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On Slow Play


#1

How do you avoid slow play at your tournaments?

I am going with @jesseo_o’s suggestion from The Winning Agenda to award 0 points for matches that go to time at BABW finals. I think that it makes it far more likely for all games to be finished. Calling a game of netrunner before it’s over is usually very difficult. The number of agenda points scored at a particular point in time is often a pretty poor indicator of who is most likely to win.

How do you define slow play?

Netrunner is pretty hard. Usually there are plenty of reasonable, and some not particularly unreasonable options. How long is a reasonable amount of time to spend thinking between actions? I’d like to penalise slow play with a Time Violation, that if carried at the end of the round time (in elimination) means a loss in that game. I can’t think of a particularly satisfactory definition for slow play. ‘At the judge’s discretion’ is a bit uncomfortable because it can lead to accusations of bias.

Has anyone got any thoughts/experience they would like to share?

We don’t have access to chess clocks. I’m not sure what we’d do with them if we did. But let’s assume they aren’t an option.


#2

The issue I’d have with 0 points for a timed win is that it can penalise all the opponents of a particular ‘slow’ player. If I win my first match, then go to time in the second, even if I’m at 6-0 points, I score the same as someone who split, and basically through no fault of my own.


#3

I played a game once against someone where I was piloting a very very aggressive hard to stop runner. He was playing a deck capable of turtling. And so he started to slow roll after I got an early lead thinking he could close the game up at 5 points at time without me have a chance to catch up. I was told as much after the match and it would have worked if I hadn’t gotten a gap for an R&D dig that put me to 6 on the final turn of the game.

I don’t know what a ruling like that would have done for games that go to time. Maybe we would have finished earlier. Maybe I would have lost since my deck looked stronger when I had time to manage everything I was doing and operate from a sniping position. Maybe we still would have gone to time, and I doing everything in my ability to play fast would have been punished by a player who simply didn’t want to award me points for beating him.

This is an issue where there are no clear answers except one: a player who wants to abuse the system will. If the system doesn’t allow a way for them to be defeated then the system will favor that player.


#4

I don’t agree with this. As a veteran of many a missed cut I know every point counts and am already terrified of going to time, avoiding it at all costs. Short of murder and or time travel I’m not sure I would be able to avoid going to time if it scored 0 instead of 1.

I will add I very rarely go to time but some games it is just unavoidable.


#5

I agree that going to time is never good. But making it so going to time gives no advantage to either player makes it more likely that the game will finish in time. 1 point is better than 0, so sadly (even perhaps inadvertently) there are situations where the player who has more agenda points but doesn’t think they can get to 7 will slow down to take the 1 point.

I’ve certainly seen it in games previously. I think it’s worth trying to avoid.


#6

Suppose I’m on a team with McRunsalot. And I’ve already won a SC or Regional or whatever, but I’m at the top and I’m facing someone who will probably make the cut if he gets any points for the round I’m in. McRunsalot hasn’t won anything yet, but he’s good and will likely make the cut. Since I’m on a team and I’ve already won, I’m probably more than willing to go to time to give McRunsalot an advantage in the finals by bombing both myself and my opponent out of the match. So even this system is susceptible to cheatery. Once I’ve decided to bomb out there’s likely very little my opponent can do to stop me.


#7

I guess the counter argument is that if you accuse your opponent of cheating to a judge and the judge agrees you can still be awarded full points. Your abuse is more obscure and doesn’t directly advantage the abuser, which is a point in this system’s favour.


#8

A couple things:

  • This is Liam’s (@shielsy, although I don’t think he’s on Stimhack) idea, not Jesse’s. Liam both thought it up and implemented it in the recent teams tournament. Just to clarify.

