Three Keys to a Successful War Gaming League

Greetings, commander! Today we’re going to talk about leagues.  Specifically we’re talking about store or club sponsored leagues (the most common in our world of miniature war gaming).  What we’re going to talk about is the three key things to running a successful league. Guess what? It’s got nothing to do with what restrictions you put on army lists or anything like that. They’re about the management of the league and really keeping your players informed of the overall state of the event in a timely fashion.

I know.  Yawnsville, right? Well, these things aren’t terribly sexy but when I was looking around at various leagues, campaigns, and the like I found a whole lot of failed events and they all failed because they just petered out. Players lost interest.  Updates stopped happening. Results weren’t updated. It can be hard to run a league all by yourself – especially when you’ve got other things clamouring for your attention.

So here is an outline of three keys to running a successful miniature war gaming league. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing Warhammer 40K, Warmachine/Hordes, Flames of War, X-Wing or whatever because these things aren’t tied to the game rule set.  Oh! And I’m also going to elaborate on how using iToysoldiers as a league manager can help with these things.  Cool, eh? So without further ado… The list:

Stick to the schedule

It’s been said that punctuality is the politeness of kings and in the case of a war gaming league it’s totally true. This is the biggie.  If you let everything else go you must keep the league running on time. Post round results and new matches at the very beginning of each round on a regular schedule. Post the results of individual battles as soon as humanly possible.

The cool thing is that if you’re using iToysoldiers to manage your league we handle all that for you. Each round starts exactly on time. Match results show up as soon as the players enter them. Pairings are generated and players are notified within nano seconds of the new round beginning. The best bit? It’s all automated. Once the league has started you don’t have to do anything and it’ll just keep running – on time.

Sometimes you have to be the bad guy

This is a tough one – especially for a store sponsored league. You certainly don’t want to alienate players by enforcing rules in a draconian fashion. But sometimes you have to. If players don’t get their battle in during the designated time you might be tempted to give them an extension. Don’t. There’s other folks who’re waiting for their matches and extending a round can frustrate other folks. Yeah, the players asking for an extension may be annoyed but… so will everyone else who’re waiting for the next round. There’s really no way to win when you have to be the bad guy because someone’s going to be unhappy but if you’re consistent in your application of the league’s rules then at least you can say, “Hey! Them’s the rules.  Sorry”.

Using iToysoldiers for your league manager is a pretty easy way to get around (some of) this. Let us be the bad guy. All the math, matches, and scheduling is handled by the site so you don’t have to be the bad guy. You can just blame us. We’ve got thick skins.

Don’t mess up the math

Nothing’s worse than one of your players coming up to you after the league and pointing out that you made a math mistake that changes the results. You have to make sure that you’re being complete and accurate as you enter in player results, calculating victory conditions, and ranking players appropriately. One little mistake can bring all sorts of pain.

Thankfully, iToysoldiers has this covered too. Our league manager does all the calculations, tie breakers, pairings, and all that for you so you don’t have to spend any time worrying about it – let alone actually having to enter in the data since the players handle that bit.  Computers are really good at handling math related tasks and iToysoldiers has been running leagues for quite some time now.

Do you have some other thoughts on running a successful league?  I’d love to hear about ‘em.  Feel free to comment away.

Carpe Acies!
Rob @ iToysoldiers

What’s in the pipeline at iToysoldiers

So here’s what I’m working on right now:

Achievements for modelling projects

That’s right! You’re going to be able to earn achievements for your model collection.  That’s great news for folks who’re on iToysoldiers to pimp their painting studio or aren’t really all that interested in the battle achievements (or you’re like me and you love playing but you suck something fierce).

BUG BUG BUG Fixes

So on the backend there’s a whack of niggly little issues.  I’m working my way through ’em.  If you could only see my GIT commit log.  It’s shocking that iTS even works.  *snicker.

iToysoldiers now supports EVERY miniature wargame

Ahoy, Commander!

iToysoldiers is pleased to announce our latest release, 4.5-rc4 which, amongst a handful of other things, brings support for EVERY SINGLE MINIATURE GAME AND ARMY IN THE WORLD! Yep. It’s now possible to add your own armies or factions so you don’t have to wait for the iToysoldiers team to update when a new rule set is released or if we haven’t gotten around to adding your favorite game. How __ing cool is that?

So now, when you report a battle, start a modelling project, or show off your army profile you can enter whatever you want as the army or faction.  I’m totally excited about the possibilities here.

Now. There’s some caveats and quid pro quos here.  Game Systems will still need to be entered in by the iToysoldiers staff and we’re going to make an effort to go through the new factions and see if we can associate them with games but if you want to make sure that your favorite game is truly supported on iToysoldiers all you have to do is zip over to the “Request New Game Support” page and tell us about the game. We’ll get it in as soon as we can.

