2024 Gameplay Proposal

March 30th, 2023

JULY 20 – Beta rules released

Click below to read the most updated version of the 2024 rules release. Below the red line, you can find the Alpha version of the rules, which have since been updated in the Beta document.

Preface to Gameplay Changes

Here it is: the much anticipated, 2024 new WATL gameplay format. There are, however, some sentiments we would like to express in regards to these current changes. If you missed our preface to these rules yesterday, we would appreciate it if you took a moment to read through this page before skipping to the rules below. 

Next year will mark the biggest changes to gameplay in WATL history. In developing the future of gameplay, we did not simply look for ‘the fix’ for the continued increase in average scores. Instead, we took a step back and looked at what we imagined the gameplay would/could be in 5 years. Rather than go through years of constant changes, we made a conscious decision to ‘rip off the bandaid’ and implement those changes now.

One of the advantages we have in releasing this year is the extra time afforded by the movement of WATC to the spring of the following year. (To be clear, WATC VII, taking place in 2024, will follow the CURRENT rules, NOT the updated format which will take effect in the first season of 2024). This means that WATC VIII, taking place in Spring of 2025, will be the first time these rules are implemented on a championship level. In other words, you have plenty of time to practice! 

Our biggest challenge was creating a ruleset which does not significantly impact newer throwers while still creating a challenging and exciting game across all levels. We believe we have done this very successfully, but we also fully realize that the throwers who will likely be the most affected are the ones on the cusp of Pro or those just starting to level up their game. If you fall into that category, this new format may seem like an impediment to your progress, but, we believe, if you stick with it, you will find it much more rewarding in the long run. This format offers many more ‘stepping stones’ on the road to Pro status which one can achieve, and the game, while harder at first, has far more milestones along the way as a thrower progresses. 

Change is hard. The new game is hard. But, eventually, this will be the standard, and no one who starts in the next 5 years will ever know the difference. Our current world champion never played the game on targets with the bigger bullseyes/killshots, the shrinking of which, at the time, seemed like impossible changes. Many previous changes were reactionary (with good reason)- quick fixes that needed to be made. We want to be proactive here, and that starts with this announcement nine months before the game will ever be played and two full years before it will be seen in a championship setting.

There are still some unanswered questions we have, but our priority was getting the basic outline out as soon as possible with a goal to have a polished rule set out by September for final proofing. In that time, we will continue working with the app team to provide a seamless transition, testing, have interested venues run marathons, and plan some unofficial tournaments utilizing the new rules to work out the kinks and finalize some smaller details.

Lastly, we just want to iterate that these changes were not made lightly or without very careful consideration. Multiple owners and throwers were consulted, and it has been tested with throwers of all levels. Community feedback was garnered and played a pivotal role in the direction we took. This game has changed and evolved several times over the last month to the version in which you can read below, and we are very excited to hear your thoughts and opinions. The team will be as available as possible today and this weekend. Tyler will be available Thursday to answer and address comments and concerns both on the post and via messenger/email. Mike, Dannielle, and Tyler will also all be at Keystone this weekend and would be happy to speak to any questions you may have. 

Gameplay Changes

The game changes outlined below represent the large CHANGES in the game (rules which are changing in 2024). There are some questions which we are still working through that need a bit more testing before making a final decision.

