Saturday, June 27, 2015

CMON Expo 2015

Studio paint job for Wrath of Kings


I had offered to contribute an article to Figure Painter Magazine about CMON Expo 2015, but, thanks to my ever-more-frequent "senior moments", I totally forgot about my duty until Sunday.  Most of the best material on which to report and photograph happened on Saturday.  So I'm going to call it a bust, and submit what material I have to the blog.


The Marriott Marquis in Atlanta


The convention took place in Atlanta at the Marriott Marquis, located smack-dab in the center of town.  The down side is that it was a little stressful to get to, and it was very pricey.  $35 a day to park at the hotel, and pretty much everything was a premium add-on.  On the plus side, the hotel offered a grandiose atmosphere for the convention, with lots of areas to socialize.  The hotel was impressive architecturally, and the view was fantastic.



Downtown Atlanta.  The view from my room on the 38th floor!
The skyline of Buckhead, one of my old party haunts, is on the horizon.


Overall, the convention was exactly what I had hoped for.  A smaller convention.  No crowds, no lines.  An easy-going atmosphere, where people could hear one another.  I could spend all the time I wanted, studying figures in display cases.  I could shop at leisure and not worry about all the good stuff selling out.  The schedule was flexible, and I could adapt on-the-fly, to spontaneously chat for hours with friends, both old and new.  I had ready access to fellow artists, where I could have real conversations with them.

Jessica Rich and Jen Haley, painters extraordinaire

By Jessica Rich.

WIP by Jen Haley.

One of the highlights was the first event I attended, and it wasn't even on my itinerary!  In the first hour of the convention, very few people were informed of the seminars that had just started.  Someone clued me in to a sculpting class by French master sculptor, Patrick Masson.  So I mosied over to his classroom, and it was just him and me for almost the entire hour!  It was just fantastic to sit front-and-center and ask him all the questions I had.  A great experience.  And Patrick is a splendid gentleman.

Me, fanboying with Patrick Masson
Sculpt by Patrick Masson.
I'll have my own cast of one of these, when the Kickstarter delivers.

One of the main events for me was to participate in the Wrath of Kings narrative tournament.  The format for this tournament was an ideal introduction for me to learn the game.  The games on Friday were structured for smaller 'Intro'-size games.  I was able to concentrate on just a few profile cards and learn just a few abilities, along with the core rules.  Saturday stepped up the game size to 'Skirmish' level.  And the result of the tournament impacted the official storyline for the game fiction.

Wrath of Kings tournament.
My new pals, Jason and Wes.  I later had very enjoyable games against each of these gentlemen.


I was concerned that the movement in the game would be awkward, expecting that I would need to figure out how to "leap-frog" units forward, while keeping models close to their leaders.  It turned out to not really be a factor.  As a matter of fact, the game flowed wonderfully.  One of the games I played turned out to be almost entirely a maneuver contest, and it was one of the most fun games I had.

Other people's models were more fully painted than mine!


The combat system is pretty satisfying.  Again, very smooth and fast.  Models died at just the right pace:  the grunts were appropriately expendable, the heavy infantry were strong and durable, and the Leaders and specialists were durable yet vulnerable.  And their main contribution was to support the unit(s), not serve as a one-model unit.

Studio-painted Wrath of Kings model.
Studio-painted Deepmen for Wrath of Kings.


My only complaint is that the different ways to miss a target (Dodge, Parry, Block, Armor) are easy to ignore narratively.  An attack roll ultimately reduces to simply asking what number you need to hit (on a 10-sided die).  The target number to hit tends to force the cinema to the background.  Imagining a defender Blocking or Parrying an attack is lost to the simple binary calculation of "you didn't get the 7 you needed; next roll".  Special abilities compensate to some degree, and they bring the different flavors of 'miss' back to the fore.  Like, 'Sundering' ignores Armor, I think it is.  Those kinds of "overrides" offer a rich variety of interactions among the combatants, and those combos add to the tactical decision-making.  I just wish those mechanics somehow made a greater impression than simply asking, "What's the target number I need to hit?"

Studio-painted Galvanic Defender for Wrath of Kings.

Studio-painted model for Wrath of Kings.


That minor complaint aside, Wrath of Kings is a solid win, as the game ticks all my boxes.  Wrath of Kings will be my go-to fantasy skirmish game, and Deadzone will probably be my go-to sci-fi skirmish game.  Malifaux fits in there somehow, too -- it just depends on available, personality-compatible opponents and mood.  I would love to fit Dust in there as well, but the player community has evaporated for it.  Dust will have to fall into the group of hopefully opportunistic games, along with Lord of the Rings, Carnevale, Saga, Twilight, Eden, Dark Age, Freebooter's Fate, and others.

Studio-painted model for Wrath of Kings

Studio-painted, iconic Ancient King for Wrath of Kings.

Crossover model:  Kingdom Death visits Wrath of Kings.


