Competitive formats in Godtear: Options for your community.
By Jeff "Gearbox" Mitchell
Godtear is great. Struggling for ladder points to win each turn is a fantastic game mechanic that creates interesting decisions during every turn for both players. It's a deep game with simple rules that lends itself to casual and competitive players alike.
This article is written primarily for competitive players. It's meant to be a listing and review of the competitive formats currently played, both official and community driven.
What is a competitive format?
It's the manner by which a tournament or league is run. Specifically, I'll be examining how a competitive format allows the players to choose which 3 champions they’ll play each round of a tournament.
What presumptions am I making about these hypothetical competitive events?
First, I am presuming that they are swiss format tournaments, where everyone gets to play every round, but only the final undefeated player wins the tournament.
Second, I presume that these tournaments could be played either online via TTS or in person with real models. For the sake of this article, I am focusing on in person events, since they have more restrictions than an online event where everyone has access to everything.
Third, I presume that experienced Godtear players are looking for variety in both their own forces and the forces they are opposing. This is an opinion formed through conversation and play with some of the most highly ranked players on Longshanks; one that I agree with wholeheartedly.
Finally, I presume that you, dear reader, are interested in playing Godtear in a competitive setting (or even running a tournament yourself) and have found this article in your efforts to better understand how such a thing is done.
My answer to this next question will color the rest of this article; it is a personal opinion that should not be taken as literal truth.
What is the point of a competitive format?
To have fun determining who amongst the competitors is the best at winning the game.
Note that fun comes first, in my eyes, and that winning is the yardstick by which a tournament measures a competitor's aptitude. Not mentioned above, nor discussed below, is the importance of sporting behavior on the part of the competitors despite how necessary it is to a good tournament. There's simply not enough space to discuss all facets of competition in miniature games and still compare Godtear formats.
Speaking of formats, let me list out the four that I will be discussing. I’ll discuss the manner of choosing 3 warbands, the pros of the format, the cons of the format, and my final opinion on the format.
Steamforged Games 4 (SFG 4)
Grumpysarn Draft (Grumpy draft)
Bring 5, ban 1, pick 3 (5-1-3)
TheOldeCrow Draft (Crow draft)
This is currently the only official competitive format in Godtear. Throughout the tournament, you will play only with the 4 warbands you brought to the tournament. Each player brings 4 warbands to the table, sees what the scenario is for the round and which 4 warbands their opponent brought to the table. Then both players secretly choose 3 of their 4 warbands to play, reveal them simultaneously, and then roll dice to determine who deploys and goes first.
1) No bans. I'm going to discuss the advantage of not banning a warband here. If a player really enjoys a particular warband, then a format without bans helps them immensely. They will always have a chance to play their favorites and have fun without restrictions. This creates a better experience for players newer to the scene since they can play their comfortable, favorite warbands every game.
2) Limited collection friendly. Anyone who wants to play only needs 4 warbands, tokens and dice. Again, this is a good experience for newer players since it lowers the bar of competitive entry.
3) Official. No one will accuse the tournament organizer of making something up and applying it unfairly. This is the official format from SFG.
1) No bans. If you can't ban problem warbands that are unfun to play against, then you’ll be playing against problem warbands that are unfun to play against. If a player hates playing against, say, Kailinn, and she’s the top meta pick for this competitive format, then they’re probably going to be seeing her on the other side of the table almost every game as the player gets higher in the standings. This tends to make for a worse experience for less experienced players as they get beat up by the same warband over and over with possibly no option for counterplay since they cannot ban it and may not have an answer in the 4 warbands they brought.
2) Mirror Matchups. If there is a “meta” set of 4 that dominates the competitive landscape, it’s highly likely that high end competitive players will all bring that “meta” list. “Netdecking” and playing only the warbands with the best stats (either in game or in winrate) can lead to matches where both sides field the same models. This isn’t as much fun, in my experience, as draft formats where you are guaranteed no mirror matchups. Rangosh versus Rangosh isn’t as much fun as Skullbreaker versus Rangosh, for example.
