Gold Hat Online???

Hi Guys,

As a fan of Origins it makes me sad to see the premier SFB event reduced to only 8 players :-(
IMO the Gold-Hat-Online format has been one of the reasons for this decline!!

A little history here, after my Origins win in 2006 I really wanted to try to defend my title in 2007 but due to other circumstances there was no way I could get to the USA that year.
Still keen to play I proposed to SVC the idea that I play the event _live_ via a computer set up in the SFB room at Origins, I would play in real time just like all the other players attending Origins and the computer would have voice and sound and even video, with SFBOL being used simply as an interface for the map, counters and die rolls.
The idea being that to all intent and purpose I would be in the Origins SFB room playing in real time like all the other attendees of Origins!! To me this idea was to allow me to attend as I was both the current holder and 9,000 miles away! And for this privilege and the extra effort required in setting up a computer with all that was required I offered SVC $500.

SVC said he'd consider it and get back to me, after a few days he replied saying that after thinking it through he had come up with a better idea where by anyone could enter Origins for $100 through a format called Gold Hat Online that would run prior/during Origins.

I didn't think this format was a good idea since it could well cause players who would normally attend Origins in person to take the option of playing from home. I played Gold-Hat-Online in 2007 but didn't get any "Origin" feeling and have since declined to play via this format.

Mixing Online play with F-T-F play is a mistake, F-T-F is a true 1-on-1 experience where as online as much as it is a great tool has the problem of external distractions such as phones ringing, babies crying and wives yelling!! ;-)

IMO the first thing I'd do to begin rebuilding the Origins SFB experience would be to get rid of Gold-Hat-Online.


-Jason G

Gold Hat Online

I don't think the fact that the online portion was added had anything to do with the decline.

I think that ADB needs to reconnect with the tourney players and find out why the attendence has been dropping.

I think its is a variety of things stemming from
1) As a group SFB players have aged and job / family keeps people from attending.
2) Origins is competing with the same gamers as GenCon. It pulls from the same area.
3) Shark Factor. People stopped coming when they thought they had no chance to win.
Why pay all that money, dedicate a weekend, and go get killed.
4) Online availablity. Maybe because there are Online RATs that fills enough of a need for tourney players.
5) Death Spiral - I'm not going because no one else is going.
6) Players are upset with the designer (See the TAC rules changing category)
7) Its not promoted in any way.
8) General lack of interest in the game

These are just some of the things that I think have factored into the attendence.
However I don't think that because they allowed an online portion, that caused the attendence to drop.


Yeah, but to break such a

Yeah, but to break such a vicious cycle you need something new. A real bomb. SFB revolution could be such a thing.

Yeah, I Beat This To Death on the Official BBS

I really don't think that being able to play Gold Hat Online had any impact at all on whether or not people show up to Origins to play SFB. If anything, I suspect that I got a few more people into the mix that wouldn't have been playing otherwise for the last few years.

I am a *huge* fan of being able to play preliminary rounds for Origins on SFBOL, which I did for the last couple years (except this year, as I didn't get to go to Origins due to work hosing me)--I'd sign up, play a couple games in the week before Origins, and show up in Ohio with a 2-0 record already (well, at least that is what happened in '08...), played non SFB on Friday, and then was in the final tree on Saturday. Which was a *great* system. But I suspect that most folks didn't really understand that you could do this without paying $100.00 if you were going to Origins anyway. All the discussion of GHOL revolved around paying $100.00 to play online if you weren't actually going to Origins. But if you *were* actually going to Origins, you could sign up and play preliminary games for free. Which, again, was awesome.

As to why the tournament died, well, I suspect it was a combination of many factors--aging player base (i.e. all the hardcore SFB folks got older and married and had kids and doing things like Origins suddenly became much harder), not much in the way of new players coming into the tournament due to the learning curve, the perception of Shark Tank (which is a self correcting problem--the more people who aren't sharks that sign up, the less likely you are to run into sharks...), SFBOL in *general* rather than Gold Had Online (i.e. that you can play a couple good tournaments a year vs a large field of strong competition online means you have less incentive to go to Origins if that was your main incentive to going).

