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To Administrate a Water-war

By: mutuhaha

I figured that since more people want to start their own water wars and promote the hobby, I decided to type out share some of my experience and tips during my tenure as a wargames planner; hopefully it’ll be easier for people to organize water wars and avoid as many mistakes/blunders as possible.

Normally, for small-scale battles, not much official administration is required; as such casual battles are normally informally moderated. In the exceptions, where the small-scale battles are not casual, but hard-core, administrative problems like venue, rules and logistics tend to be easily settled due to small-size and past player experience.

Real administration is thus only needed in larger events, in this article I’ll discuss matches of total participant population of 30 and above and things to look out for when planning a game.

And definition of terms, just to clarify:
Participant: Anybody involved officially in the game, for example, players, marshals, planners.
Player population: Total players altogether, from both/all teams participating; in other words, all the players.
Marshals: Dedicated non-player officials whose job is to enforce rules, ensure safety and in certain scenarios, fill game roles.
Player moderators: Players who have executive power to call timeouts, settle disputes and other marshal powers. He can be considered a non-dedicated official, and can be either nominated by the committee from the player population or he could be a committee member stepping into the player population to assume that role. He has the same responsibilities as a full marshal.
Committee/Planners: The overall in-charge body of people who is responsible for the planning, safety aspects and execution of the said water war.

1. Organizing your committee.

Prerequisite: A certain amount of motivation and commitment. A scenario idea would be very helpful too.

Firstly, I am assuming that at this first step, you have motivation and perhaps an idea of what you envision the water war to be. If you do, good, if not -__-.

Ok, so you do. Firstly, on your own, you test the waters and ask around who would be interested to come for your event. Ideally you should have an idea of how many people you want coming for this event. For example, a range may be 30-40. At this point, don’t worry about the exact attendance, which can be finalized later. Once you’ve deemed that there is sufficient interest in your target audience, you can move on to the next step in this phase.

The second thing to do in such large scale water wars would be to form a committee to help you out in your administration. This committee should allow for adequate representation from your target audience, such that your player population is satisfied with their involvement in the planning process. A good number would be about 1 committee member per 6 players (e.g. 5 members per 30 players, 7 members per 40 players).

Try to choose respectable and upright people to form your committee, they will give your administration the clout to do their job.

The people chosen should be:
- Responsible
- Level-headed
- Mature
- Motivated
- Rather free (i.e. committed)

Of course, in this world, such people may be in short supply. I have been very blessed to get quite a lot of people with these traits, but others may not be so fortunate. If that is the case, use your discretion to decide on your cabinet. Bear in mind that closest friends may not necessarily be the best people for the job, so don’t blindly choose all your good friends without considering their traits. Besides, your friends can be very valuable in the player population, as they would be the ones making your game work from within the player population. So if they get annoyed that they aren’t in the committee, you can explain to them their importance in other vocations. Likewise, those who you aren’t on excellent terms with could be good choices. So long as both of you act professionally and mature and if both share the goal of organizing a good water war, then you could actually take a step toward improving real-life relations and gaining a friend in the long-run.

Adults may be a good choice if planners of the same generation are scarce; though having adults organize has its drawbacks too, especially if the inter-generation dynamic in your neighbourhood isn’t very good. Generally, adult planned games can be very good, although I can imagine how it could backfire big-time. Safest option would be to get same generation committee members. Although, a few non-official but involved adults will be helpful in things like transport, acquiring battlefield usage and foreseeing safety problems, so when organizing a water war, make sure a few responsible adults know your location, timeframe and other details in case of emergencies.

Do not choose people who have a tendency to explode in anger. These people could seriously damage your administration’s credibility and effectiveness. No matter how close a friend the bomberman is, avoid picking him, or at least give him a role where he can’t do too much damage (which really seriously thinking about it, is nowhere >_>). Pragmatic and utilitarian people are way safer choices. The basic principle is: choose wisely.

Thirdly, now you have your committee members. However, they do not have a role yet. Assign/elect/pass out roles for each committee member. Such roles include:

Out-game

1. Communications to each participating group

These people are the middlemen between the committee and the participating teams, letting them know official information such as venue, rules and armoury options. They also do things convey teams’ registry information to the committee’s log. Basically, they’re like two-way radios between the teams and the committee. As committee members, they will have access to sensitive information concerning other teams and as such, these people should be honest and not divulge information to teams which could give them an advantage in the tournament.

