There are a lot of people who are currently making the frankly ridiculous claim that gamers must be separated into two groups: Those who like narrative games and those who like competitive games. They often call the latter “the tournament crowd.” The insinuation is that these two playstyles are somehow incompatible. That’s utter rubbish.
I’m one of those players who loves a good story while also enjoying the idea of a balanced game provided by a good rules set. I enjoy tournaments, and I enjoy playing matches with a story behind them.
While a tournament is, by nature, a competitive event, there’s no reason it can’t also have a narrative feel to it. I’d like to present a very basic example below. This is a very quick-and-dirty example, using Eternal War missions from the rulebook and a simple story.
Warhammer 40,000 Three-Round Tournament: Gladius III
On the ruined surface of the planet Gladius III, ancient relics of power have been discovered by pirates and smugglers. Word has gotten back through many pipelines, alerting various races and military units of these potent artifacts that could give their armies a boost. Forces have been sent to retrieve these artifacts, and stop anyone in their path.
Round 1: The Scouring
Artifacts have been located by scout teams, and forces from two rival armies are moving in to secure them. Each side has to fight the other for possession of the artifacts, jealously setting upon each other in an effort to take the items for themselves. There’s no telling which artifacts are best until they get in close and examine them.
Round 2: The Emperor’s Will
The search teams have grabbed what they can, and are waiting for retrieval teams to take the artifacts back to their main forces. As they wait tensely, starting at each other across the broken ground, they realize that there’s no reason they shouldn’t take the artifacts from an opposing team as well. Both sides have to protect their artifacts while trying to seize the other’s.
Round 3: Purge the Alien
With the artifacts safely packed on shuttles and heading off-world, the forces remaining on the planet take the opportunity to square off against each other, in a murderous attempt to take out those who got in their way, or perhaps just to get in a bit of revenge.
As you can see, it’s very easy to string together a series of missions and assign a story to them. You can go further with this by having certain missions with Night Fighting or not, or even imposing certain turns for Night Fighting (for example, to represent a day’s worth of fighting, perhaps the first turn of round 1 and turns 4+ of round 3 are Night Fighting). You can tweak the missions a lot, or even create new ones.
If you’re looking to run your own tournament in the near future, try and give it a story. It’ll be a lot more fun as you explain to the players present just why it is that they’re fighting.