Jono Chaplow is one of the leaders in the Flesh and Blood judge community, having worked his way up through the ranks to Head Judge at New Zealand Nationals, Calling: Auckland, and Battle Hardened: Sydney, as well as Floor Judge at the 2022 World Championship, among many other events.
Imagine a community of people in unity. They come together to have fun, tell epic tales of glorious battles, roar in victory, and learn humbly in defeat. A community that gathers in the Flesh and Blood to compete for shiny treasures to last the ages. A community that compels others to join in for the sake of camaraderie, and making great memories to store for a lifetime. As a Judge, achieving this is our goal. You guys are incredible, and we are so lucky to see tournament after tournament where this happens.
So as a judge, here’s my story…
Enter the 2021 competitive circuit in New Zealand. I was playing daily with our testing group in preparation for Callings, Road to Nationals, Nationals, and any other tournament I could get my hands on. We make it into the top tables in the Calling and my closest testing buddy Aaron Curtis ends up in the finals staring down the mighty Jacob Pearson (who is now a game developer at Legend Story Studios). A fire is set in my soul for the competitive scene, so I dive deep into what it takes to win.
As with most games, knowledge of the rules is essential, as there are often ways to utilise knowledge of the game to your advantage. Flesh and Blood has incredible depth, so the more I learned the better I played, and the more I delved in further. I decided to take the Judge exams after some good yarns with Rules and Policy manager Joshua Scott. I really loved being able to go through the practical application of all the rules I learned, as well as looking at all the hard work that goes into policies and procedures behind tournaments.
Continuing on my journey for renown I smashed through the XP cap for Nationals qualification, and off I went to NZ Nats. Day one was off to a great start, 3-0 after a wild win on stream, only to get ahead of myself and be stomped in draft. I had an offer for Judging day two, so I took it and never looked back. Diving straight into the deep end, I ran the PTI tournament, with a small team of Floor Judges to look after. I was so well supported by the Head Judge that I felt super confident with the PTI event. It was Classic Constructed, so I was really familiar with the format. Being able to share my love for the game with others while making sure that they had a fun, smooth, and fair tournament became my highlight of the weekend.
I quickly found out that the Judging community was a tight-knit group of fantastic people who wanted to see Flesh and Blood thrive. So I set a new goal - I wanted to grow as a Judge to the point where I could get the opportunity to run tournaments at the highest level of the Pro Play circuit. This is no small goal. For those who know me, I don’t do things by halves, but I was truly set on this new aspiration. So I dug deeper into what was needed to progress on my Judging pathway.
One great thing about the Judge Program is how accessible information is, especially when it comes to developing as a Judge and moving up the levels. My first step was to move from Level 1 to Level 2. This has some pretty specific requirements, as well as requiring a review by a current Level 2 Judge to determine if you’re capable of operating a tournament as a Team Lead or Head Judge, as well as fitting the characteristics and prerequisites of the Level 2 position. The position first and foremost requires experience, and the tests set for the jump to Level 2 definitely require you to understand the full depth of how Flesh and Blood is designed and played.
At the time there were two Level 2 Judges in Australasia, one of whom was leading the Sydney Uprising Premiere, so of course I had to be there! I applied through JudgeHub, FAB’s Home to all Judges, and luckily got selected to go. One of my favourite parts of being a Judge is having the opportunity to travel around the world to tournaments anywhere and everywhere. I get to meet players, experience new parts of the world, and be a part of the community that I love.
Working with Noah Nakhle (Calling: Sydney Head Judge) as an Appeals Judge gave me the prime experience needed to make this step to Level 2, as well as the opportunity to Head Judge Battle Hardened: Sydney. We experienced a vast range of calls that weekend, as expected from the premiere of a new set, as well as some really tough rulings (being a Calling with big prizes on the line meant that I had to learn fast).
Not only do Judges need to make correct calls, it needs to be fast to keep the tournament progressing at a timely pace. When you’re leading as a Judge, the flow of the tournament and player experience is just as important as your rules knowledge. Remember that as a Judge you are here to serve the players and the community, not to show off how well you may or may not know the game.
Since then I have had the opportunity to explore some incredible places! Judging the World Championship was definitely a highlight - the chance to travel to the biggest event in the Flesh and Blood calendar was such a privilege. Seeing an event run at such a high level was mind blowing. The level of organisation within the Judge team was unlike anything I had seen. Having different Team Leads head up different areas meant that you had specific goals to complete, rather than worrying about everything and getting overwhelmed. I was on the product and breaks team, which meant we were in charge of getting all the products out to people, as well as covering for other teams while they took their breaks. This let me get hands on with what each team does during a tournament as well.
I invite you to ask a Judge what their role is to find out more, as Head Judges change what teams are needed at each tournament. Also, some of the software we use to manage tournaments is dope, and makes it so much more efficient to see who is doing what, and what needs to be done. I now understand why tournaments of that size often run so well - the teams are well equipped and trained to make the player experience as best as it can be. Another benefit of large tournaments is meeting Judges from all around the world. I made some amazing friends at the World Championship, and can’t wait to see them again at the next one!
Soon after I was asked to be Head Judge for the Calling: Auckland. I had worked with the tournament organisers for the last New Zealand Nationals as Head Judge, so we knew what we were in for! The most exciting part of being a Head Judge is being involved in all the planning, team building, and covering all the bases to ensure the tournament runs smoothly. As an added bonus, you get to be a part of all the big exciting calls at the tournament too! It was such an honour to be able to take the role, and I loved getting to know the ins and outs of making a tournament flow well, look epic, and be a ton of fun! We had Judges come in from all across the world for it too, some as far away as Europe. Leading an event carries a lot of responsibility, and requires you to be a clear and concise communicator, but it also leads to some of the best memories you will make.
To me Judging has been such a rewarding journey. I have learnt so much about the game, met so many great people, travelled to interesting places, and glimpsed behind the scenes of incredible tournaments. Judging has sparked more of my passion for the game, and has caused me to get invested in my local community, as well as the international scene. I have the epic opportunity to be leading the APAC Judge Community Representative team as well, so I get to connect with Judges from all corners and assist them in growing as Judges too. It helps me be a better leader in my day to day life, and gives me opportunities to build my character. The support I get from the Judge crew is flawless, and means that I always go into an event confident in what we do, why we do it, and that the whole team has the unity to tackle anything that gets thrown at us.
There are so many reasons to join the Judge Program. At the heart of it you will learn to be fair, unbiased, and to put mahi (work) into building your Judge career. You also get some pretty sweet rewards for what you do, such as exclusive promos. Here in New Zealand we would say, “do the mahi, get the treats.”
I’ve always felt well looked after as a Judge and compensated fairly for my efforts. I can guarantee that if you are up to joining the Judge Program, put in the mahi, and give it your all, you will be in for an epic adventure.
Can’t wait to see you in the yellow shirt!