  1. Additions to the target
    • 4 bullseyes, centered in the 3 ring
      • All four should be about 1.5-2” from the center board
      • 2 should be at 53.75”-54.5” from the ground (measured to the bottom)
      • 2 should be at 62.75” – 63.5” from the ground ( measured to the bottom)
    • Two lower Killshots placed directly below, and in line with the current Killshots, also centered in the 1 ring.
      • All Kills will have a thick 1.5” outline with a solid ¾” Inner target circle.
  2. Gameplay Changes
    • All scoring will revert to ‘touch’ rules. Axes only need to touch the valid scoring area of the target to receive the points for that scoring section.
    • Hitting a bullseye “closes” it for scoring in the same half.
      • Hitting the same bullseye a second time in the same half grants the points of the value in which the bullseye is located.
        • So a thrower can still throw at the center and receive a 5 should they hit a second, center bullseye.
      • All bullseyes reset when throwers switch targets.
    • The inner Killshot is worth 8 points, and the outer kill is worth 6 points. 
    • Hitting either the inner or the outer Killshot closes all Kills at that height.
      • If a thrower hits an outer, top Killshot, their next kill attempt(s) must be for a bottom kill.
      • In the case of a third kill awarded for a drop, a thrower may go for either UNHIT Killshot. 
    • The fault line for competitive play will move to 15’ in the second half of the match.
      • This is NOT a requirement for all league members.
        • Matchups between those playing competitive and non-competitive CAN happen and SHOULD happen)
          • This means league nights are NOT split.
          • This could lead to more competitive games between amateur/pro/semi-pro matchups. 
        • WATC will be played on these rules as well as major, tiered tournaments
        • Seasonal bids/points/however bids are awarded next year will be awarded to those throwing from 15.’
        • The app will designate those who choose to throw at the increased distance, and there will be a separate leaderboard to designate who is/isn’t throwing on the competitive ruleset.
      • Throwers MAY (but are not required) to throw this further distance with additional spins.
        • Rules will be changed to eliminate working about spin restrictions as well as the requirement that the blade face the target.
      • Throwers MAY (but are not required) to switch axes.
    • Sudden Death changes
      • Only Killshots are live during sudden death
      • Throwers may throw at any kill during the first sudden death throw.
        • Throwers must throw at a different kill for each subsequent sudden death throw if necessary.
        • In the event of a tie after all 4 Kills have been attempted, all Kills are open unless hit again.
      • If a player ‘scores’ higher than their opponent during any sudden death throw, sudden death ends, and that thrower is declared the winner.
        • For example: If thrower A hits the 6 ring but player B hits the center, 8 ring, player B will be declared the winner.
      • If throwers remain tied after a sudden death throw, sudden death will continue until either one thrower scores higher than the other or all 4 Kills have been attempted.
        • If both players miss or both players hit the same value of the Killshot (6 or 8), player’s move to an unattempted Killshot.
      • If the game remains tied after all 4 Kills have been attempted, throwers may throw their fifth throw at any Killshot, and the thrower closest to the inner Killshot, as measured by the judge, will be declared the winner.
Anticipated Questions/FAQ

This seems complicated. How will I get newer leaguers to understand this?

While this seems to add a bit of complication to the game we currently play, there really can/should be no difference to your average leaguer. With having the middle still count as a 5 even after closing the bull, the game does not have to change for the vast majority of throwers. This would need to be well communicated by league runners in their explanation of the rules, but, strategically, only those above 60% bulls should risk the outer bullseyes. (While this will decrease scores among newer throwers very slightly- hitting more than 1 bull in a half essentially costs 1 point, it affects top level throwers much more, which was a main goal).

Why not put a 5 ring around the other bullseyes? Seems like it would now be much more risky to go for them.

Yes- it is definitely more risky to go for the outer bulls. Risking the 3 vs playing the safe 5 is a choice throwers can make. The goal is to challenge top throwers WITHOUT hurting newer throwers. Adding a 5 ring would take away all risk for those in the top 100 whose misses will all be within the 5 ring anyway. Essentially, it is only risky then for people who consistently throw 4s (in which case, those throwers should just throw at the center). So no one’s scores really change, and the difficulty would remain the same. It would spread out board damage, but otherwise would not affect the gameplay in any significant way. 

Why only move the fault line back for throws 6-10? Why not have pros throw all throws from the 15’ line? 

We realize that significant time and money have been invested into the technique and axes people throw. A significant change to the fault line would potentially make those axes unusable, which we want to be cognizant of. While the change may require an additional axe (the expense of which would be up to the thrower), we do not want to devalue any investment(s) throwers have already made. Additionally, the change in throwing could present unique strategies not present when throwing from only 1 distance (even if one of that distance is easier). This also helps with the advancement of throwers in creating those “stepping stones” we discussed earlier in the preface (as at least half the game is unchanged from what they are used to).