Also, that F+E and FedCom became well organized, solid events at Origins meant that people who used to show up to Origins and play a few SFB tournament games just 'cause they wanted to support the company and be involved instead drifted into the very well supported and attended F+E games and FedCom events. I don't say this as if this is a bad thing--it is great that F+E and FedCom has players and excellent events, but it *did* have a significant impact on the number of people playing the SFB tournament.

ADB becoming an F+E and

ADB becoming an F+E and FedCom company is not all that bad.
If there is room for SFB too. But the Gold Hat is now a Joke, and I only wait for the official recognition of that fact.

In its place I would like to see something like NK on a year basis. Players with most kills, or best percentage, face each other at the end of the year for some grand title. Given the Gold Hat is sort of wedded by contract to the Origins we would need a new name on it.

Add: 9) Young kids today


9) Young kids today expecting/used to live action shoot-em-up computer games.

I missed this year due to work (primarily), I plan on attending next year.

I would still like to go again

If SFB is lame I can do other stuff.

Add: 10) Tastes have changed


10) In the 70s, when SFB blossomed, complex games with big rulebooks that took 5-8 hours to play were popular. Game companies competed to produce games with _more_ complexity and _thicker_ rulebooks than the last guy.

In the 90s and through today, we see that has changed 180 degrees. The most popular new products are Euro games, with rulebooks of only 4-8 pages, and you can play them in 1-2 hours.

The anachronistic nature of SFB shows in its declining fan base. We lose far more to attrition than we gain in new players discovering and appreciating SFB.

11) ADB is painfully ham-handed in their public relations, and very poor at promoting their games and events. At least these days - maybe they were better at this long, long ago. They do not operate from a place of "trust" and "appreciation", they operate from a place of "suspicion", and "possessiveness/control-freakishness".

Example: Tedious, bureaucratic requirements to run a 'sanctioned' tournament. If you don't have X, and Y, and Z, and Z2, and Z3, then you're not sanctioned. Why does ADB have to do this? Well, obviously, if it was too easy to have a sanctioned tournament, everyone would rush to do one! We couldn't have that!!!

FtF Tournament SFB is not dead just yet

Much to SVC's ire, the community recognizes that Council of Five Nations is the de facto, if unsanctioned, (inter)national SFB championship.

Last year we had 28 players, practically triple what Origins had in 2009.  Not a single one was a 'take one for the team' non-player to boost the numbers.  We had six players who had never attended a Council before.

If Origins had only 8 this year, we will probably have quadruple that at Council.  Bill Schoeller told me he's 60% likely to attend (potential first-timer).  With Ken Lin not making it to Origins this year, I suspect there is a good chance he will finally bow to peer pressure and attend this year.

We will have awards at least as good as what they give away at Origins.

We will award the Black Captian's Hat to our winner, just like the one Paul Scott got last year:

Council SFB Tournament Winners 2009

The winner will have his name engraved on the Council Cup, to be remembered for all eternity:

The Council Cup - Star Fleet Battles

Council of Five Nations XXXIII is on October 8-10 this year.  Most of you can expect a "Save the Date" postcard real soon.


Guilt by Association

While we're playing with photos...

Maybe part of the decline of SFB can be attributed to Guilt by Association?

After all, this guy was at the Council tournament last year...

Me and Satan

Nice, except for the fashion

Nice, except for the fashion sense of the SFBers:P

Well, at least it's over...

I conceded the game to Gregg today. I could have extended the game another few turns but just didn't have the firepower to finish him off before getting blown up myself. Oh well, there's always next year :)

On the subject of allowing online play for the Gold Hat, I really do agree that the FTF experience at Origins is a huge part of the tournament. Although Gregg is probably pretty happy about winning, given the choice I'm sure he would have preferred to go to the con and play in person.

