“Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory.”
Ever lost a random game to a player who went all out for the kill on their final turn? Maybe you were already down to less than 10 Authority and they maxed out their hand to do as much damage as possible? Well chances are your opponent is one of two things: an evil megalomaniac who just likes to watch the world burn or a person who is preparing for the Endurance Challenge on Facebook.
I won’t give you an explanation for the problem of evil (although I’d love to I’m a different forum) but I can explain what The Endurance Challenge is.
The Endurance Challenge is a unique elimination tournament format that uses “differential” (the difference between your and your opponent’s final Authority) as a scorekeeper. It doesn’t really matter how many times you win or lose, it matters how you lose.
Each player begins the challenge with 100 points of “Endurance”. When you win a game, nothing (bad) happens – you endure to the next round. However when you lose, the differential is subtracted from your Endurance and if your Endurance drops to 0 or below, you are eliminated from the competition.
Although it is possible to be eliminated in a single game, 100+ differential games tend to be very rare. In fact the average differential in the challenges has been around 40. This means that most players have to be defeated three times before they’re eliminated. The challenge itself tends to run around a dozen rounds over the course of three weeks (2-3 days per round).
The most successful players don’t just win at a high rate, they also have to limit the extent to which they are defeated. Take Ghostlawns as an example: he won Endurance Challenge #4 with only one Endurance remaining, meaning he lost a total of 99 differential throughout the entire tournament.
Origins of the Endurance Challenge
I’ve been playing Star Realms competitively on the Facebook page for the better part of a year. While I loved the tournaments and the formats, (and I don’t want this to sound like a complaint) I felt like there wasn’t a lot of variety. The tournaments followed the same basic format (best of three, brackets, etc) and declined to use the Gambits expansion when it first became available. I felt like there could be room to do something different… maybe even drastically different.
So when I started to jot down ideas for a new format, I set out with the intention of making it as different as possible from the “standard” tournament formats. So first, the Gambits expansion would be required. Second, I knew I wanted to involve differential in some form or fashion (since the scores are there, we may as well use them!). Also, I think using differential is a great way to balance the somewhat “unfair” assignment of gambits at the start of the game.
Another influence for me was the somewhat frequent discussion (at the time) and debates over the topic of overkill. Some people would do just enough damage on their last turn to get the win, while some seemed to get enjoyment out of firing their entire hand off in the final turn and obliterating their opponent. There were several debates in those days over the sportsmanship of this practice, and being one that came down on the overkill side of the debate I felt like encouraging and legitimizing the practice a bit.
So all of this came together to form the Endurance Challenge. Gambits required, differential matters, and in fact I actively encourage players to go for max damage.
Evolution of the Endurance Challenge
During the first pilot challenge, which was limited to 30 players, we began with 50 Endurance. I also came up with the idea of issuing “superlative” prizes for unlocking certain achievements in play, like biggest single Combat total in one turn, biggest differential win, and fastest victory. Also, using my amateur graphics skills, I thought it would be neat to offer customized cards as prizes. So from the very first challenge each Champion has received a custom Hero card and the superlative winners each have received an Event card showcasing a screenshot of their achievement.
One of the first stumbling blocks we came across was the problem of odd numbers. In the first challenge I simply dropped the bottom player if there were odd players. While a simple and seemingly intuitive solution, it caused a lot of hard feelings (understandably so) when players got eliminated with Endurance remaining. In the next challenge we tried giving a bye to the top player in the event of an odd number of players. That also seemed to cause frustration as it gave a significant advantage to one player. Finally we settled on the idea of a Round Robin to decide the issue. Rather than drop players or give byes, the solution is to have the bottom three players play each other (so two games each) and use the combined differential as the score for that round. This compromise seemed to work the best and has been the rule ever since. In fact the last two challenges have all been decided by Round Robin matches.
Why Should You Play?
If you’re on the fence about Gambit cards and prefer not to use them in competitive play, then I actually think the Endurance Challenge could be a great event for you. Because the event uses differential instead of simple win/loss, it gives you the opportunity to minimize the damage your opponent can do even with an early Ark or Megahauler. Granted, there’s always the chance your opponent can run away with it and rack up 100+ differential, but those games are very rare.
Another way I think the EC is a great tournament is because of the environment I try to create in the Event page. I always have a Banter Thread where players are invited to swap war stories, post friendly smack talk, etc. I’ve even been known to post a funny meme now and again (or often). So if you like having fun, then the Endurance Challenge is for you.
Finally, if you like (as one player put it) “Crushing my enemy, seeing them driven before me, and hearing the lamentations of their women”, then the EC might just be your event. Where else are you rewarded not just for winning, but absolutely smashing your opponent?
The Future of the Endurance Challenge
Now that we have five ECs under our belt, the next tournament I’m hosting is the Endurance Invitational Championship (EIC). This is an epic event with the top 30 players of the first five events consisting of three phases:
The Melee Phase – Each of the thirty players will play all the other players once in a massive round robin royal rumble kind of phase.
The Gauntlet – The top 20 will play in a Swiss style tournament where the bottom two are dropped each round.
The Faceoff – The final two players will play a 5 game series.
As is the case in all Endurance events, full Gambits will be required and differential will be the deciding factor in every round.
When the EIC wraps up in November, well get back to the regular series of Endurance Challenges with one major difference. Now that Bases and Battleships is available, the EC will continue to be the major tournament format supporting the full environment of cards available in app. This means all three expansion options will be required, so get your practice games in now!
I hope this article has piqued your interest in the Endurance Challenge (and in fact all the online tournaments). I encourage you to go to A Star Realms Fan Created Community Page‘s event page and check us out.