3) Limited creative space. Since you’re locked into only 4 warbands for the whole tournament, you’re left with very little space for divergence from any existing metagame. If there are 3 warbands that are the best in the game, and you want to win, then you’ll want to bring those 3 and only have 1 warband to customize to personal choice. Even if you’re running an “anti-meta” list, you’re building against facing the powerful meta lists out there and limited to warbands that counter any powerful meta warbands. You also cannot adapt over the course of the tournament by switching up which warbands you focus on; you pick one of four choices each round, and that’s it.
This is a great format for newer players or communities just getting off the ground. It’s official, so there’s a rulebook for it, it’s open to limited collections, and it doesn’t have to worry about banning a player’s new or favorite warband. The danger in running such a format comes when a community is developed and has an established metagame. The feeling of being forced into picks and the lack of bans will encourage experienced players to choose 4 warbands that are at the top of the power curve and unfun to play against. Possible mirror matchups on the final tables will frustrate those experienced players looking for a varied and interesting play experience.
Start with SFG 4 when you’re starting a competitive scene, then branch out.
Created by Grumpysarn, the owner of this Blog, the Grumpy draft is a vast departure from SFG 4. Each table of the tournament requires a complete set of Warbands to pick from. That’s 25 warbands as of this writing, and 28 soon enough. Players will find out the scenario for the round, then roll off to determine first and second. First player will select a warband to add to their play pool, then second player will select a warband to add to their play pool. Repeat this process until both players have selected 5 warbands, for 10 total split into two play pools of 5. The first player then bans one of the 5 warbands in the second player’s play pool. The second player then bans one of the 5 warbands remaining in the first player’s play pool. Then, with only 4 warbands in each player’s play pool, the players simultaneously choose 3 warbands to actually play that round. The first player to draft is then first player for deployment and the first turn.
1) Targeted bans. If a player despises playing against a certain warband, they can either pick it themselves, or ban it outright. They also do not have to worry that they will “waste” their ban by banning a warband their opponent did not consider valuable, since by the time banning occurs, all picks are completed. This also allows experienced players to target synergistic linchpin warbands or warbands that counter their planned strategy. One can ban out Nia if their opponent chose Morrigan, or ban out Maxen if one chose Mourneblade.
2) Draft format. Draft format means that there will be no Mirror Matchups. There will be six different warbands on the table. It also means that in certain scenarios, certain warbands are higher draft priority; for example Slayers on Death and Guardians on Knowledge. This dynamic means of picking warbands is practically unique to Godtear in miniatures games, since every warband can play with every other warband.
3) Can play any warband. With all warbands on the table available to draft, each player can prioritize their favorite or comfortable warbands during the draft. This grants vast creative space for players to develop unique and creative solutions to problems their opponents’ present during the draft.
1) Targeted bans. If a player chooses a warband with the intent to build their strategy around it, that strategy can be destroyed by a single choice from their opponent. They can also have their comfort pick banned every round of the tournament, and that’s not a very fun experience.
2) Large collections required. All tables need access to all warbands. This is simply not feasible for most communities. While there may be one or two players who fell down the rabbithole and own all the models in Godtear, it is unlikely that half of the community has complete collections. This challenge may be insurmountable. Note that this format can be played casually by modifying the draft pool to just be the unique warbands the two players have access to. This casual format does require at least 10 unique warbands and players willing to allow others to touch and play with their models, but is a fun introduction to drafting in Godtear.
3) Similar drafts. Despite access to any warband in any scenario, and targeted bans and trillions of possible draft conclusions; drafts with this format tend to all feel the same. “Meta” warbands like Kailinn, Raith’Marid, Rangosh, and Skullbreaker get picked up in the first 2 phases out of fear they will go to the opponent; then 3 actual choices are made in drafting; then a meta warband is banned out on each side; then one final decision and, oh look, every draft tends to include one of the top 4 meta pieces on each side of the table. While this is better than a mirror matchup, having to play with and against the same warbands every round of every tournament is not a great play experience.
