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Heisler

Judging the Reaper Con MSP Open - Armor/Ordnance Division

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This is the fourth, and last, in a series of four posts each concentrating on a different entry category. You can find information about the scoring system itself in the Painter Division post. From here forward I will just concentrate on how the component guidelines apply to the other three divisions.

 

Armor/Ordnance Division

At MMSI in Chicago and elsewhere around the globe this category is usually filled with armor, planes, artillery and the like. At the MSP Open it is more along the lines of the red-headed stepchild. This division shares a lot with the Open Division with workmanship and creativity being big components of the scoring. While many entrants are willing to spend hours pouring over a single miniature and eradicating mold lines and filling gaps, they seem to be loath to do that with an entry into the armor/ordnance category. Just like the other divisions preparation is key, a visible mold line or a seam is likely to drop you a whole medal category in the judging. Since many of the entries are from plastic and resin kits visible seams are usually the biggest problem I see as a judge, following that would be mold lines in difficult to reach places. At the 2018 MSP Open there were a lot of larger Games Workshop pieces. Almost everyone single of these had visible mold lines in the hoses and seams in the armor panels on the back of the legs. This dropped everyone of these entries a medal level. Decals are often used in this division and there is nothing wrong with using them. You will get marked down for poor application though, treat a decal like freehand and don’t just slop it into place. There is a right way and a wrong way to apply decals and it can be a bit of an art to the proper application.

Again, 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 although these discussions tend to be longer than they might be in the Painter Division. However, when selecting the scoring entry the conversation is still based on “I can score this one higher than the others” or words to that affect, till they come to a decision just as it would be for the Painter Division. If multiple 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. These are guidelines are subject to change.

Difficulty: 15%

Creativity: 5% (proposing to change to 10%)

Workmanship: 15% (proposing to change to 30%)

Painting Skill: 60% (proposing to change to 35%)

Presentation: 5% (proposing to change to 10%)

 

Difficulty: This and the Open Division are the places where difficulty does have a significant impact. The difficulty of assembling some of the kits available on the market can vary widely from manufacturer to manufacturer. Especially when dealing with a plastic kit like those produced by Tamiya and Games Workshop to the five piece resin game oriented kits put out by other manufacturers.

 

Creativity: There is not a lot of creativity involved with a straight up kit build, but when someone goes to the extra lengths to “upgrade” their kits with after market or hand made parts that impacts the creativity component. This is the equivalent of a conversion in the other divisions.

 

Workmanship: This is really a key component for this division and the proposed change reflects that. Any type of non-painting effort is represented here. This is includes your ability to do conversions and/or scratch sculpt or at least be able to blend your entry in with the scene you have constructed. A missed mold line, poor assembly or a poorly executed conversion could easily drop you a while numeric value in the scoring.

 

Painting Skill: Everything that was said about painting still applies in the Diorama Division but there is less emphasis. At this point workmanship and creativity components exceed the painting component (as currently proposed). There are a few other mediums that are often used in this category, like weathering powders, the application of those mediums falls into the painting component. While we don’t expect your abilities to be exactly equal in those areas you cannot count on your ability to paint alone to carry you over the top.

 

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

Edited by Heisler
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1 hour ago, Heisler said:

Difficulty: This and the Open Division are the places where difficulty does have a significant impact. The difficulty of assembling some of the kits available on the market can vary widely from manufacturer to manufacturer. Especially when dealing with a plastic kit like those produced by Tamiya and Games Workshop to the five piece resin game oriented kits put out by other manufacturers.

 

Creativity: There is not a lot of creativity involved with a straight up kit build, but when someone goes to the extra lengths to “upgrade” their kits with after market or hand made parts that impacts the creativity component. This is the equivalent of a conversion in the other divisions.

 

How would 3d printed pieces be considered in these categories?  For example, the CAV that @Pegazus did a couple years ago, or the Tycho and Rottweiler vehicles I've done. 

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They would be judged the same as any other miniature. Complications arise with 3D printing due to resolution,  I shouldn’t be able to see the layers through your paint work.

