Southern Ontario Open 2019 recap

So, I went to the Southern Ontario Open for the third year in a row this past weekend. The SOO, which takes place in Hamilton every year around the beginning of May, is undoubtedly Canada’s premiere Warmachine event. Drawing 100-plus players in their Masters tournament, having a six or seven round Masters, as well as featuring Iron Arena, IKRPG, MonPoc, and hobby content over three full days, it’s kind of a big deal.

Champions

I chose to participate in Champions this year and forgo Masters as I did the previous year. I knew that going to both tournaments would be just too much Warmachine for me, and I wanted to focus on hobby lounge and iron arena. I ended up choosing Champions because I really didn’t want to pack three lists, and I thought it would be nice to get all the hardcore gaming out of the way early on then just chill the rest of the con.

My biggest apprehension about Champions, aside from the distinct possibility that I would be getting my face kicked in by Iona all day, was the lack of a painting requirement. Since I’m not a hardcore competitive player and there is about a zero chance of me qualifying for either the WTC or the Iron Gauntlet finals, the SOO for the past few years has been my one opportunity to attend a fully painted event. As someone who appreciates the aesthetic aspect of wargaming, that made it a particular highlight for my year in Warmachine and made whichever tournament had the painting requirement a can’t-miss event.

I know a lot of people disagree with me and have a serious problem with the above opinion, so if you are one of those, please direct all your hate mail to podcast@chain-attack.com.

Anyways, that all changed this year, with PP changing their official tournament packet in such a way that if a tournament organizer wants to have an official Masters or Champions event that counts towards their Iron Gauntlet qualifiers, they can’t have a painting requirement. As those Iron Gauntlet points are a big deal for top-tier competitive players and Warmachine celebrities, that basically precluded the organizers from doing a fully painted event, whether they wanted to or not.

However, it turned out to actually be less of an issue than I was anticipating. I was worried that with no painting requirements, it would open the door to a swarm of grey hordes. But when I walked around the tables, I was pleasantly surprised to see that at least half of the armies were fully painted and a lot of the others were clearly on their way there. Three of my four games were against fully painted opponents, so that was actually a pleasant surprise.

Regarding my army lists, I knew I wanted to do Sorscha3 with plenty of Man-O-War models, and I had those painted up and ready to go. Due to the ADR restrictions, the other list had to be in Wolves of Winter, which meant a few things. First, it meant that Vlad2, which is the only model in my collection painted by my sister and not by me, would be the ideal choice. Second, it meant I had to get a lot of models painted to make a coherent list. Third, my list wouldn’t be very good because I didn’t have enough Doom Reavers painted up to really swarm my opponent with them. Finally, it meant that since I hadn’t ever actually played Wolves of Winter and trying to follow the CID made my brain hurt, my plan was to put the Vlad2 army on my tray and make a show of thinking about which list to play, but actually just play Sorscha3 every game.

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I went 1-3 in the tournament, losing to Old Witch 2, Zaal2, and Ossyan. My one victory came against someone playing Deneghra in Slaughter Fleet Raiders. He had little opportunity to take advantage of drag, as my Shocktroopers were granted Sturdy from the unit attachment and I had a shield guard in the list just in case. I ended up catching Ragman with a spray from a Suppression Tanker early on, and from there on out, I pretty much just watched his army bounce off the heavy armour of my Man-O-Wars, smacking them around with retaliatory strike as they came in. I actually started feeling a little bad for him because once Ragman was dead and his alpha strike was denied by my clouds, he just didn’t have the armour cracking to effectively deal with my army.

Now, I’m not one of those people who loses one game in a tournament and drops out because there is no point to playing unless you’re winning. I typically stay in throughout the whole thing, outside of extreme circumstances. However, I hadn’t been to a tournament in a while and after four games, my brain was hurting and I had done enough Warmachine for a weekend, never mind a day.

However, in spite of going 1-3 and dropping, I still managed to win Champions, or at least the most important part, the best painted army award.

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Painting

While the main attractions for most people are the competitive tournaments and the Iron Arena, the SOO does have some excellent hobby programming, and I feel like everyone who attends the SOO should at the very least pop into the hobby lounge for a few minutes and check out the contest entries or see what they can pick up from their fellow hobbyists.

I managed to squeeze in a couple classes. I took one on polychromatic shading with Ben at Primal Poodle, where I learned some more about colour theory. While I may have been a slightly difficult student by asking questions like “is grey a colour” when told to basecoat a part of a model in a colour that interested me, I did take a lot away from the class. I also got the chance to show off some of my work with Ben and Faust and get some valuable feedback on what I’m doing right and where I can improve.