Now that I’ve gotten that bit of gushing out of the way, here’s some other stuff that’s in the release:

The interface for submitting and editing battles and army lists have been revamped to make them easier to use.  There’s now a series of tabs that group types of input together and all of the required fields are on the very first tab.  No more scrolling through lots of stuff you don’t care about to submit your battles and army lists.

Corrected a whole whack of errors on the League manager. I’m still not 100% sure why the last release failed me so badly but it should all be working now.

Corrected the issue where battle reports weren’t being truly updated on creation. Your opponent wasn’t getting the meta data when you created a battle and that messed up stats for both of you. Also updated all the affected battle reports.

Cleaned up a bunch of backend stuff. Nothing to see here.

So that’s the latest release! If you run into any issues or have some suggestions, I’d love to hear about them.  Zip over to the iToysoldiers Help Portal and let me know what’s on your mind.

Carpe Acies!
Rob @ iToysoldiers

Oh, Gods! Reversion Control!

Ugh.  So as I continue to work on various Event management pieces I’m finding that I’m breaking existing functionality! WTH! Aaaack!  Curses!

So for the next little bit I’m going to be remediating that.  I’m gonna have to pull the leagues and tournaments into the Event content type just so that I have consistency.  This is not what I wanted to work on this week (or two).

Damn.

iToysoldiers Ragnorak Brings a Better Wargaming Calendar

iToysoldiers is pleased to announce the release of iToysoldiers 4.5-rc1 – “Ragnorak”.  Ragnorak brings some major improvements to the miniature wargaming event calendar and listings as well as some much needed improvements to the features of gaming clubs listed on the site.

Calendar and Events

The biggest change in this release is the look of Events on the site.  They’ve been totally overhauled and present the event’s necessary information way better than before.  Take a look at the calendar and a few of the events and let me know what you think!

Another pretty huge change is part of the “Regroup and Sally Forth Project”. In order to make iToysoldiers a bit easier to use I’m rethinking how all the myriad options and features on the site are presented to you. The first real step to this is collapsing some of the features.  Specifically events, leagues, tournaments, etc.  It’s annoying and/or confusing to have to pick the right one right from the get go.  Well, Ragnorak helps by collapsing the Event and Calendar Only Event types into a single form. One form to rule them all and in darkness bind them.  Ultimately the plan is to collapse leagues and tournaments into the Event form as well but that’s a pretty big undertaking and I need to plan that out.  But in the meantime, if you want to post your miniature wargaming event on iToysoldiers – and even leverage some of the management features we offer, you can do it from a single form.

A minor change to Events is a switch to indicate whether you’re the event organizer or not. This is pretty cool, actually.  Here’s the use case: If you’re just posting an event as an FYI to the community you may not want to be listed on the page as the contact for the event.  I mean, you’re just sharing the info, right?  Well, now your name only shows up as the event organizer if you flip the “I’m the event organizer” switch on the form.  Of course, if you’re enabling the iToysoldiers features this switch will be flipped automatically.

Oh, and I fixed the ability for event organizers to edit registrations if they need to.  Still need to address the issue with this for Narrative Campaigns but it’s a start.

Gaming Clubs

Events can now be tied to a gaming club.  If your club administrator has given you permissions to create events for the club you can either click the link on the club page or select your club when creating an event.  All the members of the club will receive an email notification when you do so.

Oh! And speaking of club notifications…  They’re better now.  They actually provide a link to the content that was created.  This has been something that’s been preventing me from using the club functionality all that often.  It just didn’t really help at all.

Clubs now have a calendar tab!  So now that you can tie an event (or a league, or a tournament) to a club, so what? Well, now folks can peruse the events that are coming up on the club page.

Along with the new calendar tab is a refresh to the look of the club pages.  I think it’s better for sure.  I used a similar look and feel to the events since they kind of share similarities as far as the types of info they provide.

Errata

Removing Text Format options.  It killed me to do this, but part of the “Regroup and Sally Forth Project”, I’ve decided to disable the wysiwyg editor on iToysoldiers.  To the folks who used it, I apologize.  To the rest of you: Welcome to a cleaner interface when authoring content on iTS.  I plan to be diving into the wysiwyg functionality again but before I enable it I need to address some of the issues it has when being used with mobile devices.

Some various patching and security updates for the site.  Yawn.  Boring.

Fixed the URL to the iToysoldiers Help Portal in emails from the site.

Whew!

And there you have it!  Ragnorak is all about bring better miniature wargaming event lists and entries to the world. If you know about an event that’s coming up, why not take a moment to share it on iToysoldiers.  If you have any issues, suggestions, or feedback I’m all ears! Comment here or submit a request on the iToysoldiers Help Portal.

Carpe Acies!
Rob @ iToysoldiers

iToysoldiers Release Announcement: 4.5-BG575 – introducing Emoticons

Greetings, commander! iToysoldiers is pleased to announce a wee little release to address something that’s kind of been a problem for a long time but really reared its ugly head in the last couple of days.  As of January 23rd, 2017 iToysoldiers fully supports utf8mb4 encoding!  Isn’t that exciting?  Sounds impressive doesn’t it?  Well, what it means is that if your comment, post, whathaveyou has an emoticon or other special character the site will no longer toss an error and trash your content.  This was a particular issue when using a mobile device.  But it’s fixed now.  Yay!

