Friday, April 24, 2015

Judging a Firestorm Armada Tournament for Best Painted

Much earlier in the year I was asked by SeerK from the blog, " The Waygate" to be the paint judge for a little tournament he was running at Adepticon.  The "Schaumburg Prime Offensive" was a Firestorm Armada tournament that not only was the first ever at Adepticon, but they actually had to petition Adepticon to double their numbers for spots.  And they FILLED them!

Guess who's never been a paint judge before.  Yup, this guy right here.  Sure I've helped some folks in the past, and have most definitely been critiqued by the best, but I've never been a judge before.

So how did it go?  How did I prep for this?

This was me, emailing friends in the painting world and asking advice, pure and simple.  What did they do, how did it go, what would they have changed, etc.  I was nervous that I didn't know what I should be looking for, the best way to judge, how to make decisions on tie breaks and more.  The best advice they gave me?

You know what to look for, so look for it. 

They were right, of course.  Why should I be intimidated?  I've been talking to judges and award-winning painters for years now, asking advice, what to improve on and what to look for.  All I really needed to back that knowledge up was a judging rubric that captured the essence of what I was looking for. 

I looked over the Adpeticon 40K rubric, the LVO rubric, an online rubric from Dakka…I probably looked through about a half dozen total, and came up with one that I felt worked by mashing up a few of them.  Check it out:

Painting Rubric for Schaumburg Prime Offensive

1. Is the Force Painted? Y/ N
If the force is not painted to a standard minimum, it is not eligible for a painting prize.

2. Fleet Coherency: 0-3
Does the force on the table look like a fleet? Are there cohesive color choices or effects which tie the models together as a force?

3. Shading: 0-3

1 pt - "Paint by number" flat colors
2 pts - Some work done on shading. Basic dry brushing, washes etc to add some depth
3 pts - Great depth of color and/or shading effects used.

4. Details: 0-3
1 pt - A basic attempt was made to bring out detailed portions of the models.
2 pts - Further work done on detals. Shading on rivets, unit/fleet markings, perhaps further details added that weren't sculpted on the model.
3 pts - The detailed parts of the models are very well done and catch the eye. A lot of attention was paid to bringing out every major/minor detail and further added details really stand out.

5. Standout Pieces: 0-3
Do any key pieces of the army stand out on the table?

6. Subjective Points: 0-3
Was there something not covered above that impresses you about this fleet? Are there incredible details or fantastic shading? Does this force just demand to be seen from across the room? Award points for that here.

Nice, simple, and it doesn't over-complicate things with dozens of different criteria.  I was pretty happy with it.

So how did it go? 
Well, see the winning entry below!

I think it went great.  Afterwards, when the award was given I was able to speak wo the players and give them an idea of what I was looking for when I was judging their fleets.  I spelled out each point in the rubric, and helped them understand that just that little bit of extra work could have pushed so many scores higher.  I also let them know that no one hit a perfect score, and rarely will anyone do so.  Everyone has room for improvement, no matter who they are.  I then had the pleasure of spending an hour straight talking with many of the pliers on a one-on-one basis about their models, and how they could apply what I was looking for to their fleets.

This was a blast, and here's hoping I get asked back next year!

- Tim


  1. Very cool - I like the approach you took, and the winning fleet does really look fantastic! Seeing those models takes me way back to my Full Thrust days, good times...

  2. Oh man, I doubt I could judge peoples work. Good on you for the constructive crit though as that is always good to have rather than wondering about a number on a page :)

  3. I've always wanted to watch a judge work, to figure out what they look for. One of the best classes you can take with misterjustin (from secret weapon), is his master class (or painting competitively). He'll go right to the judging booth, and you can spot on ask him to judge your stuff in person. Bit intimidating, but rare to get that type of direct feedback.

    I really like the draconic awards (LVO), because they give you a judges printout, with comments from EACH judge on the piece, along with your score. Nothing worse then getting a score back, and not having any feedback as to why.

    I like your setup here tim, and I think you did a great job! Congrats on being invited to be a judge!

  4. I had alot of fun doing the judging once I actually got there to do it, but I was sweating bullets all the way up til the night before I did it. It was intimidating as all get-out when I was first asked, and even when I started. However the advice I was given was spot on, and I rolled with it.

    Could I do a better job next time? Sure I could, and I hope I get the chance to. It was a great experience :)

    Greg, 100% on point with asking judges, and I'm super happy some of the players asked me after the awards were announced. Was really happy to share the rubric and go over their pieces with them.

    1. Everybody has a first time! Can only get better. That's what I tell myself every my air brush clogs and I dump alcohol on my models while trying to unclog it. :)

      I think having a baseline really helps (or rubric) as it creates a buffer between you and the person being judged. I think misterjustin said judging is all about saying no, till you get to the pieces that have only yes's, then the true debate begins.