Sunday, June 18, 2017

Lead Painters League -- entering the fray once more!

My decision on whether to enter this year's Lead Painters League or not came down to the wire. I barely finished the minimum 3 teams by the deadline date. That should have been a warning to me, but I enjoy entering the league every year. It forces me to get backlogs of unpainted miniatures completed, plus it also pushes me to try improve my painting skills. I tend to do an extra level of detail on entries for this league, so it makes my output -- my painted miniatures -- look nicer on the tabletop.
So, here's a turn by turn account of my run in Lead Painters League 11.

Round 1: Raid on Deerfield
These were figures I'd painted (but not posted pictures of yet) prior to the announcement of the start of the league. They are from Knuckle Duster Miniatures, from their War of 1812 line: Grand River Nations in Winter Dress. I had previously painted up some winter dress Indians from Conquest Miniatures, and needed some more to run a winter scenario. In fact, the scenario was the convention event my friends and I would be running this year using my Song of Drums and Tomahawks rules: The Raid on Deerfield. This photo uses my log cabin with LED votive candles and cotton to give it a burning effect. I honestly wasn't as happy with this set of miniatures -- they don't have the detail that Conquest Miniatures do. Still, they were good enough for me to squeak out a 4-vote lead (which counts as a Draw in the league rules).
Score: Draw, 164-160.

Round 2: Are We Mice or Men?
Of my initial batch of 3 "teams" or entries in the league, I liked this photograph the best. I thought the colors and the look of the Splintered Light Miniatures mice really popped in the photograph. These are part of an ongoing painting project for my own set of fantasy miniatures rules. I am getting a few armies painted up for them before I playtest because the rules call for multifigure, whole unit bases. These mice slingers are done in a variety of fur colors, but with matching medieval style uniforms. I give each army a theme, and this army's is a Medieval European style. Despite how much I liked these figures, they fell to a much-better painted entry. As soon as I looked at my opponent's figs, I knew it would be my first loss in this season.

Score: Loss, 93-269

 Round 3: "We Who are About to Die" 

This project came about when I saw somebody posting online trying to get rid of some 28mm gladiators. I contacted the seller and worked out a trade between some French & Indian War figures I had, and that he wanted, and these. I was VERY happy with how these figures looked. They were clean castings, great poses, and not ridiculously detailed. Since they had so much flesh on them, I decided to try a new technique for my Caucasian flesh tone. I mixed up a bottle of acrylic matte medium with a dull orange color to use as a wash. It worked like a charm. Speaking of flesh, I also decided to mix up the nationalities and painted some African and some Arabic flesh tones. I also had made a concession to advancing age and purchased an giant, illuminated mirror that attached to my painting desk. With its additional magnification, I was able to great fine details on the shields. The voters must have been impressed, as this was my first clear victory, evening my record at 1-1-1.

Score: Win, 244-140
Round 4: Africa Uprising, 20mm

My next rules set that I will release with First Command Wargames is my Modern Africa rules. So, I took the League as an opportunity to paint up some more 20mm figures. I knew I would need some more militia, so dug through my unpainted Liberation Miniatures and grabbed a big batch to paint up. One of the things I like about 20mm for this period is that you can paint up lots of them relatively quickly, but they have a lot more detail and heft than 15mm. Since these were for the league, I put a lot more highlighting on these, touching up a highlight color for straps and other gear. Ironically, I was matched up against an entry that was several stands of 15mm WW II Flames of War figures. Honestly, this was the only round of the 10 were I thought I should have won that I did not. I ended up keeping the vote close enough for it to count as a draw, but I'm still pretty mystified why these guys did so poorly. 

Score: Draw, 186-192

Round 5: Wrong Turn to Meet Dr. Jones
One thing that spices up the Lead Painters League is that there are three "theme" rounds. I usually can field figures from my collection of unpainted minis to cover them, but every once in awhile I have to get creative or purchase something. Luckily, Round 5's theme was "Ship's Crew." I had bought an entire bag of Old Glory 25mm U.S. Sailors when I began playing Pulp years back. So, it was a snap to pick out a handful to paint up. One thing, though. As affordable as they are, Old Glory figures tend to be of marginal quality. True to form, the figures painted up okay, but nothing exceptional. Wanting to eke out another win, I decided to go wild on the diorama I set up. It actually sparked some discussion about if voters are basing their choice on the figures or the picture. Speaking of which, did you notice the pygmy cannibals emerging from the jungle to surround the sailors? I won this round feeling a little guilty that I had bamboozled the voters.

