Within a NOVA bracket the best player is paired with the worst player, and so on... This is simply a better way. It helps to quickly sort out the best players in the top half - that player who won by a single point needs to prove himself worthy, and what better way than by playing the player with the largest victory margin? And wouldn't it be best to keep the best players apart until the last round of the tournament?
What were the benefits that the NOVA format brought to the table?
- Ensuring that the most consistent winner on the day wins, regardless of their match-ups.
- Tiebreaker missions mean that when your army is bad at the main mission, you can play for a draw and then try to win the secondary or tertiary mission.
- No shonky mission - every mission was simple, well playtested and fair for all armies.
- Not having to humiliate each opponent in order to get a place on the podium.
What are some of the drawbacks?
- More games have to be played to determine an overall winner - for a tournament with more than 16 players you need to play 5 rounds in order to determine a winner. Either you are playing at 1000 points, or that is a very long day (you poor bastard), or it's two days.
- Multiple mission tiebreakers mean that you have to keep track of multiple win criteria simultaneously.
- The missions are boring. They don't test the most important attribute of a real-world general - thinking on your feet.
Overall I think this new tournament format is very clever and a much needed revitalisation of the scene. Pity I haven't seen it used here in Melbourne. For more information and discussion, there is plenty to see on Mike Brandt's blog. Here are a couple of good ones:
- SWISS IS FOR CHOCOLATE!
- TIES ARE BADDD!!! Or are they?
- Random Game Length in a Tournament
- Kill Points vs. Victory Points
Coming soon: A Twist on the NOVA Format