  • Whenever this suggestion comes up everyone always says ‘this will punish unduly the opponents of slow players’ which doesn’t seem logical to me. One point is already a significant penalty compared to two enough that having a 50% chance to win a game instead of losing is worth speeding up even in games where you’re very far ahead (that is, 100% to get 1 point compared to anything more than 50% to get 2 points is roughly worth making much more risky plays), and this just exacerbates the situation - I can’t imagine the situation where your opponent really is glacially slow that you can’t finish a match even if they take close to 100% of the time, and so this just increases the incentives for both players to play more quickly (in the short-term, individual match scenario)

  • In the long-term aren’t the incentives to not be slow much greater when the penalty for being consistently slow is much higher? This will surely reduce the incidence of slow play even if in some matches it might lead to a ‘worse’ outcome (although I can’t really see it as I mentioned in my first point since it’s very rare that one person literally takes up ALL the time)

  • If you don’t like 0 points for whatever reason, 1 point to both players is necessary. Having agenda points decide match points is ridiculous (since it discourages control decks and kill decks, causes strange incentives which are reverse to regular netrunner, etc etc) and FFG have learnt that it doesn’t work in any other context (removing it in match determination as well as eliminations) but are yet to remove it in this one.

  • Saying this system is more susceptible to abuse is right in the sense that there’s now more incentive to concede if you’re behind (there already was but it wasn’t as clear-cut that someone should concede since in most situations games that go to time are not strictly over) but this should already be 100% covered by other rules - I don’t think it’s reasonable for this rule to be constrained by abuse issues since possible abuse seems like it stems from some other root cause rather than the match structure itself. Of course rules should work together so it is functionally an issue, but not theoretically, I think.

  • With regards to time that’s so subjective that I’ll wait for someone to make some sort of official guideline. I literally remember reading a reddit post (my first mistake) where someone said that FIVE MINUTES PER TURN would be a reasonable amount of time.


#9

I get really cautious about putting into place any rules that are not part of the official rules from FFG.

Clearly there are exceptions (code of conduct, stimhack’s floor rules) which I see more as patching a hole that FFG left open.

But, contradicting an established FFG rule is going to make it harder for players to keep track of, and make the event (at least in some eyes, not necessarily mine) less legitimate. Also it makes it more complicated for newer players who are trying to get into the game.

So as a TO myself, and someone who has been helping with the ANRPC in the Great Lakes Region, I would advise against contradicting an FFG rule as written.


#10

One of the few virtues of having a meta utterly infested by virus-filled Noise decks: games very rarely go to time.


#11

That’s a really good point @ravlin. Perhaps I’m being too hasty. I just really don’t like trying to determine who’s winning before the end of the game. I think quite strongly that it’s wrong.

@Dragar: That’s true too. We’re certainly not in a slow part of the metagame.


#12

this is the biggest selling point for this policy, imho. It’s very easy to imagine an anecdotal scenario in which a player is unfairly penalized for a slow opponent, and it’s true that this would result in a few individuals having “bad feels.” The thing is, though, good tournament structures can’t ensure absolutely every player has a perfect experience. Penalizing games going to time will hurt slow player’s opponents, yes. but that’s just one match. the people it really hurts are consistently slow players - 0 points for going to time will hurt these players scores most rapidly, and shuffle them down the swiss rankings quickly where they can have fun playing slow games against other just-for-fun players who aren’t concerned with making the cut…

Statistically speaking, (which is to say, ignoring single anecdotal incidences of “unfair” results) this will allow them to cause less overall damage to the records of players who are “in contention,” than a system that allows them to occasionally net points off their overly slow play and potentially cause them to keep getting matched with more competetive players trying to climb out of the middle of swiss.

absolutely. agenda point totals have almost no bearing whatsoever on who is winning a game. personally, I like the idea of using zero because it leaves open the possibility for the player who was actually losing (it’s usually easy to tell for a human, but hard to define in rules) to be magnanimous and concede the win. Hard to say if this would catch on; conceding is considered polite and sportsmanlike in many chess circles, but for some reason seen in a much more negative light in many other gaming circles. Either way, I like 0 points for making this an option.


#13

Once again we run into the issue of contradicting an established (if ridiculously dumb) FFG rule regarding concession. While I think players should be able to concede a game for whatever reason they so choose, that is not the rule according to FFG. So while I disagree with the rule, we have to be conscious and careful about how we contradict those rules.

One thing to consider when looking at rules for events is not just those players who might make the cut, but also the players who never will. New players take longer to decide what to do than old players (on average). So one fear, and this is based on my experience as a TO for the last 3 years (so anecdotal yes, but based on dozens of tournaments across several states and regions), is scaring away new players who feel that they can’t even break into the game at all since the rules are now set up to penalize them.