But even outside of formal classes, you can pick up a lot from just getting the chance to talk shop with your fellow painters. There was a fellow hobbyist who was having difficulty with a resin pour, and I was able to offer up a couple pointers on doing the formwork as I had gone through that pain a little while ago. And I did have to chuckle a little when someone said that she should look up some guy who did a Swamp Siren and read up how he did it.

I ended up spending an inordinate amount of time in the hobby lounge. Part of this was because I didn’t have a huge based model completed before the event, and was inspired to finish painting my Siege Chariot conversion and get it into the contest. Which meant that I stayed up until 6 am on Friday night working on it, then got up again at 9 and got back to work, eventually getting it banged out with a few hours to spare.

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Why did I leave this until the last minute?

However, my valiant effort was all for naught when a very nicely done Sea King, which is one of the coolest models in PP’s entire range, edged me out in that particular category. That said, I came away with victories in two of the four categories – small and medium model – with Sorscha0 and my Sorscha bust, respectively. And the Sorscha bust also won the best in show award, not to mention that it was Sorscha3 running my best painted army, so… Sorscha OP, plz nerf?

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Patrick Miller’s Sea King

In some ways, this was coming full circle. My first year at the SOO, I entered into the painting competition but came away empty-handed, and to be honest, I felt a few pangs of disappointment. By the time the next year rolled around, I had improved my painting skills and had some display only models to enter, and while I did win one category, the top prize remained elusive. Now, I know it’s unhealthy to compare yourself to others as a painter and get too competitive about it, but I decided I would make it a goal to win the painting competition this year. I upped my game with the skills I picked up over the past year and the classes I attended, and focused on getting that Sorscha bust looking good, and it really paid off. And, since Sorscha was my first warcaster and is my favourite character from the Iron Kingdoms, the fact that I was able to do so with her was a little poetic.

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In the categories I didn’t win, I got some good feedback from the judges, and to be honest, I can’t really argue with what they said. For the Siege Strider, they liked the conversion and a lot of the painting, however the main issue was that I had overweathered the upper half of it, which wasn’t super realistic and worked against the highlights I put in. This probably had a little to do with the fact that instead of putting it all together and then painting it, I painted and weathered the model in sub-assemblies, starting with the legs and working up to the gun and the driver. As such, instead of following a logical weathering progression tapering the weathering off as I went up which would have been much more effective, I just did a default amount of weathering on each part. While I did add some additional dirt and mud stains on the feet afterwards, it wasn’t enough to truly get across the story behind the weathering – that of a big walker stomping around the battlefield, with its legs getting beaten up as it grinds the filthy Cygnarans to dust beneath its feet.

Also, having stayed up until 6 am the night before working on the model probably didn’t help much with my ability to pull off a coherent weathering scheme while running on three hours sleep and three cups of coffee.

As for the group category, I debated whether to enter my Man-O-Wars or my Cygnar. I went with Cygnar because it was some more recent work, but then I ended up getting too hung up on what made a tournament-legal list, and included some models which were from when I was still working out the finer details of the scheme. This meant that Maddox, who was my first Cygnar infantry model, kind of brought the entry as a whole down a little with her mediocrity, as did my first Cygnar jack or two. And since consistency is important in group categories, that knocked me down a few notches. Had I not included Maddox in my entry and perhaps thrown in a couple of my more recent stormdudes instead, I think I would have been a little more competitive.

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Group winner – Vincent Beaulieu’s Dreamer

I also want to give a big shout-out to the competition. There were some real top-shelf entries this year, and in particular, I want to recognize Vincent Beaulieu’s Captain Ahab bust from Scale75. It was pretty awesome and I feel like it really gave my Sorscha bust a run for her money; in fact, I would say there are some aspects where it outshone my entry. However the nature of winner-take-all or ranked judging systems means that sometimes, amazing models that get edged out by other amazing models don’t quite get the recognition they deserve.

The Final Word

The SOO is always a great show, and is kind of a highlight of my year in Warmachine. Even as someone who isn’t a hardcore competitive player, you have to appreciate the passion for the game we all love that is on display in that room. This year in particular, I was feeling some frustration with the game and the community and the SOO kind of reinvigorated my love for this game. If you are a Warmachine player and can possibly make it to the SOO, circle the calendar and make sure you go. And, while you’re there, pop by the hobby lounge for a few minutes and say hi.

I’ll be the one still painting at 3 am.

Sword and Brush 2018 – Retrospective

Well, it’s been almost a month since Sword and Brush, and I figured I should actually get this article out there before it fades too much from memory.

Sword and Brush, held annually in Toronto, is probably the largest and most premiere miniature and figure painting competition in Canada. This was my first time going, and also this year was the first time they have expanded to include some wargaming tournaments in the same room as the painting competition. The painting competition and miniature show took place basically all day on Saturday with tournaments running simultaneously, while Sunday was set aside for tournaments only.

