This past weekend, One Piece Card Game players were treated to the TCG’s flagship tournament at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Bandai Card Games Fest was a two-day bonanza featuring side events, sealed product and the US finals, a huge step on the road to the One Piece World Championship. But the headline event was seemingly plagued with problems at almost every step.
The issues reportedly began even before the event. Originally an invitational, the tournament was changed to an open event months prior, invited players being compensated with a two-round bye. The event ended up with over 100 people vying for Top 64 on tiebreakers - the end result being that players who qualified early on in the season ended up shut out of the competition’s second day after 14 hours of play not in spite of, but due to winning a qualifier event.
Yes, the event took 14 hours. The tournament was slated for 11 rounds of Swiss (the ‘main stage’ of the tournament, where competitors play against others with the same win record) to qualify for Day 2. One Piece rounds are 35 minutes each with five minutes for overtime. Add 10 minutes per round for players to move around, and 11 rounds should take around nine hours. Competition was due to start at 9.30am, allowing for a few hours of leeway before the venue’s 9pm close time. Instead, the event was plagued by four separate matchmaking delays, mainly with publisher Bandai’s matchmaking software, causing qualified players to be paired up despite having byes, and discrepancies between the Best Coast Pairings event app and website used for match reporting. Players started playing their first match just after noon.
There was no respite outside the main event, either. One of the tournament’s judges told Dicebreaker that there was “zero food and drink available”, with food trucks outside sporting “lines of 50-plus people at a time”. Side events were said to be opened without fanfare and, according to high-profile attendee Austin Yost, filled up within seconds.
Although a stall was open for purchasing booster packs, purchases were capped at five packs per customer to avoid big spenders buying up stock - but the desk was severely undermanned, visitors said, with lines quickly ballooning to hours long. According to One Piece Card Game YouTuber Heart PiratesTCG: “If you were to wait in line, you would spend the entire day in L.A. waiting to buy five booster packs […] they should have more than two people working the counter.”
After a day of constant delays, the venue’s 9pm curfew was crossed during round nine. Players still competing were allowed to stay, but spectators were reportedly told to leave, turning hundreds of people onto the streets of LA. Eventually, the event was forced to cut its losses, ending the Swiss stage an hour early and closing up around 11pm.
The odds of a player making Top 64 in a Swiss tournament like this is based on their win ratio versus the number of rounds - so when that number is abruptly truncated with no prior warning, their chances change. The upshot of this in the case of the One Piece Card Game nationals was that some players clawed their way out of the 0-2 bracket in the Los Angeles heat for 14 hours, slogging through delay after issue after delay, only to be informed at 10.30pm that they had actually been eliminated from contention halfway through the day without being told, playing the last however many rounds in vain.
On the bright side, they would feasibly still get prizes for showing up - but even that wasn’t always true. Many players reportedly received their event bags only to find the exclusive Gear 5 Luffy promotional card promised on entry was absent - one judge claimed that “over half of them were missing the Luffy promo”.
Bandai is yet to publicly comment on the event’s reported issues and the resulting criticism from attendees and players. Dicebreaker contacted the publisher for comment, but did not receive a response by time of publication.
Edit: This article originally referred to the app used for match reporting as "Bandai's app". The event used the Best Coast Pairings app. This has been clarified.