Anatomy of a Penalty

This morning, I was reading a post on a Grand Prix forum from a relatively new judge wondering about how to fill out a penalty properly at a high-level event that uses DCI Reporter. It wasn’t until I went to send a link to a post about how to do this that I noticed that somehow, surprisingly, I haven’t written one yet. So, here we go …

First, the basics, in case this is somehow the first article you’ve read about this.

On the front, place a clear mark next to the name of the person receiving the penalty to make it clear that there is a penalty to be processed. Many people will teach you to use a W for this, and while this is better than just a star or other symbol that might be ambiguous (Side note: A useful thing to do when you decide how to annotate things is to remember that you are but one of many people on the floor, and one of many people who are interacting with a result slip, so the more you know about what other people might do and the more you take this into consideration, the better decisions you’ll make. For example, some people will use stars or circle names for penalties – this is unexpectedly suboptimal, because there is a small contingent of players that will circle the names of the winning player for reasons foreign to me. Not great that they do this, no, but it’s a reality that’s best worked around.), it’s still not ideal. Better is when that mark is the class of penalty (W for Warning, GL for Game Loss, etc …) because this can serve as both a built-in checksum and can also give some hints about any oddities on the slip in terms of win count (e.g. players who don’t know to fill out a Game Loss as an actual win for the other player).

On the back, you want the following, in order:
Judge’s Name (First Last), Player’s Name (Last, First), Infraction Type
Penalty Issued, Comment

The reason for this order is that it matches the order of data entry into the penalty dialog, so it makes it easier for the scorekeeper to find the right data quickly rather than rooting around the slip for which information is which (biggest offender here tends to be swapping the player and judge name). Why First Last for judge and Last, First for Player? Fine question – for reasons lost to the history of humankind, that’s how DCI Reporter does it (the answer to so many things, really).

That’s it. Now, for the not-so-basics, some of which should save you a bit of trouble:

  • As much as possible, you want to make it so that there is no reason to turn the slip over and look at the front again. The way this most frequently manifests itself at a Grand Prix – it’s very important to use your full name and the player’s full name. Using just the last name or abbreviations can lead to ambiguities that take time to sort out. Similarly, no initials, signatures, or nicknames.
  • Another way that you can save a flipping over of the slip – copy the table number onto the back of the slip so it’s easily on hand (but if you’re doing this, make sure it’s clearly labelled so that it’s obviously a table number instead of a random errant number).
  • You don’t need to do all of this for a No Show. Instead, you should be doing this.
  • For your first, and only your first penalty of each tournament, you should put your DCI Number. This allows the scorekeeper to enter you on the judge list if you aren’t already on it without hunting you down. Once you’re on the list, however, you’re looked up by name and not number, so you don’t need to include it every time.
  • If the penalty that you issued is not the standard penalty for an infraction, make sure that your comment prominently lists “UPGRADE” or “DOWNGRADE” along with who you consulted with for that deviation, if applicable.
  • When issuing a Game Rule Violation, if you are also issuing a GRV or a Failure to Maintain Game State to the opponent for the same incident, you can skip everything but the opponent’s name and the infraction with a reference to the other penalty. There’s no need to rewrite your name or copy the comment again.
  • Remember not to write card names unless the card was already revealed to both players. The result slip should never become a spoiler.
  • Your comment should be clear and concise. We don’t need a novel here, just enough information for judges to be able to correlate penalties as being the same, and for the investigation committee to see if there are any trends or unusual behaviors should they ever need to look back on somebody’s penalty history. On the other hand, they do need to be understandable without any further context. So, “Drew 4 cards instead of 3 for Concentrate” is better than “Concentrate” or “Player cast Concentrate, went to draw cards, accidentally thought the card said 4 cards rather than 3 so drew 4 cards instead of 3.”
  • For Missed Triggers, it’s generally safe to just say “Trigger from Card X” rather than having to explain what the trigger is, unless it was an unusual case or circumstance. The trigger on the card can always be looked up.
  • Looking at Extra Cards seems to be a very common penalty these days and is one that can be gamed for advantage. Make sure that you’re noting whether or not it’s during shuffling or during regular gameplay (usually in conjunction with drawing), and whether it’s the player’s deck or the opponent’s so that the investigations committee can notice any patterns that develop with a player.
  • Unless it’s unusual, tardiness generally does not require a comment.

Finally – please write legibly. Hard to read penalties eat up a lot of time for scorekeepers. If you can’t actually do so, please get somebody else to help you fill out your penalties.

4 thoughts on “Anatomy of a Penalty”

  1. Just want to add that you should write your DCI numbers on all penalties you issue in the first round because you don’t know what order the slips will get turned in/entered.

  2. Leaving your DCI number on the result slip makes no sense to me. Why aren’t all the judges on staff entered in advance? They should be in there anyway and this is just creating more work for everyone.

    1. Ideally, they should. And generally, an attempt is made to do this. So theoretically, you’re right.

      Practically, it never works out that way. There are last minute changes, there are data issues, and somehow or other, I can’t remember the last Grand Prix that I’ve worked that hasn’t missed at least one judge from the list that we’ve needed to track down.

      This is probably irrelevant at smaller local events, but at a Grand Prix with a staff of 80, it’s a much bigger concern.

  3. Quick comment regarding how to write the infraction. It’s rare but in some latin american tournaments, the players are listed “first-last” on DCIR. What I do usually when recording the infraction on the slip is:

    Judge (first-last), player (as written on the slip), infraction, etc.

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