Running WARMACHINE Events

by Chris O.

Hello again, fellow gamers! Today, we’re gonna talk about running your first Organized Play event.

Organized Play is one of the pillars of any tabletop game, and WARMACHINE is no exception. From local leagues to conventions to the World Team Championship, there’s nothing quite like getting a bunch of gamers in one place for a day (or five) of wall-to-wall WARMACHINE.

Managing these sorts of events can be really intimidating if you’ve never tried it, so I’ve put together some tips for running your first Organized Play event. These tips are largely applicable to any type of event you want to run, but I’ll also call out some specifics around Steamroller tournaments, as they often require a bit more structure.

Space and Scheduling

The first thing you’ll want to do is find a place to run the event. If you have a game store or club you play at regularly, you can start by talking to the staff or organizers about finding a time and date that is available. For stores, you’ll likely need to work with them on determining an entrance fee and deciding how the fees will be split between the store and the prize pool. It’s also a good idea to talk to the store about food options: getting a big food order prepared at the start of the day can keep things running smoothly around lunchtime. In my experience, stores are almost certainly going to want to give out the prize pool in the form of store credit as part of the payment to them for hosting; be sure you discuss this ahead of time so you can put accurate information in your event announcement (more on that later).

Determine how many tables you’ll be able to set up and make sure you include any limitations in the event announcement—if your venue only has space for 8 players, you’ll want to make sure people know that ahead of time. You may want to set up preregistration, if space is particularly tight or if you anticipate a big crowd. Some venues might already have a registration system they use for other game events; if not, sites like Longshanks or Best Coast Pairings are great for handling event registration (and more).

For scheduling, you want to make sure you block out enough time for players to arrive, unpack, and move between rounds. Whatever the total round time is for the size of the event you’re running, make sure you add a buffer of 20–30 minutes between each round for players to pack up, find their new table, and use the facilities, plus an extra 30 minutes around lunchtime. You’ll also want to have 20–30 minutes at the end of the event for handing out prizes and packing up. That means for an event with a 60-minute Death Clock, you’ll want to estimate two-and-a-half hours per round.


Depending on the event you’re running, you likely need to have a way for players to share their lists with each other and track their scores. Websites like Longshanks and Best Coast Pairings can handle a lot of the paperwork for you by providing event registration and list submission before the event, as well as matching up players each round and handling scoring. You can optionally choose to print out scenario reference sheets or player scores and include one on each table on the day of the event, but since they are all available in the WARMACHINE app, this isn’t strictly necessary.

You’ll want to make sure you have objective markers available that are appropriate for the event you’re running. While many regular players might have their own set of objectives that they’ll bring with them to the event, you’ll want to have your own supply for any players who don’t bring their own. You’ll also need spares if you are running an event that uses a non-standard number or type of objective elements such as a narrative league. These don’t need to be fancy, as long as they match the sizes described in the event rules; simple paper disks can even work in a pinch.

One particularly tricky requirement for running Steamroller events is chess clocks. Death Clock timing is a core feature of Steamroller play, but sourcing clocks can be pricy. Check with your venue to see if they already have a supply, and check with any veteran players in your community to see if they’ll be bringing their own. Basic chess clocks are usually relatively cheap and, depending on the number you need, you may be able to work with your venue to have them supply the clocks since they can be used for future events as well.

One possible alternative source for chess clocks can be older unused smartphones or tablets. If you or any members of your community have older but still functional smart devices, you may be able to wipe them and install a simple chess clock app. Just make sure you’ve thoroughly wiped any personally identifiable information from the device ahead of time.

Make sure you have your own supply of measuring devices, proxy bases, and a laser line as well; even if you’re not playing, you may need to make rulings on positioning or measurements, and it will be faster if you have your own tools. Precision measuring templates such as the officially licensed templates sold by Broken Egg Games can be a huge time saver here compared to a tape measure.

