I've played the real Sam a couple of times before - once at my house, where he quickly beat me with his really nicely painted Adeptus Mechanicus army, and once at his house where he slowly but surely beat me with his really nicely painted Catachan+Custodes army.
At Death Before Dishonour he brought a really nicely painted pirate-themed Ork army, and beat pretty much everyone he was put in front of.
Sam finished 3rd in the competitive tournament standings, 3rd in the Best Painted standings, and didn't drop a point in any of the sportsmanship surveys that his opponents completed post-game.
And that's why he won the Best Overall prize.
As if that wasn't enough, the guy who finished 3rd in Best Overall was playing a pretty vicious House Terryn knights list - also entirely painted by Sam.
This is why I call this gamer type the all-rounder
They have multiple armies, they're all painted better than I could do if you gave me a month off work, they're all pretty close to the current meta, and none of their opponents want to beat them to death with a metal dreadnought in a sock after a game.
The real Sam is in all honesty just a regular guy who likes both painting and gaming - he's not superman, he just has dedication and focus - but he's not a common archetype among 40k players. That's why although it's easy for me to think "I want a tournament full of Sams" it might not be possible to achieve.
64+ people with stunning armies who are naturally competitive and fun to play against sounds amazing, but it's hard enough to get people with 3-colour painted armies to come, let alone more than that. To get more you have to build a strong brand and a reputation.
That's why when I decided to run a tournament, one of the first things I did is had a logo designed and built a website. Brand and reputation.
But post event something bothers me about this thought process of "I want a tournament for the really competitive Markus-types and the competitive-but-painterly Sam-types" is the Gattaca-style elitist approach.
For those who haven't seen it. Gattaca is a sci-fi film from the 90 showing a future where humanity was using genetics to selectively breed out imperfections, resulting in only people where were genetically "valid" getting access to the best things in life. People who were tested and came up "in-valid" were turned away and did more menial jobs.
The tournament that's always been the model for what I wanted Death Before Dishonour to be is run by SN Battle Reports and is called "No Retreat".
This is the point where I would usually insert an important (to me) statement pointing out that I have never been to No Retreat, I would still very much like to go, I am commenting on it as an outsider rather than with full knowledge of the experience... And so on and so forth. However the first 3 blogs have reminded me that if you are going to become angry and defensive and outraged by what I say next, putting a disclaimer before it is not going to affect that.
They're just heading into their 8th successful year. Their army comp rules are stricter than mine so people bring mono-faction armies. Their terrain looks awesome - the whole thing looks fantastic.
Anyway, it's held in Gibraltar every year and you can't just buy a ticket and turn up. No siree! You have to apply to be invited to buy a ticket by sending photos of your army. If your army isn't ready, you submit photos of other work you have done to ensure it's up to scratch.
They even have a guide on how to ensure your photos are good enough quality to judge you.
Only once you pass this Valid/In-Valid test do you get to buy a ticket.
How terrible! How awful!
Actually... I think it's cool. It's really, really cool. Well, it's cool in the Warhammer 40,000 sphere, anyway.
Lawrence Baker has won it and WintersSEO does live YouTubes from there (both top-tier Sams, by the way)
I once played someone who had an invite and was practicing with his Raptors army, which was... gorgeous. Competitively terrible, as were most marine armies in early 8th edition, but gorgeous.
It certainly feels like a tournament for Sams and Andys. The best of us.
But hold the phone - let's recap on what we said up front... A huge percentage of tournament goers are Phil, the everyman. Including me
Am I trying to make a tournament I might not be allowed to attend?
Am I trying to create something that 60% or more of the really great guys who came and had a fun time and smashed models around and drank beer and laughed... are not allowed to buy a ticket for?
I don't have the answer to that right now, and I'm not sure it's what I want. The egotist in me wants to run the cool version where people stream the top table and sit at their desk pressing refresh on the day the tickets go on sale to make sure they get the hot ticket.
It's certainly easier to create a marketing message for a premium, glamourous, aspirational event.
But it's not particularly inclusive, and in the end the buzz and feedback you get for running it might be worse.
The guy I spoke about in a previous blog who came up to me and said "this has reinvigorated my love for 40k" gets excluded all over again. And even though his army was absolutely fine in isolation - when stacked up against pre-selected greatness maybe it starts to look bad.
In theory I want to hang around with genius supermodel pornstar astrophysicists, but in reality it might make me feel a bit... well, ordinary.
I'm going to pause the gamer types analysis and come back to them later. The next couple of blogs will be starting to analyze the feedback I got from my tournament to understand what the players enjoyed and what changes are needed for next time.