Having said that consider that without the two online players there would have been only six competitors, two of which I'm pretty sure only played one game. Heck, I was forced to play a civil war just to get one game in on Friday! In fact I played a total of four games before the semi-finals: two online and two in person. I think the reality of low attendance at Origins almost requires the inclusion of on-line play.

What about the guy in the blue hat?

Jeez, the 2nd place guy did alright too. If you play against somebody like Paul Scott and he jackpots with 4 photons with YOUR dice. How can you win? :) Anyways. I had a blast. Hope to see all you guys at this years council. Should be a good one.


The blue hat guy looks like a goofy Steelers fan.

The Death of SFB tourney play

This is anecdotal, but was corroborated by a couple of playtest groups.

Most SFB play groups had a mixture of tourney players and campaign/scenario players. The tourney guys would play scenarios when it was scenario week, the scenario guys would go play tourney on their off weeks.

SFBOL caused all the hardcore tourney players to go "Hey, I can sit at home and play on the computer. I don't have to go to the game store and play scenarios I'm not that interested in, and the wife isn't nagging me, and I can keep an eye on the kids. Plus, I can play against Paul Scott and Tom Carroll."

Within a year of SFBOL being out, the 13 of 16 finalists in the Gold Hat had accounts. The second year, it's 16 of 16 and stayed there.

When the SFBOL players came out to play tourney games at their local shops and local cons, there were fewer opponents because the scenario players weren't feeling obligated to show up - the tourney players playing scenarios could usually get scenario players to fill out a tourney bracket. Now this wasn't the case.

So local tournaments dried up.

And with them went the Origins attendance, which plummeted from 95 in 2000 to 61 in 2001 to 36 in 2002, to 30 in 2003, to 28 in 2004, then 25 in 2005.. I don't have numbers for 2006--2007. In 2008, they had 14 of whom about 6 were 'play one game and get out' players), in 2009 they had 12 (with 7 real entrants) and in 2010, it was 8...

Demographic changes have hit as well. What percentage of us are in our 40s and 50s now?

How many of you are going to your game store and trying to teach people to play?

I used to teach a LOT of SFB using the system on the ADB web site. I now use similar techniques to teach people my products...but it looks like system outreach has fallen to an all time low.

So, next time you grumble about how there's nobody to play with, go out to a game store, expect to meet a lot of rejection and try and teach people to play.

yeah, but then you show them

yeah, but then you show them the rule book... It's a shame really, as the actuall game can be learnt with never a peek in a rule book.

Well, I did run a non-tourney

Well, I did run a non-tourney SFB event at KublaCon out here in '09, using a scenario in (I think) CL 38 written by Jeremy Gray for Origins play. I managed to get my local buddies, plus three newbies. Unfortunately, while the newbies had fun, as I've said elsewhere (not to beat it to death), I had some FedCom players drop by the table and -intentionally or not - heckle the game and tell my recruits to try FedCom. And, sure enough, the next day I saw my potential players walking out with FedCom copies.

Yeah, this just made me even MORE bitter about FedCom. :)

I didn't bother to try this year, ran a buddy's garage game called "Final Frontier"... kinda FASA-like.

Maybe next year.

Good points Ken

Also consider that lack of recruitment affects both online and FTF. How many people play tournaments online on a semi-regular basis? 50? And as Ken says, those same 50 people will comprise most of the players in a FTF tournament at any given convention. The total pool of active tourney players has been dwindling for some time now as folks move on to other things.

Dale is right as well, the presence of FC makes it that much more difficult to recruit people into SFB, which kinda sucks.

I wonder if there is a way to attract some of the folks who used to play "back in the day" onto SFBOL, or to Origins. I don't know about everyone else but SFB is like an addiction to me.... even if I stop for a while I am inevitably drawn back!