Prize Support

Prizes for WARMACHINE events can come in a few different forms and can reward different aspects of the hobby. Steamroller and many narrative events have official prize packs that can be ordered ahead of the event, but you may also want to give out prizes such as store credit if you’re playing at one. Work with the store to determine the total pool available and then divide that among all the prizes you plan to give out. Generally speaking, players will expect 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place to receive proportional prize credit, and I encourage you to also include prizes for Best Sport and Best Painted that are at least equal to the 3rd-place prize value. Have these percentages ready ahead of time so you can quickly do the math once the event starts and you know how many players you have.

Getting the Word Out

Once you have a venue and date picked out, you’ll need to get the word out. There are lots of different online spaces for discussing WARMACHINE these days, and you’re certainly more familiar with the ones your community uses than I am, but generally, the official Facebook group and the Community Hub tend to be the most active and are great places to put out the word about your event. Your venue may have their own online presence where you can share the announcement and may even have a physical space to post event announcements as well. If you’re using event software and/or a preregistration system, make sure you include that information and provide a link for players to follow.

Here’s a list of information you should include in your announcement:

  • Point Size
  • Prime or Unlimited Arena
  • List Requirements (1 or 2 list minimum)
  • Setup Time
  • Round 1 Start Time
  • End Time (if you have a hard cutoff)
  • Lunch Break Schedule (if included)
  • Entrance Fees
  • Prize Support (medal, store credit, etc.)

I recommend including the time that you plan to start the event itself as well as a time about an hour earlier when players can start arriving and setting up. You’ll want to make sure players aren’t showing up at the time you expect to start the first round, especially if you’re on a tight timeframe running up against other events or venue closing hours.

Running the Event

Once the day comes, the real fun starts. Arrive well before the start time so you have time to set up tables and terrain before players start taking models out of bags. This is the part that can seem most overwhelming because a lot of stuff is happening all at once before you even start the first round. Make sure you and the venue have a way to verify that all participants have paid any fees before you start, and give yourself time to verify any paper lists if you’re not requiring that players use event software.

Once players and lists have been verified and first-round pairings are made, things tend to calm down a bit. If you’re not playing in the event, this is the time you get to relax a bit and watch games (or if you have an uneven number of players, you can also offer to play a game against the player with the bye. They still score according to the bye rules, but it’s a nice way for them to still get a game in).

Keep a close eye on your round timer and your overall event time. If you have a hard stop time from the venue, you’ll need to make sure you finish all rounds in time, even if that means you have to stop before an overall winner can be determined.

Making Rulings

Making rulings can be one of the most intimidating parts of running your first event. This tends to come up most often in Steamroller tournaments where players are also fighting the clock. Remember that as the Tournament Organizer, you can choose to pause their clocks if you need some extra time to think; you don’t want to punish the person whose turn it is by running out their clock while they explain the problem to you.

The best advice I can give for making rulings is to be decisive. If the question is about a measurement or model placement, you should carefully check the measurements yourself and then make a call. If the question is about how a rule works, you should make a best effort to quickly look up the rule in the app or search the Community Hub for rulings, but don’t spend too much time doing so. Remember, the round timer is still going even if the Death Clock on this game is paused. If you can’t find a concrete answer quickly, it’s okay to make the best ruling you can to keep the game moving. If the same question comes up again during the event, make sure you are consistent in your ruling so that it’s fair to all players.

Later, you should research the question further or ask for clarification on the Community Hub to get a concrete answer for future games. If it turns out you were wrong, you should try to communicate that to your players so they know for future games as well. However, in the moment, when the round timer is running, it is fairer to the players to make a decisive call quickly and keep the game moving than to spend too much time trying to find the answer. Most rulings like this aren’t going to be the sort that determine who wins and loses, and it’s better that the players can move past the moment and have as much round time as possible to do that themselves. If the ruling is that important, such as one that decides if an assassination run succeeds or fails you, should use your best judgment to decide how much time to spend trying to find answers.

Always remember that as an Event Organizer, your main goal is to help build your community and make sure everyone is having fun. Foster the community you want to be a part of by encouraging clean and friendly play whether you’re running a Journeyman League or Steamroller tournament. It can feel like a lot of work sometimes, but when you can look at the community you helped build and the players you helped grow along the way, it will all be worth it.

See you on the tabletop!

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