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The Puffing Billy

Explanation of Scoring

The Puffing Billy® scoring system has existed as long as the Puffing Billy® tournament, itself, and has generated more controversy than almost any other single aspect of the tournament. If you analyze the scoring system, you will see that the method of calculating bonus points rewards close play over the "blowout" game. There are some train gamers who criticize this system, saying that a true test of skill is to see how much better the winner can place than the rest of the board. There exists some validity for this argument. But when it comes right down to it, the bonus system will not be neutral. Either it will reward close play or the "blowout" win but it cannot do both. Some train gamers have argued that we should go with just a straight standard placement score of 4, 3, 2 and 1 but this system will result in too many ties (the bonus score system was created to prevent ties such as these, especially in large PBTs) and so this system was discarded early on as impractical.

What it came down to was that the TGA had to make a decision on what type of scoring to reward and we chose to reward close play over the "blowout" win, at least in the preliminary rounds of play. The reasons for this decision are quite simple. The TGA does not have the method or the means to seat individual players (we are looking into creating a seating system to be used at RailCon). We must rely either on a random method of assigning players to the boards of a tournament or on the players, themselves, to seat themselves. When the players seat themselves, we hope that a system that rewards close play will encourage them to find players of like expertise with which to play and that they will seek to have four players to a board to maximize their bonus points. A blowout reward system would encourage players to seek out inexperienced players and proceed to pummel them into the ground. This last scenario would be highly disadvantageous to the TGA and to the PBT. Novice players should not be made to feel like chum in shark-infested waters -- they might acquire a bad image of PBTs and not compete anymore.

Following is a discussion on how to score game boards in a PBT. After that, we discuss how to handle finals.

How to Score a Game Board

First of all, print up the Puffing Billy® sample score sheet found in the forms section of the PBT area. Follow along as we take you step by step through the Puffing Billy® score process.

What you see before is a mock tournament board of Empire Builder. The game was finished and it was not the final. Jenny won with a score of 252,000. Damien came in second and then Stephen, Sybil and Ben. All players must be listed by the rank they achieved in the game. Even players who will not receive a score for this board must be listed up to the sixth player.

? Step one is to write in all the players' scores. The players should do this at the end of the game and before turning the score sheet into you. Where they placed will determine their standard placement score. First place will receive a standard placement score of 3, second place will receive a 2, third place a 1 and fourth place will receive a 0 for her standard placement score. Fifth and sixth place finishers will receive no PB scores for this board.

? Now you must determine bonus points for all players. You need to determine second through fourth place bonus points before you can calculate the first place finisher's bonus points. These bonus points are described as a fraction of the first place finishers game score so divide Damien's score by Jenny's score and multiply by .5 (always round to the nearest thousands of a point, ie, round to the third decimal place). The result you get is .492 (column 1). Add this number to Damien's standard placement score and you have calculated Damien's final PB score for this board (column 2). Repeat this process for Stephen and Sybil.

? Now you must determine the first place winner's bonus score. Add all the numbers in column one (.492 + .240 + .194) and place this value in the "total of (1) space. Then multiply this figure by .03. Then place this figure (.028) in the bonus space for Jenny. Add this value to her standard placement score of 3 and you come up with 3.028. This is Jenny's PB score for this board.

? Please note that it is possible that a player who has not finished first will wind up with more money than the first place finisher, most notably in Rail Baron. In this case, simply write in a .5 in column (1) for that player. Thus, the highest bonus score the winner of the board could attain is .045 and only then if the second place through fourth place finishers each receive .5 as a bonus.

Scoring Finals

What we really hope when it comes to finals is that there will be only enough competitors to create one board for a game final or that we can run enough elimination rounds to distill the number of competitors down to one game board (in these instances, the person to win the final board wins the game tournament). Life is rarely that simple. Usually, we are able to run a number of preliminary rounds to allow as many competitors as possible to qualify for the category and then one final. Very often, the final round will encompass more than one or even two tables for the final round. In that case, how do we determine an overall winner of the game tournament?

At one time, we tried the Speed Round. In the Speed Round, the first place winner of the first board to finish was the winner of the game tournament. The first place winner of the second board to finish came in second and on down the line. As you might guess, this method was highly unpopular and had to be abandoned.

Which still left us with the question of how to determine a tounament winner for a multi-table game final. First, we came to the realization that everyone sitting at a final had proven that they were of superior skill (or very, very lucky -- you take your pick). So, we decided to throw out the close play reward system and reward those players who could soundly defeat their opponents. And second, we had to come up with a mathematical system for rewarding the "blowout" final.

Following is the general method of scoring finals and the specific ways of applying this method:

  • You must determine who qualifies to participate in a final. You can use the top four or five scores for that game or you can simply say that anyone who wins a board of that game goes to the game final.

  • In a single board final, the winner of the board wins the game tournament.

  • The top three finishers of a final receive .1 of their standard placement score applied to their best score in that game. Let's go back to our mock Empire Builder score sheet. Let's say that Jenny qualified with her score to participate in the final and she wins the final. But her final score was only 3.01. She applies .3 (.1 x 3) to her best score which would be her preliminary round score of 3.028 so that her new PB score for Empire Builder would be 3.328. For further illustration, let us say that her final score had been 3.03. Then the bonus points would have been applied to her final score to make 3.33. If she had placed second in the final her bonus points would have been .2 and if she had placed third, they would have been .1. Always applied to her best score for that game. Yes, that means that a lot of finalists will not receive a reward for participating in a final but they do have the chance to improve their PB standing by attempting to accumulate a better score on this board.

  • In a multi board final, you must make an additional set of calculations. Take the raw game scores of the first through fourth finishers and add them together. In Jenny's case, this would result in 252,000 + 248,000 + 121,000 + 98,000 for a grand total of 719,000. Then average the scores (719,000 divided by 4) for a total of 179,750. We now take Jenny's score and compare it to the average score of the game board (divide 252,000 by 179,750) and get a number of 1.402. That means that Jenny's score was 40.2% higher than the average score. We run this set of calculations for every board in the final. Let's say that there were two other boards in the final. The winner of board A had a percentage of 20.6% and the winner of board B had a percentage of 35.8%. Jenny, by virtue of her bigger win, wins the final and receives .3 to add to her best score in that game. The winner of board B has the second highest total and garners second place (.2 added to his best score in that game) for his pains. The winner of board B takes home a .1 to add to his best score. All other players receive final bonus points but the games are still scored as in the preliminary rounds because some players may have bettered their PB score for that game.

  • Notice that first, second and third place finishers came from different tables. In a two board final round, the third place final finisher will actually be the second place finisher of one of the two tables. For example, take Jenny's final. Suppose there was no board B, only a board A in addition to Jenny's table. Jenny wins the final, the winner of board A takes second place. Then we take the second place finishers' scores and calculate how far above (or below the table average they are). In Damien's case, his percentage is 38% (248,000 divided by 179,750). The second place finisher at board A actually had a score that was lower than the table average so Damien would take third place in the game final for a .1 added to his best score in that game.


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