2. Logistics

For acquiring all the materials you need. If you're playing a CTF match, you need flags, if you're using a soakertag-like system, you need tags. In any case, you would need first-aid materials for large events. He should also handle the budget for all these materials and alert the committee before (not after) things become too expensive. He should know where the best stores to buy stuff are and be good at handling money. At the end, he should have receipts for the stuff he bought and maybe together with the committee, audit the accounts.

3. Permission acquiration for battlefields

This guy makes sure that the tournament location(s) are safe, legal to use. If permission is required, ask for it from the relevant authorities. He should explore most of the battlefield and detect possible hazards in the area, such as steep terrain, wild animals, dangerous spiky plants and all imaginable problems which could occur with regards to the battlefield. He should then figure out the battlefield plans (medic, marshal, respawn locations) together with the committee. As the PR guy, he should be ready to talk to parents/guardians about the tournament and have some grasp of diplomacy.

4. First-aid

The overall I/C for first aid matters out-game. He makes sure he has first aid materials ready and an ingame medic roster if need be. Ideally, he should know some first aid himself or at least have a manual and a cool head. If no one else to help you in the tournament, you MUST (I emphasize for good reason) at least have this guy. Adults can be useful in this area.

Split these jobs, and any others you may need among your organizing team.

In-game:

1. Marshals:

Help you to enforce rules in-game. For more on marshals, see the soaker gaming rules article that's been formulated by members of the iSoaker forums. They should also have a waterproofed form of communication in case of emergencies.

2. Medics:

Have a few of these, make sure they have a means of waterproofed communication to overall command and emergency services. They must also obviously have first aid materials to render first aid. Medics also have absolute power to stop the game in the area to get undisturbed access to casualty.
Protocol:
- If injury does not prevent the casualty from moving, move the casualty to an alternate location to facilitate more effective aid.
- In case of minor injury, render first aid and allow casualty to sit out if he wishes or if injury is deemed in need of recovery.
- In case of moderate injury, call overall official command and notify the in-charge. Render first aid and remove casualty from the game permanently if necessary.
- In case of serious injury, don’t panic. Be careful about moving the casualty. Sometimes, especially in suspected spinal fractures and organ injury, it may be best not to move the casualty at all. Declare a timeout and call emergency services immediately, then call overall command. If medic is experienced, conduct the appropriate measures, if not, don’t make the casualty’s condition worse with amateur treatment. Best would be to follow what the emergency people say. Hopefully this won’t happen.

3. Overall in charge:

A guy who looks after the overall state of the game and must have a bird’s-eye view of the event. When the battlefield is big, he can appoint henchmen to help him do his job in different sectors. He should have waterproofed communications devices like handphones or walkie talkies. Preferably handphones as walkie talkies can’t normally reach emergency services as easily. He must be able to preempt potential problems and quickly solve them or have a placeholder solution. For example, if Team A started before schedule, then the best possible solution would be to get Team B going right away to balance off Team A’s headstart. The overall IC must also have a good grasp of the rules and has to ensure fairness, safety and fun of the overall game. For example, if people are getting tired and wish to stop after a few hours, then the OIC could contact team leaders and ask if they’d like to conclude the match, which on agreement, the outcome can be pronounced.
Whoever you get for this job, he has to be good, because being a good OIC is extremely tough and requires plenty of nerve, brains, physical stamina (when running around) and diplomatic skills.

2. Finalizing game plans

Prerequisite: A committee, with all their roles and jobs. Again, commitment and motivation.

Things to be done at this point:
- Decide on date, time and meeting arrangements
- Decide on the game rules
- Decide on battlefield location
- Finalize number of participants
- Logistics needed
- Proposal

Date, time and meeting arrangements:
Decide on the date and time of the water war. Decide where the participants are to meet as well. Use this information when telling the participants of the details.

Deciding on game rules:
Together with your trusty committee, decide on the game rules. Get ideas and feedback from the participants if you wish.