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13 hours ago, Heisler said:

I shouldn’t be able to see the layers through your paint work.

That was understood from the get go - but what I'm wondering is how that would be judged in difficulty in relation to other types of models? 

For example, you said:

20 hours ago, Heisler said:

Almost everyone single of these had visible mold lines in the hoses and seams in the armor panels on the back of the legs. This dropped everyone of these entries a medal level.

Which is understandable. But, IMO, the difficulty of removing the mold lines of hoses on a commercial plastic kit is still easier than removing the layer lines over the entire surface area of a fully 3d printed model done on many consumer grade 3d printers.  I'm hoping that's being considered - IE, failing to remove the mold lines on a few hoses might be 20-30% of the mold lines on a commercial model, whereas failing to conceal the layers in similar locations on a 3d printed model might only be 2-3% of the layer lines overall. 

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2 hours ago, kristof65 said:

That was understood from the get go - but what I'm wondering is how that would be judged in difficulty in relation to other types of models? 

For example, you said:

Which is understandable. But, IMO, the difficulty of removing the mold lines of hoses on a commercial plastic kit is still easier than removing the layer lines over the entire surface area of a fully 3d printed model done on many consumer grade 3d printers.  I'm hoping that's being considered - IE, failing to remove the mold lines on a few hoses might be 20-30% of the mold lines on a commercial model, whereas failing to conceal the layers in similar locations on a 3d printed model might only be 2-3% of the layer lines overall. 

 

Agreed, I would certainly consider most 3D printed kits to be more difficult to prep than most plastic kits and the same or more difficult than resin kits (many of the armor kits these days are mastered from 3D prints, like the ones from Mad Bob Miniatures). Its also a situation where if you have done your prep right I would never know it was a 3D print. Which means you would need to say something on the card that goes with each entry or provide some documentation, like in progress photos (much like an entry in the Open Division), to show what it took to make the kit ready for the competition.

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On 10/10/2018 at 12:33 PM, Heisler said:

This is the fourth, and last, in a series of four posts each concentrating on a different entry category. You can find information about the scoring system itself in the Painter Division post. From here forward I will just concentrate on how the component guidelines apply to the other three divisions.

 

Armor/Ordnance Division

At MMSI in Chicago and elsewhere around the globe this category is usually filled with armor, planes, artillery and the like. At the MSP Open it is more along the lines of the red-headed stepchild.

As I'm mostly unfamiliar with the full spectrum of the possibilities, I'm curious to know as to how wide the category is or not.

 

Standard real life military gear is easy to accept, as are Big Stompy Robots. But what about other less imposing sci-fi or fantasy units, or simply a bunch of soldiers? Where do you draw the line at accepting them in this category or putting them in Open/Diorama/etc.

 

For example, are a bunch of Star Wars stormtroopers acceptable? What if they're standing on a AT-ST? Or how about a bunch of Warhammer dwarves/orcs and their war machine.

 

Is the whole idea of the category machines first, personnel second?

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Is the whole idea of the category machines first, personnel second?

 

You could easily look at it that way. Generally speaking, the ordnance category (as explained to me years ago) was 'machines of war' (italics mine). Every figure show I've ever been to has an ordnance category. Reaper's initially provided a means of entering CAV and other similar tabletop gaming pieces. The category was the bastard stepchild until Anne decided she wanted to make it bigger. What Anne wants, Anne gets... Over the last few years it has grown considerably and it now includes everything from historical to sci-fi/fantasy subjects with wings, wheels, tracks, skids, and legs - starships to Roman catapults to civilian vehicles. A figure has the advantage of giving the viewer an indication of scale. Figures can be in or out of a vehicle, but you have to be careful that you don't put it into the realm of 'diorama'. Lone or multiple figures simply clad in armor (powered or not) might be best suited for painters, open, or diorama. The judges can and do move things to other categories if they feel it would do better medal-wise.

 

My own ordnance entries focus on the machine. No crew, light weathering, but not covered in mud, and not buried in stowage (to the consternation of some). I put the model on wood base with a metal name plate so folks know what it is they're looking at. I would likely do the same for an AT-ST.

