Tuesday, May 3, 2016

An Interview With FFG Organized Play

As I've been getting ready to TO the local Regional Armada tournament I've been communicating a bit with the Organized Play group at FFG.  They've been really gracious and helpful, so I contacted them with a list of interview style questions about the OP program in general.

It's a good read and we find out what happened with the missing acrylic Engineering Tokens!

I sent the list of questions to FFG OP and they were answered by Brendan.  He gave some really thorough and insightful answers and I hope you enjoy reading them like I did.
Why does FFG have an OP program?  What are your basic goals?

  • The goal of our Organized Play program is to bring people together to play our games and create an awesome experience when they do. Some folks don’t know anyone else that is interested in the same games as they are, some enjoy the excitement of competing against others for prizes, and still others just want to find new friends through their favorite games. No matter why someone is looking to play our games, we want to give them more opportunities to do so and make it the best experience possible.

Do you know how many people (or stores) participate in OP events overall?  For Armada specifically?

  • We can’t disclose particular numbers of players, but we sold more than 37,500 tournament kits all around the world in 2015, just to give you an idea of how widely we support our games. Star Wars™: Armada made up a significant percentage of that number, which was extremely impressive since 2015 was its first year.

The tournament structure seems to go Store Championships --> Regionals --> Nationals --> Worlds.  How many people participate at each level?  How many events there are at each level?

  • That’s a pretty accurate depiction. As the goal of that structure is for each successive event to be more exclusive, the numbers drop drastically between each level. Store Championships are wide open, with any store in good standing with us allowed to run one Store Championship for each game. We had hundreds of Store Championships for each game run around the world this year.
  • Regional Championships are a bit limited in number, as we want them held to a certain standard. Each game has between 20-32 in the United States this year (for the April-June season). It varies upon game, but there are as many as 100 more Regional Championships around the rest of the world for each game.
  • Last year, we had National Championships in over 30 countries.
  • World Championships are a bit limited, as there is only one per game. :) However, last year saw a continuation of large growth year over year, and we had near 1,000 players attend the 2015 World Championships.

What makes the OP events fun for you?  What makes them frustrating?

  • I can’t speak for the rest of Organized Play (there are 5 other people on my team), but I’m happy to share my personal thoughts. For me, there are two big reasons why I love Organized Play events so much. First, there is a huge social aspect to it. When I attend/run our events, I get to meet so many awesome people and have conversations with them that I would never have with someone I met on the street or elsewhere. Not only do I get to learn about all of these incredible people, but I also get to hear the thoughts of players and organizers. This is invaluable for improving Organized Play in the future. Second, it’s incredibly rewarding to see so many people enjoying a game and knowing you had a hand in that. I’m not the one who designed the game or mechanics that they are enjoying, but I am a big reason why they are there that day and playing others who have come out looking for a good time.
  • I don’t think Organized Play events are frustrating at all. There are challenges, to be sure, but those are hurdles to overcome and lessons to learn from. That said, I definitely feel down when I hear someone did not have a great experience at an event I was responsible for.

How closely do you work with the game developers in setting up the OP events?

  • This largely depends on the event and the game. We can talk to the developers relatively easily (They sit just across the parking lot from us!), and they are always happy working with us to improve our events. They are an invaluable resource when it comes to creating something new for Organized Play. Beyond that, it really comes down to the event and how involved the events needs them to be.

How do you determine what prizes to give out at each level?

  • It’s largely based on experience and feedback. All of us in Organized Play are passionate gamers who have played in events for various games. That experience informs us a fair bit when we’re trying something new. Player feedback is also a great tool when figuring out overall kit contents and plans.
  • An example where player feedback joined experimentation is the challenge coins we’re giving out in each Star Wars: Armada kit this year. The coins were developed because a large percentage of X-Wing players enjoyed the challenge coin we did for that game years ago and kept requesting us to bring it back. While sometimes we might bring something like that back in just one kit, we thought it would be interesting to release a series of the coins, adding a different aspect of collectibility to them. You can grab one at your local game night or a Store Championship if you’re just looking for one, or you can try and go all out, collecting one from each kit.

How do you select which cards to use for alternate art variants?

  • This really depends on the level of the event in which we’re giving it out at. We have different goals for different events. For some of the more regular events, we aim to hit a common card that is used a fair bit. As the event goes up in exclusivity, we aim more toward cards that players use only one of, and then when we hit the highest events, like World Championships, we try to do an iconic character or card that players love to use. There are a number of other factors that go into it, but those are some of the more obvious goals. In addition, we’re often planning these cards over a year in advance, so we do occasionally miss the mark a little.
  • As a side note, this is a big area where we talk to the developers. They know the upcoming meta of the game better than we do, so they are a huge help in getting a feel for what cards will be popular in the future.

Do you ever pay attention to how much the prize cards/tokens/templates go for on eBay?  I've seen some of the older X-Wing cards go for ridiculous amounts.

  • We occasionally see eBay posts. However, we don’t make decisions based on any financial aspects beyond what it costs us to make something. Otherwise, our choices are based on player excitement and what level a prize feels right for. 

The first 3 Armada  seasonal game night kits each came with command tokens (Concentrate Fire, Navigate, and Squadron).  Many of us who collected them were surprised/bummed that the Engineering tokens haven't made an appearance to complete the set.  Any chance we will see those soon?

  • Unfortunately, our Tournament Kits have been going through a transition this year and into next, and we were unable to put them in this year's kits. We’re aware of the missing Engineering tokens, and we’ll be sure to include them as soon as we find the appropriate kit!
 So, there were some great answers in there.  What did you guys think?  Are there any followup questions that you have?


  1. Thanks for posting the interview, interesting to know about the missing tokens! Organised Play is both great for gamers and the company, as building a community is the way to get traction for a game (rather than sitting on one's shelf). I enjoy both making friends and the competitive element.

    My question would be - whose idea was Massing at Sullust? This was a great idea, would they ever consider it again for future waves?

    1. That's a great question. I will follow up with that and see what they say.