Finals formats and "driving the bus"


Machine abuse! :slight_smile:


Weird thing about this: neither the Yanks nor the Euros do justice to this concept. U.S. Herb format has lots of qualifying, then gives the top seeds just choice of game or order, and maybe the top 8 get a bye [no byes if it’s top 16]. So lots of potential sorting leads to only a modest impact on final order. The one-shot qualifying format often used in Europe does a much less effective job of sorting initial entries, especially if games are assigned randomly, yet sometimes has multiple levels of byes - - more advantage than in the US, but based on less-accurate input.

The two events that come closest to connecting the two well are IFPA and Pinburgh, where there’s lots of qualifying and multiple levels of byes. In each case, they take a larger portion of the field [20% - 50%] for playoffs than a typical Herb event [10% - 25%], more like the Europeans do, but they have a much deeper
qualifying process to pre-sort people for the playoffs, making those multiple levels of byes more justifiable.

Note that I prefer “advantage” to be in the form of byes rather than game choice - - I don’t like the idea of people choosing the same machines in all rounds [boring], nor of being able to choose their “specialty” game rather than proving their superiority across a wide swath of relatively neutral games.


Using top seed getting choice throughout, I’ve found that the same people were winning nearly every time out.

At our Bluffs events, we’ve come up with a system using, where every game is picked by spinning the wheel. Once a game is used, it’s off the wheel until every available game is played once, then the wheel resets. Brilliant little web app actually.

I suspect it’s driven a few of the more competitive players away, but the best advantage is the last two tournaments we’ve used it we had first ever championships won - I find it goes a long way towards leveling the playing field a bit.


I really like this idea. Even with small fields, you could double-bye the top qualifiers and reward that.


I guess I would fundamentally disagree that this a goal of a tournament. But to each their own. I’m not trying to level the playing field at an event I run. I am trying to provide the best competitive landscape to determine the best players in the event. Given that goal, i think it is logical that one might see the same winners often - the best players will end up winning.


Sure. Without fail the best players are there at or near the end. They just don’t always win, and the random game draw has been a factor in that. Hell, it’s cost me big time the last couple of times we’ve used it - no way do I pick Target Alpha and of course I got eliminated on it. :slight_smile:

Bluffs is a different kind of place - we’ve always stressed the social aspect over the competitive aspect. We’ve got a lot of people who don’t play anywhere else too often and we’re trying to bring them along and keep them playing. Sure, Zeus usually wins at Bluffs, but lately he hasn’t been.

Being able to pick a game you know inside out or to pick a game your opponent may not know is good strategy, but I don’t necessarily see it as good pinball. When you can win regardless of the game choice, that to me is deserving of a championship.


Hasn’t changed! I’ve thought of changing it slightly. Maybe for next year.


What about a modified bus driver? Second seed in each group picks game one or position with top seed in each group picking games two and three or position for games 2 and 3?

That way at least the top 8 has value with the top 4 still getting a lot of value for their efforts.

Call it the carpool. Haha


I guess the counter-argument to that would be that the best players already have an advantage over the other players… in that they’re better than the others. Do you want to give the best players a further advantage by letting them also pick their favourite games? Or should they compete solely on their ability.


That’s kind of where I was going - - a player “earns” the right to a shorter / easier path to victory by good qualifying play, but should not have a game advantage as part of it. Each “match” should be on a neutral field, or at least neutral over the course of the round, but byes are a way to “weight” good qualifying performance with the additional “playoff” performance. If the goal is to score “total performance from beginning to end of the tournament,” albeit giving higher per-game weight to the playoffs, byes do that better. And choosing a “set” (e.g. one of each of multiple vintages as at some events) or a “bank” of games [e.g. Pinburgh], rather than cherry picking individual ones, provides for playoffs that are more game-experience neutral.


Scroll up to my previous post. I run a modified PAPA format that adds intrigue and decision making at the start of each finals. Often times the second seed does in fact get game choice for the first game in the bank.


I will reiterate what I said earlier… If you spend all weekend qualifying you deserve to have some control over the already volatile three or four game set that could eliminate you. I 100% agree with the things @cayle said.

Given that, I won’t deny that watching the same games over and over gets old. I also won’t deny the argument that if someone is good they should be able to be good on any game. If that’s the case and you realllllly want to have game variety, to get me on board you would have to change the way finals are run entirely: Everyone in the finals would play the same games (maybe 8 or more of them. That would remove the choice entirely if you end up playing all the games no matter what. I don’t advocate for this as I prefer the standard driving the bus finals, but for sake of argument, if you wanted to change things, I feel like you’d have to do something like that as to not deny one person their tournament based on being forced to choose the luck box, while another person in a different group gets put on the DMD.