 

Don't forget:

 

Remove all mold seams.

Remove all construction seams where applicable.

Proper alignment of parts.

Smooth paint.

No stray paint or glue spots.

No silvered decals where applicable.

Weathering - worn, faded, abraded, scratched, and chipped paint, stains, dust, dirt, mud, etc. - is optional. Use your base groundwork as a guide if you go that route.

 

Full disclosure: I judge ordnance with Heisler and taught him everything he knows about Sherman drive sprocket lug nuts.

 

Glen

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Glen's points are excellent but in the simplest of terms its all about the machine. So machine first, miniatures are there more for a representation of scale and presentation. Although since they fall into the presentation aspect of the judging they could downgrade your score if poorly done. In other words don't just slop some paint on the miniatures and throw them on the base, that will result in a lower score.

 

This category is not for single miniatures or squads of troops. For instance at Reaper Con 2018 there was a single miniature entered in this category with a jet pack. Since the "vehicle" in this instance was the jetpack I made the decision,  as the team captain, to move that miniature into painter. Troops can support the vehicle or weapon but we are judging the "Machine of War" not the troops although crewman will factor more heavily into the presentation of the piece. An artillery piece with a crew "presents" better than an artillery piece in isolation.

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On 10/11/2018 at 11:20 AM, Heisler said:

provide some documentation, 

Speaking of this (and it probably applies to all categories) - is there a preferred method/type of documentation that makes it easier for the judges and/or competition overall? 

For my diorama this year, I had 3 pages of photos stapled together, but it looked like it took up a lot of valuable table space. Since I could easily do way more than that for the documentation for one of my 3d printed tanks,  I've been considering ways that would make it quick and convenient for the judges (or anyone else who was curious) and not get in the way, but yet be informative as to the process I went through, from the initial design in Fusion 360 to the printing, preparation and painting. 

I loved how this year's diorama Gold Sophie winner had a really detailed blog about his build, but I don't recall seeing any of that with his entry. 

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Clever Crow did much the same thing with his entry, two or three pages of photographs underneath his entry. I don’t think we have ever discussed a good format amongst the judges before, something we should do I suppose. I think my favorite was a small 4x7 format photo book with both text and pictures. It was really easy to flip through.

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26 minutes ago, Heisler said:

I think my favorite was a small 4x7 format photo book with both text and pictures.

That's what I was thinking about doing. 

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Every entry is matched with a bar-coded sticker with the artist's name, category, subject, and if it's a Reaper or some other connected product on a 3x5 card. After that, the rest of the card - front and rear - are blank. I use that to describe the kit manufacturer, scale, modifications made (if any) and paints. This is for the attendees as well as the judges. The key is to write/print small and neatly. I give the reader a general idea of what went into the piece vs an SBS. I save that for the bar.

 

Heisler's buying...

 

Glen

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I actually had a complete additional print, straight from the printer, as an easy illustration of what I’d done. Should I manage to actually produce what I’ve got floating around in my head, I’ll probably continue that way. 

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      Do judges have a bias for past award winners, or friends? This is a really tough question and its one of the reasons there are three judges on a team and not a single person doing it. There is a kind of a yes and no answer to this question. As judges we do expect a higher quality of work from a past gold medalists, Sophie winners, best of show winners or even instructors. In general they probably get judged a bit more harshly because of their past work, we know what they are capable of. Do we maybe allow some of them to dial it in anyway, quite possibly, again it depends on the judging team and quite frankly when someone like Jen Haley or Jess Rich dials it in they are still head and shoulders above the rest of us.
       
      Friends are a bit of different story, in general we tell judges that they need to bow out of judging a piece that they have a vested interest in because it was done by a friend or because they consulted a significant amount on it (I was pulled into this myself this year when they were judging the Dark Sword awards). We always have alternate judges available to fill in when something like this happens and it is not an uncommon occurrence. Unfortunately, it is not always clear when something like this has happened because you have to see the physical judging sheet to see if a different set of initials are in the scoring box for that piece. [Edit: Judges don't score their own pieces either, this is another place where the alternate will step in.]
       