A great start by the community to integrate a drafting format and bans into a competitive play experience. Unfortunately, with the vast collections required, the always similar but not quite the same drafts, and the length of draft duration, I cannot recommend this as a competitive format for in person tournament play. It’s solid in online formats, since the collection limitation is removed there, but it’s not the best format I’ve played competitively. Surprisingly, however, this is a fantastic casual format for the player who has a complete collection, especially since their opponent doesn’t need to own anything to play.
The first draft format, included here for completeness sake and to list out what we learned from it. Great for casual play but not much else nowadays
Editor’s Note: I, Grumpysarn, inventor of this format, agree that there are now better online draft formats.
Something of a hybrid between SFG 4 and Grumpy draft. Players bring 5 warbands to the tournament. Each round, after being told the scenario, the players roll off to determine who goes first and who goes second. First player then bans one of the 5 warbands the second player brought, and then second player bans one of the 5 warbands the first player brought. Then both players secretly decide which 3 warbands to bring, reveal simultaneously, and the first player deploys first and goes first on turn one.
1) Targeted Bans. With the option to ban meta warbands, players do not have to play against warbands that they do not have fun playing against. On the flipside, players looking to reach the final tables must account for the possibility that their opponent will ban a key piece for each scenario, and might sneak in some meta warbands by offering up difficult ban decisions for their opponent. For example, when playing Knowledge, deciding whether to ban Halftusk or Raith’Marid is a tough, interesting, and fun choice.
2) Limited collection friendly. With the need for only one more warband than the SFG 4, this format is the second most friendly to limited collections in the four formats being offered. Even with the recent price increase, miniatures game players can be enticed by a competitive entry point of ~$150 with no painting or assembly requirements. Also, those with large collections can loan out their spare warbands if they feel like it.
3) Similar to the official format. By simply adding one warband and one ban, this format adapts the format I recommend to start out with into a deeper, more complex series of decisions. Experienced players can get more variety in their matchups, while new players can prevent meta warbands from running roughshod over them. With the similarity to the SFG 4, it’s easy to transition a community into 5-1-3.
1) Targeted Bans. I’m going to keep mentioning that bans are a double edged sword. If a player brings their favorite, painted, comfort pick of a warband and then does not get to play it at all during the tournament because it keeps getting banned, they’re going to have a negative play experience. While less severe for more experienced Godtear players looking for variety and competitive edge in their play experience, newer players may be disheartened or confused by the ban phase of the competition.
2) Mirror matchups. Similar to SFG 4, there is a high probability that one or two warbands will be mirrored across the final table. This is almost unavoidable outside of draft formats, but still worth mentioning.
3) Complexity. The addition of a ban and another warband increases the number of potential warband choices from 16 (2 total decisions of 4 options each) to 200 (an additional 2 decisions of 5 options each). By doubling the number of decisions and increasing the potential outcomes by 2500%, the tournament organizer has introduced a pile of complexity that must be conveyed and accounted for when running the tournament.
This is probably the best in person format presented on this list. It balances access for new players with rewarding knowledgeable players for their experience. It makes for a much more exciting pile of viable warbands (ex. Mourneblade can be played since the player running him can ban any Maxens across the table) and doesn’t adjust the formula too severely. I recommend running this format once your community has a few SFG 4 tournaments completed.
Introducing the Targeted Bans from the Grumpy draft into the SFG 4 format is a fantastic evolution of the in-person competitive format and I cannot recommend 5-1-3 any more highly.
There’s a little more work on the TO’s part for this format, but I think it’s worth it. Each round the TO randomizes a Scenario and a draft pool. Each draft pool is 12 total warbands, 3 of each class. That’s 3 random Maelstroms, 3 random Shapers, 3 random Slayers, and 3 random Guardians. For fairness, each table should have the same draft pool.
