A VASL Option for Tournaments while dealing with a pandemic

Carln0130

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Hello guys. It was suggested to me, in light of running a VASL tournament in lieu of our regular in person or "face to face" (ftf) tournament, the Nor'Easter, and the fact that many other tournaments are being forced to cancel or postpone their dates, that I might be able to give some helpful hints on how to proceed with running a live VASL tournament over the same dates as an originally scheduled live tournament. If anyone else in the organizer community is considering this, hopefully some of this will help.

The New England ASL groups YASL (Yankee ASL) and the Bunker (Creators of Dispatches from the Bunker) host a four day tournament every year in Massachussetts known as the Nor'Easter. As late March approached, we were looking forward to our 24th iteration of that tournament. Unfortunately, Covid19 burst upon the scene and our current history took another turn.

We decided to cancel the tournament due to the health risk and even though a short time later, such cancelations became mandatory, we never really regretted the decision past the fact of wishing it had not come to that in the first place. The hotel was co-operative and did not demand our money, other vendors we had dealt with were equally co-operative in these difficult times and we set our sights on next year.

One of our long standing members, Charlie Hamilton, suggested we try a VASL tournament and after some thought, I decided to take a stab at it. I was unsure going in how well this might work, but in retrospect, I am glad we did do it. Should you find yourself in a similar spot, here are some things I learned in the process.

Communication is always important, but never more than for something of this nature. Our default for voice communication was Skype, as that is what the majority of VASL players I deal with use. As a backup, we also had an agreement that so long as BOTH players in a match agreed, another voice system could be used. I gathered email addresses for all players and a couple also volunteered their text numbers, which in retrospect, I would make as an optional field, as it made staying in touch with those players easier.

Format of the tournament. There has long been two formats for running tournaments, scenario lists and open, choose your own formats. The Nor'easter has always been the former and this was a great strength in this format. The scenario list was full of shorter scenarios for the morning rounds and slightly larger ones for the evening rounds, by design. The structured format of timed rounds gave everyone a good idea of when they would be playing and if they finished a round early, when they would be needed back on line. Combined with email contact with each pairing of players for each round, this kept the players in touch with one another and no one went AWOL. A big plus.

An open tournament would have been more difficult to manage in this manner and more people might have been left falling through the cracks.

I had two key wingmen for the tourney. Ralph MacDonald who pre-prepared E-V-E-R-Y scenario in the tournament on VASL boards and laid out a beautiful HTML format to assist the players, that was first advanced by a user named Ghost Pacman on this very forum. It was a huge time saver and given that not all the players were old hands at VASL, a truly enormous help. I requested Ralph not pre-pull the pieces as I have still run across instances where pre-pulled pieces give difficulty in deleting concealment counters, possibly due to ownership issues. Mileage seems to vary on this, but with 24 participants, someone was bound to experience this.

The other was my gamer per diem, Larry Flaherty, who was present to ensure there was never an odd man out for very long. He helped us avoid that awkward situation and was beyond gracious to offer his time in that fashion and make things run more smoothly.

So definitely, get some help from your group. It is a big job and the more assistance you get, the easier it will go. Also, don't play yourself. I was going to, but decided against it, and I am very glad I did. It would have been unfair to any of my opponents and would have made the job of TD much tougher, making for a worse experience for all.

I asked the players to please prefix all their VASL rooms with the letters NE- and then the room name. This was huge because it made locating the Nor'easter games in a now very crowded VASL game room much, much easier. Most of the players also put the names of the players in the match in the room name and given how helpful that was, I would have asked for that too, had I thought of it.

Don't underestimate the time it takes to keep this rolling. Due to not being able to stroll up to a table and check on things, or ask a friend of someone where they might be, communication and time management are real important from the organizers point of view. I know I hit this one before, but it bears mentioning again. Also, be prepared to adjudicate a game, especially in your winners bracket, as it is the only way to keep things rolling to the benefit of all.

Make sure you have detailed records and when you have a round just started and everyone running, mark yourself away in the main window and GET SOME SLEEP. You are going to need it and the quick naps were a big help.

Last, not needed, but if you are going to report your game results to ROAR, do so in real time as the results come in. This allows you to stay on top of it and avoids having 60 games to worry about at the end of the weekend to add. :)

One thing you have going for you is that your participants have already laid this time one side as vacation days from work and let's face it, right now spare time on people's hands is at an all time high.

It wasn't the same as a face to face tournament, but it was a lot better than no tournament at all. Glad we did it. I hope in some way, this helps others who are considering this route. Good luck gentlemen.
 

