But first, let's go through some bad sportsmanship systems and show why they are rubbish.
Descriptors - This style featured a series of descriptions that a player could use to reflect upon their opponent and game and mark an appropriate score. For example, the sportsmanship card might say "My opponent was fantastic, I wish all my opponents were this much fun," or "We had a few rules problems that we worked through," or any number of broad sweeping statements to describe an opponent's sportsmanship during the game. Many will notice that this style was the Games Workshop Sportsmanship style used in Grand Tournaments during the 90's and early 2000's and was one of the first methods to judge sportsmanship in the tournament scene.
Checklists - The checklist system came into use from Adepticon around 2007 and GW borrowed the format for a few years. This format awards points by checking off any number of boxes whose descriptions might apply to a game such as "my opponent showed up on time at the start of the game," "Hey, my opponent showed up with his rulebook and codex," "My opponent brought his dice," "He measured and moved his models correctly," "My opponent was fun to play against." I've paraphrased these a bit but you get the idea. Half the points in this system rewards players for basic principles that are required for players to have a game, and the other half are so general that they fail to deliver substantial differentiation amongst the player's sportsmanship scores.
Up/Down systems - The Up/Down system is another variant that scores players as either fun to play against or not. This system fails to create substantial differentiation amongst the scores as well as most players will get the nod and get an up vote, unless they are a real bear to play against.
On the whole, the systems above evaluate one player at a time, and usually ignore previous evaluations of other players, while scoring a large group of players with similar scores and needing additional tie-breakers. If we must have sportsmanship, then these systems must disappear if we want real results.
Sportsmanship Ranking - I am of the opinion that this is the finest way to get realistic sportsmanship results if a tournament is to have sportsmanship. Using this method, a player ranks all of his opponents at the end of the tournament on a scale of best sport to least best sport (which in some cases could very well be a worst sport but that isn't always the case!). Players must remember who they have played and a T.O. should provide the players with a sheet so that players can record the names of the people they played.
When a player ranks their opponents, they need to take into account anything and everything that happened during their game, which the above mentioned systems may not always account for, and usually don't. As such, the ranking system takes everything into account and allows the player free reign in determining the results. Reminders to the players to evaluate the players, not the game result can help discourage dishonest evaluation. Only one player could be the best sporting opponent, there are no ties.
One might argue - What if both players are your best opponents or equally deserving of the highest mark? They aren't, you must dig deep, reflect upon your games, and figure out which is the truly the best and the other second best. There can be only one!
This system is less likely to be abused by chipmunking and open sportsmanship scoring (whereby a player marks his sheet in full view of his opponent hoping that his opponent will score him the same highest value) and creates realistic scoring. Irregardless, we know there are plenty of unscrupulous, malicious, manipulative, and unsporting players out there who's only way to win a tournament (with soft scores) is by being disengenuous to other players to gain the win. Don't be that guy!
I like to have opponent's ranked from 5 (the best) to 1 (least best and not necessarily a bad sport). Then simply add up the ranks to determine a score. If the tournament has a large number of players, then double or triple the values to create a greater spread of scores.
If you attend tournaments, encourage the organizers to use ranking systems in the next event and let's cut down on the sportsmanship abuse and put the emphasis back onto the table!