Steamrollers: aka the Default event

By: Mike Corkhill


Steamrollers, that’s the first thought that runs into your head when thinking of running an event about 80%-90% of the time.  It’s also the boogie man of a lot of starting metas since you are asking players to pay in and play competitively. Today we’re going to talk about the ins and outs of running a steamroller event.  For the official rules check here: Mostly this will cover not necessarily how, but the other aspects of the way I have run them and the way others have run them. Hopefully giving you some insight into what has worked and what hasn’t.  


The first thing is to iron out all your details ahead of time before putting up and flyers or sign-ups.  There are many questions that need answers here’s what needs to be answered and why.


How many tables/How big is the venue?  This will determine how long of a tournament you are looking at running, how many sets of terrain, mats, clocks, zones you’ll need, and how big your prize support is.  If you have a venue that can support 16 players, but can only stay open for a 3 round tournament (8 hours, which includes set up and pairings), you’ll need to note that on the post or flyer so players will know that.  

Are you running a Standard steamroller or are you going to use variant rules?  This is the meat and potatoes of Steamroller details.


What point level?

How many lists?

Character restrictions?


Timing (death clock or timed turns)?

Finals Tables?




Point level should be 75 points, but feel free to reduce it if your meta is still getting their forces built.  You just have to understand that the game plays very different at the lower points level. Certain models become much stronger, while others seem like they don’t pull much weight.  


List building

How many Lists? The default is one, with a second list optional.  You can change this to One list, three lists. Whichever you choose be mindful of your community. If everyone is struggling to field one 75 point list, don’t be setting it for three lists. Character restrictions and Themes are also other questions that will have a big impact on the game.  If you set it for character restrictions to be in place, that will impact how many lists a player can bring. Some players have two lists that have the same character and if they need to have two lists without that overlap, they may not be able to bring it, or may only be able to play one list.  


To Theme or not to Theme, this one is still being debated by some diehards.  I can tell you I’ve played in 3 no theme events in 2018 and it hurts some factions more than others.  This may discourage some players to not participate. It can be done and done well. I played Trolls and Grymkin. I always felt like I was on the back foot with Grymkin, but Trolls Madrak1/ Double Champs was not that different.  So your mileage may vary.



If you’ve been helping your meta grow, I hope you’ve been getting the players acclimated and encouraging them to play on a clock of some sort.  I believe this solves a lot of problems with players and analysis paralysis. If you have then this is a non-issue for your players. Just set up with what they’re used to. If your meta is not familiar with playing on the clock, then the real hurdle for the event is right here.  I’ve had players get really salty about having to play on the clock, but these are also the guys who play four hour long games, and hmmm, haw, & debate every move. You need the clock to keep the tourney running smoothly and on time. If you have an eight-hour window where the store is open and one round takes four hours, you’re not finishing the Steamroller.


For your first few you can set the time for the next point level above giving each player more time to get used to it.  This is usually how I start players out on clocks as well. I’ll set mine to 60 minutes and set theirs for 75.


Finals tables

Something to think about is the finals tables. Do you go with one or do you not?  My suggestion is that you do. In my experience there’s nothing more frustrating than battling all day getting to the top table as one of two undefeated, losing the match, and then dropping down to third, or off the podium completely.  The other view on this is that 2nd place should be the person who played the best out of all the other players, even the guy who got to the top table and lost. Whichever you decide make sure you highlight this in the event and even announce it at the beginning of the tournament.


Tournament Day

So you got your flyers up, your Facebook posts up, everyone is there filling out sheets, and you’ve got tables set up ready to start.  Congrats! You’ve got most of the work done. Now just a few more things to tackle.


You may not enjoy public speaking, but this is where you need to use those awkward speaking skills.  😛 Make an announcement. Go over the basics. Timing, pausing the clock, rules questions, the agenda for the day, and thank t your players for showing up to play.  Set your players expectation up front and you’ll find that the event will run smoother.


Scoring each round.  While a fancy computer program that does it all for you is nice (like PG Swiss), you can do it by hand easily too.  Follow the instructions on the Steamroller packet, and you should be fine. In the upper right-hand corner as the players turn in their sheets write how many games they won. Then as the tournament progresses make multiple piles with the number of games won.  Pairings are easy this way. Shuffle all the winners face down and pull out sheets to make pairs. If there are an odd number take the last winner, and add them to the other pile shuffle & repeat. The Strength of Schedule is easy as well. At the end of the tournament, you’ll need to some bookwork.  Add up the games won by the opponents that the player has played against and that will be their Strength of Schedule. I usually will write that number to the far right to the opponent list after the Army points destroyed as the final round is wrapping up.


Best Painted and Best Sportsman

If you wish to add this, of course, announce it with the rest of the other details.  To determine the best painting I will usually leave it to popular vote; although I have also had the store manager or owner pick the best one they like.  For the Best Sportsman, I watch the matches all day and make the determination based on what I see. I’m not going to the guy tilting, the guy abusing the clock, or making their opponent feel uncomfortable. I usually see how the guy at 0-3 or 0-4 has been handling the losses, first.  


I wrote this article with the help of watching a few “not as many events ran” and “first time running events” Organizers and Organizers to be.  Take things in stride, and make sure you and the players are having fun. Be fair, and consistent in your rulings. If you make a mistake, keep note of it for next event and don’t let it discourage you.  I had to make many mistakes to get here.