The following report from GP Utrecht is written by Emilien Wild. Enjoy!
It was really successful, having players nonstop from 10:30 to 18:00. In the rare cases when no one was at the booth, asking to a player passing by if he wanted to try to get a free foil and stuff was enough to get his attention ;). I’d even say that player attendance was close to optimal, as there was always between 1 to 5 players at the same time, which allowed us to interact with everyone easily. It also prevented a line from forming, which would have been detrimental to player experience. We had some players using the booth to ask us judge related questions (rules, certification process, their local community…) but our interactions were mainly focused on the rules quiz.
The TO kindly gave us plenty of awesome items to distribute: Gatecrash foil cards (commons, uncommons and rares), spindown life counters (those nice 20 faced dices), and long storage box illustrated with famous artifacts from Magic history – which was the big prize, drawing almost all players’ attention. We didn’t have a set prize structure or rules, and I encouraged my teammates to keep them changing and adapting them to the situation. We featured team competition, individual progressions toward prizing, and/or “king of the hill” challenges in which a player had to successfully answer more questions to get more and more prizes, but could be challenged by the crowd if he got an answer wrong – in which case the winning challenger took his seat and the prize he was playing for. We made sure that everybody that spent some time interacting with us got something, and also tried to give away the big prizes only when a crowd was around; thus managing our prize pool to create exciting and thrilling situations.
When giving away foil cards, I always allowed the players to pick three cards at random, and keep the one they preferred. This allowed them to almost always go away with things they enjoyed (for aesthetic reasons, because it is playable in a format they play in, etc.) instead of getting a random common they won’t use for anything. I think this little change was really appreciated, mainly for psychological reasons, as the player had far less chances to get disappointed by their prizing when they were involved into its choice.
The questions binder traveling with the GP kit didn’t seem to have been updated since Avacyn Restored, which is unfortunate. Providing new and fresh content is preferable, especially when we have questions in the database, waiting to be used. One of the scorekeeper printed us part of the Gatecrash update, but we didn’t have access to a color printer, or transparent sleeves for the questions, and the computer or the printer seemed to have an hard time with the generated PDF. With all these issues, the end result was not as professional looking as the rest.
I left the newly printed sheets in the binder, having cannibalizing two of the sleeves. I recommend to either spend a couple of hours at GP Strasbourg to compare the printed set to the master list to identify the missing and erroneous sheets and have them printed properly, or, less time consuming, to print a whole new set for GP Strasbourg – ideally beforehand, so time and color printer availability are not a concern. (Michael Wiese: I am working on this getting done 🙂 )
I was happy with Gilbert and Henry’s performances, their rules knowledge were superb (props to Henry to solving the extra-hard secret Grandeur question!), and they were welcoming and easy going toward the players. We alternated shifts of roughly 30 minutes in the booth, then 30 minutes breaks, which was frustrating for the judges (the booth is really awesome to handle, and I always had the feeling of being the fun wrecker when sending them away), but it was needed to keep all of us fresh and spontaneous – it’s really easy to fall into routines when doing this kind of things, which we want to avoid in the judge booth. The schedule meant we had on average 1.5 judges at the booth at any given time. This allowed us to have two judges asking questions together when there was a crowd, or two people on break during slow periods. It also allowed the booth to be staffed while I took care of the logistics behind the scene.
Having a judge booth is always a nice way to interact with players outside of the usual setting, showing new aspects of judges and the judge program, and allow players to express their concerns or questions in a relaxed atmosphere – or just participate in a free small event, win some goodies, and learn some rules. I’m thankful to Dazzle Events for setting up this booth on their Grand Prix and providing prizing and support.
I hope this report has made you want to run a judge booth yourself in an upcoming large event, and/or has given you ideas and tips into how to make it an enjoyable experience for both you and the players. See you at an upcoming Grand Prix, probably at the judge booth! 😉