Life is short, break the rules. Forgive quickly, kiss slowly. Love truly, laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything that makes you smile. - Samuel Longhorne Clemens (Mark Twain)

Monday, March 23, 2015

So You Want to Enter the ReaperCon Painting Competition

Sorry about that, I just realized that all the text came through in black or blue and was virtually unreadable.

I made a huge post in the Reaper Forums this morning about entering miniatures in the painting competition at ReaperCon. I thought it would be worth while to post it here in the blog as well. One of the reasons that this is my favorite competition is that it uses the Open System which rewards you on the work you have done, not whether you managed to finish in the top three. I have judged enough competitions and gone through the pain of working through a category (typically  single figure fantasy and/or single figure Sci/Fi) where the top 6 or so entries all were candidates for that top spot. Then you have categories that there are barely enough entries to award 1st-3rd (and sometimes you wish you didn't have to).If you are heading to ReaperCon and you should be reading the rules which can be found at ReaperCon

Gold at Tacticon, Silver at ReaperCon - Painter

Bronze - Vehicle/Ordnance

Silver - Single/Painter

Silver - Dioramas

So you are coming to ReaperCon and its coming fast, especially for those of us still working away on our entries. ReaperCon is a rather unique convention and there is nothing else quite like it out there. Since the focus is on miniatures and painting this is a good convention to enter into the painting competition especially if its your first time. Now that sounds scary I know, you have heard that some of the "big" names are going to be entering why should you bother? ReaperCon's painting competition is in a much friendlier format than most (not all, but most) game convention painting competitions. Its a good place to get your feet wet. You can check out the rules on the ReaperCon.com website.But really what does all that mean?First let's take a look at the categories, there are only four of them. Why four? All the other shows seem to have a dozen categories. We have modeled this competition from the one used by MMSI, which is also used by a good chunk of the military/historical painting shows. The idea is that you don't need a dozen or so categories when we aren't going to award a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place (sometimes referred to as podium or trophy judging). Instead we want to reward you for the hard work you have put into your entry. Instead of 1st-3rd we award gold, silver, and bronze medals along with certificates of merit, this is known as the Open (or medal) system. Since we are going to reward you for your work we don't need a dozen categories to give people as many chances as possible to win an award. Instead we want you to focus your painting on what you do best and four categories is all we need. The titles can be a bit confusing so let's take a look at them.

Painter - The focus here is on a single stock miniature. While presentation (i.e. basing) is a factor an elaborate base isn't what the judges are focusing on. I use the term stock here because essentially you are using the mini right out the package. Conversion work whether it is elaborate or simple is not considered, although a poorly done conversion can hurt your score.

Open - The focus of this category at ReaperCon is a bit different than it is at an historical show so be aware of that if you go to MMSI in Chicago or Lone Star here in Texas. What is acceptable for ReaperCon may not qualify as Open there. Our Open category is primarily on the conversion of existing miniatures, scratch sculpts and elaborate basing. Painting is still a factor but its not weighed quite as heavily as it is in Painter. So if you have spent as much time on the base as the miniature and want it considered as part of your score then this is the category for you.

Dioramas/Vignettes  - While this category is pretty standard at game convention competitions, at MMSI and similar shows these typically go into the Open category. This category is focused on story telling through the use of miniatures and basing. There are different ways to define dioramas and vignettes. The simplest I have seen is that a diorama has more than 3 figures on the base and a vignette has 3 or fewer figures. Painting is still a component of this category but the emphasis is on presentation in the sense that you are trying to convey a story or message to the viewer. Keep it as simple as you can, while I have seen some wonderful complicated dioramas out there sometimes there is so much action they muddy the story. Keep this mind, if you have to explain your story to some one looking at your scene then you have failed to convey your message. A diorama or vignette needs to stand on its own and convey the story without explanation from its creator. Here is a clue, if you can't figure out a title for your diorama, then you many not know what your story really is.Vehicles/Ordnance - This category is for those things of a mechanical nature, subject to a bit of interpretation. A horse drawn wagon is a vehicle. In this case the wagon and its team of horses would be judged as they are the "vehicle", while the riders are not considered for the painting portion but would be considered as part of the presentation. It can get a little complex.

