Monday, September 3, 2012


The Nova had some of our local generals place very high and that always brings things into focus more clearly and grabs the imagination a bit.

I have wondered how NOVA among the cornocopia of tournaments out there, got to be so big.  It seems to me that many tournaments aspire to the size and bredth that NOVA has attained but have largely failed.  I think to myself:  what are the key ingredients for such success?  As an organizer, it intrigues me what the mechanisms behind such success are.

The changes in the way they end the tournament are interesting, as only the finalists have to play on Sunday morning.  But this doesn't really explain how it exploded in the first place.  Like most of these, there is a tournament FAQ particular to the event, which is common enough, and the NOVA tournament is certainly well organized, but none of that happens until it is a bigger event to begin with.  It isn't really that centrally located, so that isn't the attraction either.

I looked into this and asked a few people and it appears that it began just like the Ambassadorial Tournament:  32 players, lots of food and in their case, an outdoor tournament (which I thought was interesting).  Nothing special.

What seems to have allowed it to launch into the stratosphere though was good old fashioned salesmanship.  The NOVA was catapulted by the efforts of organizers who went out on a MISSION to gain sponsors.  The Prize support and ability to promote that prize support to "serious" players was huge in its quick evolution and bigger yet in its ability to interest important players who people pay attention to online and otherwise.  In fact, today and forever, like most corporate affairs, this is now a machine, a phenomenon.

It is organized like a company with some of the cheapest and most readily available volunteer labor any company could hope for.  As this event, as well as Adepticon, Bay Area Open and others continue on that path, I foresee that sponsorships for this niche market are going to become more valuable to the sponsors themselves. 

Gamers represent an enormous internet presence vendors covet.  One can VERY easily argue that gamers were the impetus for the power the internet enjoys now, as well as its form today.  Business and other interests certainly have made it a more mainstream enterprise, but it is the techies, the gamers and the nerds who made it this kind of juggernaut.  I'd venture to say that more people ARE gamers than ever before BECAUSE of the internet!  That's important information for sponosrs to know.

So as the NOVA Tournament comes to a close, I wanted to find some takeaways from it.  Those takeaways for me were:

1.  A good and motivated sales team is needed to build this kind of event anywhere.
2.  Quality of terrain is very important, as discussion of it is rampant and prolific after these events.
3.  Innovative thinkers are needed in order to bring something new to the gaming table in the way of how the games are playerd and in creating a "style" the tournament will be known for.
4.  Generating internet buzz is a huge component of the success of these events.

With these important ideas in mind, already it is helping me think about how I can make the Ambassadorial Torunament stand out as a gem in the northwest, something we don't truly have as far as competitive events.  Our entire northwest way of thinking is so much more casual that such things are harder to create.  But I am convinced that we can get the prize support we would need to make this event something special and we can thank examples like the NOVA open for paving the way.

Congratz to the winners!  Now lets use their axample.


  1. I had just started playing 40K when I first read about the Nova Open. I remember at that time it was one of few GTs that didn't use comp scores or house rules.

    Mike Brandt created a competitive tournament that he would want to play in- and in each successive year has further defined that vision through the present.

    It is really fun listening to Brandt talk about the Nova; you can hear his enthusiasm (and it's contagious).

  2. I'm not sure that the prize support is what interested the competitive players... at all. The prize support is helpful, but I don't think that early on there was anything like as much prize support as there is today. I would even suggest that the prize support followed the success rather than the other way around. As Gonewild said, the NOVA was the very first large tournament that sold itself as being a well structured tournament designed to support fair competitive play. The buzz around this was huge all throughout the kinds of blogs that are interested in this kind of play. People from across the country travelled to the event, and continue to do so, because it continues to be unique in its focus on fair and competitive play, while still being supportive of players that don't make it to the top tables.

    NOVA has an amazingly successful publicity and outreach effort, they sell their product well, but their product itself is what drives its success, and that product is a well designed, professionally tested and professionally administered tournament structure, meant to promote competitive play.

  3. Here is a post where Mike reflects on the history of the NOVA a bit:

    I don't think it's important that you do something "new or different" so that your tournament has a unique style. I think the reason that the NOVA style and format is so popular is because they intentionally set out to create a system that used core 40k elements in such a way that games were balanced, fair and had strategic depth. They took the narrative elements out of the missions, and focused purely on the gameplay to make a fair mission system, and then they playtested it with dozens of people in their own playgroup, and dozens more across the country, for hundreds of total playtest games. It's the most professionally designed and balanced system out there (and still not perfect), and that's why people enjoy it and why many others use it.

    I think it would be a mistake for a TO to look at that example and say "oh they're successful because they have a unique "style" I'd better get my own unique style too. I would say no, you don't.

    The one word that embodies the NOVA is 'professional.' From their graphics to their missions to their location, even their name the "NOVA Open" implies that this is a professional, formal tournament of the kind one expects to see in "serious" sports. They take it seriously, and that encourages everyone else to take it seriously too.

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  5. I don't find those things to be mutually exclusive. It being professional is a fact I don't dispute at all.

    However... Such a thing had ingredients to it besides just "people liked it". No offense, but there are about one hundred tournies I could go to a year and I'd probably like 60 of them. That doesn't mean next year there will be 60 NOVA Opens.

    To do something like this takes purpose, drive and the things I already mentioned. Most of the things being talked about here are all true and are functions of his salesmanship, his innovation, his attention to terrain and of course the internet buzz he created and his minions created. Good stuff to learn from.

    But NOVA and Adepticon are not the same, clearly. So when you look at this critically, what I'm looking to are the things that made them successful. it really has my mind churning.

  6. I understand, let me rephrase so it's clear: I think all of the elements you have discussed are important, but I think the prize support did very little to draw the attention of the competitive gamers, at least initially. Instead I think it was the focus on this being a "pure" competition, unadulterated by comp, crazy missions, "fluffy" terrain, etc. That's what got people excited, it was going to be professional, the World Cup of 40k where the best of the best could compete on a level playing field.

    All the other things you focus are important, but I think the prize support which you mentioned in your initial post was less important. I think the SPONSORSHIPS are important mostly because they add additional "weightiness" to the event, further elevating the prestige and status of the event in the minds of prospective attendees. I think perhaps in that sense even the total dollar value of the prizes offered is NOW an additional element which adds a "gravitas" to the event.

    I hope that makes sense. I have closely followed the NOVA since 2010, and have a fairly good sense of the "vibe" that was created early on, and especially for the 2011 event.

    1. "Instead I think it was the focus on this being a "pure" competition, unadulterated by comp, crazy missions, "fluffy" terrain, etc."

      I think they fell way short on these things this year, especially as far as missions go. MVB tried to shoehorn his old missions into 6th in a way that really made a completely altered game IMO.

    2. There is a valid point to be made there, but come on, think of the time horizons he had to work with. I don't think that invalidates any of the points I made about the history of the event.

  7. Well that was interesting...

    I think we are all entitld to imperfection. I think people hold other people to entirely unrealistic standards. I do it myself. When yu are responsible for a thing this big and successful, the last thing you owe ayone is an apology.

    That being said, people vote with thir checkbooks, and NOVA will probably recognize its errors. But what I see is a lot ot be emulated here and like all things, you steal what's worth stealing from a lesson and leave the rest. I will be looking really closely at this now.


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