Win,  263-128

Round 6: Trail of Tears -- Iroquois Raiders
I like this photo so much that it actually ended up on the back cover of my Beaver Wars Campaign Rules & Scenario Book. The five warriors in the foreground are from the excellent Flint & Feather line from the producers of Pulp Miniatures. As you can imagine, I've become quite comfortable painting Native Americans, and this was one of my better sets. The lighted magnifying glass allowed me to put in even more detail in the designs on their clothes and the tattoos. I really liked my color choices, too. The voters were kind to my entry, and I won this round fairly handily. Most of my contests were quite close this league, but this one was one of the exceptions. My record improved to 3 wins, 1 loss, 2 draws after this round.
Win, 250-103

Round 7: Satyr-day Night Specials, 15mm
In Round 7, my foray into this year's Lead Painters League began to derail. I'd started another batch of gladiators, but did not get them done in time. Sadly, this lack of progress would continue for the next three rounds. So, rather than have them re-run my previous entry for another week, I found the time to photograph my old 15mm Splintered Light Miniatures Satyr army for Hordes of the Things. the army is definitely one of my favorite 15mm fantasy armies I've painted, but it was unable to when this contest. With the league's Swiss Chess pairing, I had risen high into the standings. I was due for a smack-down by someone of more talent, and this duly happened.

Loss, 150-283

Round 8: "Khmer and look at this!"

Awhile back, I had painted three Pulp figures for a friend's series of games he was going to run. We were using the smaller Pulp Alley leagues with just a Hero, Sidekick, and Ally. League rules dictate that there is a minimum of five figures, so I recycled a couple previously photographed miniatures. Once again, this was a "no new team" entry, and lost me the 10 bonus points I would otherwise receive each round for entering newly-painted miniatures. I decided to take a page from my early "Dr. Jones" entry, and set up an elaborate Southeast Asian temple complex. Unfortunately, I was still floating relatively high in the standings and was matched up against a painter well beyond my skill level. The result was another thumping -- my worst this season -- and my record dropped to exactly .500 percentage -- 3 wins, 3 losses, 2 ties.

Loss, 104-258

Round 9: From the Pits of Gundabad, 15mm
To be honest, I was at my lowest morale point here in this league. For the third week in a row, I was unable to field a newly-painted league. Granted, I had things going on in my life. I had chaperoned our school's 8th grade Washington D.C. trip for a week. I had been working my butt off to get the Beaver Wars book ready for print. And the same group of gladiators remained almost finished on my desk. Honestly, I could possibly have finished them for this round. However, I knew there'd be no way I'd get a new team done for Round 10. With that round being a theme round, the gladiators would actually fit perfectly for it. So, I threw in one final previously painted entry. This one was my 15mm Wolf Riders army. I have always liked the job I did on the wolves, so took it as a chance to showcase them. Would they be good enough to squeeze out a win? If I lost this round, the best I could do would be breaking even. As it turned out, I had sunk low enough in the standings that I was matched up against an entry that my wolves could handle, as it turned out. This took me to 4-3-2 going into the final round.

Win, 198-133

Round 10: "Um, Who's Got the Big Guy?"
The theme was "Big Brother" (larger version of the main figures), and as the picture above shows, this was why I saved the gladiators for this final round. At the local Michaels Craft Store, I found this plastic gladiator who was easily twice as tall as my 28mm ones. He was a prepainted figure, so I primed him black and repainted him to join the 8 gladiators I'd been working on for nearly a month. Once again, I was very happy with how the Crusader gladiators painted up. There are a couple items of equipment that I had to ponder over, but for the most part, they are incredibly clean castings that are a snap to paint and look great when finished. I was really happy with my shield patterns on these, as well (though I do admit to starting over on the one carried by the spearman in the back). Another contest that was not a blowout, but happily a victory for me. This finalized my record at 5 wins, 3 losses, 2 ties.

As the Leaderboard pasted below shows, I finished 18th out of 32 contestants. This was probably my lowest finish in the last couple years. However, if I *did* manage to put in new entries in all three rounds that I did not (read = receive 30 more points), I would have finished up in 13th. In my opinion, that is too high. There are easily more than a dozen painters in this league much better than me. So, perhaps this finish is a more accurate rating of where I fit in the league this time around. Who knows? Even with three rounds of recycled entries, that is seven batches of newly-painted figures I finished up. So, on that note, my foray into this year's league must be counted as a success!

Win, 201-143