In addition to the show and the tournaments, there were also vendors, raffles, classes, and a buy and sell table.

The Show

I didn’t get a whole lot of pictures, but the level of quality on display was nothing short of amazing. There was a great diversity of models on the table, from Napoleonics to fantasy to sci-fi. The vehicle categories were also a nice touch, particularly the TLAV that came away with the theme award. Without going into too much detail, here’s a dump of some stuff that I liked.

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Nemo bust from Privateer Press. Only problem is that Nemo is some Cygnaran jerkface.

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Nice tartan…

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Did someone say “busts”?

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What is this I don’t even…

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Cool black and white figures on a colour diorama

Classes

One of the planned classes this year had to be cancelled, however there were still two very good classes. James Craig did a class on weathering, showing off how to paint on chipping and scratches as well as fun tricks with chipping medium. Colin Arthurs did a class on sculpting where he went over every step in sculpting a Napoleonic figure. Both these classes were interesting, though I think I’m going to be trying out the weathering techniques in that class a lot sooner than I’m going to try to sculpt my own figures.

Tournaments

Most of the tournaments were for games that I didn’t play and didn’t have any models for, but the exception was Necromunda, which I’ve been getting into as of late. The initial idea was that “Necromunda by night” would be a little tournament, but after one incredibly long, bloody and brutal game, I think everyone was a little tired. I had a blast; lots of crazy things happened in the game such as my leader sniping out the opposing leader with a bolter before getting insta-killed by a mook with a needle rifle, and Jaana, my shotgun-wielding champion, punching someone to death who tried to sneak up behind her and shoot her in the back.

A big tip of the hat here goes to whoever provided terrain; with multi-level catwalks and plenty of cover, there was a lot of very impactful terrain on the table. The aesthetics of this sort of terrain is something that I tend to miss in Warmachine, which is my primary game and which is usually played with mousepads on a flat mat.

Convention haul

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I managed to pick up some interesting stuff, both by doing fairly well on raffles and by being a little bad and spending some money at the vendors and the buy and sell table.

First, I stopped at the Badger table and picked up a few things. I grabbed some of their Minitaire paints, which are a line of paints that I’ve been wanting to try but haven’t had the opportunity to yet. I haven’t used them very much yet, but they seem to shoot through the airbrush fairly well (which is to be expected from a paint line produced by an airbrush company) and, if you can pick them up at a con, are an insanely good deal on a dollars per milliliter basis. I also picked up some needle lubricant (protip: don’t store this next to your super glue; I almost had an airbrush maintenance disaster) and a high roller trigger for my Krome. If your Badger airbrush doesn’t come standard with this trigger like the Xtreme Patriot, then I would definitely recommending picking up one of these.

IMG_0773.JPGI also bought an International Brigade figure from the Spanish Civil War in 75mm scale from Bent Bristle Miniatures. The Spanish Civil War is a perhaps unappreciated conflict, and the various international volunteers who went to Spain to fight for socialism and democracy are all too often forgotten in their home countries. So, this was one rare case where a historical figure really jumped out at me and demanded that I fork over some money and paint it.

On the buy and sell table, I picked up a giant resin inn to use as a piece of terrain, which is quite possibly the largest chunk of resin I’ve ever seen. Also, there was a Bombardier Bombshell from Privateer Press on the table which I bought because of course I did.

Finally, I did pretty good in the raffles, coming away with a Cerberus model from Aradia Miniatures, and a piece of a saloon from Pegaso Models for use on a display base. The Cerberus is far from my usual jam as I tend to shy away from more beastly figures, but it could be an interesting project. As for the saloon, I’m going to have to find a 75mm scale steampunk wild west model for this thing, which, let’s face it, is probably something that I want to do anyways.

My results

I entered into three categories this year. Amy Johnson went into their historical category, and both my pile of new Man-O-War solos and Necromunda gang ended up in the wargaming unit category. Finally, I put about six or seven models into the fantasy category because that’s my focus.

As mentioned above, when they do the judging, you only get awards for what they consider to be your best models. I managed to come away with two silvers, for my Mary Read and Amy Johnson busts, respectively, and a bronze for my Man-O-War.

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I know I say a lot that you shouldn’t worry about how you place compared to others or chase trophies, but I was quite happy with my results. With all the amazing stuff on display, I ended up doing that thing where you put your stuff on the table, then worry that your stuff is worse than everyone else’s and you’re just embarrassing yourself. Turns out that was just self-hating artist talk. Silver is good, especially for a first time. It’s something to be proud of, but also leaves some room for growth.

Conclusion

Sword and Brush was a blast. Anyone who is interested in miniature and figure painting and who is within driving distance should definitely go. Even if you don’t think you’re good enough yet, then go and learn because with this level of competition, there’s no shame in going home empty-handed.