After seeing the announcement that every Judge could run a Judge Booth at basically any event I quickly decided to run a Judge Booth at my local Prerelaese for Born of the Gods. I pitched the idea to our new L1 Sebastian Stückl who immediately agreed to help me. After checking that this was ok with Michael I talked to the TO … and was somewhat surprised by the skeptical reaction. In the end it turned out that I had not optimally communicated the intent of the Judge Booth at a Prerelease, which, in my opinion, is more about rules education and simply having fun than about recruiting new judges. The TO accepted to let us run the Judge Booth if he could spare a table or two at the venue.
In the week before the event I printed out the questions and the answers. I decided to use all questions. With an expected number of players greater than 100 at the Prerelease I thought it would be more interesting for us to not see the same questions over and over again. None of the players complained about having older cards in the questions, so I think this was fine. I had also asked our TO for some cards to hand out to players as prizes. He handed me a deck box full of Prerelease cards from previous sets and some Gateway cards from a couple of years ago. Sebastian also brought some FNM and other foils as well as around 50 foil basic lands. Some players also gave us a couple of foil Commons and Uncommons, so we ended up having more than enough prizes even though we handed them out very generously.
The day of the Prerelease we arrived at the venue at around 10:30 and the first two flights were scheduled to start at 11(am). The TO asked us to wait for the first events to start before deciding where to have the Judge Booth. That way he would see where he had spare room for us. This was not ideal, I would have preferred to have signs up at the appropriate place before the announcement. This might have been one of the reasons that only a couple of players came to see us in the first two or so hours.
We finally had our Judge Booth set up at around 11:30. We were asked to not use the regular tables as those would be needed for the flights in the afternoon. Instead we chose a place that almost felt like a lounge with comfortable chairs and a couch. One disadvantage was that we were sitting in a corner of the venue where the players wouldn’t just walk by the Judge Booth. The other disadvantage was that the chairs were quite low and sitting there for hours was not the most comfortable for us.
When we started the Judge Booth the players were busy building their decks and then testing them with their friends. There were only very few people around not playing in the Prerelease. But we still had at least one player at the Judge Booth at any given time throughout the day. As we were not very busy in the first couple of hours I scheduled our breaks at that time.
After both our breaks more players started coming to the Judge Booth. At first each of us would sit down two players and walk them through the scenarios. Pretty soon we almost always had three or four players solving the scenarios together. We always made sure all players had formed an opinion before having one player answer. Whenever the players did not agree on the answer we let them discuss the answer, simply providing some guidance. Once the players had agreed on the correct answer, whenever needed, we would then give some technical explanations on why the answer was the way it was. This worked very well. Sometimes the players would expand the scenario or introduce other cards, which also led to very interesting discussions. I have personally never explained the layer system as often as that day. Obviously I would only do so if the players asked for it, but many players did. The „Layers“ are one of the most dreaded part of the rules, but I think we did a good job of showing our players that this is in fact something everyone can understand.
At one point even our TO joined the discussion. This may have been linked to the fact that I may or may not have asked the players to tell the TO that the Judge Booth was an awesome idea. I think we were able to convince him that this was an awesome addition to his event. We finally closed the Booth at around 18:30. At that time most players had left and we were (well, I was) exhausted. A second break would have been very welcome, but we always had a crowd of players and I didn’t want to send them away.
I think it would be very good to sort the questions into three different piles according to difficulty before the event and adapt the questions to the rules knowledge of the players. That way we could better avoid sometimes having questions that are too easy or too difficult for the players. It is also more fun for the players to get a question that matches their knowledge or is just slightly beyond.
In summary I can say that the players loved the Judge Booth and I think this could become a returning feature at our Prereleases. It was definitely a huge success!