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)

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Acquisitions - Expanding the PzKfw III Library

As of late I have had a wild scheme working its way through my head which caused me to pull down all the books in my library on the PzKfw III (SdKfz 141). I was really looking for some drawings detailed enough to take measurements from and not finding what I wanted (and I have 11 books specifically on the Pz III but only two are really useful for drawings; Achtung Panzer #2 and the ancient Squadron Signal book). I have had my eye on the Panzer Tract books for sometime so I decided it was time to make some acquisitions. Turns out my timing is off, badly, and three of the five Panzer Tract books are out of print. Off I went on a swirl trying to find all five of them, which I did manage, although one of them is already commanding pretty high prices (although I don't think anyone is going to pay $700-$800 for these and there are a number for sale at those prices).

I also managed to pick up a few others on a very dangerous trip to the Aberdeen Bookstore. I suggested that visit on Saturday saying that I was sure she would be able to find some books on Eisenhower there that she didn't have (I was correct and our bill for the day went up accordingly).

I have three of the Panzer Tract books in hand now, with two still in the mail. One coming from Japan and the other from the UK, hopefully they will be here shortly.

Here are the new additions:

PzKfw the early variants; A-D

PzKfw the middle variants; E-H

An example of the drawings available in a Panzer Tracts book. The originals are done in 1/24th scale and then shrunk down to 1/35th scale for the books.

PzKfw III Variants, like the flame version

And this is the kind of thing that catches your eye while you are in the the bookstore. This one came with a set of decals, but they are a little different from what I'm used to. They may actually be some kind of peel and stick. Hopefully the book will have some information on them. This book is a real gem though, a whole section of color photographs from Pz IIIs in museums along with extensive scale drawings done in 1/48th scale. If you don't want to pay $100 for Panzer Tracts 3-3 (which covers the J, L & M variants) this would be an excellent alternative.

And a small picture book, also with a set of decals.

So that's five new additions to the PzKfw III library with two more on the way, which will bring the total to 17 or 18 I think.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Sledgehammer Project; Preparation Pt I

I have been cleaning all the parts for Reaper's Sledgehammer BFG, part of their Kickstarter 3. This piece was designed by Victoria Miniatures of Australia and really fits into their 40K Imperial Guard lines. In fact on the Victoria Miniatures website you can obtain the crew as resin casts rather than in the soft plastic they are molded from in the kit. There are also a three conversion kits to make changes to the basic gun; a gun shield, crawler tracks to replace the wheels and a shorter barreled assault version (Howling Wolf Siege Howitzer upgrade). I also figured out that the artillery crew provided is part of the Rausenburg Siege Corps. Which means that there are plenty of potential 

Another interesting fact is that the Sledgehammer BFG is based on the WWII Soviet B4 howitzer, also know as the Sledgehammer. And it was a towed, tracked howitzer (it could act as a self-propelled howitzer but could only manage about 9 MPH on a road). That gives me a reference to do a certain level of additional detailing if I so desire. So the gears were turning as I was cleaning up the parts the other day.

The initial prep was just to remove the mold lines. With that chore done I need to go back and clean up the file marks and make sure I haven't flattened any cylindrical parts out. I'll do some filling of injection marks and dimples as well. I have been going over the pieces and noting where I could make detail changes relatively easily and see what detail I can pull over from the B4 howitzer.

I think the concept for a diorama is starting to gel, it would be a good piece for that as I have no use for it as a gaming piece.

Most of the Cannon portion plus the shells.

Basic frame

Gun supports, and misc pieces

More parts including the frame for the wheels.

And the wheels! Six double wheels, three for each side.

Pieces press fit together pretty nicely. the rear portion of the howitzer bed really begs for some extra detailing and the metal anti-skid plates could be replaced with some nice brass etchings.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Judging at the Reaper MSP Open - Painter Division

Breaking out the scoring or How your models are judged at the Reaper Con MSP Open

This will be a series of four posts each concentrating on a different entry category. These scoring “rules” are based on the MMSI painting competition in Chicago and variants of this system are used on an international basis. Michael Proctor and I took a good hard look at the rules a number of years ago and introduced a few tweaks to the system to better represent what we, as judges, are looking for when scoring your entry at Reaper Con. The basis for all of these is still the MMSI rules and there is not a whole lot of difference between the emphasis of the components in each division. One thing to keep in mind is that manufacturer awards do not necessarily use the MSP Open system. Those winners are, typically, chosen by the manufacturer (including Reaper for the Sophies) or their representative on site using their own criteria.

The scoring is quite simple. A judge assigns an entry one of five numerical values based on their opinion of what the entrant has earned for their entry:

0 – No award
1 – Certificate of Merit
2 – Bronze Medal
3 – Silver Medal
4 – Gold Medal

The Reaper Con judging teams are made up of three judges (There are options to use 4 or 5 judges but regardless of how many judges are used only three scores are tallied). Each judge assigns one of these 5 values to each miniature assigned to their team. The three scores are tallied which gets a value somewhere between 0 and 12. That final tally gives a number that tells the team what award to give to the entrant for that entry. Judging is typically not done by committee, each judge assigns the score they feel the piece deserves and moves on to the next. Most discussion takes place around which piece to score when there are multiple entries. Judges do consult with each other when they have difficulty assigning a score to an entry.

0 – 1 No Award
2 – 4 Certificate of Merit
5 – 7 Bronze Medal
8 – 10 Silver Medal
11 – 12 Gold Medal

So that’s the basics, now let’s take a look at how a judge uses the five components to decide what score they are going to give you.