So what about this medal stuff and how do I know I won?You can think of the medals as a grade awarded by a team of judges. What the judges don't do is compare your work to the entry right next to you (which may actually be judged by a different team anyway). The judges will score your work without comparing to other entries. If they decide you have earned gold, then you will receive a gold medal for your entry. You can only win one medal in each category. It works like this; each piece is scored by each of the three judges on the team independently of each other (so you get 3 scores). If you have multiple entries in Painter they will discuss which piece they are going to judge. They do not discuss what score they are going to award a piece. After determining the piece to be judged each judge assigns a score from 0 (yes Zero) - 4. When they have finished working all the pieces on their list those sheets are handed in and one of the staff members totals everything up to determine the score. So not even the judges know what what the final score for a piece actually was until the awards ceremony. Those three scores for your piece are added up to determine what medal you receive: 0-1 no award, 2-4 Certificate of Merit, 5-7 Bronze, 8-10 Silver, 11-12 Gold. The Award Ceremony is Saturday Night.

Hey! The rules say I can enter as many miniatures as I want, why can I only get one medal per category?Yes, you can have as many entries as you want in each category. As mentioned above though the judges will only score one of those entries in that category. An initial conversation is held to determine which piece will be scored, its often along the lines of "I can score this miniature higher than that one". Judges will score the piece that they think is your best work (which may not be what you consider your best work, it happens). So while you can certainly enter all "20" single miniatures you painted this year in the competition you are only going to get a medal for one of them. The judges will go through this process for each category, hence why the maximum number of medals you can receive is 4. There are other awards as well, the Sophie Trophy, the Theme Award, and various manufacturer awards. These are judged separately and use the more traditional 1st - 3rd method (in essence that can be boiled down to this miniature has fewer painting flaws than that miniature). Its possible that a single entry could win multiple awards. The judges do have the prerogative to score your entire display if they can't reach a decision on a single piece or they feel that the display of miniatures, as a whole, is worthy of being rewarded with a medal.

What was my score and why did I get it?After the awards ceremony and when the painting competition hall is open you can ask not only what scores your mini received but who judged it. Most of the judges are taken from the ranks of the instructors at ReaperCon with a couple of exceptions (myself for one, although I do teach on occasion) so your miniatures are being judged by people that are knowledgeable about painting and how to do it. We use teams because we feel (and its one of the reasons MMSI developed this system) that a combined score is more indicative of what a mini should get rather than depending on a single judge to know everything and be neutral on all the different painting techniques that are out there. To find out what the judges were thinking you will have to track them down. Most of us are more than happy to discuss the whys and wherefores just be aware of our time and that you may be taking up the only 15 minutes we have to eat. Be considerate.

Some Hints for Entering
1) Every piece has to have a name or title. To speed up registration please already know the name or title before you get to the front of the line! Write it down before hand if you need to! As I mentioned before if you don't already know the name of your diorama or vignette you may have an issue with your story.

2) Don't bring everything you painted in the last six months. Yes, I know it says unlimited but really if you painted "20" miniatures this year is the first one better than your last three? Odds are the last three or four are probably more indicative of your best work. Try to keep you numbers down to around 5 or fewer per category.

3) Make sure your bases are at least finished in the Painter category. While presentation is not a huge chunk of the percentage in this category a nicely finished base will show off your miniature better than the base you tried out different color combinations on or used to wipe excess paint off your brush on.

4) Make sure your entry is well fastened to its base, you don't want to be subjected to the "Heisler Affect". If you mount your mini on a pedestal style base, judges tend to see that as a handle. If the mini is not attached when its picked up by the "handle" its going to hit the table, probably to disastrous effect.

5) Make sure the paint is dry when you hand in your mini for the competition!

6) You must enter all your miniatures at the same time. You cannot bring them in as you finish them in the painting room. So if you have 5 entries for each category then you have to bring all 20 entries at once, not a couple at a time.

7) Remember that if you have ReaperCon Full Weekend badge your entries must be in by 5pm on FRIDAY nightNo exceptions.

8) If you have a Saturday only badge your entries must be in by 12 Noon on SATURDAY. No exceptions. If you have a ReaperCon full weekend pass you cannot enter on Saturday you missed your cutoff.

If I think of other things I'll add them to the list.

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