Just one more in a long list of improvements to authoring content on iToysoldiers!

Now… I know there’s other annoying things so if you have any that are really driving you batty please let me know.  The best way is through the iToysoldiers Help Portal.

Carpe Acies!
Rob @ iToysoldiers

Where Have You Been?

No note.  Car’s gone.  You could’ve DIED!

Actually it’s not quite that.  November and December have been super heavy hobby months for me.  I’ve had to get my Phantom playable for an Apocalypse game in early December and then there was the whole Calth Build Off event that ended the first week of January.  I’ve been head down getting those two things wrapped up.

The good news is that I don’t have any real hobby commitments due until the beginning of April so I can procrastinate on those for at least two months.  *snicker.  And that means I’m wrapping up the Ragnorak release and preparing for the release after that.  It’ll be a pretty simple thing with HUGE ramifications for iToysoldiers.  I’m pretty excited about it and I’ll share some more info once I have Ragnorak in the bag.

Anyway.  Not dead.  Still working on making iToysoldiers the best place to chronicle the glory of your miniature wargaming armies.

Rob @ iToysoldiers

A Grand Journey For a Better User Experience

Well… In my constant attempt to fulfill the mantra, “I aim to please” I’ve discovered that I might’ve made iToysoldiers a bit too… how to say it… complex.  There’s too many choices – especially for creating events and the like.  And what’s worse is that the underlying code doesn’t handle modifications to those events terribly well.

And so Ragnorak comes to the rescue!  The plan is to collapse all events/calendar items/etc into a single content type.  The first phase of Ragnorak is to revamp the look and feel of the events.  I’m also hoping to deprecate the “Special Event” content type which leaves only Tournaments, Leagues, and Narrative campaigns as choices if you’re entering an event.  Phase two of Ragnorak is to collapse leagues and tournaments into the Event type.

The idea here is that there’ll be one way to enter events (and in darkness bind them) rather than having to choose from multiple types of content.  Narrative campaigns will still be a special case but I really need to go back and address them.  Right now they kind of suck.

I’m pretty enthusiastic about the new features.  But now’s your chance…  If you have any suggestions about how iToysoldiers handles events I’d be happy to hear about it.  Post your comments here.

Carpe Acies!
Rob @ iToysoldiers

The Chosen jQuery Library is amazing!

So I stumbled across the coolest thing ever!  Okay.  Maybe not the coolest thing ever but it’s pretty slick and I have to say it’s going to make some of the UI issues you’ve been experiencing go away.

It’s the Chosen jQuery library (which you can find here: https://harvesthq.github.io/chosen/).  Essentially it does magic things to select boxes on forms and makes ’em WAY easier to deal with.

I’m currently playing around with it on the good ol’ dev server and I have to say, I’m pleased with the results.  It even works pretty well on a mobile device.  Now…  I guess that is to say that it doesn’t modify the interface that iOS throws on top of select fields and that’s actually brilliant.

Oh, I think you’re going to like the results, my friends.

Carpe Acies!
Rob

Ragnorak has begun: Better events for miniature wargaming

So one of the things I put into iToysoldiers pretty early on was a calendar/event listing thing so folks could post all the different places/times where we could go and play with our miniature armies.  I built it largely ’cause one of the things that I find to be terribly frustrating is that there’s no really good place to go and find a listing of all the miniature wargaming events going on – in a particular area or otherwise.  Usually, to find if there was a tournament going on during a particular weekend I’d have to sift through a whole lot of different store web pages and then sift through the events to see if there were any I was interested in. Time consuming to be sure.

Now, looking back at what I built for iTS I see it has some serious issues.  The first being that (as one of the first features I added) the functionality is pretty minimal.  It’s also not abundently obvious that ANYONE can post an event.  Also.  The pages are really ugly.

The Ragnorak release is intended to address the issues with the Event pages, calendars, etc.

So the first thing I had to do was rebuild the pages so that all the info packed into them would be easy to absorb.  I find that my sense of style isn’t ideal so I “borrow” design elements from sites that either I like or that I think do a good job handling the layout of the content type.  And so, here’s a screenshot of what the event pages are probably going to look like:

Event Page Screenshot
A screenshot of what the event pages will likely look like.

I’m pretty pleased.  This layout gives me a lot of places to fiddle with different kinds of displays and blocks but still presents all the relevant details right there in front of you.  The right hand block drops beneath the text description on a mobile device, FYI.

Right now I’m planning on leveraging this layout for the main pages of any kind of event: including War Zones (tournament and league manager) as well as Narrative Campaign instances.  I mean, it makes sense since those kinds of content already have a management and operations page to offload the mechanics bits.  Let’s just use the “main” page to display the event details.  Yeah.  I like that idea.

Rob