I think a fine alternative to picking every game is choosing among game banks. As long as the banks are thoughtfully made by the TD, it’s a way for high seed to still pick their preference without picking their 3 strongest, or 3 of the same era, etc. It can also be a way to keep things from running way too long by keeping the longest playing games out of the same bank. Of course this depends on quantity and variety of eligible machines, but when possible I think it’s a solid format.


There’s another way to do this, similar to what golf does with the FedEx Cup final: “spot” the higher seeds some points in the playoffs. Rather than byes, which could involve having more rounds and thus needing more time, you could give the players in a group of 4 “starting points” as follows: top seed 1.5, #2 seed 1, #3 seed 0.5, #4 seed 0. Then play the round as usual, but add both starting and in-round points to determine who moves on. It’s sort of half-bye in that you get an edge towards moving to the next round, but not a guarantee.

Curious to see the feedback on this one.


Several of the ideas and suggestions made in the most recent posts seem to emulate the format I use. I’ll repost the details for 2 reasons. One I think it got lost in the sauce and two because I would genuinely like to hear feedback from all of you since I’m new to all of this.

The format is like this. All of my events are 7 rounds of group match play and I take the top 8 to “A Division” and then 9th through 16th to “B Division”. Note, my events average around 48 people. Before finals start I present the finalists with a list of 10 pre-determined banks and this is how everything flows:

*At the start of the round, each group will get to choose a bank to play. We will go in order for the groups, meaning that the group that has the #1 seed will get to pick their bank first

  • Each bank consists of 4 games. Only 3 of the 4 games will be played, with the 4th game being used as a tie-breaker in the event of a tie.

  • Once a bank has been selected, that bank can no longer be picked by another group (note - some games are used in more than one bank)

  • Starting with group #1 in the “A” division, the #1 seed can either choose the bank OR choose the position for unknown game #1 which would still need to be determined. For example, if the #1 seed picks position 4 for the 1st game we move on to the next highest seed and they get to either pick the bank, or another open position. However if the #1 seed picks bank #6, that bank can no longer be picked by any other group. From there the next highest would now have the option to pick one of the 4 games in that bank or choose position

  • At the conclusion of each game you move on to another game within your bank. Starting with the highest seed in the group, they get to pick either game OR order.

  • In the event of a tie-breaker, the 4th game is used and the higher seeded player will have order choice.

Thoughts? Feedback?


I like the bank idea. You can give the top player in the group choice of all games and also have parity depending on how you choose to setup the bank.

I don’t like the 4th game in the bank. Just use a different way to break ties so that those 4th games aren’t taken out of the possible pool for other groups to pick. Seems like a waste of a use of a game.

The rest is pretty standard, so I like that.

I like that if the #1 seed doesn’t choose a bank, choice goes to the #2 seed. I have been going to the next person in the #1 seeds group for game/bank choice, not the overall #2 seed. I think the latter is better.


I don’t particularly like the idea of banks being put together unless there are clearly enough games to represent specific eras equally. Otherwise, this simply takes much of the game choice away from the players and puts it in the TDs hands instead.


Let me clarify a couple of things.

I usually have about 16 games at my disposal to pick banks. I create 10 different banks. Some games are used across multiple banks as that is needed in order to create 10 different banks. So the 4th game helps mix things up and it doesn’t interfere with any other groups/banks. Plus when the tie-breaker is needed, it’s already known what game it will be on.

For example, at my tournament this past Saturday one of the banks included was Aerosmith Premium, Count Down, Demo Man, and Meteor. I was the top seed in “B” division and I chose this bank because it was still available. I don’t like Meteor, so I was hoping we didn’t have to play that game. The next highest seed in my group, which was seed #12, decided to pick 4th. The next seed then decided to pick Aerosmith. After Aerosmith, I then chose Count-Down as the top seed. After Count-Down I picked Demo Man. So my strategy worked in that we didn’t play Meteor, however I finished with 5 points and didn’t advance.


What happens when two groups pick to play an overlap game at the same time?


Here is a list of the banks that were used at my tournament this past weekend. What are your thoughts? I’m not sure I follow you when you say it simply takes much of the game choice away from the players?