Decide on battlefield location:
Consulting your committee, decide on the battlefield location and identify the authority from which permission has to be obtained. Try to identify a few locations as some authorities may have to deny usage for whatever reason.

Finalize number of participants:
Now is the time to get the details of the participants, they may ask you where the event is held and when. Accordingly tell them the date, time and meeting arrangements decided. Also tell them of what attire, equipment and stuff they can and cannot bring. If they bring electronic equipment like cellphones, remind them to waterproof it with a plastic bag or ziplock. Give out a centralized contact information for them to call your committee up.

Logistics needed:
This list includes everything (usually almost) being used in the water war. From this, a shopping list can be drawn up for the next phase.

Proposal:
Although not needed, I highly recommend typing out a neat, orderly proposal form so that people can easily review it and spot possible flaws. Better still if you submit it to the online community for evaluation, especially if you’re doing a seriously large event. I don’t mind looking through the proposal if you send it to me, expect bombardment of questions, but that’s just to help make sure you know your stuff thoroughly.

Other business:
Any other paperwork that needs to be done.

3. Setting the plan in motion

Prerequisite: Not just an idea of what you’re going to do, but a concrete plan (rules, venue, time details, logistics etc), preferably on a neatly typed out proposal. Also need a pretty accurate estimate of participants. Have your shopping list. Have the targeted battlefield. Last but not least, your committee must still be intact.

Things to be done at this point:
- Obtain permission for battlefield
- Confirm game plan
- Buy/borrow logistics
- Draw up roster of officials (medics and marshals)
- Issue final confirmation to the players

Obtain permission for the battlefield:
Try to obtain permission to use the intended battlefield. Remember to tell the date and time (or at least rough period) when negotiating. If relevant authority agrees, then you have your battlefield. If not, then find another battlefield and try to adapt (preferably not revamp) your game plan, repeat with the list of battlefields drawn up previously. If the committee seriously cannot find a single battlefield and if there is insufficient time to solve the problem, consider contacting the participants and postponing the event in the worse case scenario. Once the battlefield is obtained, proceed to survey for hazards and dangers thoroughly. In the first place, battlefield should not be too hazardous (like a nuclear waste dump).

Game plan confirmation:
Confirm the game plan with the committee and if you like, certain members of the player population. At this point, try to preempt loopholes and problems with the game plan. To reduce big-time cheating, think as if in the shoes of a cheater and through that, find out ways to slip by the rules and think of counters and clauses to prevent such cheating. Take into account the limitations of the battlefield and try to balance the different teams. For example, try to fairly position the teams’ starting positions to give equal access to refill points.

Logistics:
Once battlefield and game plan is confirmed, get the shopping list, update it and buy/borrow the stuff. When buying, keep the receipt(s). When borrowing, keep a log of who the item(s) were borrowed from, to ensure proper return. Lastly, gather and account for all the logistics needed.

Official roster:
Figure out who is going to be on marshal/medic duty, what duty and where. The roster should have the name of the official, location on duty, equipment needed for duty and contact number (to contact ingame). Try to spread the duties out as much as possible. If player moderators are needed, have a list of names of responsible players who can be entrusted with the moderator power. Bear in mind the work dynamic of the committee and assign in-game roles appropriately.

Final confirmation to players:
This is where you officially invite all previously surveyed players to participate in the water war. State:
- Venue
- Time
- Date
- Attire
- Equipment needed
- Meeting place
- Organizer contact information
- Etc

For those below a certain age, you may want parental consent. For close-knit neighbourhoods, it may not be that necessary, but for large events, it’s a courtesy and on the safe side.
The release of the official player registration should be ideally some time before the real water war itself, to allow time for teams to form and word to get around. One to two weeks should be sufficient for medium sized events.
This is also the time to recruit player moderators if needed.