      Are judges inconsistent? [this was my initial answer "To a certain extent yes". As I reread this I have changed my mind]. Judges tend to be very consistent with how they score things (I have been tracking judges' scores for years now), what is inconsistent is that no two judges view entries in quite the same light, we are human after all. We make mistakes or we are grumpy because we have been on our feet all day teaching and that can be unconsciously reflected in how an entry gets scored. While Michael and I try to catch the obvious ones like a judge scoring a 4 and another judge on the team scoring the same entry a 1 scores like a 1, 2, 3 (which adds up to a  bronze) are not uncommon. We are dealing with someone's opinion on what they are looking at. Remember, in general, the judges don't discuss how they are going to score a piece with each other. If there are multiple entries the discussion is more along the lines of "I can score this piece higher than that one".
       
      We try very hard to encourage discussions in positive terms not negative terms. That doesn't mean it doesn't happen and many of our judges have a background in trophy judging where the first thing you are looking for are flaws. We want our judges to look at the good things first.
       
      I can't speak to the last question because I would have to see the circumstance. Most judges don't put down comments on the scoring sheets (we can, but often time gets away from us). For your particular example I would have to know what entry is being talked about and what category it is in and who the three judges were. Also what was the third score?
       
      I do track the judges' scores and we try and make sure teams the teams are balanced. Some judges in general are tougher than others. I don't want two "tough' judges on the same team nor do I want to two "easy" judges on the same team either. In general, I think that the results are for more consistent than most people realize but unless you are right there doing the scoring and involved with the conversations it is hard to see that. And yes, we have had individuals that are not particularly good at judging despite how good a painter and instructor they may be. For that one year, they are going to have an influence on the entries they score in the competition. The judges, like the entrants, are human and have their own inherent biases and opinions. By using three judges we hope to achieve a balance and get realistic scores for every piece that was entered.
       
      With our need to get more judges into the pool we did run a bit of an experiment this year. In vehicles and ordnance, I judged the category with two newbies to the ReaperCon competition. However, they are both experienced judges in that category at other shows. I was pleased to find that our scores were almost in lock step with each other with a few 1 point variations which I would expect to find. Will they do as well as we introduce them into the painter, open, and diorama categories? I don’t know, but I would be comfortable using them as dedicated vehicle and ordnance judges now. This lets me use a third judge that is not familiar with the category get experience under their tutelage.
       
      I also have people asking how they can become judges. A hard question and not one that you asked. We like our judges to have some experience as instructors first. The first thing we need from a judge is the ability to communicate with people and be familiar explaining techniques and able to give good critiques. The easiest way for us to do that is make sure they are good instructors first. It doesn't always mean that they are going to be good judges but it gives us a starting point. The first year a new judge serve as an alternate. They are typically assigned to a single team for that year and step in when a primary judge needs to step out. That way they get the advantage of being involved in the discussions and can get in and score a few things themselves. The year after that we try and work them in as a primary judge on a team, that is usually a make or break year for us to figure out if they are going to be a good judge or not.
       
      I'm not sure that I have answered your questions very well. It is hard to sit down, based on the judging, and figure out what you need to do to "level up". We emphasis the feedback portion of the competition but sometimes that can cause confusion when you are getting hit with multiple opinions. I think the best critiques start out with the judging asking you what you think you did really well and what you didn't like. Often you know what needs to be done you just haven't acknowledged it. 
       
      Thanks for taking the time to write out such a great response, Kris!

      I really do appreciate it. I know it's very subjective, and all judges are human (well some may machines with how well they paint!). 

      Really I guess it comes down to conflicting feedback from judge to judge for me. Some may love your blending and use of colors and give high marks, others may think it's crap and give you low marks. I was just curious if there are "standards" they should follow to try to keep personal feelings on techniques used out of the equation. A good example of this is drybrushing. I know a few judges who quite literally sneer at the usage and feel it's something that shouldn't ever be used and others who respect it as a tool in the toolbox to be strategically used if done well.
       