Won’t this make it much harder for people to advance? 

Yes, but this may not be a bad thing. Competing at a pro level in any sport is quite an accomplishment, and we want to acknowledge that; however, there probably should be more progression than exists now. Currently, we’ve seen new throwers be extremely competitive after a season or two. This is incredible and speaks to the talent of these individuals, BUT, mastering a sport should take a bit more than a league season or two. I have no doubt that we will still see plenty of these talented individuals, but ‘moving up’ should be a bigger accomplishment than it currently is. This also is the first step towards creating separate divisions which we may see grow a bit next year, and, in the future, we could even see both an AM and a PRO world championship.

How does this change grow the sport at the base level? It seems targeted specifically to top throwers.

While most of the changes are targeted at the competition at the top level, we did find this makes leagues with varying skill levels much more interesting. There is not a strong need to make the game more difficult at a beginner level (and we do not wish to do so). By creating a design which ‘scales’ so to speak (it affects each level of thrower more and more as they advance), leagues become much more fun for all levels. We saw several people complain that they did not enjoy playing people they knew were going to beat them. This creates a difficulty level which, while it does not completely even the playing field, does make for a more compelling game regardless of the skill gap of the competitors.

It seems like there have been a lot of changes lately. Aren’t all these changes going to discourage people from continuing in the sport trying to keep up with all the updates/changes? 

While we have been posting quite a bit, the fundamental game, the way it is played, has not changed since 2020, and, even then, the only truly impactful changes have been the addition of open Killshots. The other updates we have put out have merely been for clarity as we work through correcting some inconsistencies and closing some loopholes present in the rules as written. 

We fully acknowledge that this is a BIG gameplay change, but, in designing this, we are not trying to make gameplay for 2024, instead trying to make gameplay that lasts for 2029 and beyond so that we AREN’T making significant changes every year. While this will undoubtedly seem like overkill to those who currently participate in the rules as they are now, in a few years, more than half our population probably won’t even know the difference. 

How will the added bulls/smaller Kills impact board usage for owners?

We anticipate this will lead to far fewer board changes needed during the course of the tournament/league night (especially when paired with a touch only scoring rule). However, this will likely lead to MORE changes at the beginning of an event since the edges of the center board and 2-3 boards tend to get chewed up by regular customers.  

Why 6/8 for the Killshot values instead of 7/8 or 5/8?

(open to other thoughts/ideas here as well). Two main reasons for this are:

-It matches the consistency of bull scoring. If the outer kill is the same size as the bullseye, it makes sense that the point value is still the same.

-The biggest issue with the proposed format (Though it will likely be a rare scenario) is if each player has 1 miss, but player A misses and hits a 3 while B hits a 5. This allows for player A to potentially get those 2 points back on a better kill attempt. A 1 point game could be much more rare given the circumstances and scenarios which can play out on the new board, and there is already a choice to throw a safe 5 if you want to go for the tie (so making the other kill worth 5 is not a significant advantage).

This is, however, one of the scenarios we will be specifically looking at in running test tournaments. 

What happens if neither player will throw first? It seems like there would be an advantage to throwing second. 

This is another question which requires some scenario testing and feedback. My initial thought is to have the player ahead throw first in the case of a stalemate, which does give an advantage to the player behind (which I am normally not a fan of). However, I think that, if a kill is called, that player would have to throw first (giving the advantage back to the player ahead on the last few throws of the game. 

How are judges/players going to possibly remember what bullseyes have been hit? It was like a whole 40 seconds ago!

We will be working with the app team to make sure this is as seamless and easy as possible on the judges/throwers. The current thought is to have something similar to the image below in which the bullseyes would grey out once hit. We would still need a way to distinguish between the 6/8 for the Killshot, but this could be a separate scoring screen once the Killshot (or called Killshot) is selected. 

Have more questions not been answered here? Feel free to comment on the Facebook discussion post and our team will do our best to answer.