Note on player registration:
If there are no teams in the area as nuclei for players to form around, then consider that you will be dealing with a large population of individuals. Either have a game which involves these individuals without organizing them into teams (e.g. assassination), or have a team registration system. For example include on the publicity material the need for a team (min and max size: so and so). When team forming amongst individuals is required, giving more time would be ideal, unless an immediate and overwhelming response is received.
If teams cannot form on their own, but the individual population is still present, then this presents a problem on the real day itself, because there will be many individuals to be playing a team game. In that case, on the day itself, have a system where such individuals can walk in and join a team on the spot. Even if teams are formed beforehand, you may still want to keep this system as there may be a few people who haven’t gotten into teams. As an organizer, be prepared for whatever outcome fate may throw at you and deal with it appropriately. Foreseeing such things helps a great deal.

4. Execution

Prerequisite: Battlefield, logistics, game plan, marshals and medics, player teams, a good communication network between officials is invaluable.

All the previous stages have the goal of putting you, as the organizer, in the best possible situation to execute the water war, which shall be described in this stage. As a result, you now have a legal-to-use battlefield, materials, players, your trusty marshals and medics and a plan of how the game should go.

All you have to do is follow what your game plan says.

Though there are some important notes I have to add here, which could either make, break, or if you’re a good enough organizer and skip this section, have no effect whatsoever on your water war.

In other words, you may just want to read the following section.

Problems may (and I guarantee will) occur in your water war. But don’t fret, small problems will always occur. The thing now is not to worry about the problems that are insignificant, but the really…problematic problems.

These are some of the major things that could happen:
- Injury
- Large scale disputes over rules and general rowdy behaviour
- Cheating
- Weather

Injury:
Your medic protocol is meant to deal with this problem, as it is the most dangerous (physically and legally) you could ever come across. Take responsible action and do as per the medical protocol.

The only thing worse than someone getting seriously injured is lots of people getting seriously injured. Once maybe 2-4 people have been seriously injured (which means not counting minor abrasions and small bruises), you may want to consider stopping the game altogether. 1 or 2 people getting seriously injured can be attributed to reckless behaviour and/or mishap, but more than that suggests that there is something wrong with the environment (like too many dangerous places, too dark, too slippery, etc). Once numbers like 5-6 serious casualties have been “achieved”, I strongly suggest the game be terminated, casualties treated and the source of the problem reviewed over some time.

Other than that, minor to moderate injury should be taken care of sufficiently by the standard medic protocol.

Disputes and rowdy behaviour:
This is the most troublesome problem in my opinion. The best way to deal with this problem is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. That said, there are a myriad of ways this problem can be triggered. The best safeguard against this is to have a large number of mature players, who can rationally solve their own disputes.

When the player population isn’t very mature, the next best thing would be to minimize the opportunity for these things to happen. Pre-game gun distribution could be facilitated (not necessarily decided) by objective officials, to help prevent gun snatching. Rules can be very clearly spelled out to ease confusion arising from such. Marshals, with their power over disputes, should also be easily identified so as to settle disputes in the field quickly.

When a dispute does break out, the marshals are the first line against general chaos and disorder. They should try to arrive at a compromise when possible. However, behaviours such as illegal hand-to-hand combat or fistfights should be punished with some penalty to discourage others from doing so. When dealing with heated arguments, diplomacy and maturity on the part of the marshals is a safe choice. Becoming frustrated and losing nerve would reflect badly on a marshal, so try to avoid that. When it is an argument between two people and the others are merely standing aside waiting for the dispute to be solved, if possible, try to resume gameplay for the rest first, and then take the disputees aside to solve the problem. Discretion is generally advised for this entire problem.

Cheating
Generally another troublesome problem. This is quite hard to safeguard against unless you write rules of judiciary standard. Since not many people can do that, expect some problems from this aspect. Again, the best solution is to have a mature and honest player population.

Given that as usual, most if not all player populations are not that utopian, you should add the following clause into any rule set you wish to make:

“Any attempt to exploit existing loopholes in the rule set is prohibited. When in doubt, refer to a marshal, whose verdict on the subject would be considered in all cases to be final.”

Basically, this empowers your marshals to resolve loopholes discovered in-game, and reduces messy player-player arguments breaking out, due to the marshals’ absolute power over the issue. Though, when a loophole is found and corrected, it should be conveyed to the rest of the officials so as to prevent different marshals from giving different verdicts. Take note of these loopholes for the last stage.