Origin Numbers

Origins gets 8 players (less in reality) and Council of Five gets 25-30 players.


I have been to both events and had a great time at both events but in the future I would probably only attend Council of Five (which I may make it to this year).

Basically SVC's attidude towards me and the lack of promotion (thus fewer players) has turned me off attending Origins (which I could have attended in both 08 and 09) where as the positive vibe and attitude of the Council of Five organisers make me want to make the effort to attend!

All up I think it is public relations and positive energy that are more important than any reasons listed above!

-Jason G

Jason wrote:

>>Origins gets 8 players (less in reality) and Council of Five gets 25-30 players.


While I in no way wish to underplay the promotional and organizational efforts of Dave and Council in general, that Council takes place in the North East, which has a high saturation of SFB players, has a lot to do with it. My group alone can get 5-6 players there, and between the rest of NY/NJ/Western MA, there is another dozen. Meaning that folks know there will be at least 16, which is, historically speaking, a tourney.

I mean, again, Dave and the rest of Team Council do a great job, and it is a great, relaxed, well organized con. But between the population density of the North East and the whole thing being relatively cheap, you got a cauldron of appropriate factors that come together to make it happen.

I never did make it to

I never did make it to Origins. The year I was going to go, Jeremy and I decided to meet up in NY at Council instead. Have to say it was the best time I've had playing SFB at a con. Even though my record was like 1 win, 3 losses, I had a bunch of fun. I'm hoping to make it back in 2011.

I will likely never attend

I will likely never attend Orgins again.,..where SFB is my primary focus

I used to be a big Dungeon & Dragons player, still love Avalon hill games

for me the issue is $$$$ and distance ( from Seattle, WA)

I have not played Face to face in a long, long time...
My wife knows this, and is gathering her frequent flyer miles so I go to council this year. ( righ now 75%)

As far as numbers for Orgins.,..( less than 16 people to make it a Ace tournament or fleet Captains is a total joke...imo..)


good notes on the history

good notes on the history Ken! wow~

very,very shocking


Blaming SFBOL for the loss of

Blaming SFBOL for the loss of players is misguided. Just look at the number of conventions having tournaments (Captains Logs have the information) each year and you will see that the number peaked around 1993 and has been steadily decreasing ever since.
I think the points about demographics are the major cause. Few new players and the older players not having time or have lost interest.

Heck, SFBOL might be the only reason anyone is left playing tournament SFB (or dare I say SFB in general).

Well, I know that SFBOL is

Well, I know that SFBOL is the way I play most of my games these days, as my old gaming group dried up and blew away (people moved, got married, had kids, had psychotic breakdowns, etc). Without SFBOL, SFB would be up on a shelf gathering dust, to be played maybe once or twice a year.

What SFBOL did was remove the 'casual player' base from SFB.

This is not the same as saying that that casual player base would have remained playing without it.

I watched SFBOL sort the tourney players from the scenario/campaign players in two play groups...and without both sets of players, the groups weren't viable.

And new player recruitment is an uphill battle; even people who've never tried SFB have heard of it, and have heard stories about Star Fleet Rules Lawyers, and tales of rulebook sets that outweigh professional wrestlers.

Two things that really help FC recruiting are that the play aids (SSD cards) look nicer than the cutting edge 1988 Mac graphics of SFB - and that the rulebook is (comparatively) short. At one point the FC reference rulebook was 52 pages...

It won't get the "Euro Gamer" in, but the casual player is happier with that thin rulebook.

It also has the benefit of playing somewhat faster. A three on three duel in SFB is a 6 hour game. Three on three in FC is a about three hours, with table talk and whining about your luck.

One of the design mandates for WizKids for the Clix based games - and Pirates of the Spanish Main - is that a game should be done to a resolution in about an hour. The expectation is that after playing the game, people will set up another one or a variant or swap sides and see how it goes.

