Sunday, 20 May 2018

Discussing Scenery: Are Tournament Organisers Breaching the Social Contract?

I make no secret of the fact that I am not a tournament player, it tends to bring out the kind of lists that are not fun to play against, and while testing yourself against such lists may be fun for some people, it's not my thing. My tournament attendance tends to be smaller affairs, run with more quirkiness, such as Double Trouble, Fluffageddon, Blog Wars - events that have unusual comp restrictions or flat out make the best prize the raffle in the hope of encouraging people to play nice. So cards on the table, my views on this point are most definitely those of an outsider to the tournament scene.

I know several people are, as I write this, attending the London GT. And the feedback I have received has been one of poor organisation and scenery that is... somewhat lacking. Apparently the scenery was a big complaint last time, and promises were made to do better, and this is what they have provided.



Now as I said, I'm not a frequent tournament attendee, and I'm not sure what rules are in place regarding army painting at the London GT... I know the tournaments I attend expect a minimum painting standard for entering armies. We're doing the hobby equivalent of putting on a nice shirt, smart shoes, presenting our best selves before we go to meet someone else who is hopefully doing the same. And then we arrive at the venue, both dressed in our finest, to find walls that have damp patches, carpet with holes in, crackly speakers... it's disappointing to say the least.

I want to see my fully painted army clash with someone else's fully painted army on a nice table. I want to take pictures of the game to write battle reports or just to remember the event. The pictures will look a little underwhelming when you have two beautifully painted armies fighting over a piece of polystyrene that hasn't even been painted. You may as well be fighting over the fun size cornflake packets on your kitchen table for all the spectacle it produces.

I know I'm spoiled. I run a gaming club with a wealth of scenery, so I have a weekly opportunity to play on boards like this.






Expecting a tournament venue to match that standard is unrealistic, I appreciate that, but surely there must be some minimum standard? Especially if you're expecting a minimum standard of entrants armies, and charging them for the privilege.

Recently a friend of mine gave me a battle rundown of a game he'd played on "planet bowling ball" that hadn't gone well for his going second against a gun-line army tyranids... here's the battlefield.


Now that may be lacking a little in LOS blocking terrain, but it is all at least painted. I would rather wing it as best I could with an army on that table than fight around old VHS tapeboxes - hey, they block LOS so what are you complaining about?

There are alternatives. I picked up a lot of cheap, easy build, wooden scenery online for my own gaming table. It isn't great, and as my friend points out, there isn't much LOS blocking stuff in my home collection, but I'm sure with a little more effort the kits could be modified to provide what is needed. Would it take a lot of time and manhours to do 200 tables worth? Undoubtedly, although the amount I did to give me options would probably populate half a dozen tournament tables and it took me a week single handed if I recall correctly. I'm sure a team, organising an event that was criticised last year for poor scenery, could do better than I could.







If I was expected to single handedly do 200 tables worth of scenery in, I don't know, a week... then you might get something like this...


20 comments:

  1. If you can't provide the boards and scenery then limit your numbers or it just seems like a money grab. When we have done in club ones we've based it on space and availability of scenery to boards. There is a certain amount of pride in making a board look like it's worth fighting over.

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  2. Seems like at the very least, they could have gotten a handful of people together with airbrushes and sprayed it all grey instead of just leaving it as bare foam.

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    1. Would have been a start. I don't know how much prep time they gave themselves for this, but clearly not enough.

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  3. There seems to be a decline in terrain standards all round. I have notice it at shows. Shame for what is a visual hobby.

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    1. I don't see that there is an excuse for it. I still have a book somewhere, called "how to make wargames terrain" which had ideas involving balsa wood and pringles packets. Back then the only terrain available from gw was a hill, a 2 inch tall watchtower, and that book.

      Now we have a wealth of terrain available from gw and a whole host of cheaper alternatives. The laser cut wood stuff is quick and simple and while bare, is a way to get a lot in a hurry. I don't see there being any excuse for what was on show this weekend.

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    2. Speaking of which, these guys seem to do some really nice and affordable scenery. And you don't even have to paint it...

      www.theextraordinarylasercompany.co.uk/

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    3. Some nice stuff there, I've used the same laser cut stuff before, but pre-painted is a nice bonus...

