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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
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.
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):
Painting Skill: 70%
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.
You know me from such forum posts as:
As the convention approaches like a steamroller, the eyes glaze over and the hands begin to shake, there is no way you can possibly finish all the entries you have planned for the competition. You come to the immediate conclusion that you cannot possibly finish any of your entries in time. You have entered the competition version of painter’s block!
I see posts in the forums every year about people not being able to finish their entries for one reason or another. But I tell you there are options!
1) Reduce the number entries you are working on. Seriously look at the entries you are working on and immediately reduce the number by half. That will make things look more doable. Here are a few suggestions to help you make those decisions.
a. As much as you love that diorama idea, if the base isn’t ready then it’s the first thing you drop. Dioramas are serious time sinks.
b. If the conversion work isn’t ready or your super nifty basework isn’t done, then drop your Open entry. This is another example of a serious time sink, cross this one off the list.
c. If you are not “feeling” one of your painter or ordnance entries it is time to set it aside and concentrate on the one(s) you like. You paint work is invariably better on a piece that you enjoy working on.
2) Instead of working on a new piece look at other miniatures you have completed in the last six months. Chances are there is something you really like there and instead of working on the new piece work on improving one you have already finished (who knows maybe it doesn’t even need extra work).
3) Instead of working on an entry for each of the manufacturer awards make the hard decision and pick one or maybe none at all. [This is a corollary of #1]. Note that if you are painting a Reaper mini you are always in consideration for a Sophie Trophy.
4) Not entering means not getting feedback from the judges on your work. If you really want to improve then critical feedback is what you need.
Seriously in the end just enter something even if it is not the piece you originally intended on entering. While the Reaper forums are a nice place to show off, it is a notoriously bad place to get real, make me cry, feedback on things you can improve. It’s a friendly supportive community and sometimes that’s not what you need when you are trying to break that gold medal barrier.
There are a couple of small changes that I wanted to call out for the painting competition, most people are already aware of these.
The theme for 2016 is Horror, unfortunately I forgot to tell Bryan to update that page in the rules where it is still listing the 2015 Science Fiction Theme.
We are extending the Saturday deadline to 1pm instead of Noon.
The hours listed in the schedule are for viewing, here are the hours that we will be accepting entries.
Drop off Hours
Thursday 10am - 6pm
Friday 9am - 5pm (This is the deadline for those attending the whole con, NO EXCEPTIONS)
Saturday 9am - 1pm (This is a change, we are stretching it out an hour, This is the deadline for those attending only on Saturday, NO EXCEPTIONS)
Pick Up Hours
Saturday 9pm - 10pm (For those only attending on Saturday after the banquet and awards ceremony)
Sunday 9am - 2pm (Entries need to be picked up before the auction on Sunday[2:30pm])
So Here is the Ranger Josey Wales....
If you have been following my WiP, you'll know why he is called that....
I started this mini as a piece for one of the players in our Pathfinder game, and suddenly, something went absolutely right with the face and hair, and suddenly, people are encouraging me to enter him in the ReaperCon Painting Competition....
So I really pushed myself to make him the best he could be...
Trying a few new techniques, and taking extra care with everything I did...
Hope you like him.
Due to the pose of the mini, I took pics from the normal top down angle, and then some pics from below...
A wonderful mini to paint, but DO NOT assemble him first!!!! Lots and lots of times I cursed myself for doing that...
Comments and critiques welcome!
So, we have about two months right now to prepare our cosplay options. I thought it might be useful to have a thread where we discuss our ideas and perhaps seek suggestions.
Myself, I'm basically at the ground state on my costume. I have some accessories I can put to the purpose, but no overall idea, except for the Con's Western theme.
Broad-brimmed black leather hat, somewhat cowboyish.
Black safari vest, replete with pockets for storing assorted items.
Two TA-57 Soviet Field Telephones.
Assorted souvinirs from Afghanistan
Hats in various styles
Khaffiyeh and Aqal, here modeled by a tonberry, and various knives
Two feline assistants
The obvious costume would be something Lawrence-of-Arabia-like, maybe buying a dishdasha. However, that doesn't fit in with the convention's western theme. I do have some westernish hats, but I don't have much to make a western costume stand out. I could perhaps try to convert the field telephones into something more steampunkish, and go from there.
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