In last week’s post, I briefly mentioned the token game. The game was a fun social activity that Louis Annino introduced to the judges at the $5K. However, Louis specifically asked judges not to bother me with the game. So, I brought the token game up mainly to highlight an example of how judges often give scorekeepers a wide berth…but, people really wanted to know more about the game itself! And that brings us to today’s post.
The token game is a social activity that helps judges get to know each other while also mentoring each other on rules and policy. The basic idea is that there’s a special “token” that everyone wants to get…but they don’t know who has it. To track down the token, once each round, you can ask another judge, “Do you have the token?” Rather than answering, the other judge replies with a rules or policy question. If you get the question right, the other judge gives you the token if they have it; otherwise, they confirm they don’t have it. If you get it wrong, well, try again next round. 😉 At the end of the event, the person who has the token “wins”!
To learn more about the game, over the past week I’ve talked with a couple of the judges who’ve experienced and played it. To the best of my knowledge the game originally came from Latin America, so I reached out to some of those folks to learn more about the game. Many thanks to Andre Tepedino, Riva Arecol, Antonio Zanutto, and Federico Donner for answering my questions! Antonio volunteered to share his experiences with the game, and here’s what he had to say:
The first time I played the token game was in GP Mexico 2015, during Day 2 of the main event. All judges were engaged and asking each other a lot of questions. That experience was just fantastic. I was able to talk with judges I have never talked before. It helped me through the anxiety of being my first GP.
In the end Daniel K [the Head Judge] had the token. So unfair…
I thought it would be a great idea to implement this game in Vancouver and so I did it. A lot of judges loved the idea and started playing. However, things were a little confused because the event was large and a lot of judges didn’t know about the game.
Sean Hunt asked me who invented the game. I tried to back track and the name I got was Martin Chavez Murillo. I attempted to contact him but without success. Apparently he’s the brilliant mind behind the token game.
After Vancouver I brought the game to Manchester, São Paulo and some other GPs I have attended.
Every time there’s a mixed feeling between judges, some of them loving the game and some others not liking it so much, claiming it interferes with their work.
From my experience, it’s best to be introduced at a team meeting, so everyone gets to know about the game at the same time. This avoids judges not knowing what the other is talking about when they ask, “do you have the token?”
I think Antonio’s comment that there’s a mixed feeling is a great insight. I had a ton of fun with the game at the Eternal Extravaganza $5K. However, like many social activities, the token game has the potential to transform from a tool for engagement into something that distracts judges from their duties. At the $5K I scorekept, for example, the game provided yet another incentive for judges to cluster together to discuss questions. Also, some judges on staff noticed that the game itself was distracting, as people would be thinking about the next question they would ask instead of focusing on watching Magic.
Like Antonio mentioned, another potential pitfall with the token game is ensuring that everyone knows about it. It’s also important to make sure that everyone who’s playing can talk with everyone else. For these reasons, the game works best at an event that is relatively constrained in space and has only a moderate number judges. Local/regional events (like a $5K) are a good setting for the whole staff to participate. For a Grand Prix or even an SCG Open, a smaller subset of judges might work better — like one team on the main event, or the side events staff, or the Day 2 main event staff. On the other hand, perhaps you could use multiple tokens to help the game scale when your staff is very large.
One last concern is that, while the game is meant to be about mentorship, our competitive nature can twist it into being more about stumping other people. I strongly believe in trying to come up with a question that will benefit the person answering it. For example, asking a judge who’s new to Competitive Magic a question about Hidden Card Error could give them knowledge they’ll need for that particular event, while asking a question on priority and state-based actions for an L2 candidate could help prepare them for their exam. All knowledge is useful, of course, but some things come up more often and are more important than others. I’d love to see us spend more time on those than in the rules’ dark corners.
Overall, though, the token game is a really exciting social activity. It adds a real sense of mystery and excitement to interacting with your fellow judges. I plan on playing the game at the next event where I can make it fit, and I’m looking forward to continuing to experiment with it!
Oh, one last thing: the token can be anything, from a basic land with “THIS IS THE TOKEN” Sharpied on it, to a random token, to a full-art foil land. I especially like the idea of using something like an SCG Judge token, and making it more special by having everyone who’s playing (or everyone who possesses it) sign the card, and let the person who “wins” keep it.
If I’m being honest, though…this token is probably my favorite: