The issues detailed above are two prominent ones in the traditional Swiss tournament format.
So, if one wishes to improve on these flaws, how does one proceed? As the reader knows, we first landed on traditional double-elimination bracket tournament style in which players continue to play until they either lose their second game, or they “make the cut”. Yet, as mentioned above, we received a clear player desire to find an alternative structure due to some of the downsides (primarily player downtime) of that particular format. To this end, after the Philadelphia Vault Tour stop, we put on our thinking caps alongside the Playstile team to decide on an alternative KeyForge tournament format with the following two goals in mind:
1) That any player remaining in the tournament must have a chance at winning the tournament (i.e. no “dead players walking”)
2) To eliminate, to the greatest extent possible, any “byes” (and resulting player downtime)
Tournament systems are deceptively complex. They must take into account a great variety of participating player numbers*, they must be able to handle in-game player drops (while it is much rarer for a player to drop out when they still have the chance to win, drops happen), and they must be able to reasonably solve any rare situation in which several players tie for next-round qualification.
* Most tournaments strive for an easily divisible player count by factor of 2, being 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, etc. However, due to the uncertainties of life, few tournaments actually manage to hit such a precise number at the time of tournament start, and therefore must use systems that accommodate numbers outside a clean factor of 2.
Many times, it makes sense to rely on systems already existing in the world, but other times the situation calls for innovation. To that end, in collaboration with the Playstile team, I’m very proud to announce a new tournament format that we believe will meets our goals above: one we think players will love.
We call it Playstile 2L0
Playstile 2L0 (“two-el-oh”) is a new tournament format that works like a variant of the Swiss tournament format.
As with traditional Swiss tournaments, Playstile 2LO winners are paired with winners, and losers with losers across game rounds. Unlike traditional Swiss, players that lose two games rounds are eliminated from the tournament (thus “2LO” = “Two Losses Out”). The system elegantly handles drops, pairings, and will only have a single natural “bye” in rounds with an uneven number of players. Additionally, Playstile 2LO arrives at the final cut in one round less than most Swiss-format tournaments.
Playstile 2LO also contains a sophisticated “strength of schedule” ranking (to handle ties in making “the cut”), will handle pairings to maximize opponent variety, and will assign byes on a rotating basis—meaning that any player receiving a bye (caused by an uneven number of players), will not receive another bye until all other eligible players each have received a bye.
Playstile has been hard at work to implement this new tournament format into their software, and we have run tens-of-thousands of simulated tournaments as tests. Ghost Galaxy will start using this new format at the Roseville Vault Tour ’23 on August 18 – 20.
To ensure a stable experience, we will not only be running the tournament through Playstile software but also manually (as a backup). In addition, we will have the Playstile engineers on-hand to repair any issue the software may have during the tournament.
Today, we have updated our organized play section to reflect our use of Playstile 2LO going forward. We have also created a comprehensive explanation of this new format, which may be found here. When Playstile is officially opened to the public later this year, players, retailers, and tournament organizers will have free access to running the Playstile 2LO format on their own.
THE ONE GREAT ARGUMENT
While I’ve detailed some of the real downsides of the traditional Swiss format above, one great argument exists for running traditional Swiss tournaments. That argument goes something like this: “When I go to an official KeyForge tournament, I go because I love playing KeyForge. I don’t want to go to an event, travel far and pay for lodging and admission, to perhaps only play two games.” We agree with this notion.
This is why, alongside the principal elimination tournaments, we run a “Second Æmber” tournament at official Ghost Galaxy events. Players may drop into the “Second Æmber” event at any time, which offers a pool of prizes to a selection of winning players. As such, any players that attend a Ghost Galaxy event whom wish to keep playing against other event attendees after elimination, is able to do so. The Second Æmber tournament is therefore very important to us, and we are happy to take suggestions for making Second Æmber ever better.
The Ghost Galaxy team continues, on myriad levels, to move the great game of KeyForge ever forward. We’ve come a very long way since last summer when we took over the game from Fantasy Flight Games, and we’ll continue to press ahead with the game and its supporting activities as best we can: KeyForge fans deserve nothing less. We appreciate all your feedback, your enthusiasm, and your patronage.
Christian T. Petersen