Speaking of Malifaux, I had the pleasure to meet in person some of my Malifaux peeps, some of whom I've recently met through Facebook and Google Hangouts:  Liz and Travis of the TurboDonkey Podcast; Dawn from A Wyrd Place Facebook group; Aaron from Wyrd, and former member of my game group in Alexandria; George and Tera from The Deep Facebook group; and other Malifaux movers and shakers.  I didn't bring any of my Malifaux crews, since I knew I was going to devote all my time to Wrath of Kings, painting, and socializing.  I was planning to try demos of Kaosball and Rum & Bones, but I didn't even get around to that!

Silly mugging for the camera with Liz.

Malifaux Gremlins in the display case.  I admire this style of painting.  I love the fish hanging from his belt!


Another highlight of the trip was hanging out with other artists.  I was able to spend quality time with Jessica Rich, Caleb Wissenback, Mikael Astrom, Joe Orteza, and Elizabeth Beckley, and I introduced myself to Rhonda Bender as well.  I didn't bother Jen Haley too much, since she was busy running the show, but I was able to ask her a few questions about her stunning 'For Display Only' pieces in the display cabinet.

Diorama by Jen Haley.

Wrath of Kings "Mighty Taur", by Joe Orteza.

As for my own painting, I was able to spend a couple of sessions working on the Linemen unit for my Wrath of Kings faction.  I experimented with different approaches to paint their cloaks.  I'm trying to find some middle ground between wet-blending and washing, in order to find an efficient way to attain a high table-top quality result.  I'm getting closer to finding the right approach.  This photo shows how several different approaches result in various levels of roughness.  On a per model basis, some models are cleaner than others, but as a unit, this result is good enough to move on to the other elements of the model.  As a bonus, Jessica Rich complimented the color scheme, so that was a pleasant boost!

My Linemen unit for Wrath of Kings (WIP)


I submitted two pieces for the 'Road to Crystal Brush' art competition.  They were the dioramas that I painted for Iron Painter, since that's pretty much the only work I've done this year that's above tabletop standard.  As mentioned in earlier posts, there are elements in both pieces that I would like to have refined or done differently, but the tight deadline (and shifting deadline, I might add -- yeah, sorry, still miffed about that) forced some compromises.

One of my entries.


So with the doubts and reservations of those compromises, I was very pleased to earn a blue ribbon in the Diorama category for 'The Chase' (the "Fool's Gold" theme for Iron Painter).  There was a very strong entry in the category called 'The Preacher' by Cregan Tur, and I thought his piece might win the blue, since his technical execution was better than mine, and the composition for 'The Preacher' was very well-done.  Feedback from a couple of show-goers suggested I might have edged out on story and composition.  Regardless, hats-off to Cregan Tur for a tight competition.

"The Chase".  Earned a blue ribbon in the Diorama category.

"The Preacher" by Cregan Tur.


Another highlight of the trip was having the opportunity to make the acquaintance of the good gentleman, Mr. Derek Osborne, one of the rules designers for Wrath of Kings.  Derek and I arranged to meet ahead of time to cut a deal on Confrontation figures, but we ended up spending probably 2 hours the next day chatting about the hobby, the industry, rules-crafting, and even a good dose of deeper, profound topics.  This kind of opportunity is what really makes a trip to a convention worthwhile -- to form new friendships and cultivate existing ones.

The Frankenfest competition.

On that note, Caleb Wissenback and I continued our ongoing discussion of future plans for the Draconic Awards.  The Draconic Awards is a painting competition sponsored by the Wargamer's Consortium.  Draconic Awards uses the "open format" for judging.  The open format judges entries against a standard, in contrast to the podium format, which judges entries against fellow painters.  The format is more conducive to community-building and self-development, because it removes the tension of competing against the artist with whom you might be speaking at an award show!  Instead, a person has the opportunity to self-measure progress against a standard and more easily seek advice on how to further develop.

Studio paint-job for Mean Jellybean for Dark Age.

Another feature for the Draconic Awards is providing two tracks for competition: the Journeyman track and the Masters track.  The Journeyman track offers a more accessible venue for new and intermediate painters.  Journeyman painters often decline to show their work, because it can be intimidating to show their piece next to an expert-level piece.  The Journeyman track offers a friendly venue to see their work on display with fellow journey-people and acquire feedback on how to advance their techniques.

Studio paint-job for Wrath of Kings.


Draconic Awards has a strong presence on the West Coast, and they are expanding their presence to the UK.  They're also looking for opportunities in the Midwest and the East Coast, and they're finding it a challenge to find a convention with all the right ingredients of timing, organization, size, and other factors.  They're knocking around the idea of perhaps sponsoring a painting-only show, along the lines of the European shows or the MFCA and NCMSS type of shows on the East Coast.

Studio paint-job for Wrath of Kings.


In any case, I offered a sounding board for ideas to both Caleb and to Chung Chow, the figurehead for Wargamers Consortium.  Nothing definite came out of the discussions, but the discussions were productive, I felt.  They're probably at least a year away from launching anything on the East Coast for now.
Chung Chow of Wargamers Consortium and Draconic Awards.

CMON Expo was a great experience, and I plan to attend next year.  Hopefully, I'll finally be able to play that Rum & Bones game!

Studio paint-job for Dark Age.

In the display case.

In the display case.

By Mikael Astrom.




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