To prevent certain warbands from being too prevalent in the tournament, and to encourage variety, after a warband appears twice in a draft pool, it is taken out of the randomizer for two rounds. (So if Kailinn randomizes into the draft pools of the first and third round of the tournament, she will not be in the random pool for the fourth and fifth rounds.)
Once a draft pool is assigned, players then roll off to determine who’s first and second player. First player bans one of the 12 warbands in the draft pool, then second player bans one of the remaining 11 warbands in the draft pool. The players then alternate drafting; with the first player picking the 1st, 3rd, and 5th picks and the second player picking the 2nd, 4th, and 6th pick. First player then deploys first and goes first in turn one.
1) Unique draft every round. With a random draft pool determined irrespective of scenario, there will be some strange and wonky choices to be made every round of the tournament, before the game even begins. This is a fun, exciting, and deeply tactical moment not found in any other format. Also, there are fewer decision points per player. With one ban and three picks each, there are only 4 more total decisions than 5-1-3.
2) Unusual warbands see play. This format was run for the first Eternal Glade Open and led to some very interesting and unusual drafts. Morrigan was picked in four of the five games played round one, and won two of them! No other format encourages such diverse and off-meta picks as Crow’s draft. This format encourages the use of warbands that don’t see much play in other formats because of the limitations imposed on the players by the limited draft format. It’s great!
3) The most fun format I’ve played. In the finals of the Eternal Glad Open, Dave M first picked Luella! With Skullbreaker, Rhodri, Rangosh and Jaak on the table, he crushed me with this most unusual draft pick. It forced me to downgrade my pick strategy for Skullbreaker and Jaak, and pushed me to pick Rhodri before Rangosh. This was a ton of fun even before the game started, at least for me. Drafting creates a minigame before the Godtears fall, and this is the best draft format I’ve ever played in Godtear.
1) Unusual collection requirements. If Rattlebone shows up in the draft pool, your group of 8 competitors may not have 4 Rattlebones between them. This runs into much the same issues as the Grumpy draft; difficult to execute in person, but easy to do online.
2) Bans before any picks. There is a chance that players will ban warbands that their opponents did not plan to pick. This is okay, but can feel bad the first couple of times the opponent asks “why did you ban that warband/champion?” Without the targeted nature of the bans, players might just take a shot in the dark and hit a terrible target. Then again, there’s a one in twelve chance of hitting just what your opponent wanted to first pick even with random picking. So it’s not that bad.
3) More preparation required for the TO. Rather than just randomizing a scenario each round, tournament organizers must also prepare draft pools (preferably ahead of time) through properly random means. This takes time and effort and is not inconsequential. Though I believe that your players will enjoy the fruits of your labors on their behalf.
This is my favorite format, both for tournaments and casual play against experienced players. It forces the player to adapt on the fly, understand every warband’s strengths and weaknesses, and it prevents mirror matches. While the collection requirements are high, it is likely that the players who get the most enjoyment out of this format will be deep enough into the game to support this format in person for at least one round. It’s the best draft format in Godtear and you, yes you, should try it at least once.
If you want to try to draft in Godtear, either casually or in an online tournament, you cannot go wrong with the Crow draft.
The competitive scene in Godtear is a great place for community experimentation to intersect with official support. While the rulebook itself says to “select your champions,” on page 10, there are a great variety of options to determine how players do that. This list of 4 formats is meant firstly as a record of what the community has made and played thus far, but is also meant as a jumping off point for the community to build upon further.
So what should you do with this information? Try it out yourself. Organize an SFG 4 tournament, play a Grumpy draft game or three online, pool three of each class together and Crow draft out of them, try out 5-3-1 in a casual game. See if you agree with my opinions. Iterate on your ideas and bring them back to the community to experiment with. Realize that there is no “best” competitive format for all forms of tournament, and realize that you can help find better ones than the four presented above.
This is Jeff “Gearbox” Mitchell, signing off.