Weather
There isn’t really much you can do about this if it starts to pour during your water war. A few days prior to the game though, you could check the weather forecasts and at least know roughly what to expect on the day itself.

There are a few things you can do if weather conditions become unfavourable:
- Stop gameplay
- Postponement
- Carry on
- Something creative

Stopping gameplay and counting the existing score is a decent option if the war has gone on for a long enough period of time for people to be relatively satisfied or a reliable score count to be racked up. It is less advisable if you just started the water war.

Postponement is a better option if you just started the water war and people haven’t really gotten into the real action yet. Simply gather everyone, pick a suitable date and agree. Bear in mind that you should ask the management authority of your battlefield for permission once more.

Carrying on may be ok if the rain is light and people don’t mind. However, people with flu, severe asthma and other such ailments should be removed from gameplay for health reasons (though they shouldn’t really be playing in the first place). If playing in an urban setting, remember that the floor can get a lot more slippery in the smoother areas, so advise caution to players there.

Alternatively, you could do something fun. For example, my rain plan for one of my recent water wars was that anyone who wanted to venture out of the covered urban areas into the open would have to travel in a “vehicle” or suffer instant death from “radiation damage” due to nuclear fallout. This vehicle was a groundsheet held up at all four corners, and the occupants walking along under its cover. This would have made for good teamwork exercises too, but it didn’t rain and as such I didn’t need to use that plan. If it is a light shower, but threatening to get heavier, then a sudden death mode could be activated. Think of things like these, it could be rather fun and add a brilliant twist to an otherwise bleak situation.

In case of lightning storms and other natural disasters, it is advisable to stop or postpone gameplay as lightning can be rather dangerous, and more so for tornadoes and earthquakes.

The Overall in-charge
The OIC should be someone constantly having the big picture of the water war. He should be able to preempt problems and solve them quickly by using the marshals and officials under his command. It is quite a tough job to be an OIC, and I’d expect he should be running around a great deal trying to contain potential problems. In the case of loopholes and rule problems, he should be on hand to solve them. As the force of balance in the game, he should not panic when problems occur, but keep his nerve and deal with them quickly and appropriately, which is easier said than done. But, it’s not impossible, so don’t worry too much. Arguably, an OIC gains as much strategic skills from handling the administrative aspect of a water war, as a commander does on the battlefield. There are a myriad of scenarios an OIC can run into, so be creative and especially, calm when dealing with such problems.

Marshals and officials
If you’re one of the officials presiding over the water war, normally the best thing you could do to help is to stick to what you have been assigned to do. Stay in the designated location so as to be easily contacted and do the assigned job well. Like the OIC, you should look out for possible problems, solve the minor ones yourself, and report the larger ones to the OIC. Following the creative and calm ethos of the OIC helps too. The basic aim of these people is to contribute to the well-being of the game and help the OIC do his job.

To close this stage:
- Don’t Panic
- Hold the game together
- Do the job

After the water war is over:
- Make sure everyone’s alright
- Collect back and account for equipment
- Clean-up the battlefield, especially if water bombs were used, clean-up also helps sweep the battlefield for lost items.
- Collect feedback from players

5. Debrief

Prerequisite: The water war must be over.

Congratulations! You have executed a large-scale water war. But before you lay back, there are a few things to take care of.

Feedback:
If you collected feedback, reflect on it and see what was good, bad and what could have been better. This may help you greatly if you plan on organizing more water wars.

Equipment:
After accounting for equipment, return borrowed items to the respective owners and find somewhere to keep the unused or intact equipment, which may come in handy in the future. Thank the people who you borrowed stuff from if any.

Battlefield:
Thank the relevant authorities for use of the area.

Your committee:
Thank them. A lot. They probably deserve a treat for their hard work, unless you are so unfortunate as to get a slacking team. But, reward their effort; they may even become valuable and experienced partners in future games.

Report:
If you like, you could write a battle report and tell the online community about your experience!

It’s this long because of the great detail that could go into planning a good water war. I’m not really done, but for now, this should be sufficient. Have fun (though I have something to say about that next time) in your planning venture.

Anyone is free (and encouraged) to summarize this into a shorter form so as not to scare new organizers like I have just done with this monstrously long article.

| Posted: 20070525