Today's post will be a little different from usual. I've organised several tournaments in the past so I'll be looking at an interesting question for a tournament organiser. How should the role of the bye-buster be approached?
What is a bye-buster, and why should I have one at my event?
The role of the bye-buster at an event is to be an extra player in a round if, for any reason, there are not an even number of players. This avoids having to give one player a bye score. I believe all tournaments should use this, as to do otherwise is unfair. Commonly, the bye buster does not have a score and the Swiss system used in most events will pair up the bye-buster with the player currently in last place. I consider a bye-buster necessary for this, as it is unfair to give a player a full score without having to play for it. However, it's also unfair to give a player a part score, since if they had a game they could potentially obtain full points. Finally, if your players have paid cash and taken the time to enter your event, they should reasonably expect to get to play all their games.
What sort of player makes for a good bye-buster?
Most players are very capable of playing this role, though if multiple options are available, I would look for a couple of characteristics. Firstly, pick a player with a good knowledge of the game and the rules, especially if they are playing the bottom player. A player in this position is likely (but not guaranteed) to be reasonably new to the game or tournament scene, so having them play someone skilled but not under pressure to win will allow the bye-buster to pass on some useful hints. Other qualities I would seek in a bye-buster is enthusiasm and friendliness. Particularly in later rounds, the opponent has been doing poorly over the course of the event. A player who can create a friendly, fun atmosphere as the bye-buster will give the player a positive experience, which can be important if their experience so far has been a succession of beatings.
What type of army list should the bye-buster use?
In my opinion, the best type of army for a bye-buster to use is one from a solid, straightforward mid-tier army. The list should be one the bye-buster likes and enjoys playing, maybe one they wouldn't use if playing competitively. I would steer clear of using any options known to be overpowered or boring to play against (a Thorek Ironbrow gunline is not a good bye-buster army, nor is a 15 Psyback Grey Knights list). I would avoid anything too tricksy, most of the elements of the army should be recognisable to casual players, and I certainly would not encourage a bye-buster to try to "catch out" the opponent. However, the army should be solid rather than a pushover.
Should the bye-buster attempt to compete in his games?
This is the most difficult question. How hard should the bye-buster play in their games? Even if the bye-buster is not counting a score, they can affect the score of their opponents and in that way will effect the final positions. If the bye-buster is simply playing to hand their opponents a full score win, there is little point having one. When thinking about this, I think it really depends on the number of rounds remaining in the event and the skill level of the opponent. If drawn in round one against a top player, the bye buster will probably lose heavily assuming he is not using a competitive army. In this case it may well be appropriate for the bye-buster to have a go at claming a few points. On the other hand, if playing against the bottom player in the last round, it would be inappropriate to go all out. At this stage the result is unlikely to seriously affect the top end of the table, beating on the poor guy who has lost all his previous games heavily is unnecessary and possibly counterproductive. This is the most difficult part of the puzzle and I have no real guaranteed foolproof opinion.
So that's my take on the bye-buster question. I'm interested to hear the opinions of others, particularly those who might disagree with me and why they think I'm wrong.
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