Games Day 2002
So, I made it to Games Day in Baltimore this year. I had a delightful time socializing with folks I'd met over the 'net, and with other people whom I only recognized from the pages of White Dwarf. That all kicked ass. What wasn't fine was the spotty enforcement of contest rules. With this in mind, I decided to whip up a list of suggestions for anyone putting together a mini contest, whether as a store event or at a con.
Golden Demons and the
Little Devil on My Shoulder
So, I made it to Games Day in Baltimore this year. I had a delightful time socializing with folks I'd met over the 'net, and with other people whom I only recognized from the pages of White Dwarf. That all kicked ass.
And I entered the Golden Demons, where I didn't have any luck. Didn't even make first cut, let alone win a Demon. I'll blame it on my style, which really faded into the background compared to the GW-style entries. (That's my story. I'm sticking to it.) Even with my sad results, it still kicked ass. I got to see minis that I'd otherwise only view over the 'net or in the pages of WD. Again, fine. Fine, fine, fine.
What wasn't fine was the spotty enforcement of contest rules. Several of the contest winners had entries that just didn't fit into the rules of the categories. None of them were really blatant about it; they all just stretched the rules a tad. And the entries themselves were all gorgeous. But the fact that some folks weren't allowed to compete as they'd planned, and that others won with similar setups, annoyed me a little. With this in mind, I decided to whip up a list of suggestions for anyone putting together a mini contest, whether as a store event or at a con.
- Just do it. A lot of times, we poor mini-gamers (OK, mini-painters) don't get the love and support we need. Or, heck, maybe I've just had bad luck at cons. In either case, sponsoring an event like this can generate a lot of traffic and a lot of goodwill from the people who are involved. Having a painting contest will add to the crowds, and that ought to be good news for retailers and event organizers.
- Give out stuff. Prizes are cool. I have a theory that miniatures enthusiasts fall somewhere in between the rabid competitiveness of CCGers and the loving cooperation of RPGers and LARPers. We want to win the games, but we want to help each other paint better. (It's based solely on unsupportable stereotypes, but I'm not letting that stop me.)
- Get good judges. I've had rotten luck here. (Not at Games Day, though. The Perry twins, two of my favorite mini sculptors, judged the contest, and I got to play goofy fanboy.) Lots of favoritism, as when the president of the model club judged and the vice president won best in show. Or when the miniature painted in the judge's workshop won best in show.
- Allow for appropriate categories. This one's a little touchy. Some groups are naturally going to have more interest in certain areas than others. Say you're running a Star Trek convention: there are going to be quite a few model vehicles and very few 28mm miniatures. Try and figure out what people might bring, and what categories would interest them. A beginner and/or young person's category might be a good idea, as well, in order to allow for some early encouragement.
- Enforce the rules. I detest rules lawyers, and the least important elements of any game I play are the rules. I routinely cheat while I'm GMing to keep a story going well. I do the same in miniature games, as long as all parties agree and the win/lose results don't matter a lot. Heck, a buddy of mine used to run a rulesless RPG...
Pewter is pretty cheap, and a set of reasonably nice prizes wouldn't set back the sponsor too much. In addition, some companies are willing to donate prizes to mini competitions, either for the best examples of their own product or (more rarely) for an open contest. Even ribbons would be fine - just so there's something for the winner to look back on and glow warmly in the knowledge that they were, for one shining moment, the best. Or second- or third-best.
Pure objectivity is impossible, but make sure there's no conflict of interest, and make sure that there's some interest to begin with. Don't force people to judge categories they hate, and don't have complete outsiders do the judging.
All these are completely out in a competition setting. Any rules set up should be strictly adhered to. This is where I had trouble with the Golden Demons: some entries successfully flouted basing regulations, while others were forced out of competition, or to compete in other less suitable areas. If the rules are going to be rules, they ought to be strictly enforced across the board. If they're going to be guidelines, they ought to be laxly enforced for everybody.
There they are, the complete rules for a successful miniatures competition. They seem pretty straightforward, but I assure you, I've never been involved in a contest that completely covered all the bases.