       
      There is not a set of standards. It would literally be impossible to set something like that unless we selected a single artist to be our standard, so we have to lean on experience and skill.  To a certain extent you are always going get different opinions from the judges and that's were their own bias towards something is going to get in. It doesn't mean that they necessarily dinged you for that for scoring, unless they were quite specific about it.
       
      We do instruct the judges that all techniques are valid, that they are judging the execution of that technique even if it is a technique that they don't use or don't think is effective. If you executed drybrushing correctly then you shouldn't get dinged for it even if the judge doesn't like that technique. 
       
      Oh, no problem, it's mostly curiosity on my part at this point after talking to a few other friends and hearing their scores/feedbacks. 
       
      Again, this wasn't about my particular judges for painters category. I got 2 bronze and 1 silver scoring so it was pretty consistent. I also got feedback from others like Jen Haley which was very valuable. 

      And I'm not trying to cause trouble or stress, really want to be able to understand the system better so I can do better and know what people are looking for as they judge pieces as someday I would like to get golds and Sophies. I know that my biggest critiques are about contrast and I get it, but I personally like more subtle things like the Europeans are doing. Things with textures and grittiness. But I also know I should conform a bit because right now in painting in the US it seems to be all about the contrasts and smooth blends for judges. 

      Again, thanks for your time in talking about this and I really do appreciate the thought you put into your responses.
       
      Many of our judges have been exposed to the European styles and have taken classes with the European painters. They should be able to appreciate that style as well. Just keep in mind that in some ways the Europeans take contrast, especially between light and dark even more extremely than we do.
       
      Really there are a heck of a lot of styles out there now. It just feels to me like the biggest thing people look for in these contests is contrast and always upping values to the extremes. I get it, these are tiny pieces and the lighting isn't the best to judge by so subtly will easily get missed in competition when you are looking over hundreds of entries and you're tired and have certain things each judge looks for. 

      I always welcome conversations on how to get better with painting and composition and techniques so a full forum conversation could be pretty good for everyone. 

      I was a bit disappointed in myself for only getting bronze in painters as I felt that I leveled up on my pieces since last year when I also got bronze. I got a bunch of feedback from a lot of people on the forum and other places on my techniques. Really, I do just want to get better and am open to all advice and comments in order to do so. Taking classes and getting personal feedback are great ways to do this and part of the reason I love ReaperCon so much.
       
      The leveling up in medals is really hard. One of the things that you have to remember is that while the scoring sounds simple:
      0-1 - no award
      2-4 - Certificate
      5-7 - Bronze
      8-10 - Silver
      11-12 - Gold
      the difference between all those scores is much bigger than it appears. The difference between scoring a 7 (high bronze) and an 8 (low silver) from the judging point of view is significant. I didn't do a lot of critiques this year since I only judged one category, but the single biggest thing I saw this time around was thick paint. Keep it thin!
       
      While many of us are restricted to asking for advice and help online, it is hard to really to really get and give good feedback. Things I see in a picture may not be the result of your paintwork but more the result of your lighting. What looks great in person may look awful in a photograph and vice versa. Ultimately there is no magic bullet, you need to paint, paint and paint some more to get better. Which means that most people aren't painting enough to get from one level to another and if you take long breaks between painting you forget things and skills deteriorate. Its practice, practice, practice! Also if you are consistently painting for the table top you are in the habit of painting till its good enough. For a competition piece that is not good enough, you need to practice to a competition level to get better if you want to level up from bronze to silver or silver to gold. I remember reading about a Canadian painter (and he has been at ReaperCon in the past, but his name escapes me) who went to his first GW Games Day in Canada and decided the next year he would win the slayer sword. He succeeded in doing that, he also spent almost 400+ hours researching, painting, striping and re-painting that piece. He may have started off that year as a newbie painter but by the end of it he was master. Most of us don't have that kind of time, but it does show what can be done if you are up to the challenge and are willing to put in the work. There is no magic bullet to getting better except to keep painting and improving.
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