Interested in running a tournament or other organized play type event? This series of articles has a bunch of info on tournament play, and is updated weekly-to-bi-weekly with new tips and events. Get involved in your local gaming scene and play!
So you've decided to run a tournament, but you don't know the first thing about tournament organization. Or maybe you do know the first thing, but not the second thing. Well, today I'll give you a quick primer on three common tournament types.
The thing to keep in mind is that all tournaments are designed to determine which player is the best among all of the players participating. "Better" tournament schemes will be more accurate in that determination. However, to get a perfect picture of which player is the best would require a lot of matches and a lot of time. For this reason, many tournament schemes are designed to push weaker players to the bottom (or out of the tournament) faster, while they attempt to push the strongest players to the top as quickly as possible, to make the final matches the most interesting.
Round Robin (Smaller Tournament)
If you've got only a few players, or perhaps a lot of time, a Round Robin Tournament gives you the best measure of universal skill. In this tournament, every player will play against every other player, and the one who wins the most games will be declared the final winner.
A Round Robin Tournament has N-1 rounds, where N is the number of players. You can create a round-robin tournament bracket by drawing a big grid and filling in each player's name along the columns and the rows. Then, pair off the players and have each one play a new matchup each round. Assign points to the winners by pencilling them in the grid (where the row is the player and the column is his opponent), then sum up the rows to determine final scoring. Typically you will assign one point for winning, half a point for a draw, and zero points for losing.
A Round Robin Tournament is nice for a small pool of players, but there are disadvantages to this style as well. For example, skilled players may end up playing a lot of matches against weak players, where the only matches that actually decide a tournament are those that are played against other skilled players.
Elimination (Larger Tournament)
Elimination tournaments (and the popular variant, Double Elimination Tournaments) are good for medium and large-sized tournaments. In an Elimination Tournament, a ladder bracket is drawn pairing off teams or players against one another. Those who win advance along the ladder, while those who lose are eliminated (or drop into a second elimination bracket).
This type of tournament is very common, and it's easy to find professionally made brackets just by doing an internet search for "Elimination Tournament Bracket X Teams", where X is your player count.
Many tournaments start out as Single Elimination, and then transition into Double Elimination once they reach a certain point on the grid (usually Quarterfinals, Top 8, or Top 16). A technique called Seeding is also often used to ensure that better teams meet in the later tournament rounds, rather than the early rounds. This is a complex process, so I'll leave it to you to research more. You probably won't need to seed your local tournament brackets.
Swiss (Larger Tournament)
The main disadvantage of an Elimination tournament is the elimination. If a player pays to enter your event and gets knocked out in round 1, that's not a great experience. Many players won't necessarily be coming to your event to win–they'll just be looking for a way to spend their evening in town. A Swiss Tournament avoids elimination, while still keeping the round count as low as an Elimination Tournament.
In a Swiss Tournament, players are paired up for a round, and then awarded points based on whether they win or lose their round. In the second round, the players are sorted in order of their points, then paired off again, and so on, such that players are continuously being matched against others with a similar win record. A Swiss Tournament usually goes on for the same number of rounds as an Elimination Tournament, but it is possible to hold a longer Swiss Tournament, since the player pool doesn't shrink with losses.
What kind of tournament will you run? I wish you good luck hosting your event! :)