Is is frustrating as someone who is gunning hard to make the cut to get paired against someone who plays slow and then lose out of the cut because of that? Yes, of course. However scaring away a new player is a loss for the community as a whole.

In the end I am not telling you to do one thing or another, I am asking that you be mindful of all of the players of the game, and how adding different rules to your tournament might affect all of the players.

All that being said: this is the BABW finals, at that level players should be able to play fast enough to finish in the allotted time. Just consider how it might look to others that the “top players” are now playing by different rules.


#14

Maybe stop drinking so much beer if you’re playing too slow. Or start doing stims. Either way, the answer is probably chemical.

How big of an issue is this really? How often does anyone actually go to time? I think I’ve done it maybe once in my last half dozen tournaments. If it’s happening too much more than that, maybe stop playing the 54-card 7-agenda BWBI superglacier.


#15

I guess so, but I think in this case the event organizers are very conscious of how sub-par the FFG standards for timed “wins” are, and have been careful to select a superior alternative. FFG standards are very important when it comes to the game itself. They are completely unimportant when it comes to tournament and event structure for non FFG events (like this one).

how are they “penalized?” their prestige points at the bottom of the chart (where they are likely to be regardless of the structure, given that they are new enough to the game that going to time is regularly an issue) are marginally affected? They don’t get any less prizes, nor do they play any fewer games of netrunner during the event, nor do they meet any fewer new people who share their new hobby. they are more likely to be matched with opponents who play at their pace and who are less likely to be frustrated by their slow speed.

TLDR; rankings don’t matter for people uninterested/unable to make the cut. Improving the scoring structure for those who are does nothing but promote a reasonable speed of play and decrease the likelihood of unfair results.


#16

I disagree with your assertion that rankings don’t matter who those who are unable to make the cut. I think points and ranking for those people (who are often new to the game, or new to the competitive scene) can be very meaningful to them. Tracking one’s progress over time becomes much harder if the rules are different places are different.

I also disagree with your assertion that FFG’s rules are unimportant when it comes to event structure (though I am the first to admit that is a hard position to defend seeing how FFG themselves play it fast and loose with tournament rules and structures). FFG has, in theory, set out rules for how to run Netrunner events. Any deviations from that need to be mindful and conscious.

Again I realize this is for an event of the top players in a given country, so that many of the points may not be as strong in this particular situation.

In the end, as I have said before, I may or may not agree (that is not really relevant to my point) with what is being proposed. All I am saying is please don’t improve the experience of the top performers at the expense of those at the lower end. I don’t think anyone here would do that on purpose. Just be mindful of the implicit messages that are being sent. If you do anything that is non-standard make that abundantly clear at the start of the event.


#17

But in the elims, it’s still gonna be that the current leader wins? I don’t like that asymmetry.

Also, if you are going to award zero, could I suggest 70 min rounds?


#18

Part of the trouble with this issue is that we have a competitive card game being produced by a board game company. Half the players I meet are coming to Netrunner from Magic or other card games, and the other half of the players I meet are coming from board games. I was primarily a board game player myself before starting Netrunner, so I have a hard time taking the tournament structure all that seriously, and FFG seems to have a similarly casual mindset about the whole thing.

I personally prefer it that way, but I can definitely see how that would drive the hardcore competitive card game types absolutely bonkers.


#19

Just to expand a bit: if people are gonna abuse slow play, it’ll be in the elims where a) top seed is tiebreaker and b) timed wins count the same. So why introduce this, which is targeted at the Swiss?


#20

Slow play is not the same as slow decks. While you might want to penalise slow play, be careful you don’t also penalise slow decks as a side effect, a deck type which is already unnecessarily penalised by a tournament structure which isn’t set up to allow Netrunner to be played, but to plan a schedule for the day.

One of the win conditions is the Corp running out of cards. It’s quite possible to build Corp decks that win with a very thin R&D once the Runner has exhausted themselves. (I regularly do, it’s my favourite way to play!) If you never drew cards proactively and had a 54-card deck, that would be 49 turns before you lost. If your opponent was playing the same deck-style that means in a 60-minute tournament round the expectation is for 18 second turns: six seconds a click for Corps and four-and-a-half for Runners (disregarding set-up time for the second game of course).

Maybe any determination of slow play should be done on the number of turns played, rather than whether you finish the game or not?