Joe Moro

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Hi Carl

Thank you for writeup. Very helpful and much needed. I am in the process of organizing ANZACon 2020 as a VASL tournament, At first was skeptical on how it will work, but now, having done some preparatory, and with yours and other's feedback, i feel confident that it may actually be fun!!

Thank you
 

Carln0130

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Hi Carl

Thank you for writeup. Very helpful and much needed. I am in the process of organizing ANZACon 2020 as a VASL tournament, At first was skeptical on how it will work, but now, having done some preparatory, and with yours and other's feedback, i feel confident that it may actually be fun!!

Thank you
Good luck Joe. Definitely get all the wingmen you can lay your hands on (Strictly cyber speaking of course) and it should go well :).
 

Carln0130

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Happy to hear y'all finding the program useful. These are difficult times, and every little bit helps :)
Great program Pacman. Ralph loved using it and the results were excellent. Take a well deserved bow sir.
 

Mister T

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Very good guidance for further events (IMO it might work less smoothly in Europe/UK due to slow play)

Were the rooms locked or open? Any suggested guidance on that?
 

Carln0130

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Very good guidance for further events (IMO it might work less smoothly in Europe/UK due to slow play)

Were the rooms locked or open? Any suggested guidance on that?
I recommended locked but many played with open rooms.
While you can undo the damage some moron does with the undo button, clearly that is less than optimal.
If someone wants a look in a room they can always IM one of the participants for a look. Then it is up to the players if they know the person etc.
 

Houlie

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An example of life giving you lemons...and making lemonade.
 

Vic Provost

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A big Shout-out to my Main-man Tom Morin for winning the Nor'easter Virtual Tourney 2020 and for Carl for coming up with the alternative concept and running with it. I would not be able to do Dispatches without them and they are both heroes of ASL and the hobby in general in my book. (You can actually find their counters now in the new French module, well deserved guys!).

Well done guys! Looking forward to my usual VASL session with Tom today and someday will host both of these gentlemen here in my actual new gameroom.

We just all have to survive this and so far, so good, Vic.
 

OddballM4

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Thanks for the pointers, Carl! The DC Conscripts have just decided we will be going this route for our Human Wave tourney in late June (announcements posting presently), so this will certainly help us prepare!
 

msoong38

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Thanks for the pointers, Carl! The DC Conscripts have just decided we will be going this route for our Human Wave tourney in late June (announcements posting presently), so this will certainly help us prepare!
Any update on the DC Conscript tournament?
 

Actionjick

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Hello guys. It was suggested to me, in light of running a VASL tournament in lieu of our regular in person or "face to face" (ftf) tournament, the Nor'Easter, and the fact that many other tournaments are being forced to cancel or postpone their dates, that I might be able to give some helpful hints on how to proceed with running a live VASL tournament over the same dates as an originally scheduled live tournament. If anyone else in the organizer community is considering this, hopefully some of this will help.

The New England ASL groups YASL (Yankee ASL) and the Bunker (Creators of Dispatches from the Bunker) host a four day tournament every year in Massachussetts known as the Nor'Easter. As late March approached, we were looking forward to our 24th iteration of that tournament. Unfortunately, Covid19 burst upon the scene and our current history took another turn.

We decided to cancel the tournament due to the health risk and even though a short time later, such cancelations became mandatory, we never really regretted the decision past the fact of wishing it had not come to that in the first place. The hotel was co-operative and did not demand our money, other vendors we had dealt with were equally co-operative in these difficult times and we set our sights on next year.

One of our long standing members, Charlie Hamilton, suggested we try a VASL tournament and after some thought, I decided to take a stab at it. I was unsure going in how well this might work, but in retrospect, I am glad we did do it. Should you find yourself in a similar spot, here are some things I learned in the process.

Communication is always important, but never more than for something of this nature. Our default for voice communication was Skype, as that is what the majority of VASL players I deal with use. As a backup, we also had an agreement that so long as BOTH players in a match agreed, another voice system could be used. I gathered email addresses for all players and a couple also volunteered their text numbers, which in retrospect, I would make as an optional field, as it made staying in touch with those players easier.

Format of the tournament. There has long been two formats for running tournaments, scenario lists and open, choose your own formats. The Nor'easter has always been the former and this was a great strength in this format. The scenario list was full of shorter scenarios for the morning rounds and slightly larger ones for the evening rounds, by design. The structured format of timed rounds gave everyone a good idea of when they would be playing and if they finished a round early, when they would be needed back on line. Combined with email contact with each pairing of players for each round, this kept the players in touch with one another and no one went AWOL. A big plus.