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    4. I've still got that How to Make Wargames Terrain book as well. Fantastic resource. I understand why they haven't kept it in print now that they've got their own extensive terrain lines, but I wish it were more widely available.

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  4. Good post! It's good to have people talking about it.

    And like Noveltyboy says, expand the tournament to your means. The London GT is supposed to be a professional looking event, and instead it they look like amateurs that take no pride in their product.

    Those little independent small tournaments in Bracknell we used to go to around 2010 were better - and they had issues because they'd miscalculated the players:boards:scenery ratio. Even they were painting stuff up in the morning of the tournie to at least try and put on a decent event for people.

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    1. They were fairly sparse and basic, but they were masterpieces compared to the LGT.

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  5. I think this is symptomatic of the delusion some people in the UK gaming industry have of being true professionals, and the chasm between them and that aspiration.

    Imagine what kind of comments you'd receive as an amateur blogger if you posted shots of scenery that poor on your own gaming table or as a backdrop to your painted miniatures.

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    1. As an amateur blogger i'd hope for a little more leeway - I only have so much hobby time and if I'd rather do a squad of stormboyz than a ruin that's my prerogative. On the other hand, I'm not likely to take the ruin to a tourney, the stormboyz might well be going to one, and in fact many tournaments enforce a basic painting standard for competing armies... does the same not apply to them?

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    2. Of course it's your perogative what you paint, I just make the comparison because I've had some similar criticism levelled at my my own blog in the past, and yet I often see supposedly professional companies brushing off criticism as nothing to be concerned about.

      Based on the shite quality of what they've put out on those tables in the shot, I'm frankly amazed that the organisers of the tournament in question demanded any standard of painting from those turning up to play.

      If you're going to offer up lumps of unpainted styrofoam for terrain, you shouldn't object to players turning up with unpainted minis, or even lumps of wood as "counts as" proxies.

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    3. Really, someone has criticised your home terrain collection? Harsh! The most criticism I would direct to another blogger (and thus amateur) is to suggest they use a lightbox to show off a mini better, and even then it's in a "we would be able to appreciate your work more if we could see it better" way, not naysaying their scenery collection!

      Don't get me wrong, a good looking battlefield is a lovely thing to have, I have one now, but it took a while before I kicked myself up the backside enough to get it done instead of focusing on the fun stuff. On the other hand, I'm not renting my table out. If I were, which is in effect what tournaments are doing, i'd damn well put some pride into it. Especially so if i'm asking them to put effort into their armies. May as well stick dominoes to 32mm bases and call them marines! They're roughly the same size for targeting so what's the problem?

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    4. LOL - it was the lighting they criticised me for, so I guess I'm guilty as charged!

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    5. Ha, still, there's more than one way to say it. Suggesting you want a better look at the paintjob on the model is one thing, saying your terrain looks shit is quite another :P

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  6. Hey!

    When I got the chance to swing by your club, Ginge, I was indeed struck by the quality of your scenery, and I'm very lucky to belong to two clubs down here with a great range of scenery for a range of games...

    ...but since would be exceptionally miffed if I'd paid to attend any event with such scenic paucity.

    Grrrr.

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    1. Apologies for the late comment approval, I guess the change to data laws has severed my comment notifications... and given I still occasionally get spam comments I don't want to turn comment moderation off, so will have to figure out how to re-establish notifications...

      We are very lucky at our club, we had a decent scenery collection before that was bolstered by a kind donation from a man who was a true artist - I remember him showing me a couple of pieces of his work and me thinking "we can never afford this" before he said "the van is parked out front, if you can help me unload it you can have them"

      Even so... having built a home wargame table fairly cheaply, I know what is out there. It wouldn't have to be as gorgeous as some of the stuff we have at our club. But you could certainly get stuff far better than polystyrene. I thought scenery like that died in the late nineties...

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  7. Is it really a lack of imagination and planning ? Or just sloth and not giving a shit ? Was there an organising committee who all thought that someone else was going to take care of it ? It doesn't really matter, does it ? The damage is already done.

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    1. It seems they started their epic scenery task a mere couple weeks before the event, which seems rather unprepared to me. Even with the cheap and easy alternatives I know are out there, even with some scenic sparsity, I would definitely want more prep time than that!

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