Painter Division
The Painter Division is for stock models, those that come straight from the package or are assembled as shown by the manufacturer (it can include minor conversions). The Painter Division is the largest category at the MSP Open, often encompassing hundreds of entries at each show. There is no limit to the number of entries that an individual can enter in this category. I personally would limit yourself to your three best, but if you intend to be considered for other manufacturer or theme awards then it would not be out of place to see six or more entries from an individual.
If you have just a single entry then the judges can just go ahead and score your entry, no discussion is necessary. If you have multiple entries, then there will be a discussion between the judges on which entry they want to score. That conversation is typically the only conversation that needs to occur for any given entrant. When selecting the scoring entry the conversation is based on “I can score this one higher than the others” or words to that affect, till they come to a decision which is usually pretty quickly done. If the entries are visually very thematic the judges may decide to judge them together as a single entry.

Let’s take a quick look at the scoring guidelines the judges use (which is published as part of the MSP Open Rules):

Difficulty: 5%
Creativity: 10%
Workmanship: 10%
Painting Skill: 70%
Presentation: 5%

So what does that really mean? In a nutshell we want to see how well you can paint! Did you really execute the different techniques to the best of your ability? Hence why painting skill is the predominant component that a judge is going to look at. Let’s look at a breakdown of those components and how they relate to a miniature in the Painters Division.

Difficulty: This is definitely not an intuitive concept in the Painter Division. The judge is not looking at the techniques (including freehand) you used on the miniature. They are looking at how difficult is the miniature itself to paint. While how difficult a miniature is also subjective, subtle shading on flat or nearly flat surfaces are much more difficult to pull off than shading on a surface with more surface texture. Often difficulty is going to come into play when a judge is on the fence between two scores.

Creativity: This component looks at use of color, color schemes and the use of freehand designs in other words things that aren’t part of the sculpt itself. This is also where painted effects first come into play, like OSL (Object Source Lighting). This is the component that really addresses your freedom of expression on your entry and how well you bring that across to the audience.

Workmanship: This is a pretty straightforward component. It reflects how well you prepared your model for painting. Any type of non-painting effort is represented here. In the Painter division this includes finding the elusive mold line and eliminating it but it also includes assembling a multi piece miniatures or executing minor conversions. A well done conversion or well assembled miniature means that the judge can’t tell that anything has been converted or that it had multiple pieces. A missed mold line, poor assembly or a poorly executed conversion could easily drop you a while numeric value in the scoring.

Painting Skill: This is the whole key to the Painter Division entry, how well you apply paint to the miniature. These is where you are evaluated on the techniques you used how well you executed them. Tying everything together is really important as well. Everything you do must come together as a whole composition. It is an area where judges need to be aware of everything that is going on and how it is fitting together. While this is the predominate component of the Painter Division it is also the most subjective.
Judges must overcome their prejudices about which techniques they prefer. As an example there is nothing wrong with drybrushing as long as you executed it properly regardless of how the judge feels about that technique.
Here is an example of how a judge needs to be aware of many different styles and techniques. Blending doesn’t always have to be a smooth transition from light to dark, there are multiple different types of blending, it is how well you executed the technique or style you opted for. Do you blend like Jen Haley or like Alfonso “Banshee” Giraldes? They both achieve marvelous blends but their techniques are markedly different in achieving those blends.

Presentation: While not the most important component in the Painter Division it is another example of getting the little things right. A nice, well executed base will set the “scene” for your miniature. It can be the simple base that the miniature came on or with or it can be more elaborate, although I would save the effort on a really elaborate base for a miniature going into the Open or Diorama divisions. This component is another that one that a judge will often use when making that final decision between scores, a tie breaker as it were.

If you made it through that wall of text, congratulations! Hopefully that helped explain away some of the magic behind the scoring in the Painter Division.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Acquisitions - Reaper Con Loot Delivered

I count the package that arrived yesterday as more loot from Reaper Con since it really was a result of being at the show. Not much to show off and of course it includes a component for another wild idea that is not likely to get very far the Sledgehammer BFG.

The extent of my miniature purchase. All I really ordered was the two Reaper Con Sophies for this year. The Kobolds were included for free, one pack for every $40 I think. I have no idea what I'm going to do with those.

Some more paint, filling in some blanks in my color ranges, just to save time from mixing.

The Sledgehammer BFG created in conjunction with Victoria Miniatures.

That's a lot of pieces

A look at the crew. Apparently these are available from Victoria Lamb in resin. I'm contemplating getting that set along with some extra bits and pieces. She also produces three add on kits to the Sledgehammer, including replacing the wheels with tracks, adding a gun shield, or shortening the whole barrel up for more of an assault howitzer look.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Acquisitions - ReaperCon Loot

This year the Reaper Con loot is coming in a couple of different ways. We did pick up a few non-Reaper items at the show and the rest is coming in the mail. Not because it wouldn't fit in the car but because some of it is compensation for the work I do.

At the Scale 75 booth I spotted a Rosie the Riveter bust. I promptly showed this to my wife, who as a Rosie the Riveter fan, had to have it. This, of course, allowed me to pick out something for myself. I allowed myself to be nudged toward a 54mm George Washington. Both of these are FeR sculpts and I look forward to getting to work on them.

My wife had decided that 28mm miniatures were just to small to work on so hopefully this larger piece will have more interest for her.