Ok, grab your popcorn and lets get controversial!
Dropping from tournaments is a thing in Warmachine, and it’s a hot topic about who is to blame and even if there is any blame to be had at all. I have experienced this from the side of the tournament organizer and as the player, and so I’m going to do my best to show both sides of the story. Also know that I do this not to shame anyone, but to raise awareness because everyone needs to understand how their actions affect others.
To start off with there are two kinds of drops: 1) when you drop BEFORE a tournament, and 2) when you drop DURING a tournament. Each have their own cause and effects, and it’s important you understand these are different.
So lets start with dropping before the tournament, and start with the viewpoint of the player. There are a number of reason a player might drop before a tournament: maybe another event came up which conflicts, maybe something came up in their life that they need to deal with, maybe they just don’t feel like it. I as a player have dropped from tournaments for all of these reasons. I’ve had family birthday birthdays pop up and force me to drop, I’ve have had to drop because my wife had too much homework and needed me to watch the kids, and I had it where I just didn’t want to make the long drive after a long night and just didn’t feel like going. None of these things make me, or someone else who drops, a bad person, it’s just life and personal choice.
Now lets look at it from the point of view of the tournament organizer (TO). As a TO I want to run the best event possible for the community I support. To do this I’ve had to book a venue, buy prizes, and maybe bought food and drink, so there is a real financial investment, as well as an emotional and time investment put into the preparation of an event. When people drop, depending on my budget buffer, the TO can suddenly find themselves losing money because they now have ordered too much food, or booked too big of a venue, or bought too much food. Even if I left a large budget buffer, a number of drops can make the time setting up and running the tournament feel disrespected. One good example is when I polled the idea of an event in a bar, got large positive feedback, so I booked the venue, bought trophies, arranged food, and then 80% of the players dropped in the last week. This was an extreme (normally I see ~10% drops), but from this I suffered a financial loss, and damaged my relationship with the business owner.
Next we’ll jump to drops during the tournament, and again start with the player point of view. Here the player may drop because: they have other obligations they have to get to, something could come up that pulled them away, or maybe they just don’t feel like playing any more. Again I have done all of these. I’ve had to drop part way through events because I’ve needed to go to family birthday parties (man, birthday parties are the worst), I’ve been called home to deal with kids, and I’ve felt sick and wanted to go home. These are all solid reason, with no reason I should feel shame, and are all choices I’m free to make.
From the TO point of view drops during a tournament are more annoying than anything else. In setting up the pairings for the next round, the TO can find themselves needed to do quick rework when someone drops and you need to rework the pairings, and depending on the application being used for tracking results and pairing this can be either time consuming or in some cases impossible. More than anything, drops during an event hurts the players if strength of schedule (the tie breaker that is based on the number of wins your opponents got) is being used. Then players who could have ended up in the top three can quickly find themselves sliding down the rankings when their opponents drop and don’t earn them any more points. The TO is then pulled into it when their tournament is seen to be at fault, when in fact the Privateer Press format calls for strength of schedule to be used.
As you can see this issue has two sides to it. In a perfect world no one would drop from any event, and all events would be perfect, but this just isn’t the case. Life will happen and players will need to drop before and during the event. What everyone (players and TOs) need to do is understand the effects their actions will have, and then do their best to minimize them. Players should do their best they are clear to go to an event before they sign up, and give a thought to if the tournament is strength of schedule before they decide to drop. And TOs need to do their best to expect a number of drops during their event planning, and they need to be make sure they give players the option to drop before the next round pairings are made (or at least have an efficient process for reworking pairings if there is a last second drop).
At the end of the day no one is really to blame, we just (as always) need to have empathy for others.