It's an amazing design constraint to work under to make a game that is interesting and satisfying and has meaty decisions, and is played in an hour or less. I'm still trying to hit that mark...

I don't Think SFBOL Lost Us Players

But I do think it had a significant impact on the want of people who were going to be playing tournament SFB in the first place to go a distance to play an SFB tournament. As Tom points out, SFBOL is probably one of the main reasons that people play SFB at all these days. But in the long run, if we lived in a world where there was no SFBOL, there would probably still be *some* more FTF tournaments left around the country (as opposed to the, like, 3 a year at this point). As noted, being able to play 3 or 4 tournaments a year where you only have to play a game every couple weeks and not drive 4 hours and pay for a hotel is going to be a lot more attractive to many folks than the FTF alternative. So you don't have people organizing, or going out of their way to go to, weekend long tournaments.

I mean, like, *I* like going to SFB tournaments when I can (I went to Origins every year for the last 15 years and played SFB there. I'm kind of screwed, Origins wise, for the rest of eternity due to my job now, until Origins shifts a weekend in some direction, as the next few years it is sitting on the same weekend as High School Graduation, of which I am now in charge...), but then I also don't have kids and like doing that sort of thing. I'm not remotely surprised, however, that most folks, given the choice between:

A) Driving a distance, paying all sorts of money for hotels and food and drinks and playing an SFB tournament all weekend 3 or 4 times a year.


B) Sitting in their living room and playing an SFB tournament a bit at a time over a couple months 3 or 4 times a year.

They'll go with B.

SFBOL lost me

A few years ago I used to go to the local games club to play SFB. There were 2 of us regulars (Sandy Goh and myself) and 3 other occasionals. This went on for a year or two, and then SFBOL came out. Sandy joined up and decided he could get his SFB fix there, so liked to spend the club evenings playing Euro games. I wasn't going to drive 40 miles into London to play Ra so stopped going.

I tried SFBOL but the interface was pretty crude back then, and I wasn't going to wait up half the night for you lot on the wrong side of the planet. So that didn't last long.

Then wife, kids, etc. If SFB is still around in 8 years or so I might be able to get my son into it, but I fear it may be a little futile.

If SFBOL is still around when I retire, I'll be able to get back into it. Maybe Tom Carroll will be senile by then, and I'll be able to beat him.

As someone that helped start the rise of F&E at Origins....

I think "vibe" is a good way to put it.

While we were using ADB space, it was (and is) OUR event. No convoluted requirements, no stale more-of-the-same format. Players coming together to play the game them love. I suspect that even if F&EOL is succssful, the Origins attendence will not be greatly affected.

I used to attend every year.

I used to attend every year. A few years ago, they moved the convention up a week into June. Unfortunately for me, that has prevented me from attending due to a yearly scheduling conflict.

Does being online help or hurt?

As I have said many a times, I'm an F&E player so take my opinion for what it's worth.

However, I am also a huge Diplomacy fan. Diplomacy is huge online. PBEM or PBIM are perhaps the largest part of the hobby but FtF play is not dying anywhere. If anything, I think FtF Tournament Dip is still growing.

The problem I think is two fold. First is size and complexity. Diplomacy started out and still is a very simple game whereas SFB is extremely complex and just gets more so with each expansion. I know the response is you don't need the whole rule book but even the most basic version of SFB that you can get most people to play is a pretty think rulebook.

The second is attitude. Without getting into SVC bashing, the ADB bbs is a heavily moderated board and that can really turn people off. However, most Diplomacy sites are more free flowing. There are also a lot more of them. Therefore, if the discussions are piss you off, you can always go to or any number of other sites to find like minded souls and pick up games. You would have a hard time with that in SFB.

Also, my understanding is this translates over to Origins. Now I have never been to Origins but I have been told by more then one person that the initial reception towards newcomers, especially during the sing-a-long, would not be defined as overly welcoming.