An open tournament would have been more difficult to manage in this manner and more people might have been left falling through the cracks.

I had two key wingmen for the tourney. Ralph MacDonald who pre-prepared E-V-E-R-Y scenario in the tournament on VASL boards and laid out a beautiful HTML format to assist the players, that was first advanced by a user named Ghost Pacman on this very forum. It was a huge time saver and given that not all the players were old hands at VASL, a truly enormous help. I requested Ralph not pre-pull the pieces as I have still run across instances where pre-pulled pieces give difficulty in deleting concealment counters, possibly due to ownership issues. Mileage seems to vary on this, but with 24 participants, someone was bound to experience this.

The other was my gamer per diem, Larry Flaherty, who was present to ensure there was never an odd man out for very long. He helped us avoid that awkward situation and was beyond gracious to offer his time in that fashion and make things run more smoothly.

So definitely, get some help from your group. It is a big job and the more assistance you get, the easier it will go. Also, don't play yourself. I was going to, but decided against it, and I am very glad I did. It would have been unfair to any of my opponents and would have made the job of TD much tougher, making for a worse experience for all.

I asked the players to please prefix all their VASL rooms with the letters NE- and then the room name. This was huge because it made locating the Nor'easter games in a now very crowded VASL game room much, much easier. Most of the players also put the names of the players in the match in the room name and given how helpful that was, I would have asked for that too, had I thought of it.

Don't underestimate the time it takes to keep this rolling. Due to not being able to stroll up to a table and check on things, or ask a friend of someone where they might be, communication and time management are real important from the organizers point of view. I know I hit this one before, but it bears mentioning again. Also, be prepared to adjudicate a game, especially in your winners bracket, as it is the only way to keep things rolling to the benefit of all.

Make sure you have detailed records and when you have a round just started and everyone running, mark yourself away in the main window and GET SOME SLEEP. You are going to need it and the quick naps were a big help.

Last, not needed, but if you are going to report your game results to ROAR, do so in real time as the results come in. This allows you to stay on top of it and avoids having 60 games to worry about at the end of the weekend to add. :)

One thing you have going for you is that your participants have already laid this time one side as vacation days from work and let's face it, right now spare time on people's hands is at an all time high.

It wasn't the same as a face to face tournament, but it was a lot better than no tournament at all. Glad we did it. I hope in some way, this helps others who are considering this route. Good luck gentlemen.
Very helpful information! Well done.
 

Steven Pleva

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I had two key wingmen for the tourney. Ralph MacDonald who pre-prepared E-V-E-R-Y scenario in the tournament on VASL boards and laid out a beautiful HTML format to assist the players, that was first advanced by a user named Ghost Pacman on this very forum. It was a huge time saver and given that not all the players were old hands at VASL, a truly enormous help. I requested Ralph not pre-pull the pieces as I have still run across instances where pre-pulled pieces give difficulty in deleting concealment counters, possibly due to ownership issues. Mileage seems to vary on this, but with 24 participants, someone was bound to experience this.
Can someone point me to help on this?
Thanks,
Steve
 

Pacman Ghost

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Can someone point me to help on this?
I'm the Ghost in question. What are you looking for help on?

The program itself is here. Just unpack the ZIP somewhere, then run the EXE therein (it's slow to start). There is help available from the menu in the top-right corner of the program's window.

Discussion thread is here, video tutorial is here.
 

Steven Pleva

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I'm the Ghost in question. What are you looking for help on?

The program itself is here. Just unpack the ZIP somewhere, then run the EXE therein (it's slow to start). There is help available from the menu in the top-right corner of the program's window.

Discussion thread is here, video tutorial is here.
Very cool stuff...
Thanks!
Steve
 

T34

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I've been in on two virtual tournaments since this pestilence started.

The German Conscripts tournament was excellent. For me, I like interacting with the other players. Having a zoom space where we got together during and between games was the key to making this an excellent experience. Michael Sedlako from Bratislava (whom I finally got to meet last week...) won the Panzerknacker trophy...
14888

Double One was more of a disappointment. I like hanging with the English guys. It's unfortunate that it was really just a series of online games without the meetup and Curry Feast. Living in France, our curry is dull and unappealing.

It appears unlikely that that I'll compete in Bounding Fire next month. Half the fun is giving Martin Myers shit. The other half is beating Pete Phillips. And with Brexit it